| ||The Banished Man. Volume 2 of 2|
"I have supped full, with horrors."
AGAIN the murdered body, which had before impeded his passage, made D'Alonville start, and pass it shuddering. The poor man seemed ready to faint; and fear seemed again to have taken such possession of him, that it was with difficulty he could be persuaded to go on. The wind groaned mournfully along the cloister, and muttered round the buttresses without. The man, in a low tremulous voice, entreated D'Alonville to stop—"Hark!" said he, "there is a noise—I hear them in the hall!"—Oh! Sir, we shall be murdered at last!" D'Alonville listened "I hear nothing," said he, "but the wind—Your past suffering have made you too apprehensive—let us, however, proceed cautiously; though I think it is most likely, that the persons who have robbed the castle retired in the evening with their plunder, and that they will not return till morning to renew their robbery." Again they stopped and listened, but still heard only the wind; and the gard de chasse, a little re-assured by D'Alonville's reason and resolution, proceeded with more courage.
They entered the great hall; but it was by this time so dark, that they were obliged to feel their way, and D'Alonville expected every moment to find another corpse in his path. At
length they reached a sort of anti-room, where the man felt for, and found a closet, in which were materials for striking a light, and some pieces of candle. Thus furnished with the means of finding their way, they descended to the kitchen, an immense vault-like room, where the almost famished wretch, fortunately found enough to appease the hunger that devoured him: D'Alonville, wearied as he was, felt no disposition to eat, but he took a piece of bread, and again began to reflect on the strange situation he was in, and the necessity of quitting it as soon as possible; but the night was now so entirely obscure that he could not distinguish any object whatever without; he thought there was equal danger in remaining, or in going out with a light, if any lurking villains were about the castle; and he doubted whether it would be possible without a light to cross the morass. While he mediated the gard de chasse continued to devour whatever he could find, though he shared it with the faithful animal which had been the means of his preservation, and which appeared as much famished as his master. Unable to decide on what would be the safest method to pursue, D'Alonville at length asked the man his opinion and expressed his fears lest the light should betray them. Terror, which had for a while subsided, again took possession of Rameau (which was the name of the gard de chasse) and he declared, that they had better incur any hazard than let any signs appear without that there were persons in the castle. His extreme pusillanimity, and the helpless reliance he seemed to have on D'Alonville, would have disgusted his protector, if the dreadful circumstances he had so lately been in, had not appeared an apology for every thing. D'Alonville bade him recollect how much their
mutual safety depended on his resolutions and calmness; but he found him incapable of listening to any thing but his fears—Yet from the profound silence around the castle there seemed, at least, nothing to apprehend. The poor fellow was, however, absolutely delirious; and the eager manner in which he had devoured the food he had found, seemed to have deprived him of the little remaining reason he possessed, instead of recruiting his strength.
In a situation so singular and deplorable D'Alonville knew not how to act. He could easily have gone alone from a place where certainly the morning ought not to find him; but his good nature and humanity repressed, as soon as it arose, the idea of abandoning to a fate as horrid as that from which he had rescued him, an unhappy man, whose sufferings he should in this case only have prolonged. The poor wretch was in an agony when D'Alonville spoke of the danger they were both in; yet when he bade him think how they could but escape those dangers, he seemed to be deprived of every ray of sense, and became a perfect driveller—His eyes were glaring and wild—his countenance pale and haggard—He could with difficulty walk—and D'Alonville was convinced, that if he left the castle, he should not be able to conduct him ten paces.
At length he determined, as it was not yet more than ten o'clock, to insist upon Rameau's lying down to sleep somewhere for an hour or two. He was almost convinced, that there were no persons around the castle at this moment; it was very improbable that any one would appear there before the break of day; and he hoped, if his luckless companion was restored to his senses by a few hours rest, that he should be able to see him in someplace of safety before this danger
arose; which might, indeed, after all, be chimerical.
Having taken this resolution, the D'Alonville spoke peremptorily, and told Rameau to show him some part of the castle least liable to observation from without. It was some time before Rameau could be made to comprehend him.—At last he led the way up a great stair-case to a gallery, trembling at every step he took and looking wildly around him.—The faint light he held, served only to render the dilapidated state of these gloomy, but once magnificent apartments, more visible. The pictures, some of them of great antiquity, and some painted on the wall, were almost the only pieces of furniture that had not been either carried away, or torn in the attempts that had been made to remove them: this place adjoined to one of those colonades or open galleries which were once to be seen in most of the great chateaux in France. Something like them may yet be found in old houses in England, now converted into inns; an open gallery running across from one part of the building to another; on one side opening into other apartments, on the opposite side supported by pillars. Those that were ranged along the outward part of that into which D'Alonville now followed his trembling conductor, were of massy wood, carved, gilt, and painted in a very antique fashion; but the gilding was still fresh, and even glaringly caught the light; on the other side were fantastic paintings unlike any beings which "this world owns." D'Alonville traversed this place for a while in silence.—His footsteps, and those of his companion, echoed loudly on the hollow boards, and it was evident that neither silence nor concealment of the light were here to be found. He turned hastily to Rameau: "Whi-
ther are we going?" said he, "Surely we are more likely to be discovered here than even below?" The man fixed on him his unmeaning idiot-like eyes; and after a pause, as if to re-call his scattered senses, said, "No, Monsieur Seigneur; for if you please to observe, the court below is surrounded with buildings; there is the chapel, and there is the hall, and along the other side the king's apartments, as they have been always called, and here," added he, staggering on before D'Alonville, "here are rooms which are most likely of any in the castle to have escaped being searched and plundered." He opened a gilt and painted door, and D'Alonville followed him into two small rooms, which having no other entrance but from this gallery, had somehow or other been overlooked by the banditti who had robbed the castle; in each was a bed which had once been magnificent, but they were now dropping to pieces. D'Alonville bade his companion leave him the light and take possession of the inner one, while he would himself, he said, lie down for an hour or two on the other.—The poor man obeyed him; but D'Alonville thus left to himself, felt no inclination, notwithstanding all the fatigue he had undergone, to attempt taking any repose; the damp and gloomy bed seemed more repulsive than inviting; and opening the high old-fashioned casement, with some difficulty he placed himself at the window, determined to wait the return of morning, and with its earliest dawn to quit the castle with Rameau, on his way back to Merol.
Had he been inclined to indulge the dreams of superstition, no situation could have been imagined more calculated to create all its visionary horrors. The place he looked into was a large court, part of which was the cimetery he had seen from the
cloister.—On all sides were high, dark, gothic building; within whose dreary walls, besides the numberless wretches who had formerly perished there, lay a recently murdered man—perhaps one of those friends whom he had braved so many perils to find. Above, indeed, he saw amidst the clouds of night, a few stars, such as he remembered to have remarked, almost six months before when he passed the night on the ground, supporting his expiring father. "You are the same," cried he, "bright planets, destined, perhaps, to act as suns to the worlds more happy than this; while it seems as if this globe we crawl upon tended towards its final decay; and that the great author of it existence, wearied with the wickedness and folly of its inhabitants, had determined on its annihilation. Yet are we anxious about the paltry and trifling occurrences of life; and in countries more happy than this, why indeed should their people not enjoy the fleeting hours of existence? It is in France only where life is become a continual tragedy. Angelina," continued he, "beloved Angelina! I release thee from all those dear promises, which to have thee fulfill would once have been the happiness of my life; I cannot, I ought not to think more of thee, unless to wish and pray for thy felicity with some less unhappy man than thy devoted D'Alonville."—In such, and in yet more melancholy contemplations, the weary hours passed, unmarked by any sound that told their progress; for the great clock of the castle was spoiled from neglect, and some of its work had been carried away.
At length, after one of the most comfortless nights he ever remembered, he saw the pale rays of morning faintly glimmer over the eastern battlements; and as he knew it would in a few moments be light enough for them to see their
way, he lost no time in rousing his companion from the deep sleep into which he had fallen.—It was not without difficulty that he brought him to a perfect recollection of what had happened, and to a clear sense of the exertions it was not necessary to make, to escape from a repetition of such evils. At length Rameau became more composed, and they descended together. As D'Alonville passed through the hall, he was seized with a desire to know whether the corpse that lay near the oubliette was that of one of his friends, and he proposed going to inspect it; but he found the gard de chasse so terror-struck, with the mere idea of such a spectacle, that he forbore to press him; and on going himself, had at least the melancholy satisfaction of being convinced that the dead person was a stranger to him; and, he thought, a peasant.
Rameau was almost without clothes. It would have been desirable to have changed his appearance by some means of disguise but none was at hand. All D'Alonville could do, was to give him a thick flannel waistcoat he himself wore under his other clothes; and having thus equipped him, and exhorting him to courage, he led the way out of this dismal abode, and hastened to gain the nearest path to Merol.
They proceeded silently near three quarters of a mile, and had, by a shorter way than that by which D'Alonville came, nearly got through the woodlands that on every side encompassed the castle, when they suddenly heard loud voices immediately near them, and were at once surrounded by fourteen or fifteen peasants, who stopping them, demanded an account of who they were, and from whence they came?
D'Alonville, disengaging himself from the savage who had seized him, and grasping one of his
pistols beneath his great coat, began to tell the same story which had so often carried him through similar enquiries. But all his precautions were here vain; the gard de chasse was already known—and D'Alonville was as soon recognised for his deliverer, and of course included in his guilt whatever it was. He was instantly overpowered; his arms found, and taken from him, served as additional proofs of his delinquency, and he expected nothing but immediate death. However, after some consultation among his captors, it was concluded, that by his having ventured to the castle at such a time to deliver a servant of the Marquis from the punishment so justly inflicted upon him; from his being armed, and from his general appearance, that he was a prisoner of some consequence, who had probably much to reveal—for which reason they resolved to carry him immediately to Rennes; where he might be examined by persons high in authority. D'Alonville therefore soon saw himself confined by cords in a cart, and with his ill starred companion Rameau, on his way to Rennes. His sensations during such a journey may be better imagined than described.