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In the surrounding ground, St. Aubert had made very tasteful improvements; yet such was his attachment to objects he had remembered from his boyish days, that he had in some instances sacrificed taste to sentiment. There were two old larches that shaded the building, and interrupted the prospect; St. Aubert had sometimes declared that he believed he should have been weak enough to have wept at their fall. In addition to these larches he planted a little grove of beech, pine, and mountain ash. On a lofty terrace, formed by the swelling bank of the river, rose a plantation of orange, lemon, and palm trees, whose fruit, in the coolness of evening, breathed delicious fragrance. With these were mingled a few trees of other species.Here, under the ample shade of a palm tree, that spread its majestic canopy towards the river, St. Aubert loved to sit in the fine evenings of summer, with his wife and childdren, watching beneath its foliage the setting sun, the mild splendour of its light fading from the distant landscape, till the shadows of twilight melted its various features into one tint of sober gray. Here, too, he loved to read and to converse with Madame St. Aubert; or to play with his children, resigning himself to the influence of those sweet affections, which are ever attendant on simplicity and nature. He had often said, while tears of pleasure trembled in his eyes, that these were moments infinitely more delightful than any passed amid the brilliant and tumultuous scenes that are courted by the world. His heart was occupied ; it had, what can be so rarely said, no wish for a happiness beyond what it experienced. The consciousness of acting right diffused a serenity over his manners, which nothing else could impart to a man of moral perceptions like his, and which refined his sense of every surrounding blessing.
The deepest shade of twilight did not send him from his favourite palm tree. He loved the soothing hour, when the last tints of light die away; when the stars, one by one, tremble through ether, and are reflected on the dark mirror of the waters; that hour, which, of all others, inspires the mind with pensive tenderness, and often elevates it to sublime contemplation. When the moon shed her soft rays among the foliage, he still lingered, and his pastoral supper of cream and fruits was often spread beneath it. Then, on the stillness of night, came the song of the nightingale, breathing sweetness, and awakening melancholy.
The first interruptions to the happiness he had known since his retirement, were occasioned by the death of his two sons. He lost them at that age when infantine simplicity is so fascinating; and though, in consideration of Madame St. Aubert's distress, he restrained the expression of his own, and endeavoured to bear it as he meant, with philosophy; he had, in truth, no philosophy that could render him calm to such losses. One daughter was now his
only surviving child; and, while he watched the unfolding of her infant character with anxious fondness, he endeavoured, with unremitting effort, to counteract those traits in her disposition, which might hereafter lead her from happiShe had discovered in her early years uncommon delicacy of mind, warm affections, and ready benevol nce; but with these was observable a degree of susceptibility too exquisite to admit of lasting peace. As she advanced in youth, this sensibility gave a pensive tone to her spirits, and a softness to her manner, which added grace to beauty, and rendered her a very interesting object to persons of a congenial disposition. But St. Aubert had too much good sense to prefer a charm to a virtue: and had penetration enough to see that this charm was too dangerous to its possessor to be allowed the character of a blessing. He endeavoured, therefore, to strengthen her mind; to inure her to habits of self command; to teach her to reject the first impulse of her feelings, and to look, with cool examination, upon the disappointments he sometimes threw in her way. While he instructed her to resist first impressions, and to acquire that steady dignity of mind, that can alone counterbalance the passions, and bear us, as far as is compatible with our nature, above the reach of circumstance, he taught himself a lesson of fortitude; for he was often obliged to witness, with seeming indifference; the tears and struggles which his caution occasioned her.
In person, Emily resembled her mother; having the same elegant symmetry of form, the same delicacy of features, and the same blue eyes, full of tender sweetness. But lovely as was her person, it was the varied expression of her countenance, as conversation awakened the nicer emotions of her mind, that threw such a captivating grace around her;
"Those tender tints, that shun the careless eye,
L And, in the world's contagious circle die."
St. Aubert cultivated her understanding with the most scrupulous care. He gave her a general view of the sciences, and an exact acquaintance with every part of elegant literature. He taught her Latin and English, chiefly that she might understand the sublimity of their best poets. She discovered in her early years a taste for works of genius; and it was St. Aubert's principle, as well as his Inclination, to promote every innocent means of happiness. A well informed mind, he would say, is the best security against the contagion of folly and of vice. The vacant mind is ever on the watch for relief, and ready to plunge Store it into error, to escape from the languor of idleness. with ideas, teach it the pleasure of thinking; and the temptations of the world without will be counteracted by the gratifications derived from the world within. Thought and
cultivation are necessary equally to the happiness of a country and a city life; in the first they prevent the uneasy sensations of indolence, and afford a sublime pleasure in the taste they create for the beautiful and the grand; in the latter they make dissipation less an object of necessity, and consequently of interest.
It was one of Emily's earliest pleasures to ramble among the scenes of nature; nor was it in the soft and glowing landscape that she most delighted; she loved more the wild wood walks, that skirted the mountain; and still more the mountain's stupendous recesses, where the silence and grandeur of solitude impressed a sacred awe upon her heart, and lifted her thoughts to the GOD OF HEAVEN AND EARTH. In scenes like these she would often linger alone, wrapped in a melancholy charm, till the last gleam of day faded from the west till the lonely sound of a sheepbell, or the distant barking of a watch-dog, was all that broke the stillness of the evening. Then the gloom of the woods; the trembling of their leaves, at intervals in the breeze; the bat, flitting on the twilight; the cottage iights, now seen, and now lost were circumstances that awakened her mind into effort, and led to enthusiasm and poetry.
Her favourite walk was to a little fishing house, belonging to St. Aubert, in a woody glen, on the margin of a rivulet that descended from the Pyrenees, and, after foaming among their rocks, wound its silent way beneath the shades it reflected. Above the woods that screened this glen, rose the lofty summits of the Pyrenees, which often burst boldly on the eye, through the glades below. Sometimes the shattered face of a rock only was seen, crowned with wild shrubs; or a shepherd's cabin seated on a cliff, overshadowed by dark cypress or waying ash, Emerging from the deep recesses of the woods, the glade opened to the distant landscape, where the rich pastures and vine covered slopes of Gascony gradually declined to the plains; and there, on the winding shores of the Garonne, groves, and hamlets, and villas-their outlines softened by distance-melted from the eye into one rich harmonious tint.
This, too, was the favourite retreat of St. Aubert, to which he frequently withdrew from the fervour of noon, with his wife, his daughter, and his books; or came at the sweet evening hour to welcome the silent dusk, or to listen for the music of the nightingale. Sometimes too, he brought music of his own, and awakened every fair echo with the tender accents of his oboe; and often have the tones of Emily's voice drawn sweetness from the waves, over which they trembled,
It was in one of her excursions to this spot, that she observed the following lines written with a pencil on a part of the wainscot:
Go, pencil! faithful to thy master's sighs!
Go tell the goddess of this fairy scene,
When next her light steps wind these wood walks green,
The sweet expression of her pensive face,
And who that gazes on that angel smile,
These lines were not inscribed to any person; Emily therefore could not apply them to herself, though she was undoubtedly the nymph of these shades. Having glanced round the little circle of her acquaintance without being detained by a suspicion as to whom they could be addressed, she was compelled to rest in uncertainty; an uncertainty which would have been more painful to an idle mind than it was to hers. She had no leisure to suffer this circumstance, trifling at first, to swell into importance by frequent Iemembrance. The little vanity it had excited (for the incertitude which forbade her to presume upon having inspired the sonnet, forbade her also to disbelieve it) passed away, and the incident was dismissed from her thoughts amid her books, her studies, and the exercise of social charities.
Soon after this period, her anxiety was awakened by the indisposition of her father, who was attacked with a fever; which, though not thought to be of a dangerous kind, gave a severe shock to his constitution. Madame St. Aubert and Emily attended him with unremitting care; but his recovery was very slow, and, as he advanced towards health, Madame seemed to decline.
The first scene he visited, after he was well enough to take the air, was his favourite fishing house. A basket of provisions was sent thither, with books, and Emily's lute : for fishing tackle he had no use, for he never could find amusement in torturing or destroying.
After employing himself, for about an hour, in botanizing, dinner was served. It was a repast, to which gratitude, for being again permitted to visit this spot, gave sweetness; and family happiness once more smiled beneath these shades. Monsieur St. Aubert conversed with unusual The recheerfulness; every object delighted his senses.
freshing pleasure from the first view of nature, after the pain of illness, and the confinement of a sick chamber, is above the conceptions, as well as the descriptions of those in health. The green woods and pastures; the flowery turf; the balmy air; the murmur of the limpid stream; and even the hum of every little insect of the shade, seem to revivify the soul, and make mere existence bliss.
Madame St. Aubert, reanimated by the cheerfulness and the recovery of her husband, was no longer sensible of the indisposition which had lately oppressed her; and as she sauntered along the wood walks of this romantic glen, and conversed with him, and with her daughter, she often looked at them alternately with a degree of tenderness, that filled her eyes with tears. St. Aubert observed this more than once, and gently reproved her for the emotion; but she could only smile, clasp his hand, and that of Emily, and weep the more. He felt the tender enthusiasm stealing upon himself in a degree that became almost painful; his features assumed a serious air, and he could not forbear secretly sighing-Perhaps I shall some time look back to these moments, as to the summit of my happiness, with hopeless regret. But let me not misuse them by useless anticipation; let me hope I shall not live to mourn the loss of those who are dearer to me than life.
To relieve, or perhaps to indulge, the pensive temper of his mind, he bade Emily fetch the lute she knew how to touch with such sweet pathos. As she drew near the fishing house, she was surprised to hear the tones of the instrument, which were awakened by the hand of taste; and uttered a plaintive air, whose exquisite melody engaged allher attention. She listened in profound silence, afraid to move from the spot, lest the sound of her steps should occasion her to lose a note of the music, or should disturb the musician. Every thing without the building was still, and no person appeared. She continued to listen, till timidity succeeded to surprise and delight; a timidity increased by a remembrance of the penclled lines she had formerly seen, and she hesitated whether to proceed or return.
While she paused, the music ceased; and, after a momentary hesitation, she re-collected courage to advance to the fishing house, which she entered with faltering steps, and found unoccupied! Her lute lay on the table; every thing seemed undisturbed, and she began to believe it was another instrument she had heard, till she remembered, that, when she followed M. and Madame St. Aubert from this spot, her lute was left on the window seat. She felt alarmed, yet knew not wherefore the melancholy gloom of evening, and the profound stillness of the place, interrupted only by the light trembling of leaves, heightened her fanciful apprehensions, and she was desirous of quitting the building, but perceived herself grow faint, and sat down.