A N O V E L,
F O U N D E D O N
A R E C E N T F A C T:
With the Translation of an
O R I G I N A L M A N U S C R I P T,
FOUND IN THE
B A S T I L E.
I N T W O V O L U M E S.
V O L. I.
PRINTED BY J. S. BARR,
M DCC XC.
[Five Shillings sewed.]
T H E
D U K E OF O R L E A N S.
May it please your Highness,
AT a time when your countrymen are setting an example to surrounding nations, by their noble struggle in favour of the natural rights of mankind, when there is every reason to conclude their efforts will be crowned with success, and that you will shortly have the pleasure of seeing your own country as free as that which you have now chosen for your present residence, I hope your Highness will not be offended by an Englishman’s presuming to congratulate you upon the glorious occasion.
Although those who now compose the National Assembly are arduously and meritoriously employed in new-modelling and framing a Constitution that shall, at least, have the promise of securing happiness to succeeding ages, and upon that account will be entitled to the thanks and praises of those who shall enjoy the blessings their labours will bestow; yet how much more is due to those who, in the first instance, stood forth, at all hazards, to check the strides of Despotism and unfurl the banners of Freedom; by that step Liberty was invited to take up her residence on the Gallic shore, and every Citizen promised a participation in her blessings—those names will form a proud list in the Historian’s page, nor will they receive a small addition to the honour of being recorded as their country’s best friends, by that of Orleans appearing at the head of them, as the day your Highness, the Nobles and Clergy united, must ever be considered by the people of France as the day on which their emancipation from a state bordering on slavery began to dawn, and that independent band the phalanx which effected it.
There are not wanting those who still think your Highness ought not to have quitted the scene of action until the glorious work was complete, while others, and by far the greatest number, reflecting upon your near connection with the Sovereign on the throne, the discontents of many tools of power who find their interest affected by the Revolution, and how easily popular prejudice is established when the public mind is inflamed and the populace unruly, candidly admit, that your retreat was proper in the eye of Prudence, and may be justified by the voice of Reason; and happy would it be for Great Britain if some of her leading men had as fair a claim to real Patriotism as has been clearly evinced by the actions of your Highness.
This Address, dictated by a stranger even to your Highness’s person, could not be suspected of breathing the spirit of adulation though it had borne more the appearance of panygeric, for it would not then have exceeded the limits of truth—He who has thus presumed conceived that nothing which tended to expose the evils from which you, in part, have been the happy means of rescuing your country could be objectionable to your Highness; that was his sole motive for prefixing this to the following pages—To point out the miseries that arose from the Bastile is the intention of De Montmorency, and to attempt doing justice to him who was foremost in abolishing them that of, may it please your Highness,
your Serene Highness’s
and very humble servant,
C H A P T E R I.
Family Anecdotes—A scheme to gain riches over-
turned by love, and a marriage the cause of
A LONG train of illustrious ancestors could Hubert de Montmorency boast of—He could recount the many glorious actions that had been performed by them for their country—He could shew many standards which they had taken from the enemy in battle,—and he could exult in the knowledge that the honor of the Montmorencies had never been sullied by an unworthy action.—But this was all—the fortune of his ancestors had been wasted away, by their endeavours to support the splendor of their birth, and nothing was left for him but the ancient family seat, and a very small territory round it.
Hubert de Montmorency had endeavoured when young to remedy this want of fortune, and for that purpose had entered into the army.—He had not disgraced the name he bore—his country had acknowledged the obligations she owed him—his Sovereign had conferred on him the CROIX DE ST. LOUIS—but he obtained no more—instead of increasing his fortune, he had lessened it—for it was expected that a Montmorency should support the lustre of his name, by a proportionable expence, and by being unwilling to deceive those expectations, he had spent more than his small patrimony would allow.
Finding, therefore, that as a soldier he could not obtain the favors of fortune, the idea started into his imagination to seek them by an alliance with the daughter of some wealthy nobleman, to which the dignity of his birth gave him a sufficient claim.
Had his breast been a stranger to the tender passions he perhaps might have succeeded—but tho’ courageous as the lion, he was also gentle as the lamb.—He could feel for the unhappy, he could shed a tear for the miserable.—It is in such hearts that love delights to fix his residence.
He became acquainted with an old officer, the descendant of a noble family, but like himself—poor.—He had an only daughter, De Montmorency saw her and immediately his prospects of increasing his fortune by marriage vanished, and his resolutions were all forgotten. He loved her, and that love was sincere, as it was ardent; for dishonor and De Montmorency were names which were never joined together.—Their love was mutual, and they were married. De Montmorency found himself as happy as mortal could be—but his expences were increased, and he experienced, that to remain in the army, would only reduce him to poverty—He laid therefore his commission at the foot of his sovereign, and retired to Montmorency, the seat of his ancestors, possessed of an amiable wife, and the Croix de St. Louis.
In this retirement, enjoying happiness and tranquility they lived; though a sigh would often escape Hubert, at the thoughts of a Montmorency being thus buried in obscurity, and as it were forgotten.
C H A P T E R II.
A Birth—a Death—and a Resolution
the calls of Nature.
IT was his constant wish that he might have no children, and the knowledge of his not being able to leave them sufficient to support the dignity of their births occasioned this wish—He was, however, disappointed.
Madame de Montmorency, a year after their marriage, was delivered of a son,—ominous of future misfortunes was his birth, for the exertions used in giving him life, occasioned his mother’s death.
De Montmorency’s happiness was centered in his wife—He had not rendered the idea of her death familiar to his mind—it came, therefore, with increased effect.—He was delirious, and shutting himself in the chamber where she died, vowed never to stir out of it, or to behold another human creature—he adhered to this resolution for some time.—An old domestic, whose silver locks betrayed a long and faithful servitude,—had tried all means to entice him from his solitude—they were ineffectual.
He hit, however, on an expedient, that at length succeeded, and recalled De Montmorency to himself, and to the world. He begged leave to see his master for the last time, in order to take his leave of him.—De Montmorency granted his request—the old faithful servant dropping on his knees to his master, and shedding a flood of tears, begged him not to indulge a grief that was even impious.
He reminded him how incompatible it was with his birth and the name he bore—and last of all drew his infant son from under his garment, and asked him if he wished his offspring should be left friendless and unprotected—or, if he thought he had no claim to his tenderness and instructions. De Montmorency had remained unmoved by the first part of his domestic’s speech, but the last, touched him—he looked at his son, whose uplifted hands seemed to beg protection,—turned away his head in order to conceal his emotions, but finding it impossible wept aloud.
When he was somewhat recovered, he took the child in his arms and kissed it, “Yes, my son, said he, I will live for thee”—and immediately De Montmorency gave up his intentions, and returned to his former way of life.
He resolved to employ his whole time in educating his son, in forming his mind to noble and virtuous pursuits,—but the house in which he lived brought to his mind the remembrance of his wife too tenderly—It called his attention from his son. He therefore removed from it, and with his boy and the old faithful domestic retired to a kind of hermitage in the recesses of a wood, at the extremity of his estate.
C H A P T E R III.
Advice for a Soldier.
CHARLES De MONTMORENCY, the name he had given his son; grew up apace—he was the exact image of his father—tall, perfectly well made, and with a dignity of countenance, equal to the lustre of his name.
The instructions of his parent were not thrown away upon him—He discovered a great facility of comprehension, but his favorite study was military tactics.—Often would he make his father repeat the actions of his ancestors, his face glowing, and his eyes sparkling with rapture when any glorious atchievement was mentioned—frequently, in the middle of the recital, would he on a sudden start up, and with a peculiar emphasis of voice and look, intreat of Heaven to place him in a situation to prove himself not unworthy of bearing the name of Montmorency. Hubert by these early symptoms, discovered that his son had a prepossession for a military life, and he was resolved not to disappoint him.
When he had attained his twentieth year, he determined that he should enter into the army. The intelligence made the heart of Charles bound with rapture, nor could the approaching departure from his father, or the dangers he was going to encounter, damp the transports of his mind. The day of departure at length arrived, and Hubert desiring his son to come and receive his last instructions in his closet, spoke to him in the following words. “My dear boy, you are going from me, to enter into a world, which you will find unjust, cruel, and oppressive—into a way of life, in which your ancestors have eminently signalized themselves before you—all the advice I shall give you, is, to remember that you bear the name of Montmorency, a name, which has been, which is, renowned throughout all Europe.
If you forget not that, I think, you will neither act dishonestly as a man, or unworthily as a soldier—Here my boy, is the very sword with which your grandfather obtained all his glory—take, and use it as nobly as he has done—take also this letter; present it to your sovereign—He cannot have forgotten the actions of your ancestors, and will provide for you accordingly.—And now farewell!—The god of battles dispose of you as he thinks fit; if it be his pleasure that you should fall, oh! may it be covered with honour and with glory,—and I shall not murmer at his decree—Farewell, my boy, for the last time, and again and again I beseech you to remember that you bear the name of Montmorency.”
Charles, whose spirits had not been damped before, could not restrain a tear which fell down his cheek—this he quickly wiped away and after having promised to conduct himself with honor, and having received the blessings of a father, he departed for Paris.
C H A P T E R IV.
A change of Life and a reverse of Fortune.
DE MONTMORENCY when he arrived in the capital, presented his father’s letter to his sovereign, who received him very graciously, and gave him a commission in a regiment which was on the point of sailing for America.
This could not but be agreeable to a young soldier who burned with impatience to draw his sword in defence of his country—He joined the regiment, which embarked immediately.
The winds were prosperous, but Charles complained of them, and was impatient to tread upon the shores of the new world.
His wishes were at length accomplished—They arrived at their destined port, and the first who leaped on the beach, was De Montmorency.
Every thing seemed to favour his desires.—The regiment in which he served was ordered, soon after it arrived, to attack the English.
When Charles was informed of it, his heart danced with joy—“Now, said he, to himself, will I convince my father that I am not unworthy of the name I bear—now will I prove, to him that I am a Montmorency”—but as the soldier’s fate is uncertain, the evening before the battle, he wrote the following letter to his father.
“We are now in sight of the enemy’s camp—The soldiers are preparing for battle, and to-morrow we are to attack the foe.
“From the duties of my station, as a soldier, I have stolen, for a moment, to discharge my duty as a son—you will wish to know how I feel—I assure my father that I am calm and composed—that I am determined not to sully a long illustrious line of ancestors by an unworthy and a cowardly behaviour, or to disappoint the expectations of a tender parent.
“In the breast of him alone who “directs the arrow, and who points the dart” is my fate—perhaps I may fall—if I do let it be some consolation to my father, that his son fell not unworthy the name of
Solemnly and slowly retreated the night, as tho’ unwilling to let the cruel day begin its reign, and light mankind to shed the blood of one another.
The feathered creation seemed for once to enjoy the blessings of reason and humanity, and far from the tented field flew with abhorrence and disgust—all but the savage vulture—he alone remained behind, and with a grim pleasure hovered in the air, beholding the preparations for battle and for slaughter with secret rapture and delight.
De Montmorency was up, and in his post the first—the drum beat to arms—The whole regiment was soon in readiness, and began their march—The enemy were not behind hand—They advanced to meet them. Midway between both camps, both armies halted,—a pause! a solemn stilness prevailed for a moment, such as pervades the air before the earthquake begins, or the tempest rages. It was but the harbinger of horror.—The battle began with fury on both sides—a dreadful carnage ensued. Their ammunition being expended, both armies advanced with their swords drawn, and their bayonets fixed. It was now that De Montmorency displayed his courage. He was in the post of danger, and behaved nobly. He fought like a lion—his valour animated the troops—they performed wonders—but victory was not theirs.
The English forced them to retreat off the field.
De Montmorency was in despair, he could hardly be prevailed upon from throwing himself into the thickest of the enemy’s troops, and when he returned to his camp retired to his tent, overwhelmed with sadness and with sorrow.
The Colonel who had beheld his courage, sent for him to his tent, bestowing on his behaviour the most flattering encomiums, and raised him to the rank of captain.
Our young hero was so overjoyed, that he could only answer by a low bow—he retired to his tent to acquaint his father with his new dignity, and with the approbation he had been honoured with by his colonel.
The next day the enemy struck their tents and began their march. De Montmorency with a chosen body of men was ordered to harrass them—He obeyed with alacrity, and proceeded silently ’till he came to a wood close to a narrow defile, through which the enemy he knew must pass; here he planted his men in ambuscade, and as soon as they advanced poured a whole volley of shot in upon them,—this occasioned a dreadful slaughter—He bade his men charge a second time and fire, and then thought it most prudent to retire.
He had almost gained the extremity of the wood, when the enemy on a sudden surprised him and hemmed his little army on all sides. Our hero was desperate—he drew his sword, and bidding his men fix their bayonets, resolved to fight his way through the enemy’s ranks.
The English received his attack with spirit—De Montmorency and his soldiers were overpowered, forced to lay down their arms and submit—He was immediately conducted to the Colonel, to whom he delivered his sword with a silent and dejected air.
But the Colonel who could admire courage even in an enemy, returned it him again, bestowing at the same time many encomiums on the courage he had shewn.
The English were going to join the grand army, and De Montmorency, as a prisoner of war was forced to accompany them—to Charlestown, where he remained some months, ’till it was thought proper to send the French prisoners to their own country on their paroles d’honneur.
He then set sail for France, penetrated with gratitude at the friendly manner in which he had been treated—and after a short passage arrived safe in native country.
C H A P T E R V.
Excessive joy the parent of transcient grief.
HE stopped not at Paris, but immediately set off for the abode of his father. His horse he left at a neighbouring village, resolving to walk the rest of the way, and to hit upon some method in order not to surprise his father with his presence too suddenly.
Hubert de Montmorency had found the hours pass slowly on, since the departure of his son,—he engrossed all his thoughts, and he found it impossible to pursue his former studies with perseverance.
The morning of our Hero’s arrival, Hubert was indulging himself with a walk on the road which led to the Village—He saw his son at some distance—He thought it was a delusion, and that his eyes deceived him. Charles, who was buried deep in thought, beheld not his father ’till he had got almost close up to him—he lifted up his head—the author of his existence stood before him—He sprung to his embrace—this was too much for Hubert to bear—he pressed his son feebly in his arms, and fainted away.
Charles was almost distracted, and ran about like a madman for assistance—none could be found—He returned to his father, still he lay senseless on the ground—In this extremity the thought of breathing a vein fortunately occurred to him—he felt in his pocket for his penknife, and laid hold of his parent’s arm, but his hand trembled so, that he was forced to let it drop—summoning, however, all his resolution, he took hold of his father’s arm a second time, and opened a vein.
At first the blood came but in drops, it flowed soon freely, and at length Hubert opened his eyes.—De Montmorency was transported with joy—he kissed the hand of his father, who looked with inexpressible affection on him, and binding up his arm, lifted him from the ground, and supporting him, they proceeded slowly home.
Hubert was with difficulty prevented from fainting, through excess of joy, a second time—Charles, however, tried every method to reason him into calmness and moderation, and at length succeeded.
They were met at the entrance of their dwelling by the old faithful domestic, whose joy at seeing the son of his master safe returned, was very near as immoderate as Hubert’s—He fell at his feet, kissed his hand, invoked every blessing on his head and declared that to be the happiest day he had ever known—Charles, penetrated with this instance of gratitude, raised him up, and enquired very tenderly after his health, thanking him at the same time for his good wishes.
As soon as De Montmorency had partaken of some refreshment, Hubert desired anxiously to know what had occasioned his return to his native country so soon.—Our Hero immediately relieved him from this anxiety, and convinced him that his son had not acted unworthy of his father.
Hubert heard him with delight, again he embraced De Montmorency, and again returned thanks to Heaven, for having bestowed on him such a son.
Soon as the transports of pleasure, occasioned by returning to his father, had subsided, our hero found the time pass rather heavily—day succeeded day in same uniform dulness—nothing to cheer the lazy-pacing hour; nothing to employ his time nor engage his attention—His active mind could not be contented with the gloom of solitude or indolence of retirement—He longed to be again employed in the busy camp, but from this his parole d’honeur prohibited him. He therefore resolved to apply himself with unwearied diligence to his favorite study, in order to render himself at some future period more capable of discharging the duties of his station, as a soldier, with ability and applause.
C H A P T E R VI.
Ramble—an Accident the Introduction to a
BUT though he pursued with unwearied diligence his military studies, there were others which he did not neglect.
Of Poetry he was very fond, and when he had fatigued his mind with mathematical demonstrations, would fly to the productions of the Poets with alacrity and pleasure—of these the sonnets of Petrarch afforded him most entertainment.
It was on a still summer’s evening, when the setting sun tips the mountains’ tops with radiant gold—when the black-bird from the distant grove pours the liquid note upon the bosom of the gentle zephyrs, who enraptured with the harmonious sound scarce breathes upon the trembling leaf,—that De Montmorency was wandering through the windings of the wood with Petrarch in his hand.
In the midst of one of his charming sonnets to Laura, his attention was suddenly arrested by a violent scream—he listened again—another followed—not doubting but that some one was in danger, he flew to the place whence they proceeded, and at the extremity of the wood, beheld a female lying on the ground apparently senseless—he approached nearer—never did he behold such beauty—such engaging softness—For a moment he was struck dumb with admiration, but quickly recollecting himself, raised the lady in his arms, and carried her to a spring just by, there laying her head gently on his knee, he sprinkled her face with water, and rubb’d her temples—This soon brought her to life again—she opened her eyes gently, fixed them with the most bewitching softness on De Montmorency, and with an engaging confusion on her countenance tried to disengage herself from the posture in which she lay.
De Montmorency saw her wishes, and immediately presented her his hand to rise.—After having, in a flattering voice, returned him thanks for the service he had rendered her, the lovely maid would have retired, but De Montmorency would not permit her.—Suffer me, Madam, said he, to conduct you to my father’s house—It is but just by—you have not yet strength enough to walk home.
Attributing her silence to consent, he gently placed her arm within his, and they proceeded to our hero’s home—Never did he find himself so aukwardly situated before, he wished to speak, but his tongue denied its office—Whenever he attempted to cast his eyes on her face, he felt his own glow with confusion—nor was his lovely charge in a more enviable situation—her hand, which De Montmorency held, tembled excessively; and her languishing blue eyes fixed on the ground, betrayed her extreme confusion.
It was well for them that they had not far to walk—when they had arrived at Huberts’, De Montmorency introduced her to his father, and relating to him the manner in which he found the lovely female, she was received by him with the greatest politeness, and the old domestic was ordered to bring some refreshments.
When her spirits were a little recruited, she told them, that taking the air on horseback, her horse took fright at a viper that laid in the road, and ran away with her—unable to manage him, she screamed out, and thinking it better to run the risk of hurting herself in the fall than trust herself longer on his back, disengaged her foot from the stirrup, and threw herself on the ground—again she cast her eyes on De Montmorency, and thanked him for the service he had done her—and again De Montmorency declared his obligations to Fortune, in having thus put it in his power to be of service to her.
Imagining that her horse might return to her father’s and alarm the family for her safety, she expressed her wishes to return home, and rising up, politely thanking Hubert de Montmorency would have departed alone, but our hero would not suffer her, and begging her permission to let him escort her, which she granted with some confusion, they set out together.
There are certain situations, which though we pray devoutly to be placed in, involves us in a kind of confusion, which almost make us regret that our wishes are accomplished.—De Montmorency felt himself in such a predicament, and it was some time before he recovered from his confusion.
In their way home, it was necessary that they should pass by the place where the lovely maid had fallen from her horse; they stopped to recapitulate the accident again, and that recapitulation introduced a repetition of thanks and acknowledgement on both sides.
De Montmorency now grown more bold, ventured to enquire the name of the Lady whom he had had the honour to serve. Her answer discovered it to be ELISE de ST. CLAIR—she, in return requested to know the name of her deliverer—Our hero informed her, and they now proceeded to talk on common topics of conversation ’till they arrived at the young lady’s home.
It was a large Chateau, situated in the midst of a delightful Park—as they walked up the avenue of trees that led to it, they met Monsieur and Madame De St. Clair, to whom Elise introduced our hero, as one who had rendered her a great service, recounting at the same time the accident that had happened to her.
Overjoyed at their daughter’s safety, De Montmorency was received with the greatest civility, and they insisted on his accompanying them home—nothing could be more agreeable to him—the invitation was accepted, and they all returned to the Chateau, whence it was not ’till late in the evening that our Hero returned to his father’s—nor could he do it even then without regretting the rapidity of time which rendered their separation necessary—As he passed from the Chateau, scarce did he take three steps without turning back to bless the angel (for such she appeared in his eyes) that dwelt within, and thank his stars for the day’s adventure.
C H A P T E R VII.
WHEN De Montmorency got home, there was no one up but the old domestic who was waiting for his return—Our Hero was not inclined to retire to his chamber immediately, he therefore sat down in the parlour, and taking up Petrarch, desired the old domestic to go to bed—but he refused, and alledged as a reason, that he was as little inclined to sleep as De Montmorency, whom he feared from his manner had met with some mishap.—To satisfy his affectionate inquietude he related what had passed—The relation being concluded the old man sighed deeply, and upon our hero’s enquiring the cause.—“Alas, my master, (said he) I see you desperately attached to a woman, and am grieved to think whether that attachment may hurry you—experience has long so fatally convinced me that the Hyena is not more destructive to her prey, than women are to the objects that adore them.—Perhaps you will not think this observation so erroneous, when you have learnt a short detail of the events of my life, which, if you are not too fatigued to pay attention to, I will now relate.
De Montmorency declared he was not; after a short pause, therefore, the old domestic began his narrative in the following words,—
“My real name is BERNARD de TOUIS though I have always hitherto gone under the appellation of JAQUES de CALLIER.
My ancestors, time out of mind, rented a small farm in the province of Bretany, which they always found sufficient for the comfortable maintenance of their family—Out of eight children which my father had, I alone survived; I believe the grief of having lost so fine a family, was the chief cause of my parent’s death, for they died within a month after the decease of my sister, and left me, then about two and twenty years of age: I was afflicted very sensibly at the death of both my parents, but time soon effaced the traces of sorrow from my mind—I continued in the farm which they held, and cultivated it myself—My affairs went on prosperously enough, but fool that I was, I thought they would improve if I married, and therefore I looked about me for a suitable match—I soon pitched upon a young maiden of nearly my own age, pretty and very good natured—she was called ANTOINETTE—Oh! would I had never seen her.
The girl, I thought, had some affection for me, for she preferred me to all the lads of the village, and in every rural sport, chose me for her partner.—I was deceived by this shew of affection, and courted her for my wife—The time of courtship was merrily spent, and from that I predicted increase of happiness in an alliance with Antoinette—silly fellow that I was not to know that the days of courtship are the happiest of our lives.
After a few months spent in this manner, I thought it high time to be married—we were so—and I was, in my own conceit, completely happy—My Farm improved under her management, and for some months after we were as happy as the first day of our courtship—The Lord of the Village came every half year to collect his rents; when he came for mine, he praised my choice, and seemed much taken with my wife, I was pleased with his approbation, and loved my Antoinette the more for having been approved of by our landlord—He came several times afterwards, and often made us little presents—I suspected no harm, and thought myself highly honoured by the attention and marks of friendship, which raised the envy of our villagers—had I not been a simpleton, I might have known that a superior never takes notice of an inferior, but with some interested design. Still did our affairs flourish, and I was in a fair way of becoming a man of good substance and wealth—It was my custom twice a year to carry my corn to a certain town where there was a fair, to dispose of it.—I prepared now to set out, but rather reluctantly—nevertheless, knowing it was for our mutual advantage, I embraced my Antoinette and set out on my journey.
I made all the haste possible to settle my business, and at the end of five days completed it—I had sold my corn at a good profit, and full of the fond ideas of again embracing my Antoinette, I set out homeward, intending to reach it by night fall, I rode a good round pace, and was got very near our village, when I met one of my neighbours whom I asked how my wife did, and he replied: ‘Perfectly well, Bernard,—you need not doubt of it, when our Lord takes such good care of her.’—This was said with a kind of sneer that confused me—I felt, for the first time, that torturer Jealousy.
Altering my resolution, I resolved not to ride directly home, but to wait ’till the middle of the night, and having the key of a private door behind the house, I resolved to let myself in, and surprise her with my presence too suddenly to be able to secrete our landlord, if he should be with her.
I loitered, therefore, about the fields ’till midnight, when leaving my horse at an inn in the village, I walked home.—There was a light still in my wife’s chamber—I approached with all silence; lifting up the back room window got in without making a noise, and with a heart heaving with apprehension I stole up stairs—When I had got to my wife’s chamber door, I was almost afraid to open it, and a hundred times was retreating down stairs.—At length, the door being unlocked, I opened it gently and went in—nobody heard me—I approached to the bed, and undrew the curtains—but; good heavens! what were my sensations when I beheld my wife fast locked in the arms of our landlord, and both of them asleep?—I staid not a moment to give reflection power to direct me—I listened only to the transports of my rage—seizing a short sword that hung over the fire place, I rushed to the bed-side—With an inconceivable fury I plunged the sword first in the landlord’s body; and without waiting a moment plunged it afterwards into the body of my wife; exclaiming at the same time—‘traitors receive from me the just reward of your abominable crimes’—I knew that there was no time to be lost in making my escape; taking, therefore, all the money I could find in the house, I made the best of my way out of it—I went to the Inn where I had left my horse, had him saddled instantly, and mounting him, rode off with as much speed as possible—Before morning I found myself out of the province of Bretany, and then resolved to stop and take some refreshment.
I debated within myself what I should do, I was not long in determining, I resolved to change my name, and enlist myself in some regiment which was employed in the wars of Germany. I had money enough in my pocket, and therefore immediately took shipping for Germany.—After a short passage I arrived there, and immediately enlisted in the regiment in which your father was captain—I was so fortunate as to obtain applause, and he appointed me to the post of sergeant—I endeavoured, by every means to shew my gratitude to him, and entreated Heaven to put it in my power to be of service to him; Heaven granted my request. In a bloody Battle I saved his life—This was a decisive battle, and the last—We were ordered home—I entreated your father to suffer me to accompany him as a servant, he consented, and I have ever since remained with him.—Judge, now, Sir, if I have not reason to be disgusted with the sex.”
Our hero acknowledged it, but said that he hoped all women were not equally bad with his Wife. Bernard shook his head, and it being very late, he attended his young master to his apartment and they then separated to invoke the refreshing influence of balmy Sleep.
C H A P T E R VIII.
A Man in Love.
DE MONTMORENCY retired to his apartment, but sleep was a stranger to his eyes,—his bosom was filled with new emotions,—the image of the lovely Elise presented itself to his imagination—he sighed, and from his sensations, found that he was certainly in love with her.
The discovery did not alarm him—he indulged the delightful idea,—he found himself less than ever inclined to sleep, and therefore as soon as Morning with her mantle grey appeared on the mountain’s height, he arose.
Full of the events of the preceding day, he wandered through the wood to the spot where Elise had fallen; he recapitulated her looks, her attitude, and in a transport of love threw himself on the very place that had been pressed by the lovely maid.
A certain author says “that men in love are fools,” unwilling to enter into a contest with him at present, I will suppose that he has spoken the truth; and granting that he has, I maintain that the generality of men had rather attach to themselves the appellation of fools for being enthusiasts to the charms of beauty, than be thought wise men for possessing a cold indifference.
Elise de St. Clair had felt herself strangely prepossessed in favour of our hero at quitting him, and when she retired to her apartment, had found herself as little inclined to sleep as he had.—It was her usual custom to rise early, and walk before breakfast; but this morning she rose more so than usual.
Is it unnatural to suppose that with such sensations she should walk to the place where she had first seen De Montmorency?
At the moment while he was pressing the spot where she fell, Elise arrived there.—Hearing a noise, he started up—she started too—involuntary blushes filled both their cheeks, and it was not without hesitation and confusion that they reciprocally exchanged the salutations of the morning.
De Montmorency finding himself unable to converse on common topics with ease, asked Elise if she was fond of the Italian language; being answered in the affirmative, he pulled Petrarch out of his pocket, and changed the conversation to his sonnets, which she confessed herself unacquainted with.
They had walked to an old oak tree, round which was a rustic seat,—they sat down, and Elise requested De Montmorency to read one of the sonnets—he complied, and chose that which relates the difficulty of declaring his Love for Laura.
De Montmorency’s voice was clear and musical—he read the sonnet with feeling and with proper emphasis.—Elise held down her head and blushed—De Montmorency, having concluded the sonnet, shut the book and sighed.
He asked Elise if it was not a delightful sonnet, her assent was conveyed in a trembling voice, and they remained silent for some time.
Recollecting, at length, that the hour of breakfast was not far off, she took her leave to return home alone, but De Montmorency could not be prevailed upon to quit her, ’till she had almost got to the Chateau, when bidding her adieu, he returned home, his whole soul being filled with the lovely girl he had just parted with.
C H A P T E R IX.
Female charms superior to parental advice.
OUR hero now neglected his studies, and no longer pursued them with diligence and perseverance—they became irksome and disagreeable—of Petrarch, of those books which treat of love he became more enamoured, and they accompanied him night and day.
His father remarked this change, and attributed it to the right cause—he was alarmed—and disclosed his apprehensions to his son.
Unused to deceit or denial, De Montmorency owned that they were just; that he was deeply in love.
Hubert had formerly known the father of Elise—He told our hero, that he was of low origin, had raised himself to the rank of Fermier General by meanness, and in that station had acquired a large fortune by oppression and injustice. He advised him, therefore, to conquer his attachment to Elise, as a connection with that family would disgrace the blood of the Montmorency’s—our Hero heard him with attention—He promised to try to overcome his love——“Ah! (said he to himself) though Monsieur de St. Clair may be unworthy of our esteem, is that a reason why Elise should be despised also?—oh, no!”—he found it therefore impossible to comply with his father’s wishes.
Discretion, reason, what are ye to Love.”
Alas! the result of all his efforts to obey his father was, that he loved Elise with more ardour than ever.
C H A P T E R X.
fete upon a son’s return—A declaration
of love, and an interruption.
OUR hero had received for the service he had rendered their daughter, a general invitation from Monsieur and Madame de St. Clair, of which he failed not to avail himself often.
Many were the opportunities he had of disclosing his passion for Elise, but invincible modesty tied his tongue; he would have preserved an eternal silence, but for the following event.
Young de St. Clair, who had been some time on his travels, arrived at the chateau, to the great joy of his parents, who were resolved to celebrate his arrival by a fete champetre.
De Montmorency had been introduced on his arrival—he had conceived a dislike for him at first sight.
His appearance was haughty and his manners insolent—our hero’s congratulations upon his return he received with a mark’d indifference, and his acknowledgements were couch’d in a stiff formality that rendered them rude and disgusting.
To this splendid entertainment, springing from parently joy, all the young and gay of the neighbourhood were invited, and among the rest De Montmorency, who had the inexpressible happiness of being honoured with the hand of his lovely Elise for the evening—an honour personally bestowed on him by her father as a testimony of the sense he had of the service which had been rendered her by him.
The fete was celebrated on a lawn before the house, over which hung a canopy of blue silk drawn into festoons and bordered with a deep gold fringe—the whole was supported by the trees that skirted the lawn, and which were decorated with garlands of natural flowers entwined with variagated lamps so as to make the whole have a pleasing and enchanting effect.
De Montmorency and Elise commenced the dancing with a minuet—the elegance of her movement acted as an inspiration on him, and as he was more than ordinary assiduous in his exertions so was he more than ordinary successful in his execution—every eye was delighted while they were engaged in the dance and every tongue was employed in their praise when they concluded—Several other minuets followed, many of which were executed with grace and judgement, but still Elise and De Montmorency were unanimously admitted to have shewn an infinite degree of superiority.
The minuets continued until the guests were invited to partake of an elegant collation—it was serv’d up in another part of the Park equally superb and fancifully decorated as that in which they had been enjoying the dance—De Montmorency found his spirits elated; Elise was equally gay and inspired—they chatted, laughed, sung, and exchanged a thousand tender glances.
The luxuries of the table were however insufficient to detain them long from the fascinating sports of Tyrpsichore—the younger part of the company returned to partake of the pleasures of the country dance—De Montmorency still enjoyed the happiness of Elise’s hand—delighted with each other they kept up the spirit of the company for a considerable time, but at length Elise complained of heat and fatigue—our hero immediately led her to an arbour at some distance from the company.
Exhilarated by the evening’s entertainments he felt himself possessed of courage sufficient to declare the impression her charms had made upon his heart—He cast his eyes upon her with a look that plainly spake the conflict of his soul, and preparing to tell his tale an involuntary sigh stopped the story of his tongue—the emotions of her bosom were evident in the deep blushes that glowed upon her cheek—she turned her face from him—He took hold of her hand and tenderly pressed it between his—she rose from her seat in confusion, and scarcely knowing what she said begged to return to the company, as their long absence might be taken notice of—upon this she would have quitted the arbour but he still holding her hand and pressing it to his breast prevented her, at the same time panting with fear lest she should be offended at his temerity, he replied, with a voice scarcely audible, “Leave me not, Elise! one moment spare to me.”—She trembled, blushed and sat down—He dropped upon one knee, and his eyes sparkling with gratitude for her condescension he proceeded, “No, Elise, think it not too much to let me enjoy your company a few moments longer—I have something to communicate—it is of consequence to my happiness—I have wished to tell you, have repeatedly intended it, but doubt and apprehension have as constantly prevented me—let me not then lose this moment and Heaven grant it may prove a propitious one—Look not with contempt upon me, most lovely Elise, when I say that I love and adore you—my happiness or misery depends upon you—you are the mistress of my fate—I know the weakness of my claim—your equal in fortune I am not, in birth I——”
“Heyday, Monsieur!” (cried young St. Clair, who at this moment broke in upon them, and surprised De Montmorency on his knees) “you are wonderfully gallant; but come it may as well subside for the present the greatest part of the company having missed, and been enquiring for you.”
The sudden and unexpected appearance of St. Clair, together with the sarcastic manner of his address had such an effect that our hero look’d silly and confus’d and Elise had some difficulty to prevent herself from fainting.
They arose and again joined the company and the dance, but their mirth had been effectually put an end to by St. Clair’s interruption—They were both chagrined and disappointed—De Montmorency however took an opportunity in the course of the evening to ask Elise if it would not be too presumptuous to expect her in the morning at the oak tree—she blushed her consent—and the rest of the evening passed away without that pleasure and satisfaction which the former part of it had promised.
C H A P T E R XI.
A mutual Vow.
DE MONTMORENCY, when he returned home, which was not till late, revolved in his mind the transactions of the day—St. Clair’s interruption he thought was not accidental, and he predicted that from him much unhappiness would certainly ensue.
Such inauspicious thoughts kept him from being able to obtain one moment’s sleep, and he arose with a countenance pale and his spirits dejected—he nevertheless proceeded to the place of appointment, where he had not been long when Elise joined him—her presence revived his hopes and cheer’d that gloom which had o’erpowered his spirits and sunk him almost into despair.
De Montmorency, after making his acknowledgements for her thus indulging him, resumed the conversation of the preceeding evening——
“Oh, Elise, said he, though unequal in fortune, I am descended from ancestors that will not disgrace you—and though small the gift of fortune I enjoy, I have enough for the necessaries of life—I ask not wealth, but love—Oh, answer me, then Elise, say that I am not disagreeable to you.”—He paused for her answer.
She remained silent—the tear trickled down her cheek, and her bosom heaved with a thousand emotions.
De Montmorency pressed her hand gently to his lips and continued——“Why those tears, my Elise, am I to consider them as falling, because you are unable to give me your love?—if so—if some happier man possess your affections—Oh! may you be as happy as the wishes of De Montmorency can make you.—He may be, he must be unhappy, for his love for Elise can never cease—but he will bury himself and his passion in silence and obscurity, and never shall his presence give a pang to the bosom of her, whose happiness is a million times dearer to him than his own.”
De Montmorency finding his spirits exhausted, laid his head gently on Elise’s hand, and bursted into tears.
She had been unable to speak during the latter part of our hero’s speech; her emotions prevented her—The attitude, the tears of De Montmorency affected her—she begged him to rise—she hid her face with her hands.
“If I err, said she, Heaven and De Montmorency I hope will forgive me—let him not afflict himself—let him think that Elise has said what he would wish her.”
De Montmorency lifted up his head in a transport of joy—“Do I hear right—sure I dream—did my Elise say she loved me—Oh! bliss unutterable!—oh! happiness too much almost to bear.”
Elise was overwhelmed with confusion, she dared not look De Montmorency in the face—almost delirious with rapture he started up, and catching her in his arms, imprinted on her lips an ardent impassioned kiss—“Oh, my Elise look up, be not ashamed at having thus made me happy—you do not repent at having raised De Montmorency from the depth of despair?”
“Oh, no, no, Montmorency!” replied Elise, in a voice more soft than the gentle Zephyr’s, when on some still evening, he whispers through the trees, “Oh, no, Montmorency!” and she reclined her head on his shoulder.
Our hero was intoxicated with delight, and scarce could believe the evidence of his senses—Recollecting her situation she withdrew from his arms—the tint of modesty flush’d in her cheeks, she trembled lest she had o’erleapt its bounds, but conscious innocence soon dissipated all her terrors and she again sat herself down on the bench.
De Montmorency was lost in a maze of joy—Elise was melted into softness—they remained silent for some time, but a thousand looks which spake more forcibly than any words passed between them—a language in which all lovers converse and which all lovers instantly understand.
It was time that they should part—Elise would be missed if she staid any longer—De Montmorency knew not how to part with her—it was requisite they should not be seen together, yet he would attend her to the avenue of trees, and there they separated, but not until he had drawn from her a promise to meet him again at the same place the next morning.
An hundred times did she turn her head to take a last look at him as she walked up to the chateau, and as repeatedly did he kiss his hand to her as a tender and parting adieu.
C H A P T E R XII.
A retrospect with some requisite information.
IT will be necessary to the future elucidation of our history to make the reader somewhat more acquainted with the motives that influenced and disposition that guided young St. Clair.
During the entertainment which, as before observed, was given for joy at his return, he thought he observed something more than common civility in the attention and demeanour of our hero to his sister, he was resolved therefore to watch them narrowly, and discover if possible whether affection had sprung out of their intimacy.
By keeping them constantly in his eye he observed De Montmorency lead Elise from the company during the country dances—he followed them at a distance, saw them take their seats in the arbour, and by turning down another walk contrived to conceal himself among some trees behind it, where he heard the first part of the diffident lover’s address—finding his suspicions thus verified, yet not deeming it proper at that moment to take serious notice of his endeavouring to win the affection of Elise, he was determined to surprise them as by accident, rally them with seeming goodnature, and prevent any farther explanation taking place for the present.
By adopting this method his cunning led him to imagine he should effect something more.—He knew the credulous temper of his sister, and did not doubt but he could easily become her confidant—herein he was mistaken, nor could all his industry worm out the secret from her—being deceived in this he was determined to watch her narrowly and discover that which he was convinced she was desirous to conceal.
Full of this determination he became a spy upon her steps and actions, and while he was thus employed he communicated his suspicions and what he had seen to his father—he likewise hinted how he intended to act—his father approved the plan and agreed with him in every particular—nor was this wonderful for the one was the exact resemblance of the other, and both were proud, insolent, haughty and avaritious.
Between them a scheme was concerted and arranged to entrap these unsuspecting lovers, and a plan determined upon if it should be found that any serious affection subsisted between them—but what this plan was, and however impatient the reader may be to know, we are not at liberty to declare at present.
C H A P T E R XIII.
An unwelcome intrusion.
DE MONTMORENCY thought himself the happiest of men, beloved by Elise, his days rolled onward sweetly and swiftly—he looked not, he thought not beyond the present moment, the happiness of which he fondly hoped would be continued to successive ones—ah! how uncertain are all human enjoyments.—The day of life how delusive!—ushered in by the Sun of Happiness the Morning dawns—we look around us, every thing is cheerful—the sun unsullied by a single cloud shines upon us—we are happy, and imagining our happiness will be permanent, press onward with firmness, and with rapture—at Noon we look round us again, and the scene appears not so cheerful as formerly; we perceive a gloominess in it, dark clouds arise from the horizon and obscure the sun—it grows dark, the rain descends upon our heads in torrents—the Evening approaches, the former beauty of the scene is forgotten in the present dreariness—and Night arriving, finds us weary, unhappy, and discontented.
At the usual hour each morning Elise failed not to meet De Montmorency at the old Oak—there would they exchange a thousand mutual vows of love and tenderness—talk with fondness of future scenes of enjoyment, and promise themselves in retirement, endless happiness and pleasure.
One morning they had talked over these scenes with more than usual tenderness—De Montmorency on his knees had called Heaven to witness the sincerity of his affection, and Elise in the same posture had uttered the same invocation.
They were seized with a mutual melancholy—De Montmorency sighed—Elise wept—her head was reclined on his shoulder, while he was employed in kissing off the pearly drops that trickled down her blooming cheeks—The world, every one, but themselves were forgotten.
In this tender attitude—in this melting softness, a voice from the adjoining wood called out to Montmorency, and by the title of villain, bade him desist—he started up, and looking round, beheld young De St. Clair with his sword drawn—Elise shrieked, and running to her brother, fell on her knees—She held up her clasped hands to him, and tried to speak—her tongue refused to perform its office—she fainted away.—Regardless of St. Clair’s threats or his sword, De Montmorency rushed to her assistance, and lifted her up in his arms to carry her to a neighbouring brook—De St. Clair would have prevented him, but De Montmorency pushing him aside, carried her to the side of the stream, and sprinkled her face plentifully with water this soon recovered her—she opened her eyes, and looked round for her brother “Oh, hide me, save me from him, De Montmorency.”—and she hid her face with her hands.
De Montmorency promising to protect her, she put her arm within his, and walked slowly out of the wood; they there met St. Clair, who with a furious air bade our hero draw—De Montmorency seeing that Elise trembled, and was ready to faint, whispered De St. Clair he would meet him next morning, with which he thought fit to be contented, and walking by the side of Elise, suffered our hero to support her home.
C H A P T E R XIV.
DE MONTMORENCY and his Father lived more like friends, than a father and a son—this produced a mutual openness which prevented our hero from ever concealing the least thing from him—What a blessing, as well as advantage to society, would it be, did but all parents and children live upon the same footing.
Consequently when De Montmorency returned home, he communicated to his father what had happened, and his appointment to meet St. Clair the next morning.
To Hubert, who loved his son with the extremest tenderness, this was afflicting intelligence; but the sense of honour was stronger in his breast than any other sensation.
He advised his son to keep the appointment by all means, and promised to attend at a distance unseen, in case his assistance should be necessary.
De Montmorency employed himself all the remainder of the day in writing a farewell letter to his Elise, and in trying to make his peace with Heaven.
He retired to rest, but sleep was a stranger to his eyelids—The image of his Elise mourning his absence, perhaps his death, presented itself to his imagination, and tortured him so, that he arose long before the dawn of day, and prepared himself for the approaching contest.
Hubert was as little able to sleep as his son—he arose also, and they were at the place of rendezvous some time before the hour of meeting.
St. Clair, attended by his servant, whom he commanded to wait at a distance, at length appeared, and advancing to our hero, drew his sword—De St. Clair attacked him with fierceness—Montmorency cool and collected, found it no difficult matter to evade his furious assaults, and though he had St. Clair’s life many times in his power, from his want of skill, and the fierceness with which he fought; the idea of his being the brother of his Elise, prevented him from taking the least advantage of him, and he therefore only acted upon the defensive.—St. Clair was enraged at his adversary’s superior skill, and began with encreased fury.
In the midst of the combat, a female appeared on horseback at a full gallop—as soon as she came near to the combatants, she threw herself with a distracted air off her horse, and ran between them—It was Elise.
“Oh! Montmorency! (said she) will you kill my brother?—Oh! Brother! will you kill my Montmorency?”
Our hero was preparing to sheathe his sword, as a token of his unwillingness to injure the brother of his Elise, but St. Clair, regardless of her tears and entreaties, still pushed with fierceness at our hero, who resolving to put an end to the combat, by a dexterous jerk disarmed his adversary, and snapped his sword in the middle.
He then advanced to the trembling maid, and assured her, it was not his intention to injure her brother, and that he only acted defensively.
Elise looked her thanks, and her approbation of his conduct; but St. Clair, enraged at being thus overcome, seized his sister rudely by the hand, and without deigning to thank our hero for his life, helped her to mount her horse, and bidding his servant bring his, rode off, and left De Montmorency struck dumb with astonishment. Hubert advanced now from the wood, and on his knees returned thanks to Heaven for having made the event of the contest so consonant to his wishes.
They then retired—Hubert, who saw many ill consequences would arise to his son, if he continued this connection, employed the whole day in trying to persuade him to overcome his attachment, not with that stern authority, which parents often use to their children, and which generally defeats the end intended, but with the gentleness of an affectionate friend.
De Montmorency, though he acquiesced in the truth of his father’s observations, was convinced that not to love Elise would be impossible; nevertheless he promised never to act contrary to the wishes of his father, with which Hubert was satisfied.
In the evening a Peasant brought a letter for De Montmorency—It was from Elise—kissing it with ecstacy, he opened it, and read the following contents:
“Oh! my Montmorency! I fear it will be long ’ere we shall meet again—my father has forbade me stirring out by myself, and my brother has been in close conference ever since the morning—what the purport of it is, I know not—but my forboding heart tells me it is inimical to the happiness of De Montmorency and Elise.
Yet, oh, yet, let us not despair—let us live in the fond hope that futurity has many happy days in store for us.
In the mean time, let De Montmorency depend on the affection of Elise, as Elise does in the love of Montmorency.
De Montmorency read it over a hundred times he kissed the dear morsel ardently, and placing it in his bosom, found it afforded him comfort, and some degree of pleasure.——Elise’s promise of constancy obliterated the idea of separation; happy at the security of her love, he for a time could see no father—Nothing in his thought but the object of his wishes he took out again her note, and again perused it—but how different were his sensations?—it now appeared a farewell epistle:—‘it will be long ere we meet again’—“Good Heaven’s!” (ejaculated he, in the utmost anguish) “can I live without the presence of her I love?”—he went on—‘inimical to the happiness of De Montmorency and Elise’—This was a shaft that pierced the inmost recesses of his heart;——“my own wretchedness, (continued he) I could have borne, but to be the cause of rendering her miserable whose happiness I should think cheaply purchased with the loss of life, is more than I can bear!”—He perplexed himself so much with these fancied ills, that he became almost frantic, but at length proceeding to her conclusion, he was more calm;—her expressions of affection were words of comfort, and he resolved to take her advice and copy the promised example of his divine mistress—live in the fond hope that Futurity would bring happiness in her train nor give way to the insinuating artifice of Despair.
C H A P T E R XV.
A change in appearances by an unexpected
offer of friendship.
SCARCE had De Montmorency reconciled himself to the ill-fortune which the letter of Elise gave him reason to apprehend was in agitation when young St. Clair was announc’d at the Hermitage to pay him a visit.
From what had already passed, and the suspicions he was now impressed with, our hero could not entertain a doubt but that his visitor came on some hostile errand, he therefore received his salutations with a cold indifference and a stately politeness—of course he was much surprised when St. Clair, approaching him, took hold of his hand and requested his pardon for his late indefensible behaviour.
As De Montmorency easily forgave those who offended him it was not probable that the brother of his Elise should apply in vain—St. Clair’s apologizing for his conduct entirely banished all enmity from his mind, and upon a requisition that their future days might be mark’d with an unshaken friendship it was most cordially acceded to.
For some time they conversed together with the greatest familiarity, talked over their former pursuits, and what particular places they had visited during their absence from home, and so pleased did they appear with each other that St. Clair pressed De Montmorency so eagerly to accompany him to his father’s he was forced to consent, and they sat off together for his chateau.
Upon their arrival he was received with more than usual kindness by Monsieur and Madame de St. Clair; and need we say by Elise with pleasure and delight.
De Montmorency was amazed at this extraordinary change of behaviour, he fear’d it was too flattering sweet to be substantial; yet he hoped and thought it was possible to proceed from a conviction of having behaved improperly to him, and for which they were now desirous to make reparation.
When he was about to depart they insisted upon his remaining and spending the day with them—it was the habitation of Elise and how could he refuse?—Upon rising from dinner Monsieur de St. Clair requested his guest to favour him with his company, and taking hold of his hand led him to his study, where in the most friendly manner he entered into a serious conversation with him—wondered how a young gentleman of his active disposition could bear to live a life of idleness and inactivity; and, upon our hero’s protesting it was absolutely contrary to his inclinations but that at present he knew not how to change it, he voluntary offered to use his interest (and which he did not doubt would be sufficient) to procure him a post of honour and employment at court—it would not, he said, be conferring a favour but merely discharging a debt of gratitude for the preservation of his child.
De Montmorency was astonished at this singular and unexpected instance of kindness and friendship, for which he thanked Monsieur de St. Clair in the handsomest manner, but observed he was not at liberty to accept the proposition without consulting his father, whom he promised to acquaint with it immediately upon his return home, and inform him of the result in the course of a few days.
The parent of Elise was satisfied with this—her lover was elated at being so much in favour, and the point being settled they quitted the study.
De Montmorency wished for an opportunity to acquaint Elise of this proposal of Monsieur de St. Clair’s, in order to hear her opinion, that appearing to him of as much consequence as the determination of his father—Not finding her in the saloon at their return he wandered into the garden where he soon discovered her seated in an arbour, apparently in deep contemplation.
He approached the place, and after some mutual congratulations told her of her father’s proposal, at which she was equally astonished with him, but advised that by all means he should accept of it.
De Montmorency heaving a sigh and fixing his eyes upon Elise—“Is my love, (said he) aware of what she advises me to do? Does she not know that she bids me part with her perhaps for ever?”
“No, (replied she with a smile) it is but to make love, for a short time, give place to interest.”
“And can Elise, (returned De Montmorency) treat our separation with so much indifference?—My hours will be tedious and my days burthensome when I am divided from her—and I had hoped she would sometimes have honoured my absence with a sigh—but why should I wish her to be miserable?—no, I do not—may her days pass over in delightful tranquility and may she ever be a stranger to the poignant pangs that in such a case I should inevitably suffer.”
“Oh, Montmorency! (replied the lovely maid) do you think Elise will not feel the separation as sensibly as you can? Alas! too sure she will—but would she prove her affection by wishing him to sacrifice to her fondness so great a prospect of his advancement.”
De Montmorency was satisfied—he was more—he was enraptured—pressing the blushing maid to his bosom he repeated his vows of constancy and that her image alone should reign in his heart wherever Fate should lead him, and however great the distance might be between them.
The expressive looks of Elise made an equal promise—her eyes sparkled with pleasure at his assurances of love and constancy, and she almost bless’d her father for his proposal, notwithstanding it tended to divide them, since it had produced such ardent testimonies of De Montmorency’s affection.
While they were sitting thus happy in each other’s love they were joined by the St. Clair’s—Monsieur and Madame with much affability protested they had been all over the grounds to seek for them, and young St. Clair rallied them with perfect goodnature for having again stolen into an arbour—thus jocund they returned back to the chateau together, and the young lovers spent the remainder of the day with that ecstacy which always attends mutual confidence and affection.
C H A P T E R XVI.
Family pride subdued by fatherly affection.
AS soon as De Montmorency returned home, he hastened to seek his father—he found him joyful as usual at the sight of his son—little hesitation therefore was necessary to inform him of the proposal he had received from Monsieur de St. Clair.
Hubert had a very proud spirit, the pride of a long line of noble ancestors, and being now unable to confer he was unwilling to receive favours from any one.
As soon as his son had informed him of the advantageous offer of Monsieur de St. Clair, his countenance assumed a gravity, and he remained for some time silent—He felt it as a matter worthy consideration—On one hand he thought it would be a degradation to the illustrious name of Montmorency,—on the other the future advancement and welfare of his son appeared the natural consequence; this, added to the probability that by accepting the proposal he might establish his fame, and be able to support the name of Montmorency in its former splendour, totally silenced every sentiment of pride, and he consented that his son should submit to accept the patronage of a man to whom riches alone gave interest and importance.
His father determining in its favour, and Elise being an advocate for it, De Montmorency could not think of objecting to again quitting home—to exchange the society of those he loved for the busy scenes of court;—honour and assiduity, he thought, would lead him to fame and fortune, and the beloved object of his heart become his glorious reward.
The ensuing morning, therefore, he walked up to Monsieur de St. Clair’s, and informed him of his father’s consent, and his readiness to accept his promissed recommendation—The information was received with pleasure, and assurances of the greatest exertions for his advantage followed.—Delay was considered as improper, and therefore the end of the following week was fixed upon for his departure for Paris.
C H A P T E R XVII.
THE nearer the day of his departure approached, the more reluctance De Montmorency felt to his intended journey—The preparations were stabs to his peace, and his heart sickened at the idea of separation.
It was often in his thoughts to decline the proposal altogether, but this his pride constantly opposed, and prevented him from putting into execution—To be considered as a weak and unsteady character was his aversion, and to be suspected not to possess a wish to merit his Elise not to be borne.
The day preceding that on which he was to set out on his journey, he was invited to spend at the chateau; to take leave of his friends and bid adieu to his mistress.
To him and to Elise it was a melancholy one indeed—continued farewells glanced in their looks, and the tear of affection sparkled in their eyes—While the rest of the family seemed overjoyed at the intended journey of De Montmorency, he cursed the want of fortune, and the charms of riches which alone created this fatal necessity, which forced him to tear himself from all he held most dear.
At length o’erpowered with the continued conversation of his departure, the lovely Elise wept, and De Montmorency, but for shame, could have accompanied her—To prevent particular notice she withdrew ’till dinner was served up, of which she partook but little.—The fineness of the day tempted them to rise from table much sooner than customary, for the purpose of enjoying a walk in the gardens and pleasure grounds round the chateau.
De Montmorency wished to be alone with Elise, he panted for an opportunity to take a tender farewell of her, he contrived therefore to draw her, as he imagined unperceived, from the rest of the company—mistaken, however, as he was in that point, they did not think proper to oppose or prevent it.
When they had wandered to the end of a serpentine walk far from the sight of any one, De Montmorency found it impossible to conceal his emotions any longer.
He caught the lovely maid in his arms, and pressing her affectionately to his bosom burst into a flood of tears—Elise could not support this mark of tenderness without being equally affected—she wept in concert with him—Thus overcome with sympathetic grief at parting, they remained some time in silence—neither of them were able to give utterance to a single word.
De Montmorency was ashamed of this unmanly behaviour—Was it for a soldier to give way to womanish weeping—He saw the lovely Elise almost sinking beneath the weight of woe—he felt it his duty to comfort her, and summoned up his resolution accordingly. He withdrew from her embrace, and kissed the drops that fell in abundance from her lovely eyes.
A seat was in view, to that they repaired, and after resting some little time he endeavoured to persuade her to master a grief which he was unable to conquer himself.
“My Elise; my love—do not give way thus to sorrow—be comforted—let us not despair—we shall meet again, and that shortly—let my sweet girl consider that her faithful De Montmorency is only going for a little time from her, to prepare for those future scenes of bliss, which Heaven will permit us to enjoy together.”
“Alas, (replied Elise) I know it is impious to despair—I try not to do it—but I find it impossible—I have a fixed melancholy, a fatal forboding about my heart, that tells me we shall never, never meet again.”
The lovely maid burst a second time into tears, and De Montmorency felt himself chilled to the soul by those last words of Elise—he could not reply a word, nor could he restrain the tears from again trickling down his cheeks.
However unwilling they were to separate, reflection again told them it was now time they should return to the company—Elise pointed out the necessity, and she bid him a last farewell.
De Montmorency throwing himself on his knees, and clasping his hands together, in an emphatic tone of voice, and looking up to Heaven——
“Father of all, (said he) oh! hear!—oh! grant me the accomplishment of my wishes!—endue my Elise with fortitude to bear the absence of her De Montmorency.
Oh! make their separation short;—suffer them to meet again with transport, and permit them to enjoy many many years of happiness together!—but if, (oh! yet avert this dreadful event!) we are to meet no more—oh, pour upon her head blessings unnumbered: and, when he is no more, may the image of De Montmorency never intrude upon her remembrance to cause one painful thought, or excite one tear of anguish.”
Having concluded his heart-felt address to Heaven, he arose from his posture of supplication, but was obliged to the assistance of a neighbouring tree for its support, or his anguish would have laid him level with his mother earth.
Elise, who had been almost convulsed with grief, during De Montmorency’s pathetic prayer, now dropped down also on her knees, and in a voice interrupted by tears, uttered the following emphatic ejaculation:——
“To Thee, who alone can bestow peace and happiness, an afflicted female sues—oh! save her De Montmorency from danger—protect him in the day of trouble—and after a short separation, return him to the arms of his faithful Elise, constant and affectionate as ever—but if, oh! if we meet no more!” she could not proceed, her emotions were too violent and acute, her nerves became enfeebled, and she sunk upon the ground in a swoon.
De Montmorency raised her in his arms, and upon her recovery they interchanged a hundred mutual vows of never ending love and truth, bade each other a hundred times farewell for the last time, and still returned to embrace each other for the last time once more.
At length, perceiving some of the family crossing the walk at a distance, they were obliged to part—“Farewell, oh, farewell, (said De Montmorency) doubt not we shall meet again, fate cannot be so cruel to prevent it—oh! fear, fear it not.” Saying this he presented Elise with a miniature portrait of himself, praying her to wear it for the sake of the original, which she received with pleasure, and kissing it, placed it in her bosom, where she promised it should remain her chiefest delight until his return.
“Adieu, my dear, dear De Montmorency, (continued Elise) remember how long thy Elise will think each hour of separation, make it, therefore, as short as possible—delay not, but return with all speed to her who lives but in your presence, and may the Almighty bless and protect you.”
Again he folded her in his arms, nor did she through coy modestly fail to return his embrace—his present she amply repaid, by presenting him with her own miniature, which he received on his knees, kissed it ardently, and vowed it should accompany him through every danger, and to the last hour of existence.
With another last kiss, another last embrace they at length summoned resolution to tear themselves from each other’s arms.
“Adieu, my dearest Elise! (said De Montmorency as he quitted her) may the guardian angel of innocence and virtue attend your steps, enrich your days with joy and crown your nights with peace!”
Upon this they separated and returned by different paths to the house, in order, as they fondly imagined, to avoid the suspicion of having been the whole time of their absence together.
De Montmorency, it is true, again joined the company—it is equally so that he endeavoured to assume the appearance of being in spirits, but in vain; he found the evening long, dull and unentertaining, and glad was he when it drew towards a conclusion.
The hour no sooner arrived in which he thought he could depart with propriety than he intimated his intentions to Monsieur De St. Clair, who taking him aside, presented him with a letter, which he accompanied by an assurance would procure him the interest of a powerful nobleman, and wishing him every possible success and happiness, bade him farewell.
Our hero thanked him in the warmest manner for his kindness, took a polite leave of Madame and young St. Clair, and mounted his horse to return home.
Fortunately at this moment Elise was not present, and he had not again to undergo the painful task of taking leave of her—indeed she purposely took an opportunity of retiring to keep out of the way, sensible that they should both have betrayed symptoms that were much better concealed.
As he was proceeding down the avenue of trees, he turned his head back to take a parting look at the dwelling of Elise, and beheld her at a distant window—She waved her lovely hand to him—De Montmorency would have returned but he knew it could answer no purpose, nor would he be enabled to speak to her—leaving therefore his whole soul with her, kissing his hand and bowing most respectfully, he with a slow pace continued on his way, but not without continually looking back at the window while it was in view, where Elise still remained to take a last, last farewell sight of him.
C H A P T E R XVIII.
THE taking leave of Elise was not the only severe trial De Montmorency had to undergo—he had still to part with his father!
Once before had Hubert known what it was to be separated from a son whom he loved with the utmost affection, and who constituted his sole happiness—it was then a hard task; but his filial duty and attention since his return had now rendered his presence so inestimable that the idea of losing his endearing society was almost too much for him.
When alone Hubert gave way to his sorrow upon the occasion, but determined within himself that his son’s spirits should not be damp’d by any intrusion of his grief—yet, in spite of his endeavours, when the trying moment came the tears trickled down his aged cheeks and all his firm resolves melted into nothing.
All was prepared and De Montmorency was to set out for Paris in the morning—Hubert, therefore, upon their preparing to retire to their different apartments, folded his arms round his son intending to recommend him to the care of Heaven—at that instant all the fondness of a parent came upon him and he found himself incapable of uttering a single word, or bestow a blessing upon him—his looks, his manner spake the excrutiating conflict of his soul—De Montmorency felt his father’s anguish—his heart was almost rent in twain!—and bursting out with a wildness bordering on distraction:
“Cruel, cursed Fortune! (exclaimed he) to follow whom we are forced to tear ourselves from parents, from every endearing connection! from all we love! while thou, fickle goddess! often mockest our pursuits and refusest to recompence us for the sacrifice we oblige ourselves to make thee!”
“Oh, my son! (cried Hubert, recovering himself as much as possible) let not the weakness of old age damp your youthful ardour in the glorious career—the name of Montmorency has heretofore stood high in the annals of our country—go thou and rescue it from its present obscurity—that people who have boasted of the talents of a Montmorency; that king who has been proud of his services, will hear your name with joy, and encourage your merits and virtue with pleasure—serve them truly, and ever think the esteem of your country, and an honest fame the greatest good on this side Heaven.”
De Montmorency promised to obey—the sentiments were congenial to his own—honour was the idol of his worship—nor did family pride reign more predominant in Hubert’s breast than in his—With reciprocal symptoms of affection, it being late, they retired to rest; the son happy in being honoured with the advice of such a father, and the father rendering thanks to his heavenly Creator for such a son.
So much affected was our hero with what had just passed that he was determined to set off as soon as the morning dawned, in order to spare his father and himself the pain of another parting—With this view he arose at the second crowing of the cock, and stole softly down stairs—passing by Hubert’s room he observed the door was not fastened—he was tempted to see his father once more; and hoping he might do so unperceived and without disturbing him with tip-toe step he ventured in and approached his bed-side.
He was asleep—upon his pillow was a prayer-book, out of which he had been praying for the prosperity of his son, and from an handkerchief lying by there was evident reason to believe that tears had accompanied his prayers.
De Montmorency felt himself affected—he could willingly have fell upon his knees, but the apprehension that he should awaken his father prevented him; lifting up his eyes to Heaven he ejaculated an ardent though silent prayer and then retreated out of the room—when he got down stairs, early as it was, there he found the attentive old domestic already up and waiting his young master’s commands—He desired his horse to be instantly got ready, which being done the faithful creature followed him to the door with tears in his eyes—our hero observed it, and taking hold of his hand wished him many days of happiness, thank’d him for his honest attachment, and desired to be remembered in his prayers.
The poor old man bathed his hand with his tears, but he could not speak—De Montmorency therefore shaking him again by the hand, and casting up a glance to his father’s apartment, mounted his horse and proceeded on his way.
As he went on, without company and destitute of spirits, a thousand distressing ideas agitated his mind—thought roll’d on thought with quick succession, nor had he time to decide upon one before another came—he had not however gone any great way before one struck his fancy which he was resolved to put in execution—it was to ride within sight of the chateau, and take another look at the window where he had last beheld his adorable Elise.
There are some minds so unacquainted with the delicate emotions of a lover’s heart that the idea of looking at an unoccupied window will appear trifling and ridiculous—such beings our hero would not have considered worthy a moment’s thought, and such the records of his early days are not likely to please; while others of more refined sensibility, knowing what it is to love, will overlook the extravagance of a lover, nor think meanly of him for adopting such a resolution, nor weakly of us for considering of it as deserving relation.
Turning his horse therefore he rode towards the chateau, and stopped exactly opposite the window at which his dearest Elise had stood—all was hush’d, and scarce did the verdant leaf tremble on the yielding bough—for a while he gazed with silent rapture and form’d her beauteous image in his mind—he knew the dwelling held his soul’s idol, and on that account it was an object dear to his sight. At length roused from his reverie by a noise at a distance:
“Amiable Elise, (said he) dear, lovely maid! thou seekest that repose, which, oh, may thy pillow always afford thee!—far off, though thy Montmorency is wandering, still shalt thy image be present to his imagination—thy assurances of affection for him shall ever be remembered—thy vows of constancy shall never be forgotten.
“Each night shall he not retire to rest till he has petitioned the throne of Heaven to watch over thy slumbers and secure thy happiness!—and may those prayers reach the All-Divine and Merciful ear, and prove as fruitful to thee as they are sincere!”
He now prepared to retire from the bewitching spot, and turning his horse’s head for that purpose was surprised with the appearance of young St. Clair, and who was advancing towards him—confus’d at having his weakness thus discovered he would gladly have shunned the meeting, but it was now too late—he was unable to form a pretence for having wandered so far out of his road; in short he dreaded being an object of ridicule—Conscience however acted upon our hero in this instance, as she is daily felt to do by others, and magnified a trifle into an evil when no evil was near; for upon St. Clair’s approach he merely testified a surprise at seeing him thus early prepared for his journey, and after the common salutations proceeded with:
“Why this early stirring proves an inclination to be gone—but the activity of De Montmorency’s mind and his persevering spirit must ensure success to all his undertakings—this particular respect to our family in coming round this way will be sensibly felt by us all, and sorry am I that my father is not yet up to make his own acknowledgements for the honour, as such he was certain it would be felt and considered.”
Such was the turn this terrific meeting in appearance took—De Montmorency declared he thought it no more attention than was their due for the many favors he had received at their hands—should have been happy to have seen Monsieur de St. Clair, had he been stirring, but as it was begged he would make his most profound respects to the whole family—upon this they parted, young St. Clair to the chateau and De Montmorency on his way to Paris, towards which with a mournful and heavy heart he proceeded.
C H A P T E R XIX.
trifling accident the cause of a new acquaint-
ance—a tale—two lovers made happy—and a
HIS reflections on the road were of the most poignant kind—he revolved within himself his present pursuit—he conceived, that for an unsubstantial prospect, he was leaving a real good, and for the lurements of wealth, he was forsaking scenes of happiness—these considerations would have certainly induced him to return home, had it not been opposed by the dictates of pride; this made his great heart swell with indignation at his own weakness, and urged him onward towards the capital.
As he was passing through a small Village, thus perplexed with conflicting passions, and the most melancholy thoughts, his horse’s shoe came off, and he was forced to alight at a little neat cottage, to stop till another could be put on—The cottage was inhabited by an old woman, and a beautiful young girl, her daughter—her whose countenance was simplicity itself—but a certain air of dejection, threw a cloud over it, and frequent sighs, declared that she was not happy—De Montmorency, who felt for every one in distress, was resolved to enquire the cause—the maiden at first betrayed an unwillingness to own she was unhappy, but at length, by perseverance, our hero drew from her the following confession.
A N N E T T E’s T A L E.
“AN’T please you, Sir, William and I were brought up here in the same village from our infancy—we used to play and dance together—he preferred me to all the girls in the neighbourhood, and I thought him the most blithesome lad I ever saw—he said he loved me, and I confessed I did the same for him, and we both promised to love one another all our lives—as we grew up, our resolutions were the same, and every body in the place thought we should certainly be married—and so we should had it not been for some soldiers who came to our village—they, at first artfully enticed William into their company, and at length, prevailed on him to resolve that he would go for a soldier—I tried all in my power to persuade him against it, but it would not do, he said he was bound by duty, to serve the Grande Monarque whenever he wanted soldiers, he wanted them now, and go he would—‘Alas, Sir, what is the Grande Monarque to us poor villagers?—he does not know us, he cannot care for us’—and so I told William, begged him, with tears in my eyes, to stay at home, and by care and industry we might possibly get a little vineyard of our own in time, but I could not prevail—he would go—Alas, no one knows, Sir, how I mourned his absence for two long, long years—It came afterwards into my head that he would be killed, but these thoughts I always checked, because they were wrong—the Almighty, says I, who is the father of us all, and loves us, will not take my William from me, for that would be cruel, and contrary to his goodness—so I bore his absence as patiently as I could—at the end of two years, the wars being ended he came home again—oh, Sir, how happy did I feel myself at his return!—but, alas, my happiness was soon changed!—instead of that love and tenderness he had always shewn me before he went away—he is now totally indifferent, and scarcely ever comes near me; as I love him as dearly as ever, it is his slighting grieves me so—I am sure I shall never be happy again—but I should not so much mind if I could only work as I used to do, towards supporting my poor mother, who is unable to do it herself, and who will most probably be starved, should William’s inconstancy be the death of me.”
The artless simplicity of the poor girl, touched De Montmorency, and he resolved to do her all the service he could—he sent for William—William was a comely healthy looking lad—as soon as he came into the room, and saw Annette, he blushed.
“William, (said De Montmorency) how comes it that you have broke your promises to your Annette? why have you ceased loving her?”
“An’t, please you honour, (replied William) I love her now as well as ever, but when I was in the army, and used to talk about her to my comrades, they would laugh at me, and call me fool for being constant to her, as they were certain she would not be so to me; by this means they made me ashamed of talking of my Annette while I was with them, although I gave no credit to what they said against her; but when I came back to our village, I was told all they suspected was right, and that she had not been true to me—and this, your honour, is why I have neglected her—had she been faithful to me, I should never have forsook her, and though her inconstancy has made me do it, it has cost me many a heart ach, God knows.”
De Montmorency saw that William’s neglect proceeded not from inclination, and as Annette protested her innocence, he acted accordingly—“William, (said he) who told you Annette was inconstant? for whoever told you so, I am sure, told you false—they deceived you, for some wicked purpose—you shall not make Annette unhappy—consent to marry her, and I’ll give you a hundred livres for her portion.”
William was too much pleased at the sincerity of his Annette to refuse, and De Montmorency taking her by the hand joined it to his, and he received it with pleasure—preparations were instantly made for the marriage of William and Annette, and our hero did not depart from the village, without the pleasing reflections of having been the means of making two harmless creatures happy.
His horse’s shoes having been replaced in the mean time, he again set off for Paris, where he arrived in a few day afterwards, without any particular circumstance happening—Having taken the necessary rest after the fatigues of his journey, he drest himself, and went to deliver Monsieur de St. Clair’s letter as directed.
The Nobleman read it several times over, eyeing De Montmorency all the time with peculiar attention, and at length said, that he would fulfil the wishes of his friend Monsieur de St. Clair, but as some days would elapse before he could execute them, requested our hero to favour him, in the mean time, with his company at his house.
De Montmorency drew a happy presage from this reception, and returning the nobleman thanks for his politeness, complied accordingly.
C H A P T E R XX.
religious ceremony interrupted—Reason sub-
servient to love, exemplified in the History of
St. Julian and Arabella.
THE interval between our hero’s arrival at Paris, and the time fixed by the nobleman for fulfilling the request of Monsieur de St. Clair, he resolved to employ in viewing the most remarkable places in Paris with more attention than on his former visit he had leisure to do—he was the more especially induced to fill up his time in that manner from imagining, that besides being some employment and satisfying his curiosity it might in some measure detach his thoughts from his dearest Elise, and obtain some suspension of the corroding pangs of separation—to eradicate the beloved object but a moment from the mind how difficult was it to De Montmorency! how nearly impossible is it to all those who love sincerely.
Absence can possibly decrease an affection which is not founded upon truth and sincerity, but serves only to make it stronger when the heart is forced to acknowledge an esteem for the object of its wishes is more deeply rooted there than any passion whatever.
De Montmorency resorted to the gardens of the Thuilleries, they were beautiful; he was obliged to acknowledge it: but still would he say to himself, with a sigh, “How much more so would they appear was my charming Elise here to view them with me!”
The gallery of Luxemberg was magnificent—but still to him there wanted one addition to render it a perfect spectacle—had Elise been there he would have readily admitted nothing could possibly be more grand.
While he was passing his time in this manner, visiting every place that was likely to engage his attention or kill the idle hour, he hapened one evening in a solitary ramble to come to the Convent of St. ——, where he beheld a concourse of people crowding in—on enquiring into the cause of such an unusual circumstance, he was told a young lady was then going to take the veil—this was a ceremony he had never beheld, and therefore curiosity, or rather a desire to amuse his thoughts, led him to mix with the people that was about the place and proceed with them into the Convent, and being got into the chapel of which, he took his seat in one of the galleries without any person’s interrupting him, and where he thought he should be able to see the whole proceedings with the greatest advantage.
The chapel was ornamented in a superb manner—the priests were arranged in order and anxiously waiting to receive their devoted victim—at her approach being announced they prepared for their official duties with pleasure sparkling in their eyes—A solemn silence ensued, for although the assembly was numerous yet each being intent upon the ceremony and anxious to observe all that passed scarce a breath was to be heard—She entered at the bottom of the chapel and proceeded up the aisle towards the altar with a slow and steady step—Six nuns with each a taper in their hands and singing an occasional hymn began the procession, they were followed by some little boys, walking also two and two, and joining in the chorus, after these came the devoted victim—for such sure in the eye of reason must all those unfortunate females be considered, who from prejudice, superstition, or family policy, have been thus cut off from the first great principle of their creation, enjoying the comforts of, and becoming useful members to, Society—The one whose appearance for the inauguration had drawn this assembly together, was majestical in stature, beautiful in person; her dress, as is usual upon these occasions, was white sattin, being emblematic of innocence, and was displayed with taste and elegance; her hair was ornamented with a sprig of white jessamine, and in her left hand she bore a small slip of willow—there was an air of deep melancholy in her countenance which was inexpressibly sweet and alluring—it might plainly be perceived her heart regretted bidding adieu to the world, nevertheless she seemed to bear her fate with resignation and to have summoned up all her fortitude to enable her to undergo the important sacrifice she was now about to make.—As soon as she advanced up to the altar the solemn service began—an introductory prayer was followed by a grand chorus, accompanied by a deep-toned organ, whose awful sounds were peculiarly impressive—Another prayer, in which the young lady took part with the priest, succeeded the chorus, at the conclusion of which an hymn was sung by two of the nuns, the music was slow and melancholy, not much unlike that which is played as a requiem to departed souls.
The unhappy fair one supported her spirits, during the whole ceremony, with much fortitude, until the priests came to that part of the service which pronounces that all further communication with the world is at an end for ever—upon that being repeated she burst into tears—every spectator was affected—for every one, excepting the religious order, seemed to acknowledge a pity for the occasion which either induced or compell’d her to abjure the joys of friendship, love and society—a general glow of sympathy o’erspread the audience, they felt for her situation and wept in concert with the hapless devoted beauty—De Montmorency’s breast, softened as it was by his own sorrows, could not behold her distress unmoved—he wished to administer peace and relieve her afflictions, but he knew not how any interference on his part could render her any service, he was, therefore, of necessity forced to remain, what he had hitherto been, a silent though not unconcerned spectator.
This scene of sorrow passed unnoticed by the priests—custom, as it is truly said, makes all things easy; the surgeon amputates a limb without a sigh, and he who is familiarized to brutal deeds knows not the soft sensations dictated by humanity—The ceremony proceeded; the brotherhood seemed in haste to add one more to the number of those hapless wretches which they had already assisted in immuring from the world—They were beginning the prayer immediately preceding that which when finished the poor female cannot retract her promise—that being ended she is stripped of her worldly ornaments, esteemed as initiated in the order, and habited in nun’s attire—at the moment the priest had began this prayer a confused noise was heard at the bottom of the aisle which attracted the attention of every one present—A voice loud and vociferous was urging the people to make way—the croud separated—a handsome youth, with frantic looks burst through them—his dress disordered, his air distracted—Regardless of the place or persons he flew like lightning up to the alter:
“I am not too late, (said he) the fatal ceremony is not yet finished! kind Heaven I thank thee!”
Seizing the trembling maid by the hand and falling upon his knees he went on; “Oh, my Arabella, what means this desperate act? behold thy St. Julian—” the agitation of his spirits prevented him from uttering any thing more.
This unexpected intrusion was too much for the already oppressed Arabella; she seemed ready to sink with the weight of her emotions—after some little struggle within herself she assumed a degree of spirits, and addressed him with—
“Ah, why does St. Julian interrupt me in these sacred moments!—has he not distressed me enough already?—Depart St. Julian—oh! do not thus expose me in such a situation—attempt not by a shew of tenderness to shake my resolution—leave me, I say; nor seek to prevent my making this sacrifice to Heaven with composure and fortitude.”
“It must not, can not, shall not, be; (rejoined he, with a look of distraction) Heaven will not listen to your pretended, perjur’d vows—oh! repent ’ere it is too late, nor rashly plunge yourself into ceaseless misery!—the ceremony is not yet finished—let thy St. Julian snatch thee hence—he has not been faithless, he will convince his Arabella he has not.”
This disjointed application had its effect—she melted into tears and replied in a softened tone of voice—“Ah, wherefore! it is too late—Leave me, St. Julian; leave me to my sorrows.”
“O, never! never will I consent to your being immured within these horrid walls.”
Proceeding to lead her from the alter, to which she did not appear averse, the priests interfered; they endeavoured to come between them, but failing in that, they resorted to threats for intimidation. “Young man, (said one of the most austere) how darest thou, thus profanely inturrupt our sacred rites? instantly depart, nor draw down vengeance on your inconsiderate head.”
“Never, (replied he, with a voice like thunder) your threats are in vain for never will I depart without my Arabella!—Never, (continued he, at the same time pushing the priest rudely aside, and taking her again by the hand) will I leave this hand more—if thou wilt renounce the world and me, thou shalt first behold my blood stream upon the altar.”
“Oh, St. Julian, (interrupted the dejected maid) shock me not with such horrid sounds—save me, save me from such terrific ideas, for they rive my heart.”
The priests began to be alarmed for the security of their victim, and were proceeding to interfere with violence, in order to separate them, upon which St. Julian drew his sword, and threatened the first with instant death who should molest him—this struck them with consternation—he pressed Arabella to quit the place—she appeared inclined to consent, but afraid to recede from the task she had undertaken—her eyes were alternately fixed on the priests, the altar, and her lover—her affection got the better of her resolution and she began to retreat—The servants of the Convent were now summoned to make use of force against this bold intruder.
De Montmorency who had seen the conflict of the lovers with pity, and the conduct of St. Julian with rapture, felt himself unable to contain any longer from endeavouring to assist them; for this purpose, without any farther hesitation, he leapt from the gallery into the aisle, and drawing his sword united with St. Julian in threatning destruction to any one who should dare to interrupt their retreat with Arabella—With such a supporter St. Julian had nothing to fear—placing the not unwilling Arabella between them, the people with the utmost cheerfulness making way, they were speedily out of the chapel, and quitted the Convent without any other molestation, leaving the brotherhood astonished at their sudden departure; vexed and chagrined at the loss of so beautiful a nun—the audience, though disappointed in witnessing the conclusion of the ceremony, were yet pleased at the devoted victim’s being thus rescued from a life of miserable idleness and corroding despair, except a few enthusiastic devotees, who considered the conduct of them all as sacrilegious and deserving eternal punishment.
A carriage which St. Julian had had the foresight to procure stood ready to receive them, they stept into it with all possible dispatch, and drove off full speed to a distant part of Paris, where St. Julian had a friend in whom he knew he could confide.
When they arrived at his friend’s residence, agreeable to his expectations, they were most cordially received—he related as briefly as possible all that had passed and had the satisfaction, in return, to have assurances of friendship and assistance—When they had recovered from the agitation which the recent scene had naturally thrown them into, St. Julian approached his Arabella and returned thanks to Heaven for having brought him in sufficient time and enabling him to prevent her being cut off from the world for ever.—He would have taken her in his arms and pressed her to his panting bosom but she drew back and assuming a serious air desired to know why he had treated her with such cruel neglect, and how he could justify his late conduct towards her.—St. Julian declared himself ready to obey her injunctions, not doubting but he should prove that he deserved her pity more than her condemnation—nor should he (he said) hesitate to blend his whole history with his answer to Arabella, as it might render some little satisfaction to our hero who had acted so noble a part towards him—he therefore began his story in the following manner, deducing it from the time of his birth, in order that De Montmorency might be acquainted with the whole of it.
The H I S T O R Y of A R A B E L L A and
St. J U L I A N.
“GENEROUS Stranger! ill should I deserve the friendly assistance I have this night received from you, were I capable of disguising any thing, I will therefore open to you all the secrets of my life, as willingly as I would disclose them to my Arabella, was she alone—she claims a knowledge of the conclusion, and you are entitled to every particular that may tend to explain my late, perhaps unaccountable behaviour.
“My father lives in a distant province of France, where he is possessed of a large estate—on account of some disappointments in his favourite pursuits, he retired there with me, his only son, and a young lady, to whom he was guardian.
“Without any thing material to relate, I passed the years of my infancy—as I grew up towards manhood, and had almost attained that period of our lives, when the heart is ‘tremblingly alive to love,’ my father took care to inform me, that the young lady, to whom he was guardian, was the daughter of an intimate friend—between them it had been stipulated, in our tenderest infancy, that which ever parent died first, the other should be guardian to the orphan child—and that when arrived at a proper age, I was to be united to his friend’s daughter, who, if she married me, was to have a considerable portion; but which on failure of this marriage, if that failure was occasioned on her part, was to devolve to a distant relative, and she be entitled to only a small annuity for life.
“I should first have told you, that this ward of my father’s name was Eliza, her person was neither remarkable for beauty or deformity—in disposition she blended all that was disagreeable, proud, haughty, fractious, fond of quarrels, and amazingly jealous of every thing and person she was by any means connected; unfortunately, she had early conceived an affection for me, and from the manner of our being brought up as designed for each other, she was at no pains to conceal it, but took every opportunity to testify how ready she was to comply with her father’s commands—her love became troublesome, for I found it impossible to make her any return, and her fondness became disgusting, and rendered her my aversion—I was in hopes repeated and studied neglect, would have alarmed her female pride, and subdued her disagreeable attachment, but I was disappointed, and had the misfortune to find, the more indifferent I was, the more fond she grew.
About this time, an old friend of my father’s, persecuted by the frowns of fortune, and plunged into the utmost distress, died of a broken heart, leaving this lady, an helpless, almost friendless orphan behind him—the circumstance was represented to my father, and his heart was too open to the calls of humanity not to listen to her distress, and hold out his hand for her protection—generosity is the leading feature of his character, although when once he has set his mind upon a thing, his obstinacy is not to be shaken—I had so much of one female orphan, that I heard his resolution of bringing home another with disgust; nay, I had the hardiness to oppose his giving succour, at least in his own house, to my adorable Arabella—but he was deaf to any thing I could say—he understood she wanted protection, had promised to give it her, and that promise was not to be broken—She was sent for, and home she came—for several days she was in the house before we met, and this was easy to happen, as I took every possible means to avoid her—crossing an avenue in the garden early one morning, I was struck with what appeared more than mortal—it was my Arabella—From that moment, as you may suppose, instead of avoiding, I took every opportunity to be in her company.
Whatever antipathy I had formerly to Eliza, it now was doubled, for my Arabella soon taught me what it was to love—I loved her without knowing it at first myself—I loved her a longer time without telling her so—I found concealment preyed upon my spirits, and injure my health—Arabella, I flattered myself, did not seem to possess any aversion towards me, and I was therefore resolved to disclose my passion to her—For some time I watched in vain for an opportunity; Eliza was constantly in the way, but meeting her one morning in the garden, I prevailed on her to enjoy the pleasure of the place from a summer-house, which is delightfully situated—she consented, and I soon found means to acquaint her with the sovereignty she held over my heart—she listened to my tale, and I had just (nay, blush not my love) brought my Arabella to confess that I was not disagreeable to her, when my perpetual torment, Eliza, burst into the summer-house, and found me upon my knees, pressing my beloved’s hand to my lips, and thanking her for raising me from despair—Eliza started as if she had been adder stung, but said not a word, with a sneer and a toss of the head she turned from us and retreated towards the house—from that day, her behaviour was changed, she behaved to me with the utmost scorn, and took every possible occasion to insult the gentleness of my Arabella, with her poverty, and unprotected situation.
I expected nothing less than that she would have related the circumstance to my father and prevail upon him to remove Arabella, for I knew he had fixed his mind too strongly upon our union, not to be averse to every thing that was likely to prevent it—these thoughts tormented me for some time; for although day passed after day, without any notice being taken, yet, I was too well acquainted with her disposition, to encourage an idea, she would suffer my preferring Arabella, without meditating some revenge—In this uncertain state, however, time passed on for some two or three months without any thing farther than her taking more than ordinary care that we should not be a single moment alone together—her vigilance was nevertheless ineffectual, and I had frequently the happiness of avowing my love for Arabella.
About six months after the event happened, my father told me he had procured me a commission in a regiment abroad, to join which, I was to set out the next day—my baggage being already on ship-board—I was thunderstruck, and could not say a word; which indeed was but of little consequence, for had I been able to have expostulated against it, he would not have heard me—I retired to seek my Arabella, and disclose my father’s views to her—she counselled me to obey him by all means—we mingled our tears together, and vowed eternal constancy and affection—Without deigning to take leave of Eliza, I departed for my destination next morning—with a heart almost broken I join’d my regiment—I was ordered soon upon service, and that somewhat relieved my troubled mind—Arabella and I had promised to correspond—I wrote immediately on my arrival to her, (Arabella started) and by every post (again she started)—In due course of time I expected to hear from her—no letter came (Arabella turned pale) a second, a third post, and I received not intelligence from her—I was distracted—I imagined she was ill—dying—perhaps dead—these thoughts tortured me beyond bearing—I was resolved to return—I gave up my commission—and sailed for France—I arrived to the great surprise of Eliza and my father at home—Without deigning to account for my sudden return, the first thing I did, was to enquire for my Arabella—Eliza told me, with a smile, she had resolved on a religious life, and for that purpose was going to take the veil; this information came like a shock of thunder; yet, as she would not tell me in what convent, I could not give it credit; but soon learnt from the servant who had used to attend her, that it was too true—she knew not, however, the name of the Convent, to which my Arabella was gone, and I thought I should have ran distracted. I flew about the house making enquiries of all I met, but they all were or pretended to be ignorant—while I was thus acting like a madman, the girl whom I just now alluded to, brought me a letter of Eliza’s, which she said she was to have sent away the preceding evening, but had forgot to do it, and it might very likely let me into the secret—I took the letter with much eagerness, and without paying any attention to politeness or propriety, I instantly broke open the seal, and found it to contain these contents:
You have often complimented me on the fertility of my invention, without having, as yet I think, any great reason for so doing; for prithee, Girl, what peculiar talents did you ever know me to possess that way more than all women do; are we not all fertile in imagination and contrivance?—but I may now give you one little instance of my exertion—having got St. Julian sent out of the way, I have taken the most effectual method of separating him and Arabella for ever—Since his absence, all the letters from him to her, and from her to him I have stopped, and none have either of them received—Arabella, poor meek soul, took this in dudgeon, pined at his inconstancy, and was easily worked up to believe that he had abandoned her—to effect this I spared to pains, and was the more easily enabled to do it, from being perfectly acquainted with their sentiments, by means of the letters which I had got into my hands—at last I wound her up to such a pitch of distress that she declared in favour of a religious life—this was the very thing I wished for—she entreated me to prevail on old St. Julian to let her take the veil—a charming office!—I did so, and succeeded, but not without some difficulty—he was so averse to it, that he would not interfere in the business: a lucky circumstance also for me, as by that means I had the transacting of every thing myself, and was enabled to prevent her dying swain from having the least intimation of it; and so well has the matter been conducted, that to-morrow she will be initiated among the sisterhood, at the Convent of St. ——’
“I could read no more—it was unnecessary—I had already read sufficient to perceive my fate hung upon the decision of a moment, and that moment was arrived—I instantly quitted the house, and took post for Paris; frantic at the seeming tediousness of the horses all the way—when I arrived, I just stopped to secure a carriage in case I should prove successful, and flew to the Convent, where I found my Arabella, and what followed it is unnecessary for me to relate.”
Arabella, by her looks, plainly shewed she was satisfied by the account St. Julian had given; she permitted him to take her in his arms, and they again renewed their vows of eternal constancy—De Montmorency was delighted at their having so fortunately met again, and complimented them upon their present prospect of happiness; but he, as well as St. Julian’s friend pointed out how dangerous it would be for them to remain in Paris; it was therefore agreed upon, that he and Arabella should retire to a small estate he had in Picardy, to be there united, and then write to implore his father’s forgiveness; which, if he refused, they might remain where they were, and make love and affection supply the place of riches and superfluity.
De Montmorency was invited to accompany them, but which his present engagements would not (nor his desire of beholding Elise, if they would have done so) permit him to accept.
After having taken some refreshment, St. Julian prepared for his departure, as he was convinced it would be most prudent to convey Arabella away from Paris as soon as possible, it being by no means improbable that the superiors of the Convent would make it a serious business, and apply to the commandant to assist them in recovering the noviciate, and punishing the offender—in such a case, their total separation would be inevitable, as the clergy are not remarkable for their forgiveness or humanity—his father too might possibly arrive, and add his authority to their interference—enquiring, therefore, our hero’s name, and with wishes for his happiness, which De Montmorency returned with interest, the happy couple set out post immediately for Picardy, and our hero returned to the nobleman’s hotel, highly delighted with his evening’s adventure.
C H A P T E R XXI.
A ministerial levee—a singular character—
politics a crooked path to fame—and a sud-
den removal to an unwelcome habitation.
FROM the indulgent reception of the nobleman and the short period which he had fixed for fulfilling the wishes of Monsieur de St. Clair, De Montmorency presaged the most favourable conclusions, and flattered himself that they were certain omens of his soon being enabled to re-visit his home, his father, and his Elise.
It was the pleasing reflections produced by such thoughts as these that chear’d his anxious heart, and enabled him to support the pangs of absence with any degree of patience and shew of fortitude.
His imagination would frequently lead him to the pleasing talk of planning future scenes of happiness with the mistress of his heart—it was a delightful subject, upon which Fancy could revel in her full career, uncheck’d by the reins of Reason, bound over the limits of Probability, and dwell with transport on conceived delights that never could be realized—nay, it would sometimes carry him so far as to make him almost fix the day when he should have completed his pursuits, be hastening back, on the wings of love and duty, to the arms of his father and Elise, even before he had made any farther progress than obtained the vague promise of a courtier.
Previous to his setting out upon this expedition he had promised Elise and his father to be constant and unremitting in his correspondence, and to omit no opportunity of sending to them—to be enabled to fulfil which he employed a great share of his time, always keeping letters ready for dispatch whenever occasion offered—in fact it was the only portion of his time that he spent in ease and comfort, therefore neglect was not likely—to see, to speak, to live with them, was the height of felicity—so to convey his thoughts was a satisfaction to his mind, convinced, from the knowledge of their affections, that their replies would bring harmony to his soul.
The Come de——’s hotel (where and with whom our hero resided) was constantly crowded every morning with persons of various descriptions—some dancing attendance for their own promotions, while others were doing the same for their friends and relations.
Among the number of these daily visitants, was an aged officer, whose singularity of manner very forcibly struck De Montmorency—he was constantly present, was always among the first who came and the last that went away, yet never address’d himself to, or held conversation with, any person present—most, even of the first rank apparently knew, and always paid their respects to him—to some few he would return the compliment, but by far the greatest number he would only look them full in the face as if he did not understand what they meant.
This kind of behaviour riveted the attention of our hero, insomuch that at last the old gentleman noticed it, and taking an opportunity when they were close together, asked him, in a peremptory tone, why he was made an object of his circumspection.
De Montmorency felt that he had acted improperly, look’d confus’d, and begg’d pardon for his seeming impertinence; declared it was without any intention of giving offence, as nothing could be more distant from his thoughts, and hoped he would believe as much.
“You are a stranger, then?”
“And your name is——”
“De Montmorency! (repeated he, with a seeming degree of transport) Gracious Heaven, what a name!—it was a De Montmorency that raised this kingdom to a pinnacle of glory—and who knows but a De Montmorency may save it from ruin, and rescue it from the hands of those whose ignorance, not to say worse of them, will soon bring it to destruction.—And pray, young man, what is your business here?”
“To serve my country, if I can—I came recommended to Comte de——by Monsieur de St. Clair.”
“St Clair!—I don’t like St. Clair—he is a knave!—but it is knaves only that have interest at court, now-a-days. And so he sent you to this blessed counsellor of the King’s for him to give you a place?”
“He presumed upon his interest with the Comte to flatter me with hopes of employment.”
“Well, and what kind of reception has he given you?”!
“The most polite and indulging.”
“Aye, there’s no doubt of his civility—I have known him treat a man with a smile when he had a lettre de cachet against him in his pocket, and issue it the moment he was out of sight to take him to the Bastile.”
“But he has promised me faithfully.”
“Then suspect him—for although he is my nephew, he is one of the greatest hypocrites that lives—St. Clair!—to be sure St. Clair may do much—it often happens that a knave has influence over a rascal, and I believe my scoundrel of a nephew dare not—yes, I say dare not refuse the application of your patron—but it hurts me that a De Montmorency should be ushered in to the service of his country by a Farmier General—how became you acquainted with this fellow, and by what means did you acquire his countenance?”
“His residence is near to my father’s retirement!”
“What! is your father alive?”
“Heaven forbid the contrary—I left him so a few days since.”
“How durst he, a Montmorency too, be spending his days in indolence, while his country stands in need of his service—Sir, Sir, it is the duty of every honest man to sacrifice his private ease to the public good—what, though folly has been countenanced, merit discouraged, is that a sufficient reason for retiring in disgust? I say no, on the contrary, it ought to act as a stimulative to stand up boldly for the rights of men—for when a King falls into the power of ignorant or designing counsellors, every true patriot will risk his all to rescue his King from their machinations, and save his country from inevitable ruin.”
“My father, Sir——
“Well, no matter, he must be an old man now, and may possibly have been doing good, by instilling proper principles into his son; if so, have a care they are not poisoned by the connection you are about to make—if you are a stranger to your ancestors, read their deeds, and then you will know what you owe to your name, what you owe to your fellow subjects—I hope the Comte will keep his word, but of which had you been recommended by worth and integrity, I should have had my doubts—farewell! some other time I may wish to spend an hour or two with you.”
Surprised as De Montmorency had been at the singular behaviour and appearance of this old gentleman, he was much more so, by the discourse that had taken place between them—he felt his breast expand at the glorious idea of acquiring fame, and his whole soul glow’d at the patriotic sentiments which his new acquaintance had uttered—Glory had now found a passage to his heart, and he longed for an opportunity to shew he dared do all that was consistent with honour, and gain the wreathe, or perish in the attempt.
In the field, he knew the path was strait before him—a soldier’s courage must obtain, and his integrity secure it—that was a line most suited to the mind of our hero, and in which, his career would been swift and certain, but for the unlucky capture, which compelled him to let his sword rust in idleness—to seek for it in the crooked way of politics was ill suited to his open and candid disposition, especially under the auspices of those of whom he had just heard so unfavorable a description—but still he was determined to proceed with Honour for his guide, and Integrity for his companion.
“With such assistance (said he, as he ruminated by himself) how is it possible I should fail—if I do no wrong, who can be offended, or condemn me—if I execute my trust justly, I must be approved by them who employ me, however negligent they may be in the discharge of their own: and no one will attempt to make me a tool, or accomplice in his villainy, while my own actions are tempered with justice and marked with propriety—there must at least appear an inclination to vice, ’ere Guilt will venture to entrust its confidence—then what have I to fear—my pursuits are laudable—my success I cannot doubt—and, Oh, Heaven! grant my dearest Elise may be my great reward.”
With these conclusions De Montmorency thought himself in the direct road to happiness—his bosom experienced a cessation of grief, and his mind was blessed with serenity—but how often does sorrow arise from the accomplishment of what we wish! and how often are we deceived in our gayest prospects!
About a week after his arrival at Paris, as he was amusing himself in the garden of the Comte de ——, he perceived a small party of soldiers—they soon came up with him—the officer very politely informed him they were sent to conduct him to a place appointed for his reception.
De Montmorency started with surprise—that surprise made him retreat, and to have the appearance of a wish to avoid them; upon which, before he had time to say a word:
“That gentleman, (said the officer, pointing to him) is the person.”
De Montmorency stared with astonishment—The soldiers advancing immediately with their bayonets fixed, surrounded and claimed him as their prisoner, began to march, and commanded him to accompany them.
Our hero was so totally confounded at being thus taken into custody, that he could not utter a single word—he had no doubt but that the officer had mistaken him for some other person, yet, as all resistance would, he knew, be absurd against their prejudice and so much force, he suffered himself to be conducted to a coach, into which some of the soldiers entered.
After a short ride, they stopped at a large gate; here entrance was demanded, and through which, when opened, they proceeded into a court yard, where the soldiers alighted, desiring him to do the same.
De Montmorency, who was somewhat recovered from his astonishment, in the course of the way, ventured to ask one of those who were in the coach with him, to what place they were carrying him; this requisition was answered by one of the soldiers, in a surly tone:
“To the B A S T I L E.”
It appeared to him a voice of thunder, for at the mention of that name so horrible to human nature, a sudden cold sweat seized him, and pervaded his whole frame.
“Pray, Sir, (said De Montmorency) can you inform me for what I am sent thither.”
“That, (replied his guard) is no business of mine;—my orders are to take you there, so go you must, and get out again how you can.”
“But surely I shall not be confined, as I am certain of my innocence.”
“Innocent!—yes, a man must be very innocent to be sure, when the King has signed a lettre de cachet against him.”
This brutal indifference of his guide, together with the name of the Bastile, had such an effect upon his spirits, that he was, in a manner, stupified with horror, and suffered himself to be taken out of the carriage without uttering a word of complaint, and to be delivered to the Governor by the commander of the soldiers, as a prisoner of the state.
The Governor received the orders and our hero with a bow, and immediately conducted him to a large hall, where a ponderous volume, full of the lives and deaths of the unhappy captives was opened, and his name added to the number; his pockets were then searched, and every thing in them taken away, put in a small cupboard, and carefully lock-up—At the moment of this transaction, a young lady was with the Governor, seemingly his daughter, whose countenance wore an air of concern at the unfortunate fate of our hero.
De Montmorency perceiving the tear of pity steal down her fair cheek, assumed courage to request her to ask the Governor if the officer was not mistaken in his person, and if not, for what crime he was to be confined there, being totally ignorant of having committed any act deserving the censure of government.
She complied with his request, but the Governor whispering something in her ear, she replied to De Montmorency, that as it was de par le Roi, her father, was bound, by his oath, to secrecy.
Our hero thanked her for her condescension with a low bow—he could no more—the guard retired, and he was immediately conducted to the inside of the prison, where all was gloom and horror—all was silent, his attendants spoke not a word, until they came to the door of a cell into which they bid him enter—he obeyed, and found himself in a small room, about six feet square into which the light was conveyed by a small aperture, (it did not deserve the name of a window) strongly grated with iron bars—a flint and steel, with a candle, being delivered to him, three doors
——on whose hinges,
Grated harsh Thunder.
were instantly closed upon him, and here was he left to ruminate upon this sudden change of fortune, and conjecture, if possible, what had occasioned it, and brought him to this gaol of tyrants, and grave of the living.
C H A P T E R XXII.
The Bastile and its concomitant horrors.
THERE needs very little rhetoric to impress the idea that our hero now considered himself in the most hapless and deplorable situation—Deprived of liberty—excluded from all converse and communication with the world—torn from the parental affections of the best of fathers—cut off from all hopes of experiencing the tender endearments of his beloved Elise—secluded from society, the world, and every possible comfort, perhaps for ever!
In such a situation how poignant must be his feelings! how exquisite his sensations!—You who have been imprisoned in that wretched place, nor tasted, through a series of long, long years, one moment’s ease, one moment’s respite from despair!—you must best, you can only know what he suffered!—your sympathetic hearts will pity his situation and pant for his deliverance.
As soon as the door of his cell was lock’d, and he found himself the inhabitant of a dungeon, he fell almost into a state of stupefaction, surveyed the bare walls and traversed the utmost limits of his prison house over and over again.
This, as it may perhaps not inaptly be term’d, oppressive gloom of sullen woe at length subsided, Recollection reassumed her seat, and then his miseries became more keen—they stung him to the quick, and set his brain a madding—a sudden fury seized him—he raved with the utmost violence until he was quite exhausted—then falling on the bare ground he repeatedly dash’d his head against the stones—he tore up his hair by the roots, gnash’d his teeth with vehemence, uttered the most horrible imprecations on himself, and in the first transports of his rage vowed to put a speedy termination to his miserable existence.
Nature being quite exhausted by these unusual and violent exertions he sunk lifeless upon the floor, in which state he remained several hours—when he came to himself his delirium had in a great measure subsided and he grew more calm—he raised himself from the floor, and sitting himself down by the side of a wretched bed which lay in one corner of his horrid dwelling, his thoughts wandered to those scenes he had partook of with delight, and for the renewal of which he only wish’d to live—this was more than he could bear, his manly fortitude melted away, and all his mother’s weakness came upon him—tears ran from his eyes in incessant torrents—he neither could nor even attempted to stop their course until grown dry with constant weeping not a single tear remain’d to ease his aching heart.
Thus melancholy he sat pondering on his weight of woe, fearful to look forward, nor daring to look behind—Grief, in the end, gave utterance to his tongue, and falling upon his knees;
“Tell me, (said he) good Heaven, how I have merited this dreadful punishment!—what hideous offence have I unknowingly committed! for unless love be a crime I am unconscious of any wrong, but if that be so, I am guilty indeed.—Oh, my Elise! will not thy Montmorency’s loss affect thy peace! shouldst thou learn that he is shut up in the cursed Bastile will it not destroy thee!—my father too!—Oh, thou Supreme! thou great disposer of events! whose decrees mortals cannot question! however it may be thy gracious will to dispose of me, grant, oh! grant them fortitude to combat my loss, nor let them be destroyed by the weight of my afflictions!—And shall I never see them more?—Oh, never! never!”
Again he burst into a paroxism of despair—again his tears began to flow—again he was seized with fury bordering on madness, until quite exhausted, when he again threw himself on the floor and remained in that situation for some hours stupified with grief and horror.
END OF THE FIRST VOLUME.