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Captain Fracasse by Theophile Gautier

Part 2 out of 9

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chariot, and despite the loud creaking and groaning that
accompanied its every movement as it went slowly lumbering along,
and the shrill cries of the driver to his oxen, they were all
soon asleep again, excepting de Sigognac, who walked beside the
chariot, lost in thoughts of Isabelle's beauty, grace and
modesty, and adorable goodness, which seemed better suited to a
young lady of noble birth than a wandering actress. He tormented
himself with trying to devise some means to induce her to
reciprocate the ardent love that filled his heart for her, not
for an instant suspecting that it was already a fait accompli,
and that the sweet, pure maiden had given him, unasked, her
gentle, faithful heart. The bashful young baron imagined all
sorts of romantic and perilous incidents in which he might
constitute himself her knight and protector, and show such brave
and tender devotion to her as he had read of in the old books of
chivalry; and which might lead up to the avowal he was burning to
make, yet dared not. It never occurred to him that the look in
his dark eyes whenever they rested on her face, the tone of his
voice when he addressed her, the deep sighs he vainly sought to
stifle, and the tender, eager care with which he strove to
anticipate her every wish had spoken for him, as plainly as any
words could do; and that, though he had not dared to breathe one
syllable of his passionate love to Isabelle, she knew it,
rejoiced in it, and was proud of it, and that it filled her with
a delicious, rapturous joy, such as she had never felt before, or
even dreamed of.

The morning began to break--the narrow band of pale light on the
horizon, which was growing rapidly brighter and assuming a rosy
tinge, was reflected here and there in the little pools of water
that shone like bits of a broken mirror scattered over the
ground--distant sounds were heard, and columns of smoke rising
into the still morning air proved that even in this desolate,
God-forsaken part of the Landes there were human habitations to
be found. Stalking along with giant strides on the highest part
of some rising ground not very far off was a grotesque figure,
clearly defined against the bright eastern sky, which would have
been a puzzle to a stranger, but was a familiar sight to de
Sigognac--a shepherd mounted on his high stilts, such as are to
be met with everywhere throughout the Landes.

But the young baron was too much absorbed in his own engrossing
thoughts to take any note of his surroundings as he kept pace
with the slow-moving chariot, until his eye was caught and his
attention fixed by a strange little point of light, glittering
among the sombre pines that formed the dense grove where we left
Agostino and Chiquita sleeping. He wondered what it could be--
certainly not a glow-worm, the season for them was past long
ago--and he watched it as he advanced towards it with a vague
feeling of uneasiness. Approaching nearer he caught a glimpse of
the singular group of figures lurking among the trees, and at
first feared an ambuscade; but finding that they continued
perfectly motionless he concluded that he must have been
mistaken, and that they were only old stumps after all; so he
forbore to arouse the comedians, as he had for a moment thought
of doing.

A few steps farther and suddenly a loud report was heard from the
grove, a bullet sped through the air, and struck the oxen's
yoke--happily without doing any damage, further than causing the
usually quiet, steady-going beasts to swerve violently to one
side--when fortunately a considerable heap of sand prevented the
chariot's being overturned into the ditch beside the road. The
sharp report and violent shock startled the sleeping travellers
in the chariot, and the younger women shrieked wildly in their
terror, whilst the duenna, who had met with such adventures
before, slipped the few gold pieces she had in her purse into her
shoe. Beside the chariot, from which the actors were struggiing
to extricate themselves, stood Agostino--his cloak wrapped around
his left arm and the formidable navaja in his right hand-and
cried in a voice of thunder, "Your money or your lives!
Resistance is useless! At the first sign of it my band will fire
upon you."

Whilst the bandit was shouting out these terrible words, de
Sigognac had quietly drawn his sword, and as he finished attacked
him furiously. Agostino skilfully parried his thrusts, with the
cloak on his left arm, which so disposed made an excellent
shield, and watched his opportunity to give a murderous stab with
his navaja, which indeed he almost succeeded in doing; a quick
spring to one side alone saved the baron from a wound which must
have been fatal, as the brigand threw the knife at him with
tremendous force, and it flew through the air and fell ringing
upon the ground at a marvellous distance, instead of piercing de
Sigognac's heart. His antagonist turned pale, for he was quite
defenceless, having depended entirely upon his trusty navaja,
which had never failed him before, and he very well knew that his
vaunted band could not come to his rescue. However, he shouted to
them to fire, counting upon the sudden terror that command would
inspire to deliver him from his dilemma; and, indeed, the
comedians, expecting a broadside, did take refuge behind the
chariot, whilst even our brave hero involuntarily bent his head a
little, to avoid the shower of bullets.

Meantime Chiquita, who had breathlessly watched all that passed
from her hiding place among some furze bushes close at hand, when
she saw her friend in peril, crept softly forth, glided along on
the ground like a snake until she reached the knife, lying
unnoticed where it had fallen, and, seizing it, in one instant
had restored it to Agostino, She looked like a little fury as she
did so, and if her strength had been equal to her ferocity she
would have been a formidable foe.

Agostino again aimed his navaja at the baron, who was at that
moment off his guard, and would not perhaps have escaped the
deadly weapon a second time if it had been hurled at him from
that skilful hand, but that a grasp of iron fastened upon the
desperado's wrist, just in time to defeat his purpose. He strove
in vain to extricate his right arm from the powerful grip that
held it like a vice--struggling violently, and writhing with the
pain it caused him--but he dared not turn upon this new
assailant, who was behind him, because de Sigognac would have
surely scored his back for him; and he was forced to continue
parrying his thrusts with his left arm, still protected by the
ample cloak firmly wound around it., He soon discovered that he
could not possibly free his right hand, and the agony became so
great that his fingers could no longer keep their grasp of the
knife, which fell a second time to the ground.

It was the tyrant who had come to de Sigognac's rescue, and now
suddenly roared out in his stentorian voice, "What the deuce is
nipping me? Is it a viper? I felt two sharp fangs meet in the
calf of my leg."

It was Chiquita, who was biting his leg like a dog, in the vain
hope of making him turn round and loose his hold upon Agostino;
but the tyrant shook her off with a quick movement, that sent her
rolling in the dust at some distance, without relinquishing his
captive, whilst Matamore dashed forward and picked up the navaja,
which he shut together and put into his pocket.

Whilst this scene was enacting the sun had risen, and poured a
flood of radiance upon the earth in which the sham brigands lost
much of their life-like effect. "Ha, ha!" laughed the peasant,
would appear that those gentlemen's guns take a long time to go
off; they must be wet with dew. But whatever may be the matter
with them they are miserable cowards, to stand still there at a
safe distance and leave their chief to do all the fighting by

"There is a good reason for that," answered Matamore, as he
climbed up the steep bank to them, "these are nothing but
scarecrows." And with six vigorous kicks he sent the six absurd
figures rolling in every direction, making the most comical
gestures as they fell.

"You may safely alight now, ladies," said the baron,
reassuringly, to the trembling actresses, "there's nothing more
to fear; it was only a sham battle after all."

In despair at his overwhelming defeat, Agostino hung his head
mournfully, and stood like a statue of grief, dreading lest worse
still should befall him, if the comedians, who were in too great
force for him to attempt to struggle any longer against them,
decided to take him on to the next town and deliver him over to
the jailor to be locked up, as indeed he richly deserved. His
faithful little friend, Chiquita, stood motionless at his side,
as downcast as himself. But the farce of the false brigands so
tickled the fancy of the players that it seemed as if they never
would have done laughing over it, and they were evidently
inclined to deal leniently with the ingenious rascal who had
devised it. The tyrant, who had loosened, but not quitted, his
hold upon the bandit, assumed his most tragic air and voice, and
said to him, "You have frightened these ladies almost to death,
you scoundrel, and you richly deserve to be strung up for it; but
if, as I believe, they will consent to pardon you--for they are
very kind and good---I will not take you to the lock-up. I
confess that I do not care to furnish a subject for the gallows.
Besides, your stratagem is really very ingenious and amusing--a
capital farce to play at the expense of cowardly travellers--who
have doubtless paid you well for the entertainment, eh? As an
actor, I appreciate the joke, and your ingenuity inclines me to
be indulgent. You are not simply and brutally a robber, and it
would certainly be a pity to cut short such a fine career."

"Alas!" answered Agostino mournfully, "no other career is open to
me, and I am more to be pitied than you suppose. I am the only
one left of a band formerly as complete as yours; the executioner
has deprived me of my brave comrades one by one, and now I am
obliged to carry on my operations entirely alone--dressing up my
scarecrows, as your friend calls them, and assuming different
voices to make believe that I am supported by a numerous company.
Ah! mine is a sad fate; and then my road is such a poor one--so
few travellers come this way--and I have not the means to
purchase a better one. Every good road is owned by a band of
brigands, you know. I wish that I could get some honest work to
do, but that is hopeless; who would employ such a looking fellow
as I am? all in rags and tatters, worse than the poorest beggar.
I must surely have been born under an unlucky star. And now this
attempt has failed, from which I hoped to get enough to keep us.
for two months, and buy a decent cloak for poor Chiquita besides;
she needs it badly enough, poor thing! Yesterday I had nothing to
eat, and I had to tighten my belt to sustain my empty stomach.
Your unexpected resistance has taken the very bread out of my
mouth; and since you would not let me rob you, at least be
generous and give me something."

"To be sure," said the tyrant, who was greatly amused; "as we
have prevented your successfully plying your trade we certainly
do owe you an indemnity. Here, take these two pistoles to drink
our healths with."

Isabelle meantime sought in the chariot for a piece of new
woollen stuff she happened to have with her, which was soft and
warm, and gave it to Chiquita, who exclaimed, "Oh! but it is the
necklace of shining white things that I want."

Kind Isabelle immediately unclasped it, and then fastened it
round the slender neck of the child, who was so overwhelmed with
delight that she could not speak. She silently rolled the smooth,
white beads between her little brown fingers in a sort of mute
ecstasy for a few moments, then suddenly raising her head and
tossing back her thick black hair, she fixed her sparkling eyes
on Isabelle, and said in a low, earnest voice, "Oh! you are very,
very good, and I will never, never kill you." Then she ran
swiftly back to the pine grove, clambered up the steep bank, and
sat down to admire and enjoy her treasure. As to Agostino, after
making his best bow, and thanking the tyrant for his really
princely munificence, he picked up his prostrate comrades, and
carried them back to be buried again until their services should
be needed on some, he hoped, more auspicious occasion.

The driver, who had deserted his oxen and run to hide himself
among the furze bushes at the beginning of the affray, returned
to his post when he saw that all danger was over, and the chariot
once more started upon its way--the worthy duenna having taken
her doubloons out of her shoes and restored them to her purse,
which was then deposited in the depths of a mysterious pocket.

"You behaved like a real hero of romance," Isabelle said in an
undertone to de Sigognac, "and I feel that under your protection
we can travel securely; how bravely you attacked that bandit
single-handedly when you had every reason to believe that he was
supported by an armed band."

"You overestimate my little exploit," the baron replied modestly,
"there was no danger worth mentioning," then sinking his voice to
a whisper, "but to protect you I would meet and conquer giants,
put to flight a whole host of Saracens, attack and destroy
dragons and horrid monsters; I would force my way through
enchanted forests filled with snares and perils, such as we read
of, and even descend into hell itself, like Aeneas of old. In
your dear service the most difficult feats would be easy; your
beautiful eyes inspire me with indomitable courage, and your
sweet presence, or even the bare thought of you, seems to endue
me with a super-human strength."

This was, perhaps, rather exaggerated, but perfectly sincere, and
Isabelle did not doubt for a moment that de Sigognac would be
able to accomplish fabulous deeds of prowess in her honour and
for her sake; and she was not so very far wrong, for he was
becoming hourly more passiontely enamoured of her, and ardent
young lovers are capable of prodigies of valour, inspired by the
fair objects of their adoration.

Serafina, who had overheard some of the baron's impassioned
words, could not repress a scornful smile; so many women are apt
to find the fervid protestations of lovers, when addressed to
others than themselves, supremely ridiculous, yet they joyfully
receive the very same protestations, without detecting anything
in the least absurd in them when whispered into their own ears.
For a moment she was tempted to try the power of her many charms,
which she believed to be irresistible, with the young baron, and
win him away from Isabelle; but this idea was speedily rejected,
for Serafina held beauty to be a precious gem that should be
richly set in gold--the gem was hers, but the golden setting was
lamentably wanting, and poor de Sigognac could not possibly
furnish it. So the accomplished coquette decided not to interfere
with this newly-born love affair, which was "all very well for
a simple-minded young girl like Isabelle," she said to herself,
with a disdainful smile and toss of the head.

Profound silence had fallen upon the party after the late
excitement, and some of them were even growing sleepy again, when
several hours later the driver suddenly called out, "There is the
Chateau de Bruyeres."


The extensive domain of the Marquis de Bruyeres was situated just
upon the edge of the Landes, and consisted mostly of productive,
highly-cultivated land--the barren sand reaching only to the
boundary wall of the great park that surrounded the chateau. An
air of prosperity pervaded the entire estate, in pleasing
contrast with the desolate region of country close at hand.
Outside the park wall was a broad, deep ditch, filled with clear
water and spanned by a handsome stone bridge, wide enough for two
carriages abreast, which led to the grand entrance gates. These
were of wrought iron, and quite a marvel of delicate workmanship
and beauty. There was a good deal of gilding about them, and the
lofty apex bore a marquis's crown above a shield supported by two
naked savages, upon which the de Bruyeres arms were richly
emblazoned--it was an entrance worthy of a royal demesne. When
party paused before it, in the course of the morning, a servant
in a rich, showy livery was slowly opening the folding leaves of
the magnificent gates, so as to admit them into the park. The
very oxen hesitated ere they took their slow way through it, as
if dazzled by so much splendour, and ashamed of their own
homeliness--the honest brutes little suspecting that the wealthy
nobleman's pomp and glitter are derived from the industry of the
lowly tillers of the soil. It certainly would seem as if only
fine carriages and prancing horses should be permitted to pass
through such a portal as this, but the chariot of Thespis, no
matter how humble, is privileged, and not only enters, but is
welcome everywhere.

A broad avenue led from the bridge to the chateau, passing by
carefully clipped shrubbery, whence marble statues peeped out
here and there, and a beautiful garden, with flower-beds
ingeniously laid out in geometrical pattems, and brilliant with
well contrasted colours. The narrow walks among them were
bordered with box, and strewn with fine sand of various tints,
and several little fountains threw up their sparkling jets among
the flowers. In the centre of the garden was a magnificent
fountain, with a large, oblong, marble basin, and a Triton, on a
high pedestal, pouring water from a shell. A row of yews,
skilfully trimmed into pyramids, balls, and various fanciful
shapes, and placed at regular distances on each side of the grand
avenue, extended from the entrance gates to the chateau, their
sombre hue contrasting well with the brighter green of the
foliage behind them. Everything was in the most perfect order;
not a leaf out of place, nor a particle of dust to be seen
anywhere, as if the gardeners had just freshly washed and trimmed
every tree, shrub, and plant under their care.

All this magnificence astonished and delighted the poor
comedians, who rarely gained admission to such an abode as this.
Serafina, affecting indifference, but noting everything carefully
from under her lowered eye-lashes, promised herself to supplant
the soubrette in the marquis's favour, feeling that this great
seignior was her own legitimate prey, and ought to have devoted
himself to her in the first place, instead of weakly yielding to
the vulgar blandishments of the pretty waiting-maid, as he should
no longer be permitted to do--if she had any power.

Meanwhile the soubrette, feeling sure of her conquest, had given
herself up to castle-building with all the fervour Of her ardent
southern nature. Isabelle, who was not preoccupied by any
ambitious projects, turned her head now and then to glance and
smile tenderly at de Sigognac, who was sitting in the chariot
behind her and who she knew must be feeling acutely the painful
contrast between this splendid estate and his own desolate,
half-ruined chateau. Her loving heart ached for him, and her
eyes spoke sweetest sympathy to the poor young nobleman, reduced
so low a fortune, yet so worthy of a better fate.

The tyrant was deep in thought, trying to decide how, much he
might venture to demand for the services of his troupe, and
mentally increasing the amount at every step, as new glories
disclosed themselves to his wondering eyes. The pedant was
looking forward impatiently to the copious draughts of generous
wine he felt sure of enjoying in the splendid chateau that was
now in full view, and Leander, striving to smooth his slightly
dishevelled locks with a dainty little tortoise-shell
pocket-comb, was wondering, with a fluttering heart, whether a
fair marquise dwelt within those walls, and would gaze down upon
him from one of those windows as he alighted--indulging in high
hopes of the impression he should make upon her susceptible

The Chateau de Bruyeres, which had been entirely rebuilt in the
preceding reign, was a noble structure, of immense size, three
stories in height, and enclosing a large interior court. It was
built of red brick, with elaborate, white stone facings. There
were many pretty balconies with sculptured stone railings, and
large, clear panes of glass--an unusual luxury at that epoch--in
the numerous lofty windows, through which the rich hangings
within were visible; and a projecting porch, reached by an
imposing flight of broad stone steps, in the centre of the
facade, marked the main entrance. The high, steep roof was of
slate, in several shades, wrought into a quaint, pretty pattern,
and the groups of tall chimneys were symmetrically disposed and
handsomely ornamented. There was a look of gaiety and luxury
about this really beautiful chateau which gave the idea of great
prosperity, but not the slightest approach to vulgar pretension.
There was nothing meretricious or glaring; everything was
substantial and in perfect taste, and an indescribably majestic,
dignified air, if we may be allowed the expression, pervaded the
whole establishment, which spoke of ancient wealth and nobility
under all this modern splendour.

Behind the chateau, its gardens and terraces, was a veritable
forest of lofty, venerable trees, forming the magnificent park,
which was of great extent, and for centuries had been the pride
of the Bruyeres.

Although our high-minded young hero had never been envious of any
one in his life, he could not altogether suppress the melancholy
sigh with which he remembered that in former years the de
Sigognacs had stood higher than the de Bruyeres in the province,
and had taken precedence of them at court; nor could he help
contrasting in his own mind this fresh, new chateau, replete with
every beauty and luxury that a cultivated taste could devise and
plentiful wealth procure, with his own desolate, dilapidated
mansion--the home of owls and rats--which was gradually but
surely crumbling into dust, and a keen pang shot through his
at the thought. He recalled the dreary, solitary, hopeless
life he had led there, and said to himself that the Marquis de
Bruyeres ought to be a very happy man, with so much to make his
existence delightful. The stopping of the chariot at the foot of
the broad stone steps in the front of the chateau aroused him
from his reverie; he dismissed as quickly as he could the sad
thoughts that had engrossed him, endeavoured to dismiss also the
dark shadow from his brow, and jumping lightly to the ground
turned and held out his hand to help Isabelle to descend, before
any one else could offer her that little service.

The Marquis de Bruyeres, who had seen the chariot advancing
slowly up the avenue, stood in the porch to receive them. He was
superbly dressed, and looked very handsome, as both Serafina and
the soubrette secretly remarked. He descended two or three steps
as the chariot stopped, and welcomed his guests with a friendly
wave of the hand--doing them as much honour as if they had been
of his own rank--which act of courtesy, let us hasten to explain,
was because of the Baron de Sigognac's presence among them; but
for that they would not have been brought to the main entrance at

At this moment the wily soubrette, seeing her opportunity for a
bold stroke, prepared to alight; and as de Sigognac was fully
occupied with Isabelle, and nobody else thought of paying any
attention to her--for she always jumped to the ground as lightly
as a bird, disdaining assistance--she hesitated for a moment,
with an adorable little air of timidity, and then raised an
appealing glance to the marquis. He could not resist it, and,
rushing down the steps to her aid, held out both hands to her.
With wonderful art the clever little actress managed to slip and
lose her balance, so as to fall into his extended arms, clasping
him around the neck as she did so.

"Pardon me, my lord," said she, breathlessly, to the marquis,
feigning a confusion she was far from really feeling, "I thought
I was going to fall, and grasped your collar, just as a drowning
man clutches at the nearest object. A fall is a bad omen, you
know, as well as a serious matter, for a poor actress."

"Permit me to look upon this little accident as a favour," the
marquis replied, giving her a most significant glance, and
lightly pressing her yielding form in his arms before he released

Serafina had watched this little by-play out of the corner of her
eye, though her face was apparently turned away from them, and
she bit her lip till it bled, with vexation; so after all the
soubrette had succeeded, by an abominably bold action, in
compelling the marquis to neglect her betters and give his
warmest welcome to a low intrigante, said the "leading lady" to
herself, swelling with righteous indignation, and abusing the
offender roundly in her thoughts--wishing that she could do it
aloud, and expose her outrageous, unmannerly artifice.

"Jean," said the marquis to a servant in livery who stood near,
"have this chariot taken into the court, and see that the
decorations, scenery, etc., are carefully put in some convenient
place; have the luggage of these ladies and gentlemen carried to
the rooms that I ordered to be made ready for them, and take care
that they have everything they want;" then in a lower tone, but
very emphatically, "I desire that they should be treated with the
utmost courtesy and respect."

These orders being given, the marquis gravely ascended the steps,
followed by the comedians, and having consigned them to his
major-domo to show them to their respective rooms and make them
comfortable, he gracefully bowed and left them; darting an
admiring glance at the soubrette as he did so, which she
acknowledged by a radiant smile, that Serafina, raging inwardly,
pronounced "abominably bold."

The chariot meantime had made its way into a back court,
accompanied by the tyrant, the pedant and Scapin, who
superintended the unloading of the various articles that would be
needed--a strange medley, which the supercilious servants of the
chateau, in their rich liveries, handled with a very lofty air of
contempt and condescension, feeling it quite beneath their
dignity to wait upon a band of strolling players. But they dared
not rebel, for the marquis had ordered it, and he was a severe
master, as well as a very generous one.

The major-domo, however, conducted his charges to their appointed
chambers with as profound an air of respect as if they had been
real princes and princesses; for the marquis himself had visited
the left wing of the chateau, where they were to be lodged, had
specified the room for each guest, and ordered that they should
want for nothing--a very unusual proceeding on his part, as he
was in the habit of leaving all such minor details to his trusty
major-domo. A beautiful chamber, hung with tapestry which
represented the loves of Cupid and Psyche, was given to the
soubrette, the pretty, dainty, blue one to Isabelle, and the
luxurious red one to Serafina, whilst the more sober brown one
was assigned to the duenna. The Baron de Sigognac was installed
in a magnificent apartment, whose panelled walls were covered
with richly embossed Spanish leather. It was close to Isabelle's
room--a delicate attention on the part of the marquis. This
superb chamber was always reserved for his most honoured guests,
and in giving it to our young hero he desired to testify that he
recognised and appreciated his rank, though he religiously
respected his incognito.

When de Sigognac was left alone, and at liberty to think over
quietly the odd situation in which he found himself, he looked at
his magnificent surroundings with surprise as well as
admiration--for he had never in his life seen, or even imagined,
such splendour and luxury. The rich glowing colours of the
chimerical flowers and foliage embossed on a golden ground of the
Spanish leather on the walls, the corresponding tints in the
frescoed ceiling and the heavy, silken hangings at the windows
and doors and round the bed, the elaborately carved and gilded
furniture, the luxurious easy-chairs and sofas, the large mirrors
with bevelled edges, and the dainty dressing-table, lavishly
furnished with all the accessories of the toilet, with its oval
glass draped with lace which was tied back with knots of gay
ribbon, certainly did make up a charming whole, and the wood fire
burning brightly in the open fireplace gave a cheerful, cosy air
to it all.

Our poor young baron blushed painfully as he caught sight of his
own figure in one of the long mirrors--his shabby, ill-fitting
clothes looked so sadly out of place amidst all this
magnificence--and for the first time in his life he felt ashamed
of his poverty. Highly unphilosophical this, but surely excusable
in so young a man as our hero. With a natural desire to improve
his forlorn appearance if he could, he unpacked the scanty supply
of clothing that his faithful Pierre had put up for him--hoping
that he might come across something a little less thread-bare
than the suit he actually had on his back--but the inspection was
not satisfactory, and he groaned as he discarded one faded,
shabby garment after another. The linen was not any better--worn
so that it was thin everywhere, with numerous darns and patches,
and many holes, he could not find a single shirt that was whole
and in good condition. He was so absorbed in this melancholy
inspection that he did not hear a low knock at the door, nor
notice that it was slowly pushed open, having been already ajar,
to admit the stout person of Blazius, who approached him with
many bows and flourishes, though entirely unobserved. When the
pedant reached his side de Sigognac was just holding up before
him a shirt that had as many openings as the rose window of a
cathedral, and slowly shaking his head as he gazed at it, with an
expression of utter discouragement.

"Body of Bacchus!" exclaimed the pedant--his voice, so close at
hand, startling the astonished baron, who had believed himself
alone, and safe from intrusion--"that shirt has verily a valiant
and triumphant air. It looks as if it had been worn by Mars
himself in battle, so riddled has it been by lances, spears,
darts, arrows, and I know not what besides. Don't be ashamed of
it, Baron!--these holes are honourable to you. Many a shirt of
fine linen, ruffled and embroidered, according to the latest
fashion, disguises the graceless person of some rascally parvenu
--and usurer as well perhaps--who usurps the place of his
Several of the great heroes, of immortal fame, had not a shirt to
their backs--Ulysses, for example, that wise and valiant man, who
presented himself before the beautiful Princess Nausicaa, with no
other covering than a bunch of sea-weed--as we are told, in the
Odyssey, by the grand old bard, Homer."

"Unfortunately," de Sigognac replied, "there is no point of
resemblance, my dear Blazius, between me and the brave King of
Ithaca, save the lack of linen. _I_ have done no deeds of valour
to shed a lustre over MY poverty. I have had no chance to make
myself famous, and I fear that the poets will never celebrate my
praises in glowing hexameters. But, jesting aside, I must confess
that I do feel greatly annoyed at being forced to appear in this
guise here. The Marquis de Bruyeres recognised me, though he made
no sign, and he may betray my secret."

"It IS a pity," said the pedant in reply, "but there's a remedy
for every ill under the sun, save death, according to the old
saying, and if you will permit me, I think that I can help you
out of this awkward dilemma. We, poor players, shadows of real
men and women, phantoms of personages of every degree, from the
highest to the lowest, have the means necessary for assuming
almost any character, you know. As "costumier" of the troupe I am
accustomed to make all sorts of transformations, and can turn a
miserable vagabond into an Alexander, or a vulgar wench into a
princess. Now, if you are not too proud, I will exercise my poor
skill in your lordship's service. Since you have been willing to
join our company for this journey, do not disdain to make use of
our resources, such as they are, and put aside these ill-fitting
garments, which disguise your natural advantages, and make you
feel ill at ease. Most fortunately I happen to have in reserve a
handsome suit of black velvet, which has not the least of a
theatrical air about it, and has never been used; any gentleman
could wear it, and unless I am much mistaken it will fit you
capitally. I have also the fine linen shirt, silk stockings,
shoes--with broad buckles, and cloak to go with it--there is
nothing wanting, not even the sword."

"Oh! as to that," cried de Sigognac, with a gesture expressive of
all that pride of birth which no misfortunes could crush, "I have
my father's sword."

"True," answered Blazius, "and guard it sacredly, my lord! for a
sword is a faithful friend--defender of its master's life and
honour. IT does not abandon him in times of peril and disaster,
like the false friends who cling only to prosperity. Our stage
swords have neither edge nor point, for they are only intended
for show; the wounds they make disappear suddenly when the
curtain falls, without the aid of the surgeon with his
instruments and lint. That trusty sword of yours you can depend
upon in any emergency, and I have already seen it doing good
service in our behalf. But permit me to go and fetch the things I
spoke of; I am impatient to see the butterfly emerge from the

Having thus spoken, in the theatrical way that had become
habitual with him, the worthy pedant quitted the room, and soon
reappeared, carrying a large package, which he deposited on the
table in the centre of the chamber.

"If your lordship will accept an old actor as valet-de-chambre,"
he said, rubbing his hands joyfully together, "I will beautify
you in no time. All the ladies will be sure to fall in love with
you, for--with no disrespect to the larder at the Chateau de
Sigognac be it said--you have fasted so much in your lonely life
there that it has made you most interestingly slender and pale--
just what the dear creatures delight in. They would not listen to
a word from a stout lover, even if the diamonds and pearls of the
fairy tale dropped from his lips whenever he spoke. That is the
sole reason for my want of success with the fair sex, and I long
ago deserted the shrine of Venus for the worship of Bacchus. A
big paunch is not amiss among the devotees of that merry god, for
it bears witness to plentiful libations."

Thus running on gaily, the worthy pedant strove to amuse the
melancholy young nobleman, while he deftly performed his duties
as valet; and they were very quickly completed, for the
requirements of the stage necessitate great dexterity on the part
of the actors to make the metamorphoses frequently needed with
sufficient promptness and rapidity. Charmed with the result of
his efforts he led de Sigognac up to one of the large mirrors,
wherein, upon raising his eyes, he saw a figure which, at the
first glance, he thought must be that of some person who had
entered the room without his knowledge, and turned to ask who the
intruder was--but there was no stranger there, and he discovered
that it was his own reflection--so changed that he was mute with
astonishment. A young, handsome, richly-dressed de Sigognae stood
before him, and a radiant smile parted his lips and lighted up
his face as he gazed at his own image, which perfected the really
marvellous transformation. Blazius, standing near, contemplated
his work with undisguised pride and satisfaction, changing his
position several times so as to get different views, as a
sculptor might who had just put the finishing touches to his
statue altogether to his liking.

"When you have made your way at court, my lord, and regained the
position held by your ancestors, as I hope and expect that you
will do, I shall pray you to give me a refuge for my old age in
your household, and make me imtendant of your lordship's
wardrobe," said he, with a profound bow to the baron.

"I will not forget your request, my good Blazius, even though I
fear that I shall never be able to comply with it," de Sigognae
answered with a melancholy smile. "You, my kind friend, are the
first human being that has ever asked a favour of me."

"After our dinner, which we are to have very shortly, we are to
consult with his lordship, the marquis, as to what play shall be
given this evening, and learn from him where we are to rig our
theatre. You will pass for the poet of the troupe; it is by no
means an unheard-of thing for men of learning and position to
join a band of players thus--either for the fun of the thing, and
in hope of adventures, or for the love of a young and beautiful
actress. I could tell you of several notable instances; and it is
thought to be rather to a man's credit than otherwise in
fashionable circles. Isabelle is a very good pretext for you; she
is young, beautiful, clever, modest, and virtuous. In fact many
an actress who takes like her the role of the ingenuous young
girl is in reality all that she personates, though a frivolous
and frequently licentious public will not credit it for a

Herewith the pedant discreetly retired, having accomplished, to
his great satisfaction, what he had really feared to propose to
the young baron, for whom he had conceived a very warm affection.

Meanwhile the elegant Leander, indulging in delightful dreams of
the possible fair chatelaine who was to fall a victim to his
charms, was making his careful toilet--arraying himself in his
most resplendent finery, scrupulously kept for grand
occasions--convinced that great good fortune awaited him, and
determined to carry the noble lady's heart by storm.

As to the actresses, to whom the gallant marquis, with princely
munificence, had sent several pieces of rich stuffs and silks, it
is needless to say that they spared no pains to make themselves
as charming as possible, and obeyed the summons to dinner radiant
with smiles and in high good humour--excepting indeed the fair
Serafina, who was inwardly consumed with envy and spite, but
careful to conceal it from all beholders.

The marquis, who was of an ardent, impatient nature, made his
appearance in the dining-room before they had quite finished the
sumptuous repast which had been served to them; he would not
allow them to rise, but seated himself at the table with them,
and when the last course had been removed, asked the tyrant to be
good enough to give him a list of the plays they were in the
habit of acting, so that he might select one for the evening's
entertainment. But so many were enumerated that his lordship
found it not easy to make a choice, and expressed his desire to
have the tyrant's ideas upon the subject.

"There is one piece we often play," Herode said, "which never
fails to please, and is so full of good-natured fun and nonsense
that it keeps the audience in a roar of laughter from the
beginning to the end."

"Let us have that one, by all means," the marquis exclaimed; "and
pray what is the name of this delightful play?"

"The Rodomontades of Captain Matamore."

"A capital title, upon my word! and has the soubrette a good part
in it?" asked his lordship, with a languishing glance at her.

"The most racy, mischievous role imaginable," said Herode warmly,
"and she plays it to perfection--it is her chef d'oeuvre. She is
always applauded to the echo in it."

At this high praise from the manager, Zerbine--for such was the
soubrette's name--tried her best to get up a becoming blush, but
in vain. Modesty she had none, and the tint she would fain have
called into requisition at that moment was not contained in any
of her numerous rouge-pots. So she cast down her eyes, thereby
displaying to advantage the length and thickness of her jet-black
lashes, and raised her hand with a deprecating gesture, which
called attention to its pretty, taper fingers and rosy nails. The
marquis watched he admiringly, and she certainly was very
charming in her way. He did not vouchsafe even a glance to the
other two young actresses--refraining from testifying any marked
admiration for Isabelle because of the prior claim of the Baron
de Sigognac--though he was secretly very much delighted with her
sweet, refined style of beauty, and the quiet dignity and grace
of her deportment. Serafina, who was naturally indignant that the
marquis had not even asked if there was a part for her in the
piece to be performed, accused him in her heart of being no
gentleman, and of having very low, vulgar tastes, but she was the
only one of the party that felt any dissatisfaction.

Before the marquis left them he said to Herode, "I have given
orders to have the orangery cleared so that our theatre can be
arranged there; they are carrying planks, trestles, benches,
hangings, and all other needful articles in there now. Will you
kindly superintend the workmen, who are new to this sort of
business? They will obey your orders as they would my own."

Accordingly the tyrant, Blazius and Scapin repaired to the
orangery, which was at a little distance from the chateau and
admirably calculated for the purpose it was now to serve, and
where they found everything necessary to convert it into a
temporary theatre.

Whilst this work is going forward we will make our amiable,
indulgent readers acquainted with the fair mistress of the
chateau--having heretofore forgotten to mention that the Marquis
de Bruyeres was a married man; he thought of it so seldom himself
that we may surely be pardoned for this omission. As can be
readily imagined, from our last remark, love had not been the
moving cause in this union. Adjoining estates, which, united in
one, formed a noble domain, and equality of rank had been the
chief considerations. After a very brief honeymoon, during which
they had become painfully aware of a total want of congeniality,
the marquis and marquise--like well-bred people, making no outcry
about their matrimonial failure--had tacitly agreed to live
amicably under the same roof, but entirely independent of each
other--he to go his way and she hers, with perfect freedom. They
always treated each other in public, and indeed whenever they
chanced to meet, with the greatest courtesy, and might easily
have been mistaken by a casual observer for an unusually happy
and united pair. Mme. la Marquise occupied a sumptuous suite of
apartments in the chateau, which her husband never thought of
entering without first sending to ascertain whether it would be
convenient for madame to receive him, like a formal visitor. But
we will avail ourselves of the time-honoured privilege of
authors, and make our way into the noble chatelaine's
bed-chamber, without any form or ceremony--feeling sure of not
disturbing its fair occupant, since the writer of a romance wears
upon his finger the wonder-working ring of Gyges, which renders
him invisible.

It was a large, lofty room, hung with superb tapestry
representing the adventures of Apollo, and exhibiting every
luxury that wealth could procure. Here also a bright wood fire
was, burning cheerily, and the Marquise de Bruyeres sat before
her dressing table, with two maids in attendance upon her,
absorbed in the all-important business of putting the finishing
touches to her extremely becoming as well as effective toilet.
Mme. la Marquise was a handsome brunette, whose embonpoint, which
had succeeded to the slender outline of early youth, had added to
her beauty; her magnificent black hair, which was one of her
ladyship's greatest charms, was dressed in the most elaborate
fashion--an intricate mass of glossy braids, puffs and curls,
forming a lofty structure, and ornamented with a large bow of
crimson ribbon, while one long curl fell upon her fair neck,
making it look all the wihiter by contrast. Her dress of crimson
silk, cut very low, displayed to advantage--the plump, dimpled
shoulders, and her snowy bosom, and from a band of black velvet
round her throat was suspended a heart-shaped locket, set with
superb rubies and brilliants. A white satin petticoat covered
with priceless old lace, over which the crimson silk gown, open
in front, was looped high upon the hips, and then swept back in a
long, ample, richly trimmed train, completed the elegant toilet
of Mme. la Marquise. Jeanne, the favourite maid and confidante,
held open the box of tiny black, "muoches"--without which no
fashionable lady of that epoch considered herself fully
equipped--while the marquise placed one, with most happy effect,
near the corner of her rather pretty mouth, and then hesitated
some time before she could decide where to put the other, which
she held ready on the tip of her forefinger. The two maids stood
motionless, breathlessly watching their mistress, as if fully
impressed with the importance of this grave question, until at
last the little black star found a resting-place just above the
edge of the crimson silk bodice, to the left--indicating, in the
accepted hierogiyphics of that age of gallantry, that he who
aspired to the lips of the fair wearer must first win her heart.

After a last lingering look in the mirror Mme. la Marquise rose
and walked slowly towards the fire, but suddenly, remembering
that there was yet one adornment wanting, turned back, and took
from a beautiful casket standing open on the toilet-table, a
large, thick watch--called in those days a Nuremberg egg--which
was curiously enamelled in a variety of bright colours, and set
with brilliants. It hung from a short, broad chain of rich
workmanship, which she hooked into her girdle, near another chain
of the same description, from which depended a small hand-mirror
in a pretty gold frame.

"Madame is looking her loveliest to-day," said Jeanne in
flattering tones; "her hair is dressed to perfection, and her
gown fits like a glove."

"Do you really think so?" asked her mistress languidly, and with
affected indifference. "It seems to me, on the contrary, that I
am positively hideous. My eyes are sunken, and this colour makes
me look immensely stout. I have half a mind to exchange this
dress for a black one now. What do you think, Jeanne? Black makes
people look slender, they say."

"If madame insists upon it I can quickly make the exchange; but
it would be a sad pity not to wear such an elegant and becoming
costume as madame has on now."

"Well, let it be then; but it will be all your fault, Jeanne, if
I fail to receive as much admiration as usual this evening. Do
you know whether the marquis has invited many people to come and
see this play?"

"Yes, madame, several messengers have been sent off on horseback
in different directions, and there will be sure to be a large
gathering--they will come from all the chateaux within driving
distance--for such an occasion as this is rare, here in the
depths of the country."

"You are right," said Mme. la Marquise, with a deep sigh, which
was almost a groan; "we are buried alive in this dreary place.
And what about these players?--have you seen them, Jeanne?--are
there any handsome young actors among them?"

"I have only had a glimpse of them, madame, and such people are
so painted and fixed up, they say, that it is hard to tell what
they really do look like; but there was one slender young man,
with long, black curls and a very good figure, who had quite a
grand air."

"That must be the lover, Jeanne, for it is always the best
looking young actor in the troupe who takes that part. It would
be ridiculous, you know, to have a stout old codger, or a very
ugly man, or even an awkward one, making declarations of love,
and going down on their knees, and all that sort of thing--it
would not do at all, Jeanne!"

"No, madame, it would not be very nice," said the maid with a
merry laugh, adding shrewdly, "and although it seems to make very
little difference what husbands may be like, lovers should always
be everything that is charming."

"I confess that I have a weakness for those stage gallants," Mme.
la Marquise said with a little sigh, "they are so handsome, and
so devoted--they always use such beautiful language, and make
graceful gestures--they are really irresistible. I cannot help
feeling vexed when their impassioned appeals are received coldly,
and they are driven to despair, as so often happens in plays; I
would like to call them to me and try to console them, the
bewitching creatures!"

"That is because madame has such a kind heart that she can't bear
to see any one suffer without trying to help and comfort them,"
said the specious Jeanne. "Now I am of quite a different
mind--nothing I would like better than to flout a sentimental
suitor; fine words would not gain any favour with me--I should
distrust them."

"Oh! you don't understand the matter, Jeanne! You have not read
as many romances, or seen as many plays as I have. Did you say
that young actor was very handsome?"

"Mme. la Marquise can judge for herself," answered the maid, who
had gone to the window, "for he is just crossing the court this
blessed minute, on his way to the orangery, where they are
rigging up their theatre."

Mme. la Marquise hastened to the window, and there was Leander in
full view, walking along slowly, apparently lost in thought, and
wearing a tender, sad expression, which he considered especially
effective and interesting--as we have said, he never for a moment
forgot his role. As he drew near he looked up, as by a sudden
inspiration, to the very window where the marquise stood watching
him, and instantly taking off his hat with a grand flourish, so
that its long feather swept the ground, made a very low
obeisance, such as courtiers make to a queen; then drew himself
up proudly to his full height, and darting an ardent glance of
admiration and homage at the beautiful unknown, put on his broad
felt hat again and went composedly on his way. It was admirably
well done; a genuine cavalier, familiar with all the gallant
usages in vogue at court, could not have acquitted himself
better. Flattered by this mark of respect for her rank and
admiration of her beauty, so gracefully tendered, Mme. la
Marquise could not help acknowledging it by a slight bend of the
head, and a little half suppressed smile. These favourable signs
did not escape Leander, who, with his usual self-conceit, took a
most exaggerated view of their import. He did not for a moment
doubt that the fair mistress of the chateau--for he took it for
granted it was she--had fallen violently in love with him, then
and there; he felt sure that he had read it in her eyes and her
smile. His heart beat tumultuously; he trembled with excitement;
at last it had come! the dream of his life was to be
accomplished; he, the poor, strolling player, had won the heart
of a great lady; his fortune was made! He got through the
rehearsal to which he had been summoned as best he might, and the
instant it was over hastened back to his own room, to indite an
impassioned appeal to his new divinity, and devise some means to
insure its reaching her that same evening.

As everything was in readiness the play was to begin as soon as
the invited guests had all assembled. The orangery had been
transformed into a charming little theatre, and was brilliantly
lighted by many clusters of wax candles. Behind the spectators
the orange trees had been arranged in rows, rising one above the
other, and filled the air with their delicious fragrance. In the
front row of seats, which was composed of luxurious arm-chairs,
were to be seen the beautiful Yolande de Foix, the Duchesse de
Montalban, the Baronne d'Hagemeau, the Marquise de Bruyres, and
many other titled dames, resplendent in gorgeous array, and vying
with each other in magnificence and beauty. Rich velvets,
brilliant satins, cloth of silver and gold, misty laces, gay
ribbons, white feathers, tiaras of diamonds, strings of pearls,
superb jewels, glittering in delicate shell-like ears, on white
necks and rounded arms, were in profusion, and the scene would
have graced the court itself. If the surpassingly lovely Yolande
de Foix had not been present, several radiant mortal goddesses in
the exceptionally brilliant assemblage might have made it
difficult for a Paris to decide between their rival claims to the
golden apple; but her beauty eclipsed them all, though it was
rather that of the haughty Diana than the smiling Venus. Men
raved about her, declared her irresistible, worshipped at her
shrine, but never dared aspire to her love; one scornful glance
from her cold blue eyes effectually extinguished any nascent
hope, and the cruel beauty punished presumption as relentlessly,
and won and flung away hearts with as much nonchalance, as ever
did her immortal prototype, the fair goddess of the chase.

How was this exquisite creature dressed? It would require more
sang-froid than we are possessed of to venture upon a description
of her perfect toilet; her raiment floated about her graceful
form like a luminous cloud, in which one could think only of
herself; we believe, however, that there were clusters of pearls
nestling amid the bright curls that made an aureola--a veritable
golden glory--about her beautiful head.

Behind these fair ladies sat or stood the nobles and gentlemen
who had the honour of being their fathers, husbands, and
brothers. Some were leaning forward to whisper soft nothings and
dainty compliments into willing ears, others lounging and fanning
themselves lazily with their broad felt hats, and others still
standing in the background looking admiringly at the pretty group
before them. The hum of conversation filled the air, and a slight
impatience was just beginning to manifest itself among the
waiting audience, when the traditional three knocks were heard,
and all suddenly subsided into silence.

The curtain rose slowly and revealed a very pretty scene
representing a public square where several streets met,
surrounded by picturesque houses with small latticed windows,
overhanging gables, high peaked roofs, and smoke curling upwards
from the slender chimneys against the blue sky.

One of these houses had a practicable door and window, whilst two
of those in the side scenes enjoyed equal advantages, and one of
them was furnished with a balcony. A few trees were scattered
about in front of the houses, and, though the painting was not of
the highest order of scenic art, the general effect was very
good, and won a round of applause from the aristocratic audience.
The piece opens with a quarrel between the testy old bourgeois,
Pandolphe, and his daughter, Isabelle, who, being in love with a
handsome young suitor, obstinately refuses to obey her father's
commands and marry a certain Captain Matamore, with whom he is
perfectly infatuated. She is ably supported in her resistance by
her pretty maid, Zerbine, who is well paid by Leander, the
favoured lover, to espouse his cause. To all the curses and abuse
that Pandolphe showers upon her, she answers gaily with the most
exasperating and amusing impertinences, advising him to marry
this fine captain himself if he is so fond of him; as for her
part she will never suffer her dear, beautiful mistress to become
the wife of that horrid old codger, that abominable bully, that
detestable scarecrow! Whereupon Pandolphe, furiously angry,
orders her into the house, so that he may speak to his daughter
alone; and when she refuses to obey, and defies him to make her,
he takes her by the shoulders and attempts to force her to go,
but she, bending forward with admirable elasticity, from the
waist only, at each vigorous effort of his, stands her ground and
does not budge one inch from her place, breaking into peals of
laughter at every fresh attempt, and accompanying it all with an
irresistibly saucy, comical by-play, that wins her round after
round of enthusiastic applause--whilst the Marquis de Bruyeres,
enchanted with her spirited acting, congratulates himself anew
upon the happy chance that threw this charming creature in his

Another character now enters upon the scene, looking cautiously
about him at every step, as if he feared an unpleasant surprise.
This is Leander, the horror of fathers, husbands, and guardians,
the delight of wives, daughters, and wards--in one word, the
lover--the very beau-ideal of a lover; young, handsome, ardent,
ready for anything, winning over strict old duennas, bribing pert
waiting-maids, climbing up rope-ladders, overcoming every
obstacle to reach the fair mistress of his affections, and
kneeling at her feet to pour out burning protestations of love
and devotion, that no mortal woman could ever resist. Suddenly
perceiving that Pandolphe is here, where he only expected to find
Isabelle, Leander stops and throws himself into an attitude,
which he has frequently practised before the mirror, and which,
he flatters himself, shows his handsome person to great
advantage; standing with his weight thrown upon the left leg, the
right one advanced and slightly bent at the knee; one hand on the
hilt of his sword, the other stroking his chin, so as to make the
big diamond on his finger flash in the light, and a slight smile
playing about his lips. He really did look very handsome as he
stood there, and was greatly admired by all the ladies--even the
haughty Yolande herself not disdaining to smile upon him
approvingly. Profiting by the opportunity that this pause gave
him, Leander fixed his eyes upon the Marquise de Bruyeres, with
such a look of passionate entreaty and admiration that she
blushed crimson in spite of herself under his ardent gaze; then
he turned reluctantly towards Isabelle, with an absent,
indifferent air, which he intended should indicate to the fair
object of his aspirations the difference between real and
simulated passion.

When Pandolphe becomes aware of the presence of Leander he is
more furious than ever, and hustles his daughter and her maid
into the house as quickly as possible, not, however, without
Zerbine's finding means to take from Leander a note for Isabelle,
which she slips into the pocket of her coquettish little apron.
The young man, left alone with the irate father, assures him in
the most respectful manner that his intentions are honourable;
that he asks the hand of his fair daughter in marriage; that he
is of gentle birth, has an ample fortune, and is in high favour
at court; that nothing could ever induce him to give up Isabelle;
he is ready to risk everything to win her, for he loves her
better than his life--delicious words, which the young girl
listens to with rapture from her balcony, whence she makes little
signs of approval and encouragement to her lover, quite unknown
to the stern father, whose back is turned to her, and who
believes her safely locked up in the house. Despite the
mellifluous eloquence of the ardent young suitor Pandolphe
remains obstinate and unmoved, and swears, by all the gods that
either he will have Captain Matamore for his son-in-law, or his
refractory daughter shall be shut up in a convent and forced to
become a nun. Off he bustles in hot haste to find a notary and
have the contract of marriage drawn without further delay.

As soon as he is out of sight Leander tries to persuade
Isabelle--who is still in her balcony, her father having carried
off the key of the street door in his pocket--to consent to fly
from such persecution, and accompany him to the cell of a certain
holy hermit whom he knows, and who is always willing and ready to
marry runaway couples like themselves, whose loves are thwarted
by tyrannical parents. But the young girl answers modestly, yet
firmly, that, although she wishes nothing so earnestly as to be
permitted to bestow her hand upon her faithful Leander, who
already has her heart, she cannot disobey her father, for that
she, like all dutiful daughters, is in duty bound to respect and
submit to the commands of the author of her being; but she
promises never to marry the detested Captain Matamore--she will
go into the convent rather than listen to him for a moment.
Unable to shake her decision Leander then retires to devise
plans, with the aid of his clever valet, to overcome the
formidable obstacles in his way--more than ever determined not to
give up the fair Isabelle, and promising her to return in the
evening and report progress.

Isabelle retires from her balcony and closes her window, and a
moment after Captain Matamore strides fiercely upon the stage--
his appearance is greeted with peals of laughter--his tall,
attenuated figure is encased in an absurd costume, in which the
bright red and yellow stripes of his tunic meet in points in
front and behind, whilst they run spirally round his long, thin
arms and legs, producing the most preposterously comical effect
imaginable; a stiffly-starched ruff, immensely broad, encircles
his neck, upon which his head seems to be set, like that of John
the Baptist on the charger; a large felt hat, turned up at one
side, and ornamented with a huge tuft of red and yellow feathers,
is stuck jauntily on his head, and a short cloak of the same
colour, fastened round his neck and thrown back from his
shoulders, floats behind him. He wears an enormous sword, whose
heavily weighted hilt keeps the point always raised and standing
out prominently behind him, whilst from it dangles a clever
imitation of a spider's web--a convincing proof of how much he is
in the habit of making use of this formidable weapon. Closely
followed by his valet, Scapin, who is in imminent danger of
having an eye put out by the end of his master's big sword, he
marches several times around the stage, taking preternaturally
long strides, rolling his eyes about fiercely, twisting the long
ends of his huge mustache, and indulging in a variety of
ridiculous gestures indicative of exaggerated rage and fury,
which are irresistibly funny--all the more so because there is
nothing whatever to provoke this display of ferocity. Finally he
stops in front of the footlights, strikes an attitude, and
delivers himself thus: "For to-day, Scapin, I am willing to let
my man-killer here have a little rest, so that there may be an
opportunity to get all its recent victims decently buried, in the
cemeteries I contribute so largely towards filling. When a man
has performed such feats of courage and carnage as I have--
killing my hundreds single-handed, while my dastardly comrades
trembled with fear, or turned and fled from the foe--to say
nothing of my daily affairs of honour, now that the wars are
over--he may assuredly indulge himself occasionally in milder
amusements. Besides, the whole civilized world, having now been
subjugated by my good sword, no longer offers any resistance to
my indomitable arm, and Atropos, the eldest of the dread Parcae
sisters, has sent word to me that the fatal scissors, with which
she cuts the threads of human lives, have become so dulled by the
great amount of work my trusty blade has given her to do with
them, that she has been obliged to send them to Vulcan to be
sharpened, and she begs for a short respite. So you see, Scapin,
I must put force upon myself and restrain my natural ardour--
refrain for a time from wars, massacres, sacking of cities,
stand-up fights with giants, killing of monsters and dragons,
like Theseus and Hercules of glorious memory, and all the other
little pastimes which usually occupy my good sword and me. I will
take my ease now for a brief period, and Death may enjoy a short
rest too. But to whom did my worthy prototype, Mars, the great
god of war, devote HIS leisure hours? in whose sweet society did
HE find delight? Ask Venus, the immortal goddess of love and
beauty, who had the good taste to prefer a warlike man to all
others, and lent a willing ear to the suit of my valiant
predecessor. So I, following his illustrious example, condescend
to turn my attention for the moment to the tender sex, and pay
my court to the fair Isabelle, the young and beautiful object of
my ardent love. Being aware that Cupid, with all his assurance,
would not dare to aim one of his golden-tipped arrows at such an
all-conquering hero as my unworthy self, I have given him a
little encouragement; and, in order that the shaft may penetrate
to the generous lion's heart that beats in this broad breast, I
have laid aside the world-famed coat of mail--made of the rings
given to me by goddesses, empresses, queens, infantas,
and great ladies of every degree, my illustrious admirers the
world over--which is proof against all weapons, and has so often
saved my life in my maddest deeds of daring."

"All of which signifies," interrupts the valet, who had listened
to this high-blown tirade with ill-concealed impatience, "as far
as my feeble intellect can comprehend such magnificent eloquence,
that your most redoubtable lordship has fallen in love with some
young girl hereabouts, like any ordinary mortal."

"Really, Scapin," says Matamore, with good-humoured
condescension, "you have hit the nail upon the head--you are not
so stupid after all, for a valet. Yes, I have fallen in love,
but do not imagine for a moment that my courage will suffer
diminution on that account. It was all very well for Samson to
allow his hair to be cut off, and for Alcides to handle the
distaff at the bidding of his mistress; but Delilah would not
have dared to touch one hair of my head, and Omphale should have
pulled off my boots for me--at the least sign of revolt I would
have given her worse to do: cleaning the skin of the Nemaean
lion, for instance, when I brought it home all fresh and
bleeding, just as I had torn it from the quivering carcass. The
thought that has lately occurred to me, that I have subjugated
only half of the human race, is humiliating. Women, by reason of
their weakness, escape me; I cannot treat them as I do my
masculine opponents--cut their throats, run them through the
body, or hew off their arms and legs; I must lay siege to their
hearts, and conquer them in that way. It is true that I have
stormed and taken a greater number of such fair citadels than
there are drops of water in the ocean, or stars in the sky--why,
I sleep on a mattress stuffed with thousands of beautiful curls
and tresses of every shade, light and dark, golden and jet-black,
which are among my most treasured trophies. Juno herself has made
overtures to me, but I turned a deaf ear to her blandishments,
finding her charms rather too ripe for my taste; I prefer the
first flush of youthful beauty; it is a pure and innocent maiden
that I would honour with my notice now, but she repulses me--that
I should live to say it!--she dares to repulse me. I cannot
permit such an impertinence on her part, and the fair Isabelle
must humbly sue to me for pardon, and herself bringing the golden
keys of the citadel of her heart, upon a salver of silver, offer
them to me upon her bended knees, with streaming eyes and
dishevelled tresses, begging for grace and favour in my sight. Go
now, and summon the fortress to surrender--this house contains
the rebellious fair."

But doors and windows remain inexorably closed, and no notice is
taken of the valet's thundering knocks and mocking summons to
surrender; secure in the strength of their bolts and bars, the
garrison, which consists of Isabelle and her maid, vouchsafes no
reply. Matamore, becoming more enraged at each vain attempt to
gain a response from his fair enemy, stamps about the stage,
roaring out his defiance, threatening to sack and burn the place,
pouring out volleys of remarkable oaths, and lashing himself into
such a fury that he actually foams at the mouth. When his valet
at length, after many vain efforts, is able to gain a hearing,
and tells him of his formidable rival, Leander, and how he has
already won the lady's heart, all his rage is turned against that
fortunate suitor, of whom he vows that he will make mince-meat as
soon as he can lay hands on him. At this very moment Leander
himself returns, and Scapin points him out to his master as he
approaches, adding that he will keep a sharp look-out for the
police while Matamore is giving him his quietus. But the cowardly
braggadocio would fain withdraw, now that the enemy is actually
in sight, and is only restrained from flight by his servant, who
pushes him forward directly in Leander's path.

Seeing that escape is impossible, Matamore settles his hat firmly
on his head, twists the long ends of his mustache, puts his hand
on the hilt of his big sword, and advances threateningly towards
Leander--but it is pure bravado, for his teeth are chattering
with fear, and his long, thin legs waver and tremble under him
visibly, like reeds shaken by the wind. Only one hope remains to
him--that of intimidating Leander by loud threats and ferocious
gestures, if, by a happy chance, he be a fellow of his own
kidney. So in a terrible voice he addresses him thus: "Sir, do
you know that I am the great Captain Matamore of the celebrated
house of Cuerno de Cornazan, and allied to the no less
illustrious family of Escobombardon de la Papirontonda? I am a
descendant, on my mother's side, of the famous Antacus, the
ancient hero and giant."

"Well, you may be a descendant of the man in the moon for all
that I care," answers Leander, with a disdainful shrug of the
shoulders; "what the devil have I to do with such absurd stuff
and nonsense?"

"Blood and bones! thunder and Mars! You see, sir, you shall see,
and that very quickly, what you have to do with it, unless you
take yourself off in the twinkling of an eye. I will give you one
minute's grace, for your extreme youth touches me, so take to
your heels and fly while there is yet time. Observe me well! I am
the terror of the whole world--my path is marked with graves--my
own shadow scarcely dares to follow me into the perils I delight
in. If I enter a besieged city, it is by the breach--when I quit
it I pass under a triumphal arch; if I cross a river, it is one
of blood, and the bridge is made of the bodies of my adversaries.
I can toss a knight and his horse, both, weighted with armour,
high into the air. I can snap elephants' bones, as you would
pipe-stems. When great Mars himself chances to meet me on the
battle-field he turns and flees, dreading the weight of my arm.
My prowess is so well known, and the terror I inspire so great,
that no one dares to meet me face to face, and I never see
anything but the backs of my retreating foes."

"Is it so? well, you shall meet ME face to face. Take THAT, and
see how you like it!" says Leander laughing merrily, and giving
him a sounding slap on one cheek which almost knocks the poor
devil over, and is instantly followed by an equally hearty one on
the other, to restore his equilibrium.

During this scene Isabelle and Zerbine come out upon the balcony.
The mischievous soubrette goes into convulsions of laughter,
whilst her mistress nods encouragingly to Leander. Meantime
Pandolphe, accompanied by the notary, turns the corner of one of
the streets and enters the square just in time to see Leander's
extraordinary exploit, whereat he is horrified and amazed. The
valiant captain bellows like a bull, shrieks out the most
frightful threats and curses, vowing all sorts of vengeance, and
making prodigious efforts to draw his big sword, so that he may
forthwith set about cutting up his unmannerly assailant into
mince-meat. He tugs and strains until he is red in the face, but
his "man-killer" cannot be induced to quit the scabbard and
Leander, growing impatient, follows up his first attack with a
vigorous, well directed kick, which sends the unlucky bully
to the other side of the stage, where he falls all in a heap and
rolls in the dust. The handsome, young gallant then bows
gracefully to Isabelle and retires from the scene.

Captain Matamore meanwhile lies sprawling on the ground, making
ludicrous and ineffectual efforts to regain his feet. Pandolphe
and Scapin go to his assistance, and when they have hauled him
up, and he has made sure that Leander is no longer present, he
roars out in a voice of thunder: "Scapin, quick, hoop me with
iron bands or I shall burst! I am in such a rage! I shall explode
like a bomb! and you, treacherous blade, do YOU play me false at
such a moment? Is it thus you reward me for having always tried
to slake your insatiable thirst with the blood of the bravest and
noblest? I don't know why I have not already broken you into a
thousand pieces, as you so richly deserve--false, ungrateful
weapon that you are! But stay--was it to teach me that it is
unworthy of the true warrior to desert his post?--or forget his
sterner duties in the soft delights of love?--was it for that you
refused to leap from your scabbard as of old? It is true, alas!
that thus far this week I have not defeated a single army--I have
killed neither ogre nor dragon--I have not furnished his usual
rations to Death--and in consequence my trusty blade has rusted
in the scabbard--that I should live to say it! rusted!--and I
have been forced to submit to insults, and even blows, before the
very eyes of my mistress. What a lesson! Henceforth I shall make
it a rule to kill at least three men every morning before I break
my fast, so as to be sure that my good sword plays freely--keep
me in mind, Scapin, do you hear?"

"Perhaps Leander will return before long," says the valet;
"suppose we all help you to draw your 'TRUSTY BLADE,' so that you
may be ready for him."

Matamore, accordingly, plants himself firmly, holding the
scabbard in both hands, Scapin seizes the handle of the sword,
Pandolphe clasps him firmly round the waist, the notary tries to
do as much by Pandolphe's stout person, and they all pull and
pull. For some time the rusty old sword resists all their
efforts, but at last yields suddenly, and the three fall in a
confused heap on the ground, with legs and arms waving wildly in
the air, while Matamore tumbles the other way, still clinging to
the now empty scabbard. Picking himself up as quickly as
possible he seizes his big sword, which has dropped from the
valet's hand, and waving it triumphantly says with stem emphasis,
"Now Leander's fate is sealed! There is but one way for him to
escape certain death. He must emigrate to some distant planet.
If he be sufficiently fool-hardy to remain on this globe I will
find him, no matter in what distant land he strives to hide
himself, and transfix him with this good sword--unless indeed he
be first turned to stone by the terrible Medusa-like power of my

In spite of all that he has witnessed, the obstinate old father
still feels unbounded faith in Matamore's valour, and persists in
his lamentable intention to bestow the hand of his fair daughter
upon this magnificent hero. Poor Isabelle bursts into tears, and
declares that she prefers the convent to such a fate. Zerbine
loudly swears that this marriage shall never take place, and
tries to console her weeping mistress. Matamore attributes this
rather discouraging demonstration on the part of Isabelle to an
excess of maidenly modesty, not doubting her penchant for
himself, though he acknowledges that he has not yet properly paid
his court, nor shown himself in all his glory to her--this last
from prudential motives, feanng lest she might be dangerously
dazzled and overwhelmed if he should burst upon her too suddenly
in the full splendour of his heroic character, remembering, and
taking warning by, the sad and terrible fate that befell Semele,
when Jupiter, reluctantly yielding to her wishes, appeared before
her with all the insignia of his majesty.

Isabelle and her maid withdrew from the balcony, without taking
any further notice of the valiant Matamore; but he, undaunted,
wishing to play the lover after the most approved fashion, plants
himself resolutely under her window and sends Scapin to fetch a
guitar; upon which he thrums awkwardly for a while, and then
accompanies it with his voice, in an attempt at a Spanish love
song, which sounds much like the nocturnal caterwauling of a
disconsolate tabby than anything else we can compare it to. A
dash of cold water, mischievously thrown down on him by Zerbine
under pretext of watering the plants in the balcony, does not
extinguish his musical ardour. "A gentle shower from the sweet
eyes of my Isabelle, moved to tears by this plaintive melody,"
says he, "for it is universally conceded that I excel in music as
in arms, and wield the lyre as skilfully as the sword."

Unfortunately for him, Leander suddenly reappears, and highly
indignant that this miserable rascal should presume to serenade
HIS mistress, snatches the guitar from his hands and begins
whacking him over the head with it, so furiously that it is
quickly broken through, and slipping over the unhappy serenader's
head remains fixed round his neck, so that he is completely at
the mercy of his assailant. Holding fast to the handle of the
guitar, Leander hauls him about the stage, banging him against
the side-scenes, dragging him forward to the footlights--making
the most absurd scene imaginable--and finally, letting go of him
suddenly, sends him sprawling on the ground. Fancy the ridiculous
appearance of the unfortunate bully, who looked as if he had put
his head through a frying-pan!

But his miseries are not yet at an end. Leander's valet had been
arranging a clever little plot to prevent the fulfilment of the
proposed marriage between Isabelle and Captain Matamore. At his
instigation, a certain Doralice, very pretty and coquettish,
makes her appearance, accompanied by a fierce-looking
brother--represented by Herode--carrying two immensely long
rapiers under his arm, and evidently "spoiling for a fight." The
young lady complains that she has been shamefully jilted by
Captain Matamore, who has deserted her for Isabelle, the daughter
of a certain Pandolphe, and demands instant reparation for this
outrage, adding that her brother is ready to exact it at the
point of the sword, or avenge the insult by taking the life of
the heartless villain who has trifled with her youthful

"Make haste to give this rascal his quietus," says Pandolphe to
his future son-in-law; "it will be only child's play for you, who
have fearlessly encountered, single-handed, a whole army of

Very reluctantly, and after many most absurd grimaces, Matamore
crosses swords with Doralice's ferocious brother, but he trembles
so that the latter, with one quick movement, sends his weapon
flying out of his hand, and chastises him with the flat of his
sword until he roars for mercy.

To cap the climax, Mme. Leonarde comes upon the scene, mopping
her streaming eyes with an enormous pocket-handkerchief, sighing
and sobbing, and bewailing herself. She goes straight to
Pandolphe and shows him a written promise of marriage, over
Matamore's signature, cleverly counterfeited; whereupon the poor
wretch, convicted of such abominable and complicated perfidy, is
assailed with a new shower of blows and curses, and finally
condemned, by the unanimous vote of all present, to marry old
Mme. Leonarde--who has made herself as hideous as possible--as a
fitting punishment for all his deviltries, rodomontades, and
cowardice. Pandolphe, thoroughly disgusted with Matamore at last,
makes no further objections to Leander's suit, and the curtain
falls as he gives his consent to the marriage of the two young

This bouffonnade, being played with great spirit, was
enthusiastically applauded. The gentlemen were charmed with the
mischievous, coquettish soubrette, who was fairly radiant with
beauty that evening; the ladies were greatly pleased with
Isabelle's refinement and modesty; whilst Matamore received the
well merited encomiums of all. It would have been impossible to
find, even in the great Parisian theatres, an actor better fitted
for the part he had played so admirably. Leander was much admired
by all the younger ladies, but the gentlemen agreed, without a
dissenting voice, that he was a horridly conceited coxcomb.
Wherever he appeared indeed this was the universal verdict, with
which he was perfectly content--caring far more for his handsome
person, and the effect it produced upon the fair sex, than for
his art; though, to do him justice, he was a very good actor.
Serafina's beauty did not fail to find admirers, and more than
one young gentleman swore by his mustache that she was an
adorable creature--quite regardless of the displeasure of the
fair ladies within hearing.

During the play, de Sigognac, hidden in the coulisses, had
enjoyed intensely Isabelle's charming rendering of her part,
though he was more than a little jealous of the favour she
apparently bestowed upon Leander--and especially at the tender
tone of her voice whenever she spoke to him--not being yet
accustomed to the feigned love-making on the stage, which often
covers profound antipathies and real enmity. When the play was
over, he complimented the young actress with a constrained,
embarrassed air, which she could not help remarking, and
perfectly understood.

"You play that part admirably, Isabelle! so well that one might
almost think there was some truth in it."

"Is it not my duty to do so?" she asked smilingly, secretly
pleased at his displeasure; "did not the manager engage me for

"Doubtless," de Sigognac replied, "but you seemed to be REALLY in
love with that conceited fellow, who never thinks of anything but
his own good looks, and how to display them to the best

"But the role required it. You surely would not have had me play
it as if he disgusted me! besides, did I not preserve throughout
the quiet demeanour of a well-bred, respectable girl? If I failed
in that you must tell me how and where, so that I may endeavour
to correct it in future."

"Oh no! you appeared from the beginning to the end like a modest,
retiring, young lady--no, there is no fault to be found with you
in that respect; your acting was inimitable--so graceful,
lady-like, and easy--but withal so true to nature that it was
almost too real."

"My dear baron, they are putting out the lights; everybody has
gone but ourselves, and we shall be left in the dark if we don't
make haste. Be good enough to throw this cloak around my
shoulders and accompany me to the chateau."

De Sigognac acquitted himself of this novel duty with less
awkwardness than might have been expected, though his hands
trembled a little, and he felt an almost irresistible desire to
take her into his arms as he wrapped the mantle round her
slender form; but he restrained himself, and respectfully
offering his arm led her out of the orangery, which by this time
was entirely deserted. It was, as we have said, at a little
distance from the chateau, and on the level of the park, lower
than the mansion, which stood on a high terrace, with a handsome
stone balustrade at the edge, supporting at regular intervals
large vases filled with blooming plants, in the pretty Italian
fashion. A broad, easy flight of stone steps led up to the
terrace, affording in their ascent a most imposing view of the
chateau, which loomed up grandly against the evening sky. Many of
the windows on this side were lighted, whilst the others
glistened brightly as the silvery moon-beams struck upon them--as
did also the dewdrops on the shrubbery and the grass-plots--as if
a shower of diamonds had fallen on this favoured spot. Looking
towards the park, the long vistas cut through the wood, losing
themselves in the hazy blue of the distance, called to mind
Breughel's famous picture of Paradise, or else disclosed the
far-away gleam of a marble statue, or the spray of a misty
fountain sparkling in the moonlight.

Isabelle and de Sigognac slowly ascended the broad steps, pausing
frequently to turn and look back at this enchanting scene, and
charmed with the beauty of the night walked for a little while to
and fro upon the terrace before retiring to their rooms. As they
were in full sight of the windows, and it was not yet very late,
thle modest young girl felt that there could be no impropriety in
this little indulgence; and besides, the baron's extreme timidity
was very reassuring to her, and she knew that he would not
presume upon the favour accorded to him. He had not made a formal
avowal of his love to her, but she was as well aware of it as if
he had, and also of his profound respect for her, which sentiment
is indeed always an accompaniment of a worthy passion. She knew
herself beloved--the knowledge was very sweet to her--and she
felt herself safe from all fear of offence in the company of this
honourable gentleman and true lover. With the delicious
embarrassment of nascent, unavowed love, this young couple
wandering by moonlight in a lonely garden, side by side, arm in
arm, only exchanged the most insignificant, commonplace remarks;
but if no undercurrent was betrayed by actual words, the
trembling, voices, long pauses, stifled sighs, and low,
confidential tones told of strong emotions beneath this quiet

The chamber assigned to the beautiful Yolande de Foix, near that
of Mme. la Marquise, was on this side of the chateau, overlooking
the park, and after she had dismissed her maid, she went to the
window to look out once more upon the exceeding beauty of the
night, and caught sight of de Sigognac and Isabelle, pacing
slowly back and forth on the terrace below, without any other
company than their own shadows. Assuredly the disdainful Yolande,
haughty as a goddess, could never have felt anything but scorn
for our poor young baron, past whom she had sometimes flashed in
a whirlwind of light and noise in the chase, and whom she had so
recently cruelly insulted; but still it displeased her to see him
devoting himself thus to a beautiful young girl, to whom he was
undoubtedly making love at that very moment. She had regarded him
as her own humble vassal--for she had not failed to read the
passionate admiration in his eyes whenever they met her own--and
could not brook his shaking off his allegiance thus; her slaves
ought to live and die in her service, even though their fidelity
were never rewarded by a single smile. She watched them, with a
frowning brow, until they disappeared, and then sought her conch
in anything but a tranquil mood, haunted by the lover-like pair
that had so roused her wrath, and still kept her long awake.

De Sigognac escorted Isabelle to the door of her chamber, where
he bade her good-night, and as he turned away towards his own,
saw, at the end of the corridor, a mysterious looking individual
closely wrapped in a large cloak, with one end thrown over the
shoulder in Spanish fashion, and so drawn up round his face that
only the eyes were visible; a slouch hat concealed his forehead,
so that he was completely disguised, yet he drew back hurriedly
into a dark corner when de Sigognac turned towards him, as if to
avoid his notice. The baron knew that the comedians had all gone
to their rooms already, and besides, it could not be one of them,
for the tyrant was much larger and taller, the pedant a great
deal stouter, Leander more slender, Matamore much thinner, and
Scapin of quite a different make. Not wishing to appear curious,
or to annoy the unknown in any way, de Sigognac hastened to enter
his own room--not however without having observed that the door
of the tapestry-hung chamber stood ajar. When he had closed his,
he heard stealthy footsteps approaching, and presently a bolt
shot home softly, then profound silence.

About an hour later, Leander opened his door as quietly as
possible, looked carefully to see if the corridor was empty, and
then, stepping as lightly and cautiously as a gipsy performing
the famous egg-dance, traversed its whole length, reached the
staircase, which he descended as noiselessly as the phantoms in a
haunted castle, and passed out into the moonlight; he crept along
in the shadow of the wall and of some thick shrubbery, went down
the steps into the park, and made his way to a sort of bower,
where stood a charming statue of the mischievous little god of
love, with his finger on his lip--an appropriate presiding genius
of a secret rendezvous, as this evidently must be. Here he
stopped and waited, anxiously watching the path by which he had
come, and listening intently to catch the first sound of
approaching footsteps.

We have already related how Leander, encouraged by the smile with
which Mme. la Marquise acknowledged his salutation, and convinced
that she was smitten with his beauty and grace, had made bold to
address a letter to her, which he bribed Jeanne to place secretly
upon her mistress's toilet-table, where she would be sure to see
it. This letter we copy here at length, so as to give an idea of
the style of composition employed by Leander in addressing the
great ladies of whose favours he boasted so loudly.

"Madame, or rather fair goddess of beauty, do not blame anything
but your own incomparable charms for this intrusion upon you. I
am forced by their radiance to emerge from the deep shadow in
which I should remain shrouded, and approach their dazzling
brilliancy--just as the dolphins are attracted from the depths of
ocean, by the brightness of the fisherman's lanterns, though they
are, alas! to find destruction there, and perish by the sharp
harpoons hurled pitilessly at them with unerring aim. I know but
too well that the waves will be reddened by my blood; but as I
cannot live without your favour, I do not fear to meet death
thus. It may be strangely audacious, on my part to pretend to the
privileges of gods and demi-gods--to die by your fair hand--but I
dare to aspire to it; being already in despair, nothing worse can
come to me, and I would rather incur your wrath than your scorn,
or your disdain. In order to direct the fatal blow aright, the
executioner must look upon his victim, and I shall have, in
yielding up my life under your fair, cruel hand, the supreme
delight of being for one blissful moment the object of your
regard. Yes, I love you, madame! I adore you! And if it be a
crime, I cannot repent of it. God suffers himself to be adored;
the stars receive the admiration of the humblest shepherd; it is
the fate of all such lofty perfection as yours to, be beloved,
adored, only by inferior beings, since it has not its equal upon
earth, nor scarcely indeed in heaven. I, alas! am but a poor,
wandering actor, yet were I a haughty duke or prince, my head
would not be on a level with your beauteous feet, and there would
be, all the same, between your heavenly height and my kneeling
adoration, as great a distance as from the soaring summit of the
loftiest Alp to the yawning abyss far, far below. You must always
stoop to reach a heart that adores you. I dare to say, madame,
that mine is as proud as it is tender, and she who would deign
not to repulse it, would find in it the most ardent love, the
most perfect delicacy, the most absolute respect, and unbounded
devotion. Besides, if such divine happiness be accorded me, your
indulgence would not have to stoop so low as you might fancy.
Though reduced by an adverse destiny and the jealous hatred of
one of the great ones of the earth, who must be nameless, to the
dire necessity of hiding myself under this disguise, I am not
what I seem. I do not need to blush for my birth--rather I may
glory in it. If I dared to betray the secrecy imposed upon me,
for reasons of state, I could prove to you that most illustrious
blood runs in my veins. Whoever may love me, noble though she be,
will not degrade herself. But I have already said too much--my
lips are sealed. I shall never be other than the humblest, most
devoted of your slaves; even though, by one of those strange
coincidences that happen sometimes in real life, I should come to
be recognised by all the world as a king's son. If in your great
goodness you will condescend to show me, fair goddess of beauty,
by the slightest sign, that my boldness has not angered you, I
shall die happy, consumed by the burning brightness of your eyes
upon the funeral pyre of my love."

How would Mme. la Marquise have received this ardent epistle?
which had perhaps done him good service already more than once.
Would she have looked favourably upon her humble suitor?--who can
tell?--for the feminine heart is past comprehension.
Unfortunately the letter did not reach her. Being entirely taken
up with great ladies, Leander overlooked their waiting-maids, and
did not trouble himself to show them any attentions or
gallantries--wherein he made a sad mistake--for if the pistoles
he gave to Jeanne, with his precious epistle, had been
supplemented by a few kisses and compliments, she would have
taken far more pains to execute his commission. As she held the
letter carelessly in her hand, the marquis chanced to pass by,
and asked her idly what she had got there.

"Oh! nothing much," she answered scornfully, "only a note from
Mr. Leander to Mme. la Marquise."

"From Leander? that jackanapes who plays the lover in the
Rodomontades of Captain Matamore? What in the world can HE have
to say to Mme. la Marquise? Doubtless he asks for a gratuity!"

"I don't think so," said the spiteful waiting-maid; "when he gave
me this letter he sighed, and rolled up his eyes like a love-sick

"Give me the letter," said the marquis, "_I_ will answer it--and
don't say anything about it to your mistress. Such chaps are apt
to be impertinent--they are spoiled by admiration, and sometimes
presume upon it."

The marquis, who dearly loved a joke, amused himself by answering
Leander's extraordinary epistle with one in much the same
style--written in a delicate, lady-like hand upon perfumed paper,
and sealed with a fanciful device--altogether a production well
calculated to deceive the poor devil, and confirm him in his
ridiculous fancies. Accordingly, when he regained his bed-chamber
after the play was over, he found upon his dressing-table a note
addressed to himself. He hastened to open it, trembling from head
to foot with excitement and delight, and read as follows: "It is
true, as you say so eloquently--too eloquently for my peace of
mind--that goddesses can only love mortals. At eleven o'clock,
when all the world is sunk in slumber, and no prying human eyes
open to gaze upon her, Diana will quit her place in the skies
above and descend to earth, to visit the gentle shepherd,
Endymion--not upon Mount Latmus, but in the park--at the foot of
the statue of silent love. The handsome shepherd must be sure to
have fallen asleep ere Diana appears, so as not to shock the
modesty of the immortal goddess--who will come without her
cortege of nymphs, wrapped in a cloud and devoid of her silvery

We will leave to the reader's imagination the delirious joy that
filled to overflowing the foolish heart of the susceptible
Leander, who was fooled to the top of his bent, when he read this
precious note, which exceeded his wildest hopes. He immediately
began his preparations to play the part of Endymion--poured a
whole bottle of perfume upon his hair and hands, chewed a flower
of mace to make his breath sweet, twisted his glossy curls
daintily round his white fingers--though not a hair was awry--and
then waited impatiently for the moment when he should set forth
to seek the rendezvons at the foot of the statue of silent
love--where we left him anxiously awaiting the arrival of his
goddess. He shivered nervously from excitement, and the
penetrating chilliness of the damp night air, as he stood
motionless at the appointed spot. He trembled at the falling of a
leaf--the crackling of the gravel under his feet whenever he
moved them sounded so loud in his ears that he felt sure it would
be heard at the chateau. The mysterious darkness of the wood
filled him with awe, and the great, black trees seemed like
terrible genii, threatening him. The poor wretch was not exactly
frightened, but not very far from it. Mme. la Marquise was
tardy--Diana was leaving her faithful Endymion too long cooling
his heels in the heavy night dew. At last he thought he heard
heavy footsteps approaching,--but they could not be those of his
goddess--he must be mistaken--goddesses glide so lightly over the
sward that not even a blade of grass is crushed beneath their
feet--and, indeed, all was silent again.

"Unless Mme. la Marquise comes quickly, I fear she will find only
a half-frozen lover, instead of an ardent, impatient one,"
murmured Leander with chattering teeth; and even as the words
escaped him four dark shadows advanced noiselessly from behind
upon the expectant gallant. Two of these shadows, which were the
substantial bodies of stout rascals in the service of the Marquis
de Bruyeres, seized him suddenly by the arms, which they held
pinioned closely to his sides, while the other two proceeded to
rain blows alternately upon his back--keeping perfect time as
their strokes fell thick and fast. Too proud to run the risk of
making his woes public by an outcry, their astonished victim took
his punishment bravely--without making a sound. Mutius Scaevola
did not bear himself more heroically while his right hand lay
among the burning coals upon the altar in the presence of
Porsenna, than did Leander under his severe chastisement. When it
was finished the two men let go of their prisoner, all four
saluted him gravely, and retired as noiselessly as they had come,
without a single word being spoken.

What a terrible fall was this! that famous one of Icarus himself,
tumbling down headlong from the near neighbourhood of the sun,
was not a greater. Battered, bruised, sore and aching all over,
poor Leander, crestfallen and forlorn, limping painfully, and
suppressing his groans with Spartan resolution, crept slowly back
to his own room; but so overweening as his self-conceit that he
never even suspected that a trick had been played upon him. He
said to himself that without doubt Mme. la Marquise had been
watched and followed by her jealous husband, who had overtaken
her before she reached the rendezvous in the park, carried her
back to the chateau by main strength, and forced her, with a
poniard at her throat, to confess all. He pictured her to himself
on her knees, with streaming eyes, disordered dress and
dishevelled hair, imploring her stem lord and master to be
merciful--to have pity upon her and forgive her this once--vowing
by all she held sacred never to be faithless to him again, even
in thought. Suffering and miserable as he was after his
tremendous thrashing, he yet pitied and grieved over the poor
lady who had put herself in such peril for his sake, never
dreaming that she was in blissful ignorance of the whole affair,
and at that very moment sleeping peacefully in her luxurious bed.
As the poor fellow crept cautiously and painfully along the
corridor leading to his room and to those of the other members of
the troupe he had the misfortune to be detected by Scapin, who,
evidently on the watch for him, was peeping out of his own
half-open door, grinning, grimacing, and gesticulating
significantly, as he noted the other's limping gait and drooping

In vain did Leander strive to straighten himself up and assume a
gay, careless air; his malicious tormentor was not in the least
taken in by it.

The next morning the comedians prepared to resume their journey;
no longer, however, in the slow-moving, groaning ox-cart, which
they were glad, indeed, to exchange for the more roomy,
commodious vehicle that the tyrant had been able to hire for
them--thanks to the marquis's liberality--in which they could
bestow themselves and their belongings comfortably, and to which
was harnessed four stout draught horses.

Leander and Zerbine were both rather late in rising, and the last
to make their appearance--the former with a doleful countenance,
despite his best efforts to conceal his sufferings under a
cheerful exterior, the latter beaming with satisfaction, and with
smiles for everybody. She was decidedly inclined to be munificent
towards her companions, and bestow upon them some of the rich
spoils that had fallen plentifully to her share--taking quite a
new position among them--even the duenna treating her with a
certain obsequious, wheedling consideration, which she had been
far from ever showing her before. Scapin, whose keen observation
nothing ever escaped, noticed that her box had suddenly doubled
in weight, by some magic or other, and drew his own conclusions
therefrom. Zerbine was a universal favourite, and no one
begrudged her her good fortune, save Serafina, who bit her lip
till it bled, and murmured indignantly, "Shameless creature!" but
the soubrette pretended not to hear it, content for the moment
with the signal humiliation of the arch-coquette.

At last the new Thespian chariot was ready for a start, and our
travellers bade adieu to the hospitable chateau, where they had
been so honourably received and so generously treated, and which
they all, excepting poor Leander, quitted with regret. The tyrant
dwelt upon the bountiful supply of pistoles he had received; the
pedant upon the capital wines of which he had drunk his fill;
Matamore upon the enthusiastic applause that had been lavished
upon him by that aristocratic audience; Zerbine upon the pieces
of rich silk, the golden necklaces and other like treasures with
which her chest was replete--no wonder that it was heavy--while
de Sigognac and Isabelle, thinking only of each other, and happy
in being together, did not even turn their heads for one last
glimpse of the handsome Chateau de Bruyere.


As may be readily supposed, the comedians were well satisfied
with the kind treatment they had received during their brief
sojourn at the Chateau de Bruyeres; such a piece of good fortune
did not often fall to their lot, and they rejoiced in it
exceedingly. The tyrant had distributed among them each one's
share of the marquis's liberal remuneration for their services,
and it was wonderfully pleasant to them to have broad pieces in
the purses usually so scantily supplied, and not infrequently
quite empty. Zerbine, who was evidently rejoicing over some
secret source of satisfaction, accepted good-naturedly all the
taunts and jokes of her companions upon the irresistible power of
her charms. She was triumphant, and could afford to be laughed
at--indeed, joined heartily in the general merriment at her own
expense--while Serafina sulked openly, with "envy, hatred, and
malice" filling her heart. Poor Leander, still smarting from his
severe beating, sore and aching, unable to find an easy position,
and suffering agonies from the jolting of the chariot, found it
hard work to join in the prevailing gaiety.

When he thought no one was looking at him, he would furtively rub
his poor, bruised shoulders and arms with the palm of his hand,
which stealthy manceuvre might very readily have passed
unobserved by the rest of the company, but did not escape the
wily valet, who was always on the lookout for a chance to torment
Leander; his monstrous self-conceit being intensely exasperating
to him. A harder jolt than usual having made the unfortunate
gallant groan aloud, Scapin immediately opened his attack,
feigning to feel the liveliest commiseration for him.

"My poor Leander, what is the matter with you this morning? You
moan and sigh as if you were in great agony! Are you really
suffering so acutely? You seem to be all battered and bruised,
like the Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance, after he had
capered stark naked, for a love penance, among the rocks in the
Sierra Morena, in humble imitation of his favourite hero, Amadis
de Gaul. You look as if you had not slept at all last night, and
had been lying upon hard sticks, rods, or clubs, instead of in a
soft, downy bed, such as were given to the rest of us in the fine
chateau yonder. Tell us, I pray you, did not Morpheus once visit
you all the night through?"

"Morpheus may have remained shut up in his cavern, but Cupid is a
wanderer by night, who does not need a lantern to find the way to
those fortunate individuals he favours with a visit," Leander
replied, hoping to divert attention from the tell-tale bruises,
that he had fancied were successfully concealed.

"I am only a humble valet, and have had no experience in affairs
of gallantry. I never paid court to a fine lady in my life; but
still, I do know this much, that the mischievous little god,
Cupid, according to all the poets, aims his arrows at the hearts
of those he wishes to wound, instead of using his bow upon their

"What in the world do you mean?" Leander interrupted quickly,
growing seriously uneasy at the turn the conversation was taking.

"Oh! nothing; only that I see, in spite of all your efforts to
hide it with that handkerchief knotted so carefully round your
neck, that you have there on the back of it a long, black mark,
which to-morrow will be indigo, the day after green, and then
yellow, until it fades away altogether, like any other bruise--a
black mark that looks devilishly like the authentic flourish
which accompanies the signature of a good, stout club on a calf's
skin--or on vellum, if that term pleases you better."

"Ah! my good Scapin, you do not understand such matters," Leander
replied, a scarlet flush mounting to the very roots of his hair,
and at his wits' ends to know how to silence his tormentor;
"doubtless some dead and gone beauty, who loved me passionately
during her lifetime, has come back and kissed me there while I
was sleeping; as is well known, the contact of the lips of the
dead leave strange, dark marks, like bruises, on human flesh,
which the recipient of the mysterious caress is astonished to
find upon awaking."

"Your defunct beauty visited you and bestowed her mysterious
caress very apropos," remarked Scapin, incredulously; "but I
would be willing to take my oath that yonder vigorous kiss had
been imprinted upon your lily-white neck by the stinging contact
of a stout club."

"Unmannerly jester and scoffer that you are! is nothing sacred to
you?" broke in Leander, with some show of heat.

"You push my modesty too far. I endeavoured delicately to put off
upon a dead beauty what I should have ascribed to a living one.
Ignorant and unsophisticated though you claim to be, have you
never heard of kisses so ardent that such traces of them are
left?--where pearly teeth have closed upon the soft flesh, and
made their mark on the white skin?"

"Memorem dente notam," interrupted the pedant, charmed to have a
chance to quote Horace.

"This explanation appears to me very judicious," Scapin said;
then, with a low bow to the pedant, "and is sustained by
unquestionable if incomprehensible authority; but the mark is so
long that this nocturnal beauty of yours, dead or alive, must
have had in her lovely mouth that famous tooth which the three
Gorgon sisters owned among them, and passed about from one to the

This sally was followed by a roar of laughter, and Leander,
beside himself with rage, half rose, to throw himself upon
Scopin, and chastise him then and there for his insufferable
impertinence; but he was so stiff and sore from his own beating,
and the pain in his back, which was striped like a zebra's, was
so excruciating, that he sank back into his place with a
suppressed groan, and concluded to postpone his revenge to some
more convenient season. Herode and Blazius, who were accustomed
to settle such little disputes, insisted upon their making up
their differences, and a sort of reconciliation took place-Scapin
promising never to allude to the subject again, but managing to
give poor Leander one or two more digs that made him wince even
as he did so.

During this absurd altercation the chariot had been making steadv
progress, and soon arrived at an open space where another great
post-road crossed the one they were following, at right angles. A
large wooden crucifix, much the worse for long exposure to the
weather, had been erected upon a grassy mound at the intersection
of the two highways. A group, consisting of two men and three
mules, stood at its foot, apparently awaiting some one's arrival.
As they approached, one of the mules, as if weary of standing
still, impatiently shook its head, which was gaily decorated with
bright, many-coloured tufts and tassels, and set all the little
silver bells about it ringing sharply. Although a pair of leather
blinkers, decked with gay embroidery, effectually prevented its
seeing to the right or to the left, it evidently was aware of the
approach of the chariot before the men's senses had given them
any intimation of it.

"The Colonelle shakes her ear-trumpets and shows her teeth," said
one of them; "they cannot be far off now."

In effect, after a very few minutes the chariot was seen
approaching, and presently rolled into the open space. Zerbine,
who sat in front, glanced composedly at the little group of men
and mules standing there, without betraying any surprise at
seeing them.

"By Jove! those are fine beasts yonder," exclaimed the tyrant,
"splendid Spanish mules, especially that foremost one; they can
easily do their fifteen or twenty leagues a day, I'll venture,
and if we were mounted on the like we should soon find ourselves
in Paris. But what the devil are they doing in this lonely place?
it must be a relay, waiting for some rich seignior travelling
this way."

"No," said the duenna, "that foremost mule is intended for a
lady--don't you see the cushions and housings?"

"In that case," he replied, "there must be an abduction in the
wind; those two equerries, in gray liveries, certainly have a
very mysterious, knowing sort of an air."

"Perhaps you are right," said Zerbine, demurely, with a
significant little smile and shrug.

"Can it be possible that the lady is among us?" asked Scapin;
"one of the men is coming this way by himself, as if he desired
to parley before resorting to violence."

"Oh! there'll be no need," said Serafina, casting a scornful
glance at the soubrette, who returned it with interest.

"There are bold creatures that go of their own accord, without
waiting to be carried off."

"And there are others who are NOT carried off, that would like to
be," retorted the soubrette, "but the desire is not sufficient; a
few charms are needed too."

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