Adapted from the story by William Jerdan (1831)
The Dying Baron
The old Baron de Launaye was dying, dying under the eyes of those who had gone before him. The dark bedroom was decorated with the portraits of every Baron de Launaye since the family had come over with The Conqueror. His own portrait sat in the corner, waiting, covered in a heavy cloth until the time came for it to be revealed. “Not yet,” the Baron mumbled, hoping that he would live long enough to see his nephew, whom he had named his successor.
Dolphe de Launaye was a bright young boy, full of charity, whose wit and energy had cast light in the manor–and in Baron de Launaye’s heart–every time he visited. The boy’s only shortcoming was that he had lived in London too long, and thus did not know the running of the manor house, nor the temper of his neighbors. And that was what Lord de Launaye hoped to be able to impart.
Outside, the rain drove down fiercely, and Dolphe de Launaye fought hard to keep his horse on the road. He could scarcely see past the nose of his steed, and he did not know of the crossroad until a carriage cut across his path, the driver evidently as blind as himself in the weather.
Dolphe pulled up his horse. As he fought to keep in his saddle, he watched the carriage go by, and his sight was arrested by the most singular vision: the woman in the carriage looked at him, her eyes smiling, bright, and the most beautiful he had ever seen.
The carriage past, Dolphe found he had to remind himself of the urgency of his business. He urged his horse on again through the rain.
Baron de Launaye was afraid he would not have the strength to keep conscious to see his nephew, when suddenly the young man burst into the room, dropping his wet riding cloak on the floor, and not bothering to remove his hat, its white feathers damp from the rain, as he fell to his knees beside his uncle’s bed.
Baron de Launaye mustered a last, yellow smile. “Child of my heart,” he said, “but a few moments more will I stand between you and your title.”
“Would that it might be a century more!” Dolphe said, holding his uncle’s thin, bony hand tightly.
“The fetters of clay are not sufficient to hold the spirit in this world,” said his uncle, “but listen, and heed my words. There are some who would call me a necromancer for my knowledge of things beyond this world, but they have shown me much. And this much I pass on to you: shun the house of our neighbors. The de Survilles must remain forever your enemy. Never set foot on their property, nor allow one of them to set foot in here.” Having issued that warning, Baron de Launaye allowed himself to rest, and slowly slip into death.
The Brilliant Eyes
It was but a few weeks later, when, possessed of a natural curiosity (and, by-the-by, all curiosity is natural enough), Dolphe decided to seek out the house of his neighbors. Although the old servant who had unveiled the last portrait to hang in the dark bedroom had explained the nature of the feud, how it had been passed down for several generations, Dolphe wanted to know just what made their neighbors so terrifying to his uncle that he felt the desperate warning worth his final words.
So Dolphe arranged an audience with the old Marquise de Surville. As he stopped to admire the entry hall, which was bright with the shutters thrown aside on the large windows of the house and decorated in sea-green silk worked in gold, Dolphe saw something that set his heart running like a racehorse: a pair of brilliant eyes–large, soft, clear, and hazel–the very ones he had seen from the carriage in the rain. They had already left a mark on his heart, which was now scored even deeper. Dolphe followed their owner to the Marquise’s audience chamber, where he learned that she was the Marquise’s granddaughter. Both women had heard of the quarrel with the de Launayes, but neither knew of its origin, nor why it should be made to persist. He was given an open invitation to make himself known at the de Surville Manor.
As he rode home, Dolphe thought that he would avail himself of that invitation often. After all, he said, “A name and an estate are all our ancestors have a right to leave behind them. The saints preserve us from a legacy of their foes! Nothing could be worse–except their friends.”
The Marriage Bed
And so he made regular visits to the de Surville Manor, growing fonder and fonder of the granddaughter’s company until the day came when they were married, and he escorted her home to his manor and the bedroom decorated with the portraits of his ancestors.
Late that night, Dolphe was awakened suddenly by the awareness that there were eyes upon him. He opened his own eyes and gazed around at the painted eyes of his ancestors that he knew so well, but they caused him no nervousness. They were not so lifelike, and many were further dulled by the residue of lampblack from decades or even centuries. But as he turned around, he saw the eyes that kept him from sleep. His own bride sat awake, her open eyes fixed upon him. Feeling it would be ungenerous to sleep while she was awake, he proposed they should get out of bed. After all, he reasoned, it is sometimes hard for people to sleep in an unfamiliar bed.
But as the weeks stretched on, and every night he awoke to find his wife awake and watching him, he asked, “Good God, my dearest! Do you ever sleep?”
“Sleep?” She smiled as if amused at the suggestion. “One of my noble race sleep? I never slept in my life!”
“She never sleeps!” the young Baron cried, and fell back on his pillow in horror and exhaustion.
The months went on, with the Baroness awaking every morning bright-eyed and blooming, as usual, and the Baron growing paler and more abattu. Then came the news that she was with child, and she grew into the healthiest mother-to-be, while he grew weaker and frailer, fully unfit to perform the role of the father. When the baby was born, all declared her to be the most beautiful child they had ever seen, and with such striking eyes, her mother’s eyes.
But when they showed the child to her father, he said nothing. Instead, upon seeing her eyes he fell fast asleep–in the sleep of death.
Moral of the Story
This fanciful story has some bearing on our understanding of sleep disordered breathing, which impacts not only the sufferer, but the person sharing a bed with someone who snores. Snoring can cost the partner of a snorer hours of sleep every night, so that the snorer awakens every morning well rested and refreshed, while their partner grows increasingly short on sleep.
The situation is very different for sleep apnea, in which the sufferer’s breathing stops many times a night, forcing them to awaken often, and depriving them of the restful sleep they need.
Either case is a nightmare for you, but it doesn’t have to be. Snoring and sleep apnea treatment are very successful.
To learn more about snoring and sleep apnea treatment, please call (303) 691-0267 at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado in Denver today.