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A Romance of Youth, v4 by Francois Coppee

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This etext was produced by David Widger

[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the
file for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making an
entire meal of them. D.W.]

A ROMANCE OF YOUTH

By FRANCOIS COPPEE

BOOK 4.

CHAPTER XIV

TOO LATE!

It had been more than three months since Maria and Maurice had met again.
One day the young man went to the Louvre to see his favorite pictures of
the painters of the Eighteenth Century. His attention was attracted by
the beautiful hair of a young artist dressed in black, who was copying
one of Rosalba's portraits. It was our pretty pastel artist whose
wonderful locks disturbed all the daubers in the museum, and which made
colorists out of Signol's pupils themselves. Maurice approached the
copyist, and then both exclaimed at once:

"Mademoiselle Maria!"

"Monsieur Maurice!"

She had recognized him so quickly and with such a charming smile, she had
not, then, forgotten him? When he used to visit Pere Gerard he had
noticed that she was not displeased with him; but after such a long time,
at first sight, to obtain such a greeting, such a delighted exclamation--
it was flattering!

The young man standing by her easel, with his hat off, so graceful and
elegant in his well-cut garments, began to talk with her. He spoke
first, in becoming and proper terms, of her father's death; inquired for
her mother and sister, congratulated himself upon having been recognized
thus, and then yielding to his bold custom, he added:

"As to myself, I hesitated at first. You have grown still more beautiful
in two years."

As she blushed, he continued, in a joking way, which excused his
audacity:

"Amedee told me that you had become delicious, but now I hardly dare ask
him for news of you. Ever since you have lived at Montmartre--and I know
that he sees you every Sunday--he has never offered to take me with him
to pay my respects. Upon my word of honor, Mademoiselle Maria, I believe
that he is in love with you and as jealous as a Turk."

She protested against it, confused but still smiling.

Ah! if he had known of the dream that Maria had kept concealed in one
corner of her heart ever since their first meeting. If he had known that
her only desire was to be chosen and loved by this handsome Maurice, who
had gone through their house and among poor Papa Gerard's bric-a-brac
like a meteor! Why not, after all? Did she not possess that great
power, beauty? Her father, her mother, and even her sister, the wise
Louise, had often said so to her. Yes! from the very first she had been
charmed by this young man with the golden moustache, and the ways of a
young lord; she had hoped to please him, and later, in spite of poverty
and death, she had continued to be intoxicated with this folly and to
dream of this narcotic against grief, of the return of this Prince
Charming. Poor Maria, so good and so artless, who had been told too many
times that she was pretty! Poor little spoiled child!

When he left you yesterday, little Maria, after half an hour's pleasing
conversation, Maurice said to you jokingly: "Do not tell Violette, above
all, that we have met. I should lose my best friend." You not only said
nothing to Amedee, but you told neither your mother nor your sister. For
Louise and Madame Gerard are prudent and wise, and they would tell you to
avoid this rash fellow who has accosted you in a public place, and has
told you at once that you are beautiful and beloved. They would scold
you; they would tell you that this young man is of a rich and
distinguished family; that his mother has great ambitions for him; that
you have only your old black dress and beautiful eyes, and to-morrow,
when you return to the Louvre, Madame Gerard will establish herself near
your easel and discourage the young gallant.

But, little Maria, you conceal it from your mother and Louise! You have
a secret from your family! To-morrow when you make your toilette before
the mirror and twist up your golden hair, your heart will beat with hope
and vanity. In the Louvre your attention will be distracted from your
work when you hear a man's step resound in a neighboring gallery, and
when Maurice arrives you will doubtless be troubled, but very much
surprised and not displeased, ah! only too much pleased. Little Maria,
little Maria, he talks to you in a low tone now. His blond moustache is
very near your cheek, and you do well to lower your eyes, for I see a
gleam of pleasure under your long lashes. I do not hear what he says,
nor your replies; but how fast he works, how he gains your confidence!
You will compromise yourself, little Maria, if you keep him too long by
your easel. Four o'clock will soon strike, and the watchman in the green
coat, who is snoozing before Watteau's designs, will arouse from his
torpor, stretch his arms, look at his watch, get up from his seat, and
call out "Time to close." Why do you allow Maurice to help you arrange
your things, to accompany you through the galleries, carrying your box of
pastels? The long, lanky girl in the Salon Carre, who affects the
English ways, the one who will never finish copying the "Vierge au
coussin vert," has followed you into the Louvre court. Take care! She
has noticed, envious creature, that you are very much moved as you take
leave of your companion, and that you let your hand remain for a second
in his! This old maid 'a l'anglaise' has a viper's tongue. To-morrow
you will be the talk of the Louvre, and the gossip will spread to the
'Ecole des Beaux-Arts', even to Signol's studio, where the two daubers,
your respectful admirers, who think of cutting their throats in your
honor, will accost each other with a "Well, the pretty pastellist! Yes,
I know, she has a lover."

If it was only a lover! But the pretty pastellist has been very
careless, more foolish than the old maid or the two young fellows dream
of. It is so sweet to hear him say: "I love you!" and so delicious to
listen for the question: "And you, do you love me a little?" when she is
dying to say, "Yes!" Bending her head and blushing with confusion under
Maurice's ardent gaze, the pretty Maria ends by murmuring the fatal
"Yes." Then she sees Maurice turn pale with joy, and he says to her,
"I must talk to you alone; not before these bores." She replies: "But
how? It is impossible!" Then he asks whether she does not trust him,
whether she does not believe him to be an honest man, and the young
girl's looks say more than any protestation would.

"Well! to-morrow morning at ten o'clock--instead of coming to the
Louvre--will you? I will wait for you on the Quai d'Orsay, before the
Saint-Cloud pier."

She was there at the appointed hour, overwhelmed with emotion and ready
to faint. He took her by the arm and led her aboard the boat.

"Do you see, now we are almost alone. Give me the pleasure of wandering
through the fields with you. It is such beautiful weather. Be tranquil,
we shall return early."

Oh, the happy day! Maria sees pass before her, as she is seated beside
Maurice, who is whispering in her ear loving words and whose glances
cover her with caresses, as if in a dream, views of Paris that were not
familiar to her, high walls, arches of bridges, then the bare suburbs,
the smoking manufactories of Grenelle, the Bas Meudon, with its boats and
public-houses. At last, on the borders of the stream, the park with its
extensive verdure appeared.

They wandered there for a long time under the chestnut-trees, loaded with
their fruit in its green shells. The sun, filtering through the foliage,
dotted the walks with patches of light, and Maurice continued to repeat
to Maria that he loved her; that he had never loved any one but her!
that he had loved her from the very first time that he saw her at Pere
Gerard's, and that neither time nor absence had been able to drive away
the remembrance of her. And at this moment he imagined that it was true.
He did not think that he was telling a lie. As to poor Maria, do not be
too severe upon her! think of her youth, her poverty and imprisonment--
she was overwhelmed with happiness. She could think of nothing to say,
and, giving herself up into the young man's arms, she had hardly the
strength to turn upon him, from time to time, her eyes tortured with
love.

Is it necessary to tell how she succumbed? how they went to a restaurant
and dined? Emotion, the heavy heat of the afternoon, champagne, that
golden wine that she tasted for the first time, stunned the imprudent
child. Her charming head slips down upon the sofa-pillow, she is nearly
fainting.

"You are too warm," said Maurice. "This bright light makes you ill."

He draws the curtains; they are in the darkness, and he takes the young
girl in his arms, covering her hands, eyes, and lips with kisses.

Doubtless he swears to her that she shall be his wife. He asks only a
little time, a few weeks, in which to prepare his mother, the ambitious
Madame Roger, for his unexpected marriage. Maria never doubts him, but
overcome by her fault, she feels an intense shame, and buries her face on
her lover's shoulder. She thinks then, the guilty girl, of her past;
of her innocence and poverty, of her humble but honest home; her dead
father, her mother and sister---her two mothers, properly speaking---who
yet call her "little one" and always consider her as a child, an infant
in all its purity. She feels impressed with her sin, and wishes that she
might die there at once.

Oh! I beg of you, be charitable to the poor, weak Maria, for she is young
and she must suffer!

Maurice was not a rascal, after all; he was in earnest when he promised
to marry her without delay. He even meant to admit all to his mother the
next day; but when he saw her she never had appeared so imposing to him,
with her gray hair under her widow's cap. He shivered as he thought of
the tearful scenes, the reproaches and anger, and in his indolence he
said to himself: "Upon my honor, I will do it later!" He loves Maria
after his fashion. He is faithful to her, and when she steals away an
hour from her work to come to see him, he is uneasy at the least delay.
She is truly adorable, only Maurice does not like the unhappy look that
she wears when she asks him, in a trembling voice: "Have you spoken to
your mother?" He embraces her, reassures her. "Be easy. Leave me time
to arrange it." The truth is, that now he begins to be perplexed at the
idea of this marriage. It is his duty, he knows that very well; but he
is not twenty three years old yet. There is no hurry. After all, is it
duty? the little one yielded easily enough. Has he not the right to test
her and wait a little? It is what his mother would advise him, he is
certain. That is the only reasonable way to look at it.

Alas, egotists and cowards always have a reason for everything!

How dearly poor Maria's foolish step has cost her! How heavily such a
secret weighs upon the child's heart! For a few moments of uneasy
intoxication with this man, whom she already doubts and who sometimes
makes her afraid, she must lie to her mother without blushing or lowering
her eyes, and enter Maurice's house veiled and hiding like a thief. But
that is nothing yet. After some time of this agonizing life her health
is troubled. Quickly she goes to find Maurice! She arrives unexpectedly
and finds him lying upon the sofa smoking a cigar. Without giving him
time to rise, she throws herself into his arms, and, bursting into sobs,
makes her terrible avowal. At first he only gives a start of angry
astonishment, a harsh glance.

"Bah! you must be mistaken."

"I am sure of it, I tell you, I am sure of it!"

She has caught his angry glance and feels condemned in advance. However,
he gives her a cold kiss, and it is with a great effort that she
stammers:

"Maurice--you must--speak to your mother--"

He rises with an impatient gesture and Maria seats herself--her strength
is leaving her--while he walks up and down the room.

"My poor Maria," he begins in a hesitating manner, "I dared not tell you,
but my mother will not consent to our marriage--now, at least."

He lies! He has not spoken to his mother; she knows it. Ah! unhappy
creature! he does not love her! and, discouraged, with a rumbling noise
in her ears, she listens to Maurice as he speaks in his soft voice.

"Oh! be tranquil. I shall not abandon you, my poor child. If what you
say is true-if you are sure of it, then the best thing that you can do,
you see, is to leave your family and come and live with me. At first we
will go away from Paris; you can be confined in the country. We can put
the child out to nurse; they will take care of the little brat, of
course. And later, perhaps, my mother will soften and will understand
that we must marry. No, truly, the more I think of it, the more I
believe that that is the best way to do. Yes! I know very well it will
be hard to leave your home, but what can you do, my darling? You can
write your mother a very affectionate letter."

And going to her he takes her, inert and heartbroken, into his arms, and
tries to show himself loving.

"You are my wife, my dear little wife, I repeat it. Are you not glad,
eh! that we can live together?"

This is what he proposes to do. He thinks to take her publicly to his
house and to blazon her shame before the eyes of everybody! Maria feels
that she is lost. She rises abruptly and says to him in the tone of a
somnambulist: "That will do. We will talk of it again."

She goes away and returns to Montmartre at a crazy woman's pace, and
finds her mother knitting and her sister ready to lay the table-yes! as
if nothing at all was the matter. She takes their hands and falls at
their feet!

Ah, poor women!

They had already been very much tried. The decay of this worthy family
was lamentable; but in spite of all, yesterday even, they endured their
fate with resignation. Yes! the economy, the degrading drudgery, the
old, mended gowns--they accepted all this without a murmur. A noble
sentiment sustained and gave them courage. All three--the old mother in
a linen cap doing the cooking and the washing, the elder sister giving
lessons at forty sous, and the little one working in pastels--were
vaguely conscious of representing something very humble, but sacred and
noble--a family without a blemish on their name. They felt that they
moved in an atmosphere of esteem and respect. "Those ladies upon the
first floor have so many accomplishments," say the neighbors. Their
apartment--with its stained woodwork, its torn wall, paper, but where
they were all united in work and drawn closer and closer to each other in
love--had still the sweetness of a home; and upon their ragged mourning,
their dilapidated furniture, the meagre meat soup at night, the pure
light of honor gleamed and watched over them. Now, after this guilty
child's avowal, all this was ended, lost forever! There was a blemish
upon their life of duty and poverty, upon their irreproachable past, even
upon the father's memory. Certainly the mother and elder sister excused
the poor creature who sobbed under their kisses and begged their pardon.
However, when they gazed at each other with red eyes and dry lips, they
measured the fall of the family; they saw for the first time how
frightful were their destitution and distress; they felt the unbearable
feeling of shame glide into their hearts like a sinister and unexpected
guest who, at the first glance, makes one understand that he has come to
be master of the lodging. This was the secret, the overwhelming secret,
which the distracted Louise Gerard revealed that evening to her only
friend, Amedee Violette, acting thus by instinct, as a woman with too
heavy a burden throws it to the ground, crying for help.

When she had ended her cruel confidence, to which the poet listened with
his face buried in his hands, and he uncovered his face creased and
furrowed by the sudden wrinkles of despair, Louise was frightened.

"How I have wounded him!" she thought. "How he loves Maria!"

But she saw shining in the young man's eyes a gloomy resolution.

"Very well, Louise, "muttered he, between his teeth. "Do not tell me any
more, I beg of you. I do not know where to find Maurice at this hour,
but he will see me to-morrow morning, rest easy. If the evil is not
repaired--and at once!"

He did not finish; his voice was stifled with grief and rage, and upon an
almost imperious gesture to leave, Louise departed, overcome by her
undertaking.

No, Maurice Roger was not a villain. After Maria's departure he felt
ashamed and displeased with himself. A mother! poor little thing!
Certainly he would take charge of her and the child; he would behave like
a gentleman. But, to speak plainly, he did not now love her as much as
he did. His vagabond nature was already tired of his love-affair. This
one was watered too much by tears. Bah! he was usually lucky, and this
troublesome affair would come out all right like the others. Truly, it
was as bad an accident as if one had fallen into a hole and broken his
leg. But then, who could tell? Chance and time arrange many things.
The child might not live, perhaps; at any rate, it was perfectly natural
that he should wait and see what happened.

The next morning the reckless Maurice--who had not slept badly--was
tranquilly preparing his palette while awaiting his model, when he saw
Amedee Violette enter his studio. At the first glance he saw that the
poet knew all.

"Maurice," said Amedee, in a freezing tone, "I received a visit from
Mademoiselle Louise Gerard last evening. She told me everything--all,
do you understand me perfectly? I have come to learn whether I am
mistaken regarding you--whether Maurice Roger is an honest man."

A flame darted from the young artist's eyes. Amedee, with his livid
complexion and haggard from a sleepless night and tears, was pitiful to
see. And then it was Amedee, little Amedee whom Maurice sincerely loved,
for whom he had kept, ever since their college days, a sentiment, all the
more precious that it flattered his vanity, the indulgent affection and
protection of a superior.

"Oh! Grand, melodramatic words already!" said he, placing his palette
upon the table. "Amedee, my dear boy, I do not recognize you, and if you
have any explanation that you wish to ask of your old friend, it is not
thus that you should do it. You have received, you tell me, Mademoiselle
Gerard's confidence. I know you are devoted to those ladies.
I understand your emotion and I think your intervention legitimate;
but you see I speak calmly and in a friendly way. Calm yourself in your
turn and do not forget that, in spite of your zeal for those ladies, I am
the best and dearest companion of your youth. I am, I know, in one of
the gravest situations of my life. Let us talk of it. Advise me; you
have the right to do so; but not in that tone of voice--that angry,
threatening tone which I pardon, but which hurts and makes me doubt, were
it possible, your love for me."

"Ah! you know very well that I love you," replied the unhappy Amedee,
"but why do you need my advice? You are frank enough to deny nothing.
You admit that it is true, that you have seduced a young girl. Does not
your conscience tell you what to do?"

"To marry her? That is my intention. But, Amedee, do you think of my
mother? This marriage will distress her, destroy her fond hopes and
ambitions. I hope to be able to gain her consent; only I must have time
to turn myself. Later--very soon. I do not say--if the child lives."

This word, torn from Maurice by the cynicism which is in the heart of all
egotists, made Amedee angry.

"Your mother!" exclaimed he. "Your mother is the widow of a French
officer who died facing the enemy. She will understand it, I am sure,
as a matter of honor and duty. Go and find her, tell her that you have
ruined this unfortunate child. Your mother will advise you to marry her.
She will command you to do it."

This argument was forcible and direct, and impressed Maurice; but his
friend's violence irritated him.

"You go to work badly, Amedee, I repeat it," said he, raising his tone.
"You have no right to prejudge my mother's opinion, and I receive no
orders from anybody. After all, nothing authorizes you to do it; if it
is because you were in love with Maria--"

A furious cry interrupted him. Amedee, with wild eyes and shaking his
fists, walked toward Maurice, speaking in a cutting tone:

"Well, yes! I loved her," said he, "and I wished to make her my wife.
You, who no longer love her, who took her out of caprice, as you have
taken others, you have destroyed all of my dreams for the future. She
preferred you, and, understand me, Maurice, I am too proud to complain,
too just to hold spite against you. I am only here to prevent your
committing an infamy. Upon my honor! If you repulse me, our friendship
is destroyed forever, and I dare not think of what will happen between
us, but it will be terrible! Alas! I am wrong, I do not talk to you as
I ought. Maurice, there is time yet! Only listen to your heart, which I
know is generous and good. You have wronged an innocent child and driven
a poor and worthy family to despair. You can repair the evil you have
caused. You wish to. You will! I beg of you, do it out of respect for
yourself and the name you bear. Act like a brave man and a gentleman!
Give this young girl--whose only wrong has been in loving you too much--
give the mother of your child your name, your heart, your love. You will
be happy with her and through her. Go! I shall not be jealous of your
happiness, but only too glad to have found my friend, my loyal Maurice
once more, and to be able still to love and admire him as heretofore."

Stirred by these warm words, and fatigued by the discussion and struggle,
the painter reached out his hands to his friend, who pressed them in his.
Suddenly he looked at Amedee and saw his eyes shining with tears, and,
partly from sorrow, but more from want of will and from moral weakness,
to end it he exclaimed:

"You are right, after all. We will arrange this matter without delay.
What do you wish me to do?"

Ah, how Amedee bounded upon his neck!

"My good, my dear Maurice! Quickly dress yourself. Let us go to those
ladies and embrace and console that dear child. Ah! I knew very well
that you would understand me and that your heart was in the right place.
How happy the poor women will be! Now then, my old friend, is it not
good to do one's duty?"

Yes, Maurice found that it was good now; excited and carried away by his
friend, he hurried toward the good action that was pointed out to him as
he would to a pleasure-party, and while putting on his coat to go out, he
said:

"After all, my mother can only approve, and since she always does as I
wish, she will end by adoring my little Maria. It is all right; there is
no way of resisting you, Violette. You are a good and persuasive
Violette. Now, then, here I am, ready--a handkerchief--my hat. Off we
go!"

They went out and took a cab which carried them toward Montmartre.
The easy-going Maurice, reconciled to his future, sketched out his plan
of life. Once married, he would work seriously. At first, immediately
after the ceremony, he would leave with his wife to pass the winter in
the South, where she could be confined. He knew a pretty place in the
Corniche, near Antibes, where he should not lose his time, as he could
bring back marine and landscape sketches. But it would not be until the
next winter that he would entirely arrange his life. The painter Laugeol
was going to move; he would hire his apartment--"a superb studio, my dear
fellow, with windows looking out upon the Luxembourg." He could see
himself there now, working hard, having a successful picture in the
Salon, wearing a medal. He chose even the hangings in the sleeping-rooms
in advance. Then, upon beautiful days, how convenient the garden would
be for the child and the nurse.

Suddenly, in the midst of this chattering, he noticed Amedee's sad face
as he shrank into the back of the carriage.

"Forgive me, my dear friend," said he, taking him affectionately by the
hand. "I forgot what you told me just now. Ah! fate is ridiculous,
when I think that my happiness makes you feel badly."

The poet gave his friend a long, sad look.

"Be happy with Maria and make her happy, that is all I ask for you both."

They had reached the foot of Montmartre, and the carriage went slowly up
the steep streets.

"My friend," said Amedee, "we shall arrive there soon. You will go in
alone to see these ladies, will you not? Oh! do not be afraid. I know
Louise and the mother. They will not utter one word of reproach. Your
upright act will be appreciated by them as it merits--but you will excuse
me from going with you, do you see? It would be too painful for me."

"Yes, I understand, my poor Amedee. As it pleases you. Now then,
courage, you will be cured of it. Everything is alleviated in time,"
replied Maurice, who supposed everybody to have his fickle nature.
"I shall always remember the service that you have rendered me, for I
blush now as I think of it. Yes, I was going to do a villainous act.
Amedee, embrace me."

They threw their arms about each other's neck, and the carriage stopped.
Once on the sidewalk, Amedee noticed his friend's wry face as he saw the
home of the Gerards, a miserable, commonplace lodging-house, whose
crackled plastered front made one think of the wrinkles on a poor man's
face. On the right and on the left of the entrance-door were two shops,
one a butcher's, the other a fruiterer's, exhaling their fetid odors.
But Amedee paid no attention to the delicate Maurice's repugnance,
saying:

"Do you see that little garden at the end of the walk? It is there. Au
revoir."

They separated with a last grasp of the hand. The poet saw Maurice enter
the dark alley, cross the narrow court and push the gate open into the
garden, and then disappear among the mass of verdure. How many times
Amedee had passed through there, moved at the thought that he was going
to see Maria; and Maurice crossed this threshold for the first time in
his life to take her away. He wanted her! He had himself given his
beloved to another! He had begged, almost forced his rival, so to speak,
to rob him of his dearest hope! What sorrow!

Amedee gave his address to the driver and entered the carriage again.
A cold autumn rain had commenced to fall, and he was obliged to close the
windows. As he was jolted harshly through the streets of Paris at a
trot, the young poet, all of a shiver, saw carriages streaming with
water, bespattered pedestrians under their umbrellas, a heavy gloom fall
from the leaden sky; and Amedee, stupefied with grief, felt a strange
sensation of emptiness, as if somebody had taken away his heart.

When he entered his room, the sight of his furniture, his engravings, his
books on their shelves, and his table covered with its papers distressed
him. His long evenings of study near this lamp, the long hours of
thought over some difficult work, the austere and cheerless year that he
had lived there, all had been dedicated to Maria. It was in order to
obtain her some day, that he had labored so assiduously and obstinately!
And now the frivolous and guilty child was doubtless weeping for joy in
Maurice's arms, her husband to-morrow?

Seated before his table, with his head buried in his hands, Amedee sank
into the depths of melancholy. His life seemed such a failure, his fate
so disastrous, his future so gloomy, he felt so discouraged and lonely,
that for the moment the courage to live deserted him. It seemed to him
that an invisible hand touched him upon the shoulder with compassion, and
he had at once a desire and a fear to turn around and look; for he knew
very well that this hand was that of the dead. He did not fancy it under
the hideous aspect of a skeleton, but as a calm, sad, but yet very sweet
face which drew him against its breast with a mother's tenderness, and
made him and his grief sleep--a sleep without dreams, profound and
eternal. Suddenly he turned around and uttered a frightful cry. For a
moment he thought he saw, extended at his feet, and still holding a razor
in his hand, the dead body of his unhappy father, a horrible wound in his
throat, and his thin gray hair in a pool of blood!

He was still trembling with this frightful hallucination when somebody
knocked at his door. It was the concierge, who brought him two letters.

The first was stamped with the celebrated name:

"Comedie Francaise, 1680." The manager announced in the most gracious
terms that he had read with the keenest pleasure his drama in verse,
entitled L'Atelier, and he hoped that the reading committee would accept
this work.

"Too late!" thought the young poet, as he tore open the other envelope.

This second letter bore the address of a Paris notary, and informed M.
Amedee Violette that M. Isidore Gaufre had died without leaving a will,
and that, as nephew of the defunct, he would receive a part of the
estate, still difficult to appraise, but which would not be less than two
hundred and fifty or three hundred thousand francs.

Success and fortune! Everything came at once! Amedee was at first
overwhelmed with surprise; but with all these unhoped-for favors of
fortune, which did not give him the power to repair his misfortune, the
noble poet deeply realized that riches and glory were not equal to a
great love or a beautiful dream, and, completely upset by the irony of
his fate, he broke into a harsh burst of laughter.

CHAPTER XV

REPARATION

The late M. Violette was not mistaken when he supposed M. Gaufre capable
of disinheriting his family in favor of his servant-mistress, but
Berenice was wanting in patience. The rough beard and cap of an
irresistible sergeant-major were the ruin of the girl. One Sunday, when
M. Gaufre, as usual, recited vespers at St. Sulpice, he found that for
the first time in his life he had forgotten his snuff-box. The holy
offices were unbearable to this hypocritical person unless frequently
broken by a good pinch of snuff. Instead of waiting for the final
benediction and then going to take his usual walk, he left his church
warden's stall and returned unexpectedly to the Rue Servandoni, where he
surprised Berenice in a loving interview with her military friend. The
old man's rage was pitiful to behold. He turned the Normandy beauty
ignominiously out of doors, tore up the will he had made in her favor,
and died some weeks after from indigestion, and left, in spite of
himself, all his fortune to his natural heirs.

Amedee's drama had been accepted by the Comedie Francaise, but was not to
be brought out until spring. The notary in charge of his uncle's estate
had advanced him a few thousand francs, and, feeling sad and not having
the courage to be present at the marriage of Maurice and Maria, the poet
wished at least to enjoy, in a way, his new fortune and the independence
that it gave him; so he resigned his position and left for a trip to
Italy, in the hope of dissipating his grief.

Ah, never travel when the heart is troubled! You sleep with the echo of
a dear name in your thoughts, and the half sleep of nights on a train is
feverish and full of nightmares. Amedee suffered tortures from it. In
the midst of the continual noise of the cars he thought he could hear sad
voices crying loudly the name of a beloved lost one. Sometimes the
tumult would become quiet for a little; brakes, springs, wheels, all
parts of the furious cast-iron machine seemed to him tired of howling the
deafening rhythmical gallop, and the vigorously rocked traveller could
distinguish in the diminished uproar a strain of music, at first confused
like a groan, then more distinct, but always the same cruel, haunting
monotone--the fragment of a song that Maria once sang when they were both
children. Suddenly a mournful and prolonged whistle would resound
through the night. The express rushed madly into a tunnel. Under the
sonorous roof, the frightful concert redoubled, exasperating him among
all these metallic clamors; but Amedee still heard a distant sound like
that of a blacksmith's hammer, and each heavy blow made his heart bound
painfully.

Ah! never travel, and above all, never travel alone, if your heart is
sad! How hostile and inhospitable the first sensation is that one feels
then when entering an unknown city! Amedee was obliged to submit to the
tiresome delay of looking after his baggage in a commonplace station; the
hasty packing into an omnibus of tired-out travellers, darting glances of
bad humor and suspicion; to the reception upon the hotel steps by the
inevitable Swiss porter with his gold-banded cap, murdering all the
European languages, greeting all the newcomers, and getting mixed in his
"Yes, sir," "Ja, wohl," and "Si, signor." Amedee was an inexperienced
tourist, who did not drag along with him a dozen trunks, and had not a
rich and indolent air; so he was quickly despatched by the Swiss polyglot
into a fourth-story room, which looked out into an open well, and was so
gloomy that while he washed his hands he was afraid of falling ill and
dying there without help. A notice written in four languages hung upon
the wall, and, to add to his cheerfulness, it advised him to leave all
his valuables at the office of the hotel--as if he had penetrated a
forest infested with brigands. The rigid writing warned him still
further that they looked upon him as a probable sharper, and that his
bill would be presented every five days.

The tiresome life of railroads and table-d'hotes began for him.

He would be dragged about from city to city, like a bag of wheat or a
cask of wine. He would dwell in pretentious and monumental hotels, where
he would be numbered like a convict; he would meet the same carnivorous
English family, with whom he might have made a tour of the world without
exchanging one word; swallowing every day the tasteless soup, old fish,
tough vegetables, and insipid wine which have an international
reputation, so to speak. But above all, he was to have the horror, every
evening upon going to his room, of passing through those uniform and
desolate corridors, faintly lighted by gas, where before each door are
pairs of cosmopolitan shoes--heavy alpine shoes, filthy German boots, the
conjugal boots of my lord and my lady, which make one think, by their
size, of the troglodyte giants--awaiting, with a fatigued air, their
morning polish.

The imprudent Amedee was destined to all sorts of weariness, all sorts of
deceptions, and all the homesickness of a solitary traveller. At the
sight of the famous monuments and celebrated sites, which have become in
some way looked upon as models for painters and material for literary
development, Amedee felt that sensation of "already seen" which paralyzes
the faculty of admiration. Dare we say it? The dome in Milan, that
enormous quiver of white marble arrows, did not move him. He was
indifferent to the sublime medley of bronze in the Baptistery in
Florence; and the leaning tower at Pisa produced simply the effect of
mystification. He walked miles through the museums and silent galleries,
satiated with art and glutted with masterpieces. He was disgusted to
find that he could not tolerate a dozen "Adorations of the Shepherds," or
fourteen "Descents from the Cross," consecutively, even if they were
signed with the most glorious names. The scenes of suffering and
martyrdom, so many times repeated, were particularly distasteful to him;
and he took a still greater dislike even to a certain monk, always
represented on his knees in prayer with an axe sticking in his tonsure,
than to the everlasting St. Sebastian pierced with arrows. His deadened
and depraved attention discerned only the disagreeable and ugly side of a
work of art. In the adorable artless originals he could see only
childish and barbarous drawing, and he thought the old colorists' yolk-
of-an-egg tone monotonous.

He wished to spur his sensations, to see something extraordinary. He
travelled toward Venice, the noiseless city, the city without birds or
verdure, toward that silent country of sky, marble, and water; but once
there, the reality seemed inferior to his dream. He had not that shock
of surprise and enthusiasm in the presence of St. Mark's and the Doges'
palace which he had hoped for. He had read too many descriptions of all
these wonders; seen too many more or less faithful pictures, and in his
disenchantment he recalled a lamp-shade which once, in his own home, had
excited his childish imagination--an ugly lampshade of blue pasteboard
upon which was printed a nocturnal fete, the illuminations upon the ducal
palace being represented by a row of pin-pricks.

Once more I repeat it, never travel alone, and above all, never go to
Venice alone and without love! For young married people in their
honeymoon, or a pair of lovers, the gondola is a floating boudoir, a nest
upon the waters like a kingfisher's. But for one who is sad, and who
stretches himself upon the sombre cushions of the bark, the gondola is a
tomb.

Toward the last of January, Amedee suddenly returned to Paris. He would
not be obliged to see Maurice or his young bride at once. They had been
married one month and would remain in the South until the end of winter.
He was recalled by the rehearsals of his drama. The notary who had
charge of his affairs gave him twelve thousand pounds' income, a large
competency, which enabled him to work for the pure and disinterested love
of art, and without concessions to common people. The young poet
furnished an elegant apartment in an old and beautiful house on the Quai
d'Orsay, and sought out some of his old comrades--among others Paul
Sillery, who now held a distinguished place in journalism and reappeared
a little in society, becoming very quickly reconciled with life.

His first call was upon Madame Roger. He was very glad to see Maurice's
mother; she was a little sad, but indulgent to Maurice, and resigned to
her son's marriage, because she felt satisfied that he had acted like a
man of honor. He also went at once to Montmartre to embrace Louise and
Madame Gerard, who received him with great demonstrations. They were not
so much embarrassed in money matters, for Maurice was very generous and
had aided his wife's family. Louise gave lessons now for a proper
remuneration, and Madame Gerard was able to refuse, with tears of
gratitude, the poet's offer of assistance, who filially opened his purse
to her. He dined as usual with his old friends, and they had tact enough
not to say too much about the newly married ones; but there was one empty
place at the table. He was once more seized with thoughts of the absent,
and returned to his room that evening with an attack of the blues.

The rehearsal of his piece, which had just begun at the Comedie
Francaise, the long sittings at the theatre, and the changes to be made
from day to day, were a useful and powerful distraction for Amedee
Violette's grief. L'Atelier, when played the first week in April, did
not obtain more than a respectful greeting from the public; it was an
indifferent success. This vulgar society, these simple, plain,
sentiments, the sweetheart in a calico gown, the respectable old man in
short frock and overalls, the sharp lines where here and there boldly
rang out a slang word of the faubourg; above all, the scene representing
a mill in full activity, with its grumbling workmen, its machines in
motion, even the continual puffing of steam, all displeased the worldly
people and shocked them. This was too abrupt a change from luxurious
drawing-rooms, titled persons, aristocratic adulteresses, and
declarations of love murmured to the heroine in full toilette by a lover
leaning his elbow upon the piano, with all the airs and graces of a
first-class dandy. However, Jocquelet, in the old artisan's role, was
emphatic and exaggerated, and an ugly and commonplace debutante was an
utter failure. The criticisms, generally routine in character, were not
gracious, and the least surly ones condemned Amedee's attempt, qualifying
it as an honorable effort. There were some slashes; one "long-haired"
fellow from the Cafe de Seville failed in his criticism--the very one who
once wrote a description of the violation of a tomb--to crush the author
of L'Atelier in an ultra-classical article, wherein he protested against
realism and called to witness all the silent, sculptured authors in the
hall.

It was a singular thing, but Amedee was easily consoled over his failure.
He did not have the necessary qualities to succeed in the theatrical
line? Very well, he would give it up, that was all! It was not such a
great misfortune, upon the whole, to abandon the most difficult art of
all, but not the first; which did not allow a poet to act his own free
liking. Amedee began to compose verses for himself--for his own
gratification; to become intoxicated with his own rhymes and fancies; to
gather with a sad pleasure the melancholy flowers that his trouble had
caused to blossom in his heart.

Meanwhile summer arrived, and Maurice returned to Paris with his wife and
a little boy, born at Nice, and Amedee must go to see them, although he
knew in advance that the visit would make him unhappy.

The amateur painter was handsomer than ever. He was alone in his studio,
wearing his same red jacket. He had decorated and even crammed the room
full of luxurious and amusing knickknacks. The careless young man
received his friend as if nothing had happened between them, and after
their greetings and inquiries as to old friends, and the events that had
happened since their last meeting, they lighted their cigarettes.

"Well, what have you done?" asked the poet. "You had great projects of
work. Have you carried out your plans? Have you many sketches to show
me?"

"Upon my word, no! Almost nothing. Do you know, when I was there I
abandoned myself to living; I played the lizard in the sun. Happiness is
very engrossing, and I have been foolishly happy."

Then placing his hand upon his friend's, who sat near him, he added:

"But I owe that happiness to you, my good Amedee."

Maurice said this carelessly, in order to satisfy his conscience. Did he
remember, did he even suspect how unhappy the poet had been, and was now,
on account of this happiness? A bell rang.

"Ah!" exclaimed the master of the house, joyfully.

"It is Maria returning with the baby from a walk in the gardens. This
little citizen will be six weeks old to-morrow, and you must see what a
handsome little fellow he is already."

Amedee felt stifled with emotion. He was about to see her again! To see
her as a wife and a mother was quite different, of course.

She appeared, raising the portiere with one hand, while behind her
appeared the white bonnet and rustic face of the nurse. No! she was not
changed, but maternity, love, and a rich and easy life had expanded her
beauty. She was dressed in a fresh and charming toilette. She blushed
when she first recognized Amedee; and he felt with sadness that his
presence could only awaken unpleasant recollections in the young woman's
mind.

"Kiss each other, like old acquaintances," said the painter, laughing,
with the air of a man who is loved and sure of himself.

But Amedee contented himself with kissing the tips of her glove, and the
glance with which Maria thanked him for this reserve was one more torture
for him to endure. She was grateful to him and gave him a kind smile.

"My mother and my sister," said she, graciously, "often have the pleasure
of a visit from you, Monsieur Amedee. I hope that you will not make us
jealous, but come often to see Maurice and me."

"Maurice and me!" How soft and tender her voice and eyes became as she
said these simple words, "Maurice and me!" Ah, were they not one! How
she loved him! How she loved him!

Then Amedee must admire the baby, who was now awake in his nurse's arms,
aroused by his father's noisy gayety. The child opened his blue eyes, as
serious as those of an old man's, and peeped out from the depth of lace,
feebly squeezing the finger that the poet extended to him.

"What do you call him?" asked Amedee, troubled to find anything to say.

"Maurice, after his father," quickly responded Maria, who also put a mint
of love into these words.

Amedee could endure no more. He made some pretext for withdrawing and
went away, promising that he would see them again soon.

"I shall not go there very often!" he said to himself, as he descended
the steps, furious with himself that he was obliged to hold back a sob.

He went there, however, and always suffered from it. He was the one who
had made this marriage; he ought to rejoice that Maurice, softened by
conjugal life and paternity, did not return to his recklessness of former
days; but, on the contrary, the sight of this household, Maria's happy
looks, the allusions that she sometimes made of gratitude to Amedee;
above all Maurice's domineering way in his home, his way of speaking to
his wife like an indulgent master to a slave delighted to obey, all
displeased and unmanned him. He always left Maurice's displeased with
himself, and irritated with the bad sentiments that he had in his heart;
ashamed of loving another's wife, the wife of his old comrade; and
keeping up all the same his friendship for Maurice, whom he was never
able to see without a feeling of envy and secret bitterness.

He managed to lengthen the distance between his visits to the young pair,
and to put another interest into his life. He was now a man of leisure,
and his fortune allowed him to work when he liked and felt inspired. He
returned to society and traversed the midst of miscellaneous parlors,
greenrooms, and Bohemian society. He loitered about these places a great
deal and lost his time, was interested by all the women, duped by his
tender imagination; always expending too much sensibility in his fancies;
taking his desires for love, and devoting himself to women.

The first of his loves was a beautiful Madame, whom he met in the
Countess Fontaine's parlors. She was provided with a very old husband
belonging to the political and financial world; a servant of several
regimes, who having on many occasions feathered his own nest, made false
statements of accounts, and betrayed his vows, his name could not be
spoken in public assemblies without being preceded by the epithet of
honorable. A man so seriously occupied in saving the Capitol, that is to
say, in courageously sustaining the stronger, approving the majorities in
all of their mean actions and thus increasing his own ground, sinecures,
tips, stocks, and various other advantages, necessarily neglected his
charming wife, and took very little notice of the ridicule that she
inflicted upon him often, and to which he seemed predestined.

The fair lady--with a wax doll's beauty, not very young, confining
herself to George Sand in literature, making three toilettes a day, and
having a large account at the dentist's--singled out the young poet with
a romantic head, and rapidly traversed with him the whole route through
the country of Love. Thanks to modern progress, the voyage is now made
by a through train. After passing the smaller stations, "blushing behind
the fan," a "significant pressure of the hand," "appointment in a
museum," etc., and halting at a station of very little importance called
"scruples" (ten minutes' pause), Amedee reached the terminus of the line
and was the most enviable of mortals. He became Madame's lapdog, the
essential ornament in her drawing-room, figured at all the dinners,
balls, and routs where she appeared, stifled his yawns at the back of her
box at the Opera, and received the confidential mission of going to hunt
for sweetmeats and chocolates in the foyer. His recompense consisted in
metaphysical conversations and sentimental seances, in which he was not
long in discovering that his heart was blinded by his emotions. At the
end of a few months of this commonplace happiness, the rupture took place
without any regrets on either side, and Amedee returned, without a pang,
the love-tokens he had received, namely: a photograph, a package of
letters in imitation of fashionable romances, written in long, angular
handwriting, after the English style, upon very chic paper; and, we must
not forget, a white glove which was a little yellowed from confinement in
the casket, like the beautiful Madame herself.

A tall girl, with a body like a goddess, who earned three hundred francs
a month by showing her costumes on the Vaudeville stage, and who gave one
louis a day to her hairdresser, gave Amedee a new experience in love,
more expensive, but much more amusing than the first. There were no more
psychological subtleties or hazy consciences; but she had fine, strong
limbs and the majestic carriage of a cardinal's mistress going through
the Rue de Constance in heavy brocade garments, to see Jean Huss burned;
and her voluptuous smile showed teeth made to devour patrimonies.
Unfortunately, Mademoiselle Rose de Juin's--that was the young lady's
theatrical name--charming head was full of the foolishness and vanity of
a poor actress. Her attacks of rage when she read an article in the
journals which cut her up, her nervous attacks and torrents of tears when
they gave her parts with only fifteen lines in a new piece, had begun to
annoy Amedee, when chance gave him a new rival in the person of Gradoux,
an actor in the Varietes, the ugly clown whose chronic cold in the head
and ugly face seemed for twenty years so delicious to the most refined
public in the world. Relieved of a large number of bank-notes, Violette
discreetly retired.

He next carried on a commonplace romance with a pretty little girl whose
acquaintance he made one evening at a public fete. Louison was twenty
years old, and earned her living at a famous florist's, and was as pink
and fresh as an almond-bush in April. She had had only two lovers, gay
fellows--an art student first--then a clerk in a novelty store, who had
given her the not very aristocratic taste for boating. It was on the
Marne, seated near Louison in a boat moored to the willows on the Ile
d'Amour, that Amedee obtained his first kiss between two stanzas of a
boating song, and this pretty creature, who never came to see him without
bringing him a bouquet, charmed the poet. He remembered Beranger's
charming verses, "I am of the people as well, my love!" felt that he
loved, and was softened. In reality, he had turned this naive head.
Louison became dreamy, asked for a lock of his hair, which she always
carried with her in her 'porte-monnaie', went to get her fortune told to
know whether the dark-complexioned young man, the knave of clubs, would
be faithful to her for a long time. Amedee trusted this simple heart for
some time, but at length he became tired of her vulgarities. She was
really too talkative, not minding her h's and punctuating her discourse
with "for certain" and "listen to me, then," calling Amedee "my little
man," and eating vulgar dishes. One day she offered to kiss him, with a
breath that smelled of garlic. She was the one who left him, from
feminine pride, feeling that he no longer loved her, and he almost
regretted her.

Thus his life passed; he worked a little and dreamed much. He went as
rarely as possible to Maurice Roger's house. Maurice had decidedly
turned out to be a good husband, and was fond of his home and playing
with his little boy. Every time that Amedee saw Maria it meant several
days of discouragement, sorrow, and impossibility of work.

"Well! well!" he would murmur, throwing down his pen, when the young
woman's face would rise between his thoughts and his page; "I am
incurable; I shall always love her."

In the summer of 1870 Amedee, being tired of Paris, thought of a new
trip, and he was upon the point of going again, unfortunate fellow! to
see the Swiss porters who speak all the languages in the world, and to
view the melancholy boots in the hotel corridors, when the war broke out.
The poet's passage through the midst of the revolutionary "beards" in the
Cafe de Seville, and the parliamentary cravats in the Countess's drawing-
room, had disgusted him forever with politics. He also was very
suspicious of the Liberal ministers and all the different phases of the
malady that was destroying the Second Empire. But Amedee was a good
Frenchman. The assaults upon the frontiers, and the first battles lost,
made a burning blush suffuse his face at the insult. When Paris was
threatened he asked for arms, like the others, and although he had not a
military spirit, he swore to do his duty, and his entire duty, too. One
beautiful September morning he saw Trochu's gilded cap passing among the
bayonets; four hundred thousand Parisians were there, like himself, full
of good-will, who had taken up their guns with the resolve to die
steadfast. Ah, the misery of defeat! All these brave men for five
months could only fidget about the place and eat carcases. May the good
God forgive the timid and the prattler! Alas! Poor old France! After
so much glory! Poor France of Jeanne d'Arc and of Napoleon!

CHAPTER XVI

IN TIME OF WAR

The great siege lasted nearly three months. Upon the thirtieth of
November they had fought a battle upon the banks of the Marne, then for
twenty-four hours the fight had seemed to slacken, and there was a heavy
snow-storm; but they maintained that the second of December would be
decisive. That morning the battalion of the National Guard, of which
Amedee Violette was one, went out for the first time, with the order
simply to hold themselves in reserve in the third rank, by the fort's
cannons, upon a hideous plain at the east of Paris.

Truly this National Guard did not make a bad appearance. They were a
trifle awkward, perhaps, in their dark-blue hooded cloaks, with their
tin-plate buttons, and armed with breech-loading rifles, and encumbered
with canteens, basins, and pouches, all having an unprepared and too-new
look. They all came from the best parts of the city, with accelerated
steps and a loud beating of drums, and headed, if you please, by their
major on horseback, a truss-maker, who had formerly been quartermaster of
the third hussars. Certainly they only asked for service; it was not
their fault, after all, if one had not confidence in them, and if they
were not sent to the front as soon as they reached the fortifications.
While crossing the drawbridge they had sung the Marseillaise like men
ready to be shot down. What spoiled their martial appearance, perhaps,
were their strong hunting-boots, their leather leggings, knit gloves, and
long gaiters; lastly, that comfortable air of people who have brought
with them a few dainties, such as a little bread with something eatable
between, some tablets of chocolate, tobacco, and a phial filled with old
rum. They had not gone two kilometres outside the ramparts, and were
near the fort, where for the time being the artillery was silent, when a
staff officer who was awaiting them upon an old hack of a horse, merely
skin and bones, stopped them by a gesture of the hand, and said sharply
to their major to take position on the left of the road, in an open
field. They then stacked their arms there and broke ranks, and rested
until further orders.

What a dismal place! Under a canopy of dull clouds, the earth bare with
half-melted snow, with the low fort rising up before them as if in an
attitude of defence, here and there groups of ruined houses, a mill whose
tall chimney and walls had been half destroyed by shells, but where one
still read, in large black letters, these words, "Soap-maker to the
Nobility;" and through this desolated country was a long and muddy road
which led over to where the battle field lay, and in the midst of which,
presenting a symbol of death, lay the dead body of a horse.

In front of the National Guard, on the other side of the road,
a battalion, which had been strongly put to the test the night before,
were cooking. They had retreated as far as this to rest a little,
and had spent all that night without shelter under the falling snow.
Exhausted, bespattered, in rags, they were dolefully crouched around
their meagre green-wood fires; the poor creatures were to be pitied.
Underneath their misshapen caps they all showed yellow, wrinkled, and
unshaven faces. The bitter, cold wind that swept over the plain made
their thin shoulders, stooping from fatigue, shiver, and their shoulder-
blades protruded under their faded capes. Some of them were wounded,
too slightly to be sent away in the ambulance, and wore about their
wrists and foreheads bands of bloody linen. When an officer passed with
his head bent and a humiliated air, nobody saluted him. These men had
suffered too much, and one could divine an angry and insolent despair in
their gloomy looks, ready to burst out and tell of their injuries.
They would have disgusted one if they had not excited one's pity. Alas,
they were vanquished!

The Parisians were eager for news as to recent military operations, for
they had only read in the morning papers--as they always did during this
frightful siege--enigmatical despatches and bulletins purposely bristling
with strategic expressions not comprehensible to the outsider. But all,
or nearly all, had kept their patriotic hopes intact, or, to speak more
plainly, their blind fanatical patriotism, and were certain against all
reason of a definite victory; they walked along the road in little
groups, and drew near the red pantaloons to talk a little.

"Well, it was a pretty hot affair on the thirtieth, wasn't it? Is it
true that you had command of the Marne? You know what they say in Paris,
my children? That Trochu knows something new, that he is going to make
his way through the Prussian lines and join hands with the helping
armies--in a word that we are going to strike the last blow."

At the sight of these spectres of soldiers, these unhappy men broken down
with hunger and fatigue, the genteel National Guards, warmly clad and
wrapped up for the winter, commenced to utter foolish speeches and big
hopes which had been their daily food for several months: "Break the iron
circle;" "not one inch, not a stone;" "war to the knife;" "one grand
effort," etc. But the very best talkers were speedily discouraged by the
shrugging of shoulders and ugly glances of the soldiers, that were like
those of a snarling cur.

Meanwhile, a superb sergeant-major of the National Guard, newly equipped,
a big, full-blooded fellow, with a red beard, the husband of a
fashionable dressmaker, who every evening at the beer-house, after his
sixth glass of beer would show, with matches, an infallible plan for
blocking Paris and crushing the Prussian army like pepper, and was
foolish enough to insist upon it.

"Now then, you, my good fellow," said he, addressing an insignificant
corporal just about to eat his stew, as if he were questioning an old
tactician or a man skilled like Turenne or Davoust; "do you see? you hit
it in this affair of day before yesterday. Give us your opinion. Are
the positions occupied by Ducrot as strong as they pretend? Is it
victory for to-day?"

The corporal turned around suddenly; with a face the color of boxwood,
and his blue eyes shining with rage and defiance, he cried in a hoarse
voice:

"Go and see for yourselves, you stay-at-homes!"

Saddened and heart-broken at the demoralization of the soldiers, the
National Guards withdrew.

"Behold the army which the Empire has left us!" said the dressmaker's
husband, who was a fool.

Upon the road leading from Paris, pressing toward the cannon's mouth
which was commencing to grumble again in the distance, a battalion of
militia arrived, a disorderly troop. They were poor fellows from the
departments in the west, all young, wearing in their caps the Brittany
coat-of-arms, and whom suffering and privation had not yet entirely
deprived of their good country complexions. They were less worn out than
the other unfortunate fellows whose turn came too often, and did not feel
the cold under their sheepskins, and still respected their officers, whom
they knew personally, and were assured in case of accident of absolution
given by one of their priests, who marched in the rear file of the first
company, with his cassock tucked up and his Roman hat over his eyes.
These country fellows walked briskly, a little helter-skelter, like their
ancestors in the time of Stofflet and M. de la Rochejaquelin, but with a
firm step and their muskets well placed upon their shoulders, by Ste.
Anne! They looked like soldiers in earnest.

When they passed by the National Guard, the big blond waved his cap in
the air, furiously shouting at the top of his lungs:

"Long live the Republic!"

But once more the fanatical patriot's enthusiasm fell flat. The Bretons
were marching into danger partly from desire, but more from duty and
discipline. At the very first shot these simple-minded creatures reach
the supreme wisdom of loving one's country and losing one's life for it,
if necessary, without interesting themselves in the varied mystifications
one calls government. Four or five of the men, more or less astonished
at the cry which greeted them, turned their placid, countrified faces
toward the National Guard, and the battalion passed by.

The dressmaker's husband--he did nothing at his trade, for his wife
adored him, and he spent at cafes all the money which she gave him--was
extremely scandalized. During this time Amedee Violette was dreamily
walking up and down before the stacks of guns. His warlike ardor of the
first few days had dampened. He had seen and heard too many foolish
things said and done since the beginning of this horrible siege; had
taken part too many times in one of the most wretched spectacles in which
a people can show vanity in adversity. He was heart broken to see his
dear compatriots, his dear Parisians, redouble their boasting after each
defeat and take their levity for heroism. If he admired the resignation
of the poor women standing in line before the door of a butcher's shop,
he was every day more sadly tormented by the bragging of his comrades,
who thought themselves heroes when playing a game of corks. The official
placards, the trash in the journals, inspired him with immense disgust,
for they had never lied so boldly or flattered the people with so much
low meanness. It was with a despairing heart and the certitude of final
disaster that Amedee, needing a little sleep after the fatigue, wandered
through Paris's obscure streets, barely lighted here and there by
petroleum lamps, under the dark, opaque winter sky, where the echoes of
the distant cannonading unceasingly growled like the barking of monstrous
dogs.

What solitude! The poet had not one friend, not one comrade to whom he
could confide his patriotic sorrows. Paul Sillery was serving in the
army of the Loire. Arthur Papillon, who had shown such boisterous
enthusiasm on the fourth of September, had been nominated prefet in a
Pyrenean department, and having looked over his previous studies, the
former laureate of the university examinations spent much of his time
therein, far from the firing, in making great speeches and haranguing
from the top of the balconies, in which speeches the three hundred heroes
of antiquity in a certain mountain-pass were a great deal too often
mentioned. Amedee sometimes went to see Jocquelet in the theatres, where
they gave benefit performances for the field hospitals or to contribute
to the molding of a new cannon. The actor, wearing a short uniform and
booted to the thighs, would recite with enormous success poems of the
times in which enthusiasm and fine sentiments took the place of art and
common sense. What can one say to a triumphant actor who takes himself
for a second Tyrtee, and who after a second recall is convinced that he
is going to save the country, and that Bismarck and old William had
better look after their laurels.

As to Maurice Roger, at the beginning of the campaign he sent his mother,
wife, and child into the country, and, wearing the double golden stripe
of a lieutenant upon his militia jacket, he was now at the outposts near
his father's old friend, Colonel Lantz.

Owing to a scarcity of officers, they had fished up the old Colonel from
the depths of his engineer's office, and had torn him away from his
squares and compasses. Poor old fellow! His souvenirs of activity went
as far back as the Crimea and Sebastopol. Since that time he had not
even seen a pickaxe glisten in the sun, and, behold, they asked this
worthy man to return to the trench, and to powder his despatches with
earth ploughed up by bombs, like Junot at Toulon in the fearless battery.

Well, he did not say "No," and after kissing his three portionless
daughters on the forehead, he took his old uniform, half-eaten up by
moths, from a drawer, shook the grains of pepper and camphor from it,
and, with his slow, red-tapist step, went to make his excavators work as
far as possible from the walls and close by the Prussians. I can tell
you, the men of the auxiliary engineers and the gentlemen with the
American-caps had not joked for some time over his African cape or his
superannuated cap, which seemed to date from Pere Bugeaud. One day, when
a German bomb burst among them, and they all fell to the ground excepting
Colonel Lantz, who had not flinched. He tranquilly settled his glasses
upon his nose and wiped off his splashed beard as coolly as he had, not
long since, cleaned his India-ink brushes. Bless me! it gave you a
lesson, gentlemen snobs, to sustain the honor of the special army, and
taught you to respect the black velvet plastron and double red bands on
the trousers. In spite of his appearance of absence of mind and
deafness, the Colonel had just before heard murmured around him the words
"old Lantz," and "old dolphin." Very well, gentlemen officers, you know
now that the old army was composed of good material!

Maurice Roger was ordered from his battalion to Colonel Lantz, and did
his duty like a true soldier's son, following his chief into the most
perilous positions, and he no longer lowered his head or bent his
shoulders at the whistling of a bomb. It was genuine military blood that
flowed in his veins, and he did not fear death; but life in the open air,
absence from his wife, the state of excitement produced by the war, and
this eagerness for pleasure common to all those who risk their lives, had
suddenly awakened his licentious temperament. When his service allowed
him to do so, he would go into Paris and spend twenty-four hours there,
profiting by it to have a champagne dinner at Brebant's or Voisin's, in
company with some beautiful girl, and to eat the luxurious dishes of that
time, such as beans, Gruyere cheese, and the great rarity which had been
secretly raised for three months on the fifth floor, a leg of mutton.

One evening Amedee Violette was belated upon the boulevards, and saw
coming out of a restaurant Maurice in full uniform, with one of the
pretty comedienes from the Varietes leaning upon his arm. This meeting
gave Amedee one heart-ache the more. It was for such a husband as this,
then, that Maria, buried in some country place, was probably at this very
time overwhelmed with fears about his safety. It was for this
incorrigible rake that she had disdained her friend from childhood,
and scorned the most delicate, faithful, and tender of lovers.

Finally, to kill time and to flee from solitude, Amedee went to the Cafe
de Seville, but he only found a small group of his former acquaintances
there. No more literary men, or almost none. The "long-haired" ones had
to-day the "regulation cut," and wore divers head-gears, for the most of
the scattered poets carried cartridge-boxes and guns; but some of the
political "beards" had not renounced their old customs; the war and the
fall of the Empire had been a triumph for them, and the fourth of
September had opened every career for them. Twenty of these "beards" had
been provided with prefectures; at least all, or nearly all, of them
occupied public positions. There was one in the Government of National
Defence, and three or four others, chosen from among the most rabid ones,
were members of the Committee on Barricades; for, improbable as the thing
may seem today, this commission existed and performed its duties, a
commission according to all rules, with an organized office, a large
china inkstand, stamped paper, verbal reports read and voted upon at the
beginning of each meeting; and, around a table covered with green cloth,
these professional instigators of the Cafe de Seville, these teachers of
insurrection, generously gave the country the benefit of the practical
experience that they had acquired in practising with the game of
dominoes.

The "beards" remaining in Paris were busied with employments more or less
considerable in the government, but did not do very much, the offices in
which they worked for France's salvation usually closed at four o'clock,
and they went as usual to take their appetizers at the Cafe de Seville.
It was there that Amedee met them again, and mixed anew in their
conversations, which now dwelt exclusively upon patriotic and military
subjects. These "beards" who would none of them have been able to
command "by the right flank" a platoon of artillery, had all at once been
endowed by some magical power with the genius of strategy. Every
evening, from five to seven, they fought a decisive battle upon each
marble table, sustained by the artillery of the iced decanter which
represented Mount Valerien, a glass of bitters, that is to say, Vinoy's
brigade, feigned to attack a saucer representing the Montretout
batteries; while the regular army and National Guard, symbolized by a
glass of vermouth and absinthe, were coming in solid masses from the
south, and marching straight into the heart of the enemy, the match-box.

There were scheming men among these "beards," and particularly terrible
inventors, who all had an infallible way of destroying at a blow the
Prussian army, and who accused General Trochu of treason, and of refusing
their offers, giving as a reason the old prejudices of military laws
among nations. One of these visionary people had formerly been physician
to a somnambulist, and took from his pocket--with his tobacco and
cigarette papers--a series of bottles labelled: cholera, yellow fever,
typhus fever, smallpox, etc., and proposed as a very simple thing to go
and spread these epidemics in all the German camps, by the aid of a
navigable balloon, which he had just invented the night before upon going
to bed. Amedee soon became tired of these braggarts and lunatics, and no
longer went to the Cafe de Seville. He lived alone and shut himself up
in his discouragement, and he had never perhaps had it weigh more heavily
upon his shoulders than this morning of the second of December, the last
day of the battle of Champigny, while he was sadly promenading before the
stacked guns of his battalion.

The dark clouds, heavy with snow, were hurrying by, the tormenting rumble
of the cannons, the muddy country, the crumbling buildings, and these
vanquished soldiers shivering under their rags, all threw the poet into
the most gloomy of reveries. Then humanity so many ages, centuries,
perhaps, old, had only reached this point: Hatred, absurd war,
fratricidal murder! Progress? Civilization? Mere words! No rest, no
peaceful repose, either in fraternity or love! The primitive brute
always reappears, the right of the stronger to hold in its clutches the
pale cadaver of justice! What is the use of so many religions,
philosophies, all the noble dreams, all the grand impulses of the thought
toward the ideal and good? This horrible doctrine of the pessimists was
true then! We are, then, like animals, eternally condemned to kill each
other in order to live? If that is so, one might as well renounce life,
and give up the ghost!

Meanwhile the cannonading now redoubled, and with its tragic grumbling
was mingled the dry crackling sound of the musketry; beyond a wooded
hillock, which restricted the view toward the southeast, a very thick
white smoke spread over the horizon, mounting up into the gray sky. The
fight had just been resumed there, and it was getting hot, for soon the
ambulances and army-wagons drawn by artillery men began to pass. They
were full of the wounded, whose plaintive moans were heard as they
passed. They had crowded the least seriously wounded ones into the
omnibus, which went at a foot pace, but the road had been broken up by
the bad weather, and it was pitiful to behold these heads shaken as they
passed over each rut. The sight of the dying extended upon bloody
mattresses was still more lugubrious to see. The frightful procession of
the slaughtered went slowly toward the city to the hospitals, but the
carriages sometimes stopped, only a hundred steps from the position
occupied by the National Guards, before a house where a provisionary
hospital had been established, and left their least transportable ones
there. The morbid but powerful attraction that horrible sights exert
over a man urged Amedee Violette to this spot. This house had been
spared from bombardment and protected from pillage and fire by the Geneva
flag; it was a small cottage which realized the dream of every shopkeeper
after he has made his fortune. Nothing was lacking, not even the earthen
lions at the steps, or the little garden with its glittering weather-
vane, or the rock-work basin for goldfish. On warm days the past summer
passers-by might have seen very often, under the green arbor, bourgeoisie
in their shirt-sleeves and women in light dresses eating melons together.
The poet's imagination fancied at once this picture of a Parisian's
Sunday, when suddenly a young assistant appeared at an open window on the
first floor, wiping his hands upon his blood-stained apron. He leaned
out and called to a hospital attendant, that Amedee had not noticed
before, who was cutting linen upon a table in the garden:

"Well, Vidal, you confounded dawdler," exclaimed he, impatiently, "are
those bandages ready? Good God! are we to have them to-day or
tomorrow?"

"Make room, if you please!" said at this moment a voice at Amedee's
elbow, who stepped aside for two stretchers borne by four brothers of the
Christian doctrine to pass. The poet gave a start and a cry of terror.
He recognized in the two wounded men Maurice Roger and Colonel Lantz.

Wounded, both of them, yes! and mortally. Only one hour ago.

Affairs had turned out badly for us down there, then, on the borders of
the Marne. They did a foolish thing to rest one day and give the enemy
time to concentrate his forces; when they wished to renew the attack they
dashed against vast numbers and formidable artillery. Two generals
killed! So many brave men sacrificed! Now they beat a retreat once more
and lose the ground. One of the chief generals, with lowered head and
drooping shoulders, more from discouragement than fatigue, stood glass in
hand, observing from a distance our lines, which were breaking.

"If we could fortify ourselves there at least," said he, pointing to an
eminence which overlooked the river, "and establish a redoubt--in one
night with a hundred picks it could be done. I do not believe that the
enemy's fire could reach this position--it is a good one."

"We could go there and see, General," said some one, very quietly.

It was Pere Lantz, the "old dolphin," who was standing there with Maurice
beside him and three or four of the auxiliary engineers; and, upon my
word, in spite of his cap, which seemed to date from the time of Horace
Vernet's "Smala," the poor man, with his glasses upon his nose, long
cloak, and pepper colored beard, had no more prestige than a policeman in
a public square, one of those old fellows who chase children off the
grass, threatening them with their canes.

"When I say that the German artillery will not reach there," murmured the
head general, "I am not sure of it. But you are right, Colonel. We must
see. Send two of your men."

"With your permission, General," said Pere Lantz, "I will go myself."
Maurice bravely added at once:

"Not without me, Colonel!"

"As you please," said the General, who had already pointed his glass upon
another point of the battlefield.

Followed by the only son of his companion in arms in Africa and the
Crimea, this office clerk and dauber in watercolors walked to the front
as tranquilly as he would have gone to the minister's office with his
umbrella under his arm. At the very moment when the two officers reached
the plateau, a projectile from the Prussian batteries fell upon a chest
and blew it up with a frightful uproar. The dead and wounded were heaped
upon the ground. Pere Lantz saw the foot-soldiers fleeing, and the
artillery men harnessing their wagons.

"What!" exclaimed he, rising up to his full height, "do they abandon the
position?"

The Colonel's face was transfigured; opening wide his long cloak and
showing his black velvet plastron upon which shone his commander's cross,
he drew his sword, and, putting his cap upon the tip of it, bareheaded,
with his gray hair floating in the wind, with open arms he threw himself
before the runaways.

"Halt!" he commanded, in a thundering tone. "Turn about, wretches, turn
about! You are here at a post of honor. Form again, my men! Gunners,
to your places! Long life to France!"

Just then a new shell burst at the feet of the Colonel and of Maurice,
and they both fell to the ground.

Amedee, staggering with emotion and a heart bursting with grief and fear,
entered the hospital behind the two litters.

"Put them in the dining-room," said one of the brothers. "There is
nobody there. The doctor will come immediately."

The young man with the bloody apron came in at once, and after a look at
the wounded man he gave a despairing shake of the head, and, shrugging
his shoulders, said:

"There is nothing to be done they will not last long."

In fact, the Colonel was dying. They had thrown an old woollen covering
over him through which the hemorrhage showed itself by large stains of
blood which were constantly increasing and penetrating the cloth. The
wounded man seemed to be coming out of his faint; he half opened his
eyes, and his lips moved.

The doctor, who had just come in, came up to the litter upon which the
old officer was lying and leaned over him.

"Did you wish to say anything?" he asked.

The old Colonel, without moving his head, turned his sad gaze upon the
surgeon, oh! so sad, and in. a voice scarcely to be heard he murmured:

"Three daughters--to marry--without a dowry! Three--three--!"

Then he heaved a deep sigh, his blue eyes paled and became glassy.
Colonel Lantz was dead.

Do not despair, old military France! You will always have these simple-
hearted soldiers who are ready to sacrifice themselves for your flag,
ready to serve you for a morsel of bread, and to die for you, bequeathing
their widows and orphans to you! Do not despair, old France of the one
hundred years' war and of '92!

The brothers, who wore upon their black robes the red Geneva cross, were
kneeling around the body and praying in a low tone. The assistant
surgeon noticed Amedee Violette for the first time, standing motionless
in a corner of the room.

"What are you doing here?" he asked him, brusquely.

"I am this poor officer's friend," Amedee replied, pointing to Maurice.

"So be it! stay with him--if he asks for a drink you have the tea there
upon the stove. You, gentlemen," added he, addressing the brothers, who
arose after making the sign of the cross, "you will return to the battle-
field, I suppose?"

They silently bowed their heads, the eldest of them closed the dead man's
eyes. As they were all going out together, the assistant surgeon said to
them, in a petulant tone of voice:

"Try to bring me some not quite so much used up."

Maurice Roger was about to die, too. His shirt was stained with blood,
and a stream ran down from his forehead upon his blond moustache, but he
was still beautiful in his marble-like pallor. Amedee carefully raised
up one of the wounded man's arms and placed it upon the stretcher,
keeping his friend's hand in his own. Maurice moved slightly at the
touch, and ended by opening his eyes.

"Ah, how thirsty I am!" he groaned.

Amedee went to the stove and got the pot of tea, and leaned over to help
the unfortunate man drink it. Maurice looked at him with surprise. He
recognized Amedee.

"You, Amedee!--where am I, then?"

He attempted in vain to rise. His head dropped slightly to the left, and
he saw, not two steps from him, the lifeless body of his old colonel,
with eyes closed and features already calmed by the first moments of
perfect repose.

"My Colonel!" said he. "Ah! I understand--I remember-! How they ran
away--miserable cowards! But you, Amedee? Why are you here--?"

His friend could not restrain his tears, and Maurice murmured:

"Done for, am I not?"

"No, no!" exclaimed Amedee, with animation. "They are going to dress
your wounds at once--They will come soon! Courage, my good Maurice!
Courage!"

Suddenly the wounded man had a terrible chill; his teeth chattered, and
he said again:

"I am thirsty!--something to drink, my friend!--give me something to
drink!"

A few swallows of tea calmed him a little. He closed his eyes as if to
rest, but a moment after he opened them, and, fixing them upon his
friend's face, he said to him in a faint voice:

"You know--Maria, my wife--marry her--I confide them to you--she and my
son--"

Then, doubtless tired out by the fatigue of having spoken these words, he
seemed to collapse and sink down into the litter, which was saturated now
with his blood. A moment later he began to pant for breath. Amedee
knelt by his side, and tears fell upon his hands, while between the dying
man's gasps he could hear in the distance, upon the battlefield, the
uninterrupted rumbling of the cannon as it mowed down others.

CHAPTER XVII

"WHEN YOUTH, THE DREAM, DEPARTS"

The leaves are falling!

This October afternoon is deliciously serene, there is not a cloud in the
grayish-blue sky, where the sun, which has shed a pure and steady light
since morning, has begun majestically to decline, like a good king who
has grown old after a long and prosperous reign. How soft the air is!
How calm and fresh! This is certainly one of the most beautiful of
autumn days. Below, in the valley, the river sparkles like liquid
silver, and the trees which crown the hill-tops are of a lurid gold and
copper color. The distant panorama of Paris is grand and charming, with
all its noted edifices and the dome of the Invalides shining like gold
outlined upon the horizon. As a loving and coquettish woman, who wishes
to be regretted, gives at the moment of departure her most intoxicating
smile to a friend, so the close of autumn had put on for one of her last
days all her splendid charms.

But the leaves are falling!

Amedee Violette is walking alone in his garden at Meudon. It is his
country home, where he has lived for eight years. A short time after the
close of the war he married Maurice's widow. He is walking upon the
terrace planted with lindens that are now more than half-despoiled of
their leaves, admiring the beautiful picture and thinking.

He is celebrated, he has worked hard and has built up a reputation by
good, sincere books, as a poet. Doubtless, some persons are still
jealous of him, and he is often treated with injustice, but he is
estimated by the dignity of his life, which his love of art fills
entirely, and he occupies a superior position in literature. Although
his resources are modest, they are sufficient to exempt him from
anxieties of a trivial nature. Living far from society, in the close
intimacy of those that he loves, he does not know the miseries of
ambition and vanity. Amedee Violette should be happy.

His old friend, Paul Sillery, who breakfasted with him that morning in
Meudon, is condemned to daily labor and the exhausting life of a
journalist; and when he was seated in the carriage which took him back
to Paris that morning, to forced labor, to the article to be knocked off
for tomorrow, in the midst of the racket and chattering of an editor's
office, beside an interrupted cigar laid upon the edge of a table, he
heaved a deep sigh as he thought of Amedee.

Ah, this Violette was to be envied! With money, home, and a family, he
was not obliged to disseminate his ideas right and left. He had leisure,
and could stop when he was not in the spirit of writing; he could think
before he wrote and do some good work. It was not astonishing, to be
sure, that he produced veritable works of art when he is cheered by the
atmosphere of affection. First, he adores his wife, that is easily seen,
and he looks upon Maurice's little son as his own, the little fellow is
so pretty and attractive with his long, light curls. Certainly, one can
see that Madame Violette has a never-to-be-forgotten grief, but what a
kind and grateful glance she gives her husband! Could anything be more
touching than Louise Gerard, that excellent old maid, the life of the
house, who has the knack of making pleasing order and elegant comfort
reign in the house, while she surrounds her mother, the paralytic
Grandmother Gerard, with every care? Truly, Amedee has arranged his life
well. He loves and is loved: he has procured for mind and body valuable
and certain customs. He is a wise and fortunate man.

While Paul Sillery, buried in the corner of a carriage, allowed himself
to be almost carried away by jealousy of his friend, Amedee, detained by
the charm of this beautiful day which is drawing to a close, walks with
slow, lingering steps under the lindens on the terrace.

The leaves are falling around him!

A very slight breeze is rising, the blue sky is fading a little below; in
the nearest Paris suburb the windows are shining in the oblique rays of
the setting sun. It will soon be night, and upon this carpet of dead
leaves, which crackle under the poet's tread, other leaves will fall.
They fall rarely, slowly, but continually. The frost of the night before
has blighted them all. Dried up and rusty, they barely hang to the
trees, so that the slightest wind that passes over them gathers them one
after another, detaching them from their branches; whirling an instant in
the golden light, they at last rejoin, with a sad little sound, their
withered sisters, who sprinkle the gravel walks. The leaves fall, the
leaves fall!

Amedee Violette is filled with melancholy.

He ought to be happy. What can he reproach destiny with? Has he not the
one he always desired for his wife? Is she not the sweetest and best of
companions for him? Yes! but he knows very well that she consented to
marry him in order to obey Maurice's last wish, he knows very well that
Maria's heart is buried in the soldier's grave at Champigny. She has set
apart a sanctuary within herself where burns, as a perpetual light, the
remembrance of the adored dead, of the man to whom she gave herself
without reserve, the father of her son, the hero who tore himself from
her arms to shed his blood for his country.

Amedee may be certain of the gratitude and devotion of his wife, but he
never will have her love, for Maurice, a posthumous rival, rises between
them. Ah, this Maurice! He had loved Maria very little or not very
faithfully! She should remember that he had first betrayed her, that but
for Amedee he would have abandoned her and she never would have been his
wife. If she knew that in Paris when she was far away he had deceived
her! But she never would know anything of it, for Amedee has too much
delicacy to hurt the memory of the dead, and he respects and even admires
this fidelity of illusion and love in Maria. He suffers from it.
The one to whom he has given his name, his heart, and his life, is
inconsolable, and he must be resigned to it. Although remarried, she is
a widow at the bottom of her heart, and it is in vain that she puts on
bright attire, her eyes and her smile are in mourning forever.

How could she forget her Maurice when he is before her every day in her
son, who is also named Maurice and whose bright, handsome face strikingly
resembles his father's? Amedee feels a presentiment that in a few years
this child will be another Maurice, with the same attractions and vices.
The poet does not forget that his dying friend confided the orphan to
him, and he endeavors to be kind and good to him and to bring him up
well. He sometimes has a feeling of sorrow when he discovers the same
instincts and traits in the child as in the man whom he had so dearly
loved and who had made him such trouble; in spite of all, he can not feel
the sentiments of a father for another's son. His own union has been
sterile.

Poor Amedee! Yet he is envied! The little joy that he has is mingled
with grief and sorrow, and he dares not confide it to the excellent
Louise--who suspects it, however--whose old and secret attachment for him
he surmises now, and who is the good genius of his household. Had he
only realized it before! It might have been happiness, genuine happiness
for him!

The leaves fall! the leaves fall!

After breakfast, while they were smoking their cigars and walking along
beside the masses of dahlias, upon which the large golden spider had spun
its silvery web, Amedee Violette and Paul Sillery had talked of times
past and the comrades of their youth. It was not a very gay
conversation, for since then there had been the war, the Commune. How
many were dead! How many had disappeared! And, then, this retrospective
review proves to one that one can be entirely deceived as to certain
people, and that chance is master.

Such an one, whom they had once considered as a great prose writer, as
the leader of a sect, and whose doctrines of art five or six faithful
disciples spread while copying his waistcoats and even imitating his
manner of speaking with closed teeth, is reduced to writing stories for
obscene journals. "Chose," the fiery revolutionist, had obtained a good
place; and the modest "Machin," a man hardly noticed in the clubs, had
published two exquisite books, genuine works of art.

All of the "beards" and "long-haired" men had taken unexpected paths.
But the politicians, above all, were astonishing in the variety of their
destinies. Among the cafe's frequenters at the hour for absinthe one
could count eight deputies, three ministers, two ambassadors, one
treasurer, and thirty exiles at Noumea awaiting the long-expected
amnesty. The most interesting, everything considered, is that imbecile,
that old fanatic of a Dubief, the man that never drank anything but
sweetened water; for he, at least, was shot on the barricades by the
Versaillese soldiers.

One person of whom the very thought disgusted the two friends was that
jumping-jack of an Arthur Papillon. Universal suffrage, with its
accustomed intelligence, had not failed to elect this nonentity and
bombastic fool, and to-day he flounders about like a fish out of water in
the midst of this political cesspool. Having been enriched by a large
dowry, he has been by turns deputy, secretary, vice-president, president,
head of committees, under secretary of State, in one word, everything
that it was possible to be. For the time being he rants against the
clergy, and his wife, who is ugly, rich, and pious, has just put their
little girl into the Oiseaux school. He has not yet become minister,
but rest assured he will reach that in time. He is very vain, full of
confidence in himself, not more honest than necessary, and very
obtrusive. Unless in the meantime they decide to establish a rotation
providing that all the deputies be ministers by turns, Arthur Papillon is
the inevitable, necessary man mentioned. In such a case, this would be
terrible, for his eloquence would flow in torrents, and he would be one
of the most agitating of microbes in the parliamentary culture.

And Jocquelet? Ah! the two friends only need to speak his name to burst
into peals of laughter, for the illustrious actor now fills the universe
with his glory and ridiculousness. Jocquelet severed the chain some time
ago which bound him to the Parisian theatres. Like the tricolored flag,
he has made the tour of Europe several times; like the English standard,
he has crossed every ocean. He is the modern Wandering Actor, and the
capitals of the Old World and both Americas watch breathless with desire
for him to deign to shower over them the manna of his monologues. At
Chicago, they detached his locomotive, and he intended, at the sight of
this homage proportioned to his merits, to become a naturalized American
citizen. But they proposed a new tour for him in old Europe, and out of
filial remembrance he consented to return once more among us. As usual,
he gathered a cartload of gold and laurels. He was painfully surprised
upon reaching Stockholm by water not to be greeted by the squadrons with
volleys of artillery, as was once done in honor of a famous cantatrice.
Let Diplomacy look sharp! Jocquelet is indifferent to the court of
Sweden!

After Paul Sillery's departure Amedee turned over in his mind various
other recollections of former days. He has been a trifle estranged from
Madame Roger since his marriage to Maria, but he sometimes takes little
Maurice to see her. She has sheltered and given each of Colonel Lantz's
daughters a dowry. Pretty Rosine Combarieu's face rises up before him,
his childhood's companion, whom he met at Bullier's and never has seen
since. What has become of the poor little creature? Amedee almost hopes
that she is dead. Ah, how sad these old memories are in the autumn, when
the leaves are falling and the sun is setting!

It has set, it has plunged beneath the horizon, and suddenly all is dark.
Over the darkened landscape in the vast pearl-colored sky spreads the
melancholy chill which follows the farewell of day. The white smoke from
the city has turned gray, the river is like a dulled mirror. A moment
ago, in the sun's last rays, the dead leaves, as they fell, looked like a
golden rain, now they seem a dark snow.

Where are all your illusions and hopes of other days, Amedee Violette?
You think this evening of the rapid flight of years, of the snowy flakes
of winter which are beginning to fall on your temples. You have the
proof to-day of the impossibility of absolutely requited love in this
world. You know that happiness, or what is called so, exists only by
snatches and lasts only a moment, and how commonplace it often is and how
sad the next day! You depend upon your art for consolation. Oppressed
by the monotonous ennui of living, you ask for the forgetfulness that
only the intoxication of poetry and dreams can give you. Alas! Poor
sentimentalist, your youth is ended!

And still the leaves fall!

ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Egotists and cowards always have a reason for everything
Eternally condemned to kill each other in order to live
God forgive the timid and the prattler!
Happiness exists only by snatches and lasts only a moment
He almost regretted her
He does not know the miseries of ambition and vanity
How sad these old memorics are in the autumn
Never travel when the heart is troubled!
Not more honest than necessary
Poor France of Jeanne d'Arc and of Napoleon
Redouble their boasting after each defeat
Take their levity for heroism
The leaves fall! the leaves fall!
Universal suffrage, with its accustomed intelligence
Were certain against all reason

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