The Mysteries of Udolpho
Part 14 out of 16
Give thy thoughts no tongue.
The Baron St. Foix, whom anxiety for his friend had kept awake, rose
early to enquire the event of the night, when, as he passed the
Count's closet, hearing steps within, he knocked at the door, and it
was opened by his friend himself. Rejoicing to see him in safety,
and curious to learn the occurrences of the night, he had not
immediately leisure to observe the unusual gravity, that overspread
the features of the Count, whose reserved answers first occasioned
him to notice it. The Count, then smiling, endeavoured to treat the
subject of his curiosity with levity, but the Baron was serious, and
pursued his enquiries so closely, that the Count, at length, resuming
his gravity, said, 'Well, my friend, press the subject no further, I
entreat you; and let me request also, that you will hereafter be
silent upon any thing you may think extraordinary in my future
conduct. I do not scruple to tell you, that I am unhappy, and that
the watch of the last night has not assisted me to discover Ludovico;
upon every occurrence of the night you must excuse my reserve.'
'But where is Henri?' said the Baron, with surprise and
disappointment at this denial.
'He is well in his own apartment,' replied the Count. 'You will not
question him on this topic, my friend, since you know my wish.'
'Certainly not,' said the Baron, somewhat chagrined, 'since it would
be displeasing to you; but methinks, my friend, you might rely on my
discretion, and drop this unusual reserve. However, you must allow
me to suspect, that you have seen reason to become a convert to my
system, and are no longer the incredulous knight you lately appeared
'Let us talk no more upon this subject,' said the Count; 'you may be
assured, that no ordinary circumstance has imposed this silence upon
me towards a friend, whom I have called so for near thirty years; and
my present reserve cannot make you question either my esteem, or the
sincerity of my friendship.'
'I will not doubt either,' said the Baron, 'though you must allow me
to express my surprise, at this silence.'
'To me I will allow it,' replied the Count, 'but I earnestly entreat
that you will forbear to notice it to my family, as well as every
thing remarkable you may observe in my conduct towards them.'
The Baron readily promised this, and, after conversing for some time
on general topics, they descended to the breakfast-room, where the
Count met his family with a cheerful countenance, and evaded their
enquiries by employing light ridicule, and assuming an air of
uncommon gaiety, while he assured them, that they need not apprehend
any evil from the north chambers, since Henri and himself had been
permitted to return from them in safety.
Henri, however, was less successful in disguising his feelings. From
his countenance an expression of terror was not entirely faded; he
was often silent and thoughtful, and when he attempted to laugh at
the eager enquiries of Mademoiselle Bearn, it was evidently only an
In the evening, the Count called, as he had promised, at the convent,
and Emily was surprised to perceive a mixture of playful ridicule and
of reserve in his mention of the north apartment. Of what had
occurred there, however, he said nothing, and, when she ventured to
remind him of his promise to tell her the result of his enquiries,
and to ask if he had received any proof, that those chambers were
haunted, his look became solemn, for a moment, then, seeming to
recollect himself, he smiled, and said, 'My dear Emily, do not suffer
my lady abbess to infect your good understanding with these fancies;
she will teach you to expect a ghost in every dark room. But believe
me,' added he, with a profound sigh, 'the apparition of the dead
comes not on light, or sportive errands, to terrify, or to surprise
the timid.' He paused, and fell into a momentary thoughtfulness, and
then added, 'We will say no more on this subject.'
Soon after, he took leave, and, when Emily joined some of the nuns,
she was surprised to find them acquainted with a circumstance, which
she had carefully avoided to mention, and expressing their admiration
of his intrepidity in having dared to pass a night in the apartment,
whence Ludovico had disappeared; for she had not considered with what
rapidity a tale of wonder circulates. The nuns had acquired their
information from peasants, who brought fruit to the monastery, and
whose whole attention had been fixed, since the disappearance of
Ludovico, on what was passing in the castle.
Emily listened in silence to the various opinions of the nuns,
concerning the conduct of the Count, most of whom condemned it as
rash and presumptuous, affirming, that it was provoking the vengeance
of an evil spirit, thus to intrude upon its haunts.
Sister Frances contended, that the Count had acted with the bravery
of a virtuous mind. He knew himself guiltless of aught, that should
provoke a good spirit, and did not fear the spells of an evil one,
since he could claim the protection of an higher Power, of Him, who
can command the wicked, and will protect the innocent.
'The guilty cannot claim that protection!' said sister Agnes, 'let
the Count look to his conduct, that he do not forfeit his claim! Yet
who is he, that shall dare to call himself innocent!--all earthly
innocence is but comparative. Yet still how wide asunder are the
extremes of guilt, and to what an horrible depth may we fall! Oh!'--
The nun, as she concluded, uttered a shuddering sigh, that startled
Emily, who, looking up, perceived the eyes of Agnes fixed on hers,
after which the sister rose, took her hand, gazed earnestly upon her
countenance, for some moments, in silence, and then said,
'You are young--you are innocent! I mean you are yet innocent of any
great crime!--But you have passions in your heart,--scorpions; they
sleep now--beware how you awaken them!--they will sting you, even
Emily, affected by these words and by the solemnity, with which they
were delivered, could not suppress her tears.
'Ah! is it so?' exclaimed Agnes, her countenance softening from its
sternness--'so young, and so unfortunate! We are sisters, then
indeed. Yet, there is no bond of kindness among the guilty,' she
added, while her eyes resumed their wild expression, 'no gentleness,-
-no peace, no hope! I knew them all once--my eyes could weep--but
now they burn, for now, my soul is fixed, and fearless!--I lament no
'Rather let us repent, and pray,' said another nun. 'We are taught
to hope, that prayer and penitence will work our salvation. There is
hope for all who repent!'
'Who repent and turn to the true faith,' observed sister Frances.
'For all but me!' replied Agnes solemnly, who paused, and then
abruptly added, 'My head burns, I believe I am not well. O! could I
strike from my memory all former scenes--the figures, that rise up,
like furies, to torment me!--I see them, when I sleep, and, when I am
awake, they are still before my eyes! I see them now--now!'
She stood in a fixed attitude of horror, her straining eyes moving
slowly round the room, as if they followed something. One of the
nuns gently took her hand, to lead her from the parlour. Agnes
became calm, drew her other hand across her eyes, looked again, and,
sighing deeply, said, 'They are gone--they are gone! I am feverish,
I know not what I say. I am thus, sometimes, but it will go off
again, I shall soon be better. Was not that the vesper-bell?'
'No,' replied Frances, 'the evening service is passed. Let Margaret
lead you to your cell.'
'You are right,' replied sister Agnes, 'I shall be better there.
Good night, my sisters, remember me in your orisons.'
When they had withdrawn, Frances, observing Emily's emotion, said,
'Do not be alarmed, our sister is often thus deranged, though I have
not lately seen her so frantic; her usual mood is melancholy. This
fit has been coming on, for several days; seclusion and the customary
treatment will restore her.'
'But how rationally she conversed, at first!' observed Emily, 'her
ideas followed each other in perfect order.'
'Yes,' replied the nun, 'this is nothing new; nay, I have sometimes
known her argue not only with method, but with acuteness, and then,
in a moment, start off into madness.'
'Her conscience seems afflicted,' said Emily, 'did you ever hear what
circumstance reduced her to this deplorable condition?'
'I have,' replied the nun, who said no more till Emily repeated the
question, when she added in a low voice, and looking significantly
towards the other boarders, 'I cannot tell you now, but, if you think
it worth your while, come to my cell, to-night, when our sisterhood
are at rest, and you shall hear more; but remember we rise to
midnight prayers, and come either before, or after midnight.'
Emily promised to remember, and, the abbess soon after appearing,
they spoke no more of the unhappy nun.
The Count meanwhile, on his return home, had found M. Du Pont in one
of those fits of despondency, which his attachment to Emily
frequently occasioned him, an attachment, that had subsisted too long
to be easily subdued, and which had already outlived the opposition
of his friends. M. Du Pont had first seen Emily in Gascony, during
the lifetime of his parent, who, on discovering his son's partiality
for Mademoiselle St. Aubert, his inferior in point of fortune,
forbade him to declare it to her family, or to think of her more.
During the life of his father, he had observed the first command, but
had found it impracticable to obey the second, and had, sometimes,
soothed his passion by visiting her favourite haunts, among which was
the fishing-house, where, once or twice, he addressed her in verse,
concealing his name, in obedience to the promise he had given his
father. There too he played the pathetic air, to which she had
listened with such surprise and admiration; and there he found the
miniature, that had since cherished a passion fatal to his repose.
During his expedition into Italy, his father died; but he received
his liberty at a moment, when he was the least enabled to profit by
it, since the object, that rendered it most valuable, was no longer
within the reach of his vows. By what accident he discovered Emily,
and assisted to release her from a terrible imprisonment, has already
appeared, and also the unavailing hope, with which he then encouraged
his love, and the fruitless efforts, that he had since made to
The Count still endeavoured, with friendly zeal, to sooth him with a
belief, that patience, perseverance and prudence would finally obtain
for him happiness and Emily: 'Time,' said he, 'will wear away the
melancholy impression, which disappointment has left on her mind, and
she will be sensible of your merit. Your services have already
awakened her gratitude, and your sufferings her pity; and trust me,
my friend, in a heart so sensible as hers, gratitude and pity lead to
love. When her imagination is rescued from its present delusion, she
will readily accept the homage of a mind like yours.'
Du Pont sighed, while he listened to these words; and, endeavouring
to hope what his friend believed, he willingly yielded to an
invitation to prolong his visit at the chateau, which we now leave
for the monastery of St. Claire.
When the nuns had retired to rest, Emily stole to her appointment
with sister Frances, whom she found in her cell, engaged in prayer,
before a little table, where appeared the image she was addressing,
and, above, the dim lamp that gave light to the place. Turning her
eyes, as the door opened, she beckoned to Emily to come in, who,
having done so, seated herself in silence beside the nun's little
mattress of straw, till her orisons should conclude. The latter soon
rose from her knees, and, taking down the lamp and placing it on the
table, Emily perceived there a human scull and bones, lying beside an
hour-glass; but the nun, without observing her emotion, sat down on
the mattress by her, saying, 'Your curiosity, sister, has made you
punctual, but you have nothing remarkable to hear in the history of
poor Agnes, of whom I avoided to speak in the presence of my lay-
sisters, only because I would not publish her crime to them.'
'I shall consider your confidence in me as a favour,' said Emily,
'and will not misuse it.'
'Sister Agnes,' resumed the nun, 'is of a noble family, as the
dignity of her air must already have informed you, but I will not
dishonour their name so much as to reveal it. Love was the occasion
of her crime and of her madness. She was beloved by a gentleman of
inferior fortune, and her father, as I have heard, bestowing her on a
nobleman, whom she disliked, an ill-governed passion proved her
destruction.--Every obligation of virtue and of duty was forgotten,
and she prophaned her marriage vows; but her guilt was soon detected,
and she would have fallen a sacrifice to the vengeance of her
husband, had not her father contrived to convey her from his power.
By what means he did this, I never could learn; but he secreted her
in this convent, where he afterwards prevailed with her to take the
veil, while a report was circulated in the world, that she was dead,
and the father, to save his daughter, assisted the rumour, and
employed such means as induced her husband to believe she had become
a victim to his jealousy. You look surprised,' added the nun,
observing Emily's countenance; 'I allow the story is uncommon, but
not, I believe, without a parallel.'
'Pray proceed,' said Emily, 'I am interested.'
'The story is already told,' resumed the nun, 'I have only to
mention, that the long struggle, which Agnes suffered, between love,
remorse and a sense of the duties she had taken upon herself in
becoming of our order, at length unsettled her reason. At first, she
was frantic and melancholy by quick alternatives; then, she sunk into
a deep and settled melancholy, which still, however, has, at times,
been interrupted by fits of wildness, and, of late, these have again
Emily was affected by the history of the sister, some parts of whose
story brought to her remembrance that of the Marchioness de Villeroi,
who had also been compelled by her father to forsake the object of
her affections, for a nobleman of his choice; but, from what Dorothee
had related, there appeared no reason to suppose, that she had
escaped the vengeance of a jealous husband, or to doubt for a moment
the innocence of her conduct. But Emily, while she sighed over the
misery of the nun, could not forbear shedding a few tears to the
misfortunes of the Marchioness; and, when she returned to the mention
of sister Agnes, she asked Frances if she remembered her in her
youth, and whether she was then beautiful.
'I was not here at the time, when she took the vows,' replied
Frances, 'which is so long ago, that few of the present sisterhood, I
believe, were witnesses of the ceremony; nay, ever our lady mother
did not then preside over the convent: but I can remember, when
sister Agnes was a very beautiful woman. She retains that air of
high rank, which always distinguished her, but her beauty, you must
perceive, is fled; I can scarcely discover even a vestige of the
loveliness, that once animated her features.'
'It is strange,' said Emily, 'but there are moments, when her
countenance has appeared familiar to my memory! You will think me
fanciful, and I think myself so, for I certainly never saw sister
Agnes, before I came to this convent, and I must, therefore, have
seen some person, whom she strongly resembles, though of this I have
'You have been interested by the deep melancholy of her countenance,'
said Frances, 'and its impression has probably deluded your
imagination; for I might as reasonably think I perceive a likeness
between you and Agnes, as you, that you have seen her any where but
in this convent, since this has been her place of refuge, for nearly
as many years as make your age.'
'Indeed!' said Emily.
'Yes,' rejoined Frances, 'and why does that circumstance excite your
Emily did not appear to notice this question, but remained
thoughtful, for a few moments, and then said, 'It was about that same
period that the Marchioness de Villeroi expired.'
'That is an odd remark,' said Frances.
Emily, recalled from her reverie, smiled, and gave the conversation
another turn, but it soon came back to the subject of the unhappy
nun, and Emily remained in the cell of sister Frances, till the mid-
night bell aroused her; when, apologizing for having interrupted the
sister's repose, till this late hour, they quitted the cell together.
Emily returned to her chamber, and the nun, bearing a glimmering
taper, went to her devotion in the chapel.
Several days followed, during which Emily saw neither the Count, or
any of his family; and, when, at length, he appeared, she remarked,
with concern, that his air was unusually disturbed.
'My spirits are harassed,' said he, in answer to her anxious
enquiries, 'and I mean to change my residence, for a little while, an
experiment, which, I hope, will restore my mind to its usual
tranquillity. My daughter and myself will accompany the Baron St.
Foix to his chateau. It lies in a valley of the Pyrenees, that opens
towards Gascony, and I have been thinking, Emily, that, when you set
out for La Vallee, we may go part of the way together; it would be a
satisfaction to me to guard you towards your home.'
She thanked the Count for his friendly consideration, and lamented,
that the necessity for her going first to Tholouse would render this
plan impracticable. 'But, when you are at the Baron's residence,'
she added, 'you will be only a short journey from La Vallee, and I
think, sir, you will not leave the country without visiting me; it is
unnecessary to say with what pleasure I should receive you and the
'I do not doubt it,' replied the Count, 'and I will not deny myself
and Blanche the pleasure of visiting you, if your affairs should
allow you to be at La Vallee, about the time when we can meet you
When Emily said that she should hope to see the Countess also, she
was not sorry to learn that this lady was going, accompanied by
Mademoiselle Bearn, to pay a visit, for a few weeks, to a family in
The Count, after some further conversation on his intended journey
and on the arrangement of Emily's, took leave; and many days did not
succeed this visit, before a second letter from M. Quesnel informed
her, that he was then at Tholouse, that La Vallee was at liberty, and
that he wished her to set off for the former place, where he awaited
her arrival, with all possible dispatch, since his own affairs
pressed him to return to Gascony. Emily did not hesitate to obey
him, and, having taken an affecting leave of the Count's family, in
which M. Du Pont was still included, and of her friends at the
convent, she set out for Tholouse, attended by the unhappy Annette,
and guarded by a steady servant of the Count.
Lull'd in the countless chambers of the brain,
Our thoughts are link'd by many a hidden chain:
Awake but one, and lo! what myriads rise!
Each stamps its image as the other flies!
PLEASURES OF MEMORY
Emily pursued her journey, without any accident, along the plains of
Languedoc towards the north-west; and, on this her return to
Tholouse, which she had last left with Madame Montoni, she thought
much on the melancholy fate of her aunt, who, but for her own
imprudence, might now have been living in happiness there! Montoni,
too, often rose to her fancy, such as she had seen him in his days of
triumph, bold, spirited and commanding; such also as she had since
beheld him in his days of vengeance; and now, only a few short months
had passed--and he had no longer the power, or the will to afflict;--
he had become a clod of earth, and his life was vanished like a
shadow! Emily could have wept at his fate, had she not remembered
his crimes; for that of her unfortunate aunt she did weep, and all
sense of her errors was overcome by the recollection of her
Other thoughts and other emotions succeeded, as Emily drew near the
well-known scenes of her early love, and considered, that Valancourt
was lost to her and to himself, for ever. At length, she came to the
brow of the hill, whence, on her departure for Italy, she had given a
farewell look to this beloved landscape, amongst whose woods and
fields she had so often walked with Valancourt, and where he was then
to inhabit, when she would be far, far away! She saw, once more,
that chain of the Pyrenees, which overlooked La Vallee, rising, like
faint clouds, on the horizon. 'There, too, is Gascony, extended at
their feet!' said she, 'O my father,--my mother! And there, too, is
the Garonne!' she added, drying the tears, that obscured her sight,-
-'and Tholouse, and my aunt's mansion--and the groves in her garden!-
-O my friends! are ye all lost to me--must I never, never see ye
more!' Tears rushed again to her eyes, and she continued to weep,
till an abrupt turn in the road had nearly occasioned the carriage to
overset, when, looking up, she perceived another part of the well-
known scene around Tholouse, and all the reflections and
anticipations, which she had suffered, at the moment, when she bade
it last adieu, came with recollected force to her heart. She
remembered how anxiously she had looked forward to the futurity,
which was to decide her happiness concerning Valancourt, and what
depressing fears had assailed her; the very words she had uttered, as
she withdrew her last look from the prospect, came to her memory.
'Could I but be certain,' she had then said, 'that I should ever
return, and that Valancourt would still live for me--I should go in
Now, that futurity, so anxiously anticipated, was arrived, she was
returned--but what a dreary blank appeared!--Valancourt no longer
lived for her! She had no longer even the melancholy satisfaction of
contemplating his image in her heart, for he was no longer the same
Valancourt she had cherished there--the solace of many a mournful
hour, the animating friend, that had enabled her to bear up against
the oppression of Montoni--the distant hope, that had beamed over her
gloomy prospect! On perceiving this beloved idea to be an illusion
of her own creation, Valancourt seemed to be annihilated, and her
soul sickened at the blank, that remained. His marriage with a
rival, even his death, she thought she could have endured with more
fortitude, than this discovery; for then, amidst all her grief, she
could have looked in secret upon the image of goodness, which her
fancy had drawn of him, and comfort would have mingled with her
Drying her tears, she looked, once more, upon the landscape, which
had excited them, and perceived, that she was passing the very bank,
where she had taken leave of Valancourt, on the morning of her
departure from Tholouse, and she now saw him, through her returning
tears, such as he had appeared, when she looked from the carriage to
give him a last adieu--saw him leaning mournfully against the high
trees, and remembered the fixed look of mingled tenderness and
anguish, with which he had then regarded her. This recollection was
too much for her heart, and she sunk back in the carriage, nor once
looked up, till it stopped at the gates of what was now her own
These being opened, and by the servant, to whose care the chateau had
been entrusted, the carriage drove into the court, where, alighting,
she hastily passed through the great hall, now silent and solitary,
to a large oak parlour, the common sitting room of the late Madame
Montoni, where, instead of being received by M. Quesnel, she found a
letter from him, informing her that business of consequence had
obliged him to leave Tholouse two days before. Emily was, upon the
whole, not sorry to be spared his presence, since his abrupt
departure appeared to indicate the same indifference, with which he
had formerly regarded her. This letter informed her, also, of the
progress he had made in the settlement of her affairs, and concluded
with directions, concerning the forms of some business, which
remained for her to transact. But M. Quesnel's unkindness did not
long occupy her thoughts, which returned the remembrance of the
persons she had been accustomed to see in this mansion, and chiefly
of the ill-guided and unfortunate Madame Montoni. In the room, where
she now sat, she had breakfasted with her on the morning of their
departure for Italy; and the view of it brought most forcibly to her
recollection all she had herself suffered, at that time, and the many
gay expectations, which her aunt had formed, respecting the journey
before her. While Emily's mind was thus engaged, her eyes wandered
unconsciously to a large window, that looked upon the garden, and
here new memorials of the past spoke to her heart, for she saw
extended before her the very avenue, in which she had parted with
Valancourt, on the eve of her journey; and all the anxiety, the
tender interest he had shewn, concerning her future happiness, his
earnest remonstrances against her committing herself to the power of
Montoni, and the truth of his affection, came afresh to her memory.
At this moment, it appeared almost impossible, that Valancourt could
have become unworthy of her regard, and she doubted all that she had
lately heard to his disadvantage, and even his own words, which had
confirmed Count De Villefort's report of him. Overcome by the
recollections, which the view of this avenue occasioned, she turned
abruptly from the window, and sunk into a chair beside it, where she
sat, given up to grief, till the entrance of Annette, with coffee,
'Dear madam, how melancholy this place looks now,' said Annette, 'to
what it used to do! It is dismal coming home, when there is nobody
to welcome one!'
This was not the moment, in which Emily could bear the remark; her
tears fell again, and, as soon as she had taken the coffee, she
retired to her apartment, where she endeavoured to repose her
fatigued spirits. But busy memory would still supply her with the
visions of former times: she saw Valancourt interesting and
benevolent, as he had been wont to appear in the days of their early
love, and, amidst the scenes, where she had believed that they should
sometimes pass their years together!--but, at length, sleep closed
these afflicting scenes from her view.
On the following morning, serious occupation recovered her from such
melancholy reflections; for, being desirous of quitting Tholouse, and
of hastening on to La Vallee, she made some enquiries into the
condition of the estate, and immediately dispatched a part of the
necessary business concerning it, according to the directions of
Mons. Quesnel. It required a strong effort to abstract her thoughts
from other interests sufficiently to attend to this, but she was
rewarded for her exertions by again experiencing, that employment is
the surest antidote to sorrow.
This day was devoted entirely to business; and, among other concerns,
she employed means to learn the situation of all her poor tenants,
that she might relieve their wants, or confirm their comforts.
In the evening, her spirits were so much strengthened, that she
thought she could bear to visit the gardens, where she had so often
walked with Valancourt; and, knowing, that, if she delayed to do so,
their scenes would only affect her the more, whenever they should be
viewed, she took advantage of the present state of her mind, and
Passing hastily the gate leading from the court into the gardens, she
hurried up the great avenue, scarcely permitting her memory to dwell
for a moment on the circumstance of her having here parted with
Valancourt, and soon quitted this for other walks less interesting to
her heart. These brought her, at length, to the flight of steps,
that led from the lower garden to the terrace, on seeing which, she
became agitated, and hesitated whether to ascend, but, her resolution
returning, she proceeded.
'Ah!' said Emily, as she ascended, 'these are the same high trees,
that used to wave over the terrace, and these the same flowery
thickets--the liburnum, the wild rose, and the cerinthe--which were
wont to grow beneath them! Ah! and there, too, on that bank, are the
very plants, which Valancourt so carefully reared!--O, when last I
saw them!'--she checked the thought, but could not restrain her
tears, and, after walking slowly on for a few moments, her agitation,
upon the view of this well-known scene, increased so much, that she
was obliged to stop, and lean upon the wall of the terrace. It was a
mild, and beautiful evening. The sun was setting over the extensive
landscape, to which his beams, sloping from beneath a dark cloud,
that overhung the west, gave rich and partial colouring, and touched
the tufted summits of the groves, that rose from the garden below,
with a yellow gleam. Emily and Valancourt had often admired together
this scene, at the same hour; and it was exactly on this spot, that,
on the night preceding her departure for Italy, she had listened to
his remonstrances against the journey, and to the pleadings of
passionate affection. Some observations, which she made on the
landscape, brought this to her remembrance, and with it all the
minute particulars of that conversation;--the alarming doubts he had
expressed concerning Montoni, doubts, which had since been fatally
confirmed; the reasons and entreaties he had employed to prevail with
her to consent to an immediate marriage; the tenderness of his love,
the paroxysms of this grief, and the conviction that he had
repeatedly expressed, that they should never meet again in happiness!
All these circumstances rose afresh to her mind, and awakened the
various emotions she had then suffered. Her tenderness for
Valancourt became as powerful as in the moments, when she thought,
that she was parting with him and happiness together, and when the
strength of her mind had enabled her to triumph over present
suffering, rather than to deserve the reproach of her conscience by
engaging in a clandestine marriage.--'Alas!' said Emily, as these
recollections came to her mind, 'and what have I gained by the
fortitude I then practised?--am I happy now?--He said, we should meet
no more in happiness; but, O! he little thought his own misconduct
would separate us, and lead to the very evil he then dreaded!'
Her reflections increased her anguish, while she was compelled to
acknowledge, that the fortitude she had formerly exerted, if it had
not conducted her to happiness, had saved her from irretrievable
misfortune--from Valancourt himself! But in these moments she could
not congratulate herself on the prudence, that had saved her; she
could only lament, with bitterest anguish, the circumstances, which
had conspired to betray Valancourt into a course of life so different
from that, which the virtues, the tastes, and the pursuits of his
early years had promised; but she still loved him too well to
believe, that his heart was even now depraved, though his conduct had
been criminal. An observation, which had fallen from M. St. Aubert
more than once, now occurred to her. 'This young man,' said he,
speaking of Valancourt, 'has never been at Paris;' a remark, that had
surprised her at the time it was uttered, but which she now
understood, and she exclaimed sorrowfully, 'O Valancourt! if such a
friend as my father had been with you at Paris--your noble, ingenuous
nature would not have fallen!'
The sun was now set, and, recalling her thoughts from their
melancholy subject, she continued her walk; for the pensive shade of
twilight was pleasing to her, and the nightingales from the
surrounding groves began to answer each other in the long-drawn,
plaintive note, which always touched her heart; while all the
fragrance of the flowery thickets, that bounded the terrace, was
awakened by the cool evening air, which floated so lightly among
their leaves, that they scarcely trembled as it passed.
Emily came, at length, to the steps of the pavilion, that terminated
the terrace, and where her last interview with Valancourt, before her
departure from Tholouse, had so unexpectedly taken place. The door
was now shut, and she trembled, while she hesitated whether to open
it; but her wish to see again a place, which had been the chief scene
of her former happiness, at length overcoming her reluctance to
encounter the painful regret it would renew, she entered. The room
was obscured by a melancholy shade; but through the open lattices,
darkened by the hanging foliage of the vines, appeared the dusky
landscape, the Garonne reflecting the evening light, and the west
still glowing. A chair was placed near one of the balconies, as if
some person had been sitting there, but the other furniture of the
pavilion remained exactly as usual, and Emily thought it looked as if
it had not once been moved since she set out for Italy. The silent
and deserted air of the place added solemnity to her emotions, for
she heard only the low whisper of the breeze, as it shook the leaves
of the vines, and the very faint murmur of the Garonne.
She seated herself in a chair, near the lattice, and yielded to the
sadness of her heart, while she recollected the circumstances of her
parting interview with Valancourt, on this spot. It was here too,
that she had passed some of the happiest hours of her life with him,
when her aunt favoured the connection, for here she had often sat and
worked, while he conversed, or read; and she now well remembered with
what discriminating judgment, with what tempered energy, he used to
repeat some of the sublimest passages of their favourite authors; how
often he would pause to admire with her their excellence, and with
what tender delight he would listen to her remarks, and correct her
'And is it possible,' said Emily, as these recollections returned--
'is it possible, that a mind, so susceptible of whatever is grand and
beautiful, could stoop to low pursuits, and be subdued by frivolous
She remembered how often she had seen the sudden tear start in his
eye, and had heard his voice tremble with emotion, while he related
any great or benevolent action, or repeated a sentiment of the same
character. 'And such a mind,' said she, 'such a heart, were to be
sacrificed to the habits of a great city!'
These recollections becoming too painful to be endured, she abruptly
left the pavilion, and, anxious to escape from the memorials of her
departed happiness, returned towards the chateau. As she passed
along the terrace, she perceived a person, walking, with a slow step,
and a dejected air, under the trees, at some distance. The twilight,
which was now deep, would not allow her to distinguish who it was,
and she imagined it to be one of the servants, till, the sound of her
steps seeming to reach him, he turned half round, and she thought she
Whoever it was, he instantly struck among the thickets on the left,
and disappeared, while Emily, her eyes fixed on the place, whence he
had vanished, and her frame trembling so excessively, that she could
scarcely support herself, remained, for some moments, unable to quit
the spot, and scarcely conscious of existence. With her
recollection, her strength returned, and she hurried toward the
house, where she did not venture to enquire who had been in the
gardens, lest she should betray her emotion; and she sat down alone,
endeavouring to recollect the figure, air and features of the person
she had just seen. Her view of him, however, had been so transient,
and the gloom had rendered it so imperfect, that she could remember
nothing with exactness; yet the general appearance of his figure, and
his abrupt departure, made her still believe, that this person was
Valancourt. Sometimes, indeed, she thought, that her fancy, which
had been occupied by the idea of him, had suggested his image to her
uncertain sight: but this conjecture was fleeting. If it was
himself whom she had seen, she wondered much, that he should be at
Tholouse, and more, how he had gained admittance into the garden; but
as often as her impatience prompted her to enquire whether any
stranger had been admitted, she was restrained by an unwillingness to
betray her doubts; and the evening was passed in anxious conjecture,
and in efforts to dismiss the subject from her thoughts. But, these
endeavours were ineffectual, and a thousand inconsistent emotions
assailed her, whenever she fancied that Valancourt might be near her;
now, she dreaded it to be true, and now she feared it to be false;
and, while she constantly tried to persuade herself, that she wished
the person, whom she had seen, might not be Valancourt, her heart as
constantly contradicted her reason.
The following day was occupied by the visits of several neighbouring
families, formerly intimate with Madame Montoni, who came to condole
with Emily on her death, to congratulate her upon the acquisition of
these estates, and to enquire about Montoni, and concerning the
strange reports they had heard of her own situation; all which was
done with the utmost decorum, and the visitors departed with as much
composure as they had arrived.
Emily was wearied by these formalities, and disgusted by the
subservient manners of many persons, who had thought her scarcely
worthy of common attention, while she was believed to be a dependant
on Madame Montoni.
'Surely,' said she, 'there is some magic in wealth, which can thus
make persons pay their court to it, when it does not even benefit
themselves. How strange it is, that a fool or a knave, with riches,
should be treated with more respect by the world, than a good man, or
a wise man in poverty!'
It was evening, before she was left alone, and she then wished to
have refreshed her spirits in the free air of her garden; but she
feared to go thither, lest she should meet again the person, whom she
had seen on the preceding night, and he should prove to be
Valancourt. The suspense and anxiety she suffered, on this subject,
she found all her efforts unable to controul, and her secret wish to
see Valancourt once more, though unseen by him, powerfully prompted
her to go, but prudence and a delicate pride restrained her, and she
determined to avoid the possibility of throwing herself in his way,
by forbearing to visit the gardens, for several days.
When, after near a week, she again ventured thither, she made Annette
her companion, and confined her walk to the lower grounds, but often
started as the leaves rustled in the breeze, imagining, that some
person was among the thickets; and, at the turn of every alley, she
looked forward with apprehensive expectation. She pursued her walk
thoughtfully and silently, for her agitation would not suffer her to
converse with Annette, to whom, however, thought and silence were so
intolerable, that she did not scruple at length to talk to her
'Dear madam,' said she, 'why do you start so? one would think you
knew what has happened.'
'What has happened?' said Emily, in a faltering voice, and trying to
command her emotion.
'The night before last, you know, madam'--
'I know nothing, Annette,' replied her lady in a more hurried voice.
'The night before last, madam, there was a robber in the garden.'
'A robber!' said Emily, in an eager, yet doubting tone.
'I suppose he was a robber, madam. What else could he be?'
'Where did you see him, Annette?' rejoined Emily, looking round her,
and turning back towards the chateau.
'It was not I that saw him, madam, it was Jean the gardener. It was
twelve o'clock at night, and, as he was coming across the court to go
the back way into the house, what should he see--but somebody walking
in the avenue, that fronts the garden gate! So, with that, Jean
guessed how it was, and he went into the house for his gun.'
'His gun!' exclaimed Emily.
'Yes, madam, his gun; and then he came out into the court to watch
him. Presently, he sees him come slowly down the avenue, and lean
over the garden gate, and look up at the house for a long time; and I
warrant he examined it well, and settled what window he should break
'But the gun,' said Emily--'the gun!'
'Yes, madam, all in good time. Presently, Jean says, the robber
opened the gate, and was coming into the court, and then he thought
proper to ask him his business: so he called out again, and bade him
say who he was, and what he wanted. But the man would do neither;
but turned upon his heel, and passed into the garden again. Jean
knew then well enough how it was, and so he fired after him.'
'Fired!' exclaimed Emily.
'Yes, madam, fired off his gun; but, Holy Virgin! what makes you look
so pale, madam? The man was not killed,--I dare say; but if he was,
his comrades carried him off: for, when Jean went in the morning, to
look for the body, it was gone, and nothing to be seen but a track of
blood on the ground. Jean followed it, that he might find out where
the man got into the garden, but it was lost in the grass, and'--
Annette was interrupted: for Emily's spirits died away, and she
would have fallen to the ground, if the girl had not caught her, and
supported her to a bench, close to them.
When, after a long absence, her senses returned, Emily desired to be
led to her apartment; and, though she trembled with anxiety to
enquire further on the subject of her alarm, she found herself too
ill at present, to dare the intelligence which it was possible she
might receive of Valancourt. Having dismissed Annette, that she
might weep and think at liberty, she endeavoured to recollect the
exact air of the person, whom she had seen on the terrace, and still
her fancy gave her the figure of Valancourt. She had, indeed,
scarcely a doubt, that it was he whom she had seen, and at whom the
gardener had fired: for the manner of the latter person, as
described by Annette, was not that of a robber; nor did it appear
probable, that a robber would have come alone, to break into a house
so spacious as this.
When Emily thought herself sufficiently recovered, to listen to what
Jean might have to relate, she sent for him; but he could inform her
of no circumstance, that might lead to a knowledge of the person, who
had been shot, or of the consequence of the wound; and, after
severely reprimanding him, for having fired with bullets, and
ordering diligent enquiry to be made in the neighbourhood for the
discovery of the wounded person, she dismissed him, and herself
remained in the same state of terrible suspense. All the tenderness
she had ever felt for Valancourt, was recalled by the sense of his
danger; and the more she considered the subject, the more her
conviction strengthened, that it was he, who had visited the gardens,
for the purpose of soothing the misery of disappointed affection,
amidst the scenes of his former happiness.
'Dear madam,' said Annette, when she returned, 'I never saw you so
affected before! I dare say the man is not killed.'
Emily shuddered, and lamented bitterly the rashness of the gardener
in having fired.
'I knew you would be angry enough about that, madam, or I should have
told you before; and he knew so too; for, says he, "Annette, say
nothing about this to my lady. She lies on the other side of the
house, so did not hear the gun, perhaps; but she would be angry with
me, if she knew, seeing there is blood. But then," says he, "how is
one to keep the garden clear, if one is afraid to fire at a robber,
when one sees him?"'
'No more of this,' said Emily, 'pray leave me.'
Annette obeyed, and Emily returned to the agonizing considerations,
that had assailed her before, but which she, at length, endeavoured
to sooth by a new remark. If the stranger was Valancourt, it was
certain he had come alone, and it appeared, therefore, that he had
been able to quit the gardens, without assistance; a circumstance
which did not seem probable, had his wound been dangerous. With this
consideration, she endeavoured to support herself, during the
enquiries, that were making by her servants in the neighbourhood; but
day after day came, and still closed in uncertainty, concerning this
affair: and Emily, suffering in silence, at length, drooped, and
sunk under the pressure of her anxiety. She was attacked by a slow
fever, and when she yielded to the persuasion of Annette to send for
medical advice, the physicians prescribed little beside air, gentle
exercise and amusement: but how was this last to be obtained? She,
however, endeavoured to abstract her thoughts from the subject of her
anxiety, by employing them in promoting that happiness in others,
which she had lost herself; and, when the evening was fine, she
usually took an airing, including in her ride the cottages of some of
her tenants, on whose condition she made such observations, as often
enabled her, unasked, to fulfil their wishes.
Her indisposition and the business she engaged in, relative to this
estate, had already protracted her stay at Tholouse, beyond the
period she had formerly fixed for her departure to La Vallee; and now
she was unwilling to leave the only place, where it seemed possible,
that certainty could be obtained on the subject of her distress. But
the time was come, when her presence was necessary at La Vallee, a
letter from the Lady Blanche now informing her, that the Count and
herself, being then at the chateau of the Baron St. Foix, purposed to
visit her at La Vallee, on their way home, as soon as they should be
informed of her arrival there. Blanche added, that they made this
visit, with the hope of inducing her to return with them to Chateau-
Emily, having replied to the letter of her friend, and said that she
should be at La Vallee in a few days, made hasty preparations for the
journey; and, in thus leaving Tholouse, endeavoured to support
herself with a belief, that, if any fatal accident had happened to
Valancourt, she must in this interval have heard of it.
On the evening before her departure, she went to take leave of the
terrace and the pavilion. The day had been sultry, but a light
shower, that fell just before sun-set, had cooled the air, and given
that soft verdure to the woods and pastures, which is so refreshing
to the eye; while the rain drops, still trembling on the shrubs,
glittered in the last yellow gleam, that lighted up the scene, and
the air was filled with fragrance, exhaled by the late shower, from
herbs and flowers and from the earth itself. But the lovely
prospect, which Emily beheld from the terrace, was no longer viewed
by her with delight; she sighed deeply as her eye wandered over it,
and her spirits were in a state of such dejection, that she could not
think of her approaching return to La Vallee, without tears, and
seemed to mourn again the death of her father, as if it had been an
event of yesterday. Having reached the pavilion, she seated herself
at the open lattice, and, while her eyes settled on the distant
mountains, that overlooked Gascony, still gleaming on the horizon,
though the sun had now left the plains below, 'Alas!' said she, 'I
return to your long-lost scenes, but shall meet no more the parents,
that were wont to render them delightful!--no more shall see the
smile of welcome, or hear the well-known voice of fondness:--all will
now be cold and silent in what was once my happy home.'
Tears stole down her cheek, as the remembrance of what that home had
been, returned to her; but, after indulging her sorrow for some time,
she checked it, accusing herself of ingratitude in forgetting the
friends, that she possessed, while she lamented those that were
departed; and she, at length, left the pavilion and the terrace,
without having observed a shadow of Valancourt or of any other
Ah happy hills! ah pleasing shade!
Ah fields belov'd in vain!
Where once my careless childhood stray'd,
A stranger yet to pain!
I feel the gales, that from ye blow,
A momentary bliss bestow,
As waving fresh their gladsome wing,
My weary soul they seem to sooth.
On the following morning, Emily left Tholouse at an early hour, and
reached La Vallee about sun-set. With the melancholy she experienced
on the review of a place which had been the residence of her parents,
and the scene of her earliest delight, was mingled, after the first
shock had subsided, a tender and undescribable pleasure. For time
had so far blunted the acuteness of her grief, that she now courted
every scene, that awakened the memory of her friends; in every room,
where she had been accustomed to see them, they almost seemed to live
again; and she felt that La Vallee was still her happiest home. One
of the first apartments she visited, was that, which had been her
father's library, and here she seated herself in his arm-chair, and,
while she contemplated, with tempered resignation, the picture of
past times, which her memory gave, the tears she shed could scarcely
be called those of grief.
Soon after her arrival, she was surprised by a visit from the
venerable M. Barreaux, who came impatiently to welcome the daughter
of his late respected neighbour, to her long-deserted home. Emily
was comforted by the presence of an old friend, and they passed an
interesting hour in conversing of former times, and in relating some
of the circumstances, that had occurred to each, since they parted.
The evening was so far advanced, when M. Barreaux left Emily, that
she could not visit the garden that night; but, on the following
morning, she traced its long-regretted scenes with fond impatience;
and, as she walked beneath the groves, which her father had planted,
and where she had so often sauntered in affectionate conversation
with him, his countenance, his smile, even the accents of his voice,
returned with exactness to her fancy, and her heart melted to the
This, too, was his favourite season of the year, at which they had
often together admired the rich and variegated tints of these woods
and the magical effect of autumnal lights upon the mountains; and
now, the view of these circumstances made memory eloquent. As she
wandered pensively on, she fancied the following address
Sweet Autumn! how thy melancholy grace
Steals on my heart, as through these shades I wind!
Sooth'd by thy breathing sigh, I fondly trace
Each lonely image of the pensive mind!
Lov'd scenes, lov'd friends--long lost! around me rise,
And wake the melting thought, the tender tear!
That tear, that thought, which more than mirth I prize--
Sweet as the gradual tint, that paints thy year!
Thy farewel smile, with fond regret, I view,
Thy beaming lights, soft gliding o'er the woods;
Thy distant landscape, touch'd with yellow hue
While falls the lengthen'd gleam; thy winding floods,
Now veil'd in shade, save where the skiff's white sails
Swell to the breeze, and catch thy streaming ray.
But now, e'en now!--the partial vision fails,
And the wave smiles, as sweeps the cloud away!
Emblem of life!--Thus checquer'd is its plan,
Thus joy succeeds to grief--thus smiles the varied man!
One of Emily's earliest enquiries, after her arrival at La Vallee,
was concerning Theresa, her father's old servant, whom it may be
remembered that M. Quesnel had turned from the house when it was let,
without any provision. Understanding that she lived in a cottage at
no great distance, Emily walked thither, and, on approaching, was
pleased to see, that her habitation was pleasantly situated on a
green slope, sheltered by a tuft of oaks, and had an appearance of
comfort and extreme neatness. She found the old woman within,
picking vine-stalks, who, on perceiving her young mistress, was
nearly overcome with joy.
'Ah! my dear young lady!' said she, 'I thought I should never see you
again in this world, when I heard you was gone to that outlandish
country. I have been hardly used, since you went; I little thought
they would have turned me out of my old master's family in my old
Emily lamented the circumstance, and then assured her, that she would
make her latter days comfortable, and expressed satisfaction, on
seeing her in so pleasant an habitation.
Theresa thanked her with tears, adding, 'Yes, mademoiselle, it is a
very comfortable home, thanks to the kind friend, who took me out of
my distress, when you was too far off to help me, and placed me here!
I little thought!--but no more of that--'
'And who was this kind friend?' said Emily: 'whoever it was, I shall
consider him as mine also.'
'Ah, mademoiselle! that friend forbad me to blazon the good deed--I
must not say, who it was. But how you are altered since I saw you
last! You look so pale now, and so thin, too; but then, there is my
old master's smile! Yes, that will never leave you, any more than
the goodness, that used to make him smile. Alas-a-day! the poor lost
a friend indeed, when he died!'
Emily was affected by this mention of her father, which Theresa
observing, changed the subject. 'I heard, mademoiselle,' said she,
'that Madame Cheron married a foreign gentleman, after all, and took
you abroad; how does she do?'
Emily now mentioned her death. 'Alas!' said Theresa, 'if she had not
been my master's sister, I should never have loved her; she was
always so cross. But how does that dear young gentleman do, M.
Valancourt? he was an handsome youth, and a good one; is he well,
Emily was much agitated.
'A blessing on him!' continued Theresa. 'Ah, my dear young lady, you
need not look so shy; I know all about it. Do you think I do not
know, that he loves you? Why, when you was away, mademoiselle, he
used to come to the chateau and walk about it, so disconsolate! He
would go into every room in the lower part of the house, and,
sometimes, he would sit himself down in a chair, with his arms
across, and his eyes on the floor, and there he would sit, and think,
and think, for the hour together. He used to be very fond of the
south parlour, because I told him it used to be yours; and there he
would stay, looking at the pictures, which I said you drew, and
playing upon your lute, that hung up by the window, and reading in
your books, till sunset, and then he must go back to his brother's
chateau. And then--'
'It is enough, Theresa,' said Emily.--'How long have you lived in
this cottage--and how can I serve you? Will you remain here, or
return and live with me?'
'Nay, mademoiselle,' said Theresa, 'do not be so shy to your poor old
servant. I am sure it is no disgrace to like such a good young
A deep sigh escaped from Emily.
'Ah! how he did love to talk of you! I loved him for that. Nay, for
that matter, he liked to hear me talk, for he did not say much
himself. But I soon found out what he came to the chateau about.
Then, he would go into the garden, and down to the terrace, and sit
under that great tree there, for the day together, with one of your
books in his hand; but he did not read much, I fancy; for one day I
happened to go that way, and I heard somebody talking. Who can be
here? says I: I am sure I let nobody into the garden, but the
Chevalier. So I walked softly, to see who it could be; and behold!
it was the Chevalier himself, talking to himself about you. And he
repeated your name, and sighed so! and said he had lost you for ever,
for that you would never return for him. I thought he was out in his
reckoning there, but I said nothing, and stole away.'
'No more of this trifling,' said Emily, awakening from her reverie:
'it displeases me.'
'But, when M. Quesnel let the chateau, I thought it would have broke
the Chevalier's heart.'
'Theresa,' said Emily seriously, 'you must name the Chevalier no
'Not name him, mademoiselle!' cried Theresa: 'what times are come up
now? Why, I love the Chevalier next to my old master and you,
'Perhaps your love was not well bestowed, then,' replied Emily,
trying to conceal her tears; 'but, however that might be, we shall
meet no more.'
'Meet no more!--not well bestowed!' exclaimed Theresa. 'What do I
hear? No, mademoiselle, my love was well bestowed, for it was the
Chevalier Valancourt, who gave me this cottage, and has supported me
in my old age, ever since M. Quesnel turned me from my master's
'The Chevalier Valancourt!' said Emily, trembling extremely.
'Yes, mademoiselle, he himself, though he made me promise not to
tell; but how could one help, when one heard him ill spoken of? Ah!
dear young lady, you may well weep, if you have behaved unkindly to
him, for a more tender heart than his never young gentleman had. He
found me out in my distress, when you was too far off to help me; and
M. Quesnel refused to do so, and bade me go to service again--Alas! I
was too old for that!--The Chevalier found me, and bought me this
cottage, and gave me money to furnish it, and bade me seek out
another poor woman to live with me; and he ordered his brother's
steward to pay me, every quarter, that which has supported me in
comfort. Think then, mademoiselle, whether I have not reason to
speak well of the Chevalier. And there are others, who could have
afforded it better than he: and I am afraid he has hurt himself by
his generosity, for quarter day is gone by long since, and no money
for me! But do not weep so, mademoiselle: you are not sorry surely
to hear of the poor Chevalier's goodness?'
'Sorry!' said Emily, and wept the more. 'But how long is it since
you have seen him?'
'Not this many a day, mademoiselle.'
'When did you hear of him?' enquired Emily, with increased emotion.
'Alas! never since he went away so suddenly into Languedoc; and he
was but just come from Paris then, or I should have seen him, I am
sure. Quarter day is gone by long since, and, as I said, no money
for me; and I begin to fear some harm has happened to him: and if I
was not so far from Estuviere and so lame, I should have gone to
enquire before this time; and I have nobody to send so far.'
Emily's anxiety, as to the fate of Valancourt, was now scarcely
endurable, and, since propriety would not suffer her to send to the
chateau of his brother, she requested that Theresa would immediately
hire some person to go to his steward from herself, and, when he
asked for the quarterage due to her, to make enquiries concerning
Valancourt. But she first made Theresa promise never to mention her
name in this affair, or ever with that of the Chevalier Valancourt;
and her former faithfulness to M. St. Aubert induced Emily to confide
in her assurances. Theresa now joyfully undertook to procure a
person for this errand, and then Emily, after giving her a sum of
money to supply her with present comforts, returned, with spirits
heavily oppressed, to her home, lamenting, more than ever, that an
heart, possessed of so much benevolence as Valancourt's, should have
been contaminated by the vices of the world, but affected by the
delicate affection, which his kindness to her old servant expressed
Light thickens, and the crow
Makes wing to the rooky wood:
Good things of day begin to droop, and drowze;
While night's black agents to their preys do rouze.
Meanwhile Count De Villefort and Lady Blanche had passed a pleasant
fortnight at the chateau de St. Foix, with the Baron and Baroness,
during which they made frequent excursions among the mountains, and
were delighted with the romantic wildness of Pyrenean scenery. It
was with regret, that the Count bade adieu to his old friends,
although with the hope of being soon united with them in one family;
for it was settled that M. St. Foix, who now attended them into
Gascony, should receive the hand of the Lady Blanche, upon their
arrival at Chateau-le-Blanc. As the road, from the Baron's residence
to La Vallee, was over some of the wildest tract of the Pyrenees, and
where a carriage-wheel had never passed, the Count hired mules for
himself and his family, as well as a couple of stout guides, who were
well armed, informed of all the passes of the mountains, and who
boasted, too, that they were acquainted with every brake and dingle
in the way, could tell the names of all the highest points of this
chain of Alps, knew every forest, that spread along their narrow
vallies, the shallowest part of every torrent they must cross, and
the exact distance of every goat-herd's and hunter's cabin they
should have occasion to pass,--which last article of learning
required no very capacious memory, for even such simple inhabitants
were but thinly scattered over these wilds.
The Count left the chateau de St. Foix, early in the morning, with an
intention of passing the night at a little inn upon the mountains,
about half way to La Vallee, of which his guides had informed him;
and, though this was frequented chiefly by Spanish muleteers, on
their route into France, and, of course, would afford only sorry
accommodation, the Count had no alternative, for it was the only
place like an inn, on the road.
After a day of admiration and fatigue, the travellers found
themselves, about sun-set, in a woody valley, overlooked, on every
side, by abrupt heights. They had proceeded for many leagues,
without seeing a human habitation, and had only heard, now and then,
at a distance, the melancholy tinkling of a sheep-bell; but now they
caught the notes of merry music, and presently saw, within a little
green recess among the rocks, a group of mountaineers, tripping
through a dance. The Count, who could not look upon the happiness,
any more than on the misery of others, with indifference, halted to
enjoy this scene of simple pleasure. The group before him consisted
of French and Spanish peasants, the inhabitants of a neighbouring
hamlet, some of whom were performing a sprightly dance, the women
with castanets in their hands, to the sounds of a lute and a
tamborine, till, from the brisk melody of France, the music softened
into a slow movement, to which two female peasants danced a Spanish
The Count, comparing this with the scenes of such gaiety as he had
witnessed at Paris, where false taste painted the features, and,
while it vainly tried to supply the glow of nature, concealed the
charms of animation--where affectation so often distorted the air,
and vice perverted the manners--sighed to think, that natural graces
and innocent pleasures flourished in the wilds of solitude, while
they drooped amidst the concourse of polished society. But the
lengthening shadows reminded the travellers, that they had no time to
lose; and, leaving this joyous group, they pursued their way towards
the little inn, which was to shelter them from the night.
The rays of the setting sun now threw a yellow gleam upon the forests
of pine and chesnut, that swept down the lower region of the
mountains, and gave resplendent tints to the snowy points above. But
soon, even this light faded fast, and the scenery assumed a more
tremendous appearance, invested with the obscurity of twilight.
Where the torrent had been seen, it was now only heard; where the
wild cliffs had displayed every variety of form and attitude, a dark
mass of mountains now alone appeared; and the vale, which far, far
below had opened its dreadful chasm, the eye could no longer fathom.
A melancholy gleam still lingered on the summits of the highest Alps,
overlooking the deep repose of evening, and seeming to make the
stillness of the hour more awful.
Blanche viewed the scene in silence, and listened with enthusiasm to
the murmur of the pines, that extended in dark lines along the
mountains, and to the faint voice of the izard, among the rocks, that
came at intervals on the air. But her enthusiasm sunk into
apprehension, when, as the shadows deepened, she looked upon the
doubtful precipice, that bordered the road, as well as on the various
fantastic forms of danger, that glimmered through the obscurity
beyond it; and she asked her father, how far they were from the inn,
and whether he did not consider the road to be dangerous at this late
hour. The Count repeated the first question to the guides, who
returned a doubtful answer, adding, that, when it was darker, it
would be safest to rest, till the moon rose. 'It is scarcely safe to
proceed now,' said the Count; but the guides, assuring him that there
was no danger, went on. Blanche, revived by this assurance, again
indulged a pensive pleasure, as she watched the progress of twilight
gradually spreading its tints over the woods and mountains, and
stealing from the eye every minuter feature of the scene, till the
grand outlines of nature alone remained. Then fell the silent dews,
and every wild flower, and aromatic plant, that bloomed among the
cliffs, breathed forth its sweetness; then, too, when the mountain-
bee had crept into its blossomed bed, and the hum of every little
insect, that had floated gaily in the sun-beam, was hushed, the sound
of many streams, not heard till now, murmured at a distance.--The
bats alone, of all the animals inhabiting this region, seemed awake;
and, while they flitted across the silent path, which Blanche was
pursuing, she remembered the following lines, which Emily had given
TO THE BAT
From haunt of man, from day's obtrusive glare,
Thou shroud'st thee in the ruin's ivy'd tow'r.
Or in some shadowy glen's romantic bow'r,
Where wizard forms their mystic charms prepare,
Where Horror lurks, and ever-boding Care!
But, at the sweet and silent ev'ning hour,
When clos'd in sleep is ev'ry languid flow'r,
Thou lov'st to sport upon the twilight air,
Mocking the eye, that would thy course pursue,
In many a wanton-round, elastic, gay,
Thou flit'st athwart the pensive wand'rer's way,
As his lone footsteps print the mountain-dew.
From Indian isles thou com'st, with Summer's car,
Twilight thy love--thy guide her beaming star!
To a warm imagination, the dubious forms, that float, half veiled in
darkness, afford a higher delight, than the most distinct scenery,
that the sun can shew. While the fancy thus wanders over landscapes
partly of its own creation, a sweet complacency steals upon the mind,
Refines it all to subtlest feeling,
Bids the tear of rapture roll.
The distant note of a torrent, the weak trembling of the breeze among
the woods, or the far-off sound of a human voice, now lost and heard
again, are circumstances, which wonderfully heighten the enthusiastic
tone of the mind. The young St. Foix, who saw the presentations of a
fervid fancy, and felt whatever enthusiasm could suggest, sometimes
interrupted the silence, which the rest of the party seemed by mutual
consent to preserve, remarking and pointing out to Blanche the most
striking effect of the hour upon the scenery; while Blanche, whose
apprehensions were beguiled by the conversation of her lover, yielded
to the taste so congenial to his, and they conversed in a low
restrained voice, the effect of the pensive tranquillity, which
twilight and the scene inspired, rather than of any fear, that they
should be heard. But, while the heart was thus soothed to
tenderness, St. Foix gradually mingled, with his admiration of the
country, a mention of his affection; and he continued to speak, and
Blanche to listen, till the mountains, the woods, and the magical
illusions of twilight, were remembered no more.
The shadows of evening soon shifted to the gloom of night, which was
somewhat anticipated by the vapours, that, gathering fast round the
mountains, rolled in dark wreaths along their sides; and the guides
proposed to rest, till the moon should rise, adding, that they
thought a storm was coming on. As they looked round for a spot, that
might afford some kind of shelter, an object was perceived obscurely
through the dusk, on a point of rock, a little way down the mountain,
which they imagined to be a hunter's or a shepherd's cabin, and the
party, with cautious steps, proceeded towards it. Their labour,
however, was not rewarded, or their apprehensions soothed; for, on
reaching the object of their search, they discovered a monumental
cross, which marked the spot to have been polluted by murder.
The darkness would not permit them to read the inscription; but the
guides knew this to be a cross, raised to the memory of a Count de
Beliard, who had been murdered here by a horde of banditti, that had
infested this part of the Pyrenees, a few years before; and the
uncommon size of the monument seemed to justify the supposition, that
it was erected for a person of some distinction. Blanche shuddered,
as she listened to some horrid particulars of the Count's fate, which
one of the guides related in a low, restrained tone, as if the sound
of his own voice frightened him; but, while they lingered at the
cross, attending to his narrative, a flash of lightning glanced upon
the rocks, thunder muttered at a distance, and the travellers, now
alarmed, quitted this scene of solitary horror, in search of shelter.
Having regained their former track, the guides, as they passed on,
endeavoured to interest the Count by various stories of robbery, and
even of murder, which had been perpetrated in the very places they
must unavoidably pass, with accounts of their own dauntless courage
and wonderful escapes. The chief guide, or rather he, who was the
most completely armed, drawing forth one of the four pistols, that
were tucked into his belt, swore, that it had shot three robbers
within the year. He then brandished a clasp-knife of enormous
length, and was going to recount the wonderful execution it had done,
when St. Foix, perceiving, that Blanche was terrified, interrupted
him. The Count, meanwhile, secretly laughing at the terrible
histories and extravagant boastings of the man, resolved to humour
him, and, telling Blanche in a whisper, his design, began to recount
some exploits of his own, which infinitely exceeded any related by
To these surprising circumstances he so artfully gave the colouring
of truth, that the courage of the guides was visibly affected by
them, who continued silent, long after the Count had ceased to speak.
The loquacity of the chief hero thus laid asleep, the vigilance of
his eyes and ears seemed more thoroughly awakened, for he listened,
with much appearance of anxiety, to the deep thunder, which murmured
at intervals, and often paused, as the breeze, that was now rising,
rushed among the pines. But, when he made a sudden halt before a
tuft of cork trees, that projected over the road, and drew forth a
pistol, before he would venture to brave the banditti which might
lurk behind it, the Count could no longer refrain from laughter.
Having now, however, arrived at a level spot, somewhat sheltered from
the air, by overhanging cliffs and by a wood of larch, that rose over
the precipice on the left, and the guides being yet ignorant how far
they were from the inn, the travellers determined to rest, till the
moon should rise, or the storm disperse. Blanche, recalled to a
sense of the present moment, looked on the surrounding gloom, with
terror; but giving her hand to St. Foix, she alighted, and the whole
party entered a kind of cave, if such it could be called, which was
only a shallow cavity, formed by the curve of impending rocks. A
light being struck, a fire was kindled, whose blaze afforded some
degree of cheerfulness, and no small comfort, for, though the day had
been hot, the night air of this mountainous region was chilling; a
fire was partly necessary also to keep off the wolves, with which
those wilds were infested.
Provisions being spread upon a projection of the rock, the Count and
his family partook of a supper, which, in a scene less rude, would
certainly have been thought less excellent. When the repast was
finished, St. Foix, impatient for the moon, sauntered along the
precipice, to a point, that fronted the east; but all was yet wrapt
in gloom, and the silence of night was broken only by the murmuring
of woods, that waved far below, or by distant thunder, and, now and
then, by the faint voices of the party he had quitted. He viewed,
with emotions of awful sublimity, the long volumes of sulphureous
clouds, that floated along the upper and middle regions of the air,
and the lightnings that flashed from them, sometimes silently, and,
at others, followed by sullen peals of thunder, which the mountains
feebly prolonged, while the whole horizon, and the abyss, on which he
stood, were discovered in the momentary light. Upon the succeeding
darkness, the fire, which had been kindled in the cave, threw a
partial gleam, illumining some points of the opposite rocks, and the
summits of pine-woods, that hung beetling on the cliffs below, while
their recesses seemed to frown in deeper shade.
St. Foix stopped to observe the picture, which the party in the cave
presented, where the elegant form of Blanche was finely contrasted by
the majestic figure of the Count, who was seated by her on a rude
stone, and each was rendered more impressive by the grotesque habits
and strong features of the guides and other attendants, who were in
the back ground of the piece. The effect of the light, too, was
interesting; on the surrounding figures it threw a strong, though
pale gleam, and glittered on their bright arms; while upon the
foliage of a gigantic larch, that impended its shade over the cliff
above, appeared a red, dusky tint, deepening almost imperceptibly
into the blackness of night.
While St. Foix contemplated the scene, the moon, broad and yellow,
rose over the eastern summits, from among embattled clouds, and
shewed dimly the grandeur of the heavens, the mass of vapours, that
rolled half way down the precipice beneath, and the doubtful
What dreadful pleasure! there to stand sublime,
Like shipwreck'd mariner on desert coast,
And view th'enormous waste of vapour, tost
In billows length'ning to th'horizon round!
From this romantic reverie he was awakened by the voices of the
guides, repeating his name, which was reverbed from cliff to cliff,
till an hundred tongues seemed to call him; when he soon quieted the
fears of the Count and the Lady Blanche, by returning to the cave.
As the storm, however, seemed approaching, they did not quit their
place of shelter; and the Count, seated between his daughter and St.
Foix, endeavoured to divert the fears of the former, and conversed on
subjects, relating to the natural history of the scene, among which
they wandered. He spoke of the mineral and fossile substances, found
in the depths of these mountains,--the veins of marble and granite,
with which they abounded, the strata of shells, discovered near their
summits, many thousand fathom above the level of the sea, and at a
vast distance from its present shore;--of the tremendous chasms and
caverns of the rocks, the grotesque form of the mountains, and the
various phaenomena, that seem to stamp upon the world the history of
the deluge. From the natural history he descended to the mention of
events and circumstances, connected with the civil story of the
Pyrenees; named some of the most remarkable fortresses, which France
and Spain had erected in the passes of these mountains; and gave a
brief account of some celebrated sieges and encounters in early
times, when Ambition first frightened Solitude from these her deep
recesses, made her mountains, which before had echoed only to the
torrent's roar, tremble with the clang of arms, and, when man's first
footsteps in her sacred haunts had left the print of blood!
As Blanche sat, attentive to the narrative, that rendered the scenes
doubly interesting, and resigned to solemn emotion, while she
considered, that she was on the very ground, once polluted by these
events, her reverie was suddenly interrupted by a sound, that came in
the wind.--It was the distant bark of a watch-dog. The travellers
listened with eager hope, and, as the wind blew stronger, fancied,
that the sound came from no great distance; and, the guides having
little doubt, that it proceeded from the inn they were in search of,
the Count determined to pursue his way. The moon now afforded a
stronger, though still an uncertain light, as she moved among broken
clouds; and the travellers, led by the sound, recommenced their
journey along the brow of the precipice, preceded by a single torch,
that now contended with the moon-light; for the guides, believing
they should reach the inn soon after sun-set, had neglected to
provide more. In silent caution they followed the sound, which was
heard but at intervals, and which, after some time entirely ceased.
The guides endeavoured, however, to point their course to the
quarter, whence it had issued, but the deep roaring of a torrent soon
seized their attention, and presently they came to a tremendous chasm
of the mountain, which seemed to forbid all further progress.
Blanche alighted from her mule, as did the Count and St. Foix, while
the guides traversed the edge in search of a bridge, which, however
rude, might convey them to the opposite side, and they, at length,
confessed, what the Count had begun to suspect, that they had been,
for some time, doubtful of their way, and were now certain only, that
they had lost it.
At a little distance, was discovered a rude and dangerous passage,
formed by an enormous pine, which, thrown across the chasm, united
the opposite precipices, and which had been felled probably by the
hunter, to facilitate his chace of the izard, or the wolf. The whole
party, the guides excepted, shuddered at the prospect of crossing
this alpine bridge, whose sides afforded no kind of defence, and from
which to fall was to die. The guides, however, prepared to lead over
the mules, while Blanche stood trembling on the brink, and listening
to the roar of the waters, which were seen descending from rocks
above, overhung with lofty pines, and thence precipitating themselves
into the deep abyss, where their white surges gleamed faintly in the
moon-light. The poor animals proceeded over this perilous bridge
with instinctive caution, neither frightened by the noise of the
cataract, or deceived by the gloom, which the impending foliage threw
athwart their way. It was now, that the solitary torch, which had
been hitherto of little service, was found to be an inestimable
treasure; and Blanche, terrified, shrinking, but endeavouring to re-
collect all her firmness and presence of mind, preceded by her lover
and supported by her father, followed the red gleam of the torch, in
safety, to the opposite cliff.
As they went on, the heights contracted, and formed a narrow pass, at
the bottom of which, the torrent they had just crossed, was heard to
thunder. But they were again cheered by the bark of a dog, keeping
watch, perhaps, over the flocks of the mountains, to protect them
from the nightly descent of the wolves. The sound was much nearer
than before, and, while they rejoiced in the hope of soon reaching a
place of repose, a light was seen to glimmer at a distance. It
appeared at a height considerably above the level of their path, and
was lost and seen again, as if the waving branches of trees sometimes
excluded and then admitted its rays. The guides hallooed with all
their strength, but the sound of no human voice was heard in return,
and, at length, as a more effectual means of making themselves known,
they fired a pistol. But, while they listened in anxious
expectation, the noise of the explosion was alone heard, echoing
among the rocks, and it gradually sunk into silence, which no
friendly hint of man disturbed. The light, however, that had been
seen before, now became plainer, and, soon after, voices were heard
indistinctly on the wind; but, upon the guides repeating the call,
the voices suddenly ceased, and the light disappeared.
The Lady Blanche was now almost sinking beneath the pressure of
anxiety, fatigue and apprehension, and the united efforts of the
Count and St. Foix could scarcely support her spirits. As they
continued to advance, an object was perceived on a point of rock
above, which, the strong rays of the moon then falling on it,
appeared to be a watch-tower. The Count, from its situation and some
other circumstances, had little doubt, that it was such, and
believing, that the light had proceeded from thence, he endeavoured
to re-animate his daughter's spirits by the near prospect of shelter
and repose, which, however rude the accommodation, a ruined watch-
tower might afford.
'Numerous watch-towers have been erected among the Pyrenees,' said
the Count, anxious only to call Blanche's attention from the subject
of her fears; 'and the method, by which they give intelligence of the
approach of the enemy, is, you know, by fires, kindled on the summits
of these edifices. Signals have thus, sometimes, been communicated
from post to post, along a frontier line of several hundred miles in
length. Then, as occasion may require, the lurking armies emerge
from their fortresses and the forests, and march forth, to defend,
perhaps, the entrance of some grand pass, where, planting themselves
on the heights, they assail their astonished enemies, who wind along
the glen below, with fragments of the shattered cliff, and pour death
and defeat upon them. The ancient forts, and watch-towers,
overlooking the grand passes of the Pyrenees, are carefully
preserved; but some of those in inferior stations have been suffered
to fall into decay, and are now frequently converted into the more
peaceful habitation of the hunter, or the shepherd, who, after a day
of toil, retires hither, and, with his faithful dogs, forgets, near a
cheerful blaze, the labour of the chace, or the anxiety of collecting
his wandering flocks, while he is sheltered from the nightly storm.'
'But are they always thus peacefully inhabited?' said the Lady
'No,' replied the Count, 'they are sometimes the asylum of French and
Spanish smugglers, who cross the mountains with contraband goods from
their respective countries, and the latter are particularly numerous,
against whom strong parties of the king's troops are sometimes sent.
But the desperate resolution of these adventurers, who, knowing,
that, if they are taken, they must expiate the breach of the law by
the most cruel death, travel in large parties, well armed, often
daunts the courage of the soldiers. The smugglers, who seek only
safety, never engage, when they can possibly avoid it; the military,
also, who know, that in these encounters, danger is certain, and
glory almost unattainable, are equally reluctant to fight; an
engagement, therefore, very seldom happens, but, when it does, it
never concludes till after the most desperate and bloody conflict.
You are inattentive, Blanche,' added the Count: 'I have wearied you
with a dull subject; but see, yonder, in the moon-light, is the
edifice we have been in search of, and we are fortunate to be so near
it, before the storm bursts.'
Blanche, looking up, perceived, that they were at the foot of the
cliff, on whose summit the building stood, but no light now issued
from it; the barking of the dog too had, for some time, ceased, and
the guides began to doubt, whether this was really the object of
their search. From the distance, at which they surveyed it, shewn
imperfectly by a cloudy moon, it appeared to be of more extent than a
single watch-tower; but the difficulty was how to ascend the height,
whose abrupt declivities seemed to afford no kind of pathway.
While the guides carried forward the torch to examine the cliff, the
Count, remaining with Blanche and St. Foix at its foot, under the
shadow of the woods, endeavoured again to beguile the time by
conversation, but again anxiety abstracted the mind of Blanche; and
he then consulted, apart with St. Foix, whether it would be
advisable, should a path be found, to venture to an edifice, which
might possibly harbour banditti. They considered, that their own
party was not small, and that several of them were well armed; and,
after enumerating the dangers, to be incurred by passing the night in
the open wild, exposed, perhaps, to the effects of a thunder-storm,
there remained not a doubt, that they ought to endeavour to obtain
admittance to the edifice above, at any hazard respecting the
inhabitants it might harbour; but the darkness, and the dead silence,
that surrounded it, appeared to contradict the probability of its
being inhabited at all.
A shout from the guides aroused their attention, after which, in a
few minutes, one of the Count's servants returned with intelligence,
that a path was found, and they immediately hastened to join the
guides, when they all ascended a little winding way cut in the rock
among thickets of dwarf wood, and, after much toil and some danger,
reached the summit, where several ruined towers, surrounded by a
massy wall, rose to their view, partially illumined by the moon-
light. The space around the building was silent, and apparently
forsaken, but the Count was cautious; 'Step softly,' said he, in a
low voice, 'while we reconnoitre the edifice.'
Having proceeded silently along for some paces, they stopped at a
gate, whose portals were terrible even in ruins, and, after a
moment's hesitation, passed on to the court of entrance, but paused
again at the head of a terrace, which, branching from it, ran along
the brow of a precipice. Over this, rose the main body of the
edifice, which was now seen to be, not a watch-tower, but one of
those ancient fortresses, that, from age and neglect, had fallen to
decay. Many parts of it, however, appeared to be still entire; it
was built of grey stone, in the heavy Saxon-gothic style, with
enormous round towers, buttresses of proportionable strength, and the
arch of the large gate, which seemed to open into the hall of the
fabric, was round, as was that of a window above. The air of
solemnity, which must so strongly have characterized the pile even in
the days of its early strength, was now considerably heightened by
its shattered battlements and half-demolished walls, and by the huge
masses of ruin, scattered in its wide area, now silent and grass
grown. In this court of entrance stood the gigantic remains of an
oak, that seemed to have flourished and decayed with the building,
which it still appeared frowningly to protect by the few remaining
branches, leafless and moss-grown, that crowned its trunk, and whose
wide extent told how enormous the tree had been in a former age.
This fortress was evidently once of great strength, and, from its
situation on a point of rock, impending over a deep glen, had been of
great power to annoy, as well as to resist; the Count, therefore, as
he stood surveying it, was somewhat surprised, that it had been
suffered, ancient as it was, to sink into ruins, and its present
lonely and deserted air excited in his breast emotions of melancholy
awe. While he indulged, for a moment, these emotions, he thought he
heard a sound of remote voices steal upon the stillness, from within
the building, the front of which he again surveyed with scrutinizing
eyes, but yet no light was visible. He now determined to walk round
the fort, to that remote part of it, whence he thought the voices had
arisen, that he might examine whether any light could be discerned
there, before he ventured to knock at the gate; for this purpose, he
entered upon the terrace, where the remains of cannon were yet
apparent in the thick walls, but he had not proceeded many paces,
when his steps were suddenly arrested by the loud barking of a dog
within, and which he fancied to be the same, whose voice had been the
means of bringing the travellers thither. It now appeared certain,
that the place was inhabited, and the Count returned to consult again
with St. Foix, whether he should try to obtain admittance, for its
wild aspect had somewhat shaken his former resolution; but, after a
second consultation, he submitted to the considerations, which before
determined him, and which were strengthened by the discovery of the
dog, that guarded the fort, as well as by the stillness that pervaded
it. He, therefore, ordered one of his servants to knock at the gate,
who was advancing to obey him, when a light appeared through the
loop-hole of one of the towers, and the Count called loudly, but,
receiving no answer, he went up to the gate himself, and struck upon
it with an iron-pointed pole, which had assisted him to climb the
steep. When the echoes had ceased, that this blow had awakened, the
renewed barking,--and there were now more than one dog,--was the only
sound, that was heard. The Count stepped back, a few paces, to
observe whether the light was in the tower, and, perceiving, that it
was gone, he returned to the portal, and had lifted the pole to
strike again, when again he fancied he heard the murmur of voices
within, and paused to listen. He was confirmed in the supposition,
but they were too remote, to be heard otherwise than in a murmur, and
the Count now let the pole fall heavily upon the gate; when almost
immediately a profound silence followed. It was apparent, that the
people within had heard the sound, and their caution in admitting
strangers gave him a favourable opinion of them. 'They are either
hunters or shepherds,' said he, 'who, like ourselves, have probably
sought shelter from the night within these walls, and are fearful of
admitting strangers, lest they should prove robbers. I will
endeavour to remove their fears.' So saying, he called aloud, 'We
are friends, who ask shelter from the night.' In a few moments,
steps were heard within, which approached, and a voice then enquired-
-'Who calls?' 'Friends,' repeated the Count; 'open the gates, and
you shall know more.'--Strong bolts were now heard to be undrawn, and
a man, armed with a hunting spear, appeared. 'What is it you want at
this hour?' said he. The Count beckoned his attendants, and then
answered, that he wished to enquire the way to the nearest cabin.
'Are you so little acquainted with these mountains,' said the man,
'as not to know, that there is none, within several leagues? I
cannot shew you the way; you must seek it--there's a moon.' Saying
this, he was closing the gate, and the Count was turning away, half
disappointed and half afraid, when another voice was heard from
above, and, on looking up, he saw a light, and a man's face, at the
grate of the portal. 'Stay, friend, you have lost your way?' said
the voice. 'You are hunters, I suppose, like ourselves: I will be
with you presently.' The voice ceased, and the light disappeared.
Blanche had been alarmed by the appearance of the man, who had opened
the gate, and she now entreated her father to quit the place; but the
Count had observed the hunter's spear, which he carried; and the
words from the tower encouraged him to await the event. The gate was
soon opened, and several men in hunters' habits, who had heard above
what had passed below, appeared, and, having listened some time to
the Count, told him he was welcome to rest there for the night. They
then pressed him, with much courtesy, to enter, and to partake of
such fare as they were about to sit down to. The Count, who had
observed them attentively while they spoke, was cautious, and
somewhat suspicious; but he was also weary, fearful of the
approaching storm, and of encountering alpine heights in the
obscurity of night; being likewise somewhat confident in the strength
and number of his attendants, he, after some further consideration,
determined to accept the invitation. With this resolution he called
his servants, who, advancing round the tower, behind which some of
them had silently listened to this conference, followed their Lord,
the Lady Blanche, and St. Foix into the fortress. The strangers led
them on to a large and rude hall, partially seen by a fire that
blazed at its extremity, round which four men, in the hunter's dress,
were seated, and on the hearth were several dogs stretched in sleep.
In the middle of the hall stood a large table, and over the fire some
part of an animal was boiling. As the Count approached, the men
arose, and the dogs, half raising themselves, looked fiercely at the
strangers, but, on hearing their masters' voices, kept their postures
on the hearth.
Blanche looked round this gloomy and spacious hall; then at the men,
and to her father, who, smiling cheerfully at her, addressed himself
to the hunters. 'This is an hospitable hearth,' said he, 'the blaze
of a fire is reviving after having wandered so long in these dreary
wilds. Your dogs are tired; what success have you had?' 'Such as we
usually have,' replied one of the men, who had been seated in the
hall, 'we kill our game with tolerable certainty.' 'These are fellow
hunters,' said one of the men who had brought the Count hither, 'that
have lost their way, and I have told them there is room enough in the
fort for us all.' 'Very true, very true,' replied his companion,
'What luck have you had in the chace, brothers? We have killed two
izards, and that, you will say, is pretty well.' 'You mistake,
friend,' said the Count, 'we are not hunters, but travellers; but, if
you will admit us to hunters' fare, we shall be well contented, and
will repay your kindness.' 'Sit down then, brother,' said one of the
men: 'Jacques, lay more fuel on the fire, the kid will soon be
ready; bring a seat for the lady too. Ma'amselle, will you taste our
brandy? it is true Barcelona, and as bright as ever flowed from a
keg.' Blanche timidly smiled, and was going to refuse, when her
father prevented her, by taking, with a good humoured air, the glass
offered to his daughter; and Mons. St. Foix, who was seated next her,
pressed her hand, and gave her an encouraging look, but her attention
was engaged by a man, who sat silently by the fire, observing St.
Foix, with a steady and earnest eye.
'You lead a jolly life here,' said the Count. 'The life of a hunter
is a pleasant and a healthy one; and the repose is sweet, which
succeeds to your labour.'
'Yes,' replied one of his hosts, 'our life is pleasant enough. We
live here only during the summer, and autumnal months; in winter, the
place is dreary, and the swoln torrents, that descend from the
heights, put a stop to the chace.'
''Tis a life of liberty and enjoyment,' said the Count: 'I should
like to pass a month in your way very well.'
'We find employment for our guns too,' said a man who stood behind
the Count: 'here are plenty of birds, of delicious flavour, that
feed upon the wild thyme and herbs, that grow in the vallies. Now I
think of it, there is a brace of birds hung up in the stone gallery;
go fetch them, Jacques, we will have them dressed.'
The Count now made enquiry, concerning the method of pursuing the
chace among the rocks and precipices of these romantic regions, and
was listening to a curious detail, when a horn was sounded at the
gate. Blanche looked timidly at her father, who continued to
converse on the subject of the chace, but whose countenance was
somewhat expressive of anxiety, and who often turned his eyes towards
that part of the hall nearest the gate. The horn sounded again, and
a loud halloo succeeded. 'These are some of our companions, returned
from their day's labour,' said a man, going lazily from his seat
towards the gate; and in a few minutes, two men appeared, each with a
gun over his shoulder, and pistols in his belt. 'What cheer, my
lads? what cheer?' said they, as they approached. 'What luck?'
returned their companions: 'have you brought home your supper? You
shall have none else.'
'Hah! who the devil have you brought home?' said they in bad Spanish,
on perceiving the Count's party, 'are they from France, or Spain?--
where did you meet with them?'
'They met with us, and a merry meeting too,' replied his companion
aloud in good French. 'This chevalier, and his party, had lost their
way, and asked a night's lodging in the fort.' The others made no
reply, but threw down a kind of knapsack, and drew forth several
brace of birds. The bag sounded heavily as it fell to the ground,
and the glitter of some bright metal within glanced on the eye of the
Count, who now surveyed, with a more enquiring look, the man, that
held the knapsack. He was a tall robust figure, of a hard
countenance, and had short black hair, curling in his neck. Instead
of the hunter's dress, he wore a faded military uniform; sandals were
laced on his broad legs, and a kind of short trowsers hung from his
waist. On his head he wore a leathern cap, somewhat resembling in
shape an ancient Roman helmet; but the brows that scowled beneath it,
would have characterized those of the barbarians, who conquered Rome,
rather than those of a Roman soldier. The Count, at length, turned
away his eyes, and remained silent and thoughtful, till, again
raising them, he perceived a figure standing in an obscure part of
the hall, fixed in attentive gaze on St. Foix, who was conversing
with Blanche, and did not observe this; but the Count, soon after,
saw the same man looking over the shoulder of the soldier as
attentively at himself. He withdrew his eye, when that of the Count
met it, who felt mistrust gathering fast upon his mind, but feared to
betray it in his countenance, and, forcing his features to assume a
smile, addressed Blanche on some indifferent subject. When he again
looked round, he perceived, that the soldier and his companion were
The man, who was called Jacques, now returned from the stone gallery.
'A fire is lighted there,' said he, 'and the birds are dressing; the
table too is spread there, for that place is warmer than this.'
His companions approved of the removal, and invited their guests to
follow to the gallery, of whom Blanche appeared distressed, and
remained seated, and St. Foix looked at the Count, who said, he
preferred the comfortable blaze of the fire he was then near. The
hunters, however, commended the warmth of the other apartment, and
pressed his removal with such seeming courtesy, that the Count, half
doubting, and half fearful of betraying his doubts, consented to go.
The long and ruinous passages, through which they went, somewhat
daunted him, but the thunder, which now burst in loud peals above,
made it dangerous to quit this place of shelter, and he forbore to
provoke his conductors by shewing that he distrusted them. The
hunters led the way, with a lamp; the Count and St. Foix, who wished
to please their hosts by some instances of familiarity, carried each
a seat, and Blanche followed, with faltering steps. As she passed
on, part of her dress caught on a nail in the wall, and, while she
stopped, somewhat too scrupulously, to disengage it, the Count, who
was talking to St. Foix, and neither of whom observed the
circumstance, followed their conductor round an abrupt angle of the
passage, and Blanche was left behind in darkness. The thunder
prevented them from hearing her call but, having disengaged her
dress, she quickly followed, as she thought, the way they had taken.
A light, that glimmered at a distance, confirmed this belief, and she
proceeded towards an open door, whence it issued, conjecturing the
room beyond to be the stone gallery the men had spoken of. Hearing
voices as she advanced, she paused within a few paces of the chamber,
that she might be certain whether she was right, and from thence, by
the light of a lamp, that hung from the ceiling, observed four men,
seated round a table, over which they leaned in apparent
consultation. In one of them she distinguished the features of him,
whom she had observed, gazing at St. Foix, with such deep attention;
and who was now speaking in an earnest, though restrained voice,
till, one of his companions seeming to oppose him, they spoke
together in a loud and harsher tone. Blanche, alarmed by perceiving
that neither her father, or St. Foix were there, and terrified at the
fierce countenances and manners of these men, was turning hastily
from the chamber, to pursue her search of the gallery, when she heard
one of the men say:
'Let all dispute end here. Who talks of danger? Follow my advice,
and there will be none--secure THEM, and the rest are an easy prey.'
Blanche, struck with these words, paused a moment, to hear more.
'There is nothing to be got by the rest,' said one of his companions,
'I am never for blood when I can help it--dispatch the two others,
and our business is done; the rest may go.'
'May they so?' exclaimed the first ruffian, with a tremendous oath--
'What! to tell how we have disposed of their masters, and to send the
king's troops to drag us to the wheel! You was always a choice
adviser--I warrant we have not yet forgot St. Thomas's eve last
Blanche's heart now sunk with horror. Her first impulse was to
retreat from the door, but, when she would have gone, her trembling
frame refused to support her, and, having tottered a few paces, to a
more obscure part of the passage, she was compelled to listen to the
dreadful councils of those, who, she was no longer suffered to doubt,
were banditti. In the next moment, she heard the following words,
'Why you would not murder the whole GANG?'
'I warrant our lives are as good as theirs,' replied his comrade.
'If we don't kill them, they will hang us: better they should die
than we be hanged.'
'Better, better,' cried his comrades.
'To commit murder, is a hopeful way of escaping the gallows!' said
the first ruffian--'many an honest fellow has run his head into the
noose that way, though.' There was a pause of some moments, during
which they appeared to be considering.
'Confound those fellows,' exclaimed one of the robbers impatiently,
'they ought to have been here by this time; they will come back
presently with the old story, and no booty: if they were here, our
business would be plain and easy. I see we shall not be able to do
the business to-night, for our numbers are not equal to the enemy,
and in the morning they will be for marching off, and how can we
detain them without force?'
'I have been thinking of a scheme, that will do,' said one of his
comrades: 'if we can dispatch the two chevaliers silently, it will
be easy to master the rest.'
'That's a plausible scheme, in good faith,' said another with a smile
of scorn--'If I can eat my way through the prison wall, I shall be at
liberty!--How can we dispatch them SILENTLY?'
'By poison,' replied his companions.
'Well said! that will do,' said the second ruffian, 'that will give a
lingering death too, and satisfy my revenge. These barons shall take
care how they again tempt our vengeance.'
'I knew the son, the moment I saw him,' said the man, whom Blanche
had observed gazing on St. Foix, 'though he does not know me; the
father I had almost forgotten.'
'Well, you may say what you will,' said the third ruffian, 'but I
don't believe he is the Baron, and I am as likely to know as any of
you, for I was one of them, that attacked him, with our brave lads,
'And was not I another?' said the first ruffian, 'I tell you he is
the Baron; but what does it signify whether he is or not?--shall we
let all this booty go out of our hands? It is not often we have such
luck at this. While we run the chance of the wheel for smuggling a
few pounds of tobacco, to cheat the king's manufactory, and of
breaking our necks down the precipices in the chace of our food; and,
now and then, rob a brother smuggler, or a straggling pilgrim, of
what scarcely repays us the powder we fire at them, shall we let such
a prize as this go? Why they have enough about them to keep us for--
'I am not for that, I am not for that,' replied the third robber,
'let us make the most of them: only, if this is the Baron, I should
like to have a flash the more at him, for the sake of our brave
comrades, that he brought to the gallows.'
'Aye, aye, flash as much as you will,' rejoined the first man, 'but I
tell you the Baron is a taller man.'
'Confound your quibbling,' said the second ruffian, 'shall we let
them go or not? If we stay here much longer, they will take the
hint, and march off without our leave. Let them be who they will,
they are rich, or why all those servants? Did you see the ring, he,
you call the Baron, had on his finger?--it was a diamond; but he has
not got it on now: he saw me looking at it, I warrant, and took it
'Aye, and then there is the picture; did you see that? She has not
taken that off,' observed the first ruffian, 'it hangs at her neck;
if it had not sparkled so, I should not have found it out, for it was
almost hid by her dress; those are diamonds too, and a rare many of
them there must be, to go round such a large picture.'
'But how are we to manage this business?' said the second ruffian:
'let us talk of that, there is no fear of there being booty enough,
but how are we to secure it?'
'Aye, aye,' said his comrades, 'let us talk of that, and remember no
time is to be lost.'
'I am still for poison,' observed the third, 'but consider their
number; why there are nine or ten of them, and armed too; when I saw
so many at the gate, I was not for letting them in, you know, nor you
'I thought they might be some of our enemies,' replied the second, 'I
did not so much mind numbers.'
'But you must mind them now,' rejoined his comrade, 'or it will be
worse for you. We are not more than six, and how can we master ten
by open force? I tell you we must give some of them a dose, and the
rest may then be managed.'
'I'll tell you a better way,' rejoined the other impatiently, 'draw
Blanche, who had listened to this conversation, in an agony, which it
would be impossible to describe, could no longer distinguish what was
said, for the ruffians now spoke in lowered voices; but the hope,
that she might save her friends from the plot, if she could find her
way quickly to them, suddenly re-animated her spirits, and lent her
strength enough to turn her steps in search of the gallery. Terror,
however, and darkness conspired against her, and, having moved a few
yards, the feeble light, that issued from the chamber, no longer even
contended with the gloom, and, her foot stumbling over a step that
crossed the passage, she fell to the ground.
The noise startled the banditti, who became suddenly silent, and then
all rushed to the passage, to examine whether any person was there,
who might have overheard their councils. Blanche saw them
approaching, and perceived their fierce and eager looks: but, before
she could raise herself, they discovered and seized her, and, as they
dragged her towards the chamber they had quitted, her screams drew
from them horrible threatenings.
Having reached the room, they began to consult what they should do
with her. 'Let us first know what she had heard,' said the chief
robber. 'How long have you been in the passage, lady, and what
brought you there?'
'Let us first secure that picture,' said one of his comrades,
approaching the trembling Blanche. 'Fair lady, by your leave that
picture is mine; come, surrender it, or I shall seize it.'
Blanche, entreating their mercy, immediately gave up the miniature,
while another of the ruffians fiercely interrogated her, concerning
what she had overheard of their conversation, when, her confusion and
terror too plainly telling what her tongue feared to confess, the
ruffians looked expressively upon one another, and two of them
withdrew to a remote part of the room, as if to consult further.
'These are diamonds, by St. Peter!' exclaimed the fellow, who had
been examining the miniature, 'and here is a very pretty picture too,
'faith; as handsome a young chevalier, as you would wish to see by a
summer's sun. Lady, this is your spouse, I warrant, for it is the
spark, that was in your company just now.'
Blanche, sinking with terror, conjured him to have pity on her, and,
delivering him her purse, promised to say nothing of what had passed,
if he would suffer her to return to her friends.
He smiled ironically, and was going to reply, when his attention was
called off by a distant noise; and, while he listened, he grasped the
arm of Blanche more firmly, as if he feared she would escape from
him, and she again shrieked for help.
The approaching sounds called the ruffians from the other part of the
chamber. 'We are betrayed,' said they; 'but let us listen a moment,
perhaps it is only our comrades come in from the mountains, and if
so, our work is sure; listen!'
A distant discharge of shot confirmed this supposition for a moment,
but, in the next, the former sounds drawing nearer, the clashing of
swords, mingled with the voices of loud contention and with heavy
groans, were distinguished in the avenue leading to the chamber.
While the ruffians prepared their arms, they heard themselves called
by some of their comrades afar off, and then a shrill horn was
sounded without the fortress, a signal, it appeared, they too well
understood; for three of them, leaving the Lady Blanche to the care
of the fourth, instantly rushed from the chamber.
While Blanche, trembling, and nearly fainting, was supplicating for
release, she heard amid the tumult, that approached, the voice of St.
Foix, and she had scarcely renewed her shriek, when the door of the
room was thrown open, and he appeared, much disfigured with blood,
and pursued by several ruffians. Blanche neither saw, or heard any
more; her head swam, her sight failed, and she became senseless in
the arms of the robber, who had detained her.
When she recovered, she perceived, by the gloomy light, that trembled
round her, that she was in the same chamber, but neither the Count,
St. Foix, or any other person appeared, and she continued, for some
time, entirely still, and nearly in a state of stupefaction. But,
the dreadful images of the past returning, she endeavoured to raise
herself, that she might seek her friends, when a sullen groan, at a
little distance, reminded her of St. Foix, and of the condition, in
which she had seen him enter this room; then, starting from the
floor, by a sudden effort of horror, she advanced to the place whence
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