Part 9 out of 10
And I find myself kissed on both cheeks before I even guess what is
going to happen to me.
"Have I not also the honor of being remembered by Mademoiselle?" says
Mueller, taking off his hat with all the politeness possible; whereupon
Josephine, in an ecstasy of recognition, embraces him likewise.
"_Mais, quel bonheur_!" cries she. "And to meet in the Temple, above all
places! Emile, you heard me speak of Monsieur Basil--the gentleman who
gave me that lovely shawl that I wore last Sunday to the Chateau des
Fleurs--_eh bien_! this is he--and here is Monsieur Mueller, his friend.
Gentlemen, this is Emile, my _fiance_. We are to be married next Friday
week, and we are buying our furniture."
The good-looking workman pulled off his cap and made his bow, and we
proffered the customary congratulations.
"We have bought such sweet, pretty things," continued she, rattling on
with all her old volubility, "and we have hired the dearest little
_appartement_ on the fourth story, in a street near the Jardin des
Plantes. See--this looking-glass is ours; we have just bought it. And
those maple chairs, and that chest of drawers with the marble top. It
isn't real marble, you know; but it's ever so much better than
real:--not nearly so heavy, and so beautifully carved that it's quite a
work of art. Then we have bought a carpet--the sweetest carpet! Is it
Emile smiled, and confessed that the carpet was "_fort bien_."
"And the time-piece, Madame?" suggested the furniture-dealer, at whose
door we were standing. "Madame should really not refuse herself the
Josephine shook her head.
"It is too dear," said she.
"Pardon, madame. I am giving it away,--absolutely giving it away at the
Josephine looked at it wistfully, and weighed her little purse. It was a
very little purse, and very light.
"It is so pretty!" said she.
The clock was of ormolu upon a painted stand, that was surmounted by a
stout little gilt Cupid in a triumphal chariot, drawn by a pair of
"What is the price of it?" I asked.
"Thirty-five francs, m'sieur," replied the dealer, briskly.
"Say twenty-five," urged Josephine.
The dealer shook his head.
"What if we did without the looking-glass?" whispered Josephine to her
_fiance_. "After all, you know, one can live without a looking-glass;
but how shall I have your dinners ready, if I don't know what o'clock
"I don't really see how we are to do without a clock," admitted Emile.
"And that darling little Cupid!"
Emile conceded that the Cupid was irresistible.
"Then we decide to have the clock, and do without the looking-glass?"
"Yes, we decide."
In the meantime I had slipped the thirty-five francs into the dealer's
"You must do me the favor to accept the clock as a wedding-present,
Mademoiselle Josephine," I said. "And I hope you will favor me with an
invitation to the wedding."
"And me also," said Mueller; "and I shall hope to be allowed to offer a
little sketch to adorn the walls of your new home."
Their delight and gratitude were almost too great. We shook hands again
all round. I am not sure, indeed, that Josephine did not then and there
embrace us both for the second time.
"And you will both come to our wedding!" cried she. "And we will spend
the day at St. Cloud, and have a dance in the evening; and we will
invite Monsieur Gustave, and Monsieur Jules, and Monsieur Adrien. Oh,
dear! how delightful it will be!"
"And you promise me the first quadrille?" said I.
"And me the second?" added Mueller.
"Yes, yes--as many as you please."
"Then you must let us know at what time to come, and all about it; so,
till Friday week, adieu!"
And thus, with more shaking of hands, and thanks, and good wishes, we
parted company, leaving them still occupied with the gilt Cupid and the
After the dense atmosphere of the clothes-market, it is a relief to
emerge upon the Boulevart du Temple--the noisy, feverish, crowded
Boulevart du Temple, with its half dozen theatres, its glare of gas, its
cake-sellers, bill-sellers, lemonade-sellers, cabs, cafes, gendarmes,
tumblers, grisettes, and pleasure-seekers of both sexes.
Here we pause awhile to applaud the performances of a company of
dancing-dogs, whence we are presently drawn away by the sight of a
gentleman in a _moyen-age_ costume, who is swallowing penknives and
bringing them out at his ears to the immense gratification of a large
circle of bystanders.
A little farther on lies the Jardin Turc; and here we drop in for half
an hour, to restore ourselves with coffee-ices, and look on at the
dancers. This done, we presently issue forth again, still in search of
"Have you ever been to the Petit Lazary?" asks my friend, as we stand at
the gate of the Jardin Turc, hesitating which way to turn.
"Never; what is it?"
"The most inexpensive of theatrical luxuries--an evening's entertainment
of the mildest intellectual calibre, and at the lowest possible cost.
Here we are at the doors. Come in, and complete your experience of
The Petit Lazary occupies the lowest round of the theatrical ladder. We
pay something like sixpence half-penny or sevenpence apiece, and are
inducted into the dress-circle. Our appearance is greeted with a round
of applause. The curtain has just fallen, and the audience have nothing
better to do. Mueller lays his hand upon his heart, and bows profoundly,
first to the gallery and next to the pit; whereupon they laugh, and
leave us in peace. Had we looked dignified or indignant we should
probably have been hissed till the curtain rose.
It is an audience in shirt-sleeves, consisting for the most part of
workmen, maid-servants, soldiers, and street-urchins, with a plentiful
sprinkling of pickpockets--the latter in a strictly private capacity,
being present for entertainment only, without any ulterior
It is a noisy _entr'acte_ enough. Three vaudevilles have already been
played, and while the fourth is in preparation the public amuses itself
according to its own riotous will and pleasure. Nuts and apple parings
fly hither and thither; oranges describe perilous parabolas between the
pit and the gallery; adventurous _gamins_ make daring excursions round
the upper rails; dialogues maintained across the house, and quarrels
supported by means of an incredible copiousness of invective, mingle in
discordant chorus with all sorts of howlings, groanings, whistlings,
crowings, and yelpings, above which, in shrillest treble, rise the
voices of cake and apple-sellers, and the piercing cry of the hump-back
who distributes "vaudevilles at five centimes apiece." In the meantime,
almost distracted by the patronage that assails him in every direction,
the lemonade-vendor strides hither and thither, supplying floods of
nectar at two centimes the glass; while the audience, skilled in the
combination of enjoyments, eats, drinks, and vociferates to its heart's
content. Fabulous meats, and pies of mysterious origin, are brought out
from baskets and hats. Pocket-handkerchiefs spread upon benches do duty
as table-cloths. Clasp-knives, galette, and sucre d'orge pass from hand
to hand--nay, from mouth to mouth--and, in the midst of the tumult, the
All is, in one moment, profoundly silent. The viands disappear; the
lemonade-seller vanishes; the boys outside the gallery-rails clamber
back to their places. The drama, in the eyes of the Parisians, is almost
a sacred rite, and not even the noisiest _gamin_ would raise his voice
above a whisper when the curtain is up.
The vaudeville that follows is, to say the least of it, a perplexing
performance. It has no plot in particular. The scene is laid in a
lodging-house, and the discomforts of one Monsieur Choufleur, an elderly
gentleman in a flowered dressing-gown and a gigantic nightcap, furnish
forth all the humor of the piece. What Monsieur Choufleur has done to
deserve his discomforts, and why a certain student named Charles should
devote all the powers of his mind to the devising and inflicting of
those discomforts, is a mystery which we, the audience, are never
permitted to penetrate. Enough that Charles, being a youth of
mischievous tastes and extensive wardrobe, assumes a series of disguises
for the express purpose of tormenting Monsieur Choufleur, and is
unaccountably rewarded in the end with the hand of Monsieur Choufleur's
daughter; a consummation which brings down the curtain amid loud
applause, and affords entire satisfaction to everybody.
It is by this time close upon midnight, and, leaving the theatre with
the rest of the audience, we find a light rain falling. The noisy
thoroughfare is hushed to comparative quiet. The carriages that roll by
are homeward bound. The waiters yawn at the doors of the cafes and
survey pedestrians with a threatening aspect. The theatres are closing
fast, and a row of flickering gas-lamps in front of a faded transparency
which proclaims that the juvenile _Tableaux Vivants_ are to be seen
within, denotes the only place of public amusement yet open to the
curious along the whole length of the Boulevart du Temple.
"And now, _amigo_, where shall we go?" says Mueller. "Are you for a
billiard-room or a lobster supper? Or shall we beat up the quarters of
some of the fellows in the Quartier Latin, and see what fun is afoot on
the other side of the water?"
"Whichever you please. You are my guest to-night, and I am at your
"Or what say you to dropping in for an hour among the Chicards?"
"A capital idea--especially if you again entertain the society with a
true story of events that never happened."
'C'etait de mon temps
Que brillait Madame Gregoire.
J'allais a vingt ans
Dans son cabaret rire et boire.'
--confound this drizzle! It soaks one through and through, like a
sponge. If you are no fonder of getting wet through than I am, I vote we
both run for it!"
With this he set off running at full speed, and I followed.
The rain soon fell faster and thicker. We had no umbrellas; and being by
this time in a region of back-streets, an empty fiacre was a prize not
to be hoped for. Coming presently to a dark archway, we took shelter and
waited till the shower should pass over. It lasted longer than we had
expected, and threatened to settle into a night's steady rain. Mueller
kept his blood warm by practicing extravagant quadrille steps and
singing scraps of Beranger's ballads; whilst I, watching impatiently for
a cab, kept peering up and down the street, and listening to
Presently a quick footfall echoed along the wet pavement, and the figure
of a man, dimly seen by the blurred light of the street-lamps, came
hurrying along the other side of the way. Something in the firm free
step, in the upright carriage, in the height and build of the passer-by,
arrested my attention. He drew nearer. He passed under the lamp just
opposite, and, as he passed, flung away the end of his cigar, which
fell, hissing, into the little rain-torrent running down the middle of
the street. He carried no umbrella; but his hat was pulled low, and his
collar drawn up, and I could see nothing of his face. But the gesture
For a moment I stood still and looked after him; then, calling to Mueller
that I should be back presently, I darted off in pursuit.
THE KING OF DIAMONDS.
The rain beat in my face and almost blinded me, the wind hustled me; the
gendarme at the corner of the street looked at me suspiciously; and
still I followed, and still the tall stranger strode on ahead. Up one
street he led me and down another, across a market-place, through an
arcade, past the Bourse, and into that labyrinth of small streets that
lies behind the Italian Opera-house, and is bounded on the East by the
Rue de Richelieu, and on the West by the Rue Louis le Grand. Here he
slackened his pace, and I found myself gaming upon him for the first
time. Presently he came to a dead stop, and as I continued to draw
nearer, I saw him take out his watch and look at it by the light of a
street-lamp. This done, he began sauntering slowly backwards and
forwards, as if waiting for some second person.
For a moment I also paused, hesitating. What should I do?--pass him
under the lamp, and try to see his face? Go boldly up to him, and invent
some pretence to address him, or wait in this angle of deep shade, and
see what would happen next? I was deceived, of course--deceived by a
merely accidental resemblance. Well, then, I should have had my run for
my pains, and have taken cold, most likely, into the bargain. At all
events, I would speak to him.
Seeing me emerge from the darkness, and cross over towards the spot
where he was standing, he drew aside with the air of a man upon his
guard, and put his hand quickly into his breast.
"I beg your pardon, Monsieur," I began.
"What! my dear Damon!--is it you?" he interrupted, and held out both
I grasped them joyously.
"Dalrymple, is it you?"
"Myself, Damon--_faute de mieux_."
"And I have been running after you for the last two miles! What brings
you to Paris? Why did you not let me know you were here? How long have
you been back? Has anything gone wrong? Are you well?"
"One question at a time, my Arcadian, for mercy's sake!" said he. "Which
am I to answer?"
"Oh, I am well--well enough. But let us walk on a little farther while
"Are you waiting for any one?" I asked, seeing him look round uneasily.
"Yes--no--that is, I expect to see some one come past here presently.
Step into this doorway, and I will tell you all about it."
His manner was restless, and his hand, as it pressed mine, felt hot and
"I am sure you are not well," I said, following him into the gloom of a
deep, old-fashioned doorway.
"Am I not? Well, I don't know--perhaps I am not. My blood burns in my
veins to-night like fire. Nay, thou wilt learn nothing from my pulse,
thou sucking AEsculapius! Mine is a sickness not to be cured by drugs. I
must let blood for it."
The short, hard laugh with which he said this troubled me still more.
"Speak out," I said--"for Heaven's sake, speak out! You have something
on your mind--what is it?"
"I have something on my hands," he replied, gloomily. "Work. Work that
must be done quickly, or there will be no peace for any of us. Look
here, Damon--if you had a wife, and another man stood before the world
as her betrothed husband--if you had a wife, and another man spoke of
her as his--boasted of her--behaved in the house as if it were already
his own--treated her servants as though he were their master--possessed
himself of her papers--extorted money from her--brought his friends, on
one pretext or another, about her house--tormented her, day after day,
to marry him ... what would you do to such a man as this?"
"Make my own marriage public at once, and set him at defiance," I
"That alone will not content me. I must punish him with my own hand."
"He would be punished enough in the loss of the lady and her fortune."
"Not he! He has entangled her affairs sufficiently by this time to
indemnify himself for her fortune, depend on it. And as for
herself--pshaw! he does not know what love is!"
"But his pride----"
"But _my_ pride!" interrupted Dalrymple, passionately. "What of my
pride?--my wounded honor?--my outraged love? No, no, I tell you, it is
not such a paltry vengeance that will satisfy me! Would to Heaven I had
trusted only my own arm from the first! Would to Heaven that, instead of
having anything to say to the cursed brood of the law, I had taken the
viper by the throat, and brought him to my own terms, after my
"But you have not yet told me what you are doing here?"
"I am waiting to see Monsieur de Simoncourt."
"Monsieur de Simoncourt!"
"Yes. That white house at the corner is one of his haunts,--a private
gaming-house, never open till after midnight. I want to meet him
accidentally, as he is going in."
"That he may take me with him. You can't get into one of these places
without an introduction, you know. Those who keep them are too much
afraid of the police."
"But do you play?"
"Come with me, and see. Hark! do you hear nothing?"
"Yes, I hear a footstep. And here comes a man."
"Let us walk to meet him, accidentally, and seem to be talking."
I took Dalrymple's arm, and we strolled in the direction of the new
comer. It was not De Simoncourt, however, but a tall man with a grizzled
beard, who crossed over, apprehensively, at our approach, but recrossed
and went into the white house at the corner as soon as he thought us
out of sight.
"One of the gang," said Dalrymple, with a shrug of his broad shoulders.
"We had better go back to our doorway, and wait till the right
We had not long to wait. The next arrival was he whom we sought. We
strolled on, as before, and came upon him face to face.
"De Simoncourt, by all that's propitious!" cried Dalrymple.
"What--Major Dalrymple returned to Paris!"
"Ay, just returned. Bored to death with Berlin and Vienna--no place like
Paris, De Simoncourt, go where one will!"
"None, indeed. There is but one Paris, and pleasure is the true profit
of all who visit it."
"My dear De Simoncourt, I am appalled to hear you perpetrate a pun! By
the way, you have met Mr. Basil Arbuthnot at my rooms?"
M. de Simoncourt lifted his hat, and was graciously pleased to remember
"And now," pursued Dalrymple, "having met, what shall, we do next? Have
you any engagement for the small hours, De Simoncourt?"
"I am quite at your disposal. Where were your bound for?"
"Anywhere--everywhere. I want excitement."
"Would a hand at _ecarte_, or a green table, have any attraction for
you?" suggested De Simoncourt, falling into the trap as readily as one
could have desired.
"The very thing, if you know where they are to be found!"
"Nay, I need not take you far to find both. There is in this very street
a house where money may be lost and won as easily as at the Bourse.
He took us to the white house at the corner, and, pressing a spring
concealed in the wood-work of the lintel, rung a bell of shrill and
peculiar _timbre_. The door opened immediately, and, after we had
passed in, closed behind us without any visible agency. Still following
at the heels of M. de Simoncourt, we then went up a spacious staircase
dimly lighted, and, leaving our hats in an ante-room, entered
unannounced into an elegant _salon_, where some twenty or thirty
_habitues_ of both sexes had already commenced the business of the
evening. The ladies, of whom there were not more than half-a-dozen, were
all more or less painted, _passees_, and showily dressed. Among the men
were military stocks, ribbons, crosses, stars, and fine titles in
abundance. We were evidently supposed to be in very brilliant
society--brilliant, however, with a fictitious lustre that betrayed the
tinsel beneath, and reminded one of a fashionable reception on the
boards of the Haymarket or the Porte St. Martin. The mistress of the
house, an abundant and somewhat elderly Juno in green velvet, with a
profusion of jewelry on her arms and bosom, came forward to receive us.
"Madame de Sainte Amaranthe, permit me to present my friends, Major
Dalrymple and Mr. Arbuthnot," said De Simoncourt, imprinting a gallant
kiss on the plump hand of the hostess.
Madame de Ste. Amaranthe professed herself charmed to receive any
friends of M. de Simoncourt; whereupon M. de Simoncourt's friends were
enchanted to be admitted to the privilege of Madame de Ste. Amaranthe's
acquaintance. Madame de Ste. Amaranthe then informed us that she was the
widow of a general officer who fell at Austerlitz, and the daughter of a
rich West India planter whom she called her _pere adore_, and to whose
supposititious memory she wiped away an imaginary tear with an
embroidered pocket-handkerchief. She then begged that we would make
ourselves at home, and, gliding away, whispered something in De
Simoncourt's ear, to which he replied by a nod of intelligence.
"That harpy hopes to fleece us," said Dalrymple, slipping his arm
through mine and drawing me towards the roulette table. "She has just
told De Simoncourt to take us in hand. I always suspected the fellow
was a Greek."
"Ay, in the figurative sense--a gentleman who lives by dexterity at
"And shall you play?"
"By-and-by. Not yet, because--"
He checked himself, and looked anxiously round the room.
"Tell me, Arbuthnot," said he, paying no attention to my question; "do
_you_ mind playing?"
"I? My dear fellow, I hardly know one card from another."
"But have you any objection?"
"None whatever to the game; but a good deal to the penalty. I don't mind
confessing to you that I ran into debt some months back, and that...."
"Nonsense, boy!" interrupted Dalrymple, with a kindly smile. "Do you
suppose I want you to gamble away your money? No, no--the fact is, that
I am here for a purpose, and it will not do to let my purpose be
suspected. These Greeks want a pigeon. Will you oblige me by being that
pigeon, and by allowing me to pay for your plucking?"
I still hesitated.
"But you will be helping me," urged he. "If you don't sit down, I must."
"You would not lose so much," I expostulated.
"Perhaps not, if I were cool and kept my eyes open; but to-night I am
_distrait_, and should be as defenceless as yourself."
"In that case I will play for you with pleasure."
He slipped a little pocket-book into my hand.
"Never stake more than five francs at a time," said he, "and you cannot
ruin me. The book contains a thousand. You shall have more, if
necessary; but I think that sum will last as long as I shall want you to
"A thousand francs!" I exclaimed. "Why, that is forty pounds!"
"If it were four hundred, and it answered my purpose," said Dalrymple,
between his teeth, "I should hold it money well spent!"
At this moment De Simoncourt came up, and apologized for having left us
"If you want mere amusement, Major Dalrymple," said he, "I suppose you
will prefer _roulette_ to _ecarte_!"
"I will stake a few pieces presently on the green cloth," replied
Dalrymple, carelessly; "but, first of all, I want to initiate my young
friend here. As to double _ecarte_, Monsieur de Simoncourt, I need
hardly tell you, as a man of the world, that I never play it with
De Simoncourt smiled, and shrugged his shoulders.
"Quite right," said he. "I believe that here everything is really _de
bonne foi_; but where there are cards there will always be danger. For
my part, I always shuffle the pack after my adversary!"
With this he strolled off again, and I took a vacant chair at the long
table, next to a lady, who made way for me with the most gracious smile
imaginable. Only the players sat; so Dalrymple stood behind me and
looked on. It was a green board, somewhat larger than an ordinary
billiard-table, with mysterious boundaries traced here and there in
yellow and red, and a cabalistic table of figures towards each end. A
couple of well-dressed men sat in the centre; one to deal out the cards,
and the other to pay and receive the money. The one who had the
management of the cash wore a superb diamond ring, and a red and green
ribbon at his button-hole. Dalrymple informed me in a whisper that this
noble seigneur was Madame de Ste. Amaranthe's brother.
As for the players, they all looked serious and polite enough, as ladies
and gentlemen should, at their amusement. Some had pieces of card, which
they pricked occasionally with a pin, according to the progress of the
game. Some had little piles of silver, or sealed _rouleaux_, lying
beside them. As for myself, I took out Dalrymple's pocket-book, and laid
it beside me, as if I were an experienced player and meant to break the
bank. For a few minutes he stood by, and then, having given me some
idea of the leading principles of the game, wandered away to observe the
Left to myself, I played on--timidly at first; soon with more
confidence; and, of course, with the novice's invariable good-fortune.
My amiable neighbor drew me presently into conversation. She had a
theory of chances relating to averages of color, and based upon a
bewildering calculation of all the black and red cards in the pack,
which she was so kind as to explain to me. I could not understand a word
of it, but politeness compelled me to listen. Politeness also compelled
me to follow her advice when she was so obliging as to offer it, and I
lost, as a matter of course. From this moment my good-luck deserted me.
"Courage, Monsieur," said my amiable neighbour; "you have only to play
long enough, and you are sure to win."
In the meantime, I kept following Dalrymple with my eyes, for there was
something in his manner that filled me with vague uneasiness. Sometimes
he drew near the table and threw down a Napoleon, but without heeding
the game, or caring whether he won or lost. He was always looking to the
door, or wandering restlessly from table to table. Watching him thus, I
thought how haggard he looked, and what deep channels were furrowed in
his brow since that day when we lay together on the autumnal grass under
the trees in the forest of St. Germain.
Thus a long time went by, and I found by my watch that it was nearly
four o'clock in the morning--also that I had lost six hundred francs out
of the thousand. It seemed incredible. I could hardly believe that the
time and the money had flown so fast. I rose in my seat and looked round
for Dalrymple; but in vain. Could he be gone, leaving me here?
Impossible! Apprehensive of I knew not what, I pushed back my chair, and
left the table. The rooms were now much fuller--more stars and
moustachios; more velvets and laces, and Paris diamonds. Fresh tables,
too, had been opened for _lansquenet, baccarat_, and _ecarte_. At one of
these I saw M. de Simoncourt. When he laid down his cards for the deal,
I seized the opportunity to inquire for my friend.
He pointed to a small inner room divided by a rich hanging from the
farther end of the _salon_.
"You will find Major Dalrymple in Madame de Ste. Amaranthe's boudoir,
playing with M. le Vicomte de Caylus," said he, courteously, and
resumed his game.
Playing with De Caylus! Sitting down amicably with De Caylus! I could
not understand it.
Crowded as the rooms now were, it took me some time to thread my way
across, and longer still, when I had done so, to pass the threshold of
the boudoir, and obtain sight of the players. The room was very small,
and filled with lookers-on. At a table under a chandelier sat De Caylus
and Dalrymple. I could not see Dalrymple's face, for his back was turned
towards me; but the Vicomte I recognised at once--pale, slight, refined,
with the old look of dissipation and irritability, and the same
restlessness of eye and hand that I had observed on first seeing him.
They were evidently playing high, and each had a pile of notes and gold
lying at his left hand. De Caylus kept nervously crumbling a note in his
fingers. Dalrymple sat motionless as a man of bronze, and, except to
throw down a card when it came to his turn, never stirred a finger.
There was, to my thinking, something ominous in his exceeding calmness.
"At what game are they, playing?" I asked a gentleman near whom I was
"At _ecarte_," replied he, without removing his eyes from the players.
Knowing nothing of the game, I could only judge of its progress by the
faces of those around me. A breathless silence prevailed, except when
some particular subtlety in the play sent a murmur of admiration round
the room. Even this was hushed almost as soon as uttered. Gradually the
interest grew more intense, and the bystanders pressed closer. De Caylus
sighed impatiently, and passed his hand across his brow. It was his turn
to deal. Dalrymple shuffled the pack. De Caylus shuffled them after
him, and dealt. The falling of a pin might have been heard in the pause
that followed. They had but five cards each. Dalrymple played first--a
queen of diamonds. De Caylus played the king, and both threw down their
cards. A loud murmur broke out instantaneously in every direction, and
De Caylus, looking excited and weary, leaned back in his chair, and
called for wine. His expression was so unlike that of a victor that I
thought at first he must have lost the game.
"Which is the winner?" I asked, eagerly. "Which is the winner?"
The gentleman who had replied to me before looked round with a smile of
"Why, Monsieur de Caylus, of course," said he. "Did you not see him play
"I beg your pardon," I said, somewhat nettled; "but, as I said before, I
do not understand the game."
"_Eh bien_! the Englishman is counting out his money."
What a changed scene it was! The circle of intent faces broken and
shifting--the silence succeeded by a hundred conversations--De Caylus
leaning back, sipping his wine and chatting over his shoulder--the cards
pushed aside, and Dalrymple gravely sorting out little shining columns
of Napoleons, and rolls of crisp bank paper! Having ranged all these
before him in a row, he took out his check-book, filled in a page, tore
it out and laid it with the rest. Then, replacing the book in his
breast-pocket, he pushed back his chair, and, looking up for the first
time since the close of the game, said aloud:--
"Monsieur le Vicomte de Caylus, I have this evening had the honor of
losing the sum of twelve thousand francs to you; will you do me the
favor to count this money?"
M. de Caylus bowed, emptied his glass, and languidly touching each
little column with one dainty finger, told over his winnings as though
they were scarcely worth even that amount of trouble.
"Six rouleaux of four hundred each," said he, "making two thousand four
hundred--six notes of five hundred each, making three thousand--and an
order upon Rothschild for six thousand six hundred; in all, twelve
thousand. Thanks, Monsieur ... Monsieur ... forgive me for not
remembering your name."
Dalrymple looked up with a dangerous light in his eyes, and took no
notice of the apology.
"It appears to me, Monsieur le Vicomte Caylus," said he, giving the
other his full title and speaking with singular distinctness, "that you
hold the king very often at _ecarte_."
De Caylus looked up with every vein on his forehead suddenly swollen and
"Monsieur!" he exclaimed, hoarsely.
"Especially when you deal," added Dalrymple, smoothing his moustache
with utter _sang-froid_, and keeping his eyes still riveted upon his
With an inarticulate cry like the cry of a wild beast, De Caylus sprung
at him, foaming with rage, and was instantly flung back against the
wall, dragging with him not only the table-cloth, but all the wine,
money, and cards upon it.
"I will have blood for this!" he shrieked, struggling with those who
rushed in between. "I will have blood! Blood! Blood!"
Stained and streaming with red wine, he looked, in his ghastly rage, as
if he was already bathed in the blood he thirsted for.
Dalrymple drew himself to his full height, and stood looking on with
folded arms and a cold smile.
"I am quite ready," he said, "to give Monsieur le Vicomte full
The room was by this time crowded to suffocation. I forced my way
through, and laid my hand on Dalrymple's arm.
"You have provoked this quarrel," I said, reproachfully.
"That, my dear fellow, is precisely what I came here to do," he replied.
"You will have to be my second in this affair."
Here De Simoncourt came up, and hearing the last words, drew me aside.
"I act for De Caylus," he whispered. "Pistols, of course?"
I nodded, still all bewilderment at my novel position.
"Your man received the first blow, so is entitled to the first shot."
I nodded again.
"I don't know a better place," he went on, "than Bellevue. There's a
famous little bit of plantation, and it is just far enough from Paris to
be secure. The Bois is hackneyed, and the police are too much about it.
"Just so," I replied, vaguely.
"And when shall we say? The sooner the better, it always seems to me, in
"Oh, certainly--the sooner the better."
He looked at his watch.
"It is now ten minutes to five," he said. "Suppose we allow them five
hours to put their papers in order, and meet at Bellevue, on the
terrace, at ten?"
"So soon!" I exclaimed.
"Soon!" echoed De Simoncourt. "Why, under circumstances of such
exceeding aggravation, most men would send for pistols and settle it
across the table!"
I shuddered. These niceties of honor were new to me, and I had been
brought up to make little distinction between duelling and murder.
"Be it so, then, Monsieur De Simoncourt," I said. "We will meet you at
Bellevue, at ten."
"On the terrace?"
"On the terrace."
We bowed and parted. Dalrymple was already gone, and De Caylus, still
white and trembling with rage, was wiping the wine from his face and
shirt. The crowd opened for me right and left as I went through the
_salon_, and more than one voice whispered:--
"He is the Englishman's second."
I took my hat and cloak mechanically, and let myself out. It was broad
daylight, and the blinding sun poured full upon my eyes as I passed into
"Come, Damon," said Dalrymple, crossing over to me from the opposite
side of the way. "I have just caught a cab--there it is, waiting round
the corner! We've no time to lose, I'll be bound."
"We are to meet them at Bellevue at ten," I replied.
"At ten? Hurrah! then I've still five certain hours of life before me!
Long enough, Damon, to do a world of mischief, if one were so disposed!"
THE DUEL AT BELLEVUE.
We drove straight to Dalrymple's rooms, and, going in with a pass-key,
went up without disturbing the _concierge_. Arrived at home, my friend's
first act was to open his buffetier and take out a loaf, a _pate de foie
gras_, and a bottle of wine. I could not eat a morsel; but he supped (or
breakfasted) with a capital appetite; insisted that I should lie down on
his bed for two or three hours; and slipping into his dressing-gown,
took out his desk and cash-box, and settled himself to a regular
"I hope to get a nap myself before starting," said he. "I have not many
debts, and I made my will the day after I married--so I have but little
to transact in the way of business. A few letters to write--a few to
burn--a trifle or two to seal up and direct to one or two fellows who
may like a _souvenir_,--that is the extent of my task! Meanwhile, my
dear boy, get what rest you can. It will never do to be shaky and pale
on the field, you know."
I went, believing that I should be less in his way; and, lying down in
my clothes, fell into a heavy sleep, from which, after what seemed a
long time, I woke suddenly with the conviction that it was just ten
o'clock. To start up, look at my watch, find that it was only a quarter
to seven and fall profoundly asleep again, was the work of only a few
minutes. At the end of another half-hour I woke with the same dread, and
with the same result; and so on twice or thrice after, till at a
quarter to nine I jumped up, plunged my head into a basin of cold water,
and went back to the sitting-room.
I found him lying forward upon the table, fast asleep, with his head
resting on his hands. Some half-dozen letters lay folded and addressed
beside him--one directed to his wife. A little pile of burnt paper
fluttered on the hearth. His pistols were lying close by in their
mahogany case, the blue and white steel relieved against the
crimson-velvet lining. He slept so soundly, poor fellow, that I could
with difficulty make up my mind to wake him. Once roused, however, he
was alert and ready in a moment, changed his coat, took out a new pair
of lavender gloves, hailed a cab from the window, and bade the driver
name his own fare if he got us to the terrace at Bellevue by five
minutes before ten.
"I always like to be before my time in a matter of this kind, Damon,"
said he. "It's shabby to be merely punctual when one has, perhaps, not
more than a quarter of an hour to live. By-the-by, here are my keys.
Take them, in case of accident. You will find a copy of my will in my
desk---the original is with my lawyer. The letters you will forward,
according to the addresses; and in my cash-box you will find a paper
directed to yourself."
I bent my head. I would not trust myself to speak. "As for the letter to
Helene--to my wife," he said, turning his face away, "will you--will you
deliver that with your own hands?"
"I--I have had but little time to write it," he faltered, "and I trust
to you to supply the details. Tell her how I made the quarrel, and how
it ended. No one suspects it to be other than a _fracas_ over a game at
_ecarte_. No one supposes that I had any other motive, or any deeper
vengeance--not even De Caylus! I have not compromised her by word or
deed. If I shoot him, I free her without a breath of scandal. If
His voice failed, and we were both silent for some moments
We were now past the Barrier, and speeding on rapidly towards the open
country. High white houses with jalousies closed against the sun, and
pretty maisonnettes in formal gardens, succeeded the streets and shops
of suburban Paris. Then came a long country road bordered by
poplars--by-and-by, glimpses of the Seine, and scattered farms and
villages far away--then Sevres and the leafy heights of Bellevue
overhanging the river.
We crossed the bridge, and the driver, mindful of his fare, urged on his
tired horse. Some country folks met us presently, and a wagoner with a
load of fresh hay. They all smiled and gave us "good-day" as we
passed--they going to their work in the fields, and we to our work of
Shortly after this, the road began winding upwards, past the porcelain
factories and through the village of Sevres; after which, having but a
short distance of very steep road to climb, we desired the cabman to
wait, and went up on foot. Arrived at the top, where a peep of blue
daylight came streaming down upon us through a green tunnel of acacias,
we emerged all at once upon the terrace, and found ourselves first on
the field. Behind us rose a hillside of woods--before us, glassy and
glittering, as if traced upon the transparent air, lay the city of
palaces. Domes and spires, arches and columns of triumph, softened by
distance, looked as if built of the sunshine. Far away on one side
stretched the Bois de Boulogne, undulating like a sea of tender green.
Still farther away on the other, lay Pere-la-Chaise--a dark hill specked
with white; cypresses and tombs. At our feet, winding round a "lawny
islet" and through a valley luxuriant in corn-fields and meadows, flowed
the broad river, bluer than the sky.
"A fine sight, Damon!" said Dalrymple, leaning on the parapet, and
coolly lighting a cigar. "If my eyes are never to open on the day again,
I am glad they should have rested for the last time on a scene of so
much beauty! Where is the painter who could paint it? Not Claude
himself, though he should come back to life on purpose, and mix his
colors with liquid sunlight!"
"You are a queer fellow," said I, "to talk of scenery and painters at
such a moment!"
"Not at all. Things are precious according to the tenure by which we
hold them. For my part, I do not know when I appreciated earth and sky
so heartily as this morning. _Tiens!_ here comes a carriage--our men,
"Are you a good shot?" I asked anxiously.
"Pretty well. I can write my initials in bullet-holes on a sheet of
notepaper at forty paces, or toss up half-a-crown as I ride at full
gallop, and let the daylight through it as it comes down."
"Not so fast, my boy. De Caylus is just as fine a shot, and one of the
most skilful swordsmen in the French service."
"Ay, but the first fire is yours!"
"Is it? Well, I suppose it is. He struck the first blow, and so--here
"One more word, Dalrymple--did he really cheat you at _ecarte?_"
"Upon my soul, I don't know. He did hold the king very often, and there
are some queer stories told of him in Vienna by the officers of the
Emperor's Guard. At all events, this is not the first duel he has had to
fight in defence of his good-fortune!"
De Simoncourt now coming forward, we adjourned at once to the wood
behind the village. A little open glade was soon found; the ground was
soon measured; the pistols were soon loaded. De Caylus looked horribly
pale, but it was the pallor of concentrated rage, with nothing of the
craven hue in it. Dalrymple, on the contrary, had neither more nor less
color than usual, and puffed away at his cigar with as much indifference
as if he were waiting his turn at the pit of the Comedie Francaise. Both
were clothed in black from head to foot, with their coats buttoned
to the chin.
"All is ready," said De Simoncourt. "Gentlemen, choose your weapons."
De Caylus took his pistols one by one, weighed and poised them,
examined the priming, and finally, after much hesitation, decided.
Dalrymple took the first that came to hand.
The combatants then took their places--De Caylus with his hat pulled low
over his eyes; Dalrymple still smoking carelessly.
They exchanged bows.
"Major Dalrymple," said De Simoncourt, "it is for you to fire first."
"God bless you, Damon!" said my friend, shaking me warmly by the hand.
He then half turned aside, flung away the end of his cigar, lifted his
right arm suddenly, and fired.
I heard the dull thud of the ball--I saw De Caylus fling up his arms and
fall forward on the grass. I saw Dalrymple running to his assistance.
The next instant, however, the wounded man was on his knees, ghastly and
bleeding, and crying for his pistol.
"Give it me!" he gasped--"hold me up! I--I will have his life yet! So,
Shuddering, but not for his own danger, Dalrymple stepped calmly back to
his place; while De Caylus, supported by his second, struggled to his
feet and grasped his weapon. For a moment he once more stood upright.
His eye burned; his lips contracted; he seemed to gather up all his
strength for one last effort. Slowly, steadily, surely, he raised his
pistol--then swaying heavily back, fired, and fell again.
"Dead this time, sure enough," said De Simoncourt, bending over him.
"Indeed, I fear so," replied Dalrymple, in a low, grave voice. "Can we
do nothing to help you, Monsieur de Simoncourt?"
"Nothing, thank you. I have a carriage down the road, and must get
further assistance from the village. You had better lose no time in
"I suppose not. Good-morning."
So we lifted our hats; gathered up the pistols; hurried out of the wood
and across a field, so avoiding the village; found our cab waiting where
we had left it; and in less than five minutes, were rattling down the
dusty hill again and hurrying towards Paris.
Once in the cab, Dalrymple began hastily pulling off his coat and
waistcoat. I was startled to see his shirt-front stained with blood.
"Heavens!" I exclaimed, "you are not wounded?"
"Very slightly. De Caylus was too good a shot to miss me altogether.
Pshaw! 'tis nothing--a mere graze--not even the bullet left in it!"
"If it had been a little more to the left...." I faltered.
"If he had fired one second sooner, or lived one second longer, he would
have had me through the heart, as sure as there's a heaven above us!"
Then, suddenly changing his tone, he added, laughingly--
"Nonsense, Damon! cheer up, and help me to tear this handkerchief into
bandages. Now's the time to show off your surgery, my little AEsculapius.
By Jupiter, life's a capital thing, after all!"
* * * * *
Having seen Dalrymple to his lodgings and dressed his wound, which was,
in truth, but a very slight one, I left him and went home, promising to
return in a few hours, and help him with his packing; for we both agreed
that he must leave Paris that evening, come what might.
It was now close upon two o'clock, and I had been out since between
three and four the previous afternoon--not quite twenty-four hours, in
point of actual time; but a week, a month, a year, in point of
sensation! Had I not seen a man die since that hour yesterday?
Walking homewards through the garish streets in the hot afternoon, all
the strange scenes in which I had just been an actor thronged
fantastically upon my memory. The joyous dinner with Franz Mueller; the
busy Temple; the noisy theatre; the long chase through the wet streets
at midnight; the crowded gaming-house; the sweet country drive at early
morning; the quiet wood, and the dead man lying on his back, with the
shadows of the leaves upon his face,--all this, in strange distinctness,
came between me and the living tide of the Boulevards.
And now, over-tired and over-excited as I was, I remembered for the
first time that I had eaten nothing since half-past five that morning.
And then I also remembered that I had left Mueller waiting for me under
the archway, without a word of explanation. I promised myself that I
would write to him as soon as I got home, and in the meantime turned in
at the first Cafe to which I came and called for breakfast. But when the
breakfast was brought, I could not eat it. The coffee tasted bitter to
me. The meat stuck in my throat. I wanted rest more than food--rest of
body and mind, and the forgetfulness of sleep! So I paid my bill, and,
leaving the untasted meal, went home like a man in a dream.
Madame Bouisse was not in her little lodge as I passed it--neither was
my key on its accustomed hook. I concluded that she was cleaning my
rooms, and so, going upstairs, found my door open. Hearing my own name,
however, I paused involuntarily upon the threshold.
"And so, as I was saying," pursued a husky voice, which I knew at once
to be the property of Madame Bouisse, "M'sieur Basil's friend painted it
on purpose for him; and I am sure if he was as good a Catholic as the
Holy Father himself, and that picture was a true portrait of our Blessed
Lady, he could not worship it more devoutly. I believe he says his
prayers to it, mam'selle! I often find it in the morning stuck up by the
foot of his bed; and when he comes home of an evening to study his books
and papers, it always stands on a chair just in front of his table, so
that he can see it without turning his head, every time he lifts his
eyes from the writing!"
In the murmured reply that followed, almost inaudible though it was, my
ear distinguished a tone that set my heart beating.
"Well, I can't tell, of course," said Madame Bouisse, in answer,
evidently, to the remark just made; "but if mam'selle will only take the
trouble to look in the glass, and then look at the picture, she will see
how like it is. For my part, I believe it to be that, and nothing else.
Do you suppose I don't know the symptoms? _Dame!_ I have eyes, as well
as my neighbors; and you may take my word for it, mam'selle, that poor
young gentleman is just as much in love as ever a man was in
"No more of this, if you please, Madame Bouisse," said Hortense, so
distinctly that I could no longer be in doubt as to the speaker.
I stayed to hear no more; but retreating softly down the first flight of
stairs, came noisily up again, and went straight into my
"Madame Bouisse, are you here?"
"Not only Madame Bouisse, but an intruder who implores forgiveness,"
said Hortense, with a frank smile, but a heightened color.
I bowed profoundly. No need to tell her she was welcome--my face spoke
"It was Madame Bouisse who lured me in," continued she, "to look at that
"_Mais, oui!_ I told mam'selle you had her portrait in your
sitting-room," laughed the fat _concierge,_ leaning on her broom. "I'm
sure it's quite like enough to be hers, bless her sweet face!"
I felt myself turn scarlet. To hide my confusion I took the picture
down, and carried it to the window.
"You will see it better by this light," I said, pretending to dust it
with my handkerchief. "It is worth a close examination."
Hortense knelt down, and studied it for some moments in silence.
"It must be a copy," she said, presently, more to herself than me--"it
must be a copy."
"It _is_ a copy," I replied. "The original is at the Chateau de Sainte
Aulaire, near Montlhery."
"May I ask how you came by it?"
"A friend of mine, who is an artist, copied it."
"Then it was done especially for you?"
"And, no doubt, you value it?"
"More than anything I possess!"
Then, fearing I had said too much, I added:--
"If I had not admired the original very much, I should not have wished
for a copy."
She shifted the position of the picture in such a manner that, standing
where I did, I could no longer see her face.
"Then you have seen the original," she said, in a low tone.
"Yes, I have seen it; but not lately."
There was a brief pause.
"Madame Bouisse thinks it so like yourself, mademoiselle," I said,
timidly, "that it might almost be your portrait."
"I can believe it," she answered. "It is very like my mother."
Her voice faltered; and, still kneeling, she dropped her face in her
hands, and wept silently.
Madame Bouisse, in the meantime, had gone into my bedchamber, where she
was sweeping and singing to herself with the door three parts closed,
believing, no doubt, that she was affording me the opportunity to make a
"Alas! mademoiselle," I said, hesitatingly, "I little thought..."
She rose, dashed the tears aside, and, holding out her hand to me, said,
"It is no fault of yours, fellow-student, if I remind you of the
portrait, or if the portrait reminds me of one whom it resembles still
more nearly. I am sorry to have troubled your kind heart with my griefs.
It is not often that they rise to the surface."
I raised her hand reverently to my lips.
"But you are looking worn and ill yourself," she added. "Is anything the
"Not now," I replied. "But I have been up all night, and--and I am very
"Was this in your professional capacity?"
"Not exactly--and yet partly so. I have been more a looker-on than an
active agent--and I have witnessed a frightful death-scene."
She sighed, and shook her head.
"You are not of the stuff that surgeons are made of, fellow-student,"
she said, kindly. "Instead of prescribing for others, you need some one
to prescribe for you. Why, your hand is quite feverish. You should go to
bed, and keep quiet for the next twelve hours."
"I will lie down for a couple of hours when Madame Bouisse is gone; but
I must be up and out again at six."
"Nay, that is in three hours."
"I cannot help it. It is my duty."
"Then I have no more to say. Would you drink some lemonade, if I made it
"I would drink poison, if you made it for me!"
"A decidedly misplaced enthusiasm!" laughed she, and left the room.
NEWS FROM ENGLAND.
It was a glorious morning--first morning of the first week in the merry
month of June--as I took my customary way to Dr. Cheron's house in the
Faubourg St. Germain. I had seen Dalrymple off by the night train the
evening previous, and, refreshed by a good night's rest, had started
somewhat earlier than usual, for the purpose of taking a turn in the
Luxembourg Gardens before beginning my day's work.
There the blossoming parterres, the lavish perfume from geranium-bed and
acacia-blossom, and the mad singing of the little birds up among the
boughs, set me longing for a holiday. I thought of Saxonholme, and the
sweet English woodlands round about. I thought how pleasant it would be
to go home to dear Old England, if only for ten days, and surprise my
father in his quiet study. What if I asked Dr. Cheron to spare me for a
Turning these things over in my mind, I left the gardens, and, arriving
presently at the well-known Porte Cochere in the Rue de Mont Parnasse,
rang the great bell, crossed the dull courtyard, and took my usual seat
at my usual desk, not nearly so well disposed for work as usual.
"If you please, Monsieur," said the solemn servant, making his
appearance at the door, "Monsieur le Docteur requests your presence in
his private room."
I went. Dr. Cheron was standing on the hearth-rug, with his back to the
fire, and his arms folded over his breast. An open letter, bordered
broadly with black, lay upon his desk. Although distant some two yards
from the table, his eyes were fixed upon this paper. When I came in he
looked up, pointed to a seat, but himself remained standing and silent.
"Basil Arbuthnot," he said, after a pause of some minutes, "I have this
morning received a letter from England, by the early post."
"From my father, sir?"
"No. From a stranger,"
He looked straight at me as he said this, and hesitated.
"But it contains news," he added, "that--that much concerns you."
There was a fixed gravity about the lines of his handsome mouth, and an
unwonted embarrassment in his manner, that struck me with apprehension.
"Good news, I--I hope, sir," I faltered.
"Bad news, my young friend," said he, compassionately. "News that you
must meet like a man, with fortitude--with resignation. Your
father--your excellent father--my honored friend--"
He pointed to the letter and turned away.
I rose up, sat down, rose up again, reached out a trembling hand for the
letter, and read the loss that my heart had already presaged.
My father was dead.
Well as ever in the morning, he had been struck with apoplexy in the
afternoon, and died in a few hours, apparently without pain.
The letter was written by our old family lawyer, and concluded with the
request that Dr. Cheron would "break the melancholy news to Mr. Basil
Arbuthnot, who would doubtless return to England for the funeral."
My tears fell one by one upon the open letter. I had loved my father
tenderly in my heart. His very roughnesses and eccentricities were dear
to me. I could not believe that he was gone. I could not believe that I
should never hear his voice again!
Dr. Cheron came over, and laid his hand upon my shoulder.
"Come," he said, "you have much to do, and must soon be on your way. The
express leaves at midday. It is now ten, you have only two hours left."
"My poor father!"
"Brunet," continued the Doctor, "shall go back with you to your lodgings
and help you to pack. As for money--"
He took out his pocket-book and offered me a couple of notes; but I
shook my head and put them from me.
"I have enough money, thank you," I said. "Good-bye."
"Good-bye," he replied, and, for the first time in all these months,
shook me by the hand. "You will write to me?"
I bowed my head in silence, and we parted. I found a cab at the door,
and Brunet on the box. I was soon at home again. Home! I felt as if I
had no home now, either in France or England--as if all my Paris life
were a brief, bright dream, and this the dreary waking. Hortense was
out. It was one of her busy mornings, and she would not be back till the
afternoon. It was very bitter to leave without one last look--one last
word. I seized pen and paper, and yielding for the first time to all the
impulses of my love, wrote, without weighing my words, these few brief
"I have had a heavy loss, Hortense, and by the time you open this letter
I shall be far away. My father--my dear, good father--is no more. My
mother died when I was a little child. I have no brothers--no
sisters--no close family ties. I am alone in the world now--quite alone.
My last thought here is of you. If it seems strange to speak of love at
such a moment, forgive me, for that love is now my only hope. Oh, that
you were here, that I might kiss your hand at parting, and know that
some of your thoughts went with me! I cannot believe that you are quite
indifferent to me. It seems impossible that, loving you as I love, so
deeply, so earnestly, I should love in vain. When I come back I shall
seek you here, where I have loved you so long. I shall look into your
eyes for my answer, and read in them all the joy, or all the despair, of
the life that lies before me. I had intended to get that portrait copied
again for you, because you saw in it some likeness to your mother; but
there has been no time, and ere you receive this letter I shall be gone.
I therefore send the picture to you by the _concierge_. It is my parting
gift to you. I can offer no greater proof of my love. Farewell."
Once written, I dared not read the letter over. I thrust it under her
door, and in less than five minutes was on my way to the station.
* * * * *
THE FADING OF THE RAINBOW.
I loved a love once, fairest among women;
Closed are her doors on me, I must not see her--
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.
Beautifully and truly, in the fourth book of the most poetical of
stories, has a New World romancist described the state of a sorrowing
lover. "All around him," saith he, "seemed dreamy and vague; all within
him, as in a sun's eclipse. As the moon, whether visible or invisible,
has power over the tides of the ocean, so the face of that lady, whether
present or absent, had power over the tides of his soul, both by day and
night, both waking and sleeping. In every pale face and dark eye he saw
a resemblance to her; and what the day denied him in reality, the night
gave him in dreams."
Such was, very faithfully, my own condition of mind during the interval
which succeeded my departure from Paris--the only difference being that
Longfellow's hero was rejected by the woman he loved, and sorrowing for
that rejection; whilst I, neither rejected nor accepted, mourned another
grief, and through the tears of that trouble, looked forward anxiously
to my uncertain future.
I reached Saxonholme the night before my father's funeral, and remained
there for ten days. I found myself, to my surprise, almost a rich
man--that is to say, sufficiently independent to follow the bent of my
inclinations as regarded the future.
My first impulse, on learning the extent of my means, was to relinquish
a career that had been from the first distasteful to me--my second was
to leave the decision to Hortense. To please her, to be worthy of her,
to prove my devotion to her, was what I most desired upon earth. If she
wished to see me useful and active in my generation, I would do my best
to be so for her sake--if, on the contrary, she only cared to see me
content, I would devote myself henceforth to that life of "retired
leisure" that I had always coveted. Could man love more honestly
One year of foreign life had wrought a marked difference in me. I had
not observed it so much in Paris; but here, amid old scenes and old
reminiscences, I seemed to meet the image of my former self, and
wondered at the change 'twixt now and then. I left home, timid, ignorant
of the world and its ways, reserved, silent, almost misanthropic. I came
back strengthened mentally and physically. Studious as ever, I could yet
contemplate an active career without positive repugnance; I knew how to
meet and treat my fellow-men; I was acquainted with society in its most
refined and most homely phases. I had tasted of pleasure, of
disappointment, of love--of all that makes life earnest.
As the time drew near when I should return to Paris, grief, and hope,
and that strange reluctance which would fain defer the thing it most
desires, perplexed and troubled me by day and night. Once again on the
road, the past seemed more than ever dream-like, and Paris and
Saxonholme became confused together in my mind, like the mingling
outlines of two dissolving views.
I crossed the channel this time in a thick, misting rain; pushed on
straight for Paris, and reached the Cite Bergere in the midst of a warm
and glowing afternoon. The great streets were crowded with carriages and
foot-passengers. The trees were in their fullest leaf. The sun poured
down on pavement and awning with almost tropical intensity. I dismissed
my cab at the top of the Rue du Faubourg Montmatre, and went up to the
house on foot. A flower-girl sat in the shade of the archway, tying up
her flowers for the evening-sale, and I bought a cluster of white roses
for Hortense as I went by.
Madame Bouisse was sound asleep in her little sanctum; but my key hung
in its old place, so I took it without disturbing her, and went up as if
I had been away only a few hours. Arrived at the third story, I stopped
outside Hortense's door and listened. All was very silent within. She
was out, perhaps; or writing quietly in the farther chamber. I thought I
would leave my travelling-bag in my own room, and then ring boldly for
admittance. I turned the key, and found myself once again in my own
familiar, pleasant student home. The books and busts were there in their
accustomed places; everything was as I had left it. Everything, except
the picture! The picture was gone; so Hortense had accepted it.
Three letters awaited me on the table; one from Dr. Cheron, written in a
bold hand--a mere note of condolence: one from Dalrymple, dated
Chamounix: the third from Hortense. I knew it was from her. I knew that
that small, clear, upright writing, so singularly distinct and regular,
could be only hers. I had never seen it before; but my heart
That letter contained my fate. I took it up, laid it down, paced
backwards and forwards, and for several minutes dared not break the
seal. At length I opened it. It ran thus:--
"FRIEND AND FELLOW-STUDENT.
"I had hoped that a man such as you and a woman such as I might become
true friends, discuss books and projects, give and take the lesser
services of life, and yet not end by loving. In this belief, despite
occasional misgivings, I have suffered our intercourse to become
intimacy--our acquaintance, friendship. I see now that I was mistaken,
and now, when it is, alas! too late, I reproach myself for the
consequences of that mistake.
"I can be nothing to you, friend. I have duties in life more sacred than
marriage. I have a task to fulfil which is sterner than love, and
imperative as fate. I do not say that to answer you thus costs me no
pain. Were there even hope, I would bid you hope; but my labor presses
heavily upon me, and repeated failure has left me weary and heart-sick.
"You tell me in your letter that, by the time I read it, you will be far
away. It is now my turn to repeat the same words. When you come back to
your rooms, mine will be empty. I shall be gone; all I ask is, that you
will not attempt to seek me.
"Farewell. I accept your gift. Perhaps I act selfishly in taking it, but
a day may come when I shall justify that selfishness to you. In the
meantime, once again farewell. You are my only friend, and these are the
saddest words I have ever written--forget me!
I scarcely know how I felt, or what I did, on first reading this letter.
I believe that I stood for a long time stone still, incapable of
realizing the extent of my misfortune. By-and-by it seemed to rush upon
me suddenly. I threw open my window, scaled the balcony rails, and
forced my way into her rooms.
Her rooms! Ah, by that window she used to sit--at that table she read
and wrote--in that bed she slept! All around and about were scattered
evidences of her presence. Upon the chimney-piece lay an envelope
addressed to her name--upon the floor, some fragments of torn paper and
some ends of cordage! The very flowers were yet fresh upon her balcony!
The sight of these things, while they confirmed my despair, thawed the
ice at my heart. I kissed the envelope that she had touched, the flowers
she had tended, the pillow on which her head had been wont to rest. I
called wildly on her name. I threw myself on the floor in my great
agony, and wept aloud.
I cannot tell how long I may have lain there; but it seemed like a
lifetime. Long enough, at all events, to drink the bitter draught to the
last drop--long enough to learn that life had now no grief in store for
which I should weep again.
TREATETH OF MANY THINGS; BUT CHIEFLY OF BOOKS AND POETS.
Dreams, books, are each a world; and books, we know,
Are a substantial world, both pure and good.
There are times when this beautiful world seems to put on a mourning
garb, as if sympathizing, like a gentle mother, with the grief that
consumes us; when the trees shake their arms in mute sorrow, and scatter
their faded leaves like ashes on our heads; when the slow rains weep
down upon us, and the very clouds look cold above. Then, like Hamlet the
Dane, we take no pleasure in the life that weighs so wearily upon us,
and deem "this goodly frame, the earth, a sterile promonotory; this most
excellent canopy, the air, this brave, overhanging firmament, this
majestical roof fretted with golden fire, a foul and pestilent
congregation of vapors."
So it was with me, in the heavy time that followed my return to Paris. I
had lost everything in losing her I loved. I had no aim in life. No
occupation. No hope. No rest. The clouds had rolled between me and the
sun, and wrapped me in their cold shadows, and all was dark about me. I
felt that I could say with an old writer--"For the world, I count it,
not an inn, but an hospital; and a place, not to live, but to die in."
Week after week I lingered in Paris, hoping against hope, and always
seeking her. I had a haunting conviction that she was not far off, and
that, if I only had strength to persevere, I must find her. Possessed by
this fixed idea, I paced the sultry streets day after day throughout the
burning months of June and July; lingered at dusk and early morning
about the gardens of the Luxembourg, and such other quiet places as she
might frequent; and, heedless alike of fatigue, or heat, or tempest,
traversed the dusty city over and over again from barrier to barrier, in
Could I but see her once more--once only! Could I but listen to her
sweet voice, even though it bade me an eternal farewell! Could I but lay
my lips for the last, last time upon her hand, and see the tender pity
in her eyes, and be comforted!
Seeking, waiting, sorrowing thus, I grew daily weaker and paler,
scarcely conscious of my own failing strength, and indifferent to all
things save one. In vain Dr. Cheron urged me to resume my studies. In
vain Mueller, ever cheerful and active, came continually to my lodgings,
seeking to divert my thoughts into healthier channels. In vain I
received letter after letter from Oscar Dalrymple, imploring me to
follow him to Switzerland, where his wife had already joined him. I shut
my eyes to all alike. Study had grown hateful to me; Mueller's
cheerfulness jarred upon me; Dalrymple was too happy for my
companionship. Liberty to pursue my weary search, peace to brood over my
sorrow, were all that I now asked. I had not yet arrived at that stage
when sympathy grows precious.
So weeks went by, and August came, and a slow conviction of the utter
hopelessness of my efforts dawned gradually upon me. She was really
gone. If she had been in Paris all this time pursuing her daily
avocations, I must surely have found her. Where should I seek her next?
What should I do with life, with time, with the future?
I resolved, at all events, to relinquish medicine at once, and for ever.
So I wrote a brief farewell to Dr. Cheron and another to Mueller, and
without seeing either again, returned abruptly to England.
I will not dwell on this part of my story; enough that I settled my
affairs as quickly as might be, left an old servant in care of the
solitary house that had been my birthplace, and turned my back once more
on Saxonholme, perhaps for years--perhaps for ever; and in less than
three weeks was again on my way to the Continent.
The spirit of restlessness was now upon me. I had no home; I had no
peace; and in place of the sun there was darkness. So I went with the
thorns around my brow, and the shadow of the cross upon my breast. I
went to suffer--to endure,--if possible, to forget. Oh, the grief of
the soul which lives on in the night, and looks for no dawning! Oh, the
weary weight that presses down the tired eyelids, and yet leaves them
sleepless! Oh, the tide of alien faces, and the sickening remembrance of
one, too dear, which may never be looked upon again! I carried with me
the antidote to every pleasure. In the midst of crowds, I was alone. In
the midst of novelty, the one thought came, and made all stale to me.
Like Dr. Donne, I dwelt with the image of my dead self at my side.
Thus for many, many months we journeyed together---I and my sorrow--and
passed through fair and famous places, and saw the seasons change under
new skies. To the quaint old Flemish cities and the Gothic Rhine--to the
plains and passes of Spain--to the unfrequented valleys of the Tyrol and
the glacier-lands of Switzerland I went, but still found not the
forgetfulness I sought. As in Holbein's fresco the skeleton plays his
part in every scene, so my trouble stalked beside me, drank of my cup,
and sat grimly at my table. It was with me in Naples and among the
orange groves of Sorrento. It met me amid the ruins of the Roman Forum.
It travelled with me over the blue Mediterranean, and landed beside me
on the shores of the Cyclades. Go where I would, it possessed and
followed me, and brooded over my head, like the cloud that rested on
Thinking over this period of my life, I seem to be turning the leaves of
a rich album, or wandering through a gallery of glowing landscapes, and
yet all the time to be dreaming. Faces grown familiar for a few days and
never seen after--pictures photographed upon the memory in all their
vividness--glimpses of cathedrals, of palaces, of ruins, of sunset and
storm, sea and shore, flit before me for a moment, and are gone like
And like phantasmagoria they impressed me at the time. Nothing seemed
real to me. Startled, now and then, into admiration or wonder, my apathy
fell from me like a garment, and my heart throbbed again as of old. But
this was seldom--so seldom that I could almost count the times when it
Thus it was that travelling did me no permanent good. It enlarged my
experience; it undoubtedly cultivated my taste; but it brought me
neither rest, nor sympathy, nor consolation. On the contrary, it widened
the gulf between me and my fellow-men. I formed no friendships. I kept
up no correspondence. A sojourner in hotels, I became more and more
withdrawn from all tender and social impulses, and almost forgot the
very name of home. So strong a hold did this morbid love of
self-isolation take upon me, that I left Florence on one occasion, after
a stay of only three days, because I had seen the names of a Saxonholme
family among the list of arrivals in the Giornale Toscano.
Three years went by thus--three springs--three vintages--three
winters--till, weary of wandering, I began to ask myself "what next?" My
old passion for books had, in the meantime, re-asserted itself, and I
longed once more for quiet. I knew not that my pilgrimage was hopeless.
I know that I loved her ever; that I could never forget her; that
although the first pangs were past, I yet must bear
"All the aching of heart, the restless, unsatisfied longing,
All the dull, deep pain, and constant anguish of patience!"
I reasoned with myself. I resolved to be stronger--at all events, to be
calmer. Exhausted and world-worn, I turned in thought to my native
village among the green hills, to my deserted home, and the great
solitary study with its busts and bookshelves, and its vista of
neglected garden. The rooms where my mother died; where my father wrote;
where, as a boy, I dreamed and studied, would at least have memories
Perhaps, silently underlying all these motives, I may at this time
already have begun to entertain one other project which was not so much
a motive as a hope--not so much a hope as a half-seen possibility. I had
written verses from time to time all my life long, and of late they had
come to me more abundantly than ever. They flowed in upon me at times
like an irresistible tide; at others they ebbed away for weeks, and
seemed as if gone for ever. It was a power over which I had no control,
and sought to have none. I never tried to make verses; but, when
the inspiration was upon me, I made them, as it were, in spite of
myself. My desk was full of them in time--sonnets, scraps of songs,
fragments of blank verse, attempts in all sorts of queer and rugged
metres--hexameters, pentameters, alcaics, and the like; with, here and
there, a dialogue out of an imaginary tragedy, or a translation from
some Italian or German poet. This taste grew by degrees, to be a rare
and subtle pleasure to me. My rhymes became my companions, and when the
interval of stagnation came, I was restless and lonely till it
At length there came an hour (I was lying, I remember, on a ledge of
turf on a mountain-side, overlooking one of the Italian valleys of the
Alps), when I asked myself for the first time--
"Am I also a poet?"
I had never dreamed of it, never thought of it, never even hoped it,
till that moment. I had scribbled on, idly, carelessly, out of what
seemed a mere facile impulse, correcting nothing; seldom even reading
what I had written, after it was committed to paper. I had sometimes
been pleased with a melodious cadence or a happy image--sometimes amused
with my own flow of thought and readiness of versification; but that I,
simple Basil Arbuthnot, should be, after all, enriched with this
splendid gift of song--was it mad presumption, or were these things
proof? I knew not; but lying on the parched grass of the mountain-side,
I tried the question over in my mind, this way and that, till "my heart
beat in my brain," How should I come at the truth? How should I test
whether this opening Paradise was indeed Eden, or only the mirage of my
fancy--mere sunshine upon sand? We all write verses at some moment or
other in our lives, even the most prosaic amongst us--some because they
are happy; some because they are sad; some because the living fire of
youth impels them, and they must be up and doing, let the work be
what it may.
"Many fervent souls,
Strike rhyme on rhyme, who would strike steel on steel,
If steel had offer'd."
Was this case mine? Was I fancying myself a poet, only because I was an
idle man, and had lost the woman I loved? To answer these questions
myself was impossible. They could only be answered by the public voice,
and before I dared question that oracle I had much to do. I resolved to
discipline myself to the harness of rhythm. I resolved to go back to the
fathers of poetry--to graduate once again in Homer and Dante, Chaucer
and Shakespeare. I promised myself that, before I tried my wings in the
sun, I would be my own severest critic. Nay, more--that I would never
try them so long as it seemed possible a fall might come of it. Once
come to this determination, I felt happier and more hopeful than I had
felt for the last three years. I looked across the blue mists of the
valley below, and up to the aerial peaks which rose, faint, and far, and
glittering--mountain beyond mountain, range above range, as if painted
on the thin, transparent air--and it seemed to me that they stood by,
steadfast and silent, the witnesses of my resolve.
"I will be strong," I said. "I will be an idler and a dreamer no longer.
Books have been my world. I have taken all, and given nothing. Now I too
will work, and work to prove that I was not unworthy of her love."
Going down, by-and-by, into the valley as the shadows were lengthening,
I met a traveller with an open book in his hand. He was an
Englishman--small, sallow, wiry, and wore a gray, loose coat, with two
large pockets full of books. I had met him once before at Milan, and
again in a steamer on Lago Maggiore. He was always reading. He read in
the diligence--he read when he was walking--he read all through dinner
at the _tables-d'-hote_. He had a mania for reading; and, might, in
fact, be said to be bound up in his own library.
Meeting thus on the mountain, we fell into conversation. He told me that
he was on his way to Geneva, that he detested continental life, and that
he was only waiting the arrival of certain letters before starting
"But," said I, "you do not, perhaps, give continental life a trial. You
are always absorbed in the pages of a book; and, as for the scenery, you
appear not to observe it."
"Deuce take the scenery!" he exclaimed, pettishly. "I never look at it.
All scenery's alike. Trees, mountains, water--water, mountains, trees;
the same thing over and over again, like the bits of colored glass in a
kaleidoscope. I read about the scenery, and that is quite enough
"But no book can paint an Italian lake or an Alpine sunset; and when one
is on the spot...."
"I beg your pardon," interrupted the traveller in gray. "Everything
is much pleasanter and more picturesque in books than in
reality--travelling especially. There are no bad smells in books. There
are no long bills in books. Above all, there are no mosquitoes.
Travelling is the greatest mistake in the world, and I am going home as
fast as I can."
"And henceforth, I suppose, your travels will be confined to your
library," I said, smiling.
"Exactly so. I may say, with Hazlitt, that 'food, warmth, sleep, and a
book,' are all I require. With those I may make the tour of the world,
and incur neither expense nor fatigue."
"Books, after all, are friends," I said, with a sigh.
"Sir," replied the traveller, waving his hand somewhat theatrically,
"books are our first real friends, and our last. I have no others. I
wish for no others. I rely upon no others. They are the only associates
upon whom a sensible man may depend. They are always wise, and they are
always witty. They never intrude upon us when we desire to be alone.
They never speak ill of us behind our backs. They are never capricious,
and never surly; neither are they, like some clever folks,
pertinaciously silent when we most wish them to shine. Did Shakespeare
ever refuse his best thoughts to us, or Montaigne decline to be
companionable? Did you ever find Moliere dull? or Lamb prosy? or Scott
"You remind me," said I, laughing, "of the student in Chaucer, who
desired for his only pleasure and society,
"'---at his bedde's head
A'twenty bokes clothed in black and red,
Of Aristotle and his philosophy!'"
"Ay," replied my new acquaintance, "but he preferred them expressly to
'robes riche, or fidel or sautrie,' whereas, I prefer them to men and
women, and to Aristotle and his philosophy, into the bargain!"
"Your own philosophy, at least, is admirable," said I. "For many a
year--I might almost say for most years of my life--I have been a
disciple in the same school."
"Sir, you cannot belong to a better. Think of the convenience of always
carrying half a dozen intimate friends in your pocket! Good-afternoon."
We had now come to a point where two paths diverged, and the reading
traveller, always economical of time, opened his book where he had last
turned down the leaf, and disappeared round the corner.
I never saw him again; but his theory amused me, and, as trifles will
sometimes do even in the gravest matters, decided me. So the result of
all my hopes and reflections was, that I went back to England and to the
student life that had been the dream of my youth.
Three years of foreign travel, and five of retirement at home, brought
my twenty-ninth birthday. I was still young, it is true; but how changed
from that prime of early manhood when I used to play Romeo at midnight
to Hortense upon her balcony! I looked at myself in the glass that
morning, and contemplated the wearied, bronzed, and bearded face which
"...seared by toil and something touched by time,"
now gave me back glance for glance. I looked older than my age by many
years. My eyes had grown grave with a steadfast melancholy, and streaks
of premature silver gleamed here and there in the still abundant hair
which had been the solitary vanity of my youth.
"Is she also thus changed and faded?" I asked myself, as I turned away.
And then I sighed to think that if we met she might not know me.
For I loved her still; worshipped her; raised altars to her in the dusky
chambers of my memory. My whole life was dedicated to her. My best
thoughts were hers. My poems, my ambition, my hours of labor, all were
hers only! I knew now that no time could change the love which had so
changed me, or dim the sweet remembrance of that face which I carried
for ever at my heart like an amulet. Other women might be fair, but my
eyes never sought them; other voices might be sweet, but my ear never
listened to them; other hands might be soft, but my lips never pressed
them. She was the only woman in all my world--the only star in all my
night--the one Eve of my ruined Paradise. In a word, I loved her--loved
her, I think, more dearly than before I lost her.
"Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken."
I had that morning received by post a parcel of London papers and
magazines, which, for a foolish reason of my own, I almost dreaded to
open; so, putting off the evil hour, I thrust the ominous parcel into my
pocket and went out to read it in some green solitude, far away among
the lonely hills and tracts of furzy common that extend for miles and
miles around my native place. It was a delicious autumn morning, bright
and fresh and joyous as spring. The purple heather was all abloom along
the slopes of the hill-sides. The golden sandcliffs glittered in the
sun. The great firwoods reached away over heights and through
valleys--"grand and spiritual trees," pointing ever upward with warning
finger, like the Apostles in the old Italian pictures. Now I passed a
solitary farm-yard where busy laborers were piling the latest stacks;
now met a group of happy children gathering wild nuts and blackberries.
By-and-by, I came upon a great common, with a picturesque mill standing
high against the sky. All around and about stretched a vast prospect of
woodland and tufted heath, bounded far off by a range of chalk-hills
speckled with farm-houses and villages, and melting towards the west
into a distance faint and far, and mystic as the horizon of a Turner.
Here I threw myself on the green turf and rested. Truly, Nature is a
great "physician of souls." The peace of the place descended into my
heart, and hushed for a while the voice of its repinings. The delicious
air, the living silence of the woods, the dreamy influences of the
autumnal sunshine, all alike served to lull me into a pleasant mood,
neither gay nor sad, but very calm--calm enough for the purpose for
which I had come. So I brought out my packet of papers, summoned all my
philosophy to my aid, and met my own name upon the second page. For here
was, as I had anticipated, a critique on my first volume of poems.
Indifference to criticism, if based upon a simple consciousness of moral
right, is a noble thing. But indifference to criticism, taken in its
ordinary, and especially its literary sense, is generally a very small
thing, and resolves itself, for the most part, into a halting and
one-sided kind of stoicism, meaning indifference to blame and ridicule,
and never indifference to praise. It is very convenient to the
disappointed authorling; very effective, in the established writer; but
it is mere vanity at the root, and equally contemptible in both. For my
part, I confess that I came to my trial as tremblingly as any poor
caitiff to the fiery ordeal, and finding myself miraculously clear of
the burning ploughshares, was quite as full of wonder and thankfulness
at my good fortune. For I found my purposes appreciated, and my best
thoughts understood; not, it is true, without some censure, but it was
censure tempered so largely with encouragement that I drew hope from
it, and not despondency. And then I thought of Hortense, and, picturing
to myself all the joy it would have been to lay these things at her
feet, I turned my face to the grass, and wept like a child.
Then, one by one, the ghosts of my dead hopes rose out of the grave of
the past and vanished "into thin air" before me; and in their place came
earnest aspirations, born of the man's strong will. I resolved to use
wisely the gifts that were mine--to sing well the song that had risen to
my lips--to "seize the spirit of my time," and turn to noble uses the
God-given weapons of the poet. So should I be worthier of her
remembrance, if she yet remembered me--worthier, at all events, to
Thus the hours ebbed, and when I at length rose and turned my face
homeward, the golden day was already bending westward. Lower and lower
sank the sun as the miles shortened; stiller and sweeter grew the
evening air; and ever my lengthening shadow travelled before me along
the dusty road--wherein I was more fortunate than the man in the German
story who sold his to the devil.
It was quite dusk by the time I gained the outskirts of the town, and I
reflected with much contentment upon the prospect of a cosy bachelor
dinner, and, after dinner, lamplight and a book.
"If you please, sir," said Collins, "a lady has been here."
Collins--the same Collins who had been my father's servant when I was a
boy at home--was now a grave married man, with hair fast whitening.
"A lady?" I echoed. "One of my cousins, I suppose, from Effingham."
"No, sir," said Collins. "A strange lady--a foreigner."
A stranger! a foreigner! I felt myself change color.
"She left her name?" I asked.
"Her card, sir," said Collins, and handed it to me.
I took it up with fingers that shook in spite of me and read:--
MADLLE DE SAINTE AULAIRE.
I dropped the card, with a sigh of profound disappointment.
"At what time did this lady call, Collins?"
"Not very long after you left the house, sir. She said she would call
again. She is at the White Horse."
"She shall not have the trouble of coming here," I said, drawing my
chair to the table. "Send James up to the White Horse with my
compliments, and say that I will wait upon the lady in about an
Collins darted away to despatch the message, and returning presently
with the pale ale, uncorked it dexterously, and stood at the side-board,
"And what kind of person was this--this Mademoiselle de Sainte Aulaire,
Collins?" I asked, leisurely bisecting a partridge.
"Can't say, sir, indeed. Lady kept her veil down."
"Humph! Tall or short, Collins?"
"Rather tall, sir."
"Haven't an idea, sir. Voice very pleasant, though."
A pleasant voice has always a certain attraction for me. Hortense's
voice was exquisite--rich and low, and somewhat deeper than the voices
of most women.
I took up the card again. Mademoiselle de Sainte Aulaire! Where had I
heard that name?
"She said nothing of the nature of her business, I suppose, Collins?"
"Nothing at all, sir. Dear me, sir, I beg pardon for not mentioning it
before; but there's been a messenger over from the White Horse, since
the lady left, to know if you were yet home."
"Then she is in haste?"
"Very uncommon haste, I should say, sir," replied Collins, deliberately.
I pushed back the untasted dish, and rose directly.
"You should have told me this before," I said, hastily.
"But--but surely, sir, you will dine--"
"I will wait for nothing," I interrupted. "I'll go at once. Had I known
the lady's business was urgent, I would not have delayed a moment."
Collins cast a mournful glance at the table, and sighed respect fully.
Before he had recovered from his amazement, I was half way to the inn.
The White Horse was now the leading hostelry of Saxonholme. The old Red
Lion was no more. Its former host and hostess were dead; a brewery
occupied its site; and the White Horse was kept by a portly Boniface,
who had been head-waiter under the extinct dynasty. But there had been
many changes in Saxonholme since my boyish days, and this was one of the
least among them.
I was shown into the best sitting-room, preceded by a smart waiter in a
white neckcloth. At a glance I took in all the bearings of the
scene--the table with its untasted dessert; the shaded lamp; the closed
curtains of red damask; the thoughtful figure in the easy chair.
Although the weather was yet warm, a fire blazed in the grate; but the
windows were open behind the crimson curtains, and the evening air stole
gently in. It was like stepping into a picture by Gerard Dow, so closed,
so glowing, so rich in color.
"Mr. Arbuthnot," said the smart waiter, flinging the door very wide
open, and lingering to see what might follow.
The lady rose slowly, bowed, waved her hand towards a chair at some
distance from her own, and resumed her seat. The waiter reluctantly
left the room.
"I had not intended, sir, to give you the trouble of coming here," said
Mademoiselle de Sainte Aulaire, using her fan as a handscreen, and
speaking in a low, and, as it seemed to me, a somewhat constrained
voice. I could not see her face, but something in the accent made my
"Pray do not name it, madam," I said. "It is nothing."
She bent her head, as if thanking me, and went on:--
"I have come to this place," she said, "in order to prosecute certain
inquiries which are of great importance to myself. May I ask if you are
a native of Saxonholme?"
"Were you here in the year 18--?"
"Will you give me leave to test your memory respecting some events that
took place about that time?"
"By all means."
Mademoiselle de Sainte Aulaire thanked me with a gesture, withdrew her
chair still farther from the radius of the lamp and the tire,
"I must entreat your patience if I first weary you with one or two
particulars of my family history,"
"Madam, I listen."
During the brief pause that ensued, I tried vainly to distinguish
something more of her features. I could only trace the outline of a
slight and graceful figure, the contour of a very slender hand, and the
ample folds of a dark silk dress.
At length, in a low, sweet voice, she began:--
"Not to impose upon you any dull genealogical details," she said, "I
will begin by telling you that the Sainte Aulaires are an ancient French
family of Bearnais extraction, and that my grandfather was the last
Marquis who bore the title. Holding large possessions in the _comtat_ of
Venaissin (a district which now forms part of the department of
Vaucluse) and other demesnes at Montlhery, in the province of the Ile de