Зображення сторінки

produced such a delightful intimacy, and which Madame d'Aurebonne had seemed to sanction by treating her with an almost maternal regard.

From this time Susan became more reserved towards her friends. They remarked the change, but did not guess the reason of it. Notwithstanding the declarations of modern novelists, it is the parvenus that attach importance to external signs of affluence and grandeur, and who have recourse to display as a means of enhancing their own value and asserting their superiority (a false one, however,) amongst their fellow-creatures. But the marchioness and her son, who had always lived within the magic circle, and had ever been surrounded by all the accessories of wealth and elegance-magnificent horses, unexceptionable carriages, a first-rate cook, and other innumerable luxuries-never thought of these things, and never supposed that others did so. Besides, they were both so completely under the dominion of one all-pervading care, that the details of every-day life scarcely entered into their minds. What signified luxury to Madame d'Aurebonne ? Could it lessen her despair if she lost her son, or increase her happiness were she to save him ? Would she not sacrifice everything, and accept with rapture penury and its privations, for one day's calm, for one gleam of hope in Raoul's heart? How often has the marchioness wished, as she has witnessed some peasant mother leading along a ruddy, laughing child-how earnestly has she desired to exchange her own brilliant lot for this poor woman's humble one!

The marchioness and her son, not understanding the real cause of Susan's estrangement, attributed it to something widely different from what it really was. This was especially the case with Raoul, who was always so ardent, so prompt to return to his own sinister ideas. He imagined that Susan was weary of tending and enlivening a being so wretched as himself. He was ever haunted by the same funereal dread; he also fancied that Susan feared the contagion of his ceaseless gloom and melancholy. There needed but this fancy on his part to effect one of those dreadful reactions which almost drove the poor mother to despair. Now, after days of calm and quiet, and after every possible effort to amuse him, he relapsed into a darker and deeper despondency than ever.

Madame d'Aurebonne's grief, was even more than usually profound. In proportion to her former hopes was her present disappointment. Like all who are under the sway of one engrossing feeling, Madame d'Aurebonne was upjustshe mentally accused Susan of being too easily weary of her task of consolation, and her manner became to the young girl less kind and more constrained. Susan soon perceived the difference, and being herself proud, and supposing the marchioness to regret her former kind familiarity, her own reserve increased. But none of these changes occurred without entailing on those two hearts, that until now had been strangers to even an unkind feeling, much pain and sorrow. Whoon gazing, through citron-trees and clustering geraniums, on this young man, in the first prime of manhood, accompanied by two ladies, one in the full splendour of maternal beauty, the other in all the loveliness of early youth, on a balcony, illumined by the bright rays of a noon-day sun—who would not have exclaimed, “ These, at least, are happy ?” But it was not so. Around their heads though all was bright and blooming, grief and mourning were within their hearts.

It is, however, the privilege of maternal love to be the first to hope, and the last to despair. An uncontrollable impulse again attracted the marchioness towards Susan, and she soon hit upon a pretext to renew their former intimacy.

In Raoul's stud were two superb Arabians, and so gentle that a child might ride them. Horse exercise was recommended by Dr. Assandri for Raoul. As he was always resolved on mounting the most restive horse he had, it was agreed that his mother should accompany him, and thus avoid the anxious suspense that his long absence would occasion her. Knowing nothing of the country around, the marchioness obtained permission of the doctor (but not without some difficulty) that Susan should ride one of the horses, and sometimes accompany them. By this arrangement they were enabled to explore the country. These

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed]

excursions were not without a peculiar charm. Raoul on horseback seemed transformed; he was no longer the melancholy young man, with downcast look and gloomy brow, as if overwhelmed with care ; but his form was erect, and his eye sparkled with health and animation. He took a strange delight in conquering the fiery nature of the animal, which seemed to tremble beneath him, and in mastering all its caprices to his own resolute will. At such moments he was so handsome that his mother gazed on him with rapture, and, carried away by a feeling of maternal pride, she would, by an expressive glance, show her desire that Susan should share in her admiration,

One morning, tempted by a beautiful day in March, one of those days that seem the fugitive precursors of spring and its loveliness, they took a longer ride than ordinary, and directed their horses' heads towards the Monastery of Moorieux Raoul seemed even more than usually melancholy-perhaps from Susan's presence; or perhaps the prospect of an early grave was more terrible and overwhelming now that all Nature was endowed with fresh life and beauty. Be this as it may, his gloom increased as he proceeded. At his suggestion they quitted the highway, and plunged into a narrow defile with rocks on either side ; further on, the road became very winding; at one time it led them into a deep ravine, at another over a fragile bridge with a foaming torrent beneath. By degrees the gloom and silence became deeper, and at last our riders heard nothing but the monotonous tread of their horses' hoofs, or the rolling down the precipice of some loose stones which they had displaced. Despite of every effort, the marchioness and Susan felt a vague feeling of anxiety, which increased when they looked at Raoul, for his countenance now, instead of being dejected, seemed flushed with feverish excitement.

Madame d'Aurebonne, Susan, and Raoul at length arrived at the monastery. Raoul rang at the gate, opened it, desired his mother and Susan to enter, and all three seated themselves on a stone bench outside the sacred inclosure. They were soon welcomed by a kind, although singular, hospitality. A servant of the convent brought them out a frugal repast, fed their horses, and told Raoul that, if he desired to see the interior of the convent, the superior would be happy to show him over it. The young man accepted the offer, and the two ladies were left alone.

The present opportunity was favourable for one of those easy conversations which act as a balm to every wound, and dispel every cloud. However, the marchioness and Susan exchanged but a few indifferent words. An indefinable feeling of embarrassment prevented their talking of the subject uppermost in their hearts. They limited their converse to the ordinary remarks on the weather, to the woods in their early spring attire, the melancholy effect of the wild scenery around, and to the convent's austere rules, which prohibited a monk of the Chartreuse of Monrieux seeing a woman. The contrast between what they really wished to say and what they actually did utter made the time pass both heavily and slowly. Hours elapsed, but Raoul did not return. Most of us know how wearisomely such moments pass when we are anxiously expecting some one that does not come. Madame d'Aurebonne complained of her son's long absence, at first in a tone of impatience, but at last in an accent of terror. Susan in vain endeavoured to comfort her by pointing out the hospitality they had received, and in continually repeating that the cloisters could only inclose those who wished to remain within them. These words, instead of decreasing the marchioness's anxiety, only redoubled it; and, with an agitation momentarily augmenting, and which at last communicated itself to Susan, the marchioness kept continually muttering, “Cruel, cruel Raoul I"

At last, just as the sun was commencing to descend in the horizon, and great shadows were thrown by the roof of the convent, Raoul re-appeared. He looked pale, but resolute.

“Mother," said he, in a firm voice, “ I am come to bid you adieu." “What do you say?" exclaimed the marchioness, becoming very white. "I say that I am weary of contesting my life with the fatal malady that is

destroying mo-weary of traversing the globe in useless search of alleviation, and meeting only with implacable phantoms. When one is condemned, like myself, there can be no better asylum than a cloister like this. Death here, at least, finds one prepared; for one has only to exchange the reposo and silence of a day for eternal repose and eternal silence."

“But what is to become of me, your wretched mother-am I nothing?"

“And what will become of you when you receive my last sigh, place the shroud around my head, and hear my coffin lowered into the grave? It is scarcely a living son that I take from you, but a dying man, whose last hour is inevitably approaching. I deprive you of no pleasure, but I relieve you from misery! Here, at least, the gloom of this cloister—the wall which separates me from the world and you will release you from witnessing the progress of that disease which was given to me with my first breath. You will not see me bowed down, week after week, by my fatal heritage, and the day that I shall quit the world you will never know ; you may still fancy that I am kneeling on the flags of this pavement when I am reposing beneath them.”

The marchioness, spite of her inherent energy, was literally crushed. She said, in an under-tone

“Raoul! Raoull you could not talk in this way if you knew all I have suffered through you, for you, by you! Since your birth, your heart has been my heart-I live on your life-I breathe by your breath and nothing touches your feelings without affecting mine. Ah! I have indeed suffered, and I now deserve to be spared. All that you have just said is impossible! It is not possible that you could suddenly leave me, without preparation, without motive-leave me, your mother, who, through life, have never quitted you. Come, tell me you only meant it all as a jest—a cruel jest; kiss me, and let us return."

“I do not know what you have suffered," replied Raoul, in a tone of indescribable bitterness. “To know what you have endured, I have only to remember my own misery. Do you suppose that you have ever deceived me? Do you imagine that I have ever been deluded by your hopes? I have retaliated upon you. Have you ever placed any confidence in my gaiety, my indifference, or in my triumph over my forebodings? No! because you knew all that was acting-it was a mask, a falsehood! We each knew what was passing in the heart of the other. It is now time to end all this ; the acting fatigues, the mask oppresses, and the falsehood irritates me. I prefer burying myself alive in this monastery, where I shall not be compelled to deceive any one, and where I shall be told each morning, ‘Brother, you must die.'”

“Oh, Raould have you no pity for those who love you ?"

4Those who love me!" replied Raoul, his excitement increasing as he continued " those who love me! if such there be, I would quit them, and for ever! What am I to them but a victim and an executioner? They distress me by their pity, and my gloom renders them miserable; I make them, in spite of myself, take part in the lugubrious drama which is always being performed about me. They soon weary of it, and they are right. But I neither accuse nor complain.”

In saying these words, Raoul made a few steps towards the convent. Tho marchioness, in despair, turned to Susan, who, during this heartrending scene, had remained perfectly silent. The poor girl vainly endeavoured to restrain the tears that coursed each other down her pale face, In her attitude and countenance there was such an expression of pain, that it was a sudden revelation to the marchioness. Without uttering a word, she pointed to her son, and her glance almost supplicated Susan to say something to him.

Susan timidly advanced, and, in a voice trembling from emotion, said

" What, Monsieur Raoul, have we ever done, that you should cause us this great sorrow?"

A man must have been made of stone that could have resisted her soft voice and enchanting countenance, to which her present emotion only added a new beauty. Raoul suddenly stopped, and, for an instant, he remained motionless, with his eyes intently fixed on Susan, as if to satisfy his own heart of the nature of the feeling her words had just betrayed.

"Well, since you both wish it, I obey; but don't delay a moment, or I shall not have the courage to go."

The horses were brought, and, while Raoul mounted, the marchioness went round to Susan, pressed her hand, and whispered in her ear, “My child, I thank you!"

Madame d'Aurebonne's terror was not yet over. Raoul, as if regretting having yielded to Susan, was scarcely on his horse ere he darted into the narrow path which bordered the precipice. The two women shrieked on seeing him suspended, as it were, over the abyss, and riding furiously along the edge of the rock. Incapable of conquering her anxiety, the marchioness struck her horse violently, and the docile animal started off at such a gallop that in a few minutes she had almost overtaken her son; and great was her emotion when, on quitting the dangerous path, and thus assured of the safety of Raoul (who had regained the public road), she saw Susan riding by her side.

Iv. On returning home, our equestrians found the doctor already there, and await. ing them. They looked so fatigued, their hair was in such disorder, and their countenances still bore such traces of their emotion, that the doctor felt convinced that something extraordinary had occurred in which Susan and Raoul had each borne a part. His first suspicions returned with increased strength. He read the heart of Madame d'Aurebonne, and said to himself, “She will recoil at nothing to save her son," and, at the same time, he resolved to keep good watch for the future, and to be as vigilant in his love for his daughter as the marchioness was dauntless in her affection for Raoul.

There was no need of any great sagacity to discover the ravages that had been made in Susan's pure and loving heart by a sentiment all the more to be dreaded on account of her ignorance of its power, nature, and peril. Unknown to herself, she had been attracted to Raoul by the singularity of his position ; for at the same time that he was handsome as a hero of romance, he was interesting to her as an invalid; uniting in his own person all the charm of health and all the interest of illness. In a word, she loved, when she only thought she was pityiog him. Adieu to poor Susan's gaiety-adieu to that delightful serenity of mind, which was reflected in her eyes like a ray from heaven. Her cheeks became hollow, and she endeavoured but vainly to conceal every trace of her tears. Why did she weep? She knew not, but her father knew, and he felt an agony of mind mingled with resentment and anger. For the first time, this good and simple man experienced a feeling akin to hatred. Susan, as we have already said, was his only treasure and joy. Widower and father at the same time, he doubly

« НазадПродовжити »