Part 6 out of 11
discovering my intimacy with the Binghams--and yet I could not, by any
possibility, desert them thus abruptly. Such was the dilemma. "I see
but one thing for it," said I, gloomily, as I strode through the
coffee-room, with my head sunk and my hands behind my back--"I see but
one thing left--I must be taken ill to-night, and not be able to leave
my bed in the morning--a fever--a contagious fever--blue and red spots
all over me --and be raving wildly before breakfast time; and if ever
any discovery takes place of my intimacy above stairs, I must only
establish it as a premonitory symptom of insanity, which seized me in
the packet. And now for a doctor that will understand my case, and
listen to reason, as they would call it in Ireland." With this idea
uppermost, I walked out into the court-yard to look for a commissionaire
to guide me in my search. Around on every side of me stood the various
carriages and voitures of the hotel and its inmates, to the full as
distinctive and peculiar in character as their owners. "Ah! there is
Kilkee's," said I, as my eye lighted upon the well-balanced and elegant
little carriage which he had been only with justice encomiumizing. "It
is certainly perfect, and yet I'd give a handful of louis-d'ors it was
like that venerable cabriolet yonder, with the one wheel and no shafts.
But, alas! these springs give little hope of a break down, and that
confounded axle will outlive the patentee. But still, can nothing be
done?--eh? Come, the thought is a good one--I say, garcon, who greases
the wheels of the carriage here?"
"C'est moi, monsieur," said a great oaf, in wooden shoes and a blouse.
"Well, then, do you understand these?" said I, touching the patent
axle-boxes with my cane.
He shook his head.
"Then who does, here?"
"Ah! Michael understands them perfectly."
"Then bring him here," said I.
In a few minutes, a little shrewd old fellow, with a smith's apron, made
his appearance, and introduced himself as M. Michael. I had not much
difficulty in making him master of my plan, which was, to detach one of
the wheels as if for the purpose of oiling the axle, and afterwards
render it incapable of being replaced--at least for twenty-four hours.
"This is my idea," said I; "nevertheless, do not be influenced by me.
All I ask is, disable the carriage from proceeding to-morrow, and here
are three louis-d'ors at your service."
"Soyez bien tranquille, monsieur, mi lor' shall spend to-morrow in
Calais, if I know any thing of my art"--saying which he set out in search
of his tools, while I returned to the salon with my mind relieved, and
fully prepared to press the urgency of my reaching Paris without any
"Well, Mr. Lorrequer," said Kilkee, as I entered, "here is supper
waiting, and I am as hungry as a wolf."
"Oh! I beg pardon--I've been getting every thing in readiness for our
start to-morrow morning, for I have not told you how anxious I am to get
to Paris before the 8th--some family business, which requires my looking
after, compelling me to do so."
"As to that, let your mind be at rest, for I shall travel to-morrow night
if you prefer it. Now for the Volnay. Why you are not drinking your
wine. What do you say to our paying our respects to the fair ladies
above stairs? I am sure the petits soins you have practised coming over
would permit the liberty."
"Oh! hang it, no. There's neither of them pretty, and I should rather
avoid the risk of making a regular acquaintance with them" said I.
"As you like, then--only, as you'll not take any wine, let us have a
stroll through the town."
After a short stroll through the town, in which Kilkee talked the entire
time, but of what I know not, my thoughts being upon my own immediate
concerns, we returned to the hotel. As we entered the porte-couchere, my
friend Michael passed me, and as he took off his hat in salutation, gave
me one rapid glance of his knowing eye that completely satisfied me that
Hobson's pride in my friend's carriage had by that time received quite
sufficient provocation to throw him into an apoplexy.
"By-the-by," said I, "let us see your carriage. I am curious to look at
it"--(and so I was.)
"Well, then come along, this way; they have placed it under some of these
sheds, which they think coach-houses."
I followed my friend through the court till we arrived near the fatal
spot; but before reaching, he had caught a glimpse of the mischief, and
shouted out a most awful imprecation upon the author of the deed which
met his eye. The fore-wheel of the coupe had been taken from the axle,
and in the difficulty of so doing, from the excellence of the
workmanship, two of the spokes were broken--the patent box was a mass of
rent metal, and the end of the axle turned downwards like a hoe.
I cannot convey any idea of poor Kilkee's distraction; and, in reality,
my own was little short of it; for the wretch had so far out-stripped my
orders, that I became horrified at the cruel destruction before me. We
both, therefore, stormed in the most imposing English and French, first
separately and then together. We offered a reward for the apprehension
of the culprit, whom no one appeared to know, although, as it happened,
every one in a large household was aware of the transaction but the
proprietor himself. We abused all--innkeeper, waiters, ostlers, and
chambermaids, collectively and individually--condemned Calais as a den of
iniquity, and branded all Frenchmen as rogues and vagabonds. This seemed
to alleviate considerably my friend's grief, and excite my thirst
--fortunately, perhaps for us; for if our eloquence had held out much
longer, I am afraid our auditory might have lost their patience; and,
indeed, I am quite certain if our French had not been in nearly as
disjointed a condition as the spokes of the caleche, such must have been
"Well, Mr. Lorrequer, I suppose, then, we are not destined to be
fellow-travellers--for if you must go to-morrow--"
"Alas! It is imperative," said I.
"Then in any case, let us arrange where we shall meet, for I hope to be
in Paris the day after you."
"I'll stop at Meurice."
"Meurice, be it," said he, "so now good night, till we meet in Paris."
THE CONFESSIONS OF HARRY LORREQUER, Vol. 4
[By Charles James Lever (1806-1872)]
Volume 4. (Chapter XXIV-XXVIII)
The Gen d'Arme
The Inn at Chantraine
THE GEN D'ARME.
I had fortunately sufficient influence upon my fair friends to persuade
them to leave Calais early on the morning following; and two hours before
Kilkee had opened his eyes upon this mortal life, we were far upon the
road to Paris.
Having thus far perfectly succeeded in my plot, my spirit rose rapidly,
and I made every exertion to make the road appear short to my
fellow-travellers. This part of France is unfortunately deficient in any
interest from scenery; large undivided tracts of waving cornfields, with
a back-ground of apparently interminable forests, and occasionally, but
rarely, the glimpse of some old time-worn chateau, with its pointed gable
and terraced walk, are nearly all that the eye can detect in the
intervals between the small towns and villages. Nothing, however, is
"flat or unprofitable" to those who desire to make it otherwise; good
health, good spirits, and fine weather, are wonderful travelling
companions, and render one tolerably independent of the charms of
scenery. Every mile that separated me from Calais, and took away the
chance of being overtaken, added to my gaiety, and I flatter myself that
a happier party have rarely travelled that well frequented road.
We reached Abbeville to dinner, and adjourned to the beautiful little
garden of the inn for our coffee; the evening was so delightful that I
proposed to walk on the Paris road, until the coming up of the carriage,
which required a screw, or a washer, or some such trifle as always occurs
in French posting. To this la chere mamma objected, she being tired, but
added, that Isabella and I might go on, and that she would take us up in
half an hour. This was an arrangement so very agreeable and unlooked for
by me, that I pressed Miss Bingham as far as I well could, and at last
succeeded in overcoming her scruples, and permitting me to shawl her.
One has always a tremendous power of argument with the uninitiated
abroad, by a reference to a standard of manners and habits totally
different from our own. Thus the talismanic words--"Oh! don't be
shocked; remember you are in France," did more to satisfy my young
friend's mind than all I could have said for an hour. Little did she
know that in England only, has an unmarried young lady any liberty, and
that the standard of foreign propriety on this head is far, very far more
rigid than our own.
"La premiere Rue a gauche," said an old man of whom I inquired the road;
"et puis," added I.
"And then quite straight; it is a chaussee all the way, and you cannot
"Now for it, mademoiselle," said I. "Let us try if we cannot see a good
deal of the country before the carriage comes up."
We had soon left the town behind and reached a beautifully shaded high
road, with blossoming fruit trees, and honeysuckle-covered cottages;
there had been several light showers during the day, and the air had all
the fresh fragrant feeling of an autumn evening, so tranquillizing and
calming that few there are who have not felt at some time or other of
their lives, its influence upon their minds. I fancied my fair companion
did so, for, as she walked beside me, her silence, and the gentle
pressure of her arm, were far more eloquent than words.
If that extraordinary flutter and flurry of sensations which will now and
then seize you, when walking upon a lonely country road with a pretty
girl for your companion, whose arm is linked in yours, and whose
thoughts, as far you can guess at least, are travelling the same path
with your own--if this be animal magnetism, or one of its phenomena, then
do I swear by Mesmer, whatever it be, delusion or otherwise, it has given
me the brightest moments of my life--these are the real "winged dreams"
of pleasures which outlive others of more absorbing and actual interest
at the time. After all, for how many of our happiest feelings are we
indebted to the weakness of our nature. The man that is wise at
nineteen, "Je l'en fais mon compliment," but I assuredly do not envy him;
and now, even now, when I number more years than I should like to
"confess," rather than suffer the suspicious watchfulness of age to creep
on me, I prefer to "go on believing," even though every hour of the day
should show me, duped and deceived. While I plead guilty to this
impeachment, let me show mitigation, that it has its enjoyments--first,
although I am the most constant and devoted man breathing, as a very
cursory glance at these confessions may prove, yet I have never been able
to restrain myself from a propensity to make love, merely as a pastime.
The gambler that sits down to play cards, or hazard against himself, may
perhaps be the only person that can comprehend this tendency of mine. We
both of us are playing for nothing (or love, which I suppose is
synonymous;) we neither of us put forth our strength; for that very
reason, and in fact like the waiter at Vauxhall who was complimented upon
the dexterity with which he poured out the lemonade, and confessed that
he spent his mornings "practising with vater," we pass a considerable
portion of our lives in a mimic warfare, which, if it seem unprofitable,
is, nevertheless, pleasant.
After all this long tirade, need I say how our walk proceeded? We had
fallen into a kind of discussion upon the singular intimacy which had so
rapidly grown up amongst us, and which years long might have failed to
engender. Our attempts to analyse the reasons for, and the nature of the
friendship thus so suddenly established--a rather dangerous and difficult
topic, when the parties are both young--one eminently handsome, and the
other disposed to be most agreeable. Oh, my dear young friends of either
sex, whatever your feelings be for one another, keep them to yourselves;
I know of nothing half so hazardous as that "comparing of notes" which
sometimes happens. Analysis is a beautiful thing in mathematics or
chemistry, but it makes sad havoc when applied to the "functions of the
"Mamma appears to have forgotten us," said Isabella, as she spoke, after
walking for some time in silence beside me.
"Oh, depend upon it, the carriage has taken all this time to repair; but
are you tired?"
"Oh, by no means; the evening is delightful, but--"
"Then perhaps you are ennuyee," said I, half pettishly, to provoke a
disclaimer if possible. To this insidiously put quere I received, as I
deserved, no answer, and again we sauntered on without speaking.
"To whom does that chateau belong, my old friend?" said I addressing a
man on the road-side.
"A Monsieur le Marquis, sir," replied he.
"But what's his name, though?"
"Ah, that I can't tell you," replied the man again.
There you may perceive how, even yet, in provincial France, the old
respect for the aristocracy still survives; it is sufficient that the
possessor of that fine place is "Monsieur le Marquis;" but any other
knowledge of who he is, and what, is superfluous. "How far are we from
the next village, do you know?"
"About a league."
"Indeed. Why I thought 'La Scarpe' was quite near us."
"Ah, you are thinking of the Amiens road."
"Yes, of course; and is not this the Amiens road?"
"Oh, no; the Amiens road lies beyond those low hills to the right. You
passed the turn at the first 'barriere'."
"Is it possible we could have come wrong?"
"Oh, Mr. Lorrequer, don't say so, I entreat of you."
"And what road is this, then, my friend?"
"This is the road to Albert and Peronne."
"Unfortunately, I believe he is quite right. Is there any crossroad from
the village before us now, to the Amiens road?"
"Yes; you can reach it about three leagues hence."
"And we can get a carriage at the inn probably?"
"Ah, that I am not sure of--. Perhaps at the Lion d'or you may."
"But why not go back to Abbeville?"
"Oh, Mrs. Bingham must have left long since, and beside you forget the
distance; we have been walking two hours."
"Now for the village," said I, as I drew my friend's arm closer within
mine, and we set out in a fast walk.
Isabella seemed terribly frightened at the whole affair; what her mamma
might think, and what might be her fears at not finding us on the road,
and a hundred other encouraging reflections of this nature she poured
forth unceasingly. As for myself, I did not know well what to think of
it; my old fondness for adventure being ever sufficiently strong in me to
give a relish to any thing which bore the least resemblance to one. This
I now concealed, and sympathised with my fair friend upon our mishap, and
assuring her, at the same time, that there could be no doubt of our
overtaking Mrs. Bingham before her arrival at Amiens.
"Ah, there is the village in the valley; how beautifully situated."
"Oh, I can't admire any thing now, Mr. Lorrequer, I am so frightened."
"But surely without cause," said I, looking tenderly beneath her bonnet.
"Is this," she answered, "nothing," and we walked on in silence again.
On reaching the Lion d'or we discovered that the only conveyance to be
had was a species of open market-cart drawn by two horses, and in which
it was necessary that my fair friend and myself should seat ourselves
side by side upon straw: there was no choice, and as for Miss Bingham,
I believe if an ass with panniers had presented itself, she would have
preferred it to remaining where she was. We therefore took our places,
and she could not refrain from laughing as we set out upon our journey in
this absurd equipage, every jolt of which threw us from side to side, and
rendered every attention on my part requisite to prevent her being upset.
After about two hours' travelling we arrived at the Amiens road, and
stopped at the barriere. I immediately inquired if a carriage had
passed, resembling Mrs. Bingham's, and learned that it had, about an hour
before, and that the lady in it had been informed that two persons, like
those she asked after, had been seen in a caleche driving rapidly to
Amiens, upon which she set out as fast as possible in pursuit.
"Certainly," said I, "the plot is thickening; but for that unlucky
mistake she might in all probability have waited here for us. Amiens is
only two leagues now, so our drive will not be long, and before six
o'clock we shall all be laughing over the matter as a very good joke."
On we rattled, and as the road became less frequented, and the shadows
lengthened, I could not but wonder at the strange situations which the
adventurous character of my life had so often involved me in. Meanwhile,
my fair friend's spirits became more and more depressed, and it was not
without the greatest difficulty I was enabled to support her courage. I
assured her, and not altogether without reason, that though so often in
my eventful career accidents were occurring which rendered it dubious and
difficult to reach the goal I aimed at, yet the results had so often been
more pleasant than I could have anticipated, that I always felt a kind of
involuntary satisfaction at some apparent obstacle to my path, setting it
down as some especial means of fortune, to heighten the pleasure awaiting
me; "and now," added I, "even here, perhaps, in this very mistake of our
road--the sentiments I have heard--the feelings I have given utterance
to--" What I was about to say, heaven knows--perhaps nothing less than a
downright proposal was coming; but at that critical moment a gen-d'arme
rode up to the side of our waggon, and surveyed us with the peculiarly
significant scowl his order is gifted with. After trotting alongside for
a few seconds he ordered the driver to halt, and, turning abruptly to us,
demanded our passports. Now our passports were, at that precise moment,
peaceably reposing in the side pocket of Mrs. Bingham's carriage; I
therefore explained to the gen-d'arme how we were circumstanced, and
added, that on arriving at Amiens the passport should be produced. To
this he replied that all might be perfectly true, but he did not believe
a word of it--that he had received an order for the apprehension of two
English persons travelling that road--and that he should accordingly
request our company back to Chantraine, the commissionaire of which place
was his officer.
"But why not take us to Amiens," said I; "particularly when I tell you
that we can then show our passports?"
"I belong to the Chantraine district," was the laconic answer; and like
the gentleman who could not weep at the sermon because he belonged to
another parish, this specimen of a French Dogberry would not hear reason
except in his own "commune."
No arguments which I could think of had any effect upon him, and amid a
volley of entreaty and imprecation, both equally vain, we saw ourselves
turn back upon the road to Amiens, and set out at a round trot to
Chantraine, on the road to Calais.
Poor Isabella, I really pitied her; hitherto her courage had been
principally sustained by the prospect of soon reaching Amiens; now there
was no seeing where our adventure was to end. Besides that, actual
fatigue from the wretched conveyance began to distress her, and she was
scarcely able to support herself, though assisted by my arm. What a
perilous position mine, whispering consolation and comfort to a pretty
girl on a lonely road, the only person near being one who comprehended
nothing of the language we spoke in. Ah, how little do we know of fate,
and how often do we despise circumstances that determine all our fortunes
in the world. To think that a gen-d'arme should have any thing to do
with my future lot in life, and that the real want of a passport to
travel should involve the probable want of a licence to marry. Yes, it
is quite in keeping, thought I, with every step I have taken through
life. I may be brought before the "maire" as a culprit, and leave him as
On reaching the town, we were not permitted to drive to the inn, but at
once conveyed to the house of the "commissaire," who was also the "maire"
of the district. The worthy functionary was long since in bed, and it
was only after ringing violently for half an hour that a head, surmounted
with a dirty cotton night-cap, peeped from an upper window, and seemed to
survey the assemblage beneath with patient attention. By this time a
considerable crowd had collected from the neighbouring ale-houses and
cabarets, who deemed it a most fitting occasion to honour us with the
most infernal yells and shouts, as indicating their love of justice, and
delight in detecting knavery; and that we were both involved in such
suspicion, we had not long to learn. Meanwhile the poor old maire, who
had been an employe in the stormy days of the revolution, and also under
Napoleon, and who full concurred with Swift that "a crowd is a mob, if
composed even of bishops," firmly believed that the uproar beneath in the
street was the announcement of a new change of affairs at Paris,
determined to be early in the field, and shouted therefore with all his
lungs--"vive le peuple"--"Vive la charte"--"A bas les autres." A
tremendous shout of laughter saluted this exhibition of unexpected
republicanism, and the poor maire retired from the window, having learned
his mistake, covered with shame and confusion.
Before the mirth caused by this blunder had subsided, the door had
opened, and we were ushered into the bureau of the commissaire,
accompanied by the anxious crowd, all curious to know the particulars of
The maire soon appeared, his night-cap being replaced by a small black
velvet skull-cap, and his lanky figure enveloped in a tarnished silk
dressing-gown; he permitted us to be seated, while the gen-d'arme
recounted the suspicious circumstances of our travelling, and produced
the order to arrest an Englishman and his wife who had arrived in one of
the late Boulogne packets, and who had carried off from some
banking-house money and bills for a large amount.
"I have no doubt these are the people," said the gen-d'arme; "and here is
the 'carte descriptive.' Let us compare it--'Forty-two or forty-three
years of age.'"
"I trust, M. le Maire," said I, overhearing this, "that ladies do not
recognize me as so much."
"Of a pale and cadaverous aspect," continued the gen-d'arme.
Upon this the old functionary, wiping his spectacles with a snuffy
handkerchief, as if preparing them to examine an eclipse of the sun,
regarded me fixedly for several minutes, and said--"Oh, yes, I perceive
it plainly; continue the description."
"Five feet three inches," said the gen-d'arme.
"Six feet one in England, whatever this climate may have done since."
"Speaks broken and bad French."
"Like a native," said I; "at least so said my friends in the chaussee
D'Antin, in the year fifteen."
Here the catalogue ended, and a short conference between the maire and
the gen-d'arme ensued, which ended in our being committed for examination
on the morrow; meanwhile we were to remain at the inn, under the
surveillance of the gen-d'arme.
On reaching the inn my poor friend was so completely exhausted that she
at once retired to her room, and I proceeded to fulfil a promise I had
made her to despatch a note to Mrs. Bingham at Amiens by a special
messenger, acquainting her with all our mishaps, and requesting her to
come or send to our assistance. This done, and a good supper smoking
before me, of which with difficulty I persuaded Isabella to partake in
her own room, I again regained my equanimity, and felt once more at ease.
The gen-d'arme in whose guardianship I had been left was a fine specimen
of his caste; a large and powerfully built man of about fifty, with an
enormous beard of grizzly brown and grey hair, meeting above and beneath
his nether lip; his eyebrows were heavy and beetling, and nearly
concealed his sharp grey eyes, while a deep sabre-wound had left upon his
cheek a long white scar, giving a most warlike and ferocious look to his
As he sat apart from me for some time, silent and motionless, I could not
help imagining in how many a hard-fought day he had borne a part, for he
evidently, from his age and bearing, had been one of the soldiers of the
empire. I invited him to partake of my bottle of Medoc, by which he
seemed flattered. When the flask became low, and was replaced by
another, he appeared to have lost much of his constrained air, and
seemed forgetting rapidly the suspicious circumstances which he supposed
attached to me--waxed wondrous confidential and communicative, and
condescended to impart some traits of a life which was not without its
vicissitudes, for he had been, as I suspected, one of the "Guarde"--the
old guarde--was wounded at Marengo, and received the croix d'honneur in
the field of Wagram, from the hands of the Emperor himself. The headlong
enthusiasm of attachment to Napoleon, which his brief and stormy career
elicited even from those who suffered long and deeply in his behalf, is
not one of the least singular circumstances which this portion of history
displays. While the rigours of the conscription had invaded every family
in France, from Normandie to La Vendee--while the untilled fields, the
ruined granaries, the half-deserted villages, all attested the
depopulation of the land, those talismanic words, "l'Empereur et la
gloire," by some magic mechanism seemed all-sufficient not only to
repress regret and suffering, but even stimulate pride, and nourish
valour; and even yet, when it might be supposed that like the brilliant
glass of a magic lantern, the gaudy pageant had passed away, leaving only
the darkness and desolation behind it--the memory of those days under the
empire survives untarnished and unimpaired, and every sacrifice of
friends or fortune is accounted but little in the balance when the honour
of La Belle France, and the triumphs of the grand "armee," are weighted
against them. The infatuated and enthusiastic followers of this great
man would seem, in some respects, to resemble the drunkard in the
"Vaudeville," who alleged as his excuse for drinking, that whenever he
was sober his poverty disgusted him. "My cabin," said he, "is a cell, my
wife a mass of old rags, my child a wretched object of misery and malady.
But give me brandy; let me only have that, and then my hut is a palace,
my wife is a princess, and my child the very picture of health and
happiness;" so with these people--intoxicated with the triumphs of their
nation, "tete monte" with victory--they cannot exist in the horror of
sobriety which peace necessarily enforces; and whenever the subject turns
in conversation upon the distresses of the time or the evil prospects of
the country, they call out, not like the drunkard, for brandy, but in the
same spirit they say--"Ah, if you would again see France flourishing and
happy, let us once more have our croix d'honneur, our epaulettes, our
voluntary contributions, our Murillos, our Velasquez, our spoils from
Venice, and our increased territories to rule over." This is the
language of the Buonapartiste every where, and at all seasons; and the
mass of the nation is wonderfully disposed to participate in the
sentiment. The empire was the Aeneid of the nation, and Napoleon the
only hero they now believe in. You may satisfy yourself of this easily.
Every cafe will give evidence of it, every society bears its testimony to
it, and even the most wretched Vaudeville, however, trivial the interest
--however meagre the story, and poor the diction, let the emperor but
have his "role"--let him be as laconic as possible, carry his hands
behind his back, wear the well-known low cocked-hat, and the "redingote
gris"--the success is certain--every sentence he utters is applauded, and
not a single allusion to the Pyramids, the sun of Austerlitz, l'honneur,
et al vieille garde, but is sure to bring down thunders of acclamation.
But I am forgetting myself, and perhaps my reader too; the conversation
of the old gen-d'arme accidentally led me into reflections like these,
and he was well calculated, in many ways, to call them forth. His
devoted attachment--his personal love of the emperor--of which he gave me
some touching instances, was admirably illustrated by an incident, which
I am inclined to tell, and hope it may amuse the reader as much as it did
myself on hearing it.
When Napoleon had taken possession of the papal dominions, as he
virtually did, and carried off the pope, Pius VI, to Paris, this old
soldier, then a musketeer in the garde, formed part of the company that
mounted guard over the holy father. During the earlier months of the
holy father's confinement he was at liberty to leave his apartments at
any hour he pleased, and cross the court-yard of the palace to the chapel
where he performed mass. At such moments the portion of the Imperial
Guard then on duty stood under arms, and received from the august hand of
the pope his benediction as he passed. But one morning a hasty express
arrived from the Tuilleries, and the officer on duty communicated his
instructions to his party, that the apostolic vicar was not to be
permitted to pass, as heretofore, to the chapel, and that a most rigid
superintendence was to be exercised over his movements. My poor
companion had his turn for duty on that ill-starred day; he had not been
long at his post when the sound of footsteps was heard approaching, and
he soon saw the procession which always attended the holy father to his
devotions, advancing towards him; he immediately placed himself across
the passage, and with his musket in rest barred the exit, declaring, at
the same time, that such were his orders. In vain the priests who formed
the cortege addressed themselves to his heart, and spoke to his feelings,
and at last finding little success by these methods, explained to him the
mortal sin and crime for which eternal damnation itself might not be a
too heavy retribution if he persisted in preventing his holiness to pass,
and thus be the means of opposing an obstacle to the head of the whole
Catholic church, for celebrating the mass; the soldier remained firm and
unmoved, the only answer he returned being, "that he had his orders, and
dared not disobey them." The pope, however, persisted in his resolution,
and endeavoured to get by, when the hardy veteran retreated a step, and
placing his musket and bayonet at the charge, called out "au nom de
l'Empereur," when the pious party at last yielded and slowly retired
within the palace.
Not many days after, this severe restriction was recalled, and once more
the father was permitted to go to and from the chapel of the palace, at
such times as he pleased, and again, as before, in passing the corridor,
the guards presented arms and received the holy benediction, all except
one; upon him the head of the church frowned severely, and turned his
back, while extending his pious hands towards the others. "And yet,"
said the poor fellow in concluding his story, "and yet I could not have
done otherwise; I had my orders and must have followed them, and had the
emperor commanded it, I should have run my bayonet through the body of
the holy father himself.
"Thus, you see, my dear sir, how I have loved the emperor, for I have
many a day stood under fire for him in this world, 'et il faut que
j'aille encore au feu pour lui apres ma mort.'."
He received in good part the consolations I offered him on this head, but
I plainly saw they did not, could not relieve his mind from the horrible
conviction he lay under, that his soul's safety for ever had been
bartered for his attachment to the emperor.
This story had brought us to the end of the third bottle of Medoc; and,
as I was neither the pope, nor had any very decided intentions of saying
mass, he offered no obstacle to my retiring for the night, and betaking
myself to my bed.
THE INN AT CHANTRAINE.
When contrasted with the comforts of an English bed-room in a good hotel,
how miserably short does the appearance of a French one fall in the
estimation of the tired traveller. In exchange for the carpeted floor,
the well-curtained windows, the richly tapestried bed, the well cushioned
arm-chair, and the innumerable other luxuries which await him; he has
nought but a narrow, uncurtained bed, a bare floor, occasionally a
flagged one, three hard cane-bottomed chairs, and a looking-glass which
may convey an idea of how you would look under the combined influence of
the cholera, and a stroke of apoplexy, one half of your face being twice
the length of the other, and the entire of it of a bluish-green
tint--pretty enough in one of Turner's landscapes, but not at all
becoming when applied to the "human face divine." Let no late arrival
from the continent contradict me here by his late experiences, which a
stray twenty pounds and the railroads--(confound them for the same)
--have enabled him to acquire. I speak of matters before it occurred to
all Charing-Cross and Cheapside to "take the water" between Dover and
Calais, and inundate the world with the wit of the Cider Cellar, and the
Hole in the Wall. No! In the days I write of, the travelled were of
another genus, and you might dine at Very's or have your loge at "Les
Italiens," without being dunned by your tailor at the one, or confronted
with your washer-woman at the other. Perhaps I have written all this in
the spite and malice of a man who feels that his louis-d'or only goes
half as far now as heretofore; and attributes all his diminished
enjoyments and restricted luxuries to the unceasing current of his
countrymen, whom fate, and the law of imprisonment for debt, impel
hither. Whether I am so far guilty or not, is not now the question;
suffice it to say, that Harry Lorrequer, for reasons best known to
himself, lives abroad, where he will be most happy to see any of his old
and former friends who take his quarters en route; and in the words of a
bellicose brother of the pen, but in a far different spirit, he would
add, "that any person who feels himself here alluded to, may learn the
author's address at his publishers." "Now let us go back to our
muttons," as Barney Coyle used to say in the Dublin Library formerly
--for Barney was fond of French allusions, which occasionally too he
gave in their own tongue, as once describing an interview with Lord
Cloncurry, in which he broke off suddenly the conference, adding, "I
told him I never could consent to such a proposition, and putting my
chateau (chapeau) on my head, I left the house at once."
It was nearly three o'clock in the morning, as accompanied by the
waiter, who, like others of his tribe, had become a kind of somnambulist
ex-officio, I wended my way up one flight of stairs, and down another,
along a narrow corridor, down two steps, through an antechamber, and
into another corridor, to No. 82, my habitation for the night. Why I
should have been so far conducted from the habitable portion of the
house I had spent my evening in, I leave the learned in such matters to
explain; as for me, I have ever remarked it, while asking for a chamber
in a large roomy hotel, the singular pride with which you are ushered up
grand stair-cases, down passages, through corridors, and up narrow back
flights, till the blue sky is seen through the sky-light, to No. 199,
"the only spare bed-room in the house," while the silence and desolation
of the whole establishment would seem to imply far otherwise--the only
evidence of occupation being a pair of dirty Wellingtons at the door of
"Well, we have arrived at last," said I, drawing a deep sigh, as I threw
myself upon a ricketty chair, and surveyed rapidly my meagre-looking
"Yes, this is Monsieur's chamber," said the waiter, with a very peculiar
look, half servile, half droll. "Madame se couche, No. 28."
"Very well, good night," said I, closing the door hastily, and not liking
the farther scrutiny of the fellow's eye, as he fastened it on me, as if
to search what precise degree of relationship existed between myself and
my fair friend, whom he had called "Madame" purposely to elicit an
observation from me. "Ten to one though," said I, as I undressed myself,
"but they think she is my wife--how good--but again--ay, it is very
possible, considering we are in France. Numero vingt-huit, quite far
enough from this part of the house I should suppose from my number,--that
old gen-d'arme was a fine fellow--what strong attachment to Napoleon; and
the story of the pope; I hope I may remember that. Isabella, poor girl
--this adventure must really distress her--hope she is not crying over it
--what a devil of a hard bed--and it is not five feet long too--and,
bless my soul, is this all by way of covering; why I shall be perished
here. Oh! I must certainly put all my clothes over me in addition,
unfortunately there is no hearth-rug--well, there is no help for it now
--so let me try to sleep--numero vingt-huit."
How long I remained in a kind of uneasy, fitful slumber, I cannot tell;
but I awoke shivering with cold--puzzled to tell where I was, and my
brain addled with the broken fragments of half a dozen dreams, all
mingling and mixing themselves with the unpleasant realities of my
situation. What an infernal contrivance for a bed, thought I, as my head
came thump against the top, while my legs projected far beyond the
foot-rail; the miserable portion of clothing over me at the same time
being only sufficient to temper the night air, which in autumn is
occasionally severe and cutting. This will never do. I must ring the
bell and rouse the house, if only to get a fire, if they don't possess
such a thing as blankets. I immediately rose, and groping my way along
the wall endeavoured to discover the bell, but in vain; and for the same
satisfactory reason that Von Troil did not devote one chapter of his
work on "Iceland" to "snakes," because there were none such there. What
was now to be done? About the geography of my present abode I knew,
perhaps, as much as the public at large know about the Coppermine river
and Behring's straits. The world, it was true, was before me, "where
top choose," admirable things for an epic, but decidedly an unfortunate
circumstance for a very cold gentleman in search of a blanket. Thus
thinking, I opened the door of my chamber, and not in any way resolved
how I should proceed, I stepped forth into the long corridor, which was
dark as midnight itself.
Tracing my path along the wall, I soon reached a door which I in vain
attempted to open; in another moment I found another and another, each of
which were locked. Thus along the entire corridor I felt my way, making
every effort to discover where any of the people of the house might have
concealed themselves, but without success. What was to be done now? It
was of no use to go back to my late abode, and find it comfortless as I
left it; so I resolved to proceed in my search; by this time I had
arrived at the top of a small flight of stairs, which I remembered having
come up, and which led to another long passage similar to the one I had
explored, but running in a transverse direction, down this I now crept,
and reached the landing, along the wall of which I was guided by my hand,
as well for safety as to discover the architrave of some friendly door,
where the inhabitant might be sufficiently Samaritan to lend some portion
of his bed-clothes; door after door followed in succession along this
confounded passage, which I began to think as long as the gallery of the
lower one; at last, however, just as my heart was sinking within me from
disappointment, the handle of a lock turned, and I found myself inside a
chamber. How was I now to proceed? for if this apartment did not contain
any of the people of the hotel, I had but a sorry excuse for disturbing
the repose of any traveller who might have been more fortunate than
myself in the article of blankets. To go back however, would be absurd,
having already taken so much trouble to find out a room that was
inhabited--for that such was the case, a short, thick snore assured me
--so that my resolve was at once made, to waken the sleeper, and
endeavour to interest him in my destitute situation. I accordingly
approached the place where the nasal sounds seemed to issue from, and
soon reached the post of a bed. I waited for an instant, and then
"Monsier, voulez vous bien me permettre--"
"As to short whist, I never could make it out, so there is an end of it,"
said my unknown friend, in a low, husky voice, which, strangely enough,
was not totally unfamiliar to me: but when or how I had heard it before I
could not then think.
Well, thought I, he is an Englishman at all events, so I hope his
patriotism may forgive my intrusion, so here goes once more to rouse him,
though he seems a confoundedly heavy sleeper. "I beg your pardon, sir,
but unfortunately in a point like the present, perhaps--"
"Well, do you mark the points, and I'll score the rubber," said he.
"The devil take the gambling fellow's dreaming," thought I, raising my
voice at the same time.
"Perhaps a cold night, sir, may suffice as my apology."
"Cold, oh, ay! put a hot poker to it," muttered he; "a hot poker, a
little sugar, and a spice of nutmeg--nothing else--then it's delicious."
"Upon my soul, this is too bad," said I to myself. "Let us see what
shaking will do. Sir, sir, I shall feel obliged by--"
"Well there, don't shake me, and I'll tell you where I hid the cigars
--they are under my straw hat in the window."
"Well, really," thought I, "if this gentleman's confessions were of an
interesting nature, this might be good fun; but as the night is cold, I
must shorten the 'seance,' so here goes for one effort more.
"If, sir, you could kindly spare me even a small portion of your
"No, thank you, no more wine; but I'll sing with pleasure;" and here the
wretch, in something like the voice of a frog with the quinsy, began,
"'I'd mourn the hopes that leave me.'"
"You shall mourn something else for the same reason," said I, as losing
all patience, I seized quilts and blankets by the corner, and with one
vigourous pull wrenched them from the bed, and darted from the room--in a
second I was in the corridor, trailing my spoil behind--which in my haste
I had not time to collect in a bundle. I flew rather than ran along the
passage, reached the stairs, and in another minute had reached the second
gallery, but not before I heard the slam of a door behind me, and the
same instant the footsteps of a person running along the corridor, who
could be no other than my pursuer, effectually aroused by my last appeal
to his charity. I darted along the dark and narrow passage; but soon to
my horror discovered that I must have passed the door of my chamber, for
I had reached the foot of a narrow back stair, which led to the grenier
and the servants' rooms, beneath the roof. To turn now would only have
led me plump in the face of my injured countryman, of whose thew and
sinew I was perfectly ignorant, and did not much like to venture upon.
There was little time for reflection, for he had now reached the top of
the stair, and was evidently listening for some clue to guide him on;
stealthily and silently, and scarcely drawing breath, I mounted the
narrow stairs step by step, but before I had arrived at the landing, he
heard the rustle of the bed-clothes, and again gave chace. There was
something in the unrelenting ardour of his pursuit, which suggested to my
mind the idea of a most uncompromising foe; and as fear added speed to my
steps, I dashed along beneath the low-roofed passage, wondering what
chance of escape might yet present itself. Just at this instant, the
hand by which I had guided myself along the wall, touched the handle of a
door--I turned it--it opened--I drew in my precious bundle, and closing
the door noiselessly, sat down, breathless and still, upon the floor.
Scarcely was this, the work of a second, accomplished, when the heavy
tread of my pursuer resounded on the floor.
"Upon my conscience it's strange if I haven't you now, my friend," said
he: "you're in a cul de sac here, as they say, if I know any thing of the
house; and faith I'll make a salad of you, when I get you, that's all.
Devil a dirtier trick ever I heard tell of."
Need I say that these words had the true smack of an Irish accent, which
circumstance, from whatever cause, did not by any means tend to assuage
my fears in the event of discovery.
However, from such a misfortune my good genius now delivered me; for
after traversing the passage to the end, he at last discovered another,
which led by a long flight to the second story, down which he proceeded,
venting at every step his determination for vengeance, and his resolution
not to desist from the pursuit, if it took the entire night for it.
"Well now," thought I, "as he will scarcely venture up here again, and as
I may, by leaving this, be only incurring the risk of encountering him,
my best plan is to stay where I am if it be possible." With this intent I
proceeded to explore the apartment, which from its perfect stillness, I
concluded to be unoccupied. After some few minutes groping I reached a
low bed, fortunately empty, and although the touch of the bed-clothes led
to no very favourable augury of its neatness or elegance, there was
little choice at this moment, so I rolled myself up in my recent booty,
and resolved to wait patiently for day-break to regain my apartment.
As always happens in such circumstances, sleep came on me unawares
--so at least every one's experience I am sure can testify, that if you
are forced to awake early to start by some morning coach, and that
unfortunately you have not got to bed till late at night, the chances
are ten to one, that you get no sleep whatever, simply because you are
desirous for it; but make up your mind ever so resolutely, that you'll
not sleep, and whether your determination be built on motives of
propriety, duty, convenience, or health, and the chances are just as
strong that you are sound and snoring before ten minutes.
How many a man has found it impossible, with every effort of his heart
and brain aiding his good wishes, to sit with unclosed eyes and ears
through a dull sermon in the dog-days; how many an expectant, longing
heir has yielded to the drowsy influence when endeavouring to look
contrite under the severe correction of a lecture on extravagance from
his uncle. Who has not felt the irresistible tendency to "drop off" in
the half hour before dinner at a stupid country-house? I need not
catalogue the thousand other situations in life infinitely more
"sleep-compelling" than Morphine; for myself, my pleasantest and soundest
moments of perfect forgetfulness of this dreary world and all its cares,
have been taken in an oaken bench, seated bolt upright and vis a vis to a
lecturer on botany, whose calming accents, united with the softened light
of an autumnal day, piercing its difficult rays through the narrow and
cobwebbed windows, the odour of the recent plants and flowers aiding and
abetting, all combined to steep the soul in sleep, and you sank by
imperceptible and gradual steps into that state of easy slumber, in which
"come no dreams," and the last sounds of the lecturer's "hypogenous and
perigenous" died away, becoming beautifully less, till your senses sank
into rest, the syllables "rigging us, rigging us," seemed to melt away in
the distance and fade from your memory--Peace be with you, Doctor A. If
I owe gratitude any where I have my debt with you. The very memory I
bear of you has saved me no inconsiderable sum in hop and henbane.
Without any assistance from the sciences on the present occasion, I was
soon asleep, and woke not till the cracking of whips, and trampling of
horses' feet on the pavement of the coach-yard apprised me that the world
had risen to its daily labour, and so should I. From the short survey of
my present chamber which I took on waking, I conjectured it must have
been the den of some of the servants of the house upon occasion--two low
truckle-beds of the meanest description lay along the wall opposite to
mine; one of them appeared to have been slept in during the past night,
but by what species of animal the Fates alone can tell. An old demi-peak
saddle, capped and tipped with brass, some rusty bits, and stray
stirrup-irons lay here and there upon the floor; while upon a species of
clothes-rack, attached to a rafter, hung a tarnished suit of
postillion's livery, cap, jacket, leathers, and jack-boots, all ready
for use; and evidently from their arrangement supposed by the owner to
be a rather creditable "turn out."
I turned over these singular habiliments with much of the curiosity with
which an antiquary would survey a suit of chain armour; the long
epaulettes of yellow cotton cord, the heavy belt with its brass buckle,
the cumbrous boots, plaited and bound with iron like churns were in
rather a ludicrous contrast to the equipment of our light and jockey-like
boys in nankeen jackets and neat tops, that spin along over our level
"But," thought I, "it is full time I should get back to No. 82, and make
my appearance below stairs;" though in what part of the building my room
lay, and how I was to reach it without my clothes, I had not the
slightest idea. A blanket is an excessively comfortable article of
wearing apparel when in bed, but as a walking costume is by no means
convenient or appropriate; while to making a sorti en sauvage, however
appropriate during the night, there were many serious objections if done
"en plein jour," and with the whole establishment awake and active; the
noise of mopping, scrubbing, and polishing, which is eternally going
forward in a foreign inn amply testified there was nothing which I could
adopt in my present naked and forlorn condition, save the bizarre and
ridiculous dress of the postillion, and I need not say the thought of so
doing presented nothing agreeable. I looked from the narrow window out
upon the tiled roof, but without any prospect of being heard if I called
ever so loudly.
The infernal noise of floor-cleansing, assisted by a Norman peasant's
"chanson du pays," the time being well marked by her heavy sabots, gave
even less chance to me within; so that after more than half an hour
passed in weighing difficulties, and canvassing plans, upon donning the
blue and yellow, and setting out for my own room without delay, hoping
sincerely, that with proper precaution, I should be able to reach it
unseen and unobserved.
As I laid but little stress upon the figure I should make in my new
habiliments, it did not cause me much mortification to find that the
clothes were considerably too small, the jacket scarcely coming beneath
my arms, and the sleeves being so short that my hands and wrists
projected beyond the cuffs like two enormous claws; the leathers were
also limited in their length, and when drawn up to a proper height,
permitted my knees to be seen beneath, like the short costume of a
Spanish Tauridor, but scarcely as graceful; not wishing to encumber
myself in the heavy and noisy masses of wood, iron, and leather, they
call "les bottes forts," I slipped my feet into my slippers, and stole
gently from the room. How I must have looked at the moment I leave my
reader to guess, as with anxious and stealthy pace I crept along the low
gallery that led to the narrow staircase, down which I proceeded, step by
step; but just as I reached the bottom, perceived a little distance from
me, with her back turned towards me, a short, squat peasant on her knees,
belabouring with a brush the well waxed floor; to pass therefore,
unobserved was impossible, so that I did not hesitate to address her, and
endeavour to interest her in my behalf, and enlist her as my guide.
"Bon jour, ma chere," said I in a soft insinuating tone; she did not hear
me, so I repeated,
"Bon jour, ma chere, bon jour."
Upon this she turned round, and looking fixedly at me for a second,
called out in a thick pathos, "Ah, le bon Dieu! qu'il est drole comme ca,
Francois, savez vous, mais ce n'est pas Francois;" saying which, she
sprang from her kneeling position to her feet, and with a speed that her
shape and sabots seemed little to promise, rushed down the stairs as if
she had seen the devil himself.
"Why, what is the matter with the woman?" said I, "surely if I am not
Francois--which God be thanked is true--yet I cannot look so frightful as
all this would imply." I had not much time given me for consideration
now, for before I had well deciphered the number over a door before me,
the loud noise of several voices on the floor beneath attracted my
attention, and the moment after the heavy tramp of feet followed, and in
an instant the gallery was thronged by the men and women of the house
--waiters, hostlers, cooks, scullions, filles de chambre, mingled with
gens-d'armes, peasants, and town's people, all eagerly forcing their way
up stairs; yet all on arriving at the landing-place, seemed disposed to
keep at a respectful distance, and bundling themselves at one end of the
corridor, while I, feelingly alive to the ridiculous appearance I made,
occupied the other--the gravity with which they seemed at first disposed
to regard me soon gave way, and peal after peal of laughter broke out,
and young and old, men and women, even to the most farouche gens-d'armes,
all appearing incapable of controlling the desire for merriment my most
singular figure inspired; and unfortunately this emotion seemed to
promise no very speedy conclusion; for the jokes and witticisms made upon
my appearance threatened to renew the festivities, ad libitum.
"Regardez donc ses epaules," said one.
"Ah, mon Dieu! Il me fait l'idee d'une grenouille aves ses jambes
jaunes," cried another.
"Il vaut son pesant de fromage pour une Vaudeville," said the director of
the strolling theatre of the place.
"I'll give seventy francs a week, 'd'appointment,' and 'Scribe' shall
write a piece express for himself, if he'll take it."
"May the devil fly away with your grinning baboon faces," said I, as I
rushed up the stairs again, pursued by the mob at full cry; scarcely,
however, had I reached the top step, when the rough hand of the
gen-d'arme seized me by the shoulder, while he said in a low, husky
voice, "c'est inutile, Monsieur, you cannot escape--the thing was well
contrived, it is true; but the gens-d'armes of France are not easily
outwitted, and you could not have long avoided detection, even in that
dress." It was my turn to laugh now, which, to their very great
amazement, I did, loud and long; that I should have thought my present
costume could ever have been the means of screening me from observation,
however it might have been calculated to attract it, was rather too
absurd a supposition even for the mayor of a village to entertain;
besides, it only now occurred to me that I was figuring in the character
of a prisoner. The continued peals of laughing which this mistake on
their part elicited from me seemed to afford but slight pleasure to my
captor, who gruffly said--
"When you have done amusing yourself, mon ami, perhaps you will do us the
favour to come before the mayor."
"Certainly," I replied; "but you will first permit me to resume my own
clothes, I am quite sick of masquerading 'en postillion.'"
"Not so fast, my friend," said the suspicious old follower of Fouche
--"not so fast; it is but right the maire should see you in the disguise
you attempted your escape in. It must be especially mentioned in the
"Well, this is becoming too ludicrous," said I. "It need not take five
minutes to satisfy you why, how, and where, I put on these confounded
"Then tell it to the maire, at the Bureau."
"But for that purpose it is not necessary I should be conducted through
the streets in broad day, to be laughed at. No, positively, I'll not go.
In my own dress I'll accompany you with pleasure."
"Victor, Henri, Guillame," said the gen-d'arme, addressing his
companions, who immediately closed round me. "You see," added he, "there
is no use in resisting."
Need I recount my own shame and ineffable disgrace? Alas! it is too,
too true. Harry Lorrequer--whom Stultze entreated to wear his coats,
the ornament of Hyde Park, the last appeal in dress, fashion, and
equipage--was obliged to parade through the mob of a market-town in
France, with four gens-d'armes for his companions, and he himself habited
in a mongrel character--half postillion, half Delaware Indian. The
incessant yells of laughter--the screams of the children, and the
outpouring of every species of sarcasm and ridicule, at my expense, were
not all--for, as I emerged from the porte-chochere I saw Isabella in the
window: her eyes were red with weeping; but no sooner had she beheld me,
than she broke out into a fit of laughter that was audible even in the
Rage had now taken such a hold upon me, that I forgot my ridiculous
appearance in my thirst for vengeance. I marched on through the grinning
crowd, with the step of a martyr. I suppose my heroic bearing and
warlike deportment must have heightened the drollery of the scene; for
the devils only laughed the more. The bureau of the maire could not
contain one-tenth of the anxious and curious individuals who thronged
the entrance, and for about twenty minutes the whole efforts of the
gens-d'armes were little enough to keep order and maintain silence. At
length the maire made his appearance, and accustomed as he had been for
a long life to scenes of an absurd and extraordinary nature, yet the
ridicule of my look and costume was too much, and he laughed outright.
This was of course the signal for renewed mirth for the crowd, while
those without doors, infected by the example, took up the jest, and I
had the pleasure of a short calculation, a la Babbage, of how many
maxillary jaws were at that same moment wagging at my expense.
However, the examination commenced; and I at length obtained an
opportunity of explaining under what circumstances I had left my room,
and how and why I had been induced to don this confounded cause of all my
"This may be very true," said the mayor, "as it is very plausible; if you
have evidence to prove what you have stated--"
"If it's evidence only is wanting, Mr. Maire, I'll confirm one part of
the story," said a voice in the crowd, in an accent and tone that assured
me the speaker was the injured proprietor of the stolen blankets. I
turned round hastily to look at my victim, and what was my surprise to
recognize a very old Dublin acquaintance, Mr. Fitzmaurice O'Leary.
"Good morning, Mr. Lorrequer," said he; "this is mighty like our ould
practices in College-green; but upon my conscience the maire has the
advantage of Gabbet. It's lucky for you I know his worship, as we'd call
him at home, or this might be a serious business. Nothing would persuade
them that you were not Lucien Buonaparte, or the iron mask, or something
of that sort, if they took it into their heads."
Mr. O'Leary was as good as his word. In a species of French, that I'd
venture to say would be perfectly intelligible in Mullingar, he contrived
to explain to the maire that I was neither a runaway nor a swindler, but
a very old friend of his, and consequently sans reproche. The official
was now as profuse of his civilities as he had before been of his
suspicions, and most hospitably pressed us to stay for breakfast. This,
for many reasons, I was obliged to decline--not the least of which was,
my impatience to get out of my present costume. We accordingly procured a
carriage, and I returned to the hotel, screened from the gaze but still
accompanied by the shouts of the mob, who evidently took a most lively
interest in the entire proceeding.
I lost no time in changing my costume, and was about to descend
to the saloon, when the master of the house came to inform me that
Mrs. Bingham's courier had arrived with the carriage, and that she
expected us at Amiens as soon as possible.
"That is all right. Now, Mr. O'Leary, I must pray you to forgive
all the liberty I have taken with you, and also permit me to defer the
explanation of many circumstances which seem at present strange, till--"
"Till sine die, if the story be a long one, my dear sir--there's nothing
I hate so much, except cold punch."
"You are going to Paris," said I; "is it not so?"
"Yes, I'm thinking of it. I was up at Trolhatten, in Norway, three weeks
ago, and I was obliged to leave it hastily, for I've an appointment with
a friend in Geneva."
"Then how do you travel?"
"On foot, just as you see, except that I've a tobacco bag up stairs, and
"Light equipment, certainly; but you must allow me to give you a set down
as far as Amiens, and also to present you to my friends there."
To this Mr. O'Leary made no objection; and as Miss Bingham could not bear
any delay, in her anxiety to join her mother, we set out at once--the
only thing to mar my full enjoyment at the moment being the sight of the
identical vestments I had so lately figured in, bobbing up and down
before my eyes for the whole length of the stage, and leading
to innumerable mischievous allusions from my friend Mr. O'Leary,
which were far too much relished by my fair companion.
At twelve we arrived at Amiens, when I presented my friend Mr. O'Leary to
At the conclusion of my last chapter I was about to introduce to my
reader's acquaintance my friend Mr. O'Leary; and, as he is destined to
occupy some place in the history of these Confessions, I may, perhaps, be
permitted to do so at more length than his intrinsic merit at first sight
might appear to warrant.
Mr. O'Leary was, and I am induced to believe is, a particularly short,
fat, greasy-looking gentleman, with a head as free from phrenological
development as a billiard-ball, and a countenance which, in feature and
colour, nearly resembled the face of a cherub, carved in oak, as we see
them in old pulpits.
Short as is his stature, his limbs compose the least part of it. His
hands and feet, forming some compensation by their ample proportions,
with short, thick fins, vulgarly called a cobbler's thumb. His voice
varying in cadence from a deep barytone, to a high falsetto, maintains
throughout the distinctive characteristic of a Dublin accent and
pronunciation, and he talks of the "Veel of Ovoca, and a beef-steek,"
with some price of intonation. What part of the Island he came
originally from, or what may be his age, are questions I have the most
profound ignorance of; I have heard many anecdotes which would imply his
being what the French call "d'un age mur"--but his own observations are
generally limited to events occurring since the peace of "fifteen." To
his personal attractions, such as they are, he has never been solicitous
of contributing by the meretricious aids of dress. His coat, calculating
from its length of waist, and ample skirt, would fit Bumbo Green, while
his trowsers, being made of some cheap and shrinking material, have
gradually contracted their limits, and look now exactly like
knee-breeches, without the usual buttons at the bottom.
These, with the addition of a pair of green spectacles, the glass of one
being absent, and permitting the look-out of a sharp, grey eye, twinkling
with drollery and good humour, form the most palpable of his externals.
In point of character, they who best knew him represented him as the
best-tempered, best-hearted fellow breathing; ever ready to assist a
friend, and always postponing his own plans and his own views, when he
had any, to the wishes and intentions of others. Among the many odd
things about him, was a constant preference to travelling on foot, and a
great passion for living abroad, both of which tastes he gratified,
although his size might seem to offer obstacles to the one, and his total
ignorance of every continental language, would appear to preclude the
other; with a great liking for tobacco, which he smoked all day--a
fondness for whist and malt liquors--his antipathies were few; so that
except when called upon to shave more than once in the week, or wash his
hands twice on the same day, it was difficult to disconcert him. His
fortune was very ample; but although his mode of living was neither very
ostentatious nor costly, he contrived always to spend his income. Such
was the gentleman I now presented to my friends, who, I must confess,
appeared strangely puzzled by his manner and appearance. This feeling,
however, soon wore off; and before he had spent the morning in their
company, he had made more way in their good graces, and gone farther to
establish intimacy, than many a more accomplished person, with an
unexceptionable coat and accurate whisker might have effected in
a fortnight. What were his gifts in this way, I am, alas, most
deplorably ignorant of; it was not, heaven knows, that he possessed any
conversational talent--of successful flattery he knew as much as a negro
does of the national debt--and yet the "bon-hommie" of his character
seemed to tell at once; and I never knew him fail in any one instance to
establish an interest for himself before he had completed the ordinary
period of a visit.
I think it is Washington Irving who has so admirably depicted the
mortification of a dandy angler, who, with his beaver garnished with
brown hackles, his well-posed rod, polished gaff, and handsome
landing-net, with every thing befitting, spends his long summer day
whipping a trout stream without a rise or even a ripple to reward him,
while a ragged urchin, with a willow wand, and a bent pin, not ten yards
distant, is covering the greensward with myriads of speckled and scaly
backs, from one pound weight to four; so it is in every thing--"the race
is not to the swift;" the elements of success in life, whatever be the
object of pursuit, are very, very different from what we think them at
first sight, and so it was with Mr. O'Leary, and I have more than once
witnessed the triumph of his homely manner and blunt humour over the
more polished and well-bred taste of his competitors for favour; and
what might have been the limit to such success, heaven alone can tell,
if it were not that he laboured under a counter-balancing infirmity,
sufficient to have swamped a line-of-battle ship itself. It was simply
this--a most unfortunate propensity to talk of the wrong place, person,
or time, in any society he found himself; and this taste for the mal
apropos, extended so far, that no one ever ventured into company with
him as his friend, without trembling for the result; but even this, I
believe his only fault, resulted from the natural goodness of his
character and intentions; for, believing as he did, in his honest
simplicity, that the arbitrary distinctions of class and rank were held
as cheaply by others as himself, he felt small scruple at recounting to
a duchess a scene in a cabaret, and with as little hesitation would he,
if asked, have sung the "Cruiskeen lawn," or the "Jug of Punch," after
Lablanche had finished the "Al Idea," from Figaro. 'Mauvaise honte,' he
had none; indeed I am not sure that he had any kind of shame whatever,
except possibly when detected with a coat that bore any appearance of
newness, or if overpersuaded to wear gloves, which he ever considered as
a special effeminacy.
Such, in a few words, was the gentleman I now presented to my friends,
and how far he insinuated himself into their good graces, let the fact
tell, that on my return to the breakfast-room, after about an hour's
absence, I heard him detailing the particulars of a route they were to
take by his advice, and also learned that he had been offered and had
accepted a seat in their carriage to Paris.
"Then I'll do myself the pleasure of joining your party, Mrs. Bingham,"
said he. "Bingham, I think, madam, is your name."
"Any relation, may I ask, of a most dear friend of mine, of the same
name, from Currynaslattery, in the county Wexford?"
"I am really not aware," said Mrs. Bingham. "My husband's family are, I
believe, many of them from that county."
"Ah, what a pleasant fellow was Tom!" said Mr. O'Leary musingly,
and with that peculiar tone which made me tremble, for I knew well
that a reminiscence was coming. "A pleasant fellow indeed."
"Is he alive, sir, now?"
"I believe so, ma'am; but I hear the climate does not agree with him."
"Ah, then, he's abroad! In Italy probably?"
"No, ma'am, in Botany Bay. His brother, they say, might have saved him,
but he left poor Tom to his fate, for he was just then paying court to a
Miss Crow, I think, with a large fortune. Oh, Lord, what have I said,
it's always the luck of me!" The latter exclamation was the result of a
heavy saugh upon the floor, Mrs. Bingham having fallen in a faint--she
being the identical lady alluded to, and her husband the brother of
pleasant Tom Bingham.
To hurl Mr. O'Leary out of the room by one hand, and ring the bell with
the other, was the work of a moment; and with proper care, and in due
time, Mrs. Bingham was brought to herself, when most fortunately, she
entirely forgot the cause of her sudden indisposition; and, of course,
neither her daughter nor myself suffered any clue to escape us which
might lead to its discovery.
When we were once more upon the road, to efface if it might be necessary
any unpleasant recurrence to the late scene, I proceeded to give Mrs.
Bingham an account of my adventure at Chantraine, in which, of course, I
endeavoured to render my friend O'Leary all the honours of being laughed
at in preference to myself, laying little stress upon my masquerading in
"You are quite right," said O'Leary, joining in the hearty laugh against
him, "quite right, I was always a very heavy sleeper--indeed if I wasn't
I wouldn't be here now, travelling about en garcon, free as air;" here he
heaved a sigh, which from its incongruity with his jovial look and happy
expression, threw us all into renewed laughter.
"But why, Mr. O'Leary--what can your sleepiness have to do with such
tender recollections, for such, I am sure, that sigh bespeaks them?"
"Ah! ma'am, it may seem strange, but it is nevertheless true, if it were
not for that unfortunate tendency, I should now be the happy possessor of
a most accomplished and amiable lady, and eight hundred per annum three
and a half per cent. stock."
"You overslept yourself on the wedding-day, I suppose."
"You shall hear, ma'am, the story is a very short one: It is now about
eight years ago, I was rambling through the south of France, and had just
reached Lyons, where the confounded pavement, that sticks up like pears,
with the point upwards, had compelled me to rest some days and recruit;
for this purpose I installed myself in the pension of Madame Gourgead,
Rue de Petits Carmes, a quiet house--where we dined at twelve, ten in
number, upon about two pounds of stewed beef, with garlic and carrots
--a light soup, being the water which accompanied the same to render it
tender in stewing--some preserved cherries, and an omelette, with a pint
bottle of Beaune, 6me qualite, I believe--a species of pyroligneous wine
made from the vine stalks, but pleasant in summer with your salad; then
we played dominos in the evening, or whist for sous points, leading
altogether a very quiet and virtuous existence, or as Madame herself
expressed it, 'une vie tout-a-fait patriarchale;' of this I cannot myself
affirm how far she was right in supposing the patriarchs did exactly like
us. But to proceed, in the same establishment there lived a widow whose
late husband had been a wine merchant at Dijon--he had also, I suppose
from residing in that country, been imitating the patriarchs, for he died
one day. Well, the lady was delayed at Lyons for some law business, and
thus it came about, that her husband's testament and the sharp paving
stones in the streets determined we should be acquainted. I cannot
express to you the delight of my fair countrywoman at finding that a
person who spoke English had arrived at the 'pension'--a feeling I myself
somewhat participated in; for to say truth, I was not at that time a very
great proficient in French. We soon became intimate, in less time
probably than it could otherwise have happened, for from the ignorance of
all the others of one word of English, I was enabled during dinner to say
many soft and tender things, which one does not usually venture on in
"I recounted my travels, and told various adventures of my wanderings,
till at last, from being merely amused, I found that my fair friend began
to be interested in my narratives; and frequently when passing the
bouillon to her, I have seen a tear in the corner of her eye: in a word,
'she loved me for the dangers I had passed,' as Othello says. Well,
laugh away if you like, but it's truth I am telling you." At this part
of Mr. O'Leary's story we all found it impossible to withstand the
ludicrous mock heroic of his face and tone, and laughed loud and long.
When we at length became silent he resumed--"Before three weeks had
passed over, I had proposed and was accepted, just your own way, Mr.
Lorrequer, taking the ball at the hop, the very same way you did at
Cheltenham, the time the lady jilted you, and ran off with your friend
Mr. Waller; I read it all in the news, though I was then in Norway
fishing." Here there was another interruption by a laugh, not, however,
at Mr. O'Leary's expense. I gave him a most menacing look, while he
continued--"the settlements were soon drawn up, and consisted, like all
great diplomatic documents, of a series of 'gains and compensations;'
thus, she was not to taste any thing stronger than kirsch wasser, or
Nantz brandy; and I limited myself to a pound of short-cut weekly, and so
on: but to proceed, the lady being a good Catholic, insisted upon being
married by a priest of her own persuasion, before the performance of the
ceremony at the British embassy in Paris; to this I could offer no
objection, and we were accordingly united in the holy bonds the same
morning, after signing the law papers."
"Then, Mr. O'Leary, you are really a married man."
"That's the very point I'm coming to, ma'am; for I've consulted all the
jurists upon the subject, and they never can agree. But you shall hear.
I despatched a polite note to Bishop Luscombe, and made every arrangement
for the approaching ceremony, took a quartier in the Rue Helder, near the
Estaminet, and looked forward with anxiety for the day which was to make
my happy; for our marriage in Lyons was only a kind of betrothal. Now,
my fair friend had but one difficulty remaining, poor dear soul--I
refrain from mentioning her name for delicacy sake; but poor dear Mrs.
Ram could not bear the notion of our going up to Paris in the same
conveyance, for long as she had lived abroad, she had avoided every thing
French, even the language, so she proposed that I should go in the early
'Diligence,' which starts at four-o'clock in the morning, while she took
her departure at nine; thus I should be some hours sooner in Paris, and
ready to receive her on her arriving; besides sparing her bashfulness all
reproach of our travelling together. It was no use my telling her that
I always travelled on foot, and hated a 'Diligence;' she coolly replied
that at our time of life we could not spare the time necessary for a
pilgrimage to Jerusalem, for so she supposed the journey from Lyons to
Paris to be; so fearing lest any doubt might be thrown upon the ardour of
my attachment, I yielded at once, remembering at the moment what my poor
friend Tom Bing--Oh Lord, I'm at it again!"
"Sir, I did not hear."
"Nothing, ma'am, I was just going to observe, that ladies of a certain
time of life, and widows especially, like a lover that seems a little
ardent or so, all the better." Here Mrs. Bingham blushed, her daughter
bridled, and I nearly suffocated with shame and suppressed laughter.
"After a most tender farewell of my bride or wife, I don't know which,
I retired for the night with a mind vacillating between my hopes of
happiness and my fears for the result of a journey so foreign to all my
habits of travelling, and in which I could not but tremble at the many
casualties my habitual laziness and dislike to any hours but of my own
choosing might involve me in.
"I had scarcely lain down in bed, ere these thoughts took such possession
of me, that sleep for once in my life was out of the question; and then
the misery of getting up at four in the morning--putting on your clothes
by the flickering light of the porter's candle--getting your boots on the
wrong feet, and all that kind of annoyance--I am sure I fretted myself
into the feeling of a downright martyr before an hour was over. Well at
least, thought I, one thing is well done,--I have been quite right in
coming to sleep here at the Messagerie Hotel, where the diligence starts
from, or the chances are ten to one that I never should wake till the
time was past. Now, however, they are sure to call me; so I may sleep
tranquilly till then. Meanwhile I had forgotten to pack my trunk--my
papers, &c. laying all about the room in a state of considerable
confusion. I rose at once with all the despatch I could muster; this
took a long time to effect, and it was nearly two o'clock ere I finished,
and sat down to smoke a solitary pipe,--the last, as I supposed it might
be my lot to enjoy for heaven knows how long, Mrs. R. having expressed,
rather late in our intimacy I confess, strong opinions against tobacco
"When I had finished my little sac of the 'weed,' the clock struck three,
and I started to think how little time I was destined to have in bed.
In bed! why, said I, there is no use thinking of it now, for I shall
scarcely have lain down ere I shall be obliged to get up again. So
thinking, I set about dressing myself for the road; and by the time I had
enveloped myself in a pair of long Hungarian gaiters, and a kurtcha of
sheep's wool, with a brown bear-skin outside, with a Welsh wig, and a
pair of large dark glass goggles to defend the eyes from the snow, I was
not only perfectly impervious to all effects of the weather, but so
thoroughly defended from any influence of sight or sound, that a volcano
might be hissing and thundering within ten yards of me, without
attracting my slightest attention. Now, I thought, instead of remaining
here, I'll just step down to the coach, and get snugly in the diligence,
and having secured the corner of the coupe, resign myself to sleep with
the certainty of not being left behind, and, probably, too, be some miles
on my journey before awaking.
"I accordingly went down stairs, and to my surprise found, even at that
early hour, that many of the garcons of the house were stirring and
bustling about, getting all the luggage up in the huge wooden leviathan
that was to convey us on our road. There they stood, like bees around a
hive, clustering and buzzing, and all so engaged that with difficulty
could I get an answer to my question of, What diligence it was? 'La
diligence pour Paris, Monsieur.'
"'Ah, all right then,' said I; so watching an opportunity to do so
unobserved, for I supposed they might have laughed at me, I stepped
quietly into the coupe; and amid the creaking of cordage, and the
thumping of feet on the roof, fell as sound asleep as ever I did in my
life--these sounds coming to my muffled ears, soft as the echoes on the
Rhine. When it was that I awoke I cannot say; but as I rubbed my eyes
and yawned after a most refreshing sleep, I perceived that it was still
quite dark all around, and that the diligence was standing before the
door of some inn and not moving. Ah, thought I, this is the first stage;
how naturally one always wakes at the change of horses,--a kind of
instinct implanted by Providence, I suppose, to direct us to a little
refreshment on the road. With these pious feelings I let down the glass,
and called out to the garcon for a glass of brandy and a cigar. While he
was bringing them, I had time to look about, and perceived, to my very
great delight, that I had the whole coupe to myself. 'Are there any
passengers coming in here?' said I, as the waiter came forward with my
petit verre. 'I should think not, sir,' said the fellow with a leer.
'Then I shall have the whole coupe to myself?' said I. 'Monsieur need
have no fear of being disturbed; I can safely assure him that he will
have no one there for the next twenty-four hours.' This was really
pleasant intelligence; so I chucked him a ten sous piece, and closing up
the window as the morning was cold, once more lay back to sleep with a
success that has never failed me. It was to a bright blue cloudless sky,
and the sharp clear air of a fine day in winter, that I at length opened
my eyes. I pulled out my watch, and discovered it was exactly two
o'clock; I next lowered the glass and looked about me, and very much to
my surprise discovered that the diligence was not moving, but standing
very peaceably in a very crowded congregation of other similar and
dissimilar conveyances, all of which seemed, I thought, to labour under
some physical ailment, some wanting a box, others a body, &c., &c. and in
fact suggesting the idea of an infirmary for old and disabled carriages
of either sex, mails and others. 'Oh, I have it,' cried I, 'we are
arrived at Mt. Geran, and they are all at dinner, and from my being alone
in the coupe, they have forgotten to call me.' I immediately opened the
door and stepped out into the innyard, crowded with conducteurs, grooms,
and ostlers, who, I thought, looked rather surprised at seeing me emerge
from the diligence.
"'You did not know I was there,' said I, with a knowing wink at one of
them as I passed.
"'Assurement non,' said the fellow with a laugh, that was the signal for
all the others to join in it. 'Is the table d'hote over?' said I,
regardless of the mirth around me. 'Monsieur is just in time,' said the
waiter, who happened to pass with a soup-tureen in his hand. 'Have the
goodness to step this way.' I had barely time to remark the close
resemblance of the waiter to the fellow who presented me with my brandy
and cigar in the morning, when he ushered me into a large room with about
forty persons sitting at a long table, evidently waiting with impatience
for the 'Potage' to begin their dinner. Whether it was they enjoyed the
joke of having neglected to call me, or that they were laughing at my
travelling costume, I cannot say, but the moment I came in, I could
perceive a general titter run through the assembly. 'Not too late, after
all, gentlemen,' said I, marching gravely up the table.
"'Monsieur is in excellent time,' said the host, making room for me
beside his chair. Notwithstanding the incumbrance of my weighty
habiliments, I proceeded to do ample justice to the viands before me,
apologizing laughingly to the host, by pleading a traveller's appetite.
"'Then you have perhaps come far this morning,' said a gentleman
"'Yes,' said I, 'I have been on the road since four o'clock.'
"'And how are the roads?' said another. 'Very bad,' said I, 'the first
few stages from Lyons, afterwards much better.' This was said at a
venture, as I began to be ashamed of being always asleep before my
fellow-travellers. They did not seem, however, to understand me
perfectly; and one old fellow putting down his spectacles from his
forehead, leaned over and said: 'And where, may I ask, has Monsieur come
from this morning?'
"'From Lyons,' said I, with the proud air of a man who has done a stout
feat, and is not ashamed of the exploit.
"'From Lyons!' said one. 'From Lyons!' cried another. 'From Lyons!'
repeated a third.
"'Yes,' said I; 'what the devil is so strange in it; travelling is so
quick now-a-days, one thinks nothing of twenty leagues before dinner.'
"The infernal shout of laughing that followed my explanation is still in
my ears; from one end of the table to the other there was one continued
ha, ha, ha--from the greasy host to the little hunchbacked waiter, they
were all grinning away.
"'And how did Monsieur travel?' said the old gentleman, who seemed to
carry on the prosecution against me.
"'By the diligence, the "Aigle noir,"' said I, giving the name with some
pride, that I was not altogether ignorant of the conveyance.
"'The you should certainly not complain of the roads,' said the host
chuckling; 'for the only journey that diligence has made this day has
been from the street-door to the inn-yard; for as they found when the
luggage was nearly packed that the axle was almost broken through, they
wheeled it round to the court, and prepared another for the travellers.'
"'And where am I now?' said I.
"'In Lyons,' said twenty voices, half choked with laughter at my
"I was thunderstruck at the news at first; but as I proceeded with my
dinner, I joined in the mirth of the party, which certainly was not
diminished on my telling them the object of my intended journey.
"'I think, young man,' said the old fellow with the spectacles, 'that you
should take the occurrence as a warning of Providence that marriage will
not suit you.' I began to be of the same opinion;--but then there was
the jointure. To be sure, I was to give up tobacco; and perhaps I should
not be as free to ramble about as when en garcon. So taking all things
into consideration, I ordered in another bottle of burgundy, to drink
Mrs. Ram's health--got my passport vised for Barege--and set out for the
Pyrenees the same evening."
"And have you never heard any thing more of the lady?" said Mrs. Bingham.
"Oh, yes. She was faithful to the last; for I found out when at Rome
last winter that she had offered a reward for me in the newspapers, and
indeed had commenced a regular pursuit of me through the whole continent.
And to tell the real fact, I should not now fancy turning my steps
towards Paris, if I had not very tolerable information that she is in
full cry after me through the Wengen Alps, I having contrived a paragraph
in Galignani, to seduce her thither, and where, with the blessing of
Providence, if the snow set in early, she must pass the winter."
Nothing more worthy of recording occurred before our arrival at Meurice
on the third day of our journey. My friend O'Leary had, with his usual
good fortune, become indispensable to his new acquaintance, and it was
not altogether without some little lurking discontent that I perceived
how much less often my services were called in request since his having
joined our party; his information, notwithstanding its very scanty
extent, was continually relied upon, and his very imperfect French
everlastingly called into requisition to interpret a question for the
ladies. Yes, thought I, "Othello's occupation's gone;" one of two things
has certainly happened, either Mrs. Bingham and her daughter have noticed
my continued abstraction of mind, and have attributed it to the real
cause, the pre-occupation of my affections; or thinking, on the other
hand, that I am desperately in love with one or other of them, have
thought that a little show of preference to Mr. O'Leary may stimulate me
to a proposal at once. In either case I resolved to lose no time in
taking my leave, which there could be no difficulty in doing now, as the
ladies had reached their intended destination, and had numerous friends
in Paris to advise and assist them; besides that I had too long neglected
the real object of my trip, and should lose no time in finding out the
Callonbys, and at once learn what prospect of success awaited me in that
quarter. Leaving my fair friends then to refresh themselves after the
journey, and consigning Mr. O'Leary to the enjoyment of his meershaum,
through the aid of which he had rendered his apartment like a Dutch swamp
in autumn, the only portion of his own figure visible through the mist
being his short legs and heavy shoes.
On reaching the house in the Rue de la Paix, where the Callonbys had
resided, I learned that they were still at Baden, and were not expected
in Paris for some weeks; that Lord Kilkee had arrived that morning, and
was then dining at the Embassy, having left an invitation for me to dine
with him on the following day, if I happened to call. As I turned from
the door, uncertain whither to turn my steps, I walked on unconsciously
towards the Boulevard, and occupied as I was, thinking over all the
chances before me, did not perceive where I stood till the bright glare
of a large gas lamp over my head apprised me that I was at the door of
the well known Salon des Etrangers, at the corner of the Rue Richelieu;
carriages, citadines, and vigilantes were crowding, crashing, and
clattering on all sides, as the host of fashion and the gaming-table were
hastening to their champ de bataille. Not being a member of the Salon,
and having little disposition to enter, if I had been, I stood for some
minutes looking at the crowd as it continued to press on towards the
splendid and brilliantly lighted stairs, which leads from the very street
to the rooms of the palace, for such, in the magnificence and luxury of
its decorations, it really is. As I was on the very eve of turning
away, a large and very handsome cab-horse turned the corner from the
balustrade, with the most perfect appointment of harness and carriage
I had seen for a long time.
While I continued to admire the taste and propriety of the equipage, a
young man in deep mourning sprung from the inside and stood upon the
pavement before me. "A deux heures, Charles," said he to his servant,
as the cab turned slowly around. The voice struck me as well known. I
waited till he approached the lamp, to catch a glimpse of the face; and
what was my surprise to recognise my cousin, Guy Lorrequer of the 10th,
whom I had not met with for six years before. My first impulse was not
to make myself known to him. Our mutual position with regard to Lady
Jane was so much a mystery, as regarded myself, that I feared the result
of any meeting, until I was sufficiently aware of how matters stood, and
whether we were to meet as friends and relations, or rivals, and
Before I had time to take my resolution, Guy had recognised me, and
seizing me by the hand with both his, called, "Harry, my old friend, how
are you? how long have you been here, and never to call on me? Why man,
what is the meaning of this?" Before I had time to say that I was only a
few hours in Paris, he again interrupted me by saying: "And how comes it
that you are not in mourning? You must surely have heard it."
"Heard what?" I cried, nearly hoarse from agitation. "Our poor old
friend, Sir Guy, didn't you know, is dead." Only those who have felt how
strong the ties of kindred are, as they decrease in number, can tell how
this news fell upon my heart. All my poor uncle's kindnesses came one by
one full upon my memory; his affectionate letters of advice; his
well-meant chidings, too, even dearer to me than his praise and approval,
completely unmanned me; and I stood speechless and powerless before my
cousin as he continued to detail to me the rapid progress of Sir Guy's
malady, and attack of gout in the head, which carried him off in three
days. Letters had been sent to me in different places, but none reached;
and at the very moment the clerk of my uncle's lawyer was in pursuit of
me through the highlands, where some mistaken information had induced him
to follow me.
"You are, therefore," continued Guy, "unaware that our uncle has dealt so
fairly by you, and indeed by both of us; I have got the Somersetshire
estates, which go with the baronetcy; but the Cumberland property is all
yours; and I heartily wish you joy of having nearly eight thousand per
annum, and one of the sweetest villas that ever man fancied on
Derwentwater. But come along here," continued he, and he led me through
the crowded corridor and up the wide stair. "I have much to tell you,
and we can be perfectly alone here; no one will trouble themselves with
us." Unconscious of all around me, I followed Guy along the gilded and
glittering lobby, which led to the Salon, and it was only as the servant
in rich livery came forward to take my hat and cane that I remembered
where I was. Then the full sense of all I had been listening to rushed
upon me, and the unfitness, and indeed the indecency of the place for
such communications as we were engaged in, came most forcibly before me.
Sir Guy, it is true, had always preferred my cousin to me; he it was who
was always destined to succeed both to his title and his estates, and his
wildness and extravagance had ever met with a milder rebuke and weaker
chastisement than my follies and my misfortunes. Yet still he was my
last remaining relative; the only one I possessed in all the world to
whom in any difficulty or trial I had to look up; and I felt, in the very
midst of my newly acquired wealth and riches, poorer and more alone than
ever I had done in my lifetime. I followed Guy to a small and dimly
lighted cabinet off the great salon, where, having seated ourselves, he
proceeded to detail to me the various events which a few short weeks had
accomplished. Of himself he spoke but little, and never once alluded to
the Callonbys at all; indeed all I could learn was that he had left the
army, and purposed remaining for the winter at Paris, where he appeared
to have entered into all its gaiety and dissipation at once.
"Of course," said he, "you will give up 'sodgering' now; at the best it
is but poor sport after five and twenty, and is perfectly unendurable
when a man has the means of pushing himself in the gay world; and now,
Harry, let us mix a little among the mob here; for Messieurs les
Banquiers don't hold people in estimation who come here only for the
'chapons au riz.' and the champagne glacee, as we should seem to do were
we to stay here much longer."
Such was the whirl of my thoughts, and so great the confusion in my ideas
from all I had just heard, that I felt myself implicitly following every
direction of my cousin with a child-like obedience, of the full extent
of which I became only conscious when I found myself seated at the table
of the Salon, between my cousin Guy and an old, hard-visaged,
pale-countenanced man, who he told me in a whisper was Vilelle the
What a study for the man who would watch the passions and emotions of his
fellow-men, would the table of a rouge et noir gambling-house present
--the skill and dexterity which games of other kinds require, being here
wanting, leave the player free to the full abandonment of the passion.
The interest is not a gradually increasing or vacillating one, as fortune
and knowledge of the game favour; the result is uninfluenced by any thing
of his doing; with the last turned card of the croupier is he rich or
ruined; and thus in the very abstraction of the anxiety is this the most
painfully exciting of all gambling whatever; the very rattle of the
dice-box to the hazard player is a relief; and the thought that he is in
some way instrumental in his good or bad fortune gives a turn to his
thoughts. There is something so like the inevitable character of fate
associated with the result of a chance, which you can in no way affect
or avert, that I have, notwithstanding a strong bias for play, ever
dreaded and avoided the rouge et noir table; hitherto prudential motives
had their share in the resolve; a small loss at play becomes a matter of
importance to a sub in a marching regiment; and therefore I was firm in
my determination to avoid the gambling-table. Now my fortunes were
altered; and as I looked at the heap of shining louis d'or, which Guy
pushed before me in exchange for a billet de banque of large amount, I
felt the full importance of my altered position, mingling with the old
and long practised prejudices which years had been accumulating to fix.
There is besides some wonderful fascination to most men in the very
aspect of high play: to pit your fortune against that of another--to see
whether or not your luck shall not exceed some others--are feelings that
have a place in most bosoms, and are certainly, if not naturally
existing, most easily generated in the bustle and excitement of the
gambling-house. The splendour of the decorations; the rich profusion of
gilded ornaments; the large and gorgeously framed mirrors; the sparkling
lustres; mingling their effect with the perfumed air of the apartment,
filled with orange trees and other aromatic shrubs; the dress of the
company, among whom were many ladies in costumes not inferior to those
of a court; the glitter of diamonds; the sparkle of stars and
decorations, rendered more magical by knowing that the wearers were
names in history. There, with his round but ample shoulder, and large
massive head, covered with long snow-white hair, stands Talleyrand, the
maker and unmaker of kings, watching with a look of ill-concealed
anxiety the progress of his game. Here is Soult, with his dogged look
and beetled brow; there stands Balzac the author, his gains here are
less derived from the betting than the bettors; he is evidently making
his own of some of them, while in the seeming bon hommie of his careless
manners and easy abandon, they scruple not to trust him with anecdotes
and traits, that from the crucible of his fiery imagination come forth,
like the purified gold from the furnace. And there, look at that old and
weather-beaten man, with grey eyebrows, and moustaches, who throws from
the breast-pocket of his frock ever and anon, a handful of gold pieces
upon the table; he evidently neither knows nor cares for the amount, for
the banker himself is obliged to count over the stake for him--that is
Blucher, the never-wanting attendant at the Salon; he has been an
immense loser, but plays on with the same stern perseverance with which
he would pour his bold cavalry through a ravine torn by artillery; he
stands by the still waning chance with a courage that never falters.
One strong feature of the levelling character of a taste for play has
never ceased to impress me most forcibly--not only do the individual
peculiarities of the man give way before the all-absorbing passion--but
stranger still, the very boldest traits of nationality even fade and
disappear before it; and man seems, under the high-pressure power of this
greatest of all stimulants, resolved into a most abstract state.
Among all the traits which distinguish Frenchmen from natives of every
country, none is more prominent than a kind of never-failing elasticity
of temperament, which seems almost to defy all the power of misfortune to
depress. Let what will happen, the Frenchman seems to possess some
strong resource within himself, in his ardent temperament, upon which he
can draw at will; and whether on the day after a defeat, the moment of
being deceived in his strongest hopes of returned affection--the
overthrow of some long-cherished wish--it matters not--he never gives way
entirely; but see him at the gaming-table--watch the intense, the aching
anxiety with which his eye follows every card as it falls from the hand
of the croupier--behold the look of cold despair that tracks his stake as
the banker rakes it in among his gains--and you will at once perceive
that here, at least, his wonted powers fail him. No jest escapes the
lips of one, that would badinet upon the steps of the guillotine. The
mocker who would jeer at the torments of revolution, stands like a coward
quailing before the impassive eye and pale cheek of a croupier. While
I continued to occupy myself by observing the different groups about me,
I had been almost mechanically following the game, placing at each deal
some gold upon the table; the result however had interested me so
slightly, that it was only by remarking the attention my game had excited
in others, that my own was drawn towards it. I then perceived that I had
permitted my winnings to accumulate upon the board, and that in the very
deal then commencing, I had a stake of nearly five hundred pounds upon
"Faites votre jeu, le jeu est fait," said the croupier, "trente deux."
"You have lost, by Jove," said Guy, in a low whisper, in which I could
detect some trait of agitation.
"Trente et une," added the croupier. "Rouge perd, et couleur."
There was a regular buz of wonder through the room at my extraordinary
luck, for thus, with every chance against me, I had won again.
As the croupier placed the billets de banque upon the table, I overheard
the muttered commendations of an old veteran behind me, upon the coolness
and judgment of my play; so much for fortune, thought I, my judgment
consists in a perfect ignorance of the chances, and my coolness is merely
a thorough indifference to success; whether it was now that the flattery
had its effect upon me, or that the passion for play, so long dormant,
had suddenly seized hold upon me, I know not, but my attention became
from that moment rivetted upon the game, and I played every deal. Guy,
who had been from the first betting with the indifferent success which I
have so often observed to attend upon the calculations of old and
experienced gamblers, now gave up, and employed himself merely in
watching my game.
"Harry," said he at last, "I am completely puzzled as to whether you are
merely throwing down your louis at hazard, or are not the deepest player
I have ever met with."
"You shall see," said I, as I stooped over towards the banker, and
whispered, "how far is the betting permitted?"
"Fifteen thousand francs," said the croupier, with a look of surprise.
"Then be it," said I; "quinze mille francs, rouge."
In a moment the rouge won, and the second deal I repeated the bet, and so
continuing on with the like success; when I was preparing my rouleau for
the fifth, the banquier rose, and saying--
"Messiers, la banque est fermee pour ce soir," proceeded to lock his
casette, and close the table.
"You are satisfied now," said Guy, rising, "you see you have broke the
banque, and a very pretty incident to commence with your first
introduction to a campaign in Paris."
Having changed my gold for notes, I stuffed them, with an air of
well-affected carelessness, into my pocket, and strolled through the
Salon, where I had now become an object of considerably more interest
than all the marshals and ministers about me.
"Now, Hal," said Guy, "I'll just order our supper in the cabinet, and
join you in a moment."
As I remained for some minutes awaiting Guy's return, my attention was
drawn towards a crowd, in a smaller salon, among whom the usual silent
decorum of the play-table seemed held in but small respect, for every
instant some burst of hearty laughter, or some open expression of joy or
anger burst forth, by which I immediately perceived that they were the
votaries of the roulette table, a game at which the strict propriety and
etiquette ever maintained at rouge et noir, are never exacted. As I
pressed nearer, to discover the cause of the mirth, which every moment
seemed to augment, guess my surprise to perceive among the foremost rank
of the players, my acquaintance, Mr. O'Leary, whom I at that moment
believed to be solacing himself with his meershaum at Meurice. My
astonishment at how he obtained admission to the Salon was even less than
my fear of his recognising me. At no time is it agreeable to find that
the man who is regarded as the buffo of a party turns out to be your
friend, but still less is this so, when the individual claiming
acquaintance with you presents any striking absurdity in his dress or
manner, strongly at contrast with the persons and things about him; and
thus it now happened--Mr. O'Leary's external man, as we met him on the
Calais road, with its various accompaniments of blouse-cap, spectacles,
and tobacco-pipe, were nothing very outre or remarkable, but when the
same figure presented itself among the elegans of the Parisian world,
redolent of eau de Portugal, and superb in the glories of brocade
waistcoats and velvet coats, the thing was too absurd, and I longed to
steal away before any chance should present itself of a recognition.
This, however, was impossible, as the crowd from the other table were all
gathered round us, and I was obliged to stand fast, and trust that the
excitement of the game, in which he appeared to be thoroughly occupied,
might keep his eye fixed on another quarter; I now observed that the same
scene in which I had so lately been occupied at the rouge et noir table,
was enacting here, under rather different circumstances. Mr. O'Leary was
the only player, as I had just been--not, however, because his success
absorbed all the interest of the bystanders, but that, unfortunately, his
constant want of it elicited some strong expression of discontent and
mistrust from him, which excited the loud laughter of the others; but of
which, from his great anxiety in his game, he seemed totally unconscious.
"Faites votre jeu, Messieurs," said the croupier.
"Wait a bit till I change this," said Mr. O'Leary, producing an English
sovereign; the action interpreted his wishes, and the money was converted
into coupons de jeu.
I now discovered one great cause of the mirth of the bystanders, at least
the English portion of them. Mr. O'Leary, when placing his money upon
the table, observed the singular practice of announcing aloud the amount
of his bet, which, for his own information, he not only reduced to
English but also Irish currency; thus the stillness of the room was every
instant broken by a strong Irish accent pronouncing something of this
sort--"five francs," "four and a penny"--"ten francs," "eight and three
ha'pence." The amusement thus caused was increased by the excitement his
losses threw him into. He now ceased to play for several times, when at
last, he made an offering of his usual stake.
"Perd," said the croupier, raking in the piece with a contemptuous air
at the smallness of the bet, and in no way pleased that the interest
Mr. O'Leary excited should prevent the other players from betting.
"Perd," said O'Leary, "again. Divil another song you sing than 'perd,'
and I'm not quite clear you're not cheating all the while--only, God help
you if you are!"
As he so said, the head of a huge black-thorn stick was half protruded
across the table, causing renewed mirth; for, among other regulations,
every cane, however trifling, is always demanded at the door; and thus a
new subject of astonishment arose as to how he had succeeded in carrying
it with him into the salon.
"Here's at you again," said O'Leary, regardless of the laughter, and
covering three or four numbers with his jetons.
Round went the ball once more, and once more he lost.
"Look now, divil a lie in it, he makes them go wherever he pleases. I'll
take a turn now at the tables; fair play's a jewel--and we'll see how
you'll get on."
So saying, he proceeded to insinuate himself into the chair of the
croupier, whom he proposed to supersede by no very gentle means. This
was of course resisted, and as the loud mirth of the bystanders grew more
and more boisterous, the cries of "a la porte, a la porte," from the
friends of the bank, rung through the crowd.
"Go it, Pat--go it, Pat," said Guy, over my shoulder, who seemed to take
a prodigious interest in the proceedings.
At this unexpected recognition of his nativity, for Mr. O'Leary never
suspected he could be discovered by his accent; he looked across the
table, and caught my eye at once.
"Oh, I'm safe now! stand by me, Mr. Lorrequer, and we'll clear the room."
So saying, and without any further provocation, he upset the croupier,
chair and all, with one sudden jerk upon the floor, and giving a
tremendous kick to the casette, sent all the five-franc pieces flying
over him; he then jumped upon the table, and brandishing his black-thorn
through the ormolu lustre, scattered the wax-lights on all sides,
accompanying the exploit by a yell that would have called up all
Connemara at midnight, if it had only been heard there; in an instant,
the gens d'armes, always sufficiently near to be called in if required,
came pouring into the room, and supposing the whole affair had been a
preconcerted thing to obtain possession of the money in the bank,
commenced capturing different members of the company who appeared, by
enjoying the confusion, to be favouring and assisting it. My cousin Guy
was one of the first so treated--a proceeding to which he responded by an
appeal rather in favour with most Englishmen, and at once knocked down
the gen d'arme; this was the signal for a general engagement, and
accordingly, before an explanation could possibly be attempted, a most
terrific combat ensued. The Frenchmen in the room siding with the gen
d'armerie, and making common cause against the English; who, although
greatly inferior in number, possessed considerable advantage, from long
habit in street-rows and boxing encounters. As for myself, I had the
good fortune to be pitted against a very pursy and unwieldy Frenchman,
who sacre'd to admiration, but never put in a single blow at me; while,
therefore, I amused myself practising what old Cribb called "the one,
two," upon his fat carcase, I had abundant time and opportunity to watch
all that was doing about me, and truly a more ludicrous affair I never
beheld. Imagine about fifteen or sixteen young Englishmen, most of them
powerful, athletic fellows, driving an indiscriminate mob of about five
times their number before them, who, with courage enough to resist, were
yet so totally ignorant of the boxing art, that they retreated,
pell-mell, before the battering phalanx of their sturdy opponents--the
most ludicrous figure of all being Mr. O'Leary himself, who, standing
upon the table, laid about him with a brass lustre that he had unstrung,
and did considerable mischief with this novel instrument of warfare,
crying out the entire time, "murder every mother's son of them," "give
them another taste of Waterloo." Just as he had uttered the last
patriotic sentiment, he received a slight admonition from behind, by the
point of a gen d'arme's sword, which made him leap from the table with
the alacrity of a harlequin, and come plump down among the thickest of
the fray. My attention was now directed elsewhere, for above all the
din and "tapage" of the encounter I could plainly hear the row-dow-dow
of the drums, and the measured tread of troops approaching, and at once
guessed that a reinforcement of the gen d'armerie were coming up.
Behind me there was a large window, with a heavy scarlet curtain before
it; my resolution was at once taken, I floored my antagonist, whom I had
till now treated with the most merciful forbearance, and immediately
sprung behind the curtain. A second's consideration showed that in the
search that must ensue this would afford no refuge, so I at once opened
the sash, and endeavoured to ascertain at what height I was above the
ground beneath me; the night was so dark that I could see nothing, but
judging from the leaves and twigs that reached to the window, that it
was a garden beneath, and auguring from the perfumed smell of the
shrubs, that they could not be tall trees, I resolved to leap, a resolve
I had little time to come to, for the step of the soldiers was already
heard upon the stair. Fixing my hat then down upon my brows, and
buttoning my coat tightly, I let myself down from the window-stool by my
hands, and fell upon my legs in the soft earth of the garden, safe and
unhurt. From the increased clamour and din overhead, I could learn the
affray was at its height, and had little difficulty in detecting the
sonorous accent and wild threats of my friend Mr. O'Leary, high above
all the other sounds around him. I did not wait long, however, to enjoy
them; but at once set about securing my escape from my present bondage.
In this I had little difficulty, for I was directed by a light to a
small door, which, as I approached, found that it led into the den of
the Concierge, and also communicated by another door with the street. I
opened it, therefore, at once, and was in the act of opening the second,
when I felt myself seized by the collar by a strong hand; and on turning
round saw the sturdy figure of the Concierge himself, with a drawn