Part 1 out of 5
This etext was produced by David Widger
[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the
file for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making an
entire meal of them. D.W.]
By PAUL BOURGET
With a Preface by JULES LEMAITRE, of the French academy,
Born in Amiens, September 2, 1852, Paul Bourget was a pupil at the Lycee
Louis le Grand, and then followed a course at the Ecole des Hautes
Etudes, intending to devote himself to Greek philology. He, however,
soon gave up linguistics for poetry, literary criticism, and fiction.
When yet a very young man, he became a contributor to various journals
and reviews, among others to the 'Revue des deux Mondes, La Renaissance,
Le Parlement, La Nouvelle Revue', etc. He has since given himself up
almost exclusively to novels and fiction, but it is necessary to mention
here that he also wrote poetry. His poetical works comprise: 'Poesies
(1872-876), La Vie Inquiete (1875), Edel (1878), and Les Aveux (1882)'.
With riper mind and to far better advantage, he appeared a few years
later in literary essays on the writers who had most influenced his own
development--the philosophers Renan, Taine, and Amiel, the poets
Baudelaire and Leconte de Lisle; the dramatist Dumas fils, and the
novelists Turgenieff, the Goncourts, and Stendhal. Brunetiere says of
Bourget that "no one knows more, has read more, read better, or
meditated, more profoundly upon what he has read, or assimilated it more
completely." So much "reading" and so much "meditation," even when
accompanied by strong assimilative powers, are not, perhaps, the most
desirable and necessary tendencies in a writer of verse or of fiction.
To the philosophic critic, however, they must evidently be invaluable;
and thus it is that in a certain self-allotted domain of literary
appreciation allied to semi-scientific thought, Bourget stands to-day
without a rival. His 'Essais de Psychologie Contemporaine (1883),
Nouveaux Essais (1885), and Etudes et Portraits (1888)' are certainly not
the work of a week, but rather the outcome of years of self-culture and
of protracted determined endeavor upon the sternest lines. In fact, for
a long time, Bourget rose at 3 a.m. and elaborated anxiously study after
study, and sketch after sketch, well satisfied when he sometimes noticed
his articles in the theatrical 'feuilleton' of the 'Globe' and the
'Parlement', until he finally contributed to the great 'Debats' itself.
A period of long, hard, and painful probation must always be laid down,
so to speak, as the foundation of subsequent literary fame. But France,
fortunately for Bourget, is not one of those places where the foundation
is likely to be laid in vain, or the period of probation to endure for
ever and ever.
In fiction, Bourget carries realistic observation beyond the externals
(which fixed the attention of Zola and Maupassant) to states of the mind:
he unites the method of Stendhal to that of Balzac. He is always
interesting and amusing. He takes himself seriously and persists in
regarding the art of writing fiction as a science. He has wit, humor,
charm, and lightness of touch, and ardently strives after philosophy and
intellectuality--qualities that are rarely found in fiction. It may well
be said of M. Bourget that he is innocent of the creation of a single
stupid character. The men and women we read of in Bourget's novels are
so intellectual that their wills never interfere with their hearts.
The list of his novels and romances is a long one, considering the fact
that his first novel, 'L'Irreparable,' appeared as late as 1884. It was
followed by 'Cruelle Enigme (1885); Un Crime d'Amour (1886); Andre
Cornelis and Mensonges (1887); Le Disciple (1889); La Terre promise;
Cosmopolis (1892), crowned by the Academy; Drames de Famille (1899);
Monique (1902)'; his romances are 'Une Idylle tragique (1896); La
Duchesse Bleue (1898); Le Fantome (1901); and L'Etape (1902)'.
'Le Disciple' and 'Cosmopolis' are certainly notable books. The latter
marks the cardinal point in Bourget's fiction. Up to that time he had
seen environment more than characters; here the dominant interest is
psychic, and, from this point on, his characters become more and more
like Stendhal's, "different from normal clay." Cosmopolis is perfectly
charming. Bourget is, indeed, the past-master of "psychological"
To sum up: Bourget is in the realm of fiction what Frederic Amiel is in
the realm of thinkers and philosophers--a subtle, ingenious, highly
gifted student of his time. With a wonderful dexterity of pen, a very
acute, almost womanly intuition, and a rare diffusion of grace about all
his writings, it is probable that Bourget will remain less known as a
critic than as a romancer. Though he neither feels like Loti nor sees
like Maupassant--he reflects.
de l'Academie Francaise.
I send you, my dear Primoli, from beyond the Alps, the romance of
international life, begun in Italy almost under your eyes, to which I
have given for a frame that ancient and noble Rome of which you are so
ardent an admirer.
To be sure, the drama of passion which this book depicts has no
particularly Roman features, and nothing was farther from my thoughts
than to trace a picture of the society so local, so traditional, which
exists between the Quirinal and the Vatican. The drama is not even
Italian, for the scene might have been laid, with as much truth, at
Venice, Florence, Nice, St. Moritz, even Paris or London, the various
cities which are like quarters scattered over Europe of the fluctuating
'Cosmopolis,' christened by Beyle: 'Vengo adesso da Cosmopoli'. It is
the contrast between the rather incoherent ways of the rovers of high
life and the character of perennity impressed everywhere in the great
city of the Caesars and of the Popes which has caused me to choose the
spot where even the corners speak of a secular past, there to evoke some
representatives of the most modern, as well as the most arbitrary and the
most momentary, life. You, who know better than any one the motley world
of cosmopolites, understand why I have confined myself to painting here
only a fragment of it. That world, indeed, does not exist, it can have
neither defined customs nor a general character. It is composed of
exceptions and of singularities. We are so naturally creatures of
custom, our continual mobility has such a need of gravitating around one
fixed axis, that motives of a personal order alone can determine us upon
an habitual and voluntary exile from our native land. It is so, now in
the case of an artist, a person seeking for instruction and change; now
in the case of a business man who desires to escape the consequences of
some scandalous error; now in the case of a man of pleasure in search of
new adventures; in the case of another, who cherishes prejudices from
birth, it is the longing to find the "happy mean;" in the case of
another, flight from distasteful memories. The life of the cosmopolite
can conceal all beneath the vulgarity of its whims, from snobbery in
quest of higher connections to swindling in quest of easier prey,
submitting to the brilliant frivolities of the sport, the sombre
intrigues of policy, or the sadness of a life which has been a failure.
Such a variety of causes renders at once very attractive and almost
impracticable the task of the author who takes as a model that ever-
changing society so like unto itself in the exterior rites and fashions,
so really, so intimately complex and composite in its fundamental
elements. The writer is compelled to take from it a series of leading
facts, as I have done, essaying to deduce a law which governs them. That
law, in the present instance, is the permanence of race. Contradictory
as may appear this result, the more one studies the cosmopolites, the
more one ascertains that the most irreducible idea within them is that
special strength of heredity which slumbers beneath the monotonous
uniform of superficial relations, ready to reawaken as soon as love stirs
the depths of the temperament. But there again a difficulty, almost
insurmountable, is met with. Obliged to concentrate his action to a
limited number of personages, the novelist can not pretend to incarnate
in them the confused whole of characters which the vague word race sums
up. Again, taking this book as an example, you and I, my dear Primoli,
know a number of Venetians and of English women, of Poles and of Romans,
of Americans and of French who have nothing in common with Madame Steno,
Maud and Boleslas Gorka, Prince d'Ardea, Marquis Cibo, Lincoln Maitland,
his brother-in-law, and the Marquis de Montfanon, while Justus Hafner
only represents one phase out of twenty of the European adventurer, of
whom one knows neither his religion, his family, his education, his point
of setting out, nor his point of arriving, for he has been through
various ways and means. My ambition would be satisfied were I to succeed
in creating here a group of individuals not representative of the entire
race to which they belong, but only as possibly existing in that race--or
those races. For several of them, Justus Hafner and his daughter Fanny,
Alba Steno, Florent Chapron, Lydia Maitland, have mixed blood in their
veins. May these personages interest you, my dear friend, and become to
you as real as they have been to me for some time, and may you receive
them in your palace of Tor di Nona as faithful messengers of the grateful
affection felt for you by your companion of last winter.
PARIS, November 16, 1892.
A DILETTANTE AND A BELIEVER
Although the narrow stall, flooded with heaped-up books and papers, left
the visitor just room enough to stir, and although that visitor was one
of his regular customers, the old bookseller did not deign to move from
the stool upon which he was seated, while writing on an unsteady desk.
His odd head, with its long, white hair, peeping from beneath a once
black felt hat with a broad brim, was hardly raised at the sound of the
opening and shutting of the door. The newcomer saw an emaciated,
shriveled face, in which, from behind spectacles, two brown eyes twinkled
slyly. Then the hat again shaded the paper, which the knotty fingers,
with their dirty nails, covered with uneven lines traced in a handwriting
belonging to another age, and from the thin, tall form, enveloped in a
greenish, worn-out coat, came a faint voice, the voice of a man afflicted
with chronic laryngitis, uttering as an apology, with a strong Italian
accent, this phrase in French:
"One moment, Marquis, the muse will not wait."
"Very well, I will; I am no muse. Listen to your inspiration
comfortably, Ribalta," replied, with a laugh, he whom the vendor of old
books received with such original unconstraint. He was evidently
accustomed to the eccentricities of the strange merchant. In Rome--for
this scene took place in a shop at the end of one of the most ancient
streets of the Eternal City, a few paces from the Place d'Espagne, so
well known to tourists--in the city which serves as a confluent for so
many from all points of the world, has not that sense of the odd been
obliterated by the multiplicity of singular and anomalous types stranded
and sheltering there? You will find there revolutionists like boorish
Ribalta, who is ending in a curiosity-shop a life more eventful than the
most eventful of the sixteenth century.
Descended from a Corsican family, this personage came to Rome when very
young, about 1835, and at first became a seminarist. On the point of
being ordained a priest, he disappeared only to return, in 1849, so rabid
a republican that he was outlawed at the time of the reestablishment of
the pontifical government. He then served as secretary to Mazzini, with
whom he disagreed for reasons which clashed with Ribalta's honor. Would
passion for a woman have involved him in such extravagance? In 1870
Ribalta returned to Rome, where he opened, if one may apply such a term
to such a hole, a book-shop. But he is an amateur bookseller, and will
refuse you admission if you displease him. Having inherited a small
income, he sells or he does not, following his fancy or the requirements
of his own purchases, to-day asking you twenty francs for a wretched
engraving for which he paid ten sous, to-morrow giving you at a low price
a costly book, the value of which he knows. Rabid Gallophobe, he never
pardoned his old general the campaign of Dijon any more than he forgave
Victor Emmanuel for having left the Vatican to Pius IX. "The house of
Savoy and the papacy," said he, when he was confidential, "are two eggs
which we must not eat on the same dish." And he would tell of a certain
pillar of St. Peter's hollowed into a staircase by Bernin, where a
cartouch of dynamite was placed. If you were to ask him why he became a
book collector, he would bid you step over a pile of papers, of boarding
and of folios. Then he would show you an immense chamber, or rather a
shed, where thousands of pamphlets were piled up along the walls: "These
are the rules of all the convents suppressed by Italy. I shall write
their history." Then he would stare at you, for he would fear that you
might be a spy sent by the king with the sole object of learning the
plans of his most dangerous enemy--one of those spies of whom he has been
so much in awe that for twenty years no one has known where he slept,
where he ate, where he hid when the shutters of his shop in the Rue
Borgognona were closed. He expected, on account of his past, and his
secret manner, to be arrested at the time of the outrage of Passanante as
one of the members of those Circoli Barsanti, to whom a refractory
corporal gave his name.
But, on examining the dusty cartoons of the old book-stall, the police
discovered nothing except a prodigious quantity of grotesque verses
directed against the Piedmontese and the French, against the Germans and
the Triple Alliance, against the Italian republicans and the ministers,
against Cavour and Signor Crispi, against the University of Rome and the
Inquisition, against the monks and the capitalists! It was, no doubt,
one of those pasquinades which his customers watched him at work upon,
thinking, as he did so, how Rome abounded in paradoxical meetings.
For, in 1867, that same old Garibaldian exchanged shots at Mentana with
the Pope's Zouaves, among whom was Marquis de Montfanon, for so was
called the visitor awaiting Ribalta's pleasure. Twenty-three years had
sufficed to make of the two impassioned soldiers of former days two
inoffensive men, one of whom sold old volumes to the other! And there is
a figure such as you will not find anywhere else--the French nobleman who
has come to die near St. Peter's.
Would you believe, to see him with his coarse boots, dressed in a simple
coat somewhat threadbare, a round hat covering his gray head, that you
have before you one of the famous Parisian dandies of 1864? Listen to
this other history. Scruples of devoutness coming in the wake of a
serious illness cast at one blow the frequenter of the 'Cafe Anglais' and
gay suppers into the ranks of the pontifical zouaves. A first sojourn in
Rome during the last four years of the government of Pius IX, in that
incomparable city to which the presentiment of the approaching
termination of a secular rule, the advent of the Council, and the French
occupation gave a still more peculiar character, was enchantment. All
the germs of piety instilled in the nobleman by the education of the
Jesuits of Brughetti ended by reviving a harvest of noble virtues, in the
days of trial which came only too quickly. Montfanon made the campaign
of France with the other zouaves, and the empty sleeve which was turned
up in place of his left arm attested with what courage he fought at
Patay, at the time of that sublime charge when the heroic General de
Sonis unfurled the banner of the Sacred Heart. He had been a duelist,
sportsman, gambler, lover, but to those of his old companions of pleasure
whom chance brought to Rome he was only a devotee who lived economically,
notwithstanding the fact that he had saved the remnants of a large
fortune for alms, for reading and for collecting.
Every one has that vice, more or less, in Rome, which is in itself the
most surprising museum of history and of art. Montfanon is collecting
documents in order to write the history of the French nobility and of the
Church. His mistresses of the time when he was the rival of the Gramont-
Caderousses and the Demidoffs would surely not recognize him any more
than he would them. But are they as happy as he seems to have remained
through his life of sacrifice? There is laughter in his blue eyes, which
attest his pure Germanic origin, and which light up his face, one of
those feudal faces such as one sees in the portraits hung upon the walls
of the priories of Malta, where plainness has race. A thick, white
moustache, in which glimmers a vague reflection of gold, partly hides a
scar which would give to that red face a terrible look were it not for
the expression of those eyes, in which there is fervor mingled with
merriment. For Montfanon is as fanatical on certain subjects as he is
genial and jovial on others. If he had the power he would undoubtedly
have Ribalta arrested, tried, and condemned within twenty-four hours for
the crime of free-thinking. Not having it, he amused himself with him,
so much the more so as the vanquished Catholic and the discontented
Socialists have several common hatreds. Even on this particular morning
we have seen with what indulgence he bore the brusqueness of the old
bookseller, at whom he gazed for ten minutes without disconcerting him in
the least. At length the revolutionist seemed to have finished his
epigram, for with a quiet smile he carefully folded the sheet of paper,
put it in a wooden box which he locked. Then he turned around.
"What do you desire, Marquis?" he asked, without any further
"First of all, you will have to read me your poem, old redshirt," said
Montfanon, "which will only be my recompense for having awaited your good
pleasure more patiently than an ambassador. Let us see whom are you
abusing in those verses? Is it Don Ciccio or His Majesty? You will not
reply? Are you afraid that I shall denounce you at the Quirinal?"
"No flies enter a closed mouth," replied the old conspirator, justifying
the proverb by the manner in which he shut his toothless mouth, into
which, indeed, at that moment, neither a fly nor the tiniest grain of
dust could enter.
"An excellent saying," returned the Marquis, with a laugh, "and one I
should like to see engraved on the facade of all the modern parliaments.
But between your poetry and your adages have you taken the time to write
for me to that bookseller at Vienna, who owns the last copy of the
pamphlet on the trial of the bandit Hafner?"
"Patience," said the merchant. "I will write."
"And my document on the siege of Rome, by Bourbon, those three notarial
deeds which you promised me, have you dislodged them?"
"Patience, patience," repeated the merchant, adding, as he pointed with a
comical mixture of irony and of despair to the disorder in his shop,
"How can you expect me to know where I am in the midst of all this?"
"Patience, patience," repeated Montfanon. "For a month you have been
singing that old refrain. If, instead of composing wretched verses, you
would attend to your correspondence, and, if, instead of buying
continually, you would classify this confused mass . . . . But," said
he, more seriously, with a brusque gesture, "I am wrong to reproach you
for your purchases, since I have come to speak to you of one of the last.
Cardinal Guerillot told me that you showed him, the other day, an
interesting prayer-book, although in very bad condition, which you found
in Tuscany. Where is it?"
"Here it is," said Ribalta, who, leaping over several piles of volumes
and thrusting aside with his foot an enormous heap of cartoons, opened
the drawer of a tottering press. In that drawer he rummaged among an
accumulation of odd, incongruous objects: old medals and old nails,
bookbindings and discolored engravings, a large leather box gnawed by
insects, on the outside of which could be distinguished a partly effaced
coat-of-arms. He opened that box and extended toward Montfanon a volume
covered with leather and studded. One of the clasps was broken, and when
the Marquis began to turn over the pages, he could see that the interior
had not been better taken care of than the exterior. Colored prints had
originally ornamented the precious work; they were almost effaced. The
yellow parchment had been torn in places. Indeed, it was a shapeless
ruin which the curious nobleman examined, however, with the greatest
care, while Ribalta made up his mind to speak.
"A widow of Montalcino, in Tuscany, sold it to me. She asked me an
enormous price, and it is worth it, although it is slightly damaged. For
those are miniatures by Matteo da Siena, who made them for Pope Pius II
Piccolomini. Look at the one which represents Saint Blaise, who is
blessing the lions and panthers. It is the best preserved. Is it not
"Why try to deceive me, Ribalta?" interrupted Montfanon, with a gesture
of impatience. "You know as well as I that these miniatures are very
mediocre, and that they do not in the least resemble Matteo's compact
work; and another proof is that the prayerbook is dated 1554. See!"
and, with his remaining hand, very adroitly he showed the merchant the
figures; "and as I have quite a memory for dates, and as I am interested
in Siena, I have not forgotten that Matteo died before 1500. I did not
go to college with Machiavelli," continued he, with some brusqueness,
"but I will tell you that which the Cardinal would have told you if you
had not deceived him by your finesse, as you tried to deceive me just
now. Look at this partly effaced signature, which you have not been able
to read. I will decipher it for you. Blaise de Mo, and then a c, with
several letters missing, just three, and that makes Montluc in the
orthography of the time, and the b is in a handwriting which you might
have examined in the archives of that same Siena, since you come from
there. Now, with regard to this coat-of-arms," and he closed the book to
detail to his stupefied companion the arms hardly visible on the cover,
"do you see a wolf, which was originally of gold, and turtles of gales?
Those are the arms which Montluc has borne since the year 1554, when he
was made a citizen of Siena for having defended it so bravely against the
terrible Marquis de Marignan. As for the box," he took it in its turn to
study it, "these are really the half-moons of the Piccolominis. But what
does that prove? That after the siege, and just as it was necessary to
retire to Montalcino, Montluc gave his prayer-book, as a souvenir, to
some of that family. The volume was either lost or stolen, and finally
reduced to the state in which it now is. This book, too, is proof that a
little French blood was shed in the service of Italy. But those who have
sold it have forgotten that, like Magenta and Solferino, you have only
memory for hatred. Now that you know why I want your prayer-book, will
you sell it to me for five hundred francs?"
The bookseller listened to that discourse with twenty contradictory
expressions upon his face. From force of habit he felt for Montfanon a
sort of respect mingled with animosity, which evidently rendered it very
painful for him to have been surprised in the act of telling an untruth.
It is necessary, to be just, to add that in speaking of the great painter
Matteo and of Pope Pius II in connection with that unfortunate volume, he
had not thought that the Marquis, ordinarily very economical and who
limited his purchases to the strict domain of ecclesiastical history,
would have the least desire for that prayer-book. He had magnified the
subject with a view to forming a legend and to taking advantage of some
rich, unversed amateur.
On the other hand, if the name of Montluc meant absolutely nothing to
him, it was not the same with the direct and brutal allusion which his
interlocutor had made to the war of 1859. It is always a thorn in the
flesh of those of our neighbors from beyond the Alps who do not love us.
The pride of the Garibaldian was not far behind the generosity of the
former zouave. With an abruptness equal to that of Montfanon, he took up
the volume and grumbled as he turned it over and over in his inky
"I would not sell it for six hundred francs. No, I would not sell it for
six hundred francs."
"It is a very large sum," said Montfanon.
"No," continued the good man, "I would not sell it." Then extending it
to the Marquis, in evident excitement, he cried: "But to you I will sell
it for four hundred francs."
"But I have offered you five hundred francs for it," said the nonplussed
purchaser. "You know that is a small sum for such a curiosity."
"Take it for four," insisted Ribalta, growing more and more eager, "not a
sou less, not a sou more. It is what it cost me. And you shall have
your documents in two days and the Hafner papers this week. But was that
Bourbon who sacked Rome a Frenchman?" he continued. "And Charles
d'Anjou, who fell upon us to make himself King of the two Sicilies? And
Charles VIII, who entered by the Porte du Peuple? Were they Frenchmen?
Why did they come to meddle in our affairs? Ah, if we were to calculate
closely, how much you owe us! Was it not we who gave you Mazarin,
Massena, Bonaparte and many others who have gone to die in your army in
Russia, in Spain and elsewhere? And at Dijon? Did not Garibaldi
stupidly fight for you, who would have taken from him his country? We
are quits on the score of service . . . . But take your prayer-book-
good-evening, good-evening. You can pay me later."
And he literally pushed the Marquis out of the stall, gesticulating and
throwing down books on all sides. Montfanon found himself in the street
before having been able to draw from his pocket the money he had got
"What a madman! My God, what a madman!" said he to himself, with a
laugh. He left the shop at a brisk pace, with the precious book under
his arm. He understood, from having frequently come in contact with
them, those southern natures, in which swindling and chivalry elbow
without harming one another--Don Quixotes who set their own windmills in
motion. He asked himself:
"How much would he still make after playing the magnamimous with me?"
His question was never to be answered, nor was he to know that Ribalta
had bought the rare volume among a heap of papers, engravings, and old
books, paying twenty-five francs for all. Moreover, two encounters which
followed one upon the other on leaving the shop, prevented him from
meditating on that problem of commercial psychology. He paused for a
moment at the end of the street to cast a glance at the Place d'Espagne,
which he loved as one of those corners unchanged for the last thirty
years. On that morning in the early days of May, the square, with its
sinuous edge, was indeed charming with bustle and light, with the houses
which gave it a proper contour, with the double staircase of La Trinite-
des-Monts lined with idlers, with the water which gushed from a large
fountain in the form of a bark placed in the centre-one of the
innumerable caprices in which the fancy of Bernin, that illusive
decorator, delighted to indulge. Indeed, at that hour and in that light,
the fountain was as natural in effect as were the nimble hawkers who held
in their extended arms baskets filled with roses, narcissus, red
anemones, fragile cyclamens and dark pansies. Barefooted, with sparkling
eyes, entreaties upon their lips, they glided among the carriages which
passed along rapidly, fewer than in the height of the season, still quite
numerous, for spring was very late this year, and it came with delightful
freshness. The flower-sellers besieged the hurried passers-by, as well
as those who paused at the shop-windows, and, devout Catholic as
Montfanon was, he tasted, in the face of the picturesque scene of a
beautiful morning in his favorite city, the pleasure of crowning that
impression of a bright moment by a dream of eternity. He had only to
turn his eyes to the right, toward the College de la Propagande, a
seminary from which all the missions of the world set out.
But it was decreed that the impassioned nobleman should not enjoy
undisturbed the bibliographical trifle obtained so cheaply and which he
carried under his arm, nor that feeling so thoroughly Roman; a sudden
apparition surprised him at the corner of a street, at an angle of the
sidewalk. His bright eyes lost their serenity when a carriage passed by
him, a carriage, perfectly appointed, drawn by two black horses, and in
which, notwithstanding the early hour, sat two ladies. The one was
evidently an inferior, a companion who acted as chaperon to the other, a
young girl of almost sublime beauty, with large black eyes, which
contrasted strongly with a pale complexion, but a pallor in which there
was warmth and life. Her profile, of an Oriental purity, was so much on
the order of the Jewish type that it left scarcely a doubt as to the
Hebrew origin of the creature, a veritable vision of loveliness, who
seemed created, as the poets say, "To draw all hearts in her wake." But
no! The jovial, kindly face of the Marquis suddenly darkened as he
watched the girl about to turn the corner of the street, and who bowed to
a very fashionable young man, who undoubtedly knew the late pontifical
zouave, for he approached him familiarly, saying, in a mocking tone and
in a French which came direct from France:
"Well! Now I have caught you, Marquis Claude-Francois de Montfanon!....
She has come, you have seen her, you have been conquered. Have your eyes
feasted upon divine Fanny Hafner? Tremble! I shall denounce you to his
Eminence, Cardinal Guerillot; and if you malign his charming catechist I
will be there to testify that I saw you hypnotized as she passed, as were
the people of Troy by Helen. And I know very positively that Helen had
not so modern a grace, so beautiful a mind, so ideal a profile, so deep a
glance, so dreamy a mouth and such a smile. Ah, how lovely she is! When
shall you call?"
"If Monsieur Julien Dorsenne," replied Montfanon, in the same mocking
tone, "does not pay more attention to his new novel than he is doing at
this moment, I pity his publisher. Come here," he added, brusquely,
dragging the young man to the angle of Rue Borgognona. "Did you see the
victoria stop at No. 13, and the divine Fanny, as you call her, alight?
. . . She has entered the shop of that old rascal, Ribalta. She will
not remain there long. She will come out, and she will drive away in her
carriage. It is a pity she will not pass by us again. We should have
had the pleasure of seeing her disappointed air. This is what she is in
search of," added he, with a gay laugh, exhibiting his purchase, "but
which she could not have were she to offer all the millions which her
honest father has stolen in Vienna. Ha, ha!" he concluded, laughing
still more heartily, "Monsieur de Montfanon rose first; this morning has
not been lost, and you, Monsieur, can see what I obtained at the
curiosity-shop of that old fellow who will not make a plaything of this
object, at least," he added, extending the book to his interlocutor, at
whom he glanced with a comical expression of triumph.
"I do not wish to look at it," responded Dorsenne. "But, yes," he
continued, as Montfanon shrugged his shoulders, "in my capacity of
novelist and observer, since you cast it at my head, I know already what
it is. What do you bet? . . . It is a prayer-book which bears the
signature of Marshal de Montluc, and which Cardinal Guerillot discovered.
Is that true? He spoke to Mademoiselle Hafner about it, and he thought
he would mitigate your animosity toward her by telling you she was an
enthusiast and wished to buy it. Is that true as well? And you,
wretched man, had only one thought, to deprive that poor little thing of
the trifle. Is that true? We spent the evening before last together at
Countess Steno's; she talked to me of nothing but her desire to have the
book on which the illustrious soldier, the great believer, had prayed.
She told me of all her heroic resolutions. Later she went to buy it.
But the shop was closed; I noticed it on passing, and you certainly went
there, too . . . . Is that true? . . . And, now that I have
detailed to you the story, explain to me, you who are so just, why you
cherish an antipathy so bitter and so childish--excuse the word!--for an
innocent, young girl, who has never speculated on 'Change, who is as
charitable as a whole convent, and who is fast becoming as devout as
yourself. Were it not for her father, who will not listen to the thought
of conversion before marriage, she would already be a Catholic, and--
Protestants as they are for the moment--she would never go anywhere but
to church . . . . When she is altogether a Catholic, and under the
protection of a Sainte-Claudine and a Sainte-Francoise, as you are under
the protection of Saint-Claude and Saint-Francois, you will have to lay
down your arms, old leaguer, and acknowledge the sincerity of the
religious sentiments of that child who has never harmed you."
"What! She has done nothing to me?" . . . interrupted Montfanon.
"But it is quite natural that a sceptic should not comprehend what she
has done to me, what she does to me daily, not to me personally, but to
my opinions. When one has, like you, learned intellectual athletics in
the circus of the Sainte-Beuves and Renans, one must think it fine that
Catholicism, that grand thing, should serve as a plaything for the
daughter of a pirate who aims at an aristocratic marriage. It may, too,
amuse you that my holy friend, Cardinal Guerillot, should be the dupe of
that intriguer. But I, Monsieur, who have received the sacrament by the
side of a Sonis, I can not admit that one should make use of what was the
faith of that hero to thrust one's self into the world. I do not admit
that one should play the role of dupe and accomplice to an old man whom
I venerate and whom I shall enlighten, I give you my word."
"And as for this ancient relic," he continued, again showing the volume,
"you may think it childish that I do not wish it mixed up in the shameful
comedy. But no, it shall not be. They shall not exhibit with words of
emotion, with tearful eyes, this breviary on which once prayed that grand
soldier; yes, Monsieur, that great believer. She has done nothing to
me," he repeated, growing more and more excited, his red face becoming
purple with rage, "but they are the quintessence of what I detest the
most, people like her and her father. They are the incarnation of the
modern world, in which there is nothing more despicable than these
cosmopolitan adventurers, who play at grand seigneur with the millions
filibustered in some stroke on the Bourse. First, they have no country.
What is this Baron Justus Hafner--German, Austrian, Italian? Do you
know? They have no religion. The name, the father's face, that of the
daughter, proclaim them Jews, and they are Protestants--for the moment,
as you have too truthfully said, while they prepare themselves to become
Mussulmen or what not. For the moment, when it is a question of God!....
They have no family. Where was this man reared? What did his father,
his mother, his brothers, his sisters do? Where did he grow up? Where
are his traditions? Where is his past, all that constitutes, all that
establishes the moral man?.... Just look. All is mystery in this
personage, excepting this, which is very clear: if he had received his
due in Vienna, at the time of the suit of the 'Credit Austro-Dalmate',
in 1880, he would be in the galleys, instead of in Rome. The facts were
these: there were innumerable failures. I know something about it. My
poor cousin De Saint-Remy, who was with the Comte de Chambord, lost the
bread of his old age and his daughter's dowry. There were suicides and
deeds of violence, notably that of a certain Schroeder, who went mad on
account of that crash, and who killed himself, after murdering his wife
and his two children. And the Baron came out of it unsullied. It is not
ten years since the occurrence, and it is forgotten. When he settled in
Rome he found open doors, extended hands, as he would have found them in
Madrid, London, Paris, or elsewhere. People go to his house; they
receive him! And you wish me to believe in the devoutness of that man's
daughter!.... No, a thousand times no; and you yourself, Dorsenne, with
your mania for paradoxes and sophisms, you have the right spirit in you,
and these people horrify you in reality, as they do me."
"Not the least in the world," replied the writer, who had listened to the
Marquis's tirade; with an unconvinced smile, he repeated: "Not the least
in the world.... You have spoken of me as an acrobat or an athlete.
I am not offended, because it is you, and because I know that you love
me dearly. Let me at least have the suppleness of one. First, before
passing judgment on a financial affair I shall wait until I understand
it. Hafner was acquitted. That is enough, for one thing. Were he even
the greatest rogue in the universe, that would not prevent his daughter
from being an angel, for another. As for that cosmopolitanism for which
you censure him, we do not agree there; it is just that which interests
me in him. Thirdly,.... I should not consider that I had lost the six
months spent in Rome, if I had met only him. Do not look at me as if I
were one of the patrons of the circus, Uncle Beuve, or poor Monsieur
Renan himself," he continued, tapping the Marquis's shoulder. "I swear
to you that I am very serious. Nothing interests me more than these
exceptions to the general rule--than those who have passed through two,
three, four phases of existence. Those individuals are my museum, and
you wish me to sacrifice to your scruples one of my finest subjects....
Moreover,"--and the malice of the remark he was about to make caused the
young man's eyes to sparkle "revile Baron Hafner as much as you like,"
he continued; "call him a thief and a snob, an intriguer and a knave,
if it pleases you. But as for being a person who does not know where his
ancestors lived, I reply, as did Bonhomet when he reached heaven and the
Lord said to him: 'Still a chimney-doctor, Bonhomet?'--'And you, Lord?'.
For you were born in Bourgogne, Monsieur de Montfanon, of an ancient
family, related to all the nobility-upon which I congratulate you--and
you have lived here in Rome for almost twenty-four years, in the
Cosmopolis which you revile."
"First of all," replied the Pope's former soldier, holding up his
mutilated arm, "I might say that I no longer count, I do not live.
And then," his face became inspired, and the depths of that narrow mind,
often blinded but very exalted, suddenly appeared, "and then, my Rome to
me, Monsieur, has nothing in common with that of Monsieur Hafner nor with
yours, since you are come, it seems, to pursue studies of moral
teratology. Rome to me is not Cosmopolis, as you say, it is Metropolis,
it is the mother of cities.... You forget that I am a Catholic in every
fibre, and that I am at home here. I am here because I am a monarchist,
because I believe in old France as you believe in the modern world; and I
serve her in my fashion, which is not very efficacious, but which is one
way, nevertheless.... The post of trustee of Saint Louis, which I
accepted from Corcelle, is to me my duty, and I will sustain it in the
best way in my power.... Ah! that ancient France, how one feels her
grandeur here, and what a part she is known to have had in Christianity!
It is that chord which I should like to have heard vibrate in a fluent
writer like you, and not eternally those paradoxes, those sophisms. But
what matters it to you who date from yesterday and who boast of it," he
added, almost sadly, "that in the most insignificant corners of this city
centuries of history abound? Does your heart blush at the sight of the
facade of the church of Saint-Louis, the salamander of Francois I and the
lilies? Do you know why the Rue Bargognona is called thus, and that near
by is Saint-Claudedes-Bourguignons, our church? Have you visited, you
who are from the Vosges, that of your province, Saint-Nicolas-des-
Lorrains? Do you know Saint-Yves-des-Bretons?"
"But," and here his voice assumed a gay accent, "I have thoroughly
charged into that rascal of a Hafner. I have laid him before you without
any hesitation. I have spoken to you as I feel, with all the fervor of
my heart, although it may seem sport to you. You will be punished, for
I shall not allow you to escape. I will take you to the France of other
days. You shall dine with me at noon, and between this and then we will
make the tour of those churches I have just named. During that time we
will go back one hundred and fifty years in the past, into that world in
which there were neither cosmopolites nor dilettantes. It is the old
world, but it is hardy, and the proof is that it has endured; while your
society-look where it is after one hundred years in France, in Italy,
in England--thanks to that detestable Gladstone, of whom pride has made a
second Nebuchadnezzar. It is like Russia, your society; according to the
only decent words of the obscene Diderot, 'rotten before mature!' Come,
will you go?"
"You are mistaken," replied the writer, "in thinking that. I do not love
your old France, but that does not prevent me from enjoying the new. One
can like wine and champagne at the same time. But I am not at liberty.
I must visit the exposition at Palais Castagna this morning."
"You will not do that," exclaimed impetuous Montfanon, whose severe face
again expressed one of those contrarieties which caused it to brighten
when he was with one of whom he was fond as he was of Dorsenne. "You
would not have gone to see the King assassinated in '93? The selling at
auction of the old dwelling of Pope Urban VII is almost as tragical! It
is the beginning of the agony of what was Roman nobility. I know. They
deserve it all, since they were not killed to the last man on the steps
of the Vatican when the Italians took the city. We should have done it,
we who had no popes among our grand-uncles, if we had not been busy
fighting elsewhere. But it is none the less pitiful to see the hammer of
the appraisers raised above a palace with which is connected centuries of
history. Upon my life, if I were Prince d'Ardea--if I had inherited the
blood, the house, the titles of the Castagnas, and if I thought I should
leave nothing behind me of that which my fathers had amassed--I swear to
you, Dorsenne, I should die of grief. And if you recall the fact that
the unhappy youth is a spoiled child of eight-and-twenty, surrounded by
flatterers, without parents, without friends, without counsellors, that
he risked his patrimony on the Bourse among thieves of the integrity of
Monsieur Hafner, that all the wealth collected by that succession of
popes, of cardinals, of warriors, of diplomatists, has served to enrich
ignoble men, you would think the occurrence too lamentable to have any
share in it, even as a spectator. Come, I will take you to Saint-
"I assure you I am expected," replied Dorsenne, disengaging his arm,
which his despotic friend had already seized. "It is very strange that I
should meet you on the way, having the rendezvous I have. I, who dote on
contrasts, shall not have lost my morning. Have you the patience to
listen to the enumeration of the persons whom I shall join immediately?
It will not be very long, but do not interrupt me. You will be angry if
you will survive the blow I am about to give you. Ah, you do not wish to
call your Rome a Cosmopolis; then what do you say to the party with
which, in twenty minutes, I shall visit the ancient palace of Urban VII?
First of all, we have your beautiful enemy, Fanny Hafner, and her father,
the Baron, representing a little of Germany, a little of Austria, a
little of Italy and a little of Holland. For it seems the Baron's mother
was from Rotterdam. Do not interrupt. We shall have Countess Steno to
represent Venice, and her charming daughter, Alba, to represent a small
corner of Russia, for the Chronicle claims that she was the child, not of
the defunct Steno, but of Werekiew-Andre, you know, the one who killed
himself in Paris five or six years ago, by casting himself into the
Seine, not at all aristocratically, from the Pont de la Concorde. We
shall have the painter, the celebrated Lincoln Maitland, to represent
America. He is the lover of Steno, whom he stole from Gorka during the
latter's trip to Poland. We shall have the painter's wife, Lydia
Maitland, and her brother, Florent Chapron, to represent a little of
France, a little of America, and a little of Africa; for their
grandfather was the famous Colonel Chapron mentioned in the Memorial,
who, after 1815, became a planter in Alabama. That old soldier, without
any prejudices, had, by a mulattress, a son whom he recognized and to
whom he left--I do not know how many dollars. 'Inde' Lydia and Florent.
Do not interrupt, it is almost finished. We shall have, to represent
England, a Catholic wedded to a Pole, Madame Gorka, the wife of Boleslas,
and, lastly, Paris, in the form of your servant. It is now I who will
essay to drag you away, for were you to join our party, you, the feudal,
it would be complete.... Will you come?"
"Has the blow satisfied you?" asked Montfanon. "And the unhappy man has
talent," he exclaimed, talking of Dorsenne as if the latter were not
present, "and he has written ten pages on Rhodes which are worthy of
Chateaubriand, and he has received from God the noblest gifts--poetry,
wit, the sense of history; and in what society does he delight! But,
come, once for all, explain to me the pleasure which a man of your genius
can find in frequenting that international Bohemia, more or less gilded,
in which there is not one being who has standing or a history. I no
longer allude to that scoundrel Hafner and his daughter, since you have
for her, novelist that you are, the eyes of Monsieur Guerillot. But that
Countess Steno, who must be at least forty, who has a grown daughter,
should she not remain quietly in her palace at Venice, respectably,
bravely, instead of holding here that species of salon for transients,
through which pass all the libertines of Europe, instead of having lover
after lover, a Pole after a Russian, an American after a Pole? And that
Maitland, why did he not obey the only good sentiment with which his
compatriots are inspired, the aversion to negro blood, an aversion which
would prevent them from doing what he has done--from marrying an
octoroon? If the young woman knows of it, it is terrible, and if she
does not it is still more terrible. And Madame Gorka, that honest
creature, for I believe she is, and truly pious as well, who has not
observed for the past two years that her husband was the Countess's
lover, and who does not see, moreover, that it is now Maitland's turn.
And that poor Alba Steno, that child of twenty, whom they drag through
these improper intrigues! Why does not Florent Chapron put an end to the
adultery of her sister's husband? I know him. He once came to see me
with regard to a monument he was raising in Saint-Louis in memory of his
cousin. He respects the dead, that pleased me. But he is a dupe in this
sinister comedy at which you are assisting, you, who know all, while your
heart does not revolt."
"Pardon, pardon!" interrupted Dorsenne, "it is not a question of that.
You wander on and you forget what you have just asked me.... What
pleasure do I find in the human mosaic which I have detailed to you?
I will tell you, and we will not talk of the morals, if you please, when
we are simply dealing with the intellect. I do not pride myself on being
a judge of human nature, sir leaguer; I like to watch and to study it,
and among all the scenes it can present I know of none more suggestive,
more peculiar, and more modern than this: You are in a salon, at a
dining-table, at a party like that to which I am going this morning.
You are with ten persons who all speak the same language, are dressed
by the same tailor, have read the same morning paper, think the same
thoughts and feel the same sentiments.... But these persons are like
those I have just enumerated to you, creatures from very different points
of the world and of history. You study them with all that you know of
their origin and their heredity, and little by little beneath the varnish
of cosmopolitanism you discover their race, irresistible, indestructible
race! In the mistress of the house, very elegant, very cultured, for
example, a Madame Steno, you discover the descendant of the Doges, the
patrician of the fifteenth century, with the form of a queen, strength in
her passion and frankness in her incomparable immorality; while in a
Florent Chapron or a Lydia you discover the primitive slave, the black
hypnotized by the white, the unfreed being produced by centuries of
servitude; while in a Madame Gorka you recognize beneath her smiling
amiability the fanaticism of truth of the Puritans; beneath the artistic
refinement of a Lincoln Maitland you find the squatter, invincibly coarse
and robust; in Boleslas Gorka all the nervous irritability of the Slav,
which has ruined Poland. These lineaments of race are hardly visible in
the civilized person, who speaks three or four languages fluently, who
has lived in Paris, Nice, Florence, here, that same fashionable,
monotonous life. But when passion strikes its blow, when the man is
stirred to his inmost depths, then occurs the conflict of
characteristics, more surprising when the people thus brought together
have come from afar: And that is why," he concluded with a laugh, "I have
spent six months in Rome without hardly having seen a Roman, busy,
observing the little clan which is so revolting to you. It is probably
the twentieth I have studied, and I shall no doubt study twenty more, for
not one resembles another. Are you indulgently inclined toward me, now
that you have got even with me in making me hold forth at this corner,
like the hero of a Russian novel? Well, now adieu."
Montfanon had listened to the discourse with an inpenetrable air. In the
religious solitude in which he was awaiting the end, as he said, nothing
afforded him greater pleasure than the discussion of ideas. But he was
inspired by the enthusiasm of a man who feels with extreme ardor, and
when he was met by the partly ironical dilettanteism of Dorsenne he was
almost pained by it, so much the more so as the author and he had some
common theories, notably an extreme fancy for heredity and race. A sort
of discontented grimace distorted his expressive face. He clicked his
tongue in ill-humor, and said:
"One more question!.... And the result of all that, the object? To what
end does all this observation lead you?"
"To what should it lead me? To comprehend, as I have told you," replied
"There is no then," answered the young man, "one debauchery is like
"But among the people whom you see living thus," said Montfanon, after a
pause, "there are some surely whom you like and whom you dislike, for
whom you entertain esteem and for whom you feel contempt? Have you not
thought that you have some duties toward them, that you can aid them in
leading better lives?"
"That," said Dorsenne, "is another subject which we will treat of some
other day, for I am afraid now of being late.... Adieu."
"Adieu," said the Marquis, with evident regret at parting. Then,
brusquely: "I do not know why I like you so much, for in the main you
incarnate one of those vices of mind which inspire me with the most
horror, that dilettanteism set in vogue by the disciples of Monsieur
Renan, and which is the very foundation of the decline. You will recover
from it, I hope. You are so young!" Then becoming again jovial and
mocking: "May you enjoy yourself in your descent of Courtille; I almost
forgot that I had a message to give to you for one of the supernumeraries
of your troop. Will you tell Gorka that I have dislodged the book for
which he asked me before his departure?"
"Gorka," replied Julien, "has been in Poland three months on family
business. I just told you how that trip cost him his mistress."
"What," said Montfanon, "in Poland? I saw him this morning as plainly as
I see you. He passed the Fountain du Triton in a cab. If I had not been
in such haste to reach Ribalta's in time to save the Montluc, I could
have stopped him, but we were both in too great a hurry."
"You are sure that Gorka is in Rome--Boleslas Gorka?" insisted Dorsenne.
"What is there surprising in that?" said Montfanon. "It is quite
natural that he should not wish to remain away long from a city where he
has left a wife and a mistress. I suppose your Slav and your Anglo-Saxon
have no prejudices, and that they share their Venetian with a
dilettanteism quite modern. It is cosmopolitan, indeed.... Well, once
more, adieu.... Deliver my message to him if you see him, and," his face
again expressed a childish malice, "do not fail to tell Mademoiselle
Hafner that her father's daughter will never, never have this volume.
It is not for intriguers!" And, laughing like a mischievous schoolboy,
he pressed the book more tightly under his arm, repeating: "She shall not
have it. Listen.... And tell her plainly. She shall not have it!"
THE BEGINNING OF A DRAMA
"There is an intelligent man, who never questions his ideas, " said
Dorsenne to himself, when the Marquis had left him. "He is like the
Socialists. What vigor of mind in that old wornout machine!" And for a
brief moment he watched, with a glance in which there was at least as
much admiration as pity, the Marquis, who was disappearing down the Rue
de la Propagande, and who walked at the rapid pace characteristic of
monomaniacs. They follow their thoughts instead of heeding objects.
However, the care he exercised in avoiding the sun's line for the shade
attested the instincts of an old Roman, who knew the danger of the first
rays of spring beneath that blue sky. For a moment Montfanon paused to
give alms to one of the numerous mendicants who abound in the
neighborhood of the Place d'Espagne, meritorious in him, for with his one
arm and burdened with the prayer-book it required a veritable effort to
search in his pocket. Dorsenne was well enough acquainted with that
original personage to know that he had never been able to say "no" to any
one who asked charity, great or small, of him. Thanks to that system,
the enemy of beautiful Fanny Hafner was always short of cash with forty
thousand francs' income and leading a simple existence. The costly
purchase of the relic of Montluc proved that the antipathy conceived for
Baron Justus's charming daughter had become a species of passion. Under
any other circumstances, the novelist, who delighted in such cases, would
not have failed to meditate ironically on that feeling, easy enough of
explanation. There was much more irrational instinct in it than
Montfanon himself suspected. The old leaguer would not have been logical
if he had not had in point of race an inquisition partiality, and the
mere suspicion of Jewish origin should have prejudiced him against Fanny.
But he was just, as Dorsenne had told him, and if the young girl had been
an avowed Jewess, living up zealously to her religion, he would have
respected but have avoided her, and he never would have spoken of her
with such bitterness.
The true motive of his antipathy was that he loved Cardinal Guerillot,
as was his habit in all things, with passion and with jealousy, and he
could not forgive Mademoiselle Hafner for having formed an intimacy with
the holy prelate in spite of him, Montfanon, who had vainly warned the
old Bishop de Clermont against her whom he considered the most wily of
intriguers. For months vainly did she furnish proofs of her sincerity of
heart, the Cardinal reporting them in due season to the Marquis, who
persisted in discrediting them, and each fresh good deed of his enemy
augmented his hatred by aggravating the uneasiness which was caused him,
notwithstanding all, by a vague sense of his iniquity.
But Dorsenne no sooner turned toward the direction of the Palais Castagna
than he quickly forgot both Mademoiselle Hafner's and Montfanon's
prejudices, in thinking only of one sentence uttered by the latter that
which related to the return of Boleslas Gorka. The news was unexpected,
and it awakened in the writer such grave fears that he did not even
glance at the shop-window of the French bookseller at the corner of the
Corso to see if the label of the "Fortieth thousand" flamed upon the
yellow cover of his last book, the Eclogue Mondaine, brought out in the
autumn, with a success which his absence of six months from Paris, had,
however, detracted from. He did not even think of ascertaining if the
regimen he practised, in imitation of Lord Byron, against embonpoint,
would preserve his elegant form, of which he was so proud, and yet
mirrors were numerous on the way from the Place d'Espagne to the Palais
Castagna, which rears its sombre mass on the margin of the Tiber, at the
extremity of the Via Giulia, like a pendant of the Palais Sacchetti, the
masterwork of Sangallo. Dorsenne did not indulge in his usual pastime of
examining the souvenirs along the streets which met his eye, and yet he
passed in the twenty minutes which it took him to reach his rendezvous
a number of buildings teeming with centuries of historical reminiscences.
There was first of all the vast Palais Borghese--the piano of the
Borghese, as it has been called, from the form of a clavecin adopted by
the architect--a monument of splendor, which was, less than two years
later, to serve as the scene of a situation more melancholy than that of
the Palais Castagna.
Dorsenne had not an absent glance for the sumptuous building--he passed
unheeding the facade of St.-Louis, the object of Montfanon's admiration.
If the writer did not profess for that relic of ancient France the piety
of the Marquis, he never failed to enter there to pay his literary
respects to the tomb of Madame de Beaumont, to that 'quia non sunt' of
an epitaph which Chateaubriand inscribed upon her tombstone, with more
vanity, alas, than tenderness. For the first time Dorsenne forgot it;
he forgot also to gaze with delight upon the rococo fountain on the Place
Navonne, that square upon which Domitian had his circus, and which
recalls the cruel pageantries of imperial Rome. He forgot, too, the
mutilated statue which forms the angle of the Palais Braschi, two paces
farther--two paces still farther, the grand artery of the Corso Victor-
Emmanuel demonstrated the effort at regeneration of present Rome; two
paces farther yet, the Palais Farnese recalls the grandeur of modern art,
and the tragedy of contemporary monarchies. Does not the thought of
Michelangelo seem to be still imprinted on the sombre cross-beam of that
immense sarcophagus, which was the refuge of the last King of Naples?
But it requires a mind entirely free to give one's self up to the charm
of historical dilettanteism which cities built upon the past conjure up,
and although Julien prided himself, not without reason, on being above
emotion, he was not possessed of his usual independence of mind during
the walk which took him to his "human mosaic," as he picturesquely
expressed it, and he pondered and repondered the following questions:
"Boleslas Gorka returned? And two days ago I saw his wife, who did not
expect him until next month. Montfanon is not, however, imaginative.
Boleslas Gorka returned? At the moment when Madame Steno is mad over
Maitland--for she is mad! The night before last, at her house at dinner,
she looked at him--it was scandalous. Gorka had a presentiment of it
this winter. When the American attempted to take Alba's portrait the
first time, the Pole put a stop to it. It was fine for Montfanon to talk
of division between these two men. When Boleslas left here, Maitland and
the Countess were barely acquainted and now---- If he has returned it is
because he has discovered that he has a rival. Some one has warned him--
an enemy of the Countess, a confrere of Maitland. Such pieces of infamy
occur among good friends. If Gorka, who is a shot like Casal, kills
Maitland in a duel, it will make one deceiver less. If he avenges
himself upon his mistress for that treason, it would be a matter of
indifference to me, for Catherine Steno is a great rogue.... But my
little friend, my poor, charming Alba, what would become of her if there
should be a scandal, bloodshed, perhaps, on account of her mother's
folly? Gorka returned? And he did not write it to me, to me who have
received several letters from him since he went away; to me, whom he
selected last autumn as the confidant of his jealousies, under the
pretext that I knew women, and, with the vain hope of inspiring me....
His silence and return no longer seem like a romance; they savor rather
of a drama, and with a Slav, as much a Slav as he is, one may expect
anything. I know not what to think of it, for he will be at the Palais
Castagna. Poor, charming Alba!"
The monologue did not differ much from a monologue uttered under similar
circumstances by any young man interested in a young girl whose mother
does not conduct herself becomingly. It was a touching situation, but a
very common one, and there was no necessity for the author to come to
Rome to study it, one entire winter and spring. If that interest went
beyond a study, Dorsenne possessed a very simple means of preventing his
little friend, as he said, from being rendered unhappy by the conduct of
that mother whom age did not conquer. Why not propose for her hand?
He had inherited a fortune, and his success as an author had augmented
it. For, since the first book which had established his reputation, the
'Etudes de Femmes,' published in 1879, not a single one of the fifteen
novels or selections from novels had remained unnoticed. His personal
celebrity could, strictly speaking, combine with it family celebrity,
for he boasted that his grandfather was a cousin of that brave General
Dorsenne whom Napoleon could only replace at the head of his guard by
Friant. All can be told in a word. Although the heirs of the hero of
the Empire had never recognized the relationship, Julien believed in it,
and when he said, in reply to compliments on his books, "At my age my
grand-uncle, the Colonel of the Guard, did greater things," he was
sincere in his belief. But it was unnecessary to mention it, for,
situated as he was, Countess Steno would gladly have accepted him as a
son-in-law. As for gaining the love of the young girl, with his handsome
face, intelligent and refined, and his elegant form, which he had
retained intact in spite of his thirty-seven years, he might have done
so. Nothing, however, was farther from his thoughts than such a project,
for, as he ascended the steps of the staircase of the palace formerly
occupied by Urban VII, he continued, in very different terms, his
monologue, a species of involuntary "copy" which is written instinctively
in the brain of the man of letters when he is particularly fond of
At times it assumes a written form, and it is the most marked of
professional distortions, the most unintelligible to the illiterate,
who think waveringly and who do not, happily for them, suffer the
continual servitude to precision of word and to too conscientious
"Yes; poor, charming Alba!" he repeated to himself. "How unfortunate
that the marriage with Countess Gorka's brother could not have been
arranged four months ago. Connection with the family of her mother's
lover would be tolerably immoral! But she would at least have had less
chance of ever knowing it; and the convenient combination by which the
mother has caused her to form a friendship with that wife in order the
better to blind the two, would have bordered a little more on propriety.
To-day Alba would be Lady Ardrahan, leading a prosaic English life,
instead of being united to some imbecile whom they will find for her here
or elsewhere. She will then deceive him as her mother deceived the late
Steno--with me, perhaps, in remembrance of our pure intimacy of to-day.
That would be too sad! Do not let us think of it! It is the future,
of the existence of which we are ignorant, while we do know that the
present exists and that it has all rights. I owe to the Contessina my
best impressions of Rome, to the vision of her loveliness in this scene
of so grand a past. And this is a sensation which is enjoyable; to visit
the Palais Castagna with the adorable creature upon whom rests the menace
of a drama. To enjoy the Countess Steno's kindness, otherwise the house
would not have that tone and I would never have obtained the little one's
friendship. To rejoice that Ardea is a fool, that he has lost his
fortune on the Bourse, and that the syndicate of his creditors, presided
over by Monsieur Ancona, has laid hands upon his palace. For, otherwise,
I should not have ascended the steps of this papal staircase, nor have
seen this debris of Grecian sarcophagi fitted into the walls, and this
garden of so intense a green. As for Gorka, he may have returned for
thirty-six other reasons than jealousy, and Montfanon is right: Caterina
is cunning enough to inveigle both the painter and him. She will make
Maitland believe that she received Gorka for the sake of Madame Gorka,
and to prevent him from ruining that excellent woman at gaming. She will
tell Boleslas that there was nothing more between her and Maitland than
Platonic discussions on the merits of Raphael and Perugino.... And I
should be more of a dupe than the other two for missing the visit.
It is not every day that one has a chance to see auctioned, like a simple
Bohemian, the grand-nephew of a pope."
The second suite of reflections resembled more than the first the real
Dorsenne, who was often incomprehensible even to his best friends. The
young man with the large, black eyes, the face with delicate features,
the olive complexion of a Spanish monk, had never had but one passion,
too exceptional not to baffle the ordinary observer, and developed in a
sense so singular that to the most charitable it assumed either an
attitude almost outrageous or else that of an abominable egotism and
Dorsenne had spoken truly, he loved to comprehend--to comprehend as the
gamester loves to game, the miser to accumulate money, the ambitious to
obtain position--there was within him that appetite, that taste, that
mania for ideas which makes the scholar and the philosopher. But a
philosopher united by a caprice of nature to an artist, and by that of
fortune and of education to a worldly man and a traveller. The abstract
speculations of the metaphysician would not have sufficed for him, nor
would the continuous and simple creation of the narrator who narrates to
amuse himself, nor would the ardor of the semi-animal of the man-of-
pleasure who abandons himself to the frenzy of vice. He invented for
himself, partly from instinct, partly from method, a compromise between
his contradictory tendencies, which he formulated in a fashion slightly
pedantic, when he said that his sole aim was to "intellectualize the
forcible sensations;" in clearer terms, he dreamed of meeting with, in
human life, the greatest number of impressions it could give and to think
of them after having met them.
He thought, with or without reason, to discover in his two favorite
writers, Goethe and Stendhal, a constant application of a similar
principle. His studies had, for the past fourteen years when he had
begun to live and to write, passed through the most varied spheres
possible to him. But he had passed through them, lending his presence
without giving himself to them, with this idea always present in his
mind: that he existed to become familiar with other customs, to watch
other characters, to clothe other personages and the sensations which
vibrated within them. The period of his revival was marked by the
achievement of each one of his books which he composed then, persuaded
that, once written and construed, a sentimental or social experience was
not worth the trouble of being dwelt upon. Thus is explained the
incoherence of custom and the atmospheric contact, if one may so express
it, which are the characteristics of his work. Take, for example, his
first collection of novels, the 'Etudes de Femmes,' which made him
famous. They are about a sentimental woman who loved unwisely, and who
spent hours from excess of the romantic studying the avowed or disguised
demi-monde. By the side of that, 'Sans Dieu,' the story of a drama of
scientific consciousness, attests a continuous frequenting of the Museum,
the Sorbonne and the College of France, while 'Monsieur de Premier'
presents one of the most striking pictures of the contemporary political
world, which could only have been traced by a familiar of the Palais
On the other hand, the three books of travel pretentiously named
'Tourisime,' 'Les Profils d'Etrangeres' and the 'Eclogue Mondaine,' which
fluctuated between Florence and London, St.-Moritz and Bayreuth, revealed
long sojourns out of France; a clever analysis of the Italian, English,
and German worlds; a superficial but true knowledge of the languages, the
history and literature, which in no way accords with 'l'odor di femina',
exhale from every page. These contrasts are brought out by a mind
endowed with strangely complex qualities, dominated by a firm will and,
it must be said, a very mediocre sensibility. The last point will appear
irreconcilable with the extreme and almost morbid delicacy of certain of
Dorsenne's works. It is thus however. He had very little heart. But,
on the other hand, he had an abundance of nerves and nerves, and their
irritability suffice for him who desires to paint human passions, above
all, love, with its joys and its sorrows, of which one does not speak to
a certain extent when one experiences them. Success had come to Julien
too early not to have afforded him occasion for several adventures.
In each of the centres traversed in the course of his sentimental
vagabondage he tried to find a woman in whom was embodied all the
scattered charms of the district. He had formed innumerable intimacies.
Some had been frankly affectionate. The majority were Platonic. Others
had consisted of the simple coquetry of friendship, as was the case with
Mademoiselle Steno. The young man had never employed more vanity than
enthusiasm. Every woman, mistress or friend, had been to him, nine times
out of ten, a curiosity, then a model. But, as he held that the model
could not be recognized by any exterior sign, he did not think that he
was wrong in making use of his prestige as a writer, for what he called
his "culture." He was capable of justice, the defense which he made of
Fanny Hafner to Montfanon proved it; of admiration, his respect for the
noble qualities of that same Montfanon testify to it; of compassion, for
without it he would not have apprehended at once with so much sympathy
the result which the return of Count Gorka would have on the destiny of
innocent Alba Steno.
On reaching the staircase of the Palais Castagna, instead of hastening,
as was natural, to find out at least what meant the return to Rome of the
lover whom Madame Steno deceived, he collected his startled sensibilities
before meeting Alba, and, pausing, he scribbled in a note-book which he
drew from his pocket, with a pencil always within reach of his fingers,
in a firm hand, precise and clear, this note savoring somewhat of
"25 April, '90. Palais Castagna.--Marvellous staircase constructed by
Balthazar Peruzzi; so broad and long, with double rows of stairs, like
those of Santa Colomba, near Siena. Enjoyed above all the sight of an
interior garden so arranged, so designed that the red flowers, the
regularity of the green shrubs, the neat lines of the graveled walks
resemble the features of a face. The idea of the Latin garden, opposed
to the Germanic or Anglo-Saxon, the latter respecting the irregularity of
nature, the other all in order, humanizing and administering even to the
"Subject the complexity of life to a thought harmonious and clear, a
constant mark of the Latin genus, for a group of trees as well as an
entire nation, an entire religion--Catholicism. It is the contrary in
the races of the North. Significance of the word: the forests have
taught man liberty."
He had hardly finished writing that oddly interpreted memorandum, and was
closing his note-book, when the sound of a familiar voice caused him to
turn suddenly. He had not heard ascend the stairs a personage who waited
until he finished writing, and who was no other than one of the actors in
his "troupe" to use his expression, one of the persons of the party of
that morning organized the day before at Madame Steno's, and just the one
whom the intolerable marquis had defamed with so much ardor, the father
of beautiful Fanny Hafner, Baron Justus himself. The renowned founder of
the 'Credit Austro-Dalmate' was a small, thin man, with blue eyes of an
acuteness almost insupportable, in a face of neutral color. His ever-
courteous manner, his attire, simple and neat, his speech serious and
discreet, gave to him that species of distinction so common to old
diplomatists. But the dangerous adventurer was betrayed by the glance
which Hafner could not succeed in veiling with indifferent amiability.
The man-of-the-world, which he prided himself upon having become, was
visible through all by certain indefinable trifles, and above all by
those eyes, of a restlessness so singular in so wealthy a man, indicating
an enigmatical and obscure past of dark and contrasting struggles,
of covetous sharpness, of cold calculation and indomitable energy.
Fanatical Montfanon, who abused the daughter with such unjustness, judged
the father justly. The son of a Jew of Berlin and of a Dutch Protestant,
Justus Hafner was inscribed on the civil state registers as belonging to
his mother's faith. But the latter died when Justus was very young,
and he was not reared in any other liturgy than that of money. From his
father, a persevering and skilful jeweller, but too prudent to risk or
gain much, he learned the business of precious stones, to which he added
that of laces, paintings, old materials, tapestries, rare furniture.
An infallible eye, the patience of a German united with his Israelitish
and Dutch extraction, soon amassed for him a small capital, which his
father's bequest augmented. At twenty-seven Justus had not less than
five hundred thousand marks. Two imprudent operations on the Bourse,
enterprises to force fortune and to obtain the first million, ruined the
too-audacious courtier, who began again the building up of his fortune by
becoming a diamond broker.
He went to Paris, and there, in a wretched little room on the Rue
Montmartre, in three years, he made his second capital. He then managed
it so well that in 1870, at the time of the war, he had made good his
losses. The armistice found him in England, where he had married the
daughter of a Viennese agent, in London, for the purpose of starting a
vast enterprise of revictualing the belligerent armies. The enormous
profits made by the father-in-law and the son-in-law during that year
determined them to found a banking-house which should have its principal
seat in Vienna and a branch in Berlin. Justus Hafner, a passionate
admirer of Herr von Bismarck, controlled, besides, a newspaper. He tried
to gain the favor of the great statesman, who refused to aid the former
diamond merchant in gratifying political ambitions cherished from an
It was a bitter disappointment to the persevering man, who, having tried
his luck in Prussia, emigrated definitively to Vienna. The establishment
of the 'Credit Austro-Dalmate,' launched with extraordinary claims,
permitted him at length to realize at least one of his chimeras. His
wealth, while not equaling that of the mighty financiers of the epoch,
increased with a rapidity almost magical to a cipher high enough to
permit him, from 1879, to indulge in the luxurious life which can not be
led by any one with an income short of five hundred thousand francs.
Contrary to the custom of speculators of his genus, Hafner in time
invested his earnings safely. He provided against the coming demolition
of the structure so laboriously built up. The 'Credit Austro-Dalmate'
had suffered in great measure owing to innumerable public and private
disasters and scandals, such as the suicide and murder in the Schroeder
Suits were begun against a number of the founders, among them Justus
Hafner. He was acquitted, but with such damage to his financial
integrity and in the face of such public indignation that he abandoned
Austria for Italy and Vienna for Rome. There, heedless of first rebuffs,
he undertook to realize the third great object of his life, the gaining
of social position. To the period of avidity had succeeded, as it
frequently does with those formidable handlers of money, the period of
vanity. Being now a widower, he aimed at his daughter's marriage with a
strength of will and a complication of combinations equal to his former
efforts, and that struggle for connection with high life was disguised
beneath the cloak of the most systematically adopted politeness of
deportment. How had he found the means, in the midst of struggles and
hardships, to refine himself so that the primitive broker and speculator
were almost unrecognizable in the baron of fifty-four, decorated with
several orders, installed in a magnificent palace, the father of a
charming daughter, and himself an agreeable conversationalist,
a courteous gentleman, an ardent sportsman? It is the secret of those
natures created for social conquest, like a Napoleon for war and a
Talleyrand for diplomacy. Dorsenne asked himself the question
frequently, and he could not solve it. Although he boasted of watching
the Baron with an intellectual curiosity, he could not restrain a shudder
of antipathy each time he met the eyes of the man.
And on this particular morning it was especially disagreeable to him that
those eyes had seen him making his unoffending notes, although there was
scarcely a shade of gentle condescension--that of a great lord who
patronizes a great artist--in the manner in which Hafner addressed him.
"Do not inconvenience yourself for me, dear sir," said he to Dorsenne.
"You work from nature, and you are right. I see that your next novel
will touch upon the ruin of our poor Prince d'Ardea. Do not be too hard
on him, nor on us."
The artist could not help coloring at that benign pleasantry. It was all
the more painful to him because it was at once true and untrue. How
should he explain the sort of literary alchemy, thanks to which he was
enabled to affirm that he never drew portraits, although not a line of
his fifteen volumes was traced without a living model? He replied,
therefore, with a touch of ill-humor:
"You are mistaken, my dear Baron. I do not make notes on persons."
"All authors say that," answered the Baron, shrugging his shoulders with
the assumed good-nature which so rarely forsook him, "and they are
right.... At any rate, it is fortunate that you had something to write,
for we shall both be late in arriving at a rendezvous where there are
ladies.... It is almost a quarter past eleven, and we should have been
there at eleven precisely.... But I have one excuse, I waited for my
"And she has not come?" asked Dorsenne.
"No," replied Hafner, "at the last moment she could not make up her mind.
She had a slight annoyance this morning--I do not know what old book she
had set her heart on. Some rascal found out that she wanted it, and he
obtained it first.... But that is not the true cause of her absence.
The true cause is that she is too sensitive, and she finds it so sad that
there should be a sale of the possessions of this ancient family....
I did not insist. What would she have experienced had she known the late
Princess Nicoletta, Pepino's mother? When I came to Rome on a visit for
the first time, in '75, what a salon that was and what a Princess!....
She was a Condolmieri, of the family of Eugene IV."
"How absurd vanity renders the most refined man," thought Julien, suiting
his pace to the Baron's. "He would have me believe that he was received
at the house of that woman who was politically the blackest of the black,
the most difficult to please in the recruiting of her salon.... Life is
more complex than the Montfanons even know of! This girl feels by
instinct that which the chouan of a marquis feels by doctrine, the
absurdity of this striving after nobility, with a father who forgets the
broker and who talks of the popes of the Middle Ages as of a trinket!....
While we are alone, I must ask this old fox what he knows of Boleslas
Gorka's return. He is the confidant of Madame Steno. He should be
informed of the doings and whereabouts of the Pole."
The friendship of Baron Hafner for the Countess, whose financial adviser
he was, should have been for Dorsenne a reason for avoiding such a
subject, the more so as he was convinced of the man's dislike for him.
The Baron could, by a single word perfidiously repeated, injure him very
much with Alba's mother. But the novelist, similar on that point to the
majority of professional observers, had only the power of analysis of a
retrospective order. Never had his keen intelligence served him to avoid
one of those slight errors of conversation which are important mistakes
on the pitiful checker-board of life. Happily for him, he cherished no
ambition except for his pleasure and his art, without which he would have
found the means of making for himself, gratuitously, enough enemies to
clear all the academies.
He, therefore, chose the moment when the Baron arrived at the landing on
the first floor, pausing somewhat out of breath, and after the agent had
verified their passes, to say to his companion:
"Have you seen Gorka since his arrival?"
"What? Is Boleslas here?" asked Justus Hafner, who manifested his
astonishment in no other manner than by adding: "I thought he was still
"I have not seen him myself," said Dorsenne. He already regretted having
spoken too hastily. It is always more prudent not to spread the first
report. But the ignorance of that return of Countess Steno's best
friend, who saw her daily, struck the young man with such surprise that
he could not resist adding: "Some one, whose veracity I can not doubt,
met him this morning." Then, brusquely: "Does not this sudden return
make you fearful?"
"Fearful?" repeated the Baron. "Why so?" As he uttered those words he
glanced at the writer with his usual impassive expression, which,
however, a very slight sign, significant to those who knew him, belied.
In exchanging those few words the two men had passed into the first room
of "objects of art," having belonged to the apartment of "His Eminence
Prince d'Ardea," as the catalogue said, and the Baron did not raise the
gold glass which he held at the end of his nose when near the smallest
display of bric-a-brac, as was his custom. As he walked slowly through
the collection of busts and statues of that first room, called "Marbles"
on the catalogue, without glancing with the eye of a practised judge at
the Gobelin tapestry upon the walls, it must have been that he considered
as very grave the novelist's revelation. The latter had said too much
not to continue:
"Well, I who have not been connected with Madame Steno for years, like
you, trembled for her when that return was announced to me. She does not
know what Gorka is when he is jealous, or of what he is capable."
"Jealous? Of whom?" interrupted Hafner. "It is not the first time I
have heard the name of Boleslas uttered in connection with the Countess.
I confess I have never taken those words seriously, and I should not have
thought that you, a frequenter of her salon, one of her friends, would
hesitate on that subject. Rest assured, Gorka is in love with his
charming wife, and he could not make a better choice. Countess Caterina
is an excellent person, very Italian. She is interested in him, as in
you, as in Maitland, as in me; in you because you write such admirable
books, in Maitland because he paints like our best masters, in Boleslas
on account of the sorrow he had in the death of his first child, in me
because I have so delicate a charge. She is more than an excellent
person, she is a truly superior woman, very superior." He uttered his
hypocritical speech with such perfect ease that Dorsenne was surprised
and irritated. That Hafner did not believe one treacherous word of what
he said the novelist was sure, he who, from the indiscreet confidences of
Gorka, knew what to think of the Venetian's manner, and he; too,
understood the Baron's glance! At any other time he would have admired
the policy of the old stager. At that moment the novelist was vexed by
it, for it caused him to play a role, very common but not very elevating,
that of a calumniator, who has spoken ill of a woman with whom he dined
the day before. He, therefore, quickened his pace as much as politeness
would permit, in order not to remain tete-a-tete with the Baron, and also
to rejoin the persons of their party already arrived.
They emerged from the first room to enter a second, marked "Porcelain;"
then a third, "Frescoes of Perino del Vaga," on account of the ceiling
upon which the master painted a companion to his vigorous piece at Genoa-
-"Jupiter crushing the Giants"--and, lastly, into a fourth, called "The
Arazzi," from the wonderful panels with which it was decorated.
A few visitors were lounging there, for the season was somewhat advanced,
and the date which M. Ancona had chosen for the execution proved either
the calculation of profound hatred or else the adroit ruse of a syndicate
of retailers. All the magnificent objects in the palace were adjudged at
half the value they would have brought a few months sooner or later. The
small group of curios stood out in contrast to the profusion of
furniture, materials, objects of art of all kinds, which filled the vast
rooms. It was the residence of five hundred years of power and of
luxury, where masterpieces, worthy of the great Medicis, and executed in
their time, alternated with the gewgaws of the eighteenth century and
bronzes of the First Empire, with silver trinkets ordered but yesterday
in London. Baron Justus could not resist these. He raised his glass and
called Dorsenne to show him a curious armchair, the carving of a cartel,
the embroidery on some material. One glance sufficed for him to
judge.... If the novelist had been capable of observing, he would have
perceived in the detailed knowledge the banker had of the catalogue the
trace of a study too deep not to accord with some mysterious project.
"There are treasures here," said he. "See these two Chinese vases with
convex lids, with the orange ground decorated with gilding. Those are
pieces no longer made in China. It is a lost art. And this tete-a-tete
decorated with flowers; and this pluvial cope in this case. What a
marvel! It is as good as the one of Pius Second, which was at Pienza and
which has been stolen. I could have bought it at one time for fifteen
hundred francs. It is worth fifteen thousand, twenty thousand, all of
that. Here is some faience. It was brought from Spain when Cardinal
Castagna came from Madrid, when he took the place of Pius Fifth as
sponsor of Infanta Isabella. Ah, what treasures! But you go like the
wind," he added, "and perhaps it is better, for I would stop, and
Cavalier Fossati, the auctioneer, to whom those terrible creditors of
Peppino have given charge of the sale, has spies everywhere. You notice
an object, you are marked as a solid man, as they say in Germany. You
are noted. I shall be down on his list. I have been caught by him
enough. Ha! He is a very shrewd man! But come, I see the ladies. We
should have remembered that they were here," and smiling--but at whom?--
at Fossati, at himself or his companion?--he made the latter read the
notice hung on the door of a transversal room, which bore this
inscription: "Salon of marriage-chests."
There were, indeed, ranged along the walls about fifteen of those wooden
cases painted and carved, of those 'cassoni' in which it was the fashion,
in grand Italian families, to keep the trousseaux destined for the
brides. Those of the Castagnas proved, by their escutcheons, what
alliances the last of the grand-nephews of Urban VII, the actual Prince
d'Ardea, entered into. Three very elegant ladies were examining the
chests; in them Dorsenne recognized at once fair and delicate Alba Steno,
Madame Gorka, with her tall form, her fair hair, too, and her strong
English profile, and pretty Madame Maitland, with her olive complexion,
who did not seem to have inherited any more negro blood than just enough
to tint her delicate face. Florent Chapron, the painter's brother-in-
law, was the only man with those three ladies. Countess Steno and
Lincoln Maitland were not there, and one could hear the musical voice of
Alba spelling the heraldry carved on the coffers, formerly opened with
tender curiosity by young girls, laughing and dreaming by turns like her.
"Look, Maud," said she to Madame Gorka, "there is the oak of the Della
Rovere, and there the stars of the Altieri."
"And I have found the column of the Colonna," replied Maud Gorka.
"And you, Lydia?" said Mademoiselle Steno to Madame Maitland.
"And I, the bees of the Barberini."
"And I, the lilies of the Farnese, " said in his turn Florent Chapron,
who, having raised his head first, perceived the newcomers. He greeted
them with a pleasant smile, which was reflected in his eyes and which
showed his white teeth. "We no longer expected you, sirs. Every one has
disappointed us. Lincoln did not wish to leave his atelier. It seems
that Mademoiselle Hafner excused herself yesterday to these ladies.
Countess Steno has a headache. We did not even count on the Baron, who
is usually promptness personified."
"I was sure Dorsenne would not fail us," said Alba, gazing at the young
man with her large eyes, of a blue as clear as those of Madame Gorka were
dark. "Only that I expected we should meet him on the staircase as we
were leaving, and that he would say to us, in surprise: 'What, I am not
on time?' Ah," she continued, "do not excuse yourself, but reply to the
examination in Roman history we are about to put you through. We have to
follow here a veritable course studying all these old chests. What are
the arms of this family?" she asked, leaning with Dorsenne over one of
the cassoni. "You do not know? The Carafa, famous man! And what Pope
did they have? You do not know that either? Paul Fourth, sir novelist.
If ever you visit us in Venice, you will be surprised at the Doges."
She employed so affectionate a grace in that speech, and she was so
apparently in one of her moods--so rare, alas! of childish joyousness,
that Dorsenne, preoccupied as he was, felt his heart contract on her
account. The simultaneous absence of Madame Steno and Lincoln Maitland
could only be fortuitous. But persuaded that the Countess loved
Maitland, and not doubting that she was his mistress, the absence of both
appeared singularly suspicious to him. Such a thought sufficed to render
the young girl's innocent gayety painful to him. That gayety would
become tragical if it were true that the Countess's other lover had
returned unexpectedly, warned by some one. Dorsenne experienced genuine
agitation on asking Madame Gorka:
"How is Boleslas?"
"Very well, I suppose," said his wife. "I have not had a letter to-day.
Does not one of your proverbs say, 'No news is good news?'"
Baron Hafner was beside Maud Gorka when she uttered that sentence.
Involuntarily Dorsenne looked at him, and involuntarily, master as he was
of himself, he looked at Dorsenne. It was no longer a question of a
simple hypothesis. That Boleslas Gorka had returned to Rome unknown to
his wife constituted, for any one who knew of his relations with Madame
Steno, and of the infidelity of the latter, an event full of formidable
consequences. Both men were possessed by the same thought. Was there
still time to prevent a catastrophe? But each of them in this
circumstance, as is so often the case in important matters of life, was
to show the deepness of his character. Not a muscle of Hafner's face
quivered. It was a question, perhaps, of rendering a service to a woman
in danger, whom he loved with all the feeling of which he was capable.
That woman was the mainspring of his social position in Rome. She was
still more. A plan for Fanny's marriage, as yet secret, but on the point
of being consummated, depended upon Madame Steno. But he felt it
impossible to attempt to render her any service before having spent half
an hour in the rooms of the Palais Castagna, and he began to employ that
half hour in a manner which would be most profitable to his possible
purchases, for he turned to Madame Gorka and said to her, with the rather
exaggerated politeness habitual to him:
"Countess, if you will permit me to advise you, do not pause so long
before these coffers, interesting as they may be. First, as I have just
told Dorsenne, Cavalier Fossati, the agent, has his spies everywhere
here. Your position has already been remarked, you may be sure, so that
if you take a fancy for one, he will know it in advance, and he will
manage to make you pay double, triple, and more for it. And then we have
to see so much, notably a cartoon of twelve designs by old masters, which
Ardea did not even suspect he had, and which Fossati discovered--would
you believe?--worm-eaten, in a cupboard in one of the granaries."
"There is some one whom your collection would interest," said Florent,
"Well," replied Madame Gorka to Hafner with her habitual good-nature,
"there are at least two of these coffers that I like and wish to have.
I said it in so loud a tone that it is not worth the trouble of hoping
that your Cavalier Fossati does not know it, if he really has that mode
of espionage in practice. But forty or fifty pounds more make no
difference--nor forty thousand even."
"Baron Hafner will warn you that your tone is not low enough," laughed
Alba Steno, "and he will add his great phrase: 'You will never be
diplomatic.' But," added the girl, turning toward Dorsenne, having drawn
back from silent Lydia Maitland, and arranging to fall behind with the
young man, "I am about to employ a little diplomacy in order to find out
whether you have any trouble." And here her mobile face changed its
expression, looking into Julien's with genuine anxiety. "Yes," said she,
"I have never seen you so preoccupied as you seem to be this morning.
Do you not feel well? Have you received ill news from Paris? What ails
"I preoccupied?" replied Dorsenne. "You are mistaken. There is
absolutely nothing, I assure you." It was impossible to lie with more
apparent awkwardness, and if any one merited the scorn of Baron Hafner,
it was he. Hardly had Madame Gorka spoken, when he had, with the
rapidity of men of vivid imagination, seen Countess Steno and Maitland
surprised by Gorka, at that very moment, in some place of rendezvous,
and that surprise followed by a challenge, perhaps an immediate murder.
And, as Alba continued to laugh merrily, his presentiment of her sad fate
became so vivid that his face actually clouded over. He felt impelled to
ascertain, when she questioned him, how great a friendship she bore him.
But his effort to hide his emotion rendered his voice so harsh that the
young girl resumed:
"I have vexed you by my questioning?"
"Not the least in the world," he replied, without being able to find a
word of friendship. He felt at that moment incapable of talking, as they
usually did, in that tone of familiarity, partly mocking, partly
sentimental, and he added: "I simply think this exposition somewhat
melancholy, that is all." And, with a smile, "But we shall lose the
opportunity of having it shown us by our incomparable cicerone," and he
obliged her, by quickening her pace, to rejoin the group piloted by
Hafner through the magnificence of the almost deserted apartment.
"See," said the former broker of Berlin and of Paris, now an enlightened
amateur--" see, how that charlatan of a Fossati has taken care not to
increase the number of trinkets now that we are in the reception-rooms.
These armchairs seem to await invited guests. They are known. They have
been illustrated in a magazine of decorative art in Paris. And that
dining-room through that door, with all the silver on the table, would
you not think a fete had been prepared?"
"Baron," said Madame Gorka, "look at this material; it is of the
eighteenth century, is it not?"
"Baron," asked Madame Maitland, "is this cup with the lid old Vienna or
"Baron," said Florent Chapron, "is this armor of Florentine or Milanese
The eyeglass was raised to the Baron's thin nose, his small eyes
glittered, his lips were pursed up, and he replied, in words as exact as
if he had studied all the details of the catalogue verbatim. Their
thanks were soon followed by many other questions, in which two voices
alone did not join, that of Alba Steno and that of Dorsenne. Under any
other circumstances, the latter would have tried to dissipate the
increasing sadness of the young girl, who said no more to him after he
repulsed her amicable anxiety. In reality, he attached no great
importance to it. Those transitions from excessive gayety to sudden
depression were so habitual with the Contessina, above all when with him.
Although they were the sign of a vivid sentiment, the young man saw in
them only nervous unrest, for his mind was absorbed with other thoughts.
He asked himself if, at any hazard, after the manner in which Madame
Gorka had spoken, it would not be more prudent to acquaint Lincoln
Maitland with the secret return of his rival. Perhaps the drama had not
yet taken place, and if only the two persons threatened were warned, no
doubt Hafner would put Countess Steno upon her guard. But when would he
see her? What if he, Dorsenne, should at once tell Maitland's brother-
in-law of Gorka's return, to that Florent Chapron whom he saw at the
moment glancing at all the objects of the princely exposition? The step
was an enormous undertaking, and would have appeared so to any one but
Julien, who knew that the relations between Florent Chapron and Lincoln
Maitland were of a very exceptional nature. Julien knew that Florent--
sent when very young to the Jesuits of Beaumont, in England, by a father
anxious to spare him the humiliation which his blood would call down upon
him in America--had formed a friendship with Lincoln, a pupil in the same
school. He knew that the friendship for the schoolmate had turned to
enthusiasm for the artist, when the talent of his old comrade had begun
to reveal itself. He knew that the marriage, which had placed the
fortune of Lydia at the service of the development of the painter,
had been the work of that enthusiasm at an epoch when Maitland, spoiled
by the unwise government of his mother, and unappreciated by the public,
was wrung by despair. The exceptional character of the marriage would
have surprised a man less heeding of moral peculiarities than was
Dorsenne, who had observed, all too frequently, the silence and reserve
of that sister not to look upon her as a sacrifice. He fancied that
admiration for his brother-in-law's genius had blinded Florent to such a
degree that he was the first cause of the sacrifice.
"Drama for drama," said he to himself, as the visit drew near its close,
and after a long debate with himself. "I should prefer to have it one
rather than the other in that family. I should reproach myself all my
life for not having tried every means." They were in the last room,
and Baron Hafner was just fastening the strings of an album of drawings,
when the conviction took possession of the young man in a definite
manner. Alba Steno, who still maintained silence, looked at him again
with eyes which revealed the struggle of her interest for him and of her
wounded pride. She longed, without doubt, at the moment they were about
to separate, to ask him, according to their intimate and charming custom,
when they should meet again. He did not heed her--any more than he did
the other pair of eyes which told him to be more prudent, and which were
those of the Baron; any more than he did the observation of Madame Gorka,
who, having remarked the ill-humor of Alba, was seeking the cause, which
she had long since divined was the heart of the young girl; any more than
the attitude of Madame Maitland, whose eyes at times shot fire equal to
her brother's gentleness. He took the latter by the arm, and said to him
"I should like to have your opinion on a small portrait I have noticed in
the other room, my dear Chapron." Then, when they were before the canvas
which had served as a pretext for the aside, he continued, in a low
voice: "I heard very strange news this morning. Do you know Boleslas
Gorka is in Rome unknown to his wife?"
"That is indeed strange," replied Maitland's brother-in-law, adding
simply, after a silence: "Are you certain of it?"
"As certain as that we are here," said Dorsenne. "One of my friends,
Marquis de Montfanon, met him this morning."
A fresh silence ensued between the two, during which Julien felt that
the arm upon which he rested trembled. Then they joined the party, while
Florent said aloud: "It is an excellent piece of painting, which has,
unfortunately, been revarnished too much."
"May I have done right!" thought Julien. "He understood me."
Hardly ten minutes had passed since Dorsenne had spoken as he had to
Florent Chapron, and already the imprudent novelist began to wonder
whether it would not have been wiser not to interfere in any way in an
adventure in which his intervention was of the least importance.
The apprehension of an immediate drama which had possessed him, for the
first time, after the conversation with Montfanon, for the second time,
in a stronger manner, by proving the ignorance of Madame Gorka on the
subject of the husband's return--that frightful and irresistible
evocation in a clandestine chamber, suddenly deluged with blood,
was banished by the simplest event. The six visitors exchanged their
last impressions on the melancholy and magnificence of the Castagna
apartments, and they ended by descending the grand staircase with the
pillars, through the windows of which staircase smiled beneath the
scorching sun the small garden which Dorsenne had compared to a face.
The young man walked a little in advance, beside Alba Steno, whom he now
tried, but in vain, to cheer. Suddenly, at the last turn of the broad
steps which tempered the decline gradually, her face brightened with
surprise and pleasure. She uttered a slight cry and said: "There is my
mother!" And Julien saw the Madame Steno, whom he had seen, in an access
of almost delirious anxiety, surprised, assassinated by a betrayed lover.
She was standing upon the gray and black mosaic of the peristyle, dressed
in the most charming morning toilette. Her golden hair was gathered up
under a large hat of flowers, over which was a white veil; her hand toyed
with the silver handle of a white parasol, and in the reflection of that
whiteness, with her clear, fair complexion, with her lovely blue eyes in
which sparkled passion and intelligence, with her faultless teeth which
gleamed when she smiled, with her form still slender notwithstanding the
fulness of her bust, she seemed to be a creature so youthful, so
vigorous, so little touched by age that a stranger would never have taken
her to be the mother of the tall young girl who was already beside her
and who said to her
"What imprudence! Ill as you were this morning, to go out in this sun.
Why did you do so?"
"To fetch you and to take you home!" replied the Countess gayly. "I was
ashamed of having indulged myself! I rose, and here I am. Good-day,
Dorsenne. I hope you kept your eyes open up there. A story might be
written on the Ardea affair. I will tell it to you. Good-day, Maud.
How kind of you to make lazy Alba exercise a little! She would have
quite a different color if she walked every morning. Goodday, Florent.
Good-day, Lydia. The master is not here? And you, old friend, what have
you done with Fanny?"
She distributed these simple "good-days" with a grace so delicate, a
smile so rare for each one--tender for her daughter, spirituelle for the
author, grateful for Madame Gorka, amicably surprised for Chapron and
Madame Maitland, familiar and confiding for her old friend, as she called
the Baron. She was evidently the soul of the small party, for her mere
presence seemed to have caused animation to sparkle in every eye.
All talked at once, and she replied, as they walked toward the carriages,
which waited in a court of honor capable of holding seventy gala
chariots. One after the other these carriages advanced. The horses
pawed the ground; the harnesses shone; the footmen and coachmen were
dressed in perfect liveries; the porter of the Palais Castagna, with his
long redingote, on the buttons of which were the symbolical chestnuts of
the family, had beneath his laced hat such a dignified bearing that
Julien suddenly found it absurd to have imagined an impassioned drama in
connection with such people. The last one left, while watching the
others depart, he once more experienced the sensation so common to those
who are familiar with the worst side of the splendor of society and who
perceive in them the moral misery and ironical gayety.
"You are becoming a great simpleton, my friend, Dorsenne," said he,
seating himself more democratically in one of those open cabs called in
Rome a botte. "To fear a tragical adventure for the woman who is
mistress of herself to such a degree is something like casting one's self
into the water to prevent a shark from drowning. If she had not upon her
lips Maitland's kisses, and in her eyes the memory of happiness, I am
very much mistaken. She came from a rendezvous. It was written for me,
in her toilette, in the color upon her cheeks, in her tiny shoes, easy to
remove, which had not taken thirty steps. And with what mastery she
uttered her string of falsehoods! Her daughter, Madame Gorka, Madame
Maitland, how quickly she included them all! That is why I do not like
the theatre, where one finds the actress who employs that tone to utter
her: 'Is the master not here?'"
He laughed aloud, then his thoughts, relieved of all anxiety, took a new
course, and, using the word of German origin familiar to Cosmopolitans,
to express an absurd action, he said: "I have made a pretty schlemylade,
as Hafner would say, in relating to Florent Gorka's unexpected arrival.
It was just the same as telling him that Maitland was the Countess's
lover. That is a conversation at which I should like to assist, that
which will take place between the two brothers-in-law. Should I be very
much surprised to learn that this unattached negro is the confidant of
his great friend? It is a subject to paint, which has never been well
treated; the passionate friendships of a Tattet for a Musset, of an
Eckermann for a Goethe, of an Asselineau for a Beaudelaire, the total
absorption of the admirer in the admired. Florent found that the genius
of the great painter had need of a fortune, and he gave him his sister.
Were he to find that that genius required a passion in order to develop
still more, he would not object. My word of honor! He glanced at the
Countess just now with gratitude! Why not, after all? Lincoln is a
colorist of the highest order, although his desire to be with the tide
has led him into too many imitations. But it is his race. Young Madame
Maitland has as much sense as the handle of a basket; and Madame Steno is
one of those extraordinary women truly created to exalt the ideals of an
artist. Never has he painted anything as he painted the portrait of
Alba. I can hear this dialogue:
"'You know the Pole has returned? What Pole? The Countess's. What?
You believe those calumnies?' Ah, what comedies here below! 'Gad! The
cabman has also committed his 'schlemylade'. I told him Rue Sistina,
near La Trinite-des-Monts, and here he is going through Place Barberini
instead of cutting across Capo le Case. It is my fault as well.
I should not have heeded it had there been an earthquake. Let us at
least admire the Triton of Bernin. What a sculptor that man was! yet he
never thought of nature except to falsify it."
These incoherent remarks were made with a good-nature decidedly
optimistic, as could be seen, when the fiacre finally drew up at the
given address. It was that of a very modest restaurant decorated with
this signboard: 'Trattoria al Marzocco.' And the 'Marzocco', the lion
symbolical of Florence, was represented above the door, resting his paw
on the escutcheon ornamented with the national lys. The appearance of
that front did not justify the choice which the elegant Dorsenne
had made of the place at which to dine when he did not dine in society.
But his dilettantism liked nothing better than those sudden leaps from
society, and M. Egiste Brancadori, who kept the Marzocco, was one of
those unconscious buffoons of whom he was continually in search in real
life, one of those whom he called his "Thebans", in reference to King
Lear. "I'll talk a word with this same learned Theban," cried the mad
king, one knows not why, when he meets "poor Tom" on the heath.
That Dorsenne's Parisian friends, the Casals, the Machaults, the De
Vardes, those habitues of the club, might not judge him too severely, he
explained that the Theban born in Florence was a cook of the first order
and that the modest restaurant had its story. It amused so paradoxical
an observer as Julien was. He often said, "Who will ever dare to write
the truth of the history?" This, for example: Pope Pius IX, having asked
the Emperor to send him some troops to protect his dominions, the latter
agreed to do so--an occupation which bore two results: a Corsican hatred
of the half of Italy against France and the founding of the Marzocco by
Egiste Brancadori, says the Theban or the doctor. It was one of the
pleasantries of the novelist to pretend to have cured his dyspepsia in
Italy, thanks to the wise and wholesome cooking of the said Egiste. In
reality, and more simply, Brancadori was the old cook of a Russian lord,
one of the Werekiews, the cousin of pretty Alba Steno's real father.
That Werekiew, renowned in Rome for the daintiness of his dinners, died
suddenly in 1866. Several of the frequenters of his house, advised by a
French officer of the army of occupation, and tired of clubs, hotels, and
ordinary restaurants, determined to form a syndicate and to employ his
former cook. They, with his cooperation, established a sort of superior
cafe, to which with some pride they gave the name of the Culinary Club.
By assuring to each one a minimum of sixteen meals for seven francs, they
kept for four years an excellent table, at which were to be found all the
distinguished tourists in Rome. The year 1870 had disbanded that little
society of connoisseurs and of conversationalists, and the club was
metamorphosed into a restaurant, almost unknown, except to a few artists
or diplomats who were attracted by the ancient splendors of the place,
and, above all, by the knowledge of the "doctor's" talents.
It was not unusual at eight o'clock for the three small rooms which
composed the establishment to be full of men in white cravats, white
waistcoats and evening coats. To cosmopolitan Dorsenne this was a
singularly interesting sight; a member of the English embassy here, of
the Russian embassy farther on, two German attaches elsewhere, two French
secretaries near at hand from St. Siege, another from the Quirinal. What
interested the novelist still more was the conversation of the doctor
himself, genial Brancadori, who could neither read nor write. But he had
preserved a faithful remembrance of all his old customers, and when he
felt confidential, standing erect upon the threshold of his kitchen, of
the possession of which he was so insolently proud, he repeated curious
stories of Rome in the days of his youth. His gestures, so conformable
to the appearance of things, his mobile face and his Tuscan tongue, which
softened into h all the harsh e's between two vowels, gave a savor to his
stories which delighted a seeker after local truths. It was in the
morning especially, when there was no one in the restaurant, that he
voluntarily left his ovens to chat, and if Dorsenne gave the address of
the Marzocco to his cabman, it was in the hope that the old cook would in
his manner sketch for him the story of the ruin of Ardea. Brancadori was
standing by the bar where was enthroned his niece, Signorina Sabatina,
with a charming Florentine face, chin a trifle long, forehead somewhat
broad, nose somewhat short, a sinuous mouth, large, black eyes, an olive
complexion and waving hair, which recalled in a forcible manner the
favorite type of the first of the Ghirlandajos.
"Uncle," said the young girl, as soon as she perceived Dorsenne, "where
have you put the letter brought for the Prince?"
In Italy every foreigner is a prince or a count, and the profound good-
nature which reigns in the habit gives to those titles, in the mouths of
those who employ them, an amiability often free from calculation. There
is no country in the world where there is a truer, a more charming
familiarity of class for class, and Brancadori immediately gave a proof
of it in addressing as "Carolei"--that is to say, "my dear"--him whom his
daughter had blazoned with a coronet, and he cried, fumbling in the
pockets of the alpaca waistcoat which he wore over his apron of office:
"The brain is often lacking in a gray head. I put it in the pocket of my
coat in order to be more sure of not forgetting it. I changed my coat,
because it was warm, and left it with the letter in my apartments."
"You can look for it after lunch," said Dorsenne.
"No," replied the young girl, rising, "it is not two steps from here;
I will go. The concierge of the palace where your Excellency lives
brought it himself, and said it must be delivered immediately."
"Very well, go and fetch it," replied Julien, who could not suppress a
smile at the honor paid his dwelling, "and I will remain here and talk
with my doctor, while he gives me the prescription for this morning--that
is to say, his bill of fare. Guess whence I come, Brancadori," he added,
assured of first stirring the cook's curiosity, then his power of speech.
"From the Palais Castagna, where they are selling everything."
"Ah! Per Bacco!" exclaimed the Tuscan, with evident sorrow upon his old
parchment-like face, scorched from forty years of cooking. "If the
deceased Prince Urban can see it in the other world, his heart will
break, I assure you. The last time he came to dine here, about ten years
ago, on Saint Joseph's Day, he said to me: 'Make me some fritters,
Egiste, like those we used to have at Monsieur d'Epinag's, Monsieur
Clairin's, Fortuny's, and poor Henri Regnault's.' And he was happy!
'Egiste,' said he to me, 'I can die contented! I have only one son, but
I shall leave him six millions and the palace. If it was Gigi I should
be less easy, but Peppino !' Gigi was the other one, the elder, who died,
the gay one, who used to come here every day--a fine fellow, but bad!
You should have heard him tell of his visit to Pius Ninth on the day upon
which he converted an Englishman. Yes, Excellency, he converted him by
lending him by mistake a pious book instead of a novel. The Englishman
took the book, read it, read another, a third, and became a Catholic.
Gigi, who was not in favor at the Vatican, hastened to tell the Holy
Father of his good deed. 'You see, my son,' said Pius Ninth, 'what means
our Lord God employs!' Ah, he would have used those millions for his
amusement, while Peppino! They were all squandered in signatures. Just
think, the name of Prince d'Ardea meant money! He speculated, he lost,
he won, he lost again, he drew up bills of exchange after bills of
exchange. And every time he made a move such as I am making with my
pencil--only I can not sign my name--it meant one hundred, two hundred
thousand francs to go into the world. And now he must leave his house
and Rome. What will he do, Excellency, I ask you?" With a shake of his
head he added: "He should reconstruct his fortune abroad. We have this
saying: 'He who squanders gold with his hands will search for it with his
feet.' But Sabatino is coming! She has been as nimble as a cat."
The good man's invaluable mimetic art, his proverbs, the story of the
fete of St. Joseph, the original evocation of the heir of the Castagnas
continually signing and signing, the coarse explanation of his ruin--very
true, however--everything in the recital had amused Dorsenne. He knew
enough Italian to appreciate the untranslatable passages of the language
of the man of the people. He was again on the verge of laughter, when
the fresco madonna, as he sometimes designated the young girl, handed him
an envelope the address upon which soon converted his smile into an
undisguised expression of annoyance. He pushed aside the day's bill of
fare which the old cook presented to him and said, brusquely: "I fear I
can not remain to breakfast." Then, opening the letter: "No, I can not;
adieu." And he went out, in a manner so precipitate and troubled that
the uncle and niece exchanged smiling glances. Those typical Southerners
could not think of any other trouble in connection with so handsome a man
as Dorsenne than that of the heart.
"Chi ha l'amor nel petto," said Signorina Sabatina.
"Ha lo spron nei fianchi," replied the uncle.
That naive adage which compares the sharp sting which passion drives into
our breasts to the spurring given the flanks of a horse, was not true of
Dorsenne. The application of the proverb to the circumstance was not,
however, entirely erroneous, and the novelist commented upon it in his
passion, although in another form, by repeating to himself, as he went
along the Rue Sistina: "No, no, I can not interfere in that affair, and I
shall tell him so firmly."
He examined again the note, the perusal of which had rendered him more
uneasy than he had been twice before that morning. He had not been
mistaken in recognizing on the envelope the handwriting of Boleslas
Gorka, and these were the terms, teeming with mystery under the
circumstances, in which the brief message was worded:
"I know you to be such a friend to me, dear Julien, and I have for your
character, so chivalrous and so French, such esteem that I have
determined to turn to you in an era of my life thoroughly tragical.
I wish to see you immediately. I shall await you at your lodging.
I have sent a similar note to the Cercle de la Chasse, another to the
bookshop on the Corso, another to your antiquary's. Wheresoever my
appeal finds you, leave all and come at once. You will save more for me
than life. For a reason which I will tell you, my return is a profound
secret. No one, you understand, knows of it but you. I need not write
more to a friend as sincere as you are, and whom I embrace with all my
"It is unequalled.!" said Dorsenne, crumpling the letter with rising
anger. "He embraces me with all his heart. I am his most sincere
friend! I am chivalrous, French, the only person he esteems! What
disagreeable commission does he wish me to undertake for him? Into what
scrape is he about to ask me to enter, if he has not already got me into
it? I know that school of protestation. We are allied for life and
death, are we not? Do me a favor! And they upset your habits, encroach
upon your time, embark you in tragedies, and when you say 'No' to them-
then they squarely accuse you of selfishness and of treason! It is my
fault, too. Why did I listen to his confidences? Have I not known for
years that a man who relates his love-affairs on so short an acquaintance
as ours is a scoundrel and a fool? And with such people there can be no
possible connection. He amused me at the beginning, when he told me his
sly intrigue, without naming the person, as they all do at first. He
amused me still more by the way he managed to name her without violating
that which people in society call honor. And to think that the women