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FASHION, MUSIC, AND ROMANCE.
A NEW OLD STORY.
A VERY singular adventure occurred to me last year in Normandy. Being at Rouen, I determined to visit the celebrated ruins of the abbey of Inmiéges, one of those wrecks of monastic grandeur, so much spoken of by historians and artists, as illustrating the mutations of time, hastened by the reckless hands of civil and religious anarchy. I booked my place in a conveyance which goes from the quay of Havre, to the little town of Yainville, within a league of Duclair. On my arrival at the coach-office, the passengers were mostly mounted, the conducteur calling upon each by name, in the order of their booking, a regulation preventing confusion, and reconciling travellers to the seats allotted to them, as previously selected by choice.
"Le cabriolet, Monsieur le Colonel! place à droite, s'il vous plait," exclaimed our good looking burley conducteur, as I took the seat thus indicated, it being my pet place, from whence the country is best seen, with less chance of being obliged to keep up a running dialogue of civil nothings to persons you have never seen before, and it is a thousand chances to one, ever desire to see again; to this somewhat selfish feeling, may be added the additional advantage of being next, or near the conducteur, who is always the best local historian to be met with, and generally nothing loath to communicate all he knows respecting the neighbourhood and its inhabitants.
We were eight passengers, two young peasant girls, a lady from Rouen with her husband and son, an elderly ecclesiastic, a gentleman dressed in black, and your humble servant. "Le cabriolet, s'il vous plait, Monsieur de Brinvilliers." I turned
my head to scan the general physiognomy of my compagnon de voyage, and the gentleman in black placed himself by my side, he reminded the conducteur of being booked for Inmiéges; and crick-crack from the postilion's whip was the instant signal for our departure. Though generally averse to open a conversational intercourse, the circumstance of this gentleman being bound to the same petit place, a very intelligent countenance, and a quiet manner without formality, induced me first to break the ice of English taciturnity. There was something floating on my recollection, which I could not recal respecting the name of de Brinvilliers, but I could not embody it, and trusted to tact, or chance, to elicit why that name had found a dwelling-place, more than any other, in my censorium.
In all the countries I have ever visited, and I believe it is the same with other persons, there is no better nor less offensive mode of commencing a dialogue with strangers, than the state of the weather; in every point of view it is natural, and mutually interesting to travellers, and it greatly influences the barometer of our animal spirits; it is also, an easy, certain way of plumbing the depth of your companion's intention to become agreeable, if not the depth of his talents to render him so. If he replies freely and cheerfully, you are on the right track, and other matters succeed without difficulty: but if, as it once occured to me, between London and Edinburgh, the state of the weather only elicited precisely two words, "Yes, Sir!" between four inside passengers the whole journey, such a companion cannot be worth the labour of applying the pump of conversation to him, and you will do well to hold sweet converse with your own reflections, if haply, they are likely to amuse or instruct you.
De Brinvilliers, mentally I repeated, what in the world do I know about that name? I know no one so called, or ever did; yet it is in some way a matter of interest to me, which I must leave to chance, and a little management to fathom.
On our arrival at the height which commands the valley of Deville, we descended to enjoy the delightful picture beneath our eyes.
A slight fog, like a gauze veil, concealed the extremity of the valley, and while some portions of it were softly tinged by the rays of the morning sunbeams, others appeared to flee before them, and disappear in the distance. This lovely valley seemed just awakened to the activity and industry of man, whose physical strength was aided or relieved by the nume
rous steam engines, that here and there poured forth their smoking columns, in long fantastic wreaths; the picturesquely painted manufactories; the long pieces of variously coloured printed cottons, spread like painted ribbons over the green meadows, gave a singular, but not unpleasing effect to the general scene, which combined with the verdant apple trees, and little sparkling river, winding its course through the valley, like a silver thread, completed an enchanting picture. Well may it be said, that the arts and industry constitute the happiness and riches of all nations.
We were forced to curtail this enjoyment, and, again resumed our places in the diligence. The route between Rouen and Inmiéges, is one continuous garden; shady walks of fruit trees line the road, and well grown, neatly trimmed, green hedges, separate the different properties. At intervals the country opens, and you might imagine it of endless extent, if it were not bounded by a curtain of thick set forest trees. Some distance further on, a new point of view presents itself,-far, very far in the back ground, may be descried the ruins of the castle of Robert le Diable, as it were transfixed on the peak of a rock, and apparently only accessible to winged tenants. The fierce crusader has passed away, with everything likely to remind you of his name and fame beyond these ruined fragments of his once impregnable fortalice; but nature remains the same, ever smiling, ever gay.
On traversing the village of Boscherville, (woody town,) we again descended to admire the remains of the abbey, and to visit the church which is in perfect preservation. A very plain entrance-porch, of Roman architecture, conducts to the sanctuary, not otherwise remarkable among such ancient temples, than by the rose-coloured tints of its arched roof and walls, which at first sight would naturally appear the effect of art, but which in fact is no other than the singular painting of time, acting upon a peculiar chemical quality of stone and cement, the effect produced is most striking, and must be seen, to be properly appreciated.
We again ascended, and shortly arrived at Yainville, from whence my companion and myself took a narrow road on the left hand, bordered with trees and green hedges, conducting to our destination, Inmiéges.
We proceeded some minutes in profound silence, my companion dwelling upon some newly awakened reflections, myself absorbed in admiration of the lovely scene before us, whose verdant plains, and woody tufts, were lost and blended with
the blue mountains, in the horizon, beyond which flowed the silvery water of the Seine.
How long our silence would have continued I know not, if it had not been interrupted by the sight of an old Roman temple, since used as a church, but now a victim to the ravages of time. A mutual instinct guided our footsteps to this ruin. A slight effort opened a richly carved, worm-eaten, oak door, and we found ourselves in a miserable, gloomy, degraded building, serving its proprietor as a stable and barn. My companion broke silence, exclaiming with a sigh.
"Observe, sir, the fate of all things here below." I was about to answer, when he continued :
"A century and a half since, the inhabitants of Yainville, thronged to this church. These walls, these roofs, these columns, these altars,-now profaned with dirt and ignoble usages, now destroyed by the consuming lapse of time, aided by the barbarous hands of that destructive monster-man, all these, at that period shone resplendent with painting, gilding, and sculpture. Where that manger-rack now stands, was a magnificent organ, whose solemn tones responded to the pious prayers of holy devotees. Where those agricultural instruments now stand, was a confessional, in which my ancestors were wont to humble themselves before the Deity. Now, sir, all, all, is lost; in a few more years the plough will probably pass over this site, or some manufactory will raise its smoky head, on the foundations, of this ancient temple of pagan and christian worship. The Brinvilliers, who were the benefactors of the village and surrounding country, are dead; all gone to their long home, save one. Faith is become extinct, the church no longer exists, and the village is become a desert. Sic transit gloria mundi," he added, in an under tone.
"Yes, sir, and I shall surprise you yet more, when I inform you, that my ancestor's wife, the Marchioness de Brinvilliers, was born in this village, and christened with extraordinary pomp, in this very church. That wretched guilty woman here first offered up her vows to God, and would to God they had then been her last prayers to the heavenly throne. Doubtless, sir, you have heard of this female, unhappily but too celebrated in the annals of crime, during the seventeenth century.'
The name, the history, and many of its details flashed upon my remembrance. I involuntarily, and certainly improperly exclaimed, “Good heaven, sir, are you then the last descendant of that infamous murderer?" He bit his lips, and