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denly one morning early at the château of Arnajon. Monsieur de Prieuré, who was ignorant of this circumstance, was surprised on paying his visit at the usual time to find so much company: though evidently rather annoyed, he was too well-bred to allow his feelings to interfere with the cheerfulness of the party whom he joined: he entered gaily into conversation, partook of the déjeûner, and took several turns in the gardens with the young Marquise and her guests. All this time a gentleman, Monsieur le Comte de Fontenay, kept his regards constantly fixed on Monsieur de Prieuré, who on his side appeared disturbed by his observation. Scarcely had he entered the salon, when he started in evident astonishment; and, speaking a few words in a low voice to his chasseur, the latter immediately departed in some haste. Monsieur de Prieuré soon appeared to recover the embarrassment of finding himself in so marked a manner the object of a stranger's scrutiny, and was seated in one of the arbours of the garden, discoursing with much animation, when his servant — the same who had assisted him in the rescue of Madame de Servaine, approached, and whispered a few words in his ears. He rose, and, turning to the Marquise, begged her to excuse his departure, as an affair of some moment called him hence.
“ Hold!” suddenly exclaimed Monsieur de Fontenay; “ further concealment is useless."
“What do you mean, Count ? ” was the general question.
“ Stop! wretch and deceiver !” cried Monsieur de Fontenay. “ Assist me, friends! Secure the impostor! Is it possible that you do not recognise Gaspard de Besse!”
"If such be the case, this is somewhat a bold proceeding on your part, Count,” coolly remarked the accused, snatching a pistol offered him by his servant; and, opening a passage for himself and attendant through the astonished group, whom the terror of his name had petrified with alarm, and who stood, unable to offer any impediment to his flight. They reached the garden gate, where two powerful horses were in waiting, and each mounting, they rode off at full speed, waving their hands to a body of armed police, who, led by the chasseur of Monsieur de Fontenay, had at the moment arrived from a considerable distance, already exhausted with their speeu.
What were the feelings of the beautiful widow when she discovered the real danger to which she had been exposed, when by degrees the whole truth became apparent to her mind, and she saw how strangely she had been made the dupe of this singular and fascinating person. Although she thanked Monsieur de Fontenay very sincerely for his timely interference, she could not altogether smother a latent regret that so accomplished, so refined, so delicate, and so respectful a lover, as generous as he was bold, should be so utterly unworthy of her regards.
The next morning two letters were found, one in the boudoir of the Marquise, the other on the chimney-piece in the dining-room, addressed to the Count de Fontenay. The latter was brief, and was thus expressed :
“We shall meet again. Gaspard de Besse neither forgets nor forgives. When the hour of vengeance is arrived, you will not escape
The other letter ran thus :
“ The secret which I have never dared openly to confess, in spite of the many opportunities which your confiding sweetness gave me, but which my every look and word must have revealed to you, I am now bold enough to declare. Yes, too lovely woman! I adore you, and am forced to tell my passion, not with a hope of mitigating your scorn, not with a thought of being heard with indulgence, alas! I tell it only as my excuse! Forgive the extravagance, the delirium of a passion which could make an outcast forget his position, which could encourage one so unworthy of you to cling to hope even to the last, and nourish in his heart the fatal tenderness which could never meet with return. To be near you daily, to hear your voice, and meet the soft glances of your eyes, unconscious as you were of who he was who lived but in your presence, this has been my happiness too long—it has been my crime ! - but the temptation was too great, and I yielded. But ask your heart if I deserve no indulgence? I am a robber, - an outlaw. I am guilty of all that your friends and my enemies may charge me with ; but you were sacred in my eyes. Except by my presumptuous love, which I concealed, have I deserved your reproaches ? No: you were always in my power, and I took no advantage of it. A short existence of purity and happiness has dawned upon me; and, now that it is past, I can look back to the time without remorse, and with ever-springing delight, though the object of my wild imaginings is never to be mine. Receive my blessing — my sojourn near you has made me worthy to bless you—and adieu !
“GASPARD DE BESSE."
There had been a long interregnum of hostilities on the part of the celebrated chief, and the country residents round were enjoying their security, when, immediately after the discovery at Madame de Serviane's, the depredations of Gaspard and his band became more tremendous than ever. Châteaux were pillaged, and robberies innumerable committed ; but everything in the possession of Madame de Serviane was respected, -not a grape from one of her vines was taken, and she felt secure in the midst of confusion. Whatever were her secret feelings on the subject of the romantic bandit, her pride forbade all indulgence in regret, or at least all appearance but of indignation ; and, whether from pique or vanity it is difficult to decide, she was induced to accept the addresses of M, de Fontenay, who had been a suitor for her hand during the greater part of her two years' widowhood.
The Count, who since the event which had banished the strange lover of the Marquise had lived constantly a guest at the château, was in the habit of spending some hours every morning in the chase in the neighbouring woods. The security which reigned in every part of Madame de Serviane's domains, and the reports of the police that Gaspard was engaged in his pursuits in Upper Provence, had lulled suspicion, and Monsieur de Fontenay, without any arms but the sword he usually wore, amused himself in his ordinary manner.
The middle of September had arrived, and one morning the young huntsman was pursuing his devious way through the middle of a wooded valley entirely solitary, when two cavaliers on a sudden darted out of a thick copse, and stood before him. He had no difficulty in recognising Gaspard and his attendant. Flight was out of
the question. The horse of the bandit had a reputation for swiftness, to which he had often proved his just claim; besides, the natural bravery of the young man made him unwilling to withdraw from the conflict, however unequal. He drew his sword, therefore, and resolved to sell his life dearly.
“ I promised you this, Count,” said Gaspard. “I keep my word. You are now in my power, and you will not easily escape me."
“ Have I attempted it ? ” coldly replied the Count. « But if you seek my life, it will not be yours without a struggle.”
"If I desired to kill you,” answered Gaspard, contemptuously, “ it would have cost me little trouble.” At the same time he showed the pistols in his belt. “But I am no assassin; it is a duel that I require.”
- You jest,” exclaimed de Fontenay. " How long is it since men of family have been in the habit of fighting duels with robbers on the highway?”
“If noble blood is necessary on this occasion," said Gaspard, with a smile, “I can satisfy your punctilious feelings."
As he spoke, he advanced close to the Count, and seizing his arm before he was aware, bent down towards him, and rapidly pronounced a few words. The Count started.
“ Is this true?” he exclaimed. “ It is very strange !”
“I attest its truth by the soul of my mother, whose tomb, covered with its armorial bearings, is to be seen in the cathedral of Aix.”
“I am at your service,” said Monsieur de Fontenay, dismounting from his horse at the same moment as Gaspard ; and the combat began. At the third pass Monsieur de Fontenay, wounded in the shoulder, lay extended on the grass, disarmed, and his sword broken.
The countenance of Gaspard was horribly pale ; strong emotions seemed struggling in his bosom. He bent over his fallen adversary, and had raised his arm to strike the last blow, when, drawing a deep breath, and with a violent effort, he started back.
“No!” he cried aloud, -" it shall never be said that Gaspard killed an enemy vanquished and disarmed. Rise, Count de Fontenay, and depart, but, above all, forget me. If we should ever meet again, you will do well,” he added, smiling, “ not to recognise your old acquaintance."
Gaspard sprung upon his horse, and both robbers instantly disappeared.
The Count was careful not to speak of his adventure. He invented an excuse for his wound and the broken sword, and lost no time in pressing the beautiful widow to name the day of their nuptials.
Several months had now elapsed, and preparations on an extensive scale were being made for the event at the château of Arnajon. A small select party had been invited to be present at the signature of the contract, and the most brilliant of the distinguished families of Aix were assembled in the decorated drawing-rooms of the bride elect. All was gaiety and enjoyment, and a general air of cheerfulness and happy security reigned throughout the society, when the sound of a horse's feet galloping at full speed, and making the paved court re-echo with the clattering din, caused a panic in every breast. The saloon door was thrown open violently, and a cavalier, covered
with dust, and enveloped in a large cloak, rushed into the apartment.
“Thank God!” cried he, “I am yet in time! I have come before the hour."
He took off the broad hat which concealed his features, and the bride and bridegroom recognised the features of Gaspard de Besse. Madame de Serviane threw herself, overpowered with terror, into the arms of De Fontenay, who in the first movement of his rage had drawn his sword. At this sight, all the gentlemen present followed his example; but Gaspard, with a contemptuous glance throwing open his mantle, discovered to them that his pistols were ready to his hand.
“Silence! and listen to me,” cried he, in an authoritative voice; and such was the ascendancy that he possessed, that every sword's point was lowered instantly. “I come not here,” he continued, “to injure, but to save. Know, also, that we do not meet on equal grounds. You, Count, who stand there impatiently playing with the hilt of your sword, can best judge.' The castle is surrounded. In one moment fifty men, as determined as those before me, and better armed, will be here, and one drop of my blood shed would cost the lives of all. Believe me,” he added, seeing the indecision of the gentlemen whom he addressed, “my voice would be more powerful to save you than all those swords. Sheath them, therefore, and leave me the master in this business. Remain passive, and I answer for you with my head, otherwise you are dead men.”
Scarcely had he finished speaking when cries and shrieks resounded through the building; the courts and gardens were filled with banditti, whose grim faces appeared at the windows, and who had already forced the doors, armed with poniards and pistols. A fearful silence reigned in the saloon. Gaspard firmly and resolutely kept his station beside the fainting form of the Marquise. The banditti advanced to within a few paces of the terrified guests, when their chief stepped forward and presented himself. Loud acclamations hailed his presence; but at a sign from him they ceased at once, and retreated as by magic into the outer courts, where they remained silent and immovable, waiting his commands.
“You are safe," he said, turning to the company. “I learnt only this very morning the project suggested by one of my lieutenants. Twenty leagues separated me from this château, which he proposed to pillage to-night. You see how necessary my presence was, and that resistance would have been fatal.”
When he had concluded, he walked up to the table on which lay the contract of marriage; he stooped down, with a smile on his lip, and taking a pen, affixed his signature to the paper beside those of the witnesses, and who was there bold enough to say him nay? Then with the calmest aspect, as though there was nothing out of the ordinary course of things in his situation, he knelt at the feet of Madame de Serviane, and taking a ring from his girdle, he placed it on her finger, entreating her to wear it as a souvenir of his visit.
The Marquise, with a deep blush, recognised a ring which, in a moment of confidence, she had herself presented to her disguised
Five minutes afterwards, the Durance separated Gaspard and his band from the château of Arnajon.
Many years after, this redoubted chief of brigands was taken, indeed, and condemned to death. Many persons of rank used their utmost endeavours to obtain his pardon, and the Countess de Fontenay and her husband were not amongst the least strenuous; but, in spite of their active exertions, the result was unfavourable. The judges would hear of no extenuation; the trial was carried on with rigour. So dangerous and so fascinating a robber could not hope to meet with leniency; and Gaspard de Besse underwent the punishment of the wheel in the public square at Aix.
L. S. C.
MORN AT SEA.
BY JAMES ALDRICH.
CLEARLY with mental eye,
Up pointed to the sky.
In youth's divinest glow,
Worn by God's cov’nant bow!
The child of light and air !
And truth, divinely fair.
Athwart this wide abyss,
Their eyelids to her kiss!
Her smile hath overspread
For its uncoffin'd dead.
Most like an angel friend,
Bidding the long night end.
How joyfully will hail,
Watching a far off sail.
Vain all Affection's arts
Death's shadow thence departs.