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Title: Parisians, the — Complete
Author: Lytton, Edward Bulwer Lytton, Baron, 1803-1873
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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THE PARISIANS

By Edward Bulwer-Lytton



PREFATORY NOTE.
(BY THE AUTHOR'S SON.)

"The Parisians" and "Kenelm Chillingly" were begun about the same time,
and had their common origin in the same central idea. That idea first
found fantastic expression in "The Coming Race;" and the three books,
taken together, constitute a special group, distinctly apart from all the
other works of their author.

The satire of his earlier novels is a protest against false social
respectabilities; the humour of his later ones is a protest against the
disrespect of social realities. By the first he sought to promote social
sincerity and the free play of personal character; by the last, to
encourage mutual charity and sympathy amongst all classes, on whose
interrelation depends the character of society itself. But in these three
books, his latest fictions, the moral purpose is more definite and
exclusive. Each of them is an expostulation against what seemed to him
the perilous popularity of certain social and political theories, or a
warning against the influence of certain intellectual tendencies upon
individual character and national life. This purpose, however, though
common to the three fictions, is worked out in each of them by a
different method. "The Coming Race" is a work of pure fancy, and the
satire of it is vague and sportive. The outlines of a definite purpose
are more distinctly drawn in "Chillingly,"--a romance which has the
source of its effect in a highly wrought imagination. The humour and
pathos of "Chillingly" are of a kind incompatible with the design of "The
Parisians," which is a work of dramatized observation. "Chillingly" is a
romance; "The Parisians" is a novel. The subject of "Chillingly" is
psychological; that of "The Parisians" is social. The author's object in
"Chillingly" being to illustrate the effects of "modern ideas" upon an
individual character, he has confined his narrative to the biography of
that one character; hence the simplicity of plot and small number of
dramatis personae, whereby the work gains in height and depth what it
loses in breadth of surface. "The Parisians," on the contrary, is
designed to illustrate the effect of "modern ideas" upon a whole
community. This novel is therefore panoramic in the profusion and variety
of figures presented by it to the reader's imagination. No exclusive
prominence is vouchsafed to any of these figures. All of them are drawn
and coloured with an equal care, but by means of the bold, broad touches
necessary for their effective presentation on a canvas so large and so
crowded. Such figures are, indeed, but the component features of one
great form, and their actions only so many modes of one collective
impersonal character,--that of the Parisian Society of Imperial and
Democratic France; a character everywhere present and busy throughout the
story, of which it is the real hero or heroine. This society was
doubtless selected for characteristic illustration as being the most
advanced in the progress of "modern ideas." Thus, for a complete
perception of its writer's fundamental purpose, "The Parisians" should be
read in connection with "Chillingly," and these two books in connection
with "The Coming Race." It will then be perceived that through the medium
of alternate fancy, sentiment, and observation, assisted by humour and
passion, these three books (in all other respects so different from each
other) complete the presentation of the same purpose under different
aspects, and thereby constitute a group of fictions which claims a
separate place of its own in any thoughtful classification of their
author's works.

One last word to those who will miss from these pages the connecting and
completing touches of the master's hand. It may be hoped that such a
disadvantage, though irreparable, is somewhat mitigated by the essential
character of the work itself. The aesthetic merit of this kind of novel
of character; and in such strokes, if they be by a great artist, force
and freedom of style must still be apparent, even when they are left
rough and unfinished. Nor can any lack of final verbal correction much
diminish the intellectual value which many of the more thoughtful
passages of the present work derive from a long, keen, and practical
study of political phenomena, guided by personal experience of public
life, and enlightened by a large, instinctive knowledge of the human
heart.

Such a belief is, at least, encouraged by the private communications
spontaneously made to him who expresses it, by persons of political
experience and social position in France, who have acknowledged the
general accuracy of the author's descriptions, and noticed the suggestive
sagacity and penetration of his occasional comments on the circumstances
and sentiments he describes.



INTRODUCTORY CHAPTER.

They who chance to have read the "Coming Race" may perhaps remember that
I, the adventurous discoverer of the land without a sun, concluded the
sketch of my adventures by a brief reference to the malady which, though
giving no perceptible notice of its encroachments, might, in the opinion
of my medical attendant, prove suddenly fatal.

I had brought my little book to this somewhat melancholy close a few
years before the date of its publication, and in the meanwhile I was
induced to transfer my residence to Paris, in order to place myself under
the care of an English physician, renowned for his successful treatment
of complaints analogous to my own.

I was the more readily persuaded to undertake this journey,--partly
because I enjoyed a familiar acquaintance with the eminent physician
referred to, who had commenced his career and founded his reputation in
the United States; partly because I had become a solitary man, the ties
of home broken, and dear friends of mine were domiciled in Paris, with
whom I should be sure of tender sympathy and cheerful companionship. I
had reason to be thankful for this change of residence: the skill of Dr.
C______ soon restored me to health. Brought much into contact with various
circles of Parisian society, I became acquainted with the persons and a
witness of the events that form the substance of the tale I am about to
submit to the public, which has treated my former book with so generous
an indulgence. Sensitively tenacious of that character for strict and
unalloyed veracity which, I flatter myself, my account of the abodes and
manners of the Vril-ya has established, I could have wished to preserve
the following narrative no less jealously guarded than its predecessor
from the vagaries of fancy. But Truth undisguised, never welcome in any
civilized community above ground, is exposed at this time to especial
dangers in Paris; and my life would not be worth an hour's purchase if I
exhibited her 'in puris naturalibus' to the eyes of a people wholly
unfamiliarized to a spectacle so indecorous. That care for one's personal
safety which is the first duty of thoughtful man compels me therefore to
reconcile the appearance of 'la Verite' to the 'bienseances' of the
polished society in which 'la Liberte' admits no opinion not dressed
after the last fashion.

Attired as fiction, Truth may be peacefully received; and, despite the
necessity thus imposed by prudence, I indulge the modest hope that I do
not in these pages unfaithfully represent certain prominent types of the
brilliant population which has invented so many varieties of Koom-Posh;

   [Koom-Posh, Glek-Nas. For the derivation of these terms and their
   metaphorical signification, I must refer the reader to the "Coming
   Race," chapter xii., on the language of the Vril-ya. To those who
   have not read or have forgotten that historical composition, it may
   be convenient to state briefly that Koom-Posh with the Vril-ya is
   the name for the government of the many, or the ascendency of the
   most ignorant or hollow, and may be loosely rendered Hollow-Bosh.
   When Koom-Posh degenerates from popular ignorance into the popular
   ferocity which precedes its decease, the name for that state of
   things is Glek-Nas; namely, the universal strife-rot.]

and even when it appears hopelessly lost in the slough of a Glek-Nas,
re-emerges fresh and lively as if from an invigorating plunge into the
Fountain of Youth. O Paris, 'foyer des idees, et oeil du
monde!'--animated contrast to the serene tranquillity of the Vril-ya,
which, nevertheless, thy noisiest philosophers ever pretend to make the
goal of their desires: of all communities on which shines the sun and
descend the rains of heaven, fertilizing alike wisdom and folly, virtue
and vice; in every city men have yet built on this earth,--mayest thou, O
Paris, be the last to brave the wands of the Coming Race and be reduced
into cinders for the sake of the common good!

                            TISH.

PARIS, August 28, 1872.



THE PARISIANS.
BOOK I.



CHAPTER I.

It was a bright day in the early spring of 1869. All Paris seemed to have
turned out to enjoy itself. The Tuileries, the Champs Elysees, the Bois
de Boulogne, swarmed with idlers. A stranger might have wondered where
Toil was at work, and in what nook Poverty lurked concealed. A
millionaire from the London Exchange, as he looked round on the magasins,
the equipages, the dresses of the women; as he inquired the prices in the
shops and the rent of apartments,--might have asked himself, in envious
wonder, How on earth do those gay Parisians live? What is their fortune?
Where does it come from?

As the day declined, many of the scattered loungers crowded into the
Boulevards; the cafes and restaurants began to light up.

About this time a young man, who might be some five or six and twenty,
was walking along the Boulevard des Italiens, heeding little the throng
through which he glided his solitary way: there was that in his aspect
and bearing which caught attention. He looked a somebody; but though
unmistakably a Frenchman, not a Parisian. His dress was not in the
prevailing mode: to a practised eye it betrayed the taste and the cut of
a provincial tailor. His gait was not that of the Parisian,--less
lounging, more stately; and, unlike the Parisian, he seemed indifferent
to the gaze of others.

Nevertheless there was about him that air of dignity or distinction which
those who are reared from their cradle in the pride of birth acquire so
unconsciously that it seems hereditary and inborn. It must also be
confessed that the young man himself was endowed with a considerable
share of that nobility which Nature capriciously distributes among her
favourites with little respect for their pedigree and blazon, the
nobility of form and face. He was tall and well shaped, with graceful
length of limb and fall of shoulders; his face was handsome, of the
purest type of French masculine beauty,--the nose inclined to be
aquiline, and delicately thin, with finely-cut open nostrils; the
complexion clear,--the eyes large, of a light hazel, with dark
lashes,--the hair of a chestnut brown, with no tint of auburn,--the beard
and mustache a shade darker, clipped short, not disguising the outline of
lips, which were now compressed, as if smiles had of late been unfamiliar
to them; yet such compression did not seem in harmony with the
physiognomical character of their formation, which was that assigned by
Lavater to temperaments easily moved to gayety and pleasure.

Another man, about his own age, coming quickly out of one of the streets
of the Chausee d'Antin, brushed close by the stately pedestrian above
described, caught sight of his countenance, stopped short, and exclaimed,
"Alain!" The person thus abruptly accosted turned his eye tranquilly on
the eager face, of which all the lower part was enveloped in black beard;
and slightly lifting his hat, with a gesture of the head that implied,
"Sir, you are mistaken; I have not the honour to know you," continued his
slow indifferent way. The would-be acquaintance was not so easily
rebuffed. "Peste," he said, between his teeth, "I am certainly right. He
is not much altered: of course I AM; ten years of Paris would improve an
orang-outang." Quickening his step, and regaining the side of the man he
had called "Alain," he said, with a well-bred mixture of boldness and
courtesy in his tone and countenance,

"Ten thousand pardons if I am wrong. Put surely I accost Alain de
Kerouec, son of the Marquis de Rochebriant."

"True, sir; but--"

"But you do not remember me, your old college friend, Frederic
Lemercier?"

"Is it possibly?" cried Alain, cordially, and with an animation which
charged the whole character of his countenance. "My dear Frederic, my
dear friend, this is indeed good fortune! So you, too, are at Paris?"

"Of course; and you? Just come, I perceive," he added, somewhat
satirically, as, linking his arm in his new-found friend's, he glanced at
the cut of that friend's coat-collar.

"I have been herd a fortnight," replied Alain.

"Hem! I suppose you lodge in the old Hotel de Rochebriant. I passed it
yesterday, admiring its vast facade, little thinking you were its
inmate."

"Neither am I; the hotel does not belong to me; it was sold some years
ago by my father."

"Indeed! I hope your father got a good price for it; those grand hotels
have trebled their value within the last five years. And how is your
father? Still the same polished grand seigneur? I never saw him but once,
you know; and I shall never forget his smile, style grand monarque, when
he patted me on the head and tipped me ten napoleons."

"My father is no more," said Alain, gravely; "he has been dead nearly
three years."

"Ciel! forgive me; I am greatly shocked. Hem! so you are now the Marquis
de Rochebriant, a great historical name, worth a large sum in the market.
Few such names left. Superb place your old chateau, is it not?"

"A superb place, no--a venerable ruin, yes!"

"Ah, a ruin! so much the better. All the bankers are mad after ruins: so
charming an amusement to restore them. You will restore yours, without
doubt. I will introduce you to such an architect! has the 'moyen age' at
his fingers' ends. Dear,--but a genius."

The young Marquis smiled,--for since he had found a college friend, his
face showed that it could smile,--smiled, but not cheerfully, and
answered,

"I have no intention to restore Rochebriant. The walls are solid: they
have weathered the storms of six centuries, they will last my time, and
with me the race perishes."

"Bah! the race perish, indeed! you will marry. 'Parlez moi de ca': you
could not come to a better man. I have a list of all the heiresses at
Paris, bound in russia leather. You may take your choice out of twenty.
Ah, if I were but a Rochebriant! It is an infernal thing to come into the
world a Lemercier. I am a democrat, of course. A Lemercier would be in a
false position if he were not. But if any one would leave me twenty acres
of land, with some antique right to the De and a title, faith, would not
I be an aristocrat, and stand up for my order? But now we have met, pray
let us dine together. Ah! no doubt you are engaged every day for a month.
A Rochebriant just new to Paris must be 'fete' by all the Faubourg."

"No," answered Alain, simply, "I am not engaged; my range of acquaintance
is more circumscribed than you suppose."

"So much the better for me. I am luckily disengaged today, which is not
often the case, for I am in some request in my own set, though it is not
that of the Faubourg. Where shall we dine?--at the Trois Freres?"

"Wherever you please. I know no restaurant at Paris, except a very
ignoble one, close by my lodging."

"'Apropos', where do you lodge?"

"Rue de l'Universite, Numero --."

"A fine street, but 'triste'. If you have no longer your family hotel,
you have no excuse to linger in that museum of mummies, the Faubourg St.
Germain; you must go into one of the new quarters by the Champs Elysees.
Leave it to me; I'll find you a charming apartment. I know one to be had
a bargain,--a bagatelle,--five hundred naps a-year. Cost you about two or
three thousand more to furnish tolerably, not showily. Leave all to me.
In three days you shall be settled. Apropos! horses! You must have
English ones. How many?--three for the saddle, two for your 'coupe'? I'll
find them for you. I will write to London to-morrow: Reese [Rice] is your
man."

"Spare yourself that trouble, my dear Frederic. I keep no horses and no
coupe. I shall not change my apartment." As he said this, Rochebriant
drew himself up somewhat haughtily.

"Faith," thought Lemercier, "is it possible that the Marquis is poor? No.
I have always heard that the Rochebriants were among the greatest
proprietors in Bretagne. Most likely, with all his innocence of the
Faubourg St. Germain, he knows enough of it to be aware that I, Frederic
Lemercier, am not the man to patronize one of its greatest nobles. 'Sacre
bleu!' if I thought that; if he meant to give himself airs to me, his old
college friend,--I would--I would call him out."

Just as M. Lemercier had come to that bellicose resolution, the Marquis
said, with a smile which, though frank, was not without a certain grave
melancholy in its expression, "My dear Frederic, pardon me if I seem to
receive your friendly offers ungraciously. But I believe that I have.
reasons you will approve for leading at Paris a life which you certainly
will not envy;" then, evidently desirous to change the subject, he said
in a livelier tone, "But what a marvellous city this Paris of ours is!
Remember I had never seen it before: it burst on me like a city in the
Arabian Nights two weeks ago. And that which strikes me most--I say it
with regret and a pang of conscience--is certainly not the Paris of
former times, but that Paris which M. Buonaparte--I beg pardon, which the
Emperor--has called up around him, and identified forever with his reign.
It is what is new in Paris that strikes and enthrals me. Here I see the
life of France, and I belong to her tombs!"

"I don't quite understand you," said Lemercier. "If you think that
because your father and grandfather were Legitimists, you have not the
fair field of living ambition open to you under the Empire, you never
were more mistaken. 'Moyen age,' and even rococo, are all the rage. You
have no idea how valuable your name would be either at the Imperial Court
or in a Commercial Company. But with your fortune you are independent of
all but fashion and the Jockey Club.

"And 'apropos' of that, pardon me,--what villain made your coat?--let me
know; I will denounce him to the police." Half amused, half amazed, Alain
Marquis de Rochebriant looked at Frederic Lemercier much as a
good-tempered lion may look upon a lively poodle who takes a liberty with
his mane, and after a pause he replied curtly, "The clothes I wear at
Paris were made in Bretagne; and if the name of Rochebriant be of any
value at all in Paris, which I doubt, let me trust that it will make me
acknowledged as 'gentilhomme,' whatever my taste in a coat or whatever
the doctrines of a club composed--of jockeys."

"Ha, ha!" cried Lemercier, freeing himself from the arm of his friend,
and laughing the more irresistibly as he encountered the grave look of
the Marquis. "Pardon me,--I can't help it,--the Jockey Club,--composed of
jockeys!--it is too much!--the best joke. My dear, Alain, there is some
of the best blood of Europe in the Jockey Club; they would exclude a
plain bourgeois like me. But it is all the same: in one respect you are
quite right. Walk in a blouse if you please: you are still Rochebriant;
you would only be called eccentric. Alas! I am obliged to send to London
for my pantaloons: that comes of being a Lemercier. But here we are in
the Palais Royal."



CHAPTER II.

The salons of the Trois Freres were crowded; our friends found a table
with some little difficulty. Lemercier proposed a private cabinet, which,
for some reason known to himself, the Marquis declined.

Lemercier spontaneously and unrequested ordered the dinner and the wines.

While waiting for their oysters, with which, when in season, French
'bon-vivants' usually commence their dinner, Lemercier looked round the
salon with that air of inimitable, scrutinizing, superb impertinence
which distinguishes the Parisian dandy. Some of the ladies returned his
glance coquettishly, for Lemercier was 'beau garcon;' others turned aside
indignantly, and muttered something to the gentlemen dining with them.
The said gentlemen, when old, shook their heads, and continued to eat
unmoved; when young, turned briskly round, and looked at first fiercely
at M. Lemercier, but, encountering his eye through the glass which he had
screwed into his socket, noticing the hardihood of his countenance and
the squareness of his shoulders, even they turned back to the tables,
shook their heads, and continued to eat unmoved, just like the old ones.

"Ah!" cried Lemercier, suddenly, "here comes a man you should know, 'mon
cher.' He will tell you how to place your money,--a rising man, a coming
man, a future minister. Ah! 'bon jour,' Duplessis, 'bon jour,'" kissing
his hand to a gentleman who had just entered and was looking about him
for a seat. He was evidently well and favourably known at the Trois
Freres. The waiters had flocked round him, and were pointing to a table
by the window, which a saturnine Englishman, who had dined off a
beefsteak and potatoes, was about to vacate.

M. Duplessis, having first assured himself, like a prudent man, that his
table was secure, having ordered his oysters, his chablis, and his
'potage a la bisque,' now paced calmly and slowly across the salon, and
halted before Lemercier.

Here let me pause for a moment, and give the reader a rapid sketch of the
two Parisians.

Frederic Lemercier is dressed, somewhat too showily, in the extreme of
the prevalent fashion. He wears a superb pin in his cravat,--a pin worth
two thousand francs; he wears rings on his fingers, 'breloques' to his
watch-chain. He has a warm though dark complexion, thick black eyebrows,
full lips, a nose somewhat turned up, but not small, very fine large dark
eyes, a bold, open, somewhat impertinent expression of countenance;
withal decidedly handsome, thanks to colouring, youth, and vivacity of
regard.

Lucien Duplessis, bending over the table, glancing first with curiosity
at the Marquis de Rochebriant, who leans his cheek on his hand and seems
not to notice him, then concentrating his attention on Frederic
Lemercier, who sits square with his hands clasped,--Lucien Duplessis is
somewhere between forty and fifty, rather below the middle height,
slender, but not slight,--what in English phrase is called "wiry." He is
dressed with extreme simplicity: black frockcoat buttoned up; black
cravat worn higher than men who follow the fashions wear their neckcloths
nowadays; a hawk's eye and a hawk's beak; hair of a dull brown, very
short, and wholly without curl; his cheeks thin and smoothly shaven, but
he wears a mustache and imperial, plagiarized from those of his
sovereign, and, like all plagiarisms, carrying the borrowed beauty to
extremes, so that the points of mustache and imperial, stiffened and
sharpened by cosmetics which must have been composed of iron, looked like
three long stings guarding lip and jaw from invasion; a pale olive-brown
complexion, eyes small, deep-sunk, calm, piercing; his expression of face
at first glance not striking, except for quiet immovability. Observed
more heedfully, the expression was keenly intellectual,--determined about
the lips, calculating about the brows: altogether the face of no ordinary
man, and one not, perhaps, without fine and high qualities, concealed
from the general gaze by habitual reserve, but justifying the confidence
of those whom he admitted into his intimacy.

"Ah, mon cher," said Lemercier, "you promised to call on me yesterday at
two o'clock. I waited in for you half an hour; you never came."

"No; I went first to the Bourse. The shares in that Company we spoke of
have fallen; they will fall much lower: foolish to buy in yet; so the
object of my calling on you was over. I took it for granted you would not
wait if I failed my appointment. Do you go to the opera to-night?"

"I think not; nothing worth going for: besides, I have found an old
friend, to whom I consecrate this evening. Let me introduce you to the
Marquis de Rochebriant. Alain, M. Duplessis."

The two gentlemen bowed.

"I had the honour to be known to Monsieur your father," said Duplessis.

"Indeed," returned Rochebriant. "He had not visited Paris for many years
before he died."

"It was in London I met him, at the house of the Russian Princess C____."

The Marquis coloured high, inclined his head gravely, and made no reply.
Here the waiter brought the oysters and the chablis, and Duplessis
retired to his own table.

"That is the most extraordinary man," said Frederic, as he squeezed the
lemon over his oysters, "and very much to be admired."

"How so? I see nothing at least to admire in his face," said the Marquis,
with the bluntness of a provincial.

"His face. Ah! you are a Legitimist,--party prejudice. He dresses his
face after the Emperor; in itself a very clever face, surely."

"Perhaps, but not an amiable one. He looks like a bird of prey."

"All clever men are birds of prey. The eagles are the heroes, and the
owls the sages. Duplessis is not an eagle nor an owl. I should rather
call him a falcon, except that I would not attempt to hoodwink him."

"Call him what you will," said the Marquis, indifferently; "M. Duplessis
can be nothing to me."

"I am not so sure of that," answered Frederic, somewhat nettled by the
phlegm with which the Provincial regarded the pretensions of the
Parisian. "Duplessis, I repeat it, is an extraordinary man. Though
untitled, he descends from your old aristocracy; in fact, I believe, as
his name shows, from the same stem as the Richelieus. His father was a
great scholar, and I believe he has read much himself. Might have
distinguished himself in literature or at the bar, but his parents died
fearfully poor; and some distant relations in commerce took charge of
him, and devoted his talents to the 'Bourse.' Seven years ago he lived in
a single chamber, 'au quatrieme,' near the Luxembourg. He has now a
hotel, not large but charming, in the Champs Elysees, worth at least six
hundred thousand francs. Nor has he made his own fortune alone, but that
of many others; some of birth as high as your own. He has the genius of
riches, and knocks off a million as a poet does an ode, by the force of
inspiration. He is hand-in-glove with the Ministers, and has been invited
to Compiegne by the Emperor. You will find him very useful."

Alain made a slight movement of incredulous dissent, and changed the
conversation to reminiscences of old school-boy days.

The dinner at length came to a close. Frederic rang for the
bill,--glanced over it. "Fifty-nine francs," said he, carelessly flinging
down his napoleon and a half. The Marquis silently drew forth his purse
and extracted the same sum. When they were out of the restaurant,
Frederic proposed adjourning to his own rooms. "I can promise you an
excellent cigar, one of a box given to me by an invaluable young Spaniard
attached to the Embassy here. Such cigars are not to be had at Paris for
money, nor even for love; seeing that women, however devoted and
generous, never offer you anything better than a cigarette. Such cigars
are only to be had for friendship. Friendship is a jewel."

"I never smoke," answered the Marquis, "but I shall be charmed to come to
your rooms; only don't let me encroach on your good-nature. Doubtless you
have engagements for the evening."

"None till eleven o'clock, when I have promised to go to a soiree to
which I do not offer to take you; for it is one of those Bohemian
entertainments at which it would do you harm in the Faubourg to
assist,--at least until you have made good your position. Let me see, is
not the Duchesse de Tarascon a relation of yours?"

"Yes; my poor mother's first cousin."

"I congratulate you. 'Tres grande dame.' She will launch you in 'puro
cielo,' as Juno might have launched one of her young peacocks."

"There has been no acquaintance between our houses," returned the
Marquis, dryly, "since the mesalliance of her second nuptials."

"Mesalliance! second nuptials! Her second husband was the Duc de
Tarascon."

"A duke of the First Empire, the grandson of a butcher."

"Diable! you are a severe genealogist, Monsieur le Marquis. How can you
consent to walk arm-in-arm with me, whose great-grandfather supplied
bread to the same army to which the Due de Tarascon's grandfather
furnished the meat?"

"My dear Frederic, we two have an equal pedigree, for our friendship
dates from the same hour. I do not blame the Duchesse de Tarascon for
marrying the grandson of a butcher, but for marrying the son of a man
made duke by a usurper. She abandoned the faith of her house and the
cause of her sovereign. Therefore her marriage is a blot on our
scutcheon."

Frederic raised his eyebrows, but had the tact to pursue the subject no
further. He who interferes in the quarrels of relations must pass through
life without a friend.

The young men now arrived at Lemercier's apartment, an entresol looking
on the Boulevard des Italiens, consisting of more rooms than a bachelor
generally requires; low-pitched, indeed, but of good dimensions, and
decorated and furnished with a luxury which really astonished the
provincial, though, with the high-bred pride of an oriental, he
suppressed every sign of surprise.

Florentine cabinets, freshly retouched by the exquisite skill of Mombro;
costly specimens of old Sevres and Limoges; pictures and bronzes and
marble statuettes,--all well chosen and of great price, reflected from
mirrors in Venetian frames,--made a 'coup d'oeil' very favourable to that
respect which the human mind pays to the evidences of money. Nor was
comfort less studied than splendour. Thick carpets covered the floors,
doubled and quilted portieres excluded all draughts from chinks in the
doors. Having allowed his friend a few minutes to contemplate and admire
the 'salle a manger' and 'salon' which constituted his more state
apartments, Frederic then conducted him into a small cabinet, fitted up
with scarlet cloth and gold fringes, whereon were artistically arranged
trophies of Eastern weapons and Turkish pipes with amber mouthpieces.

There, placing the Marquis at ease on a divan and flinging himself on
another, the Parisian exquisite ordered a valet, well dressed as himself,
to bring coffee and liqueurs; and after vainly pressing one of his
matchless cigars on his friend, indulged in his own Regalia.

"They are ten years old," said Frederic, with a tone of compassion at
Alain's self-inflicted loss,--"ten years old. Born therefore about the
year in which we two parted--"

"When you were so hastily summoned from college," said the Marquis, "by
the news of your father's illness. We expected you back in vain. Have you
been at Paris ever since?"

"Ever since; my poor father died of that illness. His fortune proved much
larger than was suspected: my share amounted to an income from
investments in stocks, houses, etc., to upwards of sixty thousand francs
a-year; and as I wanted six years to my majority of course the capital on
attaining my majority would be increased by accumulation. My mother
desired to keep me near her; my uncle, who was joint guardian with her,
looked with disdain on our poor little provincial cottage; so promising
an heir should acquire his finishing education under masters at Paris.
Long before I was of age, I was initiated into politer mysteries of our
capital than those celebrated by Eugene Sue. When I took possession of my
fortune five years ago, I was considered a Croesus; and really for that
patriarchal time I was wealthy. Now, alas! my accumulations have vanished
in my outfit; and sixty thousand francs a-year is the least a Parisian
can live upon. It is not only that all prices have fabulously increased,
but that the dearer things become, the better people live. When I first
came out, the world speculated upon me; now, in order to keep my
standing, I am forced to speculate on the world. Hitherto I have not
lost; Duplessis let me into a few good things this year, worth one
hundred thousand francs or so. Croesus consulted the Delphic Oracle.
Duplessis was not alive in the time of Croesus, or Croesus would have
consulted Duplessis."

Here there was a ring at the outer door of the apartment, and in another
minute the valet ushered in a gentleman somewhere about the age of
thirty, of prepossessing countenance, and with the indefinable air of
good-breeding and 'usage du monde.' Frederic started up to greet
cordially the new-comer, and introduced him to the Marquis under the name
of "Sare Grarm Varn."

"Decidedly," said the visitor, as he took off his paletot and seated
himself beside the Marquis,--"decidedly, my dear Lemercier," said he, in
very correct French, and with the true Parisian accent and intonation,
"you Frenchmen merit that praise for polished ignorance of the language
of barbarians which a distinguished historian bestows on the ancient
Romans. Permit me, Marquis, to submit to you the consideration whether
Grarm Varn is a fair rendering of my name as truthfully printed on this
card."

The inscription on the card, thus drawn from its case and placed in
Alain's hand, was--

             MR. GRAHAM VANE,

               No. __ Rue d'Anjou.

The Marquis gazed at it as he might on a hieroglyphic, and passed it on
to Lemercier in discreet silence.

That gentleman made another attempt at the barbarian appellation.

"'Grar--ham Varne.' 'C'est ca!' I triumph! all difficulties yield to
French energy."

Here the coffee and liqueurs were served; and after a short pause the
Englishman, who had very quietly been observing the silent Marquis,
turned to him and said, "Monsieur le Marquis, I presume it was your
father whom I remember as an acquaintance of my own father at Ems. It is
many years ago; I was but a child. The Count de Chambord was then at that
enervating little spa for the benefit of the Countess's health. If our
friend Lemercier does not mangle your name as he does mine, I understand
him to say that you are the Marquis de Rochebriant."

"That is my name: it pleases me to hear that my father was among those
who flocked to Ems to do homage to the royal personage who deigns to
assume the title of Count de Chambord."

"My own ancestors clung to the descendants of James II. till their claims
were buried in the grave of the last Stuart, and I honour the gallant men
who, like your father, revere in an exile the heir to their ancient
kings."

The Englishman said this with grace and feeling; the Marquis's heart
warmed to him at once.

"The first loyal 'gentilhome' I have met at Paris," thought the
Legitimist; "and, oh, shame! not a Frenchman!" Graham Vane, now
stretching himself and accepting the cigar which Lemercier offered him,
said to that gentleman "You who know your Paris by heart--everybody and
everything therein worth the knowing, with many bodies and many things
that are not worth it--can you inform me who and what is a certain lady
who every fine day may be seen walking in a quiet spot at the outskirts
of the Bois de Boulogne, not far from the Baron de Rothschild's villa?
The said lady arrives at this selected spot in a dark-blue coupe without
armorial bearings, punctually at the hour of three. She wears always the
same dress,--a kind of gray pearl-coloured silk, with a 'cachemire'
shawl. In age she may be somewhat about twenty--a year or so more or
less--and has a face as haunting as a Medusa's; not, however, a face to
turn a man into a stone, but rather of the two turn a stone into a man. A
clear paleness, with a bloom like an alabaster lamp with the light
flashing through. I borrow that illustration from Sare Scott, who applied
it to Milor Bee-ren."

"I have not seen the lady you describe," answered Lemercier, feeling
humiliated by the avowal; "in fact, I have not been in that sequestered
part of the Bois for months; but I will go to-morrow: three o'clock you
say,--leave it to me; to-morrow evening, if she is a Parisienne, you
shall know all about her. But, mon cher, you are not of a jealous
temperament to confide your discovery to another."

"Yes, I am of a very jealous temperament," replied the Englishman; "but
jealousy comes after love, and not before it. I am not in love; I am only
haunted. To-morrow evening, then, shall we dine at Philippe's, seven
o'clock?"

"With all my heart," said Lemercier; "and you too, Alain?"

"Thank you, no," said the Marquis, briefly; and he rose, drew on his
gloves, and took up his hat.

At these signals of departure, the Englishman, who did not want tact nor
delicacy, thought that he had made himself 'de trop' in the 'tete-a-tete'
of two friends of the same age and nation; and, catching up his paletot,
said hastily, "No, Marquis, do not go yet, and leave our host in
solitude; for I have an engagement which presses, and only looked in at
Lemercier's for a moment, seeing the light at his windows. Permit me to
hope that our acquaintance will not drop, and inform me where I may have
the honour to call on you."

"Nay," said the Marquis; "I claim the right of a native to pay my
respects first to the foreigner who visits our capital, and," he added in
a lower tone, "who speaks so nobly of those who revere its exiles."

The Englishman saluted, and walked slowly towards the door; but on
reaching the threshold turned back and made a sign to Lemercier,
unperceived by Alain.

Frederic understood the sign, and followed Graham Vane into the adjoining
room, closing the door as he passed.

"My dear Lemercier, of course I should not have intruded on you at this
hour on a mere visit of ceremony. I called to say that the Mademoiselle
Duval whose address you sent me is not the right one,--not the lady whom,
knowing your wide range of acquaintance, I asked you to aid me in finding
out."

"Not the right Duval? Diable! she answered your description, exactly."

"Not at all."

"You said she was very pretty and young,--under twenty."

"You forgot that I said she deserved that description twenty-one years
ago."

"Ah, so you did; but some ladies are always young. 'Age,' says a wit in
the 'Figaro,' 'tis a river which the women compel to reascend to its
source when it has flowed onward more than twenty years.' Never mind:
'soyez tranquille;' I will find your Duval yet if she is to be found. But
why could not the friend who commissioned you to inquire choose a name
less common? Duval! every street in Paris has a shop-door over which is
inscribed the name of Duval."

"Quite true, there is the difficulty; however, my dear Lemercier, pray
continue to look out for a Louise Duval who was young and pretty
twenty-one years ago: this search ought to interest me more than that
which I entrusted to you tonight, respecting the pearly-robed lady; for
in the last I but gratify my own whim, in the first I discharge a promise
to a friend. You, so perfect a Frenchman, know the difference; honour is
engaged to the first. Be sure you let me know if you find any other
Madame or Mademoiselle Duval; and of course you remember your promise not
to mention to any one the commission of inquiry you so kindly undertake.
I congratulate you on your friendship for M. de Rochebriant. What a noble
countenance and manner!"

Lemercier returned to the Marquis. "Such a pity you can't dine with us
to-morrow. I fear you made but a poor dinner to-day. But it is always
better to arrange the menu beforehand. I will send to Philippe's
tomorrow. Do not be afraid."

The Marquis paused a moment, and on his young face a proud struggle was
visible. At last he said, bluntly and manfully,

"My dear Frederic, your world and mine are not and cannot be the same.
Why should I be ashamed to own to my old schoolfellow that I am
poor,--very poor; that the dinner I have shared with you to-day is to me
a criminal extravagance? I lodge in a single chamber on the fourth-story;
I dine off a single plat at a small restaurateur's; the utmost income I
can allow to myself does not exceed five thousand francs a year: my
fortunes I cannot hope much to improve. In his own country Alain de
Rochebriant has no career." Lemercier was so astonished by this
confession that he remained for some moments silent, eyes and mouth both
wide open; at length he sprang up, embraced his friend well-nigh sobbing,
and exclaimed, "'Tant mieux pour moi!' You must take your lodging with
me. I have a charming bedroom to spare. Don't say no. It will raise my
own position to say 'I and Rochebriant keep house together.' It must be
so. Come here to-morrow. As for not having a career,--bah! I and
Duplessis will settle that. You shall be a millionaire in two years.
Meanwhile we will join capitals: I my paltry notes, you your grand name.
Settled!"

"My dear, dear Frederic," said the young noble, deeply affected, "on
reflection you will see what you propose is impossible. Poor I may be
without dishonour; live at another man's cost I cannot do without
baseness. It does not require to be 'gentilhomme' to feel that: it is
enough to be a Frenchman. Come and see me when you can spare the time.
There is my address. You are the only man in Paris to whom I shall be at
home. Au revoir." And breaking away from Lemercier's clasp, the Marquis
hurried off.



CHAPTER III.

Alain reached the house in which he lodged. Externally a fine house, it
had been the hotel of a great family in the old regime. On the first
floor were still superb apartments, with ceilings painted by Le Brun,
with walls on which the thick silks still seemed fresh. These rooms were
occupied by a rich 'agent de change;' but, like all such ancient palaces,
the upper stories were wretchedly defective even in the comforts which
poor men demand nowadays: a back staircase, narrow, dirty, never lighted,
dark as Erebus, led to the room occupied by the Marquis, which might be
naturally occupied by a needy student or a virtuous 'grisette.' But there
was to him a charm in that old hotel, and the richest 'locataire' therein
was not treated with a respect so ceremonious as that which at tended the
lodger on the fourth story. The porter and his wife were Bretons; they
came from the village of Rochebriant; they had known Alain's parents in
their young days; it was their kinsman who had recommended him to the
hotel which they served: so, when he paused at the lodge for his key,
which he had left there, the porter's wife was in waiting for his return,
and insisted on lighting him upstairs and seeing to his fire, for after a
warm day the night had turned to that sharp biting cold which is more
trying in Paris than even in London.

The old woman, running up the stairs before him, opened the door of his
room, and busied herself at the fire. "Gently, my good Marthe," said he,
"that log suffices. I have been extravagant to-day, and must pinch for
it."

"M. le Marquis jests," said the old woman, laughing.

"No, Marthe; I am serious. I have sinned, but I shall reform. 'Entre
nous,' my dear friend, Paris is very dear when one sets one's foot out of
doors: I must soon go back to Rochebriant."

"When M. le Marquis goes back to Rochebriant he must take with him a
Madame la Marquise,--some pretty angel with a suitable dot."

"A dot suitable to the ruins of Rochebriant would not suffice to repair
them, Marthe: give me my dressing-gown, and good-night."

"'Bon repos, M. le Marquis! beaux reves, et bel avenir.'"

"'Bel avenir!'" murmured the young man, bitterly, leaning his cheek on
his hand; "what fortune fairer than the present can be mine? yet inaction
in youth is more keenly felt than in age. How lightly I should endure
poverty if it brought poverty's ennobling companion, Labour,--denied to
me! Well, well; I must go back to the old rock: on this ocean there is no
sail, not even an oar, for me."

Alain de Rochebriant had not been reared to the expectation of poverty.
The only son of a father whose estates were large beyond those of most
nobles in modern France, his destined heritage seemed not unsuitable to
his illustrious birth. Educated at a provincial academy, he had been
removed at the age of sixteen to Rochebriant, and lived there simply and
lonelily enough, but still in a sort of feudal state, with an aunt, an
elder and unmarried sister to his father.

His father he never saw but twice after leaving college. That brilliant
seigneur visited France but rarely, for very brief intervals, residing
wholly abroad. To him went all the revenues of Rochebriant save what
sufficed for the manage of his son and his sister. It was the cherished
belief of these two loyal natures that the Marquis secretly devoted his
fortune to the cause of the Bourbons; how, they knew not, though they
often amused themselves by conjecturing: and, the young man, as he grew
up, nursed the hope that he should soon hear that the descendant of Henri
Quatre had crossed the frontier on a white charger and hoisted the old
gonfalon with its 'fleur-de-lis.' Then, indeed, his own career would be
opened, and the sword of the Kerouecs drawn from its sheath. Day after
day he expected to hear of revolts, of which his noble father was
doubtless the soul. But the Marquis, though a sincere Legitimist, was by
no means an enthusiastic fanatic. He was simply a very proud, a very
polished, a very luxurious, and, though not without the kindliness and
generosity which were common attributes of the old French noblesse, a
very selfish grand seigneur.

Losing his wife (who died the first year of marriage in giving birth to
Alain) while he was yet very young, he had lived a frank libertine life
until he fell submissive under the despotic yoke of a Russian Princess,
who, for some mysterious reason, never visited her own country and
obstinately refused to reside in France. She was fond of travel, and
moved yearly from London to Naples, Naples to Vienna, Berlin, Madrid,
Seville, Carlsbad, Baden-Baden,--anywhere for caprice or change, except
Paris. This fair wanderer succeeded in chaining to herself the heart and
the steps of the Marquis de Rochebriant.

She was very rich; she lived semi-royally. Hers was just the house in
which it suited the Marquis to be the 'enfant qate.' I suspect that,
cat-like, his attachment was rather to the house than to the person of
his mistress. Not that he was domiciled with the Princess; that would
have been somewhat too much against the proprieties, greatly too much
against the Marquis's notions of his own dignity. He had his own
carriage, his own apartments, his own suite, as became so grand a
seigneur and the lover of so grand a dame. His estates, mortgaged before
he came to them, yielded no income sufficient for his wants; he mortgaged
deeper and deeper, year after year, till he could mortgage them no more.
He sold his hotel at Paris; he accepted without scruple his sister's
fortune; he borrowed with equal 'sang froid' the two hundred thousand
francs which his son on coming of age inherited from his mother. Alain
yielded that fortune to him without a murmur,--nay, with pride; he
thought it destined to go towards raising a regiment for the
fleur-de-lis.

To do the Marquis justice, he was fully persuaded that he should shortly
restore to his sister and son what he so recklessly took from them. He
was engaged to be married to his Princess so soon as her own husband
died. She had been separated from the Prince for many years, and every
year it was said he could not last a year longer. But he completed the
measure of his conjugal iniquities by continuing to live; and one day, by
mistake, Death robbed the lady of the Marquis instead of the Prince.

This was an accident which the Marquis had never counted upon. He was
still young enough to consider himself young; in fact, one principal
reason for keeping Alain secluded in Bretagne was his reluctance to
introduce into the world a son "as old as myself" he would say
pathetically. The news of his death, which happened at Baden after a
short attack of bronchitis caught in a supper 'al fresco' at the old
castle, was duly transmitted to Rochebriant by the Princess; and the
shock to Alain and his aunt was the greater because they had seen so
little of the departed that they regarded him as a heroic myth, an
impersonation of ancient chivalry, condemning himself to voluntary exile
rather than do homage to usurpers. But from their grief they were soon
roused by the terrible doubt whether Rochebriant could still be retained
in the family. Besides the mortgagees, creditors from half the capitals
in Europe sent in their claims; and all the movable effects transmitted
to Alain by his father's confidential Italian valet, except sundry
carriages and horses which were sold at Baden for what they would fetch,
were a magnificent dressing-case, in the secret drawer of which were some
bank-notes amounting to thirty thousand francs, and three large boxes
containing the Marquis's correspondence, a few miniature female
portraits, and a great many locks of hair.

Wholly unprepared for the ruin that stared him in the face, the young
Marquis evinced the natural strength of his character by the calmness
with which he met the danger, and the intelligence with which he
calculated and reduced it.

By the help of the family notary in the neighbouring town, he made
himself master of his liabilities and his means; and he found that, after
paying all debts and providing for the interest of the mortgages, a
property which ought to have realized a rental of L10,000 a year yielded
not more than L400. Nor was even this margin safe, nor the property out
of peril; for the principal mortgagee, who was a capitalist in Paris
named Louvier, having had during the life of the late Marquis more than
once to wait for his half-yearly interest longer than suited his
patience,--and his patience was not enduring,--plainly declared that if
the same delay recurred he should put his right of seizure in force; and
in France still more than in England, bad seasons seriously affect the
security of rents. To pay away L9,600 a year regularly out of L10,000,
with the penalty of forfeiting the whole if not paid,--whether crops may
fail, farmers procrastinate, and timber fall in price,--is to live with
the sword of Damocles over one's head.

For two years and more, however, Alain met his difficulties with prudence
and vigour; he retrenched the establishment hitherto kept at the chateau,
resigned such rural pleasures as he had been accustomed to indulge, and
lived like one of his petty farmers. But the risks of the future remained
undiminished.

"There is but one way, Monsieur le Marquis," said the family notary, M.
Hebert, "by which you can put your estate in comparative safety. Your
father raised his mortgages from time to time, as he wanted money, and
often at interest above the average market interest. You may add
considerably to your income by consolidating all these mortgages into one
at a lower percentage, and in so doing pay off this formidable mortgagee,
M. Louvier, who, I shrewdly suspect, is bent upon becoming the proprietor
of Rochebriant. Unfortunately those few portions of your land which were
but lightly charged, and, lying contiguous to small proprietors, were
coveted by them, and could be advantageously sold, are already gone to
pay the debts of Monsieur the late Marquis. There are, however, two small
farms which, bordering close on the town of S______, I think I could
dispose of for building purposes at high rates; but these lands are
covered by M. Louvier's general mortgage, and he has refused to release
them, unless the whole debt be paid. Were that debt therefore transferred
to another mortgagee, we might stipulate for their exception, and in so
doing secure a sum of more than 100,000 francs, which you could keep in
reserve for a pressing or unforeseen occasion, and make the nucleus of a
capital devoted to the gradual liquidation of the charges on the estate.
For with a little capital, Monsieur le Marquis, your rent-roll might be
very greatly increased, the forests and orchards improved, those meadows
round S_____ drained and irrigated. Agriculture is beginning to be
understood in Bretagne, and your estate would soon double its value in
the hands of a spirited capitalist. My advice to you, therefore, is to go
to Paris, employ a good 'avoue,' practised in such branch of his
profession, to negotiate the consolidation of your mortgages upon terms
that will enable you to sell outlying portions, and so pay off the charge
by instalments agreed upon; to see if some safe company or rich
individual can be found to undertake for a term of years the management
of your forests, the draining of the S_____ meadows, the superintendence
of your fisheries, etc. They, it is true, will monopolize the profits for
many years,--perhaps twenty; but you are a young man: at the end of that
time you will reenter on your estate with a rental so improved that the
mortgages, now so awful, will seem to you comparatively trivial."

In pursuance of this advice, the young Marquis had come to Paris
fortified with a letter from M. Hebert to an 'avoue' of eminence, and
with many letters from his aunt to the nobles of the Faubourg connected
with his house. Now one reason why M. Hebert had urged his client to
undertake this important business in person, rather than volunteer his
own services in Paris, was somewhat extra-professional. He had a sincere
and profound affection for Alain; he felt compassion for that young life
so barrenly wasted in seclusion and severe privations; he respected, but
was too practical a man of business to share, those chivalrous sentiments
of loyalty to an exiled dynasty which disqualified the man for the age he
lived in, and, if not greatly modified, would cut him off from the hopes
and aspirations of his eager generation. He thought plausibly enough that
the air of the grand metropolis was necessary to the mental health,
enfeebled and withering amidst the feudal mists of Bretagne; that once in
Paris, Alain would imbibe the ideas of Paris, adapt himself to some
career leading to honour and to fortune, for which he took facilities
from his high birth, an historical name too national for any dynasty not
to welcome among its adherents, and an intellect not yet sharpened by
contact and competition with others, but in itself vigorous, habituated
to thought, and vivified by the noble aspirations which belong to
imaginative natures.

At the least, Alain would be at Paris in the social position which would
afford him the opportunities of a marriage, in which his birth and rank
would be readily accepted as an equivalent to some ample fortune that
would serve to redeem the endangered seigneuries. He therefore warned
Alain that the affair for which he went to Paris might be tedious, that
lawyers were always slow, and advised him to calculate on remaining
several months, perhaps a year; delicately suggesting that his rearing
hitherto had been too secluded for his age and rank, and that a year at
Paris, even if he failed in the object which took him there, would not be
thrown away in the knowledge of men and things that would fit him better
to grapple with his difficulties on his return.

Alain divided his spare income between his aunt and himself, and had come
to Paris resolutely determined to live within the L200 a year which
remained to his share. He felt the revolution in his whole being that
commenced when out of sight of the petty principality in which he was the
object of that feudal reverence, still surviving in the more unfrequented
parts of Bretagne, for the representatives of illustrious names connected
with the immemorial legends of the province.

The very bustle of a railway, with its crowd and quickness and
unceremonious democracy of travel, served to pain and confound and
humiliate that sense of individual dignity in which he had been nurtured.
He felt that, once away from Rochebriant, he was but a cipher in the sum
of human beings. Arrived at Paris, and reaching the gloomy hotel to which
he had been recommended, he greeted even the desolation of that solitude
which is usually so oppressive to a stranger in the metropolis of his
native land. Loneliness was better than the loss of self in the reek and
pressure of an unfamiliar throng. For the first few days he had wandered
over Paris without calling even on the 'avoue' to whom M. Hebert had
directed him. He felt with the instinctive acuteness of a mind which,
under sounder training, would have achieved no mean distinction, that it
was a safe precaution to imbue himself with the atmosphere of the place,
and seize on those general ideas which in great capitals are so
contagious that they are often more accurately caught by the first
impressions than by subsequent habit, before he brought his mind into
collision with those of the individuals he had practically to deal with.

At last he repaired to the 'avoue,' M. Gandrin, Rue St. Florentin. He had
mechanically formed his idea of the abode and person of an 'avoue' from
his association with M. Hebert. He expected to find a dull house in a
dull street near the centre of business, remote from the haunts of
idlers, and a grave man of unpretending exterior and matured years.

He arrived at a hotel newly fronted, richly decorated, in the fashionable
quartier close by the Tuileries. He entered a wide 'porte cochere,' and
was directed by the concierge to mount 'au premier.' There, first
detained in an office faultlessly neat, with spruce young men at smart
desks, he was at length admitted into a noble salon, and into the
presence of a gentleman lounging in an easy-chair before a magnificent
bureau of 'marqueterie, genre Louis Seize,' engaged in patting a white
curly lapdog, with a pointed nose and a shrill bark.

The gentleman rose politely on his entrance, and released the dog, who,
after sniffing the Marquis, condescended not to bite.

"Monsieur le Marquis," said M. Gandrin, glancing at the card and the
introductory note from M. Hebert, which Alain had sent in, and which lay
on the 'secretaire' beside heaps of letters nicely arranged and labelled,
"charmed to make the honour of your acquaintance; just arrived at Paris?
So M. Hebert--a very worthy person whom I have never seen, but with whom
I have had correspondence--tells me you wish for my advice; in fact,
he wrote to me some days ago, mentioning the business in
question,--consolidation of mortgages. A very large sum wanted,
Monsieur le Marquis, and not to be had easily."

"Nevertheless," said Alain, quietly, "I should imagine that there must be
many capitalists in Paris willing to invest in good securities at fair
interest."

"You are mistaken, Marquis; very few such capitalists. Men worth money
nowadays like quick returns and large profits, thanks to the magnificent
system of 'Credit Mobilier,' in which, as you are aware, a man may place
his money in any trade or speculation without liabilities beyond his
share. Capitalists are nearly all traders or speculators."

"Then," said the Marquis, half rising, "I am to presume, sir, that you
are not likely to assist me."

"No, I don't say that, Marquis. I will look with care into the matter.
Doubtless you have with you an abstract of the necessary documents, the
conditions of the present mortgages, the rental of the estate, its
probable prospects, and so forth."

"Sir, I have such an abstract with me at Paris; and having gone into it
myself with M. Hebert, I can pledge you my word that it is strictly
faithful to the facts."

The Marquis said this with naive simplicity, as if his word were quite
sufficient to set that part of the question at rest. M. Gandrin smiled
politely and said, "'Eh bien,' M. le Marquis: favour me with the
abstract; in a week's time you shall have my opinion. You enjoy Paris?
Greatly improved under the Emperor. 'Apropos,' Madame Gandrin receives
tomorrow evening; allow me that opportunity to present you to her."
Unprepared for the proffered hospitality, the Marquis had no option but
to murmur his gratification and assent.

In a minute more he was in the streets. The next evening he went to
Madame Gandrin's,--a brilliant reception,--a whole moving flower-bed of
"decorations" there. Having gone through the ceremony of presentation to
Madame Gandrin,--a handsome woman dressed to perfection, and conversing
with the secretary to an embassy,--the young noble ensconced himself in
an obscure and quiet corner, observing all and imagining that he escaped
observation. And as the young men of his own years glided by him, or as
their talk reached his ears, he became aware that from top to toe, within
and without, he was old-fashioned, obsolete, not of his race, not of his
day. His rank itself seemed to him a waste-paper title-deed to a heritage
long lapsed. Not thus the princely seigneurs of Rochebriant made their
'debut' at the capital of their nation. They had had the 'entree' to the
cabinets of their kings; they had glittered in the halls of Versailles;
they had held high posts of distinction in court and camp; the great
Order of St. Louis had seemed their hereditary appanage. His father,
though a voluntary exile in manhood, had been in childhood a king's page,
and throughout life remained the associate of princes; and here, in an
'avoue's soiree,' unknown, unregarded, an expectant on an 'avoue's'
patronage, stood the last lord of Rochebriant.

It is easy to conceive that Alain did not stay long. But he stayed long
enough to convince him that on L200 a year the polite society of Paris,
even as seen at M. Gandrin's, was not for him. Nevertheless, a day or two
after, he resolved to call upon the nearest of his kinsmen to whom his
aunt had given him letters. With the Count de Vandemar, one of his
fellow-nobles of the sacred Faubourg, he should be no less Rochebriant,
whether in a garret or a palace. The Vandemars, in fact, though for many
generations before the First Revolution a puissant and brilliant family,
had always recognized the Rochebriants as the head of their house,--the
trunk from which they had been slipped in the fifteenth century, when a
younger son of the Rochebriants married a wealthy heiress and took the
title with the lands of Vandemar.

Since then the two families had often intermarried. The present count had
a reputation for ability, was himself a large proprietor, and might
furnish advice to guide Alain in his negotiations with M. Gandrin. The
Hotel do Vandemar stood facing the old Hotel de Rochebriant; it was less
spacious, but not less venerable, gloomy, and prison-like.

As he turned his eyes from the armorial scutcheon which still rested,
though chipped and mouldering, over the portals of his lost ancestral
house, and was about to cross the street, two young men, who seemed two
or three years older than himself, emerged on horseback from the Hotel de
Vandemar.

Handsome young men, with the lofty look of the old race, dressed with the
punctilious care of person which is not foppery in men of birth, but
seems part of the self-respect that appertains to the old chivalric point
of honour. The horse of one of these cavaliers made a caracole which
brought it nearly upon Alain as he was about to cross. The rider,
checking his steed, lifted his hat to Alain and uttered a word of apology
in the courtesy of ancient high-breeding, but still with condescension as
to an inferior. This little incident, and the slighting kind of notice
received from coevals of his own birth, and doubtless his own blood,--for
he divined truly that they were the sons of the Count de
Vandemar,--disconcerted Alain to a degree which perhaps a Frenchman alone
can comprehend. He had even half a mind to give up his visit and turn
back. However, his native manhood prevailed over that morbid
sensitiveness which, born out of the union of pride and poverty, has all
the effects of vanity, and yet is not vanity itself.

The Count was at home, a thin spare man with a narrow but high forehead,
and an expression of countenance keen, severe, and 'un peu moqueuse.'

He received the Marquis, however, at first with great cordiality, kissed
him on both sides of his cheek, called him "cousin," expressed
immeasurable regret that the Countess was gone out on one of the missions
of charity in which the great ladies of the Faubourg religiously interest
themselves, and that his sons had just ridden forth to the Bois.

As Alain, however, proceeded, simply and without false shame, to
communicate the object of his visit at Paris, the extent of his
liabilities, and the penury of his means, the smile vanished from the
Count's face. He somewhat drew back his fauteuil in the movement common
to men who wish to estrange themselves from some other man's
difficulties; and when Alain came to a close, the Count remained some
moments seized with a slight cough; and, gazing intently on the carpet,
at length he said, "My dear young friend, your father behaved extremely
ill to you,--dishonourably, fraudulently."

"Hold!" said the Marquis, colouring high. "Those are words no man can
apply to my father in my presence."

The Count stared, shrugged his shoulders, and replied with 'sang froid,'
"Marquis, if you are contented with your father's conduct, of course it
is no business of mine: he never injured me. I presume, however, that,
considering my years and my character, you come to me for advice: is it
so?"

Alain bowed his head in assent.

"There are four courses for one in your position to take," said the
Count, placing the index of the right hand successively on the thumb and
three fingers of the left,--"four courses, and no more.

"First. To do as your notary recommended: consolidate your mortgages,
patch up your income as you best can, return to Rochebriant, and devote
the rest of your existence to the preservation of your property. By that
course your life will be one of permanent privation, severe struggle; and
the probability is that you will not succeed: there will come one or two
bad seasons, the farmers will fail to pay, the mortgagee will foreclose,
and you may find yourself, after twenty years of anxiety and torment,
prematurely old and without a sou.

"Course the second. Rochebriant, though so heavily encumbered as to yield
you some such income as your father gave to his chef de cuisine, is still
one of those superb 'terres' which bankers and Jews and stock-jobbers
court and hunt after, for which they will give enormous sums. If you
place it in good hands, I do not doubt that you could dispose of the
property within three months, on terms that would leave you a
considerable surplus, which, invested with judgment, would afford you
whereon you could live at Paris in a way suitable to your rank and age.
Need we go further?--does this course smile to you?"

"Pass on, Count; I will defend to the last what I take from my ancestors,
and cannot voluntarily sell their roof-tree and their tombs."

"Your name would still remain, and you would be just as well received in
Paris, and your 'noblesse' just as implicitly conceded, if all Judaea
encamped upon Rochebriant. Consider how few of us 'gentilshommes' of the
old regime have any domains left to us. Our names alone survive: no
revolution can efface them."

"It may be so, but pardon me; there are subjects on which we cannot
reason,--we can but feel. Rochebriant may be torn from me, but I cannot
yield it."

"I proceed to the third course. Keep the chateau and give up its
traditions; remain 'de facto' Marquis of Rochebriant, but accept the new
order of things. Make yourself known to the people in power. They will be
charmed to welcome you a convert from the old noblesse is a guarantee of
stability to the new system. You will be placed in diplomacy; effloresce
into an ambassador, a minister,--and ministers nowadays have
opportunities to become enormously rich."

"That course is not less impossible than the last. Till Henry V. formally
resign his right to the throne of Saint Louis, I can be servant to no
other man seated on that throne."

"Such, too, is my creed," said the Count, "and I cling to it; but my
estate is not mortgaged, and I have neither the tastes nor the age for
public employments. The last course is perhaps better than the rest; at
all events it is the easiest. A wealthy marriage; even if it must be a
'mesalliance.' I think at your age, with your appearance, that your name
is worth at least two million francs in the eyes of a rich 'roturier'
with an ambitious daughter."

"Alas!" said the young man, rising, "I see I shall have to go back to
Rochebriant. I cannot sell my castle, I cannot sell my creed, and I
cannot sell my name and myself."

"The last all of us did in the old 'regime,' Marquis. Though I still
retain the title of Vandemar, my property comes from the Farmer-General's
daughter, whom my great-grandfather, happily for us, married in the days
of Louis Quinze. Marriages with people of sense and rank have always been
'marriages de convenance' in France. It is only in 'le petit monde' that
men having nothing marry girls having nothing, and I don't believe they
are a bit the happier for it. On the contrary, the 'quarrels de menage'
leading to frightful crimes appear by the 'Gazette des Tribunaux' to be
chiefly found among those who do not sell themselves at the altar."

The old Count said this with a grim 'persiflage.' He was a Voltairian.

Voltairianism, deserted by the modern Liberals of France, has its chief
cultivation nowadays among the wits of the old 'regime.' They pick up its
light weapons on the battle-field on which their fathers perished, and
re-feather against the 'canaille' the shafts which had been pointed
against the 'noblesse.'

"Adieu, Count," said Alain, rising; "I do not thank you less for your
advice because I have not the wit to profit by it."

"'Au revoir,' my cousin; you will think better of it when you have been a
month or two at Paris. By the way, my wife receives every Wednesday;
consider our house yours."

"Count, can I enter into the world which Madame la Comtesse receives, in
the way that becomes my birth, on the income I take from my fortune?"

The Count hesitated. "No," said he at last, frankly; "not because you
will be less welcome or less respected, but because I see that you have
all the pride and sensitiveness of a 'seigneur de province.' Society
would therefore give you pain, not pleasure. More than this, I know, by
the remembrance of my own youth and the sad experience of my own sons,
that you would be irresistibly led into debt, and debt in your
circumstances would be the loss of Rochebriant. No; I invite you to visit
us. I offer you the most select but not the most brilliant circles of
Paris, because my wife is religious, and frightens away the birds of gay
plumage with the scarecrows of priests and bishops. But if you accept my
invitation and my offer, I am bound, as an old man of the world to a
young kinsman, to say that the chances are that you will be ruined."

"I thank you, Count, for your candour; and I now acknowledge that I have
found a relation and a guide," answered the Marquis, with nobility of
mien that was not without a pathos which touched the hard heart of the
old man.

"Come at least whenever you want a sincere if a rude friend;" and though
he did not kiss his cousin's cheek this time, he gave him, with more
sincerity, a parting shake of the hand.

And these made the principal events in Alain's Paris life till he met
Frederic Lemercier. Hitherto he had received no definite answer from M.
Gandrin, who had postponed an interview, not having had leisure to make
himself master of all the details in the abstract sent to him.



CHAPTER IV.

The next day, towards the afternoon, Frederic Lemercier, somewhat
breathless from the rapidity at which he had ascended to so high an
eminence, burst into Alain's chamber.

"'Br-r! mon cher;' what superb exercise for the health--how it must
strengthen the muscles and expand the chest! After this who should shrink
from scaling Mont Blanc? Well, well. I have been meditating on your
business ever since we parted. But I would fain know more of its details.
You shall confide them to me as we drive through the Bois. My coupe is
below, and the day is beautiful; come."

To the young Marquis, the gayety, the heartiness of his college friend
were a cordial. How different from the dry counsels of the Count de
Vandemar! Hope, though vaguely, entered into his heart. Willingly he
accepted Frederic's invitation, and the young men were soon rapidly borne
along the Champs Elysees. As briefly as he could Alain described the
state of his affairs, the nature of his mortgages, and the result of his
interview with M. Gandrin.

Frederic listened attentively. "Then Gandrin has given you as yet no
answer?"

"None; but I have a note from him this morning asking me to call
to-morrow."

"After you have seen him, decide on nothing,--if he makes you any offer.
Get back your abstract, or a copy of it, and confide it to me. Gandrin
ought to help you; he transacts affairs in a large way. 'Belle clientele'
among the millionnaires. But his clients expect fabulous profits, and so
does he. As for your principal mortgagee, Louvier, you know, of course,
who he is."

"No, except that M. Hebert told me that he was very rich."

"'Rich' I should think so; one of the Kings of Finance, Ah! observe those
young men on horseback."

Alain looked forth and recognized the two cavaliers whom he had
conjectured to be the sons of the Count de Vandemar.

"Those 'beaux garcons' are fair specimens of your Faubourg," said
Frederic; "they would decline my acquaintance because my grandfather kept
a shop, and they keep a shop between them."

"A shop! I am mistaken, then. Who are they?"

"Raoul and Enguerrand, sons of that mocker of man, the Count de
Vandemar."

"And they keep a shop! You are jesting."

"A shop at which you may buy gloves and perfumes, Rue de la Chaussee
d'Antin. Of course they don't serve at the counter; they only invest
their pocket-money in the speculation; and, in so doing, treble at least
their pocket-money, buy their horses, and keep their grooms."

"Is it possible! nobles of such birth! How shocked the Count would be if
he knew it!"

"Yes, very much shocked if he was supposed to know it. But he is too wise
a father not to give his sons limited allowances and unlimited liberty,
especially the liberty to add to the allowances as they please. Look
again at them; no better riders and more affectionate brothers since the
date of Castor and Pollux. Their tastes indeed differ--Raoul is religious
and moral, melancholy and dignified; Enguerrand is a lion of the first
water,--elegant to the tips of his nails. These demigods nevertheless are
very mild to mortals. Though Enguerrand is the best pistol-shot in Paris,
and Raoul the best fencer, the first is so good-tempered that you would
be a brute to quarrel with him, the last so true a Catholic, that if you
quarrelled with him you need not fear his sword. He would not die in the
committal of what the Church holds a mortal sin."

"Are you speaking ironically? Do you mean to imply that men of the name
of Vandemar are not brave?"

"On the contrary, I believe that, though masters of their weapons, they
are too brave to abuse their skill; and I must add that, though they are
sleeping partners in a shop, they would not cheat you of a farthing.
Benign stars on earth, as Castor and Pollux were in heaven."

"But partners in a shop!"

"Bah! when a minister himself, like the late M. de M______, kept a shop,
and added the profits of 'bons bons' to his revenue, you may form some
idea of the spirit of the age. If young nobles are not generally sleeping
partners in shops, still they are more or less adventurers in commerce.
The Bourse is the profession of those who have no other profession. You
have visited the Bourse?"

"No."

"No! this is just the hour. We have time yet for the Bois. Coachman,
drive to the Bourse."

"The fact is," resumed Frederic, "that gambling is one of the wants of
civilized men. The 'rouge-et-noir' and 'roulette' tables are forbidden;
the hells closed: but the passion for making money without working for it
must have its vent, and that vent is the Bourse. As instead of a hundred
wax-lights you now have one jet of gas, so instead of a hundred hells you
have now one Bourse, and--it is exceedingly convenient; always at hand;
no discredit being seen there as it was to be seen at Frascati's; on the
contrary, at once respectable, and yet the mode."

The coupe stops at the Bourse, our friends mount the steps, glide through
the pillars, deposit their canes at a place destined to guard them, and
the Marquis follows Frederic up a flight of stairs till he gains the open
gallery round a vast hall below. Such a din! such a clamour!
disputations, wrangling, wrathful.

Here Lemercier distinguished some friends, whom he joined for a few
minutes.

Alain left alone, looked down into the hall. He thought himself in some
stormy scene of the First Revolution. An English contested election in
the market-place of a borough when the candidates are running close on
each other--the result doubtful, passions excited, the whole borough in
civil war--is peaceful compared to the scene at the Bourse.

Bulls and bears screaming, bawling, gesticulating, as if one were about
to strangle the other; the whole, to an uninitiated eye, a confusion, a
Babel, which it seems absolutely impossible to reconcile to the notion of
quiet mercantile transactions, the purchase and sale of shares and
stocks. As Alain gazed bewildered, he felt himself gently touched, and,
looking round, saw the Englishman.

"A lively scene!" whispered Mr. Vane. "This is the heart of Paris: it
beats very loudly."

"Is your Bourse in London like this?"

"I cannot tell you: at our Exchange the general public are not admitted:
the privileged priests of that temple sacrifice their victims in closed
penetralia, beyond which the sounds made in the operation do not travel
to ears profane. But had we an Exchange like this open to all the world,
and placed, not in a region of our metropolis unknown to fashion, but in
some elegant square in St. James's or at Hyde Park Corner, I suspect that
our national character would soon undergo a great change, and that all
our idlers and sporting-men would make their books there every day,
instead of waiting long months in 'ennui' for the Doncaster and the
Derby. At present we have but few men on the turf; we should then have
few men not on Exchange, especially if we adopt your law, and can
contrive to be traders without risk of becoming bankrupts. Napoleon I.
called us a shopkeeping nation. Napoleon III. has taught France to excel
us in everything, and certainly he has made Paris a shopkeeping city."

Alain thought of Raoul and Enguerrand, and blushed to find that what he
considered a blot on his countrymen was so familiarly perceptible to a
foreigner's eye.

"And the Emperor has done wisely, at least for the time," continued the
Englishman, with a more thoughtful accent. "He has found vent thus for
that very dangerous class in Paris society to which the subdivision of
property gave birth; namely the crowd of well-born, daring young men
without fortune and without profession. He has opened the 'Bourse' and
said, 'There, I give you employment, resource, an 'avenir.'' He has
cleared the byways into commerce and trade, and opened new avenues of
wealth to the noblesse, whom the great Revolution so unwisely beggared.
What other way to rebuild a 'noblesse' in France, and give it a chance of
power be side an access to fortune? But to how many sides of your
national character has the Bourse of Paris magnetic attraction! You
Frenchmen are so brave that you could not be happy without facing danger,
so covetous of distinction that you would pine yourselves away without a
dash, coute quo coute, at celebrity and a red ribbon. Danger! look below
at that arena: there it is; danger daily, hourly. But there also is
celebrity; win at the Bourse, as of old in a tournament, and paladins
smile on you, and ladies give you their scarves, or, what is much the
same, they allow you to buy their cachemires. Win at the Bourse,--what
follows? the Chamber, the Senate, the Cross, the Minister's
'portefeuille.' I might rejoice in all this for the sake of
Europe,--could it last, and did it not bring the consequences that follow
the demoralization which attends it. The Bourse and the Credit Mobilier
keep Paris quiet, at least as quiet as it can be. These are the secrets
of this reign of splendour; these the two lions couchants on which rests
the throne of the Imperial reconstructor."

Alain listened surprised and struck. He had not given the Englishman
credit for the cast of mind which such reflections evinced.

Here Lemercier rejoined them, and shook hands with Graham Vane, who,
taking him aside, said, "But you promised to go to the Bois, and indulge
my insane curiosity about the lady in the pearl-coloured robe?"

"I have not forgotten; it is not half-past two yet; you said three.
'Soyez tranquille;' I drive thither from the Bourse with Rochebriant."

"Is it necessary to take with you that very good-looking Marquis?"

"I thought you said you were not jealous, because not yet in love.
However, if Rochebriant occasions you the pang which your humble servant
failed to inflict, I will take care that he do not see the lady."

"No," said the Englishman; "on consideration, I should be very much
obliged to any one with whom she would fall in love. That would
disenchant me. Take the Marquis by all means."

Meanwhile Alain, again looking down, saw just under him, close by one of
the pillars, Lucien Duplessis. He was standing apart from the throng, a
small space cleared round himself, and two men who had the air of
gentlemen of the 'beau monde,' with whom he was conferring. Duplessis,
thus seen, was not like the Duplessis at the restaurant. It would be
difficult to explain what the change was, but it forcibly struck Alain:
the air was more dignified, the expression keener; there was a look of
conscious power and command about the man even at that distance; the
intense, concentrated intelligence of his eye, his firm lip, his marked
features, his projecting, massive brow, would have impressed a very
ordinary observer. In fact, the man was here in his native element; in
the field in which his intellect gloried, commanded, and had signalized
itself by successive triumphs. Just thus may be the change in the great
orator whom you deemed insignificant in a drawing-room, when you see his
crest rise above a reverential audience; or the great soldier, who was
not distinguishable from the subaltern in a peaceful club, could you see
him issuing the order to his aids-de-camp amidst the smoke and roar of
the battle-field.

"Ah, Marquis!" said Graham Vane, "are you gazing at Duplessis? He is the
modern genius of Paris. He is at once the Cousin, the Guizot, and the
Victor Hugo of speculation. Philosophy, Eloquence, audacious
Romance,--all Literature now is swallowed up in the sublime epic of
'Agiotage,' and Duplessis is the poet of the Empire."

"Well said, M. Grarm Varn," cried Frederic, forgetting his recent lesson
in English names. "Alain underrates that great man. How could an
Englishman appreciate him so well?"

"'Ma foi!'" returned Graham, quietly. "I am studying to think at Paris,
in order some day or other to know how to act in London. Time for the
Bois. Lemercier, we meet at seven,--Philippe's."



CHAPTER V.

"What do you think of the Bourse?" asked Lemercier, as their carriage
took the way to the Bois.

"I cannot think of it yet; I am stunned. It seems to me as if I had been
at a 'Sabbat,' of which the wizards were 'agents de change,' but not less
bent upon raising Satan."

"Pooh! the best way to exorcise Satan is to get rich enough not to be
tempted by him. The fiend always loved to haunt empty places; and of all
places nowadays he prefers empty purses and empty stomachs."

"But do all people get rich at the Bourse? or is not one man's wealth
many men's ruin?"

"That is a question not very easy to answer; but under our present system
Paris gets rich, though at the expense of individual Parisians. I will
try and explain. The average luxury is enormously increased even in my
experience; what were once considered refinements and fopperies are now
called necessary comforts. Prices are risen enormously, house-rent
doubled within the last five or six years; all articles of luxury are
very much dearer; the very gloves I wear cost twenty per cent more than I
used to pay for gloves of the same quality. How the people we meet live,
and live so well, is an enigma that would defy AEdipus if AEdipus were
not a Parisian. But the main explanation is this: speculation and
commerce, with the facilities given to all investments, have really
opened more numerous and more rapid ways to fortune than were known a few
years ago.

"Crowds are thus attracted to Paris, resolved to venture a small capital
in the hope of a large one; they live on that capital, not on their
income, as gamesters do. There is an idea among us that it is necessary
to seem rich in order to become rich. Thus there is a general
extravagance and profusion. English milords marvel at our splendour.
Those who, while spending their capital as their income, fail in their
schemes of fortune, after one, two, three, or four years, vanish. What
becomes of them, I know no more than I do what becomes of the old moons.
Their place is immediately supplied by new candidates. Paris is thus kept
perennially sumptuous and splendid by the gold it engulfs. But then some
men succeed,--succeed prodigiously, preternaturally; they make colossal
fortunes, which are magnificently expended. They set an example of show
and pomp, which is of course the more contagious because so many men say,
'The other day those millionnaires were as poor as we are; they never
economized; why should we?' Paris is thus doubly enriched,--by the
fortunes it swallows up, and by the fortunes it casts up; the last being
always reproductive, and the first never lost except to the individuals."

"I understand: but what struck me forcibly at the scene we have left was
the number of young men there; young men whom I should judge by their
appearance to be gentlemen, evidently not mere spectators,--eager,
anxious, with tablets in their hands. That old or middle-aged men should
find a zest in the pursuit of gain I can understand, but youth and
avarice seem to me a new combination, which Moliere never divined in his
'Avare.'"

"Young men, especially if young gentlemen, love pleasure; and pleasure in
this city is very dear. This explains why so many young men frequent the
Bourse. In the old gaining now suppressed, young men were the majority;
in the days of your chivalrous forefathers it was the young nobles, not
the old, who would stake their very mantles and swords on a cast of the
die. And, naturally enough, mon cher; for is not youth the season of
hope, and is not hope the goddess of gaming, whether at rouge-et-noir or
the Bourse?"

Alain felt himself more and more behind his generation. The acute
reasoning of Lemercier humbled his amour propre. At college Lemercier was
never considered Alain's equal in ability or book-learning. What a stride
beyond his school-fellow had Lemercier now made! How dull and stupid the
young provincial felt himself to be as compared with the easy cleverness
and half-sportive philosophy of the Parisian's fluent talk!

He sighed with a melancholy and yet with a generous envy. He had too fine
a natural perception not to acknowledge that there is a rank of mind as
well as of birth, and in the first he felt that Lemercier might well walk
before a Rochebriant; but his very humility was a proof that he
underrated himself.

Lemercier did not excel him in mind, but in experience. And just as the
drilled soldier seems a much finer fellow than the raw recruit, because
he knows how to carry himself, but after a year's discipline the raw
recruit may excel in martial air the upright hero whom he now
despairingly admires, and never dreams he can rival; so set a mind from a
village into the drill of a capital, and see it a year after; it may
tower a head higher than its recruiting-sergeant.



CHAPTER VI.

"I believe," said Lemercier, as the coupe rolled through the lively
alleys of the Bois de Boulogne, "that Paris is built on a loadstone, and
that every Frenchman with some iron globules in his blood is irresistibly
attracted towards it. The English never seem to feel for London the
passionate devotion that we feel for Paris. On the contrary, the London
middle class, the commercialists, the shopkeepers, the clerks, even the
superior artisans compelled to do their business in the capital, seem
always scheming and pining to have their home out of it, though but in a
suburb."

"You have been in London, Frederic?"

"Of course; it is the mode to visit that dull and hideous metropolis."

"If it be dull and hideous, no wonder the people who are compelled to do
business in it seek the pleasures of home out of it."

"It is very droll that though the middle class entirely govern the
melancholy Albion, it is the only country in Europe in which the middle
class seem to have no amusements; nay, they legislate against amusement.
They have no leisure-day but Sunday; and on that day they close all their
theatres, even their museums and picture-galleries. What amusements there
may be in England are for the higher classes and the lowest."

"What are the amusements of the lowest class?"

"Getting drunk."

"Nothing else?"

"Yes. I was taken at night under protection of a policeman to some
cabarets, where I found crowds of that class which is the stratum below
the working class; lads who sweep crossings and hold horses, mendicants,
and, I was told, thieves, girls whom a servant-maid would not speak to,
very merry, dancing quadrilles and waltzes, and regaling themselves on
sausages,--the happiest-looking folks I found in all London; and, I must
say, conducting themselves very decently."

"Ah!" Here Lemercier pulled the check-string. "Will you object to a walk
in this quiet alley? I see some one whom I have promised the Englishman
to--But heed me, Alain, don't fall in love with her."



CHAPTER VII.

The lady in the pearl-coloured dress! Certainly it was a face that might
well arrest the eye and linger long on the remembrance.

There are certain "beauty-women" as there are certain "beauty-men," in
whose features one detects no fault, who are the show figures of any
assembly in which they appear, but who, somehow or other, inspire no
sentiment and excite no interest; they lack some expression, whether of
mind, or of soul, or of heart, without which the most beautiful face is
but a beautiful picture. This lady was not one of those "beauty-women."
Her features taken singly were by no means perfect, nor were they set off
by any brilliancy of colouring. But the countenance aroused and impressed
the imagination with a belief that there was some history attached to it,
which you longed to learn. The hair, simply parted over a forehead
unusually spacious and high for a woman, was of lustrous darkness; the
eyes, of a deep violet blue, were shaded with long lashes.

Their expression was soft and mournful, but unobservant. She did not
notice Alain and Lemercier as the two men slowly passed her. She seemed
abstracted, gazing into space as one absorbed in thought or revery. Her
complexion was clear and pale, and apparently betokened delicate health.

Lemercier seated himself on a bench beside the path, and invited Alain to
do the same. "She will return this way soon," said the Parisian, "and we
can observe her more attentively and more respectfully thus seated than
if we were on foot; meanwhile, what do you think of her? Is she French?
is she Italian? can she be English?"

"I should have guessed Italian, judging by the darkness of the hair and
the outline of the features; but do Italians have so delicate a fairness
of complexion?"

"Very rarely; and I should guess her to be French, judging by the
intelligence of her expression, the simple neatness of her dress, and by
that nameless refinement of air in which a Parisienne excels all the
descendants of Eve,--if it were not for her eyes. I never saw a
Frenchwoman with eyes of that peculiar shade of blue; and if a
Frenchwoman had such eyes, I flatter myself she would have scarcely
allowed us to pass without making some use of them."

"Do you think she is married?" asked Alain.

"I hope so; for a girl of her age, if comme il faut, can scarcely walk
alone in the Bois, and would not have acquired that look so
intelligent,--more than intelligent,--so poetic."

"But regard that air of unmistakable distinction; regard that expression
of face,-so pure, so virginal: comme il faut she must be."

As Alain said these last words, the lady, who had turned back, was
approaching them, and in full view of their gaze. She seemed unconscious
of their existence as before, and Lemercier noticed that her lips moved
as if she were murmuring inaudibly to herself.

She did not return again, but continued her walk straight on till at the
end of the alley she entered a carriage in waiting for her, and was
driven off.

"Quick, quick!" cried Lemercier, running towards his own coupe; "we must
give chase."

Alain followed somewhat less hurriedly, and, agreeably to instructions
Lemercier had already given to his coachman, the Parisian's coupe set off
at full speed in the track of the strange lady's, which was still in
sight.

In less than twenty minutes the carriage in chase stopped at the grille
of one of those charming little villas to be found in the pleasant suburb
of A-----; a porter emerged from the lodge, opened the gate; the carriage
drove in, again stopped at the door of the house, and the two gentlemen
could not catch even a glimpse of the lady's robe as she descended from
the carriage and disappeared within the house.

"I see a cafe yonder," said Lemercier; "let us learn all we can as to the
fair unknown, over a sorbet or a petit verre." Alain silently, but not
reluctantly, consented. He felt in the fair stranger an interest new to
his existence.

They entered the little cafe, and in a few minutes Lemercier, with the
easy savoir vivre of a Parisian, had extracted from the garcon as much as
probably any one in the neighbourhood knew of the inhabitants of the
villa.

It had been hired and furnished about two months previously in the name
of Signora Venosta; but, according to the report of the servants, that
lady appeared to be the gouvernante or guardian of a lady much younger,
out of whose income the villa was rented and the household maintained.

It was for her the coupe was hired from Paris. The elder lady very rarely
stirred out during the day, but always accompanied the younger in any
evening visits to the theatre or the houses of friends.

It was only within the last few weeks that such visits had been made.

The younger lady was in delicate health, and under the care of an English
physician famous for skill in the treatment of pulmonary complaints. It
was by his advice that she took daily walking exercise in the Bois. The
establishment consisted of three servants, all Italians, and speaking but
imperfect French. The garcon did not know whether either of the ladies
was married, but their mode of life was free from all scandal or
suspicion; they probably belonged to the literary or musical world, as
the garcon had observed as their visitors the eminent author M. Savarin
and his wife; and, still more frequently, an old man not less eminent as
a musical composer.

"It is clear to me now," said Lemercier, as the two friends reseated
themselves in the carriage, "that our pearly ange is some Italian singer
of repute enough in her own country to have gained already a competence;
and that, perhaps on account of her own health or her friend's, she is
living quietly here in the expectation of some professional engagement,
or the absence of some foreign lover."

"Lover! do you think that?" exclaimed Alain, in a tone of voice that
betrayed pain.

"It is possible enough; and in that case the Englishman may profit little
by the information I have promised to give him."

"You have promised the Englishman?"

"Do you not remember last night that he described the lady, and said that
her face haunted him: and I--"

"Ah! I remember now. What do you know of this Englishman? He is rich, I
suppose."

"Yes, I hear he is very rich now; that an uncle lately left him an
enormous sum of money. He was attached to the English Embassy many years
ago, which accounts for his good French and his knowledge of Parisian
life. He comes to Paris very often, and I have known him some time.
Indeed he has intrusted to me a difficult and delicate commission. The
English tell me that his father was one of the most eminent members of
their Parliament, of ancient birth, very highly connected, but ran out
his fortune and died poor; that our friend had for some years to maintain
himself, I fancy, by his pen; that he is considered very able; and, now
that his uncle has enriched him, likely to enter public life and run a
career as distinguished as his father's."

"Happy man! happy are the English," said the Marquis, with a sigh; and as
the carriage now entered Paris, he pleaded the excuse of an engagement,
bade his friend goodby, and went his way musing through the crowded
streets.



CHAPTER VIII.

LETTER FROM ISAURA CICOGNA TO MADAME DE GRANTMESNIL.

                         VILLA D'-----, A------.

I can never express to you, my beloved Eulalie, the strange charm which a
letter from you throws over my poor little lonely world for days after it
is received. There is always in it something that comforts, something
that sustains, but also a something that troubles and disquiets me. I
suppose Goethe is right, "that it is the property of true genius to
disturb all settled ideas," in order, no doubt, to lift them into a
higher level when they settle down again.

Your sketch of the new work you are meditating amid the orange groves of
Provence interests me intensely; yet, do you forgive me when I add that
the interest is not without terror? I do not find myself able to
comprehend how, amid those lovely scenes of Nature, your mind voluntarily
surrounds itself with images of pain and discord. I stand in awe of the
calm with which you subject to your analysis the infirmities of reason
and the tumults of passion. And all those laws of the social state which
seem to me so fixed and immovable you treat with so quiet a scorn, as if
they were but the gossamer threads which a touch of your slight woman's
hand could brush away. But I cannot venture to discuss such subjects with
you. It is only the skilled enchanter who can stand safely in the magic
circle, and compel the spirits that he summons, even if they are evil, to
minister to ends in which he foresees a good.

We continue to live here very quietly, and I do not as yet feel the worse
for the colder climate. Indeed, my wonderful doctor, who was recommended
to me as American, but is in reality English, assures me that a single
winter spent here under his care will suffice for my complete
re-establishment. Yet that career, to the training for which so many
years have been devoted, does not seem to me so alluring as it once did.

I have much to say on this subject, which I defer till I can better
collect my own thoughts on it; at present they are confused and
struggling. The great Maestro has been most gracious.

In what a radiant atmosphere his genius lives and breathes! Even in his
cynical moods, his very cynicism has in it the ring of a jocund
music,--the laugh of Figaro, not of Mephistopheles.

We went to dine with him last week. He invited to meet us Madame S-----,
who has this year conquered all opposition, and reigns alone, the great
S-----; Mr. T--------, a pianist of admirable promise; your friend M.
Savarin, wit, critic, and poet, with his pleasant, sensible wife; and a
few others, who, the Maestro confided to me in a whisper, were
authorities in the press. After dinner S----- sang to us, magnificently,
of course. Then she herself graciously turned to me, said how much she
had heard from the Maestro in my praise, and so and so. I was persuaded
to sing after her. I need not say to what disadvantage. But I forgot my
nervousness; I forgot my audience; I forgot myself, as I always do when
once my soul, as it were, finds wing in music, and buoys itself in the
air, relieved from the sense of earth. I knew not that I had succeeded
till I came to a close, and then my eyes resting on the face of the grand
prima donna, I was seized with an indescribable sadness, with a keen pang
of remorse. Perfect artiste though she be, and with powers in her own
realm of art which admit of no living equal, I saw at once that I had
pained her: she had grown almost livid; her lips were quivering, and it
was only with a great effort that she muttered out some faint words
intended for applause. I comprehended by an instinct how gradually there
can grow upon the mind of an artist the most generous that jealousy which
makes the fear of a rival annihilate the delight in art. If ever I should
achieve S-----'s fame as a singer, should I feel the same jealousy?--I
think not now, but I have not been tested. She went away abruptly. I
spare you the recital of the compliments paid to me by my other auditors,
compliments that gave me no pleasure; for on all lips, except those of
the Maestro, they implied, as the height of eulogy, that I had inflicted
torture upon S-----. "If so," said he, "she would be as foolish as a rose
that was jealous of the whiteness of a lily. You would do yourself great
wrong, my child, if you tried to vie with the rose in its own colour."

He patted my bended head as he spoke, with that kind of fatherly
king-like fondness with which he honours me; and I took his hand in mine,
and kissed it gratefully. "Nevertheless," said Savarin, "when the lily
comes out there will be a furious attack on it, made by the clique that
devotes itself to the rose: a lily clique will be formed en revanche, and
I foresee a fierce paper war. Do not be frightened at its first outburst:
every fame worth having must be fought for."

Is it so? have you had to fight for your fame, Eulalie? and do you hate
all contests as much as I do?

Our only other gayety since I last wrote was a soiree at M. Louvier's.
That republican millionaire was not slow in attending to the kind letter
you addressed to him recommending us to his civilities. He called at
once, placed his good offices at our disposal, took charge of my modest
fortune, which he has invested, no doubt, as safely as it is
advantageously in point of interest, hired our carriage for us, and in
short has been most amiably useful.

At his house we met many to me most pleasant, for they spoke with such
genuine appreciation of your works and yourself. But there were others
whom I should never have expected to meet under the roof of a Croesus who
has so great a stake in the order of things established. One young man--a
noble whom he specially presented to me, as a politician who would be at
the head of affairs when the Red Republic was established--asked me
whether I did not agree with him that all private property was public
spoliation, and that the great enemy to civilization was religion, no
matter in what form.

He addressed to me these tremendous questions with an effeminate lisp,
and harangued on them with small feeble gesticulations of pale dirty
fingers covered with rings.

I asked him if there were many who in France shared his ideas.

"Quite enough to carry them some day," he answered with a lofty smile.
"And the day may be nearer than the world thinks, when my confreres will
be so numerous that they will have to shoot down each other for the sake
of cheese to their bread."

That day nearer than the world thinks! Certainly, so far as one may judge
the outward signs of the world at Paris, it does not think of such things
at all. With what an air of self-content the beautiful city parades her
riches! Who can gaze on her splendid palaces, her gorgeous shops, and
believe that she will give ear to doctrines that would annihilate private
rights of property; or who can enter her crowded churches, and dream that
she can ever again install a republic too civilized for religion?

Adieu. Excuse me for this dull letter. If I have written on much that has
little interest even for me, it is that I wish to distract my mind from
brooding over the question that interests me most, and on which I most
need your counsel. I will try to approach it in my next.

                         ISAURA.
FROM THE SAME TO THE SAME.

Eulalie, Eulalie!--What mocking spirit has been permitted in this modern
age of ours to place in the heart of woman the ambition which is the
prerogative of men? You indeed, so richly endowed with a man's genius,
have a right to man's aspirations. But what can justify such ambition in
me? Nothing but this one unintellectual perishable gift of a voice that
does but please in uttering the thoughts of others. Doubtless I could
make a name familiar for its brief time to the talk of Europe,--a name,
what name? a singer's name. Once I thought that name a glory. Shall I
ever forget the day when you first shone upon me; when, emerging from
childhood as from a dim and solitary bypath, I stood forlorn on the great
thoroughfare of life, and all the prospects before me stretched sad in
mists and in rain? You beamed on me then as the sun coming out from the
cloud and changing the face of earth; you opened to my sight the
fairy-land of poetry and art; you took me by the hand and said, "Courage!
there is at each step some green gap in the hedgerows, some, soft escape
from the stony thoroughfare. Beside the real life expands the ideal life
to those who seek it. Droop not, seek it: the ideal life has its sorrows,
but it never admits despair; as on the ear of him who follows the winding
course of a stream, the stream ever varies the note of its music,--now
loud with the rush of the falls; now low and calm as it glides by the
level marge of smooth banks; now sighing through the stir of the reeds;
now babbling with a fretful joy as some sudden curve on the shore stays
its flight among gleaming pebbles,--so to the soul of the artist is the
voice of the art ever fleeting beside and before him. Nature gave thee
the bird's gift of song: raise the gift into art, and make the art thy
companion.

"Art and Hope were twin-born, and they die together." See how faithfully
I remember, methinks, your very words. But the magic of the words, which
I then but dimly understood, was in your smile and in your eye, and the
queen-like wave of your hand as if beckoning to a world which lay before
you, visible and familiar as your native land. And how devotedly, with
what earnestness of passion, I gave myself up to the task of raising my
gift into an art! I thought of nothing else, dreamed of nothing else; and
oh, now sweet to me then were words of praise! "Another year yet," at
length said the masters, "and you ascend your throne among the queens of
song." Then--then--I would have changed for no other throne on earth my
hope of that to be achieved in the realms of my art. And then came that
long fever: my strength broke down, and the Maestro said, "Rest, or your
voice is gone, and your throne is lost forever." How hateful that rest
seemed to me! You again came to my aid. You said, "The time you think
lost should be but time improved. Penetrate your mind with other songs
than the trash of Libretti. The more you habituate yourself to the forms,
the more you imbue yourself with the spirit, in which passions have been
expressed and character delineated by great writers, the more completely
you will accomplish yourself in your own special art of singer and
actress." So, then, you allured me to a new study. Ah! in so doing did
you dream that you diverted me from the old ambition? My knowledge of
French and Italian, and my rearing in childhood, which had made English
familiar to me, gave me the keys to the treasure-houses of three
languages. Naturally I began with that in which your masterpieces are
composed. Till then I had not even read your works. They were the first I
chose. How they impressed, how they startled me! what depths in the mind
of man, in the heart of woman, they revealed to me! But I owned to you
then, and I repeat it now, neither they nor any of the works in romance
and poetry which form the boast of recent French literature satisfied
yearnings for that calm sense of beauty, that divine joy in a world
beyond this world, which you had led me to believe it was the prerogative
of ideal art to bestow. And when I told you this with the rude frankness
you had bid me exercise in talk with you, a thoughtful, melancholy shade
fell over your face, and you said quietly, "You are right, child; we, the
French of our time, are the offspring of revolutions that settled
nothing, unsettled all: we resemble those troubled States which rush into
war abroad in order to re-establish peace at home. Our books suggest
problems to men for reconstructing some social system in which the calm
that belongs to art may be found at last: but such books should not be in
your hands; they are not for the innocence and youth of women as yet
unchanged by the systems which exist." And the next day you brought me
'l'asso's great poem, the "Gerusalemme Liberata," and said, smiling, "Art
in its calm is here."

You remember that I was then at Sorrento by the order of my physician.
Never shall I forget the soft autumn day when I sat amongst the lonely
rocklets to the left of the town,--the sea before me, with scarce a
ripple; my very heart steeped in the melodies of that poem, so marvellous
for a strength disguised in sweetness, and for a symmetry in which each
proportion blends into the other with the perfectness of a Grecian
statue. The whole place seemed to me filled with the presence of the poet
to whom it had given birth. Certainly the reading of that poem formed an
era in my existence: to this day I cannot acknowledge the faults or
weaknesses which your criticisms pointed out; I believe because they are
in unison with my own nature, which yearns for harmony, and, finding
that, rests contented. I shrink from violent contrasts, and can discover
nothing tame and insipid in a continuance of sweetness and serenity. But
it was not till after I had read "La Gerusalemme" again and again, and
then sat and brooded over it, that I recognized the main charm of the
poem in the religion which clings to it as the perfume clings to a
flower,--a religion sometimes melancholy, but never to me sad. Hope
always pervades it. Surely if, as you said, "Hope is twin-born with art,"
it is because art at its highest blends itself unconsciously with
religion, and proclaims its affinity with hope by its faith in some
future good more perfect than it has realized in the past.

Be this as it may, it was in this poem so pre-eminently Christian that I
found the something which I missed and craved for in modern French
masterpieces; even yours,--a something spiritual, speaking to my own
soul, calling it forth; distinguishing it as an essence apart from mere
human reason; soothing, even when it excited; making earth nearer to
heaven. And when I ran on in this strain to you after my own wild
fashion, you took my head between your hands and kissed me, and said,
"Happy are those who believe! long may that happiness be thine!" Why did
I not feel in Dante the Christian charm that I felt in Tasso? Dante in
your eyes, as in those of most judges, is infinitely the greater genius;
but reflected on the dark stream of that genius the stars are so
troubled, the heaven so threatening.

Just as my year of holiday was expiring, I turned to English literature;
and Shakspeare, of course, was the first English poet put into my hands.
It proves how childlike my mind still was, that my earliest sensation in
reading him was that of disappointment. It was not only that, despite my
familiarity with English (thanks chiefly to the care of him whom I call
my second father), there is much in the metaphorical diction of
Shakspeare which I failed to comprehend; but he seemed to me so far like
the modern French writers who affect to have found inspiration in his
muse, that he obtrudes images of pain and suffering without cause or
motive sufficiently clear to ordinary understandings, as I had taught
myself to think it ought to be in the drama.

He makes Fate so cruel that we lose sight of the mild deity behind her.
Compare, in this, Corneille's "Polyeucte," with the "Hamlet." In the
first an equal calamity befalls the good, but in their calamity they are
blessed. The death of the martyr is the triumph of his creed. But when we
have put down the English tragedy,--when Hamlet and Ophelia are
confounded in death with Polonius and the fratricidal king, we see not
what good end for humanity is achieved. The passages that fasten on our
memory do not make us happier and holier: they suggest but terrible
problems, to which they give us no solution.

In the "Horaces" of Corneille there are fierce contests, rude passions,
tears drawn from some of the bitterest sources of human pity; but then
through all stands out, large and visible to the eyes of all spectators,
the great ideal of devoted patriotism. How much of all that has been
grandest in the life of France, redeeming even its worst crimes of
revolution in the love of country, has had its origin in the "Horaces" of
Corneille. But I doubt if the fates of Coriolanus and Caesar and Brutus
and Antony, in the giant tragedies of Shakspeare, have made Englishmen
more willing to die for England. In fine, it was long before--I will not
say I understood or rightly appreciated Shakspeare, for no Englishman
would admit that I or even you could ever do so, but before I could
recognize the justice of the place his country claims for him as the
genius without an equal in the literature of Europe. Meanwhile the ardour
I had put into study, and the wear and tear of the emotions which the
study called forth, made themselves felt in a return of my former
illness, with symptoms still more alarming; and when the year was out I
was ordained to rest for perhaps another year before I could sing in
public, still less appear on the stage. How I rejoiced when I heard that
fiat! for I emerged from that year of study with a heart utterly
estranged from the profession in which I had centred my hopes
before--Yes, Eulalie, you had bid me accomplish myself for the arts of
utterance; by the study of arts in which thoughts originate the words
they employ; and in doing so I had changed myself into another being. I
was forbidden all fatigue of mind: my books were banished, but not the
new self which the books had formed. Recovering slowly through the
summer, I came hither two months since, ostensibly for the advice of Dr.
C-------, but really in the desire to commune with my own heart and be
still.

And now I have poured forth that heart to you, would you persuade me
still to be a singer? If you do, remember at least how jealous and
absorbing the art of the singer and the actress is,--how completely I
must surrender myself to it, and live among books or among dreams no
more. Can I be anything else but singer? and if not, should I be
contented merely to read and to dream?

I must confide to you one ambition which during the lazy Italian summer
took possession of me; I must tell you the ambition, and add that I have
renounced it as a vain one. I had hoped that I could compose, I mean in
music. I was pleased with some things I did: they expressed in music what
I could not express in words; and one secret object in coming here was to
submit them to the great Maestro. He listened to them patiently: he
complimented me on my accuracy in the mechanical laws of composition; he
even said that my favourite airs were "touchants et gracieux."

And so he would have left me, but I stopped him timidly, and said, "Tell
me frankly, do you think that with time and study I could compose music
such as singers equal to myself would sing to?"

"You mean as a professional composer?"

"Well, yes."

"And to the abandonment of your vocation as a singer?"

"Yes."

"My dear child, I should be your worst enemy if I encouraged such a
notion: cling to the career in which you call be greatest; gain but
health, and I wager my reputation on your glorious success on the stage.
What can you be as a composer? You will set pretty music to pretty words,
and will be sung in drawing-rooms with the fame a little more or less
that generally attends the compositions of female amateurs. Aim at
something higher, as I know you would do, and you will not succeed. Is
there any instance in modern times, perhaps in any times, of a female
composer who attains even to the eminence of a third-rate opera-writer?
Composition in letters may be of no sex. In that Madame Dudevant and your
friend Madame de Grantmesnil can beat most men; but the genius of musical
composition is homme, and accept it as a compliment when I say that you
are essentially femme."

He left me, of course, mortified and humbled; but I feel he is right as
regards myself, though whether in his depreciation of our whole sex I
cannot say. But as this hope has left me, I have become more disquieted,
still more restless. Counsel me, Eulalie; counsel, and, if possible,
comfort me.
                         ISAURA.
FROM THE SAME TO THE SAME.

No letter from you yet, and I have left you in peace for ten days. How do
you think I have spent them? The Maestro called on us with M. Savarin, to
insist on our accompanying them on a round of the theatres. I had not
been to one since my arrival. I divined that the kind-hearted composer
had a motive in this invitation. He thought that in witnessing the
applauses bestowed on actors, and sharing in the fascination in which
theatrical illusion holds an audience, my old passion for the stage, and
with it the longing for an artiste's fame, would revive.

In my heart I wished that his expectations might be realized. Well for me
if I could once more concentrate all my aspirations on a prize within my
reach!

We went first to see a comedy greatly in vogue, and the author thoroughly
understands the French stage of our day. The acting was excellent in its
way. The next night we went to the Odeon, a romantic melodrama in six
acts, and I know not how many tableaux. I found no fault with the acting
there. I do not give you the rest of our programme. We visited all the
principal theatres, reserving the opera and Madame S------ for the last.
Before I speak of the opera, let me say a word or two on the plays.

There is no country in which the theatre has so great a hold on the
public as in France; no country in which the successful dramatist has so
high a fame; no country perhaps in which the state of the stage so
faithfully represents the moral and intellectual condition of the people.
I say this not, of course, from my experience of countries which I have
not visited, but from all I hear of the stage in Germany and in England.

The impression left on my mind by the performances I witnessed is, that
the French people are becoming dwarfed. The comedies that please them are
but pleasant caricatures of petty sections in a corrupt society. They
contain no large types of human nature; their witticisms convey no
luminous flashes of truth; their sentiment is not pure and noble,--it is
a sickly and false perversion of the impure and ignoble into travesties
of the pure and noble.

Their melodramas cannot be classed as literature: all that really remains
of the old French genius is its vaudeville. Great dramatists create great
parts. One great part, such as a Rachel would gladly have accepted, I
have not seen in the dramas of the young generation.

High art has taken refuge in the opera; but that is not French opera. I
do not complain so much that French taste is less refined. I complain
that French intellect is lowered. The descent from "Polyeucte" to "Ruy
Blas" is great, not so much in the poetry of form as in the elevation of
thought; but the descent from "Ruy Blas" to the best drama now produced
is out of poetry altogether, and into those flats of prose which give not
even the glimpse of a mountain-top.

But now to the opera. S------ in Norma! The house was crowded, and its
enthusiasm as loud as it was genuine. You tell me that S------ never
rivalled Pasta, but certainly her Norma is a great performance. Her voice
has lost less of its freshness than I had been told, and what is lost of
it her practised management conceals or carries off.

The Maestro was quite right: I could never vie with her in her own line;
but conceited and vain as I may seem even to you in saying so, I feel in
my own line that I could command as large an applause,--of course taking
into account my brief-lived advantage of youth. Her acting, apart from
her voice, does not please me. It seems to me to want intelligence of the
subtler feelings, the under-current of emotion which constitutes the
chief beauty of the situation and the character. Am I jealous when I say
this? Read on and judge.

On our return that night, when I had seen the Venosta to bed, I went into
my own room, opened the window, and looked out. A lovely night, mild as
in spring at Florence,--the moon at her full, and the stars looking so
calm and so high beyond our reach of their tranquillity. The evergreens
in the gardens of the villas around me silvered over, and the summer
boughs, not yet clothed with leaves, were scarcely visible amid the
changeless smile of the laurels. At the distance lay Paris, only to be
known by its innumerable lights. And then I said to myself,

"No, I cannot be an actress; I cannot resign my real self for that
vamped-up hypocrite before the lamps. Out on those stage-robes and
painted cheeks! Out on that simulated utterance of sentiments learned by
rote and practised before the looking-glass till every gesture has its
drill!"

Then I gazed on those stars which provoke our questionings, and return no
answer, till my heart grew full,--so full,--and I bowed my head and wept
like a child.



FROM THE SAME TO THE SAME.

And still no letter from you! I see in the journals that you have left
Nice. Is it that you are too absorbed in your work to have leisure to
write to me? I know you are not ill, for if you were, all Paris would
know of it. All Europe has an interest in your health. Positively I will
write to you no more till a word from yourself bids me do so.

I fear I must give up my solitary walks in the Bois de Boulogne: they
were very dear to me, partly because the quiet path to which I confined
myself was that to which you directed me as the one you habitually
selected when at Paris, and in which you had brooded over and revolved
the loveliest of your romances; and partly because it was there that,
catching, alas! not inspiration but enthusiasm from the genius that had
hallowed the place, and dreaming I might originate music, I nursed my own
aspirations and murmured my own airs. And though so close to that world
of Paris to which all artists must appeal for judgment or audience, the
spot was so undisturbed, so sequestered. But of late that path has lost
its solitude, and therefore its charm.

Six days ago the first person I encountered in my walk was a man whom I
did not then heed. He seemed in thought, or rather in revery, like
myself; we passed each other twice or thrice, and I did not notice
whether he was young or old, tall or short; but he came the next day, and
a third day, and then I saw that he was young, and, in so regarding him,
his eyes became fixed on mine. The fourth day he did not come, but two
other men came, and the look of one was inquisitive and offensive. They
sat themselves down on a bench in the walk, and though I did not seem to
notice them, I hastened home; and the next day, in talking with our kind
Madame Savarin, and alluding to these quiet walks of mine, she hinted,
with the delicacy which is her characteristic, that the customs of Paris
did not allow demoiselles comme il faut to walk alone even in the most
sequestered paths of the Bois.

I begin now to comprehend your disdain of customs which impose chains so
idly galling on the liberty of our sex.

We dined with the Savarins last evening: what a joyous nature he has! Not
reading Latin, I only know Horace by translations, which I am told are
bad; but Savarin seems to me a sort of half Horace,--Horace on his
town-bred side, so playfully well-bred, so good-humoured in his
philosophy, so affectionate to friends, and so biting to foes. But
certainly Savarin could not have lived in a country farm upon endives and
mallows. He is town-bred and Parisian, jusqu'au bout des ongles. How he
admires you, and how I love him for it! Only in one thing he disappoints
me there. It is your style that he chiefly praises: certainly that style
is matchless; but style is only the clothing of thought, and to praise
your style seems to me almost as invidious as the compliment to some
perfect beauty, not on her form and face, but on her taste and dress.

We met at dinner an American and his wife,--a Colonel and Mrs. Morley:
she is delicately handsome, as the American women I have seen generally
are, and with that frank vivacity of manner which distinguishes them from
English women. She seemed to take a fancy to me, and we soon grew very
good friends.

She is the first advocate I have met, except yourself, of that doctrine
upon the rights of Women, of which one reads more in the journals than
one hears discussed in salons. Naturally enough I felt great interest in
that subject, more especially since my rambles in the Bois were
forbidden; and as long as she declaimed on the hard fate of the women
who, feeling within them powers that struggle for air and light beyond
the close precinct of household duties, find themselves restricted from
fair rivalry with men in such fields of knowledge and toil and glory as
men since the world began have appropriated to themselves, I need not say
that I went with her cordially: you can guess that by my former letters.
But when she entered into the detailed catalogue of our exact wrongs and
our exact rights, I felt all the pusillanimity of my sex and shrank back
in terror.

Her husband, joining us when she was in full tide of eloquence, smiled at
me with a kind of saturnine mirth. "Mademoiselle, don't believe a word
she says: it is only tall talk! In America the women are absolute
tyrants, and it is I who, in concert with my oppressed countrymen, am
going in for a platform agitation to restore the Rights of Men."

Upon this there was a lively battle of words between the spouses, in
which, I must own, I thought the lady was decidedly worsted.

No, Eulalie, I see nothing in these schemes for altering our relations
towards the other sex which would improve our condition. The inequalities
we suffer are not imposed by law,--not even by convention: they are
imposed by nature.

Eulalie, you have had an experience unknown to me: you have loved. In
that day did you,--you, round whom poets and sages and statesmen gather,
listening to your words as to an oracle,--did you feel that your pride of
genius had gone out from you, that your ambition lived in whom you loved,
that his smile was more to you than the applause of a world?

I feel as if love in a woman must destroy her rights of equality, that it
gives to her a sovereign even in one who would be inferior to herself if
her love did not glorify and crown him. Ah! if I could but merge this
terrible egotism which oppresses me, into the being of some one who is
what I would wish to be were I man! I would not ask him to achieve fame.
Enough if I felt that he was worthy of it, and happier methinks to
console him when he failed than to triumph with him when he won. Tell me,
have you felt this? When you loved did you stoop as to a slave, or did
you bow down as to a master?

FROM MADAME DE GRANTMESNIL TO ISAURA CICOGNA.

Chere enfant,--All your four letters have reached me the same day. In one
of my sudden whims I set off with a few friends on a rapid tour along the
Riviera to Genoa, thence to Turin on to Milan. Not knowing where we
should rest even for a day, my letters were not forwarded.

I came back to Nice yesterday, consoled for all fatigues in having
insured that accuracy in description of localities which my work
necessitates.

You are, my poor child, in that revolutionary crisis through which genius
passes in youth before it knows its own self, and longs vaguely to do or
to be a something other than it has done or has been before. For, not to
be unjust to your own powers, genius you have,--that inborn undefinable
essence, including talent, and yet distinct from it. Genius you have, but
genius unconcentrated, undisciplined. I see, though you are too diffident
to say so openly, that you shrink from the fame of singer, because,
fevered by your reading, you would fain aspire to the thorny crown of
author. I echo the hard saying of the Maestro: I should be your worst
enemy did I encourage you to forsake a career in which a dazzling success
is so assured, for one in which, if it were your true vocation, you would
not ask whether you were fit for it; you would be impelled to it by the
terrible star which presides over the birth of poets.

Have you, who are so naturally observant, and of late have become so
reflective, never remarked that authors, however absorbed in their own
craft, do not wish their children to adopt it? The most successful author
is perhaps the last person to whom neophytes should come for
encouragement. This I think is not the case with the cultivators of the
sister arts.

The painter, the sculptor, the musician, seem disposed to invite
disciples and welcome acolytes. As for those engaged in the practical
affairs of life, fathers mostly wish their sons to be as they have been.

The politician, the lawyer, the merchant, each says to his children,
"Follow my steps." All parents in practical life would at least agree in
this,--they would not wish their sons to be poets. There must be some
sound cause in the world's philosophy for this general concurrence of
digression from a road of which the travellers themselves say to those
whom they love best, "Beware!"

Romance in youth is, if rightly understood, the happiest nutriment of
wisdom in after-years; but I would never invite any one to look upon the
romance of youth as a thing

        "To case in periods and embalm in ink."

Enfant, have you need of a publisher to create romance? Is it not in
yourself? Do not imagine that genius requires for its enjoyment the
scratch of the pen and the types of the printer. Do not suppose that the
poet, the romancier, is most poetic, most romantic, when he is striving,
struggling, labouring, to check the rush of his ideas, and materialize
the images which visit him as souls into such tangible likenesses of
flesh and blood that the highest compliment a reader can bestow on them
is to say that they are lifelike: No: the poet's real delight is not in
the mechanism of composing; the best part of that delight is in the
sympathies he has established with innumerable modifications of life and
form, and art and Nature, sympathies which are often found equally keen
in those who have not the same gift of language. The poet is but the
interpreter. What of?--Truths in the hearts of others. He utters what
they feel. Is the joy in the utterance? Nay, it is in the feeling itself.
So, my dear, dark-bright child of song, when I bade thee open, out of the
beaten thoroughfare, paths into the meads and river-banks at either side
of the formal hedgerows, rightly dost thou add that I enjoined thee to
make thine art thy companion. In the culture of that art for which you
are so eminently gifted, you will find the ideal life ever beside the
real. Are you not ashamed to tell me that in that art you do but utter
the thoughts of others? You utter them in music; through the music you
not only give to the thoughts a new character, but you make them
reproductive of fresh thoughts in your audience.

You said very truly that you found in composing you could put into music
thoughts which you could not put into words. That is the peculiar
distinction of music. No genuine musician can explain in words exactly
what he means to convey in his music.

How little a libretto interprets an opera; how little we care even to
read it! It is the music that speaks to us; and how?--Through the human
voice. We do not notice how poor are the words which the voice warbles.
It is the voice itself interpreting the soul of the musician which
enchants and enthralls us. And you who have that voice pretend to despise
the gift. What! despise the power of communicating delight!--the power
that we authors envy; and rarely, if ever, can we give delight with so
little alloy as the singer.

And when an audience disperses, can you guess what griefs the singer may
have comforted? what hard hearts he may have softened? what high thoughts
he may have awakened?

You say, "Out on the vamped-up hypocrite! Out on the stage-robes and
painted cheeks!"

I say, "Out on the morbid spirit which so cynically regards the mere
details by which a whole effect on the minds and hearts and souls of
races and nations can be produced!"

There, have I scolded you sufficiently? I should scold you more, if I did
not see in the affluence of your youth and your intellect the cause of
your restlessness. Riches are always restless. It is only to poverty that
the gods give content.

You question me about love; you ask if I have ever bowed to a master,
ever merged my life in another's: expect no answer on this from me. Circe
herself could give no answer to the simplest maid, who, never having
loved, asks, "What is love?"

In the history of the passions each human heart is a world in itself; its
experience profits no others. In no two lives does love play the same
part or bequeath the same record.

I know not whether I am glad or sorry that the word "love" now falls on
my ear with a sound as slight and as faint as the dropping of a leaf in
autumn may fall on thine.

I volunteer but this lesson, the wisest I can give, if thou canst
understand it: as I bade thee take art into thy life, so learn to look on
life itself as an art. Thou couldst discover the charm in Tasso; thou
couldst perceive that the requisite of all art, that which pleases, is in
the harmony of proportion. We lose sight of beauty if we exaggerate the
feature most beautiful.

Love proportioned adorns the homeliest existence; love disproportioned
deforms the fairest.

Alas! wilt thou remember this warning when the time comes in which it may
be needed?

E----- G-------.



                 BOOK II.



CHAPTER I.

It is several weeks after the date of the last chapter; the lime-trees in
the Tuileries are clothed in green.

In a somewhat spacious apartment on the ground-floor in the quiet
locality of the Rue d'Anjou, a man was seated, very still and evidently
absorbed in deep thought, before a writing-table placed close to the
window.

Seen thus, there was an expression of great power both of intellect and
of character in a face which, in ordinary social commune, might rather be
noticeable for an aspect of hardy frankness, suiting well with the
clear-cut, handsome profile, and the rich dark auburn hair, waving
carelessly over one of those broad open foreheads, which, according to an
old writer, seem the "frontispiece of a temple dedicated to Honour."

The forehead, indeed, was the man's most remarkable feature. It could not
but prepossess the beholder. When, in private theatricals, he had need to
alter the character of his countenance, he did it effectually, merely by
forcing down his hair till it reached his eyebrows. He no longer then
looked like the same man.

The person I describe has been already introduced to the reader as Graham
Vane. But perhaps this is the fit occasion to enter into some such
details as to his parentage and position as may make the introduction
more satisfactory and complete.

His father, the representative of a very ancient family, came into
possession, after a long minority, of what may be called a fair squire's
estate, and about half a million in moneyed investments, inherited on the
female side. Both land and money were absolutely at his disposal,
unencumbered by entail or settlement. He was a man of a brilliant,
irregular genius, of princely generosity, of splendid taste, of a
gorgeous kind of pride closely allied to a masculine kind of vanity. As
soon as he was of age he began to build, converting his squire's hall
into a ducal palace. He then stood for the county; and in days before the
first Reform Bill, when a county election was to the estate of a
candidate what a long war is to the debt of a nation. He won the
election; he obtained early successes in Parliament. It was said by good
authorities in political circles that, if he chose, he might aspire to
lead his party, and ultimately to hold the first rank in the government
of his country.

That may or may not be true; but certainly he did not choose to take the
trouble necessary for such an ambition. He was too fond of pleasure, of
luxury, of pomp. He kept a famous stud of racers and hunters. He was a
munificent patron of art. His establishments, his entertainments, were on
a par with those of the great noble who represented the loftiest (Mr.
Vane would not own it to be the eldest) branch of his genealogical tree.

He became indifferent to political contests, indolent in his attendance
at the House, speaking seldom, not at great length nor with much
preparation, but with power and fire, originality and genius; so that he
was not only effective as an orator, but combining with eloquence
advantages of birth, person, station, the reputation of patriotic
independence, and genial attributes of character, he was an authority of
weight in the scales of party.

This gentleman, at the age of forty, married the dowerless daughter of a
poor but distinguished naval officer, of noble family, first cousin to
the Duke of Alton.

He settled on her a suitable jointure, but declined to tie up any portion
of his property for the benefit of children by the marriage. He declared
that so much of his fortune was invested either in mines, the produce of
which was extremely fluctuating, or in various funds, over rapid
transfers in which it was his amusement and his interest to have control,
unchecked by reference to trustees, that entails and settlements on
children were an inconvenience he declined to incur.

Besides, he held notions of his own as to the wisdom of keeping children
dependent on their father. "What numbers of young men," said he, "are
ruined in character and in fortune by knowing that when their father dies
they are certain of the same provision, no matter how they displease him;
and in the meanwhile forestalling that provision by recourse to usurers."
These arguments might not have prevailed over the bride's father a year
or two later, when, by the death of intervening kinsmen, he became Duke
of Alton; but in his then circumstances the marriage itself was so much
beyond the expectations which the portionless daughter of a sea-captain
has the right to form that Mr. Vane had it all his own way, and he
remained absolute master of his whole fortune, save of that part of his
landed estate on which his wife's jointure was settled; and even from
this incumbrance he was very soon freed. His wife died in the second year
of marriage, leaving an only son,--Graham. He grieved for her loss with
all the passion of an impressionable, ardent, and powerful nature. Then
for a while he sought distraction to his sorrow by throwing himself into
public life with a devoted energy he had not previously displayed.

His speeches served to bring his party into power, and he yielded, though
reluctantly, to the unanimous demand of that party that he should accept
one of the highest offices in the new Cabinet. He acquitted himself well
as an administrator, but declared, no doubt honestly, that he felt like
Sinbad released from the old man on his back, when, a year or two
afterwards, he went out of office with his party. No persuasions could
induce him to come in again; nor did he ever again take a very active
part in debate. "No," said he, "I was born to the freedom of a private
gentleman: intolerable to me is the thraldom of a public servant. But I
will bring up my son so that he may acquit the debt which I decline to
pay to my country." There he kept his word. Graham had been carefully
educated for public life, the ambition for it dinned into his ear from
childhood. In his school vacations his father made him learn and declaim
chosen specimens of masculine oratory; engaged an eminent actor to give
him lessons in elocution; bade him frequent theatres, and study there the
effect which words derive from looks and gesture; encouraged him to take
part himself in private theatricals. To all this the boy lent his mind
with delight. He had the orator's inborn temperament; quick, yet
imaginative, and loving the sport of rivalry and contest. Being also, in
his boyish years, good-humoured and joyous, he was not more a favourite
with the masters in the schoolroom than with the boys in the play-ground.
Leaving Eton at seventeen, he then entered at Cambridge, and became, in
his first term, the most popular speaker at the Union.

But his father cut short his academical career, and decided, for reasons
of his own, to place him at once in diplomacy. He was attached to the
Embassy at Paris, and partook of the pleasures and dissipations of that
metropolis too keenly to retain much of the sterner ambition to which he
had before devoted himself. Becoming one of the spoiled darlings of
fashion, there was great danger that his character would relax into the
easy grace of the Epicurean, when all such loiterings in the Rose Garden
were brought to abrupt close by a rude and terrible change in his
fortunes.

His father was killed by a fall from his horse in hunting; and when his
affairs were investigated, they were found to be hopelessly involved:
apparently the assets would not suffice for the debts. The elder Vane
himself was probably not aware of the extent of his liabilities. He had
never wanted ready money to the last. He could always obtain that from a
money-lender, or from the sale of his funded investments. But it became
obvious, on examining his papers, that he knew at least how impaired
would be the heritage he should bequeath to a son whom he idolized. For
that reason he had given Graham a profession in diplomacy, and for that
reason he had privately applied to the Ministry for the Viceroyalty of
India, in the event of its speedy vacancy. He was eminent enough not to
anticipate refusal, and with economy in that lucrative post much of his
pecuniary difficulties might have been redeemed, and at least an
independent provision secured for his son.

Graham, like Alain de Rochebriant, allowed no reproach on his father's
memory; indeed, with more reason than Alain, for the elder Vane's fortune
had at least gone on no mean and frivolous dissipation.

It had lavished itself on encouragement to art, on great objects of
public beneficence, on public-spirited aid of political objects; and even
in more selfish enjoyments there was a certain grandeur in his princely
hospitalities, in his munificent generosity, in a warm-hearted
carelessness for money. No indulgence in petty follies or degrading vices
aggravated the offence of the magnificent squanderer.

"Let me look on my loss of fortune as a gain to myself," said Graham,
manfully. "Had I been a rich man, my experience of Paris tells me that I
should most likely have been a very idle one. Now that I have no gold, I
must dig in myself for iron."

The man to whom he said this was an uncle-in-law,--if I may use that
phrase,--the Right Hon. Richard King, popularly styled "the blameless
King."

This gentleman had married the sister of Graham's mother, whose loss in
his infancy and boyhood she had tenderly and anxiously sought to supply.
It is impossible to conceive a woman more fitted to invite love and
reverence than was Lady Janet King, her manners were so sweet and gentle,
her whole nature so elevated and pure.

Her father had succeeded to the dukedom when she married Mr. King, and
the alliance was not deemed quite suitable. Still it was not one to which
the Duke would have been fairly justified in refusing his assent.

Mr. King could not indeed boast of noble ancestry, nor was even a landed
proprietor; but he was a not-undistinguished member of Parliament, of
irreproachable character, and ample fortune inherited from a distant
kinsman, who had enriched himself as a merchant. It was on both sides a
marriage of love.

It is popularly said that a man uplifts a wife to his own rank: it as
often happens that a woman uplifts her husband to the dignity of her own
character. Richard King rose greatly in public estimation after his
marriage with Lady Janet.

She united to a sincere piety a very active and a very enlightened
benevolence. She guided his ambition aside from mere party politics into
subjects of social and religious interest, and in devoting himself to
these he achieved a position more popular and more respected than he
could ever have won in the strife of party.

When the Government of which the elder Vane became a leading Minister was
formed, it was considered a great object to secure a name as high in the
religious world, so beloved by the working classes, as that of Richard
King; and he accepted one of those places which, though not in the
cabinet, confers the rank of Privy Councillor.

When that brief-lived Administration ceased, he felt the same sensation
of relief that Vane had felt, and came to the same resolution never again
to accept office, but from different reasons, all of which need not now
be detailed. Amongst them, however, certainly this: he was exceedingly
sensitive to opinion, thin-skinned as to abuse, and very tenacious of the
respect due to his peculiar character of sanctity and philanthropy. He
writhed under every newspaper article that had made "the blameless King"
responsible for the iniquities of the Government to which he belonged. In
the loss of office he seemed to recover his former throne.

Mr. King heard Graham's resolution with a grave approving smile, and his
interest in the young man became greatly increased. He devoted himself
strenuously to the object of saving to Graham some wrecks of his paternal
fortunes, and having a clear head and great experience in the transaction
of business, he succeeded beyond the most sanguine expectations formed by
the family solicitor. A rich manufacturer was found to purchase at a
fancy price the bulk of the estate with the palatial mansion, which the
estate alone could never have sufficed to maintain with suitable
establishments.

So that when all debts were paid, Graham found himself in possession of a
clear income of about L500 a year, invested in a mortgage secured on a
part of the hereditary lands, on which was seated an old hunting-lodge
bought by a brewer.

With this portion of the property Graham parted very reluctantly. It was
situated amid the most picturesque scenery on the estate, and the lodge
itself was a remnant of the original residence of his ancestors before it
had been abandoned for that which, built in the reign of Elizabeth, had
been expanded into a Trenthain-like palace by the last owner.

But Mr. King's argument reconciled him to the sacrifice. "I can manage,"
said the prudent adviser, "if you insist on it, to retain that remnant of
the hereditary estate which you are so loath to part with. But how? by
mortgaging it to an extent that will scarcely leave you L50. a year net
from the rents. This is not all. Your mind will then be distracted from
the large object of a career to the small object of retaining a few
family acres; you will be constantly hampered by private anxieties and
fears; you could do nothing for the benefit of those around you,--could
not repair a farmhouse for a better class of tenant, could not rebuild a
labourer's dilapidated cottage. Give up an idea that might be very well
for a man whose sole ambition was to remain a squire, however beggarly.
Launch yourself into the larger world of metropolitan life with energies
wholly unshackled, a mind wholly undisturbed, and secure of an income
which, however modest, is equal to that of most young men who enter that
world as your equals."

Graham was convinced, and yielded, though with a bitter pang. It is hard
for a man whose fathers have lived on the soil to give up all trace of
their whereabouts. But none saw in him any morbid consciousness of change
of fortune, when, a year after his father's death, he reassumed his place
in society. If before courted for his expectations, he was still courted
for himself; by many of the great who had loved his father, perhaps even
courted more.

He resigned the diplomatic career, not merely because the rise in that
profession is slow, and in the intermediate steps the chances of
distinction are slight and few, but more because he desired to cast his
lot in the home country, and regarded the courts of other lands as exile.

It was not true, however, as Lemercier had stated on report, that he
lived on his pen. Curbing all his old extravagant tastes, L500 a year
amply supplied his wants. But he had by his pen gained distinction, and
created great belief in his abilities for a public career. He had written
critical articles, read with much praise, in periodicals of authority,
and had published one or two essays on political questions which had
created yet more sensation. It was only the graver literature, connected
more or less with his ultimate object of a public career, in which he had
thus evinced his talents of composition. Such writings were not of a
nature to bring him much money, but they gave him a definite and solid
station. In the old time, before the first Reform Bill, his reputation
would have secured him at once a seat in Parliament; but the ancient
nurseries of statesmen are gone, and their place is not supplied.

He had been invited, however, to stand for more than one large and
populous borough, with very fair prospects of success; and, whatever the
expense, Mr. King had offered to defray it. But Graham would not have
incurred the latter obligation; and when he learned the pledges which his
supporters would have exacted, he would not have stood if success had
been certain and the cost nothing. "I cannot," he said to his friends,
"go into the consideration of what is best for the country with my
thoughts manacled; and I cannot be both representative and slave of the
greatest ignorance of the greatest number. I bide my time, and meanwhile
I prefer to write as I please, rather than vote as I don't please."

Three years went by, passed chiefly in England, partly in travel; and at
the age of thirty, Graham Vane was still one of those of whom admirers
say, "He will be a great man some day;" and detractors reply, "Some day
seems a long way off."

The same fastidiousness which had operated against that entrance into
Parliament, to which his ambition not the less steadily adapted itself,
had kept him free from the perils of wedlock. In his heart he yearned for
love and domestic life, but he had hitherto met with no one who realized
the ideal he had formed. With his person, his accomplishments, his
connections, and his repute, he might have made many an advantageous
marriage. But somehow or other the charm vanished from a fair face, if
the shadow of a money-bag fell on it; on the other hand, his ambition
occupied so large a share in his thoughts that he would have fled in time
from the temptation of a marriage that would have overweighted him beyond
the chance of rising. Added to all, he desired in a wife an intellect
that, if not equal to his own, could become so by sympathy,--a union of
high culture and noble aspiration, and yet of loving womanly sweetness
which a man seldom finds out of books; and when he does find it, perhaps
it does not wear the sort of face that he fancies. Be that as it may,
Graham was still unmarried and heart-whole.

And now a new change in his life befell him. Lady Janet died of a fever
contracted in her habitual rounds of charity among the houses of the
poor. She had been to him as the most tender mother, and a lovelier soul
than hers never alighted on the earth. His grief was intense; but what
was her husband's?--one of those griefs that kill.

To the side of Richard King his Janet had been as the guardian angel. His
love for her was almost worship: with her, every object in a life
hitherto so active and useful seemed gone. He evinced no noisy passion of
sorrow. He shut himself up, and refused to see even Graham. But after
some weeks had passed, he admitted the clergyman in whom on spiritual
matters he habitually confided, and seemed consoled by the visits; then
he sent for his lawyer and made his will; after which he allowed Graham
to call on him daily, on the condition that there should be no reference
to his loss. He spoke to the young man on other subjects, rather drawing
him out about himself, sounding his opinion on various grave matters,
watching his face while he questioned, as if seeking to dive into his
heart, and sometimes pathetically sinking into silence, broken but by
sighs. So it went on for a few more weeks; then he took the advice of his
physician to seek change of air and scene. He went away alone, without
even a servant, not leaving word where he had gone. After a little while
he returned, more ailing, more broken than before. One morning he was
found insensible,--stricken by paralysis. He regained consciousness, and
even for some days rallied strength. He might have recovered, but he
seemed as if he tacitly refused to live. He expired at last, peacefully,
in Graham's arms.

At the opening of his will it was found that he had left Graham his sole
heir and executor. Deducting government duties, legacies to servants, and
donations to public charities, the sum thus bequeathed to his lost wife's
nephew was two hundred and twenty thousand pounds.

With such a fortune, opening indeed was made for an ambition so long
obstructed. But Graham affected no change in his mode of life; he still
retained his modest bachelor's apartments, engaged no servants, bought no
horses, in no way exceeded the income he had possessed before. He seemed,
indeed, depressed rather than elated by the succession to a wealth which
he had never anticipated.

Two children had been born from the marriage of Richard King: they had
died young, it is true, but Lady Janet at the time of her own decease was
not too advanced in years for the reasonable expectation of other
offspring; and even after Richard King became a widower, he had given to
Graham no hint of his testamentary dispositions. The young man was no
blood-relation to him, and naturally supposed that such relations would
become the heirs. But in truth the deceased seemed to have no
blood-relations: none had ever been known to visit him; none raised a
voice to question the justice of his will.

Lady Janet had been buried at Kensal Green; her husband's remains were
placed in the same vault.

For days and days Graham went his way lonelily to the cemetery. He might
be seen standing motionless by that tomb, with tears rolling down his
cheeks; yet his was not a weak nature,--not one of those that love
indulgence of irremediable grief. On the contrary, people who did not
know him well said "that he had more head than heart," and the character
of his pursuits, as of his writings, was certainly not that of a
sentimentalist. He had not thus visited the tomb till Richard King had
been placed within it. Yet his love for his aunt was unspeakably greater
than that which he could have felt for her husband. Was it, then, the
husband that he so much more acutely mourned; or was there something
that, since the husband's death, had deepened his reverence for the
memory of her whom he had not only loved as a mother, but honoured as a
saint?

These visits to the cemetery did not cease till Graham was confined to
his bed by a very grave illness,--the only one he had ever known. His
physician said it was nervous fever, and occasioned by moral shock or
excitement; it was attended with delirium. His recovery was slow, and
when it was sufficiently completed he quitted England; and we find him
now, with his mind composed, his strength restored, and his spirits
braced, in that gay city of Paris; hiding, perhaps, some earnest purpose
amid his participation in its holiday enjoyments. He is now, as I have
said, seated before his writing-table in deep thought. He takes up a
letter which he had already glanced over hastily, and reperuses it with
more care.

The letter is from his cousin, the Duke of Alton, who had succeeded a few
years since to the family honours,--an able man, with no small degree of
information, an ardent politician, but of very rational and temperate
opinions; too much occupied by the cares of a princely estate to covet
office for himself; too sincere a patriot not to desire office for those
to whose hands he thought the country might be most safely entrusted; an
intimate friend of Graham's. The contents of the letter are these:--

   MY DEAR GRAHAM,--I trust that you will welcome the brilliant opening
   into public life which these lines are intended to announce to you.
   Vavasour has just been with me to say that he intends to resign his
   seat for the county when Parliament meets, and agreeing with me that
   there is no one so fit to succeed him as yourself, he suggests the
   keeping his intention secret until you have arranged your committee
   and are prepared to take the field. You cannot hope to escape a
   contest; but I have examined the Register, and the party has gained
   rather than lost since the last election, when Vavasour was so
   triumphantly returned. The expenses for this county, where there
   are so many outvoters to bring up, and so many agents to retain, are
   always large in comparison with some other counties; but that
   consideration is all in your favour, for it deters Squire Hunston,
   the only man who could beat you, from starting; and to your
   resources a thousand pounds more or less are a trifle not worth
   discussing. You know how difficult it is nowadays to find a seat
   for a man of moderate opinions like yours and mine. Our county
   would exactly suit you. The constituency is so evenly divided
   between the urban and rural populations, that its representative
   must fairly consult the interests of both. He can be neither an
   ultra-Tory nor a violent Radical. He is left to the enviable
   freedom, to which you say you aspire, of considering what is best
   for the country as a whole.

   Do not lose so rare an opportunity. There is but one drawback to
   your triumphant candidature. It will be said that you have no
   longer an acre in the county in which the Vanes have been settled so
   long. That drawback can be removed. It is true that you can never
   hope to buy back the estates which you were compelled to sell at
   your father's death: the old manufacturer gripes them too firmly to
   loosen his hold; and after all, even were your income double what it
   is, you would be overhoused in the vast pile in which your father
   buried so large a share of his fortune. But that beautiful old
   hunting-lodge, the Stamm Schloss of your family, with the adjacent
   farms, can be now repurchased very reasonably. The brewer who
   bought them is afflicted with an extravagant son, whom he placed in
   the--Hussars, and will gladly sell the property for L5,000 more than
   he gave: well worth the difference, as he has improved the farm-
   buildings and raised the rental. I think, in addition to the sum
   you have on mortgage, L3,000 will be accepted, and as a mere
   investment pay you nearly three per cent. But to you it is worth
   more than double the money; it once more identifies your ancient
   name with the county. You would be a greater personage with that
   moderate holding in the district in which your race took root, and
   on which your father's genius threw such a lustre, than you would be
   if you invested all your wealth in a county in which every squire
   and farmer would call you "the new man." Pray think over this most
   seriously, and instruct your solicitor to open negotiations with the
   brewer at once. But rather put yourself into the train, and come
   back to England straight to me. I will ask Vavasour to meet you.
   What news from Paris? Is the Emperor as ill as the papers
   insinuate? And is the revolutionary party gaining ground?

   Your affectionate cousin,

                  ALTON.

As he put down this letter, Graham heaved a short impatient sigh.

"The old Stamm Schloss," he muttered,--"a foot on the old soil once more!
and an entrance into the great arena with hands unfettered. Is it
possible!--is it?--is it?"

At this moment the door-bell of the apartment rang, and a servant whom
Graham had hired at Paris as a laquais de place announced "Ce Monsieur."

Graham hurried the letter into his portfolio, and said, "You mean the
person to whom I am always at home?"

"The same, Monsieur."

"Admit him, of course."

There entered a wonderfully thin man, middle-aged, clothed in black, his
face cleanly shaven, his hair cut very short, with one of those faces
which, to use a French expression, say "nothing." It was absolutely
without expression: it had not even, despite its thinness, one salient
feature. If you had found yourself anywhere seated next to that man, your
eye would have passed him over as too insignificant to notice; if at a
cafe, you would have gone on talking to your friend without lowering your
voice. What mattered it whether a bete like that overheard or not? Had
you been asked to guess his calling and station, you might have said,
minutely observing the freshness of his clothes and the undeniable
respectability of his tout ensemble, "He must be well off, and with no
care for customers on his mind,--a ci-devant chandler who has retired on
a legacy."

Graham rose at the entrance of his visitor, motioned him courteously to a
seat beside him, and waiting till the laquais had vanished, then asked,
"What news?"

"None, I fear, that will satisfy Monsieur. I have certainly hunted out,
since I had last the honour to see you, no less than four ladies of the
name of Duval, but only one of them took that name from her parents, and
was also christened Louise."

"Ah--Louise!"

"Yes, the daughter of a perfumer, aged twenty-eight. She, therefore, is
not the Louise you seek. Permit me to refer to your instructions." Here
M. Renard took out a note-book, turned over the leaves, and resumed,
"Wanted, Louise Duval, daughter of Auguste Duval, a French
drawing-master, who lived for many years at Tours, removed to Paris in
1845, lived at No. 12, Rue de S---- at Paris for some years, but
afterwards moved to a different guartier of the town, and died 1848, in
Rue I----, No. 39. Shortly after his death, his daughter Louise left that
lodging, and could not be traced. In 1849 official documents reporting
her death were forwarded from Munich to a person (a friend of yours,
Monsieur). Death, of course, taken for granted; but nearly five years
afterwards, this very person encountered the said Louise Duval at
Aix-la-Chapelle, and never heard nor saw more of her. Demande submitted,
to find out said Louise Duval or any children of hers born in 1848-9;
supposed in 1852-3 to have one child, a girl, between four and five years
old. Is that right, Monsieur?"

"Quite right."

"And this is the whole information given to me. Monsieur on giving it
asked me if I thought it desirable that he should commence inquiries at
Aix-la-Chapelle, where Louise Duval was last seen by the person
interested to discover her. I reply, No; pains thrown away.
Aix-la-Chapelle is not a place where any Frenchwoman not settled there by
marriage would remain. Nor does it seem probable that the said Duval
would venture to select for her residence Munich, a city in which she had
contrived to obtain certificates of her death. A Frenchwoman who has once
known Paris always wants to get back to it; especially, Monsieur, if she
has the beauty which you assign to this lady. I therefore suggested that
our inquiries should commence in this capital. Monsieur agreed with me,
and I did not grudge the time necessary for investigation."

"You were most obliging. Still I am beginning to be impatient if time is
to be thrown away."

"Naturally. Permit me to return to my notes. Monsieur informs me that
twenty-one years ago, in 1848, the Parisian police were instructed to
find out this lady and failed, but gave hopes of discovering her through
her relations. He asks me to refer to our archives; I tell him that is no
use. However, in order to oblige him, I do so. No trace of such inquiry:
it must have been, as Monsieur led me to suppose, a strictly private one,
unconnected with crime or with politics; and as I have the honour to tell
Monsieur, no record of such investigations is preserved in our office.
Great scandal would there be, and injury to the peace of families, if we
preserved the results of private inquiries intrusted to us--by absurdly
jealous husbands, for instance. Honour,--Monsieur, honour forbids it.
Next I suggest to Monsieur that his simplest plan would be an
advertisement in the French journals, stating, if I understand him right,
that it is for the pecuniary interest of Madame or Mademoiselle Duval,
daughter of Auguste Duval, artiste en dessin, to come forward. Monsieur
objects to that."

"I object to it extremely; as I have told you, this is a strictly
confidential inquiry; and an advertisement which in all likelihood would
be practically useless (it proved to be so in a former inquiry) would not
be resorted to unless all else failed, and even then with reluctance."

"Quite so. Accordingly, Monsieur delegates to me, who have been
recommended to him as the best person he can employ in that department of
our police which is not connected with crime or political surveillance, a
task the most difficult. I have, through strictly private investigations,
to discover the address and prove the identity of a lady bearing a name
among the most common in France, and of whom nothing has been heard for
fifteen years, and then at so migratory an endroit as Aix-la-Chapelle.
You will not or cannot inform me if since that time the lady has changed
her name by marriage."

"I have no reason to think that she has; and there are reasons against
the supposition that she married after 1849."

"Permit me to observe that the more details of information Monsieur can
give me, the easier my task of research will be."

"I have given you all the details I can, and, aware of the difficulty of
tracing a person with a name so much the reverse of singular, I adopted
your advice in our first interview, of asking some Parisian friend of
mine, with a large acquaintance in the miscellaneous societies of your
capital, to inform me of any ladies of that name whom he might chance to
encounter; and he, like you, has lighted upon one or two, who alas!
resemble the right one in name and nothing more."

"You will do wisely to keep him on the watch as well as myself. If it
were but a murderess or a political incendiary, then you might trust
exclusively to the enlightenment of our corps, but this seems an affair
of sentiment, Monsieur. Sentiment is not in our way. Seek the trace of
that in the haunts of pleasure."

M. Renard, having thus poetically delivered himself of that philosophical
dogma, rose to depart.

Graham slipped into his hand a bank-note of sufficient value to justify
the profound bow he received in return.

When M. Renard had gone, Graham heaved another impatient sigh, and said
to himself, "No, it is not possible,--at least not yet."

Then, compressing his lips as a man who forces himself to something he
dislikes, he dipped his pen into the inkstand, and wrote rapidly thus to
his kinsman:

   MY DEAR COUSIN,--I lose not a post in replying to your kind and
   considerate letter. It is not in my power at present to return to
   England. I need not say how fondly I cherish the hope of
   representing the dear old county some day. If Vavasour could be
   induced to defer his resignation of the seat for another session, or
   at least for six or seven months, why then I might be free to avail
   myself of the opening; at present I am not. Meanwhile I am sorely
   tempted to buy back the old Lodge; probably the brewer would allow
   me to leave on mortgage the sum I myself have on the property, and a
   few additional thousands. I have reasons for not wishing to
   transfer at present much of the money now invested in the Funds. I
   will consider this point, which probably does not press.

   I reserve all Paris news till my next; and begging you to forgive so
   curt and unsatisfactory a reply to a letter so important that it
   excites me more than I like to own, believe me your affectionate
   friend and cousin,

               GRAHAM.



CHAPTER II.

AT about the same hour on the same day in which the Englishman held the
conference with the Parisian detective just related, the Marquis de
Rochebriant found himself by appointment in the cabinet d'affaires of his
avoue M. Gandrin that gentleman had hitherto not found time to give him a
definite opinion as to the case submitted to his judgment. The avoue
received Alain with a kind of forced civility, in which the natural
intelligence of the Marquis, despite his inexperience of life, discovered
embarrassment.

"Monsieur le Marquis," said Gandrin, fidgeting among the papers on his
bureau, "this is a very complicated business. I have given not only my
best attention to it, but to your general interests. To be plain, your
estate, though a fine one, is fearfully encumbered--fearfully--
frightfully."

"Sir," said the Marquis, haughtily, "that is a fact which was never
disguised from you."

"I do not say that it was, Marquis; but I scarcely realized the amount of
the liabilities nor the nature of the property. It will be
difficult--nay, I fear, impossible--to find any capitalist to advance a
sum that will cover the mortgages at an interest less than you now pay.
As for a Company to take the whole trouble off your hands, clear off the
mortgages, manage the forests, develop the fisheries, guarantee you an
adequate income, and at the end of twenty-one years or so render up to
you or your heirs the free enjoyment of an estate thus improved, we must
dismiss that prospect as a wild dream of my good friend M. Hebert. People
in the provinces do dream; in Paris everybody is wide awake."

"Monsieur," said the Marquis, with that inborn imperturbable loftiness of
sang froid which has always in adverse circumstances characterized the
French noblesse, "be kind enough to restore my papers. I see that you are
not the man for me. Allow me only to thank you, and inquire the amount of
my debt for the trouble I have given."

"Perhaps you are quite justified in thinking I am not the man for you,
Monsieur le Marquis; and your papers shall, if you decide on dismissing
me, be returned to you this evening. But as to my accepting remuneration
where I have rendered no service, I request M. le Marquis to put that out
of the question. Considering myself, then, no longer your avoue, do not
think I take too great a liberty in volunteering my counsel as a
friend,--or a friend at least to M. Hebert, if you do not vouchsafe my
right so to address yourself."

M. Gandrin spoke with a certain dignity of voice and manner which touched
and softened his listener.

"You make me your debtor far more than I pretend to repay," replied
Alain. "Heaven knows I want a friend, and I will heed with gratitude and
respect all your counsels in that character."

"Plainly and briefly, my advice is this: M. Louvier is the principal
mortgagee. He is among the six richest capitalists of Paris. He does not,
therefore, want money, but, like most self-made men, he is very
accessible to social vanities. He would be proud to think he had rendered
a service to a Rochebriant. Approach him, either through me, or, far
better, at once introduce yourself, and propose to consolidate all your
other liabilities in one mortgage to him, at a rate of interest lower
than that which is now paid to some of the small mortgagees. This would
add considerably to your income and would carry out M. Hebert's advice."

"But does it not strike you, dear M. Gandrin, that such going cap-in-hand
to one who has power over my fate, while I have none over his, would
scarcely be consistent with my self-respect, not as Rochebriant only, but
as Frenchman?"

"It does not strike me so in the least; at all events, I could make the
proposal on your behalf, without compromising yourself, though I should
be far more sanguine of success if you addressed M. Louvier in person."

"I should nevertheless prefer leaving it in your hands; but even for that
I must take a few days to consider. Of all the mortgagees M. Louvier has
been hitherto the severest and most menacing, the one whom Hebert dreads
the most; and should he become sole mortgagee, my whole estate would pass
to him if, through any succession of bad seasons and failing tenants, the
interest was not punctually paid."

"It could so pass to him now."

"No; for there have been years in which the other mortgagees, who are
Bretons and would be loath to ruin a Rochebriant, have been lenient and
patient."

"If Louvier has not been equally so, it is only because he knew nothing
of you, and your father no doubt had often sorely tasked his endurance.
Come, suppose we manage to break the ice easily. Do me the honour to dine
here to meet him; you will find that he is not an unpleasant man."

The Marquis hesitated, but the thought of the sharp and seemingly
hopeless struggle for the retention of his ancestral home to which he
would be doomed if he returned from Paris unsuccessful in his errand
overmastered his pride. He felt as if that self-conquest was a duty he
owed to the very tombs of his fathers. "I ought not to shrink from the
face of a creditor," said he, smiling somewhat sadly, "and I accept the
proposal you so graciously make."

"You do well, Marquis, and I will write at once to Louvier to ask him to
give me his first disengaged day."

The Marquis had no sooner quitted the house than M. Gandrin opened a door
at the side of his office, and a large portly man strode into the
room,--stride it was rather than step,--firm, self-assured, arrogant,
masterful.

"Well, mon ami," said this man, taking his stand at the hearth, as a king
might take his stand in the hall of his vassal, "and what says our petit
muscadin?"

"He is neither petit nor muscadin, Monsieur Louvier," replied Gandrin,
peevishly; "and he will task your powers to get him thoroughly into your
net. But I have persuaded him to meet you here. What day can you dine
with me? I had better ask no one else."

"To-morrow I dine with my friend O-----, to meet the chiefs of the
Opposition," said M. Louvier, with a sort of careless rollicking
pomposity. "Thursday with Pereire; Saturday I entertain at home. Say
Friday. Your hour?"

"Seven."

"Good! Show me those Rochebriant papers again; there is something I had
forgotten to note. Never mind me. Go on with your work as if I were not
here."

Louvier took up the papers, seated himself in an armchair by the
fireplace, stretched out his legs, and read at his ease, but with a very
rapid eye, as a practised lawyer skims through the technical forms of a
case to fasten upon the marrow of it.

"Ah! as I thought. The farms could not pay even the interest on my
present mortgage; the forests come in for that. If a contractor for the
yearly sale of the woods was bankrupt and did not pay, how could I get my
interest? Answer me that, Gandrin."

"Certainly you must run the risk of that chance."

"Of course the chance occurs, and then I foreclose, seize,--Rochebriant
and its seigneuries are mine."

As he spoke he laughed, not sardonically,--a jovial laugh,--and opened
wide, to reshut as in a vice, the strong iron hand which had doubtless
closed over many a man's all.

"Thanks. On Friday, seven o'clock." He tossed the papers back on the
bureau, nodded a royal nod, and strode forth imperiously as he had strode
in.



CHAPTER III.

MEANWHILE the young Marquis pursued his way thoughtfully through the
streets, and entered the Champs Elysees. Since we first, nay, since we
last saw him, he is strikingly improved in outward appearances. He has
unconsciously acquired more of the easy grace of the Parisian in gait and
bearing. You would no longer detect the Provincial--perhaps, however,
because he is now dressed, though very simply, in habiliments that belong
to the style of the day. Rarely among the loungers in the Champs Elysees
could be seen a finer form, a comelier face, an air of more unmistakable
distinction.

The eyes of many a passing fair one gazed on him, admiringly or
coquettishly. But he was still so little the true Parisian that they got
no smile, no look in return. He was wrapped in his own thoughts; was he
thinking of M. Louvier?

He had nearly gained the entrance of the Bois de Boulogne, when he was
accosted by a voice behind, and turning round saw his friend Lemercier
arm-in-arm with Graham Vane.

"Bonjour, Alain," said Lemercier, hooking his disengaged arm into
Rochebriant's. "I suspect we are going the same way."

Alain felt himself change countenance at this conjecture, and replied
coldly, "I think not; I have got to the end of my walk, and shall turn
back to Paris;" addressing himself to the Englishman, he said with formal
politeness, "I regret not to have found you at home when I called some
weeks ago, and no less so to have been out when you had the complaisance
to return my visit."

"At all events," replied the Englishman, "let me not lose the opportunity
of improving our acquaintance which now offers. It is true that our
friend Lemercier, catching sight of me in the Rue de Rivoli, stopped his
coupe and carried me off for a promenade in the Bois. The fineness of the
day tempted us to get out of his carriage as the Bois came in sight. But
if you are going back to Paris I relinquish the Bois and offer myself as
your companion."

Frederic (the name is so familiarly English that the reader might think
me pedantic did I accentuate it as French) looked from one to the other
of his two friends, half amused and half angry.

"And am I to be left alone to achieve a conquest, in which, if I succeed,
I shall change into hate and envy the affection of my two best friends?
Be it so.

     "' Un veritable amant ne connait point d'amis.'"

"I do not comprehend your meaning," said the Marquis, with a compressed
lip and a slight frown.

"Bah!" cried Frederic; "come, franc jeu; cards on the table. M. Gram Varn
was going into the Bois at my suggestion on the chance of having another
look at the pearl-coloured angel; and you, Rochebriant, can't deny that
you were going into the Bois for the same object."

"One may pardon an enfant terrible," said the Englishman, laughing, "but
an ami terrible should be sent to the galleys. Come, Marquis, let us walk
back and submit to our fate. Even were the lady once more visible, we
have no chance of being observed by the side of a Lovelace so
accomplished and so audacious!"

"Adieu, then, recreants: I go alone. Victory or death." The Parisian
beckoned his coachman, entered his carriage, and with a mocking grimace
kissed his hand to the companions thus deserting or deserted.

Rochebriant touched the Englishman's arm, and said, "Do you think that
Lemercier could be impertinent enough to accost that lady?"

"In the first place," returned the Englishman, "Lemercier himself tells
me that the lady has for several weeks relinquished her walks in the
Bois, and the probability is, therefore, that he will not have the
opportunity to accost her. In the next place, it appears that when she
did take her solitary walk, she did not stray far from her carriage, and
was in reach of the protection of her laquais and coachman. But to speak
honestly, do you, who know Lemercier better than I, take him to be a man
who would commit an impertinence to a woman unless there were viveurs of
his own sex to see him do it?"

Alain smiled. "No. Frederic's real nature is an admirable one, and if he
ever do anything that he ought to be ashamed of, 'twill be from the pride
of showing how finely he can do it. Such was his character at college,
and such it still seems at Paris. But it is true that the lady has
forsaken her former walk; at least I--I have not seen her since the day I
first beheld her in company with Frederic. Yet--yet, pardon me, you were
going to the Bois on the chance of seeing her. Perhaps she has changed
the direction of her walk, and--and--"

The Marquis stopped short, stammering and confused.

The Englishman scanned his countenance with the rapid glance of a
practised observer of men and things, and after a short pause said: "If
the lady has selected some other spot for her promenade, I am ignorant of
it; nor have I ever volunteered the chance of meeting with her, since I
learned--first from Lemercier, and afterwards from others--that her
destination is the stage. Let us talk frankly, Marquis. I am accustomed
to take much exercise on foot, and the Bois is my favourite resort: one
day I there found myself in the allee which the lady we speak of used to
select for her promenade, and there saw her. Something in her face
impressed me; how shall I describe the impression? Did you ever open a
poem, a romance, in some style wholly new to you, and before you were
quite certain whether or not its merits justified the interest which the
novelty inspired, you were summoned away, or the book was taken out of
your hands? If so, did you not feel an intellectual longing to have
another glimpse of the book? That illustration describes my impression,
and I own that I twice again went to the same allee. The last time I only
caught sight of the young lady as she was getting into her carriage. As
she was then borne away, I perceived one of the custodians of the Bois;
and learned, on questioning him, that the lady was in the habit of
walking always alone in the same allee at the same hour on most fine
days, but that he did not know her name or address. A motive of
curiosity--perhaps an idle one--then made me ask Lemercier, who boasts of
knowing his Paris so intimately, if he could inform me who the lady was.
He undertook to ascertain."

"But," interposed the Marquis, "he did not ascertain who she was; he only
ascertained where she lived, and that she and an elder companion were
Italians;--whom he suspected, without sufficient ground, to be
professional singers."

"True; but since then I ascertained more detailed particulars from two
acquaintances of mine who happen to know her,--M. Savarin, the
distinguished writer, and Mrs. Morley, an accomplished and beautiful
American lady, who is more than an acquaintance. I may boast the honour
of ranking among her friends. As Savarin's villa is at A------, I asked
him incidentally if he knew the fair neighbour whose face had so
attracted me; and Mrs. Morley being present, and overhearing me, I
learned from both what I now repeat to you.

"The young lady is a Signorina Cicogna,--at Paris, exchanging (except
among particular friends), as is not unusual, the outlandish designation
of Signorina for the more conventional one of Mademoiselle. Her father
was a member of the noble Milanese family of the same name, therefore the
young lady is well born. Her father has been long dead; his widow married
again an English gentleman settled in Italy, a scholar and antiquarian;
his name was Selby. This gentleman, also dead, bequeathed the Signorina a
small but sufficient competence. She is now an orphan, and residing with
a companion, a Signora Venosta, who was once a singer of some repute at
the Neapolitan Theatre, in the orchestra of which her husband was
principal performer; but she relinquished the stage several years ago on
becoming a widow, and gave lessons as a teacher. She has the character of
being a scientific musician, and of unblemished private respectability.
Subsequently she was induced to give up general teaching, and undertake
the musical education and the social charge of the young lady with her.
This girl is said to have early given promise of extraordinary excellence
as a singer, and excited great interest among a coterie of literary
critics and musical cognoscenti. She was to have come out at the Theatre
of Milan a year or two ago, but her career has been suspended in
consequence of ill-health, for which she is now at Paris under the care
of an English physician, who has made remarkable cures in all complaints
of the respiratory organs.  ------, the great composer, who knows her,
says that in expression and feeling she has no living superior, perhaps
no equal since Malibran."

"You seem, dear Monsieur, to have taken much pains to acquire this
information."

"No great pains were necessary; but had they been I might have taken
them, for, as I have owned to you, Mademoiselle Cicogna, while she was
yet a mystery to me, strangely interested my thoughts or my fancies. That
interest has now ceased. The world of actresses and singers lies apart
from mine."

"Yet," said Alain, in a tone of voice that implied doubt, "if I
understand Lemercier aright, you were going with him to the Bois on the
chance of seeing again the lady in whom your interest has ceased."

"Lemercier's account was not strictly accurate. He stopped his carriage
to speak to me on quite another subject, on which I have consulted him,
and then proposed to take me on to the Bois. I assented; and it was not
till we were in the carriage that he suggested the idea of seeing whether
the pearly-robed lady had resumed her walk in the allee. You may judge
how indifferent I was to that chance when I preferred turning back with
you to going on with him. Between you and me, Marquis, to men of our age,
who have the business of life before them, and feel that if there be
aught in which noblesse oblige it is a severe devotion to noble objects,
there is nothing more fatal to such devotion than allowing the heart to
be blown hither and thither at every breeze of mere fancy, and dreaming
ourselves into love with some fair creature whom we never could marry
consistently with the career we have set before our ambition. I could not
marry an actress,--neither, I presume, could the Marquis de Rochebriant;
and the thought of a courtship which excluded the idea of marriage to a
young orphan of name unblemished, of virtue unsuspected, would certainly
not be compatible with 'devotion to noble objects.'"

Alain involuntarily bowed his head in assent to the proposition, and, it
may be, in submission to an implied rebuke.

The two men walked in silence for some minutes, and Graham first spoke,
changing altogether the subject of conversation. "Lemercier tells me you
decline going much into this world of Paris, the capital of capitals,
which appears so irresistibly attractive to us foreigners."

"Possibly; but, to borrow your words, I have the business of life before
me."

"Business is a good safeguard against the temptations to excess in
pleasure, in which Paris abounds. But there is no business which does not
admit of some holiday, and all business necessitates commerce with
mankind. A propos, I was the other evening at the Duchese de
Tarascon's,--a brilliant assembly, filled with ministers, senators, and
courtiers. I heard your name mentioned."

"Mine?"

"Yes; Duplessis, the rising financier--who rather to my surprise was not
only present among these official and decorated celebrities, but
apparently quite at home among them--asked the Duchess if she had not
seen you since your arrival at Paris. She replied, 'No; that though you
were among her nearest connections, you had not called on her;' and bade
Duplessis tell you that you were a monstre for not doing so. Whether or
not Duplessis will take that liberty I know not; but you must pardon me
if I do. She is a very charming woman, full of talent; and that stream of
the world which reflects the stars, with all their mythical influences on
fortune, flows through her salons."

"I am not born under those stars. I am a Legitimist."

"I did not forget your political creed; but in England the leaders of
opposition attend the salons of the Prime Minister. A man is not supposed
to compromise his opinions because he exchanges social courtesies with
those to whom his opinions are hostile. Pray excuse me if I am
indiscreet, I speak as a traveller who asks for information: but do the
Legitimists really believe that they best serve their cause by declining
any mode of competing with its opponents? Would there not be a fairer
chance of the ultimate victory of their principles if they made their
talents and energies individually prominent; if they were known as
skilful generals, practical statesmen, eminent diplomatists, brilliant
writers? Could they combine,--not to sulk and exclude themselves from the
great battle-field of the world, but in their several ways to render
themselves of such use to their country that some day or other, in one of
those revolutionary crises to which France, alas! must long be subjected,
they would find themselves able to turn the scale of undecided councils
and conflicting jealousies."

"Monsieur, we hope for the day when the Divine Disposer of events will
strike into the hearts of our fickle and erring countrymen the conviction
that there will be no settled repose for France save under the sceptre of
her rightful kings. But meanwhile we are,--I see it more clearly since I
have quitted Bretagne,--we are a hopeless minority."

"Does not history tell us that the great changes of the world have been
wrought by minorities,--but on the one condition that the minorities
shall not be hopeless? It is almost the other day that the Bonapartists
were in a minority that their adversaries called hopeless, and the
majority for the Emperor is now so preponderant that I tremble for his
safety. When a majority becomes so vast that intellect disappears in the
crowd, the date of its destruction commences; for by the law of reaction
the minority is installed against it. It is the nature of things that
minorities are always more intellectual than multitudes, and intellect is
ever at work in sapping numerical force. What your party want is hope;
because without hope there is no energy. I remember hearing my father say
that when he met the Count de Chambord at Ems, that illustrious personage
delivered himself of a belle phrase much admired by his partisans. The
Emperor was then President of the Republic, in a very doubtful and
dangerous position. France seemed on the verge of another convulsion. A
certain distinguished politician recommended the Count de Chambord to
hold himself ready to enter at once as a candidate for the throne. And
the Count, with a benignant smile on his handsome face, answered, 'All
wrecks come to the shore: the shore does not go to the wrecks.'"

"Beautifully said!" exclaimed the Marquis.

"Not if 'Le beau est toujours le vrai.' My father, no inexperienced nor
unwise politician, in repeating the royal words, remarked: 'The fallacy
of the Count's argument is in its metaphor. A man is not a shore. Do you
not think that the seamen on board the wrecks would be more grateful to
him who did not complacently compare himself to a shore, but considered
himself a human being like themselves, and risked his own life in a boat,
even though it were a cockleshell, in the chance of saving theirs?"

Alain de Rochebriant was a brave man, with that intense sentiment of
patriotism which characterizes Frenchmen of every rank and persuasion,
unless they belong to the Internationalists; and, without pausing to
consider, he cried, "Your father was right."

The Englishman resumed: "Need I say, my dear Marquis, that I am not a
Legitimist? I am not an Imperialist, neither am I an Orleanist nor a
Republican. Between all those political divisions it is for Frenchmen to
make their choice, and for Englishmen to accept for France that
government which France has established. I view things here as a simple
observer. But it strikes me that if I were a Frenchman in your position,
I should think myself unworthy my ancestors if I consented to be an
insignificant looker-on."

"You are not in my position," said the Marquis, half mournfully, half
haughtily, "and you can scarcely judge of it even in imagination."

"I need not much task my imagination; I judge of it by analogy. I was
very much in your position when I entered upon what I venture to call my
career; and it is the curious similarity between us in circumstances,
that made me wish for your friendship when that similarity was made known
to me by Lemercier, who is not less garrulous than the true Parisian
usually is. Permit me to say that, like you, I was reared in some pride
of no inglorious ancestry. I was reared also in the expectation of great
wealth. Those expectations were not realized: my father had the fault of
noble natures,--generosity pushed to imprudence: he died poor and in
debt. You retain the home of your ancestors; I had to resign mine."

The Marquis had felt deeply interested in this narrative, and as Graham
now paused, took his hand and pressed it. "One of our most eminent
personages said to me about that time, 'Whatever a clever man of your age
determines to do or to be, the odds are twenty to one that he has only to
live on in order to do or to be it.' Don't you think he spoke truly? I
think so."

"I scarcely know what to think," said Rochebriant; "I feel as if you had
given me so rough a shake when I was in the midst of a dull dream, that I
am not yet quite sure whether I am asleep or awake."

Just as he said this, and towards the Paris end of the Champs Elysees,
there was a halt, a sensation among the loungers round them; many of them
uncovered in salute.

A man on the younger side of middle age, somewhat inclined to corpulence,
with a very striking countenance, was riding slowly by. He returned the
salutations he received with the careless dignity of a Personage
accustomed to respect, and then reined in his horse by the side of a
barouche, and exchanged some words with a portly gentleman who was its
sole occupant. The loungers, still halting, seemed to contemplate this
parley--between him on horseback and him in the carriage--with very eager
interest. Some put their hands behind their ears and pressed forward, as
if trying to overhear what was said.

"I wonder," quoth Graham, "whether, with all his cleverness, the Prince
has in any way decided what he means to do or to be."

"The Prince!" said Rochebriant, rousing himself from revery; "what
Prince?"

"Do you not recognize him by his wonderful likeness to the first
Napoleon,--him on horseback talking to Louvier, the great financier."

"Is that stout bourgeois in the carriage Louvier,--my mortgagee,
Louvier?"

"Your mortgagee, my dear Marquis? Well, he is rich enough to be a very
lenient one upon pay-day."

"Hein!--I doubt his leniency," said Alain. "I have promised my avoue to
meet him at dinner. Do you think I did wrong?"

"Wrong! of course not; he is likely to overwhelm you with civilities.
Pray don't refuse if he gives you an invitation to his soiree next
Saturday; I am going to it. One meets there the notabilities most
interesting to study,--artists, authors, politicians, especially those
who call themselves Republicans. He and the Prince agree in one thing;
namely, the cordial reception they give to the men who would destroy the
state of things upon which Prince and financier both thrive. Hillo! here
comes Lemercier on return from the Bois."

Lemercier's coupe stopped beside the footpath. "What tidings of the Belle
Inconnue?" asked the Englishman. "None; she was not there. But I am
rewarded: such an adventure! a dame of the haute volee; I believe she is
a duchess. She was walking with a lap-dog, a pure Pomeranian. A strange
poodle flew at the Pomeranian, I drove off the poodle, rescued the
Pomeranian, received the most gracious thanks, the sweetest smile: femme
superbe, middle aged. I prefer women of forty. Au revoir, I am due at the
club."

Alain felt a sensation of relief that Lemercier had not seen the lady in
the pearl-coloured dress, and quitted the Englishman with a lightened
heart.



CHAPTER IV.

"Piccola, piccola! com e cortese! another invitation from M. Louvier for
next Saturday,--conversazione." This was said in Italian by an elderly
lady bursting noisily into the room,--elderly, yet with a youthful
expression of face, owing perhaps to a pair of very vivacious black eyes.
She was dressed, after a somewhat slatternly fashion, in a wrapper of
crimson merino much the worse for wear, a blue handkerchief twisted
turban-like round her head, and her feet encased in list slippers. The
person to whom she addressed herself was a young lady with dark hair,
which, despite its evident repugnance, was restrained into smooth glossy
braids over the forehead, and at the crown of the small graceful head
into the simple knot which Horace has described as "Spartan." Her dress
contrasted the speaker's by an exquisite neatness.

We have seen her before as the lady in the pearl-coloured robe; but seen
now at home she looks much younger. She was one of those whom,
encountered in the streets or in society, one might guess to be
married,--probably a young bride; for thus seen there was about her an
air of dignity and of self-possession which suits well with the ideal of
chaste youthful matronage; and in the expression of the face there was a
pensive thoughtfulness beyond her years. But as she now sat by the open
window arranging flowers in a glass bowl, a book lying open on her lap,
you would never have said, "What a handsome woman!" you would have said,
"What a charming girl!" All about her was maidenly, innocent, and fresh.
The dignity of her bearing was lost in household ease, the pensiveness of
her expression in an untroubled serene sweetness.

Perhaps many of my readers may have known friends engaged in some
absorbing cause of thought, and who are in the habit when they go out,
especially if on solitary walks, to take that cause of thought with them.
The friend may be an orator meditating his speech, a poet his verses, a
lawyer a difficult case, a physician an intricate malady. If you have
such a friend, and you observe him thus away from his home, his face will
seem to you older and graver. He is absorbed in the care that weighs on
him. When you see him in a holiday moment at his own fireside, the care
is thrown aside; perhaps he mastered while abroad the difficulty that had
troubled him; he is cheerful, pleasant, sunny. This appears to be very
much the case with persons of genius. When in their own houses we usually
find them very playful and childlike. Most persons of real genius,
whatever they may seem out of doors, are very sweet-tempered at home, and
sweet temper is sympathizing and genial in the intercourse of private
life. Certainly, observing this girl as she now bends over the flowers,
it would be difficult to believe her to be the Isaura Cicogna whose
letters to Madame de Grantinesnil exhibit the doubts and struggles of an
unquiet, discontented, aspiring mind. Only in one or two passages in
those letters would you have guessed at the writer in the girl as we now
see her. It is in those passages where she expresses her love of harmony,
and her repugnance to contest: those were characteristics you might have
read in her face.

Certainly the girl is very lovely: what long dark eyelashes! what soft,
tender, dark-blue eyes! now that she looks up and smiles, what a
bewitching smile it is! by what sudden play of rippling dimples the smile
is enlivened and redoubled! Do you notice one feature? In very showy
beauties it is seldom noticed; but I, being in my way a physiognomist,
consider that it is always worth heeding as an index of character. It is
the ear. Remark how delicately it is formed in her: none of that
heaviness of lobe which is a sure sign of sluggish intellect and coarse
perception. Hers is the artist's ear. Note next those hands: how
beautifully shaped! small, but not doll-like hands,--ready and nimble,
firm and nervous hands, that could work for a helpmate. By no means very
white, still less red, but somewhat embrowned as by the sun, such as you
may see in girls reared in southern climes, and in her perhaps betokening
an impulsive character which had not accustomed itself, when at sport in
the open air, to the thraldom of gloves,--very impulsive people even in
cold climates seldom do.

In conveying to us by a few bold strokes an idea of the sensitive,
quick-moved, warm-blooded Henry II., the most impulsive of the
Plantagenets, his contemporary chronicler tells us that rather than
imprison those active hands of his, even in hawking-gloves, he would
suffer his falcon to fix its sharp claws into his wrist. No doubt there
is a difference as to what is befitting between a burly bellicose
creature like Henry II. and a delicate young lady like Isaura Cicogna;
and one would not wish to see those dainty wrists of hers seamed and
scarred by a falcon's claws. But a girl may not be less exquisitely
feminine for slight heed of artificial prettiness. Isaura had no need of
pale bloodless hands to seem one of Nature's highest grade of gentlewomen
even to the most fastidious eyes. About her there was a charm apart from
her mere beauty, and often disturbed instead of heightened by her mere
intellect: it consisted in a combination of exquisite artistic
refinement, and of a generosity of character by which refinement was
animated into vigour and warmth.

The room, which was devoted exclusively to Isaura, had in it much that
spoke of the occupant. That room, when first taken furnished, had a good
deal of the comfortless showiness which belongs to ordinary furnished
apartments in France, especially in the Parisian suburbs, chiefly let for
the summer: thin limp muslin curtains that decline to draw; stiff
mahogany chairs covered with yellow Utrecht velvet; a tall secretaire in
a dark corner; an oval buhl-table set in tawdry ormolu, islanded in the
centre of a poor but gaudy Scotch carpet; and but one other table of dull
walnut-wood, standing clothless before a sofa to match the chairs; the
eternal ormolu clock flanked by the two eternal ormolu candelabra on the
dreary mantelpiece. Some of this garniture had been removed, others
softened into cheeriness and comfort. The room somehow or other--thanks
partly to a very moderate expenditure in pretty twills with pretty
borders, gracefully simple table-covers, with one or two additional small
tables and easy-chairs, two simple vases filled with flowers; thanks
still more to a nameless skill in re-arrangement, and the disposal of the
slight knick-knacks and well-bound volumes, which, even in travelling,
women who have cultivated the pleasures of taste carry about them--had
been coaxed into that quiet harmony, that tone of consistent subdued
colour, which corresponded with the characteristics of the inmate. Most
people might have been puzzled where to place the piano, a semi-grand, so
as not to take up too much space in the little room; but where it was
placed it seemed so at home that you might have supposed the room had
been built for it.

There are two kinds of neatness,--one is too evident, and makes
everything about it seem trite and cold and stiff; and another kind of
neatness disappears from our sight in a satisfied sense of
completeness,--like some exquisite, simple, finished style of writing, an
Addison's or a St. Pierre's.

This last sort of neatness belonged to Isaura, and brought to mind the
well-known line of Catullus when on recrossing his threshold he invokes
its welcome,--a line thus not inelegantly translated by Leigh Hunt,

        "Smile every dimple on the cheek of Home."

I entreat the reader's pardon for this long descriptive digression; but
Isaura is one of those characters which are called many-sided, and
therefore not very easy to comprehend. She gives us one side of her
character in her correspondence with Madame de Grantmesnil, and another
side of it in her own home with her Italian companion,--half nurse, half
chaperon.

"Monsieur Louvier is indeed very courteous," said Isaura, looking up from
the flowers with the dimpled smile we have noticed. "But I think, Madre,
that we should do well to stay at home on Saturday,--not peacefully, for
I owe you your revenge at Euchre."

"You can't mean it, Piecola!" exclaimed the Signora, in evident
consternation. "Stay at home!--why stay at home? Euchre is very well when
there is nothing else to do: but change is pleasant; le bon Dieu likes
it,

            "'Ne caldo ne gelo
             Resta mai in cielo.'

"And such beautiful ices one gets at M. Louvier's! Did you taste the
pistachio ice? What fine rooms, and so well lit up! I adore light. And
the ladies so beautifully dressed: one sees the fashions. Stay at home!
play at Euchre indeed! Piccola, you cannot be so cruel to yourself: you
are young."

"But, dear Madre, just consider; we are invited because we are considered
professional singers: your reputation as such is of course
established,--mine is not; but still I shall be asked to sing, as I was
asked before; and you know Dr. C. forbids me to do so except to a very
small audience; and it is so ungracious always to say 'No;' and besides,
did you not yourself say, when we came away last time from M. Louvier's,
that it was very dull, that you knew nobody, and that the ladies had such
superb toilets that you felt mortified--and--"

"Zitto! zitto! you talk idly, Piccola,--very idly. I was mortified then
in my old black Lyons silk; but have I not bought since then my beautiful
Greek jacket,--scarlet and gold lace? and why should I buy it if I am not
to show it?"

"But, dear Madre, the jacket is certainly very handsome, and will make an
effect in a little dinner at the Savarins or Mrs. Morley's; but in a
great formal reception like M. Louvier's will it not look--"

"Splendid!" interrupted the Signora.

"But singolare."

"So much the better; did not that great English Lady wear such a jacket,
and did not every one admire her, piu tosto invidia the compassione?"

Isaura sighed. Now the jacket of the Signora was a subject of disquietude
to her friend. It so happened that a young English lady of the highest
rank and the rarest beauty had appeared at M. Louvier's, and indeed
generally in the beau monde of Paris, in a Greek jacket that became her
very much. The jacket had fascinated, at M. Louvier's, the eyes of the
Signora. But of this Isaura was unaware. The Signora, on returning home
from M. Louvier's, had certainly lamented much over the mesquin
appearance of her old-fashioned Italian habiliments compared with the
brilliant toilette of the gay Parisiennes; and Isaura--quite woman enough
to sympathize with woman in such womanly vanities--proposed the next day
to go with the Signora to one of the principal couturieres of Paris, and
adapt the Signora's costume to the fashions of the place. But the Signora
having predetermined on a Greek jacket, and knowing by instinct that
Isaura would be disposed to thwart that splendid predilection, had
artfully suggested that it would be better to go to the couturiere with
Madame Savarin, as being a more experienced adviser,--and the coupe only
held two.

As Madame Savarin was about the same age as the Signora, and dressed as
became her years and in excellent taste, Isaura thought this an admirable
suggestion; and pressing into her chaperon's hand a billet de banque
sufficient to re-equip her cap-a pie, dismissed the subject from her
mind. But the Signora was much too cunning to submit her passion for the
Greek jacket to the discouraging comments of Madame Savarin. Monopolizing
the coupe, she became absolute mistress of the situation. She went to no
fashionable couturiere's. She went to a magasin that she had seen
advertised in the Petites Afiches as supplying superb costumes for
fancy-balls and amateur performers in private theatricals. She returned
home triumphant, with a jacket still more dazzling to the eye than that
of the English lady.

When Isaura first beheld it, she drew back in a sort of superstitious
terror, as of a comet or other blazing portent.

"Cosa stupenda!" (stupendous thing!) She might well be dismayed when the
Signora proposed to appear thus attired in M. Louvier's salon. What might
be admired as coquetry of dress in a young beauty of rank so great that
even a vulgarity in her would be called distinguee, was certainly an
audacious challenge of ridicule in the elderly ci-devant music-teacher.

But how could Isaura, how can any one of common humanity, say to a woman
resolved upon wearing a certain dress, "You are not young and handsome
enough for that?" Isaura could only murmur, "For many reasons I would
rather stay at home, dear Madre."

"Ah! I see you are ashamed of me," said the Signora, in softened tones:
"very natural. When the nightingale sings no more, she is only an ugly
brown bird;" and therewith the Signora Venosta seated herself
submissively, and began to cry.

On this Isaura sprang up, wound her arms round the Signora's neck,
soothed her with coaxing, kissed and petted her, and ended by saying, "Of
course we will go;" and, "but let me choose you another dress,--a
dark-green velvet trimmed with blonde: blonde becomes you so well."

"No, no: I hate green velvet; anybody can wear that. Piccola, I am not
clever like thee; I cannot amuse myself like thee with books. I am in a
foreign land. I have a poor head, but I have a big heart" (another burst
of tears); "and that big heart is set on my beautiful Greek jacket."

"Dearest Madre," said Isaura, half weeping too, "forgive me, you are
right. The Greek jacket is splendid; I shall be so pleased to see you
wear it: poor Madre! so pleased to think that in the foreign land you are
not without something that pleases you!"



CHAPTER V.

CONFORMABLY with his engagement to meet M. Louvier, Alain found himself
on the day and at the hour named in M. Gandrin's salon. On this occasion
Madame Gandrin did not appear. Her husband was accustomed to give diners
d'hommes. The great man had not yet arrived. "I think, Marquis," said M.
Gandrin, "that you will not regret having followed my advice: my
representations have disposed Louvier to regard you with much favour, and
he is certainly flattered by being permitted to make your personal
acquaintance."

The avoue had scarcely finished this little speech, when M. Louvier was
announced. He entered with a beaming smile, which did not detract from
his imposing presence. His flatterers had told him that he had a look of
Louis Philippe; therefore he had sought to imitate the dress and the
bonhomie of that monarch of the middle class. He wore a wig, elaborately
piled up, and shaped his whiskers in royal harmony with the royal wig.
Above all, he studied that social frankness of manner with which the able
sovereign dispelled awe of his presence or dread of his astuteness.
Decidedly he was a man very pleasant to converse and to deal with--so
long as there seemed to him something to gain and nothing to lose by
being pleasant. He returned Alain's bow by a cordial offer of both
expansive hands, into the grasp of which the hands of the aristocrat
utterly disappeared. "Charmed to make your acquaintance, Marquis; still
more charmed if you will let me be useful during your sejour at Paris. Ma
foi, excuse my bluntness, but you are a fort beau garcon. Monsieur your
father was a handsome man, but you beat him hollow. Gandrin, my friend,
would not you and I give half our fortunes for one year of this fine
fellow's youth spent at Paris? Peste! what love-letters we should have,
with no need to buy them by billets de banque!" Thus he ran on, much to
Alain's confusion, till dinner was announced. Then there was something
grandiose in the frank bourgeois style wherewith he expanded his napkin
and twisted one end into his waistcoat; it was so manly a renunciation of
the fashions which a man so repandu in all circles might be supposed to
follow,--as if he were both too great and too much in earnest for such
frivolities. He was evidently a sincere bon vivant, and M. Gandrin had no
less evidently taken all requisite pains to gratify his taste. The
Montrachet served with the oysters was of precious vintage; that vin de
madere which accompanied the potage a la bisque would have contented an
American. And how radiant became Louvier's face when amongst the entrees
he came upon laitances de carpes! "The best thing in the world," he
cried, "and one gets it so seldom since the old Rocher de Cancale has
lost its renown. At private houses, what does one get now? blanc de
poulet, flavourless trash. After all, Gandrin, when we lose the
love-letters, it is some consolation that laitances de carpes and sautes
de foie gras are still left to fill up the void in our hearts. Marquis,
heed my counsel; cultivate betimes the taste for the table,--that and
whist are the sole resources of declining years. You never met my old
friend Talleyrand--ah, no! he was long before your time. He cultivated
both, but he made two mistakes. No man's intellect is perfect on all
sides. He confined himself to one meal a day, and he never learned to
play well at whist. Avoid his errors, my young friend,--avoid them.
Gandrin, I guess this pineapple is English,--it is superb."

"You are right,--a present from the Marquis of H-------."

"Ah! instead of a fee, I wager. The Marquis gives nothing for nothing,
dear man! Droll people the English. You have never visited England, I
presume, cher Rochebriant?" The affable financier had already made vast
progress in familiarity with his silent fellow-guest.

When the dinner was over and the three men had reentered the salon for
coffee and liqueurs, Gandrin left Louvier and Alain alone, saying he was
going to his cabinet for cigars which he could recommend. Then Louvier,
lightly patting the Marquis on the shoulder, said with what the French
call effusion, "My dear Rochebriant, your father and I did not quite
understand each other. He took a tone of grand seigneur that sometimes
wounded me; and I in turn was perhaps too rude in asserting my rights--as
creditor, shall I say?--no, as fellow-citizen; and Frenchmen are so vain,
so over-susceptible; fire up at a word; take offence when none is meant.
We two, my dear boy, should be superior to such national foibles. Bref--I
have a mortgage on your lands. Why should that thought mar our
friendship? At my age, though I am not yet old, one is flattered if the
young like us, pleased if we can oblige them, and remove from their
career any little obstacle in its way. Gandrin tells me you wish to
consolidate all the charges on your estate into one on a lower rate of
interest. Is it so?"

"I am so advised," said the Marquis.

"And very rightly advised; come and talk with me about it some day next
week. I hope to have a large sum of money set free in a few days. Of
course, mortgages on land don't pay like speculations at the Bourse; but
I am rich enough to please myself. We will see, we will see."

Here Gandrin returned with the cigars; but Alain at that time never
smoked, and Louvier excused himself, with a laugh and a sly wink, on the
plea that he was going to pay his respects--as doubtless that joli garcon
was going to do likewise--to a belle dame who did not reckon the smell of
tobacco among the perfumes of Houbigant or Arabia.

"Meanwhile," added Louvier, turning to Gandrin, "I have something to say
to you on business about the contract for that new street of mine. No
hurry,--after our young friend has gone to his 'assignation.'"

Alain could not misinterpret the hint; and in a few moments took leave of
his host, more surprised than disappointed that the financier had not
invited him, as Graham had assumed he would, to his soiree the following
evening.

When Alain was gone, Louvier's jovial manner disappeared also, and became
bluffly rude rather than bluntly cordial. "Gandrin, what did you mean by
saying that that young man was no muscadin! Muscadin, aristocrate,
offensive from top to toe."

"You amaze me; you seemed to take to him so cordially."

"And pray, were you too blind to remark with what cold reserve he
responded to my condescensions; how he winced when I called him
Rochebriant; how he coloured when I called him 'dear boy'? These
aristocrats think we ought to thank them on our knees when they take our
money, and" here Louvier's face darkened--"seduce our women." "Monsieur
Louvier, in all France I do not know a greater aristocrat than yourself."

I don't know whether M. Gandrin meant that speech as a compliment, but M.
Louvier took it as such,--laughed complacently and rubbed his hands. "Ay,
ay, millionnaires are the real aristocrats, for they have power, as my
beau Marquis will soon find. I must bid you good night. Of course I shall
see Madame Gandrin and yourself to-morrow. Prepare for a motley
gathering,--lots of democrats and foreigners, with artists and authors,
and such creatures."

"Is that the reason why you did not invite the Marquis?"

"To be sure; I would not shock so pure a Legitimist by contact with the
sons of the people, and make him still colder to myself. No; when he
comes to my house he shall meet lions and viveurs of the haut ton, who
will play into my hands by teaching him how to ruin himself in the
quickest manner and in the genre Regence. Bon soir, mon vieux."



CHAPTER VI.

The next night Graham in vain looked round for Alain in M. Louvier's
salons, and missed his high-bred mien and melancholy countenance. M.
Louvier had been for some four years a childless widower, but his
receptions were not the less numerously attended, nor his establishment
less magnificently monde for the absence of a presiding lady: very much
the contrary; it was noticeable how much he had increased his status and
prestige as a social personage since the death of his unlamented spouse.

To say truth, she had been rather a heavy drag on his triumphal car. She
had been the heiress of a man who had amassed a great deal of money,--not
in the higher walks of commerce, but in a retail trade.

Louvier himself was the son of a rich money-lender; he had entered life
with an ample fortune and an intense desire to be admitted into those
more brilliant circles in which fortune can be dissipated with eclat. He
might not have attained this object but for the friendly countenance of a
young noble who was then--

        "The glass of fashion and the mould of form;"

but this young noble, of whom later we shall hear more, came suddenly to
grief, and when the money-lender's son lost that potent protector, the
dandies, previously so civil, showed him a very cold shoulder.

Louvier then became an ardent democrat, and recruited the fortune he had
impaired by the aforesaid marriage, launched into colossal speculations,
and became enormously rich. His aspirations for social rank now revived,
but his wife sadly interfered with them. She was thrifty by nature;
sympathized little with her husband's genius for accumulation; always
said he would end in a hospital; hated Republicans; despised authors and
artists, and by the ladies of the beau monde was pronounced common and
vulgar.

So long as she lived, it was impossible for Louvier to realize his
ambition of having one of the salons which at Paris establish celebrity
and position. He could not then command those advantages of wealth which
he especially coveted. He was eminently successful in doing this now. As
soon as she was safe in Pere la Chaise, he enlarged his hotel by the
purchase and annexation of an adjoining house; redecorated and
refurnished it, and in this task displayed, it must be said to his
credit, or to that of the administrators he selected for the purpose, a
nobleness of taste rarely exhibited nowadays. His collection of pictures
was not large, and consisted exclusively of the French school, ancient
and modern, for in all things Louvier affected the patriot. But each of
those pictures was a gem; such Watteaus, such Greuzes, such landscapes by
Patel, and, above all, such masterpieces by Ingres, Horace Vernet, and
Delaroche were worth all the doubtful originals of Flemish and Italian
art which make the ordinary boast of private collectors.

These pictures occupied two rooms of moderate size, built for their
reception, and lighted from above. The great salon to which they led
contained treasures scarcely less precious; the walls were covered with
the richest silks which the looms of Lyons could produce. Every piece of
furniture here was a work of art in its way: console-tables of Florentine
mosaic, inlaid with pearl and lapis-lazuli; cabinets in which the
exquisite designs of the Renaissance were carved in ebony; colossal vases
of Russian malachite, but wrought by French artists. The very
knick-knacks scattered carelessly about the room might have been admired
in the cabinets of the Palazzo Pitti. Beyond this room lay the salle de
danse, its ceiling painted by ------, supported by white marble columns,
the glazed balcony and the angles of the room filled with tiers of
exotics. In the dining-room, on the same floor, on the other side of the
landing-place, were stored in glazed buffets not only vessels and salvers
of plate, silver and gold, but, more costly still, matchless specimens of
Sevres and Limoges, and mediaeval varieties of Venetian glass. On the
ground-floor, which opened on the lawn of a large garden, Louvier had his
suite of private apartments, furnished, as he said, "simply, according to
English notions of comfort;"--Englishmen would have said, "according to
French notions of luxury." Enough of these details, which a writer cannot
give without feeling himself somewhat vulgarized in doing so, but without
a loose general idea of which a reader would not have an accurate
conception of something not vulgar,--of something grave, historical,
possibly tragical,--the existence of a Parisian millionaire at the date
of this narrative.

The evidence of wealth was everywhere manifest at M. Louvier's, but it
was everywhere refined by an equal evidence of taste. The apartments
devoted to hospitality ministered to the delighted study of artists, to
whom free access was given, and of whom two or three might be seen daily
in the "show-rooms," copying pictures or taking sketches of rare articles
of furniture or effects for palatian interiors.

Among the things which rich English visitors of Paris most coveted to see
was M. Louvier's hotel, and few among the richest left it without a sigh
of envy and despair. Only in such London houses as belong to a Sutherland
or a Holford could our metropolis exhibit a splendour as opulent and a
taste as refined.

M. Louvier had his set evenings for popular assemblies. At these were
entertained the Liberals of every shade, from tricolor to rouge, with the
artists and writers most in vogue, pele-mele with decorated diplomatists,
ex-ministers, Orleanists, and Republicans, distinguished foreigners,
plutocrats of the Bourse, and lions male and female from the arid nurse
of that race, the Chaussee d'Antin. Of his more select reunions something
will be said later.

"And how does this poor Paris metamorphosed please Monsieur Vane?" asked
a Frenchman with a handsome, intelligent countenance, very carefully
dressed though in a somewhat bygone fashion, and carrying off his tenth
lustrum with an air too sprightly to evince any sense of the weight. This
gentleman, the Vicomte de Breze, was of good birth, and had a legitimate
right to his title of Vicomte,--which is more than can be said of many
vicomtes one meets at Paris. He had no other property, however, than a
principal share in an influential journal, to which he was a lively and
sparkling contributor. In his youth, under the reign of Louis Philippe,
he had been a chief among literary exquisites; and Balzac was said to
have taken him more than once as his model for those brilliant young
vauriens who figure in the great novelist's comedy of Human Life. The
Vicomte's fashion expired with the Orleanist dynasty.

"Is it possible, my dear Vicomte," answered Graham, "not to be pleased
with a capital so marvellously embellished?"

"Embellished it may be to foreign eyes," said the Vicomte, sighing, "but
not improved to the taste of a Parisian like me. I miss the dear Paris of
old,--the streets associated with my beaux jours are no more. Is there
not something drearily monotonous in those interminable perspectives? How
frightfully the way lengthens before one's eyes! In the twists and curves
of the old Paris one was relieved from the pain of seeing how far one had
to go from one spot to another,--each tortuous street had a separate
idiosyncrasy; what picturesque diversities, what interesting
recollections,--all swept away! Mon Dieu! and what for,--miles of florid
facades staring and glaring at one with goggle-eyed pitiless windows;
house-rents trebled, and the consciousness that if you venture to grumble
underground railways, like concealed volcanoes, can burst forth on you at
any moment with an eruption of bayonets and muskets. This maudit empire
seeks to keep its hold on France much as a grand seigneur seeks to
enchain a nymph of the ballet,--tricks her out in finery and baubles, and
insures her infidelity the moment he fails to satisfy her whims."

"Vicomte," answered Graham, "I have had the honour to know you since I
was a small boy at a preparatory school home for the holidays, and you
were a guest at my father's country-house. You were then fete as one of
the most promising writers among the young men of the day, especially
favoured by the princes of the reigning family. I shall never forget the
impression made on me by your brilliant appearance and your no less
brilliant talk."

"Ah! ces beaux jours! ce bon Louis Philippe, ce cher petit Joinville,"
sighed the Vicomte.

"But at that day you compared le bon Louis Philippe to Robert Macaire.
You described all his sons, including, no doubt, ce cher petit Joinville,
in terms of resentful contempt, as so many plausible gamins whom Robert
Macaire was training to cheat the public in the interest of the family
firm. I remember my father saying to you in answer, 'No royal house in
Europe has more sought to develop the literature of an epoch and to
signalize its representatives by social respect and official honours than
that of the Orleans dynasty. You, Monsieur de Breze, do but imitate your
elders in seeking to destroy the dynasty under which you flourish; should
you succeed, you hommes de plume will be the first sufferers and the
loudest complainers.'"

"Cher Monsieur Vane," said the Vicomte, smiling complacently, "your
father did me great honour in classing me with Victor Hugo, Alexandre
Dumas, Emile de Girardin, and the other stars of the Orleanist galaxy,
including our friend here, M. Savarin. A very superior man was your
father."

"And," said Savarin, who, being an Orleanist, had listened to Graham's
speech with an approving smile,--"and if I remember right, my dear De
Breze, no one was more brilliantly severe than yourself on poor De
Lamartine and the Republic that succeeded Louis Philippe; no one more
emphatically expressed the yearning desire for another Napoleon to
restore order at home and renown abroad. Now you have got another
Napoleon."

"And I want change for my Napoleon," said De Breze, laughing.

"My dear Vicomte," said Graham, "one thing we may all grant,--that in
culture and intellect you are far superior to the mass of your fellow
Parisians; that you are therefore a favourable type of their political
character."

"Ah, mon cher, vous etes trop aimable."

"And therefore I venture to say this,--if the archangel Gabriel were
permitted to descend to Paris and form the best government for France
that the wisdom of seraph could devise, it would not be two years--I
doubt if it would be six months--before out of this Paris, which you call
the Foyer des Idees, would emerge a powerful party, adorned by yourself
and other hommes de plume, in favour of a revolution for the benefit of
ce bon Satan and ce cher petit Beelzebub."

"What a pretty vein of satire you have, mon cher!" said the Vicomte,
good-humouredly; "there is a sting of truth in your witticism. Indeed, I
must send you some articles of mine in which I have said much the same
thing,--les beaux, esprits se rencontrent. The fault of us French is
impatience, desire of change; but then it is that desire which keeps the
world going and retains our place at the head of it. However, at this
time we are all living too fast for our money to keep up with it, and too
slow for our intellect not to flag. We vie with each other on the road to
ruin, for in literature all the old paths to fame are shut up."

Here a tall gentleman, with whom the Vicomte had been conversing before
he accosted Vane, and who had remained beside De Breze listening in
silent attention to this colloquy, interposed, speaking in the slow voice
of one accustomed to measure his words, and with a slight but
unmistakable German accent. "There is that, Monsieur de Breze, which
makes one think gravely of what you say so lightly. Viewing things with
the unprejudiced eyes of a foreigner, I recognize much for which France
should be grateful to the Emperor. Under his sway her material resources
have been marvellously augmented; her commerce has been placed by the
treaty with England on sounder foundations, and is daily exhibiting
richer life; her agriculture had made a prodigious advance wherever it
has allowed room for capitalists, and escaped from the curse of petty
allotments and peasant-proprietors, a curse which would have ruined any
country less blessed by Nature; turbulent factions have been quelled;
internal order maintained; the external prestige of France, up at least
to the date of the Mexican war, increased to an extent that might satisfy
even a Frenchman's amour propre; and her advance in civilization has been
manifested by the rapid creation of a naval power which should put even
England on her mettle. But, on the other hand--"

"Ay, on the other hand," said the Vicomte.

"On the other hand there are in the imperial system two causes of decay
and of rot silently at work. They may not be the faults of the Emperor,
but they are such misfortunes as may cause the fall of the Empire. The
first is an absolute divorce between the political system and the
intellectual culture of the nation. The throne and the system rest on
universal suffrage,--on a suffrage which gives to classes the most
ignorant a power that preponderates over all the healthful elements of
knowledge. It is the tendency of all ignorant multitudes to personify
themselves, as it were, in one individual. They cannot comprehend you
when you argue for a principle; they do comprehend you when you talk of a
name. The Emperor Napoleon is to them a name, and the prefects and
officials who influence their votes are paid for incorporating all
principles in the shibboleth of that single name. You have thus sought
the well-spring of a political system in the deepest stratum of popular
ignorance. To rid popular ignorance of its normal revolutionary bias, the
rural peasants are indoctrinated with the conservatism that comes from
the fear which appertains to property. They have their roots of land or
their shares in a national loan. Thus you estrange the crassitude of an
ignorant democracy still more from the intelligence of the educated
classes by combining it with the most selfish and abject of all the
apprehensions that are ascribed to aristocracy and wealth. What is thus
embedded in the depths of your society makes itself shown on the surface.
Napoleon III. has been compared to Augustus; and there are many startling
similitudes between them in character and in fate. Each succeeds to the
heritage of a great name that had contrived to unite autocracy with the
popular cause; each subdued all rival competitors, and inaugurated
despotic rule in the name of freedom; each mingled enough of sternness
with ambitious will to stain with bloodshed the commencement of his
power,--but it would be an absurd injustice to fix the same degree of
condemnation on the coup d'etat as humanity fixes on the earlier
cruelties of Augustus; each, once firm in his seat, became mild and
clement,--Augustus perhaps from policy, Napoleon III. from a native
kindliness of disposition which no fair critic of character can fail to
acknowledge. Enough of similitudes; now for one salient difference.
Observe how earnestly Augustus strove, and how completely he succeeded in
the task, to rally round him all the leading intellects in every grade
and of every party,--the followers of Antony, the friends of Brutus;
every great captain, every great statesman, every great writer, every
mail who could lend a ray of mind to his own Julian constellation, and
make the age of Augustus an era in the annals of human intellect and
genius. But this has not been the good fortune of your Emperor. The
result of his system has been the suppression of intellect in every
department. He has rallied round him not one great statesman; his praises
are hymned by not one great poet. The celebrates of a former day stand
aloof; or, preferring exile to constrained allegiance, assail him with
unremitting missiles from their asylum in foreign shores. His reign is
sterile of new celebrites. The few that arise enlist themselves against
him. Whenever he shall venture to give full freedom to the press and to
the legislature, the intellect thus suppressed or thus hostile will burst
forth in collected volume. His partisans have not been trained and
disciplined to meet such assailants. They will be as weak as no doubt
they will be violent. And the worst is, that the intellect thus rising in
mass against him will be warped and distorted, like captives who, being
kept in chains, exercise their limbs on escaping in vehement jumps
without definite object. The directors of emancipated opinion may thus be
terrible enemies to the Imperial Government, but they will be very unsafe
councillors to France. Concurrently with this divorce between the
Imperial system and the national intellect,--a divorce so complete that
even your salons have lost their wit, and even your caricatures their
point,--a corruption of manners which the Empire, I own, did not
originate, but inherit, has become so common that every one owns and
nobody blames it. The gorgeous ostentation of the Court has perverted the
habits of the people. The intelligence abstracted from other vents
betakes itself to speculating for a fortune; and the greed of gain and
the passion for show are sapping the noblest elements of the old French
manhood. Public opinion stamps with no opprobrium a minister or favourite
who profits by a job; and I fear you will find that jobbing pervades all
your administrative departments."

"All very true," said De Breze, with a shrug of the shoulders and in a
tone of levity that seemed to ridicule the assertion he volunteered;
"Virtue and Honour banished from courts and salons and the cabinet of
authors ascend to fairer heights in the attics of ouvriers."

"The ouvriers, ouvriers of Paris!" cried this terrible German.

"Ay, Monsieur le Comte, what can you say against our ouvriers? A German
count cannot condescend to learn anything about ces petites gens."

"Monsieur," replied the German, "in the eyes of a statesman there are no
petites gens, and in those of a philosopher no petites choses. We in
Germany have too many difficult problems affecting our working classes to
solve, not to have induced me to glean all the information I can as to
the ouvriers of Paris. They have among them men of aspirations as noble
as can animate the souls of philosophers and poets, perhaps not the less
noble because common-sense and experience cannot follow their flight; but
as a body the ouvriers of Paris have not been elevated in political
morality by the benevolent aim of the Emperor to find them ample work and
good wages independent of the natural laws that regulate the markets of
labour. Accustomed thus to consider the State bound to maintain them, the
moment the State fails in that impossible task, they will accommodate
their honesty to a rush upon property under the name of social reform.

"Have you not noticed how largely increased within the last few years is
the number of those who cry out, 'La Propriete, cest le vol'? Have you
considered the rapid growth of the International Association? I do not
say that for all these evils--the Empire is exclusively responsible. To a
certain degree they are found in all rich communities, especially where
democracy is more or less in the ascendant. To a certain extent they
exist in the large towns of Germany; they are conspicuously increasing in
England; they are acknowledged to be dangerous in the United States of
America; they are, I am told on good authority, making themselves visible
with the spread of civilization in Russia. But under the French Empire
they have become glaringly rampant, and I venture to predict that the day
is not far off when the rot at work throughout all layers and strata of
French society will insure a fall of the fabric at the sound of which the
world will ring.

"There is many a fair and stately tree which continues to throw out its
leaves and rear its crest till suddenly the wind smites it, and then, and
not till then, the trunk which seems so solid is found to be but the rind
to a mass of crumbled powder."

"Monsieur le Comte," said the Vicomte, "you are a severe critic and a
lugubrious prophet; but a German is so safe from revolution that he takes
alarm at the stir of movement which is the normal state of the French
esprit."

"French esprit may soon evaporate into Parisian betise. As to Germany
being safe from revolution, allow me to repeat a saying of Goethe's-but
has Monsieur le Vicomte ever heard of Goethe?"

"Goethe, of course,--tres joli ecrivain."

"Goethe said to some one who was making much the same remark as yourself,
'We Germans are in a state of revolution now, but we do things so slowly
that it will be a hundred years before we Germans shall find it out; but
when completed, it will be the greatest revolution society has yet seen,
and will last like the other revolutions that, beginning, scarce noticed,
in Germany, have transformed the world.'"

"Diable, Monsieur le Comte! Germans transformed the world! What
revolutions do you speak of?"

"The invention of gunpowder, the invention of printing, and the expansion
of a monk's quarrel with his Pope into the Lutheran revolution."

Here the German paused, and asked the Vicomte to introduce him to Vane,
which De Breze did by the title of Count von Rudesheim. On hearing Vane's
name, the Count inquired if he were related to the orator and statesman,
George Graham Vane, whose opinions, uttered in Parliament, were still
authoritative among German thinkers. This compliment to his deceased
father immensely gratified but at the same time considerably surprised
the Englishman. His father, no doubt, had been a man of much influence in
the British House of Commons,--a very weighty speaker, and, while in
office, a first-rate administrator; but Englishmen know what a House of
Commons reputation is,--how fugitive, how little cosmopolitan; and that a
German count should ever have heard of his father delighted but amazed
him. In stating himself to be the son of George Graham Vane, he intimated
not only the delight but the amaze, with the frank savoir vivre which was
one of his salient characteristics.

"Sir," replied the German, speaking in very correct English, but still
with his national accent, "every German reared to political service
studies England as the school for practical thought distinct from
impracticable theories. Long may you allow us to do so! Only excuse me
one remark,--never let the selfish element of the practical supersede the
generous element. Your father never did so in his speeches, and therefore
we admired him. At the present day we don't so much care to study English
speeches; they may be insular,--they are not European. I honour England;
Heaven grant that you may not be making sad mistakes in the belief that
you can long remain England if you cease to be European." Herewith the
German bowed, not uncivilly,--on the contrary, somewhat
ceremoniously,--and disappeared with a Prussian Secretary of Embassy,
whose arm he linked in his own, into a room less frequented.

"Vicomte, who and what is your German count?" asked Vane.

"A solemn pedant," answered the lively Vicomte,--"a German count, que
voulez-vous de plus?"



CHAPTER VII.

A LITTLE later Graham found himself alone amongst the crowd. Attracted by
the sound of music, he had strayed into one of the rooms whence it came,
and in which, though his range of acquaintance at Paris was for an
Englishman large and somewhat miscellaneous, he recognized no familiar
countenance. A lady was playing the pianoforte--playing remarkably
well--with accurate science, with that equal lightness and strength of
finger which produces brilliancy of execution; but to appreciate her
music one should be musical one's self. It wanted the charm that
fascinates the uninitiated. The guests in the room were musical
connoisseurs,--a class with whom Graham Vane had nothing in common. Even
if he had been more capable of enjoying the excellence of the player's
performance, the glance he directed towards her would have sufficed to
chill him into indifference. She was not young, and with prominent
features and puckered skin, was twisting her face into strange
sentimental grimaces, as if terribly overcome by the beauty and pathos of
her own melodies. To add to Vane's displeasure, she was dressed in a
costume wholly antagonistic to his views of the becoming,--in a Greek
jacket of gold and scarlet, contrasted by a Turkish turban.

Muttering "What she-mountebank have we here?" he sank into a chair behind
the door, and fell into an absorbed revery. From this he was aroused by
the cessation of the music and the hum of subdued approbation by which it
was followed. Above the hum swelled the imposing voice of M. Louvier as
he rose from a seat on the other side of the piano, by which his bulky
form had been partially concealed.

"Bravo! perfectly played! excellent! Can we not persuade your charming
young countrywoman to gratify us even by a single song?" Then turning
aside and addressing some one else invisible to Graham he said, "Does
that tyrannical doctor still compel you to silence, Mademoiselle?"

A voice so sweetly modulated that if there were any sarcasm in the words
it was lost in the softness of pathos, answered, "Nay, Monsieur Louvier,
he rather overtasks the words at my command in thankfulness to those who
like yourself, so kindly regard me as something else than a singer."

It was not the she-mountebank who thus spoke. Graham rose and looked
round with instinctive curiosity. He met the face that he said had
haunted him. She too had risen, standing near the piano, with one hand
tenderly resting on the she-mountebank's scarlet and gilded
shoulder,--the face that haunted him, and yet with a difference. There
was a faint blush on the clear pale cheek, a soft yet playful light in
the grave dark-blue eyes, which had not been visible in the countenance
of the young lady in the pearl-coloured robe. Graham did not hear
Louvier's reply, though no doubt it was loud enough for him to hear. He
sank again into revery. Other guests now came into the room, among them
Frank Morley, styled Colonel,--eminent military titles in the United
States do not always denote eminent military services,--a wealthy
American, and his sprightly and beautiful wife. The Colonel was a clever
man, rather stiff in his deportment, and grave in speech, but by no means
without a vein of dry humour. By the French he was esteemed a high-bred
specimen of the kind of grand seigneur which democratic republics
engender. He spoke French like a Parisian, had an imposing presence, and
spent a great deal of money with the elegance of a man of taste and the
generosity of a man of heart. His high breeding was not quite so well
understood by the English, because the English are apt to judge breeding
by little conventional rules not observed by the American Colonel. He had
a slight nasal twang, and introduced "sir" with redundant ceremony in
addressing Englishmen, however intimate he might be with them, and had
the habit (perhaps with a sly intention to startle or puzzle them) of
adorning his style of conversation with quaint Americanisms.

Nevertheless, the genial amiability and the inherent dignity of his
character made him acknowledged as a thorough gentleman by every
Englishman, however conventional in tastes, who became admitted into his
intimate acquaintance.

Mrs. Morley, ten or twelve years younger than her husband, had no nasal
twang, and employed no Americanisms in her talk, which was frank, lively,
and at times eloquent. She had a great ambition to be esteemed of a
masculine understanding; Nature unkindly frustrated that ambition in
rendering her a model of feminine grace. Graham was intimately acquainted
with Colonel Morley; and with Mrs. Morley had contracted one of those
cordial friendships, which, perfectly free alike from polite flirtation
and Platonic attachment, do sometimes spring up between persons of
opposite sexes without the slightest danger of changing their honest
character into morbid sentimentality or unlawful passion. The Morleys
stopped to accost Graham, but the lady had scarcely said three words to
him, before, catching sight of the haunting face, she darted towards it.
Her husband, less emotional, bowed at the distance, and said, "To my
taste, sir, the Signorina Cicogna is the loveliest girl in the present
bee,* and full of mind, sir."

   [*Bee, a common expression in "the West" for a meeting or gathering
   ]of people.

"Singing mind," said Graham, sarcastically, and in the ill-natured
impulse of a man striving to check his inclination to admire.

"I have not heard her sing," replied the American, dryly; "and the words
'singing mind' are doubtless accurately English, since you employ them;
but at Boston the collocation would be deemed barbarous. You fly off the
handle. The epithet, sir, is not in concord with the substantive."

"Boston would be in the right, my dear Colonel. I stand rebuked; mind has
little to do with singing."

"I take leave to deny that, sir. You fire into the wrong flock, and would
not hazard the remark if you had conversed as I have with Signorina
Cicogna."

Before Graham could answer, Signorina Cicogna stood before him, leaning
lightly on Mrs. Morley's arm.

"Frank, you must take us into the refreshment-room," said Mrs. Morley to
her husband; and then, turning to Graham, added, "Will you help to make
way for us?"

Graham bowed, and offered his arm to the fair speaker. "No," said she,
taking her husband's. "Of course you know the Signorina, or, as we
usually call her, Mademoiselle Cicogna. No? Allow me to present you. Mr.
Graham Vane, Mademoiselle Cicogna. Mademoiselle speaks English like a
native."

And thus abruptly Graham was introduced to the owner of the haunting
face. He had lived too much in the great world all his life to retain the
innate shyness of an Englishman; but he certainly was confused and
embarrassed when his eyes met Isaura's, and he felt her hand on his arm.
Before quitting the room she paused and looked back. Graham's look
followed her own, and saw behind them the lady with the scarlet jacket
escorted by some portly and decorated connoisseur. Isaura's face
brightened to another kind of brightness,--a pleased and tender light.

"Poor dear Madre," she murmured to herself in Italian. "Madre!" echoed
Graham, also in Italian. "I have been misinformed, then; that lady is
your mother."

Isaura laughed a pretty, low, silvery laugh, and replied in English, "She
is not my mother; but I call her Madre, for I know no name more loving."

Graham was touched, and said gently, "Your own mother was evidently very
dear to you."

Isaura's lip quivered, and she made a slight movement as if she would
have withdrawn her hand from his arm. He saw that he had offended or
wounded her, and with the straightforward frankness natural to him,
resumed quickly, "My remark was impertinent in a stranger; forgive it."

"There is nothing to forgive, Monsieur."

The two now threaded their way through the crowd, both silent. At last
Isaura, thinking she ought to speak first in order to show that Graham
had not offended her, said,

"How lovely Mrs. Morley is!"

"Yes; and I like the spirit and ease of her American manner. Have you
known her long, Mademoiselle?"

"No; we met her for the first time some weeks ago at M. Savarin's."

"Was she very eloquent on the rights of women?"

"What! you have heard her on that subject?"

"I have rarely heard her on any other, though she is the best and perhaps
the cleverest friend I have at Paris; but that may be my fault, for I
like to start it. It is a relief to the languid small-talk of society to
listen to any one thoroughly in earnest upon turning the world
topsy-turvy."

"Do you suppose poor Mrs. Morley would seek to do that if she had her
rights?" asked Isaura, with her musical laugh.

"Not a doubt of it; but perhaps you share her opinions."

"I scarcely know what her opinions are, but--"

"Yes?--but--"

"There is a--what shall I call it?--a persuasion, a sentiment, out of
which the opinions probably spring, that I do share."

"Indeed? a persuasion, a sentiment, for instance, that a woman should
have votes in the choice of legislators, and, I presume, in the task of
legislation?"

"No, that is not what I mean. Still, that is an opinion, right or wrong,
which grows out of the sentiment I speak of."

"Pray explain the sentiment."

"It is always so difficult to define a sentiment; but does it not strike
you that in proportion as the tendency of modern civilization has been to
raise women more and more to an intellectual equality with men, in
proportion as they read and study and think, an uneasy sentiment, perhaps
querulous, perhaps unreasonable, grows up within their minds that the
conventions of the world are against the complete development of the
faculties thus aroused and the ambition thus animated; that they cannot
but rebel, though it may be silently, against the notions of the former
age, when women were not thus educated, notions that the aim of the sex
should be to steal through life unremarked; that it is a reproach to be
talked of; that women are plants to be kept in a hothouse and forbidden
the frank liberty of growth in the natural air and sunshine of heaven?
This, at least, is a sentiment which has sprung up within myself; and I
imagine that it is the sentiment which has given birth to many of the
opinions or doctrines that seem absurd, and very likely are so, to the
general public. I don't pretend even to have considered those doctrines;
I don't pretend to say what may be the remedies for the restlessness and
uneasiness I feel. I doubt if on this earth there be any remedies; all I
know is, that I feel restless and uneasy."

Graham gazed on her countenance as she spoke with an astonishment not
unmingled with tenderness and compassion, astonishment at the contrast
between a vein of reflection so hardy, expressed in a style of language
that seemed to him so masculine, and the soft velvet dreamy eyes, the
gentle tones, and delicate purity of hues rendered younger still by the
blush that deepened their bloom.

At this moment they had entered the refreshment-room; but a dense group
being round the table, and both perhaps forgetting the object for which
Mrs. Morley had introduced them to each other, they had mechancially
seated themselves on an ottoman in a recess while Isaura was yet
speaking. It must seem as strange to the reader as it did to Graham that
such a speech should have been spoken by so young a girl to an
acquaintance so new; but in truth Isaura was very little conscious of
Graham's presence. She had got on a subject that perplexed and tormented
her solitary thoughts; she was but thinking aloud.

"I believe," said Graham, after a pause, "that I comprehend your
sentiment much better than I do Mrs. Morley's opinions; but permit me one
observation. You say truly that the course of modern civilization has
more or less affected the relative position of woman cultivated beyond
that level on which she was formerly contented to stand,--the nearer
perhaps to the heart of man because not lifting her head to his
height,--and hence a sense of restlessness, uneasiness; but do you
suppose that, in this whirl and dance of the atoms which compose the
rolling ball of the civilized world, it is only women that are made
restless and uneasy? Do you not see amid the masses congregated in the
wealthiest cities of the world, writhings and struggles against the
received order of things? In this sentiment of discontent there is a
certain truthfulness, because it is an element of human nature, and how
best to deal with it is a problem yet unsolved; but in the opinions and
doctrines to which, among the masses, the sentiment gives birth, the
wisdom of the wisest detects only the certainty of a common ruin,
offering for reconstruction the same building-materials as the former
edifice,--materials not likely to be improved because they may be
defaced. Ascend from the working classes to all others in which civilized
culture prevails, and you will find that same restless feeling,--the
fluttering of untried wings against the bars between wider space and
their longings. Could you poll all the educated ambitious young men in
England,--perhaps in Europe,--at least half of them, divided between a
reverence for the past and a curiosity as to the future, would sigh, 'I
am born a century too late or a century too soon!'"

Isaura listened to this answer with a profound and absorbing interest. It
was the first time that a clever young man talked thus sympathetically to
her, a clever young girl.

Then, rising, he said, "I see your Madre and our American friends are
darting angry looks at me. They have made room for us at the table, and
are wondering why I should keep you thus from the good things of this
little life. One word more ere we join them,--consult your own mind, and
consider whether your uneasiness and unrest are caused solely by
conventional shackles on your sex. Are they not equally common to the
youth of ours,--common to all who seek in art, in letters, nay, in the
stormier field of active life, to clasp as a reality some image yet seen
but as a dream?"



CHAPTER VIII.

No further conversation in the way of sustained dialogue took place that
evening between Graham and Isaura.

The Americans and the Savarins clustered round Isaura when they quitted
the refreshment-room. The party was breaking up. Vane would have offered
his arm again to Isaura, but M. Savarin had forestalled him. The American
was despatched by his wife to see for the carriage; and Mrs. Morley said,
with her wonted sprightly tone of command,

"Now, Mr. Vane, you have no option but to take care of me to the
shawl-room."

Madame Savarin and Signora Venosta had each found their cavaliers, the
Italian still retaining hold of the portly connoisseur, and the
Frenchwoman accepting the safeguard of the Vicomte de Breze. As they
descended the stairs, Mrs. Morley asked Graham what he thought of the
young lady to whom she had presented him.

"I think she is charming," answered Graham.

"Of course; that is the stereotyped answer to all such questions,
especially by you Englishmen. In public or in private, England is the
mouthpiece of platitudes."

"It is natural for an American to think so. Every child that has just
learned to speak uses bolder expressions than its grandmamma; but I am
rather at a loss to know by what novelty of phrase an American would have
answered your question."

"An American would have discovered that Isaura Cicogna had a soul, and
his answer would have confessed it."

"It strikes me that he would then have uttered a platitude more stolid
than mine. Every Christian knows that the dullest human being has a soul.
But, to speak frankly, I grant that my answer did not do justice to the
Signorina, nor to the impression she makes on me; and putting aside the
charm of the face, there is a charm in a mind that seems to have gathered
stores of reflection which I should scarcely have expected to find in a
young lady brought up to be a professional singer."

"You add prejudice to platitude, and are horribly prosaic to-night; but
here we are in the shawl-room. I must take another opportunity of
attacking you. Pray dine with us tomorrow; you will meet our Minister and
a few other pleasant friends."

"I suppose I must not say, 'I shall be charmed,'" answered Vane; "but I
shall be."

"Bon Dieu! that horrid fat man has deserted Signora Venosta,--looking for
his own cloak, I dare say; selfish monster! Go and hand her to her
carriage; quick, it is announced!"

Graham, thus ordered, hastened to offer his arm to the she-mountebank.
Somehow she had acquired dignity in his eyes, and he did not feel the
least ashamed of being in contact with the scarlet jacket.

The Signora grappled to him with a confiding familiarity. "I am afraid,"
she said in Italian, as they passed along the spacious hall to the porte
cochere,--"I am afraid that I did not make a good effect to-night. I was
nervous; did not you perceive it?"

"No, indeed; you enchanted us all;" replied the dissimulator.

"How amiable you are to say so! You must think that I sought for a
compliment. So I did; you gave me more than I deserved. Wine is the milk
of old men, and praise of old women; but an old man may be killed by too
much wine, and an old woman lives all the longer for too much praise.
Buona notte."

Here she sprang, lithesomely enough, into the carriage, and Isaura
followed, escorted by M. Savarin. As the two men returned towards the
shawl-room, the Frenchman said, "Madame Savarin and I complain that you
have not let us see so much of you as we ought. No doubt you are greatly
sought after; but are you free to take your soup with us the day after
to-morrow? You will meet the Count von Rudesheim, and a few others more
lively if less wise."

"The day after to-morrow I will mark with a white stone. To dine with M.
Savarin is an event to a man who covets distinction."

"Such compliments reconcile an author to his trade. You deserve the best
return I can make you. You will meet la belle Isaura. I have just engaged
her and her chaperon. She is a girl of true genius; and genius is like
those objects of virtu which belong to a former age, and become every day
more scarce and more precious."

Here they encountered Colonel Morley and his wife hurrying to their
carriage. The American stopped Vane, and whispered, "I am glad, sir, to
hear from my wife that you dine with us to-morrow. Sir, you will meet
Mademoiselle Cicogna, and I am not without a kinkle [notion] that you
will be enthused."

"This seems like a fatality," soliloquized Vane as he walked through the
deserted streets towards his lodging. "I strove to banish that haunting
face from my mind. I had half forgotten it, and now--" Here his murmur
sank into silence. He was deliberating in very conflicted thought whether
or not he should write to refuse the two invitations he had accepted.

"Pooh!" he said at last, as he reached the door of his lodging, "is my
reason so weak that it should be influenced by a mere superstition?
Surely I know myself too well, and have tried myself too long, to fear
that I should be untrue to the duty and ends of my life, even if I found
my heart in danger of suffering."

Certainly the Fates do seem to mock our resolves to keep our feet from
their ambush, and our hearts from their snare! How our lives may be
coloured by that which seems to us the most trivial accident, the merest
chance! Suppose that Alain de Rochebriant had been invited to that
reunion at M. Louvier's, and Graham Vane had accepted some other
invitation and passed his evening elsewhere, Alain would probably have
been presented to Isaura--what then might have happened? The impression
Isaura had already made upon the young Frenchman was not so deep as that
made upon Graham; but then, Alain's resolution to efface it was but
commenced that day, and by no means yet confirmed. And if he had been the
first clever young man to talk earnestly to that clever young girl, who
can guess what impression he might have made upon her? His conversation
might have had less philosophy and strong sense than Graham's, but more
of poetic sentiment and fascinating romance.

However, the history of events that do not come to pass is not in the
chronicle of the Fates.



                BOOK III.



CHAPTER I.

The next day the guests at the Morleys' had assembled when Vane entered.
His apology for unpunctuality was cut short by the lively hostess. "Your
pardon is granted without the humiliation of asking for it; we know that
the characteristic of the English is always to be a little behindhand."

She then proceeded to introduce him to the American Minister, to a
distinguished American poet, with a countenance striking for mingled
sweetness and power, and one or two other of her countrymen sojourning at
Paris; and this ceremony over, dinner was announced, and she bade Graham
offer his arm to Mademoiselle Cicogna.

"Have you ever visited the United States, Mademoiselle?" asked Vane, as
they seated themselves at the table.

"No."

"It is a voyage you are sure to make soon."

"Why so?"

"Because report says you will create a great sensation at the very
commencement of your career; and the New World is ever eager to welcome
each celebrity that is achieved in the Old,--more especially that which
belongs to your enchanting art."

"True, sir," said an American senator, solemnly striking into the
conversation; "we are an appreciative people; and if that lady be as fine
a singer as I am told, she might command any amount of dollars."

Isaura coloured, and turning to Graham, asked him in a low voice if he
were fond of music.

"I ought of course to say 'yes,'" answered Graham, in the same tone; "but
I doubt if that 'yes' would be an honest one. In some moods, music--if a
kind of music I like--affects me very deeply; in other moods, not at all.
And I cannot bear much at a time. A concert wearies me shamefully; even
an opera always seems to me a great deal too long. But I ought to add
that I am no judge of music; that music was never admitted into my
education; and, between ourselves, I doubt if there be one Englishman in
five hundred who would care for opera or concert if it were not the
fashion to say he did. Does my frankness revolt you?"

"On the contrary, I sometimes doubt, especially of late, if I am fond of
music myself."

"Signorina,--pardon me,--it is impossible that you should not be. Genius
can never be untrue to itself, and must love that in which it excels,
that by which it communicates joy, and," he added, with a half-suppressed
sigh, "attains to glory."

"Genius is a divine word, and not to be applied to a singer," said
Isaura, with a humility in which there was an earnest sadness.

Graham was touched and startled; but before he could answer, the American
Minister appealed to him across the table, asking if he had quoted
accurately a passage in a speech by Graham's distinguished father, in
regard to the share which England ought to take in the political affairs
of Europe.

The conversation now became general, very political and very serious.
Graham was drawn into it, and grew animated and eloquent.

Isaura listened to him with admiration. She was struck by what seemed to
her a nobleness of sentiment which elevated his theme above the level of
commonplace polemics. She was pleased to notice, in the attentive silence
of his intelligent listeners, that they shared the effect produced on
herself. In fact, Graham Vane was a born orator, and his studies had been
those of a political thinker. In common talk he was but the accomplished
man of the world, easy and frank and genial, with a touch of good-natured
sarcasm; but when the subject started drew him upward to those heights in
which politics become the science of humanity, he seemed a changed being.
His cheek glowed, his eye brightened, his voice mellowed into richer
tones, his language be came unconsciously adorned. In such moments there
might scarcely be an audience, even differing from him in opinion, which
would not have acknowledged his spell.

When the party adjourned to the salon, Isaura said softly to Graham, "I
understand why you did not cultivate music; and I think, too, that I can
now understand what effects the human voice can produce on human minds
without recurring to the art of song."

"Ah," said Graham, with a pleased smile, "do not make me ashamed of my
former rudeness by the revenge of compliment; and, above all, do not
disparage your own art by supposing that any prose effect of voice in its
utterance of mind can interpret that which music alone can express, even
to listeners so uncultured as myself. Am I not told truly by musical
composers, when I ask them to explain in words what they say in their
music, that such explanation is impossible, that music has a language of
its own untranslatable by words?"

"Yes," said Isaura, with thoughtful brow but brightening eyes, "you are
told truly. It was only the other day that I was pondering over that
truth."

"But what recesses of mind, of heart, of soul, this untranslatable
language penetrates and brightens up! How incomplete the grand nature of
man--though man the grandest--would be, if you struck out of his reason
the comprehension of poetry, music, and religion! In each are reached and
are sounded deeps in his reason otherwise concealed from himself.
History, knowledge, science, stop at the point in which mystery begins.
There they meet with the world of shadow. Not an inch of that world can
they penetrate without the aid of poetry and religion, two necessities of
intellectual man much more nearly allied than the votaries of the
practical and the positive suppose. To the aid and elevation of both
those necessities comes in music, and there has never existed a religion
in the world which has not demanded music as its ally. If, as I said
frankly, it is only in certain moods of my mind that I enjoy music, it is
only because in certain moods of my mind I am capable of quitting the
guidance of prosaic reason for the world of shadow; that I am so
susceptible as at every hour, were my nature perfect, I should be to the
mysterious influences of poetry and religion. Do you understand what I
wish to express?"

"Yes, I do, and clearly."

"Then, Signorina, you are forbidden to undervalue the gift of song. You
must feel its power over the heart, when you enter the opera-house; over
the soul, when you kneel in a cathedral."

"Oh," cried Isaura, with enthusiasm, a rich glow mantling over her lovely
face, "how I thank you! Is it you who say you do not love music? How much
better you understand it than I did till this moment!"

Here Mrs. Morley, joined by the American poet, came to the corner in
which the Englishman and the singer had niched themselves. The poet began
to talk, the other guests gathered round, and every one listened
reverentially till the party broke up. Colonel Morley handed Isaura to
her carriage; the she-mountebank again fell to the lot of Graham.

"Signor," said she, as he respectfully placed her shawl round her
scarlet-and-gilt jacket, "are we so far from Paris that you cannot spare
the time to call? My child does not sing in public, but at home you can
hear her. It is not every woman's voice that is sweetest at home."

Graham bowed, and said he would call on the morrow. Isaura mused in
silent delight over the words which had so extolled the art of the
singer. Alas, poor child! she could not guess that in those words,
reconciling her to the profession of the stage, the speaker was pleading
against his own heart.

There was in Graham's nature, as I think it commonly is in that of most
true orators, a wonderful degree of intellectual conscience which
impelled him to acknowledge the benignant influences of song, and to set
before the young singer the noblest incentives to the profession to which
he deemed her assuredly destined; but in so doing he must have felt that
he was widening the gulf between her life and his own. Perhaps he wished
to widen it in proportion as he dreaded to listen to any voice in his
heart which asked if the gulf might not be overleapt.



CHAPTER II.

ON the morrow Graham called at the villa at A------. The two ladies
received him in Isaura's chosen sitting-room.

Somehow or other, conversation at first languished. Graham was reserved
and distant, Isaura shy and embarrassed. The Venosta had the frais of
making talk to herself. Probably at another time Graham would have been
amused and interested in the observation of a character new to him, and
thoroughly southern,--lovable not more from its naive simplicity of
kindliness than from various little foibles and vanities, all of which
were harmless, and some of them endearing as those of a child whom it is
easy to make happy, and whom it seems so cruel to pain; and with all the
Venosta's deviations from the polished and tranquil good taste of the
beau monde, she had that indescribable grace which rarely deserts a
Florentine, so that you might call her odd but not vulgar; while, though
uneducated, except in the way of her old profession, and never having
troubled herself to read anything but a libretto and the pious books
commended to her by her confessor, the artless babble of her talk every
now and then flashed out with a quaint humour, lighting up terse
fragments of the old Italian wisdom which had mysteriously embedded
themselves in the groundwork of her mind.

But Graham was not at this time disposed to judge the poor Venosta kindly
or fairly. Isaura had taken high rank in his thoughts. He felt an
impatient resentment mingled with anxiety and compassionate tenderness at
a companionship which seemed to him derogatory to the position he would
have assigned to a creature so gifted, and unsafe as a guide amidst the
perils and trials to which the youth, the beauty, and the destined
profession of Isaura were exposed. Like most Englishmen--especially
Englishmen wise in the knowledge of life--he held in fastidious regard
the proprieties and conventions by which the dignity of woman is fenced
round; and of those proprieties and conventions the Venosta naturally
appeared to him a very unsatisfactory guardian and representative.

Happily unconscious of these hostile prepossessions, the elder Signora
chatted on very gayly to the visitor. She was in excellent spirits;
people had been very civil to her both at Colonel Morley's and M.
Louvier's. The American Minister had praised the scarlet jacket. She was
convinced she had made a sensation two nights running. When the amour
propre is pleased, the tongue is freed.

The Venosta ran on in praise of Paris and the Parisians; of Louvier and
his soiree and the pistachio ice; of the Americans, and a certain creme
de maraschino which she hoped the Signor Inglese had not failed to
taste,--the creme de maraschino led her thoughts back to Italy. Then she
grew mournful. How she missed the native beau ciel! Paris was pleasant,
but how absurd to call it "le Paradis des Femmes,"--as if les Femmes
could find Paradise in a brouillard!

"But," she exclaimed, with vivacity of voice and gesticulation, "the
Signor does not come to hear the parrot talk; he is engaged to come that
he may hear the nightingale sing. A drop of honey attracts the fly more
than a bottle of vinegar."

Graham could not help smiling at this adage. "I submit," said he, "to
your comparison as regards myself; but certainly anything less like a
bottle of vinegar than your amiable conversation I cannot well conceive.
However, the metaphor apart, I scarcely know how I dare ask Mademoiselle
to sing after the confession I made to her last night."

"What confession?" asked the Venosta.

"That I know nothing of music and doubt if I can honestly say that I am
fond of it."

"Not fond of music! Impossible! You slander yourself. He who loves not
music would have a dull time of it in heaven. But you are English, and
perhaps have only heard the music of your own country. Bad, very bad--a
heretic's music! Now listen."

Seating herself at the piano, she began an air from the "Lucia," crying
out to Isaura to come and sing to her accompaniment.

"Do you really wish it?" asked Isaura of Graham, fixing on him
questioning, timid eyes.

"I cannot say how much I wish to hear you."

Isaura moved to the instrument, and Graham stood behind her. Perhaps he
felt that he should judge more impartially of her voice if not subjected
to the charm of her face.

But the first note of the voice held him spell-bound. In itself the organ
was of the rarest order, mellow and rich, but so soft that its power was
lost in its sweetness, and so exquisitely fresh in every note.

But the singer's charm was less in voice than in feeling; she conveyed to
the listener so much more than was said by the words, or even implied by
the music. Her song in this caught the art of the painter who impresses
the mind with the consciousness of a something which the eye cannot
detect on the canvas.

She seemed to breathe out from the depths of her heart the intense pathos
of the original romance, so far exceeding that of the opera,-the human
tenderness, the mystic terror of a tragic love-tale more solemn in its
sweetness than that of Verona.

When her voice died away no applause came,--not even a murmur. Isaura
bashfully turned round to steal a glance at her silent listener, and
beheld moistened eyes and quivering lips. At that moment she was
reconciled to her art. Graham rose abruptly and walked to the window.

"Do you doubt now if you are fond of music?" cried the Venosta.

"This is more than music," answered Graham, still with averted face.
Then, after a short pause, he approached Isaura, and said, with a
melancholy half-smile,--

"I do not think, Mademoiselle, that I could dare to hear you often; it
would take me too far from the hard real world: and he who would not be
left behindhand on the road that he must journey cannot indulge frequent
excursions into fairyland."

"Yet," said Isaura, in a tone yet sadder, "I was told in my childhood, by
one whose genius gives authority to her words, that beside the real world
lies the ideal. The real world then seemed rough to me. 'Escape,' said my
counsellor, 'is granted from that stony thoroughfare into the fields
beyond its formal hedgerows. The ideal world has its sorrows, but it
never admits despair.' That counsel then, methought, decided my choice of
life. I know not now if it has done so."

"Fate," answered Graham, slowly and thoughtfully, "Fate, which is not the
ruler but the servant of Providence, decides our choice of life, and
rarely from outward circumstances. Usually the motive power is within. We
apply the word 'genius' to the minds of the gifted few; but in all of us
there is a genius that is inborn, a pervading something which
distinguishes our very identity, and dictates to the conscience that
which we are best fitted to do and to be. In so dictating it compels our
choice of life; or if we resist the dictate, we find at the close that we
have gone astray. My choice of life thus compelled is on the stony
thoroughfares, yours in the green fields."

As he thus said, his face became clouded and mournful. The Venosta,
quickly tired of a conversation in which she had no part, and having
various little household matters to attend to, had during this dialogue
slipped unobserved from the room; yet neither Isaura nor Graham felt the
sudden consciousness that they were alone which belongs to lovers. "Why,"
asked Isaura, with that magic smile reflected in countless dimples which,
even when her words were those of a man's reasoning, made them seem
gentle with a woman's sentiment,--"why must your road through the world
be so exclusively the stony one? It is not from necessity, it can not be
from taste; and whatever definition you give to genius, surely it is not
your own inborn genius that dictates to you a constant exclusive
adherence to the commonplace of life."

"Ah, Mademoiselle, do not misrepresent me. I did not say that I could not
sometimes quit the real world for fairyland,--I said that I could not do
so often. My vocation is not that of a poet or artist."

"It is that of an orator, I know," said Isaura, kindling; "so they tell
me, and I believe them. But is not the orator somewhat akin to the poet?
Is not oratory an art?"

"Let us dismiss the word orator; as applied to English public life, it is
a very deceptive expression. The Englishman who wishes to influence his
countrymen by force of words spoken must mix with them in their beaten
thoroughfares; must make himself master of their practical views and
interests; must be conversant with their prosaic occupations and
business; must understand how to adjust their loftiest aspirations to
their material welfare; must avoid as the fault most dangerous to himself
and to others that kind of eloquence which is called oratory in France,
and which has helped to make the French the worst politicians in Europe.
Alas! Mademoiselle, I fear that an English statesman would appear to you
a very dull orator."

"I see that I spoke foolishly,--yes, you show me that the world of the
statesman lies apart from that of the artist. Yet--"

"Yet what?"

"May not the ambition of both be the same?"

"How so?"

"To refine the rude, to exalt the mean; to identify their own fame with
some new beauty, some new glory, added to the treasure-house of all."

Graham bowed his head reverently, and then raised it with the flush of
enthusiasm on his cheek and brow.

"Oh, Mademoiselle," he exclaimed, "what a sure guide and what a noble
inspirer to a true Englishman's ambition nature has fitted you to be,
were it not--" He paused abruptly.

This outburst took Isaura utterly by surprise. She had been accustomed to
the language of compliment till it had begun to pall, but a compliment of
this kind was the first that had ever reached her ear. She had no words
in answer to it; involuntarily she placed her hand on her heart as if to
still its beatings. But the unfinished exclamation, "Were it not,"
troubled her more than the preceding words had flattered, and
mechanically she murmured, "Were it not--what?"

"Oh," answered Graham, affecting a tone of gayety, "I felt too ashamed of
my selfishness as man to finish my sentence."

"Do so, or I shall fancy you refrained lest you might wound me as woman."

"Not so; on the contrary, had I gone on it would have been to say that a
woman of your genius, and more especially of such mastery in the most
popular and fascinating of all arts, could not be contented if she
inspired nobler thoughts in a single breast,--she must belong to the
public, or rather the public must belong to her; it is but a corner of
her heart that an individual can occupy, and even that individual must
merge his existence in hers, must be contented to reflect a ray of the
light she sheds on admiring thousands. Who could dare to say to you,
'Renounce your career; confine your genius, your art, to the petty circle
of home'? To an actress, a singer, with whose fame the world rings, home
would be a prison. Pardon me, pardon--"

Isaura had turned away her face to hide tears that would force their way;
but she held out her hand to him with a childlike frankness, and said
softly, "I am not offended." Graham did not trust himself to continue the
same strain of conversation. Breaking into a new subject, he said, after
a constrained pause, "Will you think it very impertinent in so new an
acquaintance, if I ask how it is that you, an Italian, know our language
as a native; and is it by Italian teachers that you have been trained to
think and to feel?"

"Mr. Selby, my second father, was an Englishman, and did not speak any
other language with comfort to himself. He was very fond of me; and had
he been really my father I could not have loved him more. We were
constant companions till--till I lost him."

"And no mother left to console you!"

Isaura shook her head mournfully, and the Venosta here re-entered. Graham
felt conscious that he had already stayed too long, and took leave.

They knew that they were to meet that evening at the Savarins'.

To Graham that thought was not one of unmixed pleasure; the more he knew
of Isaura, the more he felt self-reproach that he had allowed himself to
know her at all.

But after he had left, Isaura sang low to herself the song which had so
affected her listener; then she fell into abstracted revery, but she felt
a strange and new sort of happiness. In dressing for M. Savarin's dinner,
and twining the classic ivy wreath in her dark locks, her Italian servant
exclaimed, "How beautiful the Signorina looks to-night!"



CHAPTER III.

M. Savarin was one of the most brilliant of that galaxy of literary men
which shed lustre on the reign of Louis Philippe.

His was an intellect peculiarly French in its lightness and grace.
Neither England nor Germany nor America has produced any resemblance to
it. Ireland has, in Thomas Moore; but then in Irish genius there is so
much that is French.

M. Savarin was free from the ostentatious extravagance which had come
into vogue with the Empire. His house and establishment were modestly
maintained within the limit of an income chiefly, perhaps entirely,
derived from literary profits.

Though he gave frequent dinners, it was but to few at a time, and without
show or pretence. Yet the dinners, though simple, were perfect of their
kind; and the host so contrived to infuse his own playful gayety into the
temper of his guests, that the feasts at his house were considered the
pleasantest at Paris. On this occasion the party extended to ten, the
largest number his table admitted.

All the French guests belonged to the Liberal party, though in changing
tints of the tricolor. Place aux dames! first to be named were the
Countess de Craon and Madame Vertot, both without husbands. The Countess
had buried the Count, Madame Vertot had separated from Monsieur. The
Countess was very handsome, but she was sixty; Madame Vertot was twenty
years younger, but she was very plain. She had quarrelled with the
distinguished author for whose sake she had separated from Monsieur, and
no man had since presumed to think that he could console a lady so plain
for the loss of an author so distinguished.

Both these ladies were very clever. The Countess had written lyrical
poems entitled "Cries of Liberty," and a drama of which Danton was the
hero, and the moral too revolutionary for admission to the stage; but at
heart the Countess was not at all a revolutionist,--the last person in
the world to do or desire anything that could bring a washerwoman an inch
nearer to a countess. She was one of those persons who play with fire in
order to appear enlightened.

Madame Vertot was of severer mould. She had knelt at the feet of M.
Thiers, and went into the historico-political line. She had written a
remarkable book upon the modern Carthage (meaning England), and more
recently a work that had excited much attention upon the Balance of
Power, in which she proved it to be the interest of civilization and the
necessity of Europe that Belgium should be added to France, and Prussia
circumscribed to the bounds of its original margraviate. She showed how
easily these two objects could have been effected by a constitutional
monarch instead of an egotistical Emperor. Madame Vertot was a decided
Orleanist.

Both these ladies condescended to put aside authorship in general
society. Next amongst our guests let me place the Count de Passy and
Madame son espouse. The Count was seventy-one, and, it is needless to
add, a type of Frenchman rapidly vanishing, and not likely to find itself
renewed. How shall I describe him so as to make my English reader
understand? Let me try by analogy. Suppose a man of great birth and
fortune, who in his youth had been an enthusiastic friend of Lord Byron
and a jocund companion of George IV.; who had in him an immense degree of
lofty romantic sentiment with an equal degree of well-bred worldly
cynicism, but who, on account of that admixture, which is so rare, kept a
high rank in either of the two societies into which, speaking broadly,
civilized life divides itself,--the romantic and the cynical. The Count
de Passy had been the most ardent among the young disciples of
Chateaubriand, the most brilliant among the young courtiers of Charles X.
Need I add that he had been a terrible lady-killer?

But in spite of his admiration of Chateaubriand and his allegiance to
Charles X., the Count had been always true to those caprices of the
French noblesse from which he descended,--caprices which destroyed them
in the old Revolution; caprices belonging to the splendid ignorance of
their nation in general and their order in particular. Speaking without
regard to partial exceptions, the French gentilhomme is essentially a
Parisian; a Parisian is essentially impressionable to the impulse or
fashion of the moment. Is it a la mode for the moment to be Liberal or
anti-Liberal? Parisians embrace and kiss each other, and swear through
life and death to adhere forever to the mode of the moment. The Three
Days were the mode of the moment,--the Count de Passy became an
enthusiastic Orleanist. Louis Philippe was very gracious to him. He was
decorated; he was named prefet of his department; he was created senator;
he was about to be sent Minister to a German Court when Louis Philippe
fell. The Republic was proclaimed. The Count caught the popular
contagion, and after exchanging tears and kisses with patriots whom a
week before he had called canaille, he swore eternal fidelity to the
Republic. The fashion of the moment suddenly became Napoleonic, and with
the coup d'etat the Republic was metamorphosed into an Empire. The Count
wept on the bosoms of all the Vieilles Moustaches he could find, and
rejoiced that the sun of Austerlitz had re-arisen. But after the affair
of Mexico the sun of Austerlitz waxed very sickly. Imperialism was fast
going out of fashion. The Count transferred his affection to Jules Favre,
and joined the ranks of the advanced Liberals. During all these political
changes, the Count had remained very much the same man in private life;
agreeable, good-natured, witty, and, above all, a devotee of the fair
sex. When he had reached the age of sixty-eight he was still fort bel
homme, unmarried, with a grand presence and charming manner. At that age
he said, "Je me range," and married a young lady of eighteen. She adored
her husband, and was wildly jealous of him; while the Count did not seem
at all jealous of her, and submitted to her adoration with a gentle shrug
of the shoulders.

The three other guests who, with Graham and the two Italian ladies, made
up the complement of ten, were the German Count von Rudesheim, a
celebrated French physician named Bacourt, and a young author whom
Savarin had admitted into his clique and declared to be of rare promise.
This author, whose real name was Gustave Rameau, but who, to prove, I
suppose, the sincerity of that scorn for ancestry which he professed,
published his verses under the patrician designation of Alphonse de
Valcour, was about twenty-four, and might have passed at the first glance
for younger; but, looking at him closely, the signs of old age were
already stamped on his visage.

He was undersized, and of a feeble slender frame. In the eyes of women
and artists the defects of his frame were redeemed by the extraordinary
beauty of the face. His black hair, carefully parted in the centre, and
worn long and flowing, contrasted the whiteness of a high though narrow
forehead, and the delicate pallor of his cheeks. His feature, were very
regular, his eyes singularly bright; but the expression of the face spoke
of fatigue and exhaustion; the silky locks were already thin, and
interspersed with threads of silver; the bright eyes shone out from
sunken orbits; the lines round the mouth were marked as they are in the
middle age of one who has lived too fast.

It was a countenance that might have excited a compassionate and tender
interest but for something arrogant and supercilious in the
expression,-something that demanded not tender pity but enthusiastic
admiration. Yet that expression was displeasing rather to men than to
women; and one could well conceive that, among the latter, the
enthusiastic admiration it challenged would be largely conceded.

The conversation at dinner was in complete contrast to that at the
Americans' the day before. There the talk, though animated, had been
chiefly earnest and serious; here it was all touch and go, sally and
repartee. The subjects were the light on lots and lively anecdotes of the
day, not free from literature and politics, but both treated as matters
of persiflage, hovered round with a jest and quitted with an epigram. The
two French lady authors, the Count de Passy, the physician, and the host
far outspoke all the other guests. Now and then, however, the German
Count struck in with an ironical remark condensing a great deal of grave
wisdom, and the young author with ruder and more biting sarcasm. If the
sarcasm told, he showed his triumph by a low-pitched laugh; if it failed,
he evinced his displeasure by a contemptuous sneer or a grim scowl.

Isaura and Graham were not seated near each other, and were for the most
part contented to be listeners.

On adjourning to the salon after dinner, Graham, however, was approaching
the chair in which Isaura had placed herself, when the young author,
forestalling him, dropped into the seat next to her, and began a
conversation in a voice so low that it might have passed for a whisper.
The Englishman drew back and observed them. He soon perceived, with a
pang of jealousy not unmingled with scorn, that the author's talk
appeared to interest Isaura. She listened with evident attention; and
when she spoke in return, though Graham did not hear her words, he could
observe on her expressive countenance an increased gentleness of aspect.

"I hope," said the physician, joining Graham, as most of the other guests
gathered round Savarin, who was in his liveliest vein of anecdote and
wit,--"I hope that the fair Italian will not allow that ink-bottle imp to
persuade her that she has fallen in love with him."

"Do young ladies generally find him so seductive?" asked Graham, with a
forced smile.

"Probably enough. He has the reputation of being very clever and very
wicked, and that is a sort of character which has the serpent's
fascination for the daughters of Eve."

"Is the reputation merited?"

"As to the cleverness, I am not a fair judge. I dislike that sort of
writing which is neither manlike nor womanlike, and in which young Rameau
excels. He has the knack of finding very exaggerated phrases by which to
express commonplace thoughts. He writes verses about love in words so
stormy that you might fancy that Jove was descending upon Semele; but
when you examine his words, as a sober pathologist like myself is
disposed to do, your fear for the peace of households vanishes,--they are
Fox et proeterea nihil; no man really in love would use them. He writes
prose about the wrongs of humanity. You feel for humanity; you say,
'Grant the wrongs, now for the remedy,'--and you find nothing but
balderdash. Still I am bound to say that both in verse and prose Gustave
Rameau is in unison with a corrupt taste of the day, and therefore he is
coming into vogue. So much as to his writings; as to his wickedness, you
have only to look at him to feel sure that he is not a hundredth part so
wicked as he wishes to seem. In a word, then, M. Gustave Rameau is a type
of that somewhat numerous class among the youth of Paris, which I call
'the lost Tribe of Absinthe.' There is a set of men who begin to live
full gallop while they are still boys. As a general rule, they are
originally of the sickly frames which can scarcely even trot, much less
gallop without the spur of stimulants, and no stimulant so fascinates
their peculiar nervous system as absinthe. The number of patients in this
set who at the age of thirty are more worn out than septuagenarians
increases so rapidly as to make one dread to think what will be the next
race of Frenchmen. To the predilection for absinthe young Rameau and the
writers of his set add the imitation of Heine, after, indeed, the manner
of caricaturists, who effect a likeness striking in proportion as it is
ugly. It is not easy to imitate the pathos and the wit of Heine; but it
is easy to imitate his defiance of the Deity, his mockery of right and
wrong, his relentless war on that heroic standard of thought and action
which the writers who exalt their nation intuitively preserve. Rameau
cannot be a Heine, but he can be to Heine what a misshapen snarling dwarf
is to a mangled blaspheming Titan. Yet he interests the women in general,
and he evidently interests the fair Signorina in especial."

Just as Bacourt finished that last sentence, Isaura lifted the head which
had hitherto bent in an earnest listening attitude that seemed to justify
the Doctor's remarks, and looked round. Her eyes met Graham's with the
fearless candour which made half the charm of their bright yet soft
intelligence; but she dropped them suddenly with a half-start and a
change of colour, for the expression of Graham's face was unlike that
which she had hitherto seen on it,--it was hard, stern, and somewhat
disdainful. A minute or so afterwards she rose, and in passing across the
room towards the group round the host, paused at a table covered with
books and prints near to which Graham was standing alone. The Doctor had
departed in company with the German Count.

Isaura took up one of the prints.

"Ah!" she exclaimed, "Sorrento, my Sorrento. Have you ever visited
Sorrento, Mr. Vane?"

Her question and her movement were evidently in conciliation. Was the
conciliation prompted by coquetry, or by a sentiment more innocent and
artless?

Graham doubted, and replied coldly, as he bent over the print,--

"I once stayed there a few days, but my recollection of it is not
sufficiently lively to enable me to recognize its features in this
design."

"That is the house, at least so they say, of Tasso's father; of course
you visited that?"

"Yes, it was a hotel in my time; I lodged there."

"And I too. There I first read 'The Gerusalemine.'" The last words were
said in Italian, with a low measured tone, inwardly and dreamily.

A somewhat sharp and incisive voice speaking in French here struck in and
prevented Graham's rejoinder: "Quel joli dessin! What is it,
Mademoiselle?"

Graham recoiled; the speaker was Gustave Rameau, who had, unobserved,
first watched Isaura, then rejoined her side.

"A view of Sorrento, Monsieur, but it does not do justice to the place. I
was pointing out the house which belonged to Tasso's father."

"Tasso! Hein! and which is the fair Eleonora's?"

"Monsieur," answered Isaura, rather startled at that question, from a
professed homme de lettres, "Eleonora did not live at Sorrento."

"Tant pis pour Sorrente," said the homme de lettres, carelessly. "No one
would care for Tasso if it were not for Eleonora."

"I should rather have thought," said Graham, "that no one would have
cared for Eleonora if it were not for Tasso."

Rameau glanced at the Englishman superciliously. "Pardon, Monsieur, in
every age a love-story keeps its interest; but who cares nowadays for le
clinquant du Tasse?"

"Le clinquant du Tasse!" exclaimed Isaura, indignantly.

"The expression is Boileau's, Mademoiselle, in ridicule of the 'Sot de
qualite,' who prefers--

        "'Le clinquant du Tasse a tout l'or de Virgile.'

"But for my part I have as little faith in the last as the first."

"I do not know Latin, and have therefore not read Virgil," said Isaura.

"Possibly," remarked Graham, "Monsieur does not know Italian, and has
therefore not read Tasso."

"If that be meant in sarcasm," retorted Rameau, "I construe it as a
compliment. A Frenchman who is contented to study the masterpieces of
modern literature need learn no language and read no authors but his
own."

Isaura laughed her pleasant silvery laugh. "I should admire the frankness
of that boast, Monsieur, if in our talk just now you had not spoken as
contemptuously of what we are accustomed to consider French masterpieces
as you have done of Virgil and Tasso."

"Ah, Mademoiselle! it is not my fault if you have had teachers of taste
so rococo as to bid you find masterpieces in the tiresome stilted
tragedies of Corneille and Racine. Poetry of a court, not of a people,
one simple novel, one simple stanza that probes the hidden recesses of
the human heart, reveals the sores of this wretched social state,
denounces the evils of superstition, kingcraft, and priestcraft, is worth
a library of the rubbish which pedagogues call 'the classics.' We agree,
at least, in one thing, Mademoiselle; we both do homage to the genius of
your friend Madame de Grantmesnil."

"Your friend, Signorina!" cried Graham, incredulously; "is Madame de
Grantmesnil your friend?"

"The dearest I have in the world."

Graham's face darkened; he turned away in silence, and in another minute
vanished from the room, persuading himself that he felt not one pang of
jealousy in leaving Gustave Rameau by the side of Isaura. "Her dearest
friend Madame de Grantmesnil!" he muttered.

A word now on Isaura's chief correspondent. Madame de Grantmesnil was a
woman of noble birth and ample fortune. She had separated from her
husband in the second year after marriage. She was a singularly eloquent
writer, surpassed among contemporaries of her sex in popularity and
renown only by Georges Sand.

At least as fearless as that great novelist in the frank exposition of
her views, she had commenced her career in letters by a work of
astonishing power and pathos, directed against the institution of
marriage as regulated in Roman Catholic communities. I do not know that
it said more on this delicate subject than the English Milton has said;
but then Milton did not write for a Roman Catholic community, nor adopt a
style likely to captivate the working classes. Madame de Grantmesnil's
first book was deemed an attack on the religion of the country, and
captivated those among the working classes who had already abjured that
religion. This work was followed up by others more or less in defiance of
"received opinions,"--some with political, some with social revolutionary
aim and tendency, but always with a singular purity of style. Search all
her books, and however you might revolt from her doctrine, you could not
find a hazardous expression. The novels of English young ladies are
naughty in comparison. Of late years, whatever might be hard or audacious
in her political or social doctrines softened itself into charm amid the
golden haze of romance. Her writings had grown more and more purely
artistic,--poetizing what is good and beautiful in the realities of life
rather than creating a false ideal out of what is vicious and deformed.
Such a woman, separated young from her husband, could not enunciate such
opinions and lead a life so independent and uncontrolled as Madame de
Grantmesnil had done, without scandal, without calumny. Nothing, however,
in her actual life had ever been so proved against her as to lower the
high position she occupied in right of birth, fortune, renown. Wherever
she went she was fetee, as in England foreign princes, and in America
foreign authors, are fetes. Those who knew her well concurred in praise
of her lofty, generous, lovable qualities. Madame de Grantmesnil had
known Mr. Selby; and when, at his death, Isaura, in the innocent age
between childhood and youth, had been left the most sorrowful and most
lonely creature on the face of the earth, this famous woman, worshipped
by the rich for her intellect, adored by the poor for her beneficence,
came to the orphan's friendless side, breathing love once more into her
pining heart, and waking for the first time the desires of genius, the
aspirations of art, in the dim self-consciousness of a soul between sleep
and waking.

But, my dear Englishman, put yourself in Graham's place, and suppose that
you were beginning to fall in love with a girl whom for many good reasons
you ought not to marry; suppose that in the same hour in which you were
angrily conscious of jealousy on account of a man whom it wounds your
self-esteem to consider a rival, the girl tells you that her dearest
friend is a woman who is famed for her hostility to the institution of
marriage!



CHAPTER IV.

On the same day in which Graham dined with the Savarins, M. Louvier
assembled round his table the elite of the young Parisians who
constituted the oligarchy of fashion, to meet whom he had invited his new
friend the Marquis de Rochebriant. Most of them belonged to the
Legitimist party, the noblesse of the faubourg; those who did not,
belonged to no political party at all,--indifferent to the cares of
mortal States as the gods of Epicurus. Foremost among this Jeunesse doree
were Alain's kinsmen, Raoul and Enguerrand de Vandemar. To these Louvier
introduced him with a burly parental bonhomie, as if he were the head of
the family. "I need not bid you, young folks, to make friends with each
other. A Vandemar and a Rochebriant are not made friends,--they are born
friends." So saying he turned to his other guests.

Almost in an instant Alain felt his constraint melt away in the cordial
warmth with which his cousins greeted him. These young men had a striking
family likeness to each other, and yet in feature, colouring, and
expression, in all save that strange family likeness, they were
contrasts. Raoul was tall, and, though inclined to be slender, with
sufficient breadth of shoulder to indicate no inconsiderable strength of
frame. His hair worn short and his silky beard worn long were dark; so
were his eyes, shaded by curved drooping lashes; his complexion was pale,
but clear and healthful. In repose the expression of his face was that of
a somewhat melancholy indolence, but in speaking it became singularly
sweet, with a smile of the exquisite urbanity which no artificial
politeness can bestow; it must emanate from that native high breeding
which has its source in goodness of heart.

Enguerrand was fair, with curly locks of a golden chestnut. He wore no
beard, only a small mustache rather darker than his hair. His complexion
might in itself be called effeminate, its bloom was so fresh and
delicate; but there was so much of boldness and energy in the play of his
countenance, the hardy outline of the lips, and the open breadth of the
forehead, that "effeminate" was an epithet no one ever assigned to his
aspect. He was somewhat under the middle height, but beautifully
proportioned, carried himself well, and somehow or other did not look
short even by the side of tall men. Altogether he seemed formed to be a
mother's darling, and spoiled by women, yet to hold his own among men
with a strength of will more evident in his look and his bearing than it
was in those of his graver and statelier brother.

Both were considered by their young co-equals models in dress, but in
Raoul there was no sign that care or thought upon dress had been
bestowed; the simplicity of his costume was absolute and severe. On his
plain shirt-front there gleamed not a stud, on his fingers there sparkled
not a ring. Enguerrand, on the contrary, was not without pretension in
his attire; the broderie in his shirt-front seemed woven by the Queen of
the Fairies. His rings of turquoise and opal, his studs and wrist-buttons
of pearl and brilliants, must have cost double the rental of Rochebriant,
but probably they cost him nothing. He was one of those happy Lotharios
to whom Calistas make constant presents. All about him was so bright that
the atmosphere around seemed gayer for his presence.

In one respect at least the brothers closely resembled each other,--in
that exquisite graciousness of manner for which the genuine French noble
is traditionally renowned; a graciousness that did not desert them even
when they came reluctantly into contact with roturiers or republicans;
but the graciousness became egalite, fraternite, towards one of their
caste and kindred.

"We must do our best to make Paris pleasant to you," said Raoul, still
retaining in his grasp the hand he had taken.

"Vilain cousin," said the livelier Enguerrand, "to have been in Paris
twenty-four hours, and without letting us know."

"Has not your father told you that I called upon him?"

"Our father," answered Raoul, "was not so savage as to conceal that fact;
but he said you were only here on business for a day or two, had declined
his invitation, and would not give your address. Pauvre pere! we scolded
him well for letting you escape from us thus. My mother has not forgiven
him yet; we must present you to her to-morrow. I answer for your liking
her almost as much as she will like you."

Before Alain could answer dinner was announced. Alain's place at dinner
was between his cousins. How pleasant they made themselves! It was the
first time in which Alain had been brought into such familiar
conversation with countrymen of his own rank as well as his own age. His
heart warmed to them. The general talk of the other guests was strange to
his ear; it ran much upon horses and races, upon the opera and the
ballet; it was enlivened with satirical anecdotes of persons whose names
were unknown to the Provincial; not a word was said that showed the
smallest interest in politics or the slightest acquaintance with
literature. The world of these well-born guests seemed one from which all
that concerned the great mass of mankind was excluded, yet the talk was
that which could only be found in a very polished society. In it there
was not much wit, but there was a prevalent vein of gayety, and the
gayety was never violent, the laughter was never loud; the scandals
circulated might imply cynicism the most absolute, but in language the
most refined. The Jockey Club of Paris has its perfume.

Raoul did not mix in the general conversation; he devoted himself
pointedly to the amusement of his cousin, explaining to him the point of
the anecdotes circulated, or hitting off in terse sentences the
characters of the talkers.

Enguerrand was evidently of temper more vivacious than his brother, and
contributed freely to the current play of light gossip and mirthful
sally.

Louvier, seated between a duke and a Russian prince, said little except
to recommend a wine or an entree, but kept his eye constantly on the
Vandemars and Alain.

Immediately after coffee the guests departed. Before they did so,
however, Raoul introduced his cousin to those of the party most
distinguished by hereditary rank or social position. With these the name
of Rochebriant was too historically famous not to insure respect of its
owner; they welcomed him among them as if he were their brother.

The French duke claimed him as a connection by an alliance in the
fourteenth century; the Russian prince had known the late Marquis, and
trusted that the son would allow him to improve into friendship the
acquaintance he had formed with the father.

Those ceremonials over, Raoul linked his arm in Alain's and said: "I am
not going to release you so soon after we have caught you. You must come
with me to a house in which I at least spend an hour or two every
evening. I am at home there. Bah! I take no refusal. Do not suppose I
carry you off to Bohemia,--a country which, I am sorry to say, Enguerrand
now and then visits, but which is to me as unknown as the mountains of
the moon. The house I speak of is comme il faut to the utmost. It is that
of the Contessa di Rimini,--a charming Italian by marriage, but by birth
and in character on ne peut plus Francaise. My mother adores her."

That dinner at M. Louvier's had already effected a great change in the
mood and temper of Alain de Rochebriant; he felt, as if by magic, the
sense of youth, of rank, of station, which had been so suddenly checked
and stifled, warmed to life within his veins. He should have deemed
himself a boor had he refused the invitation so frankly tendered.

But on reaching the coupe which the brothers kept in common, and seeing
it only held two, he drew back.

"Nay, enter, mon cher," said Raoul, divining the cause of his hesitation;
"Enguerrand has gone on to his club."



CHAPTER V.

"Tell me," said Raoul, when they were in the carriage, "how you came to
know M. Louvier."

"He is my chief mortgagee."

"H'm! that explains it. But you might be in worse hands; the man has a
character for liberality."

"Did your father mention to you my circumstances, and the reason that
brings me to Paris?"

"Since you put the question point-blank, my dear cousin, he did."

"He told you how poor I am, and how keen must be my lifelong struggle to
keep Rochebriant as the home of my race?"

"He told us all that could make us still more respect the Marquis de
Rochebriant, and still more eagerly long to know our cousin and the head
of our house," answered Raoul, with a certain nobleness of tone and
manner.

Alain pressed his kinsman's hand with grateful emotion. "Yet," he said
falteringly, "your father agreed with me that my circumstances would not
allow me to--"

"Bah!" interrupted Raoul, with a gentle laugh; "my father is a very
clever man, doubtless, but he knows only the world of his own day,
nothing of the world of ours. I and Enguerrand will call on you
to-morrow, to take you to my mother, and before doing so, to consult as
to affairs in general. On this last matter Enguerrand is an oracle. Here
we are at the Contessa's."



CHAPTER VI.

The Contessa di Rimini received her visitors in a boudoir furnished with
much apparent simplicity, but a simplicity by no means inexpensive. The
draperies were but of chintz, and the walls covered with the same
material,--a lively pattern, in which the prevalents were rose-colour and
white; but the ornaments on the mantelpiece, the china stored in the
cabinets or arranged on the shelves, the small knickknacks scattered on
the tables, were costly rarities of art.

The Contessa herself was a woman who had somewhat passed her thirtieth
year,--not strikingly handsome, but exquisitely pretty. "There is," said
a great French writer, "only one way in which a woman can be handsome,
but a hundred thousand ways in which she can be pretty;" and it would be
impossible to reckon up the number of ways in which Adeline di Rimini
carried off the prize in prettiness.

Yet it would be unjust to the personal attractions of the Contessa to
class them all under the word "prettiness." When regarded more
attentively, there was an expression in her countenance that might almost
be called divine, it spoke so unmistakably of a sweet nature and an
untroubled soul. An English poet once described her by repeating the old
lines,

     "Her face is like the milky way I' the sky,
     --A meeting of gentle lights without a name."

She was not alone; an elderly lady sat on an armchair by the fire,
engaged in knitting; and a man, also elderly, and whose dress proclaimed
him an ecclesiastic, sat at the opposite corner, with a large Angora cat
on his lap.

"I present to you, Madame," said Raoul, "my new-found cousin, the
seventeenth Marquis de Rochebriant, whom I am proud to consider on the
male side the head of our house, representing its eldest branch. Welcome
him for my sake,--in future he will be welcome for his own."

The Contessa replied very graciously to this introduction, and made room
for Alain on the divan from which she had risen.

The old lady looked up from her knitting; the ecclesiastic removed the
cat from his lap. Said the old lady, "I announce myself to M. le Marquis.
I knew his mother well enough to be invited to his christening; otherwise
I have no pretension to the acquaintance of a cavalier si beau, being
old, rather deaf, very stupid, exceedingly poor--"

"And," interrupted Raoul, "the woman in all Paris the most adored for
bonte, and consulted for savoir vivre by the young cavaliers whom she
deigns to receive. Alain, I present you to Madame de Maury, the widow of
a distinguished author and academician, and the daughter of the brave
Henri de Gerval, who fought for the good cause in La Vendee. I present
you also to the Abbe Vertpre, who has passed his life in the vain
endeavour to make other men as good as himself."

"Base flatterer!" said the Abbe, pinching Raoul's ear with one hand,
while he extended the other to Alain. "Do not let your cousin frighten
you from knowing me, Monsieur le Marquis; when he was my pupil, he so
convinced me of the incorrigibility of perverse human nature, that I now
chiefly address myself to the moral improvement of the brute creation.
Ask the Contessa if I have not achieved a beau succes with her Angora
cat. Three months ago that creature had the two worst propensities of
man,--he was at once savage and mean; he bit, he stole. Does he ever bite
now? No. Does he ever steal? No. Why? I have awakened in that cat the
dormant conscience, and that done, the conscience regulates his actions;
once made aware of the difference between wrong and right, the cat
maintains it unswervingly, as if it were a law of nature. But if, with
prodigious labour, one does awaken conscience in a human sinner, it has
no steady effect on his conduct,--he continues to sin all the same.
Mankind at Paris, Monsieur le Marquis, is divided between two
classes,-one bites and the other steals. Shun both; devote yourself to
cats."

The Abbe delivered this oration with a gravity of mien and tone which
made it difficult to guess whether he spoke in sport or in earnest, in
simple playfulness or with latent sarcasm.

But on the brow and in the eye of the priest there was a general
expression of quiet benevolence, which made Alain incline to the belief
that he was only speaking as a pleasant humourist; and the Marquis
replied gayly,--

"Monsieur L'Abbe, admitting the superior virtue of cats when taught by so
intelligent a preceptor, still the business of human life is not
transacted by cats; and since men must deal with men, permit me, as a
preliminary caution, to inquire in which class I must rank yourself. Do
you bite or do you steal?"

This sally, which showed that the Marquis was already shaking off his
provincial reserve, met with great success. Raoul and the Contessa
laughed merrily; Madame de Maury clapped her hands, and cried "Bien!"

The Abbe replied, with unmoved gravity, "Both. I am a priest; it is my
duty to bite the bad and steal from the good, as you will see, Monsieur
le Marquis, if you will glance at this paper."

Here he handed to Alain a memorial on behalf of an afflicted family who
had been burnt out of their home, and reduced from comparative ease to
absolute want. There was a list appended of some twenty subscribers, the
last being the Contessa, fifty francs, and Madame de Maury, five.

"Allow me, Marquis," said the Abbe, "to steal from you. Bless you
two-fold, mon fils!" (taking the napoleon Alain extended to him) "first
for your charity; secondly, for the effect of its example upon the heart
of your cousin. Raoul de Vandemar, stand and deliver. Bah! what! only ten
francs."

Raoul made a sign to the Abbe, unperceived by the rest, as he answered,
"Abbe, I should excel your expectations of my career if I always continue
worth half as much as my cousin."

Alain felt to the bottom of his heart the delicate tact of his richer
kinsman in giving less than himself, and the Abbe replied, "Niggard, you
are pardoned. Humility is a more difficult virtue to produce than
charity, and in your case an instance of it is so rare that it merits
encouragement."

The "tea equipage" was now served in what at Paris is called the English
fashion; the Contessa presided over it, the guests gathered round the
table, and the evening passed away in the innocent gayety of a domestic
circle. The talk, if not especially intellectual, was at least not
fashionable. Books were not discussed, neither were scandals; yet somehow
or other it was cheery and animated, like that of a happy family in a
country-house. Alain thought still the better of Raoul that, Parisian
though he was, he could appreciate the charm of an evening so innocently
spent.

On taking leave, the Contessa gave Alain a general invitation to drop in
whenever he was not better engaged.

"I except only the opera nights," said she. "My husband has gone to Milan
on his affairs, and during his absence I do not go to parties; the opera
I cannot resist."

Raoul set Alain down at his lodgings. "Au revoir; tomorrow at one o'clock
expect Enguerrand and myself."



CHAPTER VII.

Raul and Enguerrand called on Alain at the hour fixed. "In the first
place," said Raoul, "I must beg you to accept my mother's regrets that
she cannot receive you to-day. She and the Contessa belong to a society
of ladies formed for visiting the poor, and this is their day; but
to-morrow you must dine with us en famille. Now to business. Allow me to
light my cigar while you confide the whole state of affairs to
Enguerrand. Whatever he counsels, I am sure to approve."

Alain, as briefly as he could, stated his circumstances, his mortgages,
and the hopes which his avow had encouraged him to place in the friendly
disposition of M. Louvier. When he had concluded, Enguerrand mused for a
few moments before replying. At last he said, "Will you trust me to call
on Louvier on your behalf? I shall but inquire if he is inclined to take
on himself the other mortgages; and if so, on what terms. Our
relationship gives me the excuse for my interference; and to say truth, I
have had much familiar intercourse with the man. I too am a speculator,
and have often profited by Louvier's advice. You may ask what can be his
object in serving me; he can gain nothing by it. To this I answer, the
key to his good offices is in his character. Audacious though he be as a
speculator, he is wonderfully prudent as a politician. This belle France
of ours is like a stage tumbler; one can never be sure whether it will
stand on its head or its feet. Louvier very wisely wishes to feel himself
safe whatever party comes uppermost. He has no faith in the duration of
the Empire; and as, at all events, the Empire will not confiscate his
millions, he takes no trouble in conciliating Imperialists. But on the
principle which induces certain savages to worship the devil and neglect
the bon Dieu, because the devil is spiteful and the bon Dieu is too
beneficent to injure them, Louvier, at heart detesting as well as
dreading a republic, lays himself out to secure friends with the
Republicans of all classes, and pretends to espouse their cause; next to
them, he is very conciliatory to the Orleanists; lastly, though he thinks
the Legitimists have no chance, he desires to keep well with the nobles
of that party, because they exercise a considerable influence over that
sphere of opinion which belongs to fashion,--for fashion is never
powerless in Paris. Raoul and myself are no mean authorities in salons
and clubs, and a good word from us is worth having.

"Besides, Louvier himself in his youth set up for a dandy; and that
deposed ruler of dandies, our unfortunate kinsman, Victor de Mauleon,
shed some of his own radiance on the money-lender's son. But when
Victor's star was eclipsed, Louvier ceased to gleam. The dandies cut him.
In his heart he exults that the dandies now throng to his soirees.

"Bref, the millionaire is especially civil to me,--the more so as I know
intimately two or three eminent journalists; and Louvier takes pains to
plant garrisons in the press. I trust I have explained the grounds on
which I may be a better diplomatist to employ than your avoue; and with
your leave I will go to Louvier at once."

"Let him go," said Raoul. "Enguerrand never fails in anything he
undertakes; especially," he added, with a smile half sad, half tender,
"when one wishes to replenish one's purse."

"I too gratefully grant such an ambassador all powers to treat," said
Alain. "I am only ashamed to consign to him a post so much beneath his
genius," and "his birth" he was about to add, but wisely checked himself.
Enguerrand said, shrugging his shoulders, "You can't do me a greater
kindness than by setting my wits at work. I fall a martyr to ennui when I
am not in action;" he said, and was gone.

"It makes me very melancholy at times," said Raoul, flinging away the end
of his cigar, "to think that a man so clever and so energetic as
Enguerrand should be as much excluded from the service of his country as
if he were an Iroquois Indian. He would have made a great diplomatist."

"Alas!" replied Alain, with a sigh, "I begin to doubt whether we
Legitimists are justified in maintaining a useless loyalty to a sovereign
who renders us morally exiles in the land of our birth."

"I have no doubt on the subject," said Raoul. "We are not justified on
the score of policy, but we have no option at present on the score of
honour. We should gain so much for ourselves if we adopted the State
livery and took the State wages that no man would esteem us as patriots;
we should only be despised as apostates. So long as Henry V. lives, and
does not resign his claim, we cannot be active citizens; we must be
mournful lookers-on. But what matters it? We nobles of the old race are
becoming rapidly extinct. Under any form of government likely to be
established in France we are equally doomed. The French people, aiming at
an impossible equality, will never again tolerate a race of
gentilshommes. They cannot prevent, without destroying commerce and
capital altogether, a quick succession of men of the day, who form
nominal aristocracies much more opposed to equality than any hereditary
class of nobles; but they refuse these fleeting substitutes of born
patricians all permanent stake in the country, since whatever estate they
buy must be subdivided at their death my poor Alain, you are making it
the one ambition of your life to preserve to your posterity the home and
lands of your forefathers. How is that possible, even supposing you could
redeem the mortgages? You marry some day; you have children, and
Rochebriant must then be sold to pay for their separate portions. How
this condition of things, while rendering us so ineffective to perform
the normal functions of a noblesse in public life, affects us in private
life, may be easily conceived.

"Condemned to a career of pleasure and frivolity, we can scarcely escape
from the contagion of extravagant luxury which forms the vice of the
time. With grand names to keep up, and small fortunes whereon to keep
them, we readily incur embarrassment and debt. Then neediness conquers
pride. We cannot be great merchants, but we can be small gamblers on the
Bourse, or, thanks to the Credit Mobilier, imitate a cabinet minister,
and keep a shop under another name. Perhaps you have heard that
Enguerrand and I keep a shop. Pray, buy your gloves there. Strange fate
for men whose ancestors fought in the first Crusade--mais que
voulez-vous?"

"I was told of the shop," said Alain; "but the moment I knew you I
disbelieved the story."

"Quite true. Shall I confide to you why we resorted to that means of
finding ourselves in pocket-money? My father gives us rooms in his hotel;
the use of his table, which we do not much profit by; and an allowance,
on which we could not live as young men of our class live at Paris.
Enguerrand had his means of spending pocket-money, I mine; but it came to
the same thing,--the pockets were emptied. We incurred debts. Two years
ago my father straitened himself to pay them, saying, 'The next time you
come to me with debts, however small, you must pay them yourselves, or
you must marry, and leave it to me to find you wives.' This threat
appalled us both. A month afterwards, Enguerrand made a lucky hit at the
Bourse, and proposed to invest the proceeds in a shop. I resisted as long
as I could; but Enguerrand triumphed over me, as he always does. He found
an excellent deputy in a bonne who had nursed us in childhood, and
married a journeyman perfumer who understands the business. It answers
well; we are not in debt, and we have preserved our freedom."

After these confessions Raoul went away, and Alain fell into a mournful
revery, from which he was roused by a loud ring at his bell. He opened
the door, and beheld M. Louvier. The burly financier was much out of
breath after making so steep an ascent. It was in gasps that he muttered,
"Bon jour; excuse me if I derange you." Then entering and seating himself
on a chair, he took some minutes to recover speech, rolling his eyes
staringly round the meagre, unluxurious room, and then concentrating
their gaze upon its occupier.

"Peste, my dear Marquis!" he said at last, "I hope the next time I visit
you the ascent may be less arduous. One would think you were in training
to ascend the Himalaya."

The haughty noble writhed under this jest, and the spirit inborn in his
order spoke in his answer.

"I am accustomed to dwell on heights, Monsieur Louvier; the castle of
Rochebriant is not on a level with the town." An angry gleam shot out
from the eyes of the millionaire, but there was no other sign of
displeasure in his answer. "Bien dit, mon cher; how you remind me of your
father! Now, give me leave to speak on affairs. I have seen your cousin
Enguerrand de Vandemar. Homme de moyens, though joli garcon. He proposed
that you should call on me. I said 'no' to the cher petit Enguerrand,--a
visit from me was due to you. To cut matters short, M. Gandrin has
allowed me to look into your papers. I was disposed to serve you from the
first; I am still more disposed to serve you now. I undertake to pay off
all your other mortgages, and become sole mortgagee, and on terms that I
have jotted down on this paper, and which I hope will content you."

He placed a paper in Alain's hand, and took out a box, from which he
extracted a jujube, placed it in his mouth, folded his hands, and
reclined back in his chair, with his eyes half closed, as if exhausted
alike by his ascent and his generosity.

In effect, the terms were unexpectedly liberal. The reduced interest on
the mortgages would leave the Marquis an income of L1,000 a year instead
of L400. Louvier proposed to take on himself the legal cost of transfer,
and to pay to the Marquis 25,000 francs, on the completion of the deed,
as a bonus. The mortgage did not exempt the building-land, as Hebert
desired. In all else it was singularly advantageous, and Alain could but
feel a thrill of grateful delight at an offer by which his stinted income
was raised to comparative affluence.

"Well, Marquis," said Louvier, "what does the castle say to the town?"

"Monsieur Louvier," answered Alain, extending his hand with cordial
eagerness, "accept my sincere apologies for the indiscretion of my
metaphor. Poverty is proverbially sensitive to jests on it. I owe it to
you if I cannot hereafter make that excuse for any words of mine that may
displease you. The terms you propose are most liberal, and I close with
them at once."

"Bon," said Louvier, shaking vehemently the hand offered to him; "I will
take the paper to Gandrin, and instruct him accordingly. And now, may I
attach a condition to the agreement which is not put down on paper? It
may have surprised you perhaps that I should propose a gratuity of 25,000
francs on completion of the contract. It is a droll thing to do, and not
in the ordinary way of business, therefore I must explain. Marquis,
pardon the liberty I take, but you have inspired me with an interest in
your future. With your birth, connections, and figure you should push
your way in the world far and fast. But you can't do so in a province.
You must find your opening at Paris. I wish you to spend a year in the
capital, and live, not extravagantly, like a nouveau riche, but in a way
not unsuited to your rank, and permitting you all the social advantages
that belong to it. These 25,000 francs, in addition to your improved
income, will enable you to gratify my wish in this respect. Spend the
money in Paris; you will want every sou of it in the course of the year.
It will be money well spent. Take my advice, cher Marquis. Au plaisir."

The financier bowed himself out. The young Marquis forgot all the
mournful reflections with which Raoul's conversation had inspired him. He
gave a new touch to his toilette, and sallied forth with the air of a man
on whose morning of life a sun heretofore clouded has burst forth and
bathed the landscape in its light.



CHAPTER VIII.

Since the evening spent at the Savarins', Graham had seen no more of
Isaura. He had avoided all chance of seeing her; in fact, the jealousy
with which he had viewed her manner towards Rameau, and the angry amaze
with which he had heard her proclaim her friendship for Madame de
Grantmesnil, served to strengthen the grave and secret reasons which made
him desire to keep his heart yet free and his hand yet unpledged. But
alas! the heart was enslaved already. It was under the most fatal of all
spells,--first love conceived at first sight. He was wretched; and in his
wretchedness his resolves became involuntarily weakened. He found himself
making excuses for the beloved. What cause had he, after all, for that
jealousy of the young poet which had so offended him; and if in her youth
and inexperience Isaura had made her dearest friend of a great writer by
whose genius she might be dazzled, and of whose opinions she might
scarcely be aware, was it a crime that necessitated her eternal
banishment from the reverence which belongs to all manly love? Certainly
he found no satisfactory answers to such self-questionings. And then
those grave reasons known only to himself, and never to be confided to
another--why he should yet reserve his hand unpledged--were not so
imperative as to admit of no compromise. They might entail a sacrifice,
and not a small one to a man of Graham's views and ambition. But what is
love if it can think any sacrifice, short of duty and honour, too great
to offer up unknown uncomprehended, to the one beloved? Still, while thus
softened in his feelings towards Isaura, he became, perhaps in
consequence of such softening, more and more restlessly impatient to
fulfil the object for which he had come to Paris, the great step towards
which was the discovery of the undiscoverable Louise Duval.

He had written more than once to M. Renard since the interview with that
functionary already recorded, demanding whether Renard had not made some
progress in the research on which he was employed, and had received short
unsatisfactory replies preaching patience and implying hope.

The plain truth, however, was that M. Renard had taken no further pains
in the matter. He considered it utter waste of time and thought to
attempt a discovery to which the traces were so faint and so obsolete. If
the discovery were effected, it must be by one of those chances which
occur without labour or forethought of our own. He trusted only to such a
chance in continuing the charge he had undertaken. But during the last
day or two Graham had become yet more impatient than before, and
peremptorily requested another visit from this dilatory confidant.

In that visit, finding himself pressed hard, and though naturally
willing, if possible, to retain a client unusually generous, yet being on
the whole an honest member of his profession, and feeling it to be
somewhat unfair to accept large remuneration for doing nothing, M. Renard
said frankly, "Monsieur, this affair is beyond me; the keenest agent of
our police could make nothing of it. Unless you can tell me more than you
have done, I am utterly without a clew. I resign, therefore, the task
with which you honoured me, willing to resume it again if you can give me
information that could render me of use."

"What sort of information?"

"At least the names of some of the lady's relations who may yet be
living."

"But it strikes me that, if I could get at that piece of knowledge, I
should not require the services of the police. The relations would tell
me what had become of Louise Duval quite as readily as they would tell a
police agent."

"Quite true, Monsieur. It would really be picking your pockets if I did
not at once retire from your service. Nay, Monsieur, pardon me, no
further payments; I have already accepted too much. Your most obedient
servant."

Graham, left alone, fell into a very gloomy revery. He could not but be
sensible of the difficulties in the way of the object which had brought
him to Paris, with somewhat sanguine expectations of success founded on a
belief in the omniscience of the Parisian police, which is only to be
justified when they have to deal with a murderess or a political
incendiary. But the name of Louise Duval is about as common in France as
that of Mary Smith in England; and the English reader may judge what
would be the likely result of inquiring through the ablest of our
detectives after some Mary Smith of whom you could give little more
information than that she was the daughter of a drawing-master who had
died twenty years ago, that it was about fifteen years since anything had
been heard of her, that you could not say if through marriage or for
other causes she had changed her name or not, and you had reasons for
declining resort to public advertisements. In the course of inquiry so
instituted, the probability would be that you might hear of a great many
Mary Smiths, in the pursuit of whom your employee would lose all sight
and scent of the one Mary Smith for whom the chase was instituted.

In the midst of Graham's despairing reflections his laquais announced M.
Frederic Lemercier.

"Cher Grarm-Varn. A thousand pardons if I disturb you at this late hour
of the evening; but you remember the request you made me when you first
arrived in Paris this season?"

"Of course I do,--in case you should ever chance in your wide round of
acquaintance to fall in with a Madame or Mademoiselle Duval of about the
age of forty, or a year or so less, to let me know; and you did fall in
with two ladies of that name, but they were not the right one, not the
person whom my friend begged me to discover; both much too young."

"Eh bien, mon cher. If you will come with me to the bal champetre in the
Champs Elysees to-night, I can show you a third Madame Duval,--her
Christian name is Louise, too, of the age you mention,--though she does
her best to look younger, and is still very handsome. You said your Duval
was handsome. It was only last evening that I met this lady at a soiree
given by Mademoiselle Julie Caumartin, coryphee distinguee, in love with
young Rameau."

"In love with young Rameau? I am very glad to hear it. He returns the
love?"

"I suppose so. He seems very proud of it. But apropos of Madame Duval,
she has been long absent from Paris, just returned, and looking out for
conquests. She says she has a great penchant for the English; promises me
to be at this ball. Come."

"Hearty thanks, my dear Lemercier. I am at your service."



CHAPTER IX.

The bal champetre was gay and brilliant, as such festal scenes are at
Paris. A lovely night in the midst of May, lamps below and stars above;
the society mixed, of course. Evidently, when Graham has singled out
Frederic Lemercier from all his acquaintances at Paris to conjoin with
the official aid of M. Renard in search of the mysterious lady, he had
conjectured the probability that she might be found in the Bohemian world
so familiar to Frederic; if not as an inhabitant, at least as an
explorer. Bohemia was largely represented at the bal champetre, but not
without a fair sprinkling of what we call the "respectable classes,"
especially English and Americans, who brought their wives there to take
care of them. Frenchmen, not needing such care, prudently left their
wives at home. Among the Frenchmen of station were the Comte de Passy and
the Vicomte de Breze.

On first entering the gardens, Graham's eye was attracted and dazzled by
a brilliant form. It was standing under a festoon of flowers extended
from tree to tree, and a gas jet opposite shone full upon the face,--the
face of a girl in all the freshness of youth. If the freshness owed
anything to art, the art was so well disguised that it seemed nature. The
beauty of the countenance was Hebe-like, joyous, and radiant; and yet one
could not look at the girl without a sentiment of deep mournfulness. She
was surrounded by a group of young men, and the ring of her laugh jarred
upon Graham's ear. He pressed Frederic's arm, and directing his attention
to the girl, asked who she was.

"Who? Don't you know? That is Julie Caumartin. A little while ago her
equipage was the most admired in the Bois, and great ladies condescended
to copy her dress or her coiffure; but she has lost her splendour, and
dismissed the rich admirer who supplied the fuel for its blaze, since she
fell in love with Gustave Rameau. Doubtless she is expecting him
to-night. You ought to know her; shall I present you?"

"No," answered Graham, with a compassionate expression in his manly face.
"So young; seemingly so gay. How I pity her!"

"What! for throwing herself away on Rameau? True. There is a great deal
of good in that girl's nature, if she had been properly trained. Rameau
wrote a pretty poem on her which turned her head and won her heart, in
which she is styled the 'Ondine of Paris,'--a nymph-like type of Paris
itself."

"Vanishing type, like her namesake; born of the spray, and vanishing soon
into the deep," said Graham. "Pray go and look for the Duval; you will
find me seated yonder."

Graham passed into a retired alley, and threw himself on a solitary
bench, while Lemercier went in search of Madame Duval. In a few minutes
the Frenchman reappeared. By his side was a lady well dressed, and as she
passed under the lamps Graham perceived that, though of a certain age,
she was undeniably handsome. His heart beat more quickly. Surely this was
the Louise Duval he sought.

He rose from his seat, and was presented in due form to the lady, with
whom Frederic then discreetly left him. "M. Lemercier tells me that you
think that we were once acquainted with each other."

"Nay, Madame; I should not fail to recognize you were that the case. A
friend of mine had the honour of knowing a lady of your name; and should
I be fortunate enough to meet that lady, I am charged with a commission
that may not be unwelcome to her. M. Lemercier tells me your nom de
bapteme is Louise."

"Louise Corinne, Monsieur."

"And I presume that Duval is the name you take from your parents?"

"No; my father's name was Bernard. I married, when I was a mere child, M.
Duval, in the wine trade at Bordeaux."

"Ah, indeed!" said Graham, much disappointed, but looking at her with a
keen, searching eye, which she met with a decided frankness. Evidently,
in his judgment, she was speaking the truth.

"You know English, I think, Madame," he resumed, addressing her in that
language.

"A leetle; speak un peu."

"Only a little?"

Madame Duval looked puzzled, and replied in French, with a laugh, "Is it
that you were told that I spoke English by your countryman, Milord Sare
Boulby? Petit scelerat, I hope he is well. He sends you a commission for
me,--so he ought; he behaved to me like a monster."

"Alas! I know nothing of Milord Sir Boulby. Were you never in England
yourself?"

"Never," with a coquettish side-glance; "I should like so much to go. I
have a foible for the English in spite of that vilain petit Boulby. Who
is it gave you the commission for me? Ha! I guess, le Capitaine Nelton."

"No. What year, Madame, if not impertinent, were you at Aix-la-Chapelle?"

"You mean Baden? I was there seven years ago, when I met le Capitaine
Nelton, bel homme aux cheveux rouges."

"But you have been at Aix?"

"Never."

"I have, then, been mistaken, Madame, and have only to offer my most
humble apologies."

"But perhaps you will favour me with a visit, and we may on further
conversation find that you are not mistaken. I can't stay now, for I am
engaged to dance with the Belgian of whom, no doubt, M. Lemercier has
told you."

"No, Madame, he has not."

"Well, then, he will tell you. The Belgian is very jealous; but I am
always at home between three and four; this is my card."

Graham eagerly took the card, and exclaimed, "Is this you're your own
handwriting, Madame?"

"Yes, indeed."

"Tres belle ecriture," said Graham, and receded with a ceremonious bow.
"Anything so unlike her handwriting! Another disappointment," muttered
the Englishman as the lady went back to the ball.

A few minutes later Graham joined Lemercier, who was talking with De
Passy and De Breze.

"Well," said Lemercier, when his eye rested on Graham, "I hit the right
nail on the head this time, eh?"

Graham shook his head.

"What! is she not the right Louise Duval?"

"Certainly not."

The Count de Passy overheard the name, and turned. "Louise Duval," he
said; "does Monsieur Vane know a Louise Duval?"

"No; but a friend asked me to inquire after a lady of that name whom he
had met many years ago at Paris." The Count mused a moment, and said, "Is
it possible that your friend knew the family De Mauleon?"

"I really can't say. What then?"

"The old Vicomte de Mauleon was one of my most intimate associates. In
fact, our houses are connected. And he was extremely grieved, poor man,
when his daughter Louise married her drawing-master, Auguste Duval."

"Her drawing-master, Auguste Duval? Pray say on. I think the Louise Duval
my friend knew must have been her daughter. She was the only child of a
drawing-master or artist named Auguste Duval, and probably enough her
Christian name would have been derived from her mother. A Mademoiselle de
Mauleon, then, married M. Auguste Duval?"

"Yes; the old Vicomte had espoused en premieres noces Mademoiselle
Camille de Chavigny, a lady of birth equal to his own; had by her one
daughter, Louise. I recollect her well,--a plain girl, with a high nose
and a sour expression. She was just of age when the first Vicomtesse
died, and by the marriage settlement she succeeded at once to her
mother's fortune, which was not large. The Vicomte was, however, so poor
that the loss of that income was no trifle to him. Though much past
fifty, he was still very handsome. Men of that generation did not age
soon, Monsieur," said the Count, expanding his fine chest and laughing
exultingly.

"He married, en secondes noces, a lady of still higher birth than the
first, and with a much larger dot. Louise was indignant at this, hated
her stepmother; and when a son was born by the second marriage she left
the paternal roof, went to reside with an old female relative near the
Luxembourg, and there married this drawing-master. Her father and the
family did all they could to prevent it; but in these democratic days a
woman who has attained her majority can, if she persist in her
determination, marry to please herself and disgrace her ancestors. After
that mesalliance her father never would see her again. I tried in vain to
soften him. All his parental affections settled on his handsome Victor.

"Ah! you are too young to have known Victor de Mauleon during his short
reign at Paris, as roi des viveurs."

"Yes, he was before my time; but I have heard of him as a young man of
great fashion; said to be very clever, a duellist, and a sort of Don
Juan."

"Exactly."

"And then I remember vaguely to have heard that he committed, or was said
to have committed, some villanous action connected with a great lady's
jewels, and to have left Paris in consequence."

"Ah, yes; a sad scrape. At that time there was a political crisis; we
were under a Republic; anything against a noble was believed. But I am
sure Victor de Mauleon was not the man to commit a larceny. However, it
is quite true that he left Paris, and I don't know what has become of him
since." Here he touched De Breze, who, though still near, had not been
listening to this conversation, but interchanging jest and laughter with
Lemercier on the motley scene of the dance.

"De Breze, have you ever heard what became of poor dear Victor de
Mauleon?--you knew him."

"Knew him? I should think so. Who could be in the great world and not
know le beau Victor? No; after he vanished I never heard more of him;
doubtless long since dead. A good-hearted fellow in spite of all his
sins."

"My dear Monsieur de Breze, did you know his half-sister?" asked
Graham,--"a Madame Duval?"

"No. I never heard he had a half-sister. Halt there; I recollect that I
met Victor once, in the garden at Versailles, walking arm-in-arm with the
most beautiful girl I ever saw; and when I complimented him afterwards at
the Jockey Club on his new conquest, he replied very gravely that the
young lady was his niece. 'Niece!' said I; 'why, there can't be more than
five or six years between you.' 'About that, I suppose,' said he; 'my
half-sister, her mother, was more than twenty years older than I at the
time of my birth.' I doubted the truth of his story at the time; but
since you say he really had a sister, my doubt wronged him."

"Have you never seen that same young lady since?"

"Never."

"How many years ago was this?"

"Let me see, about twenty or twenty-one years ago. How time flies!"

Graham still continued to question, but could learn no further
particulars. He turned to quit the gardens just as the band was striking
up for a fresh dance, a wild German waltz air; and mingled with that
German music his ear caught the sprightly sounds of the French laugh, one
laugh distinguished from the rest by a more genuine ring of light-hearted
joy, the laugh that he had heard on entering the gardens, and the sound
of which had then saddened him. Looking towards the quarter from which it
came, he again saw the "Ondine of Paris." She was not now the centre of a
group. She had just found Gustave Rameau, and was clinging to his arm
with a look of happiness in her face, frank and innocent as a child's;
and so they passed amid the dancers down a solitary lamplit alley, till
lost to the Englishman's lingering gaze.



CHAPTER X.

The next morning Graham sent again for M. Renard. "Well," he cried, when
that dignitary appeared and took a seat beside him, "chance has favoured
me."

"I always counted on chance, Monsieur. Chance has more wit in its little
finger than the Paris police in its whole body."

"I have ascertained the relations, on the mother's side, of Louise Duval,
and the only question is how to get at them." Here Graham related what he
had heard, and ended by saying, "This Victor de Mauleon is therefore my
Louise Duval's uncle. He was, no doubt, taking charge of her in the year
that the persons interested in her discovery lost sight of her in Paris;
and surely he must know what became of her afterwards."

"Very probably; and chance may befriend us yet in the discovery of Victor
de Mauleon. You seem not to know the particulars of that story about the
jewels which brought him into some connection with the police, and
resulted in his disappearance from Paris."

"No; tell me the particulars."

"Victor de Mauleon was heir to some 60,000 or 70,000 francs a year,
chiefly on the mother's side; for his father, though the representative
of one of the most ancient houses in Normandy, was very poor, having
little of his own except the emoluments of an appointment in the Court of
Louis Philippe.

"But before, by the death of his parents, Victor came into that
inheritance, he very largely forestalled it. His tastes were magnificent.
He took to 'sport,' kept a famous stud, was a great favourite with the
English, and spoke their language fluently. Indeed he was considered very
accomplished, and of considerable intellectual powers. It was generally
said that some day or other, when he had sown his wild oats, he would, if
he took to politics, be an eminent man. Altogether he was a very strong
creature. That was a very strong age under Louis Philippe. The viveurs of
Paris were fine types for the heroes of Dumas and Sue,--full of animal
life and spirits. Victor de Mauleon was a romance of Dumas, incarnated."

"Monsieur Renard, forgive me that I did not before do justice to your
taste in polite literature."

"Monsieur, a man in my profession does not attain even to my humble
eminence if he be not something else than a professional. He must study
mankind wherever they are described, even in les romans. To return to
Victor de Mauleon. Though he was a 'sportman,' a gambler, a Don Juan, a
duel list, nothing was ever said against his honour. On the contrary, on
matters of honour he was a received oracle; and even though he had fought
several duels (that was the age of duels), and was reported without a
superior, almost without an equal, in either weapon, the sword or the
pistol, he is said never to have wantonly provoked an encounter, and to
have so used his skill that he contrived never to slay, nor even gravely
to wound, an antagonist.

"I remember one instance of his generosity in this respect; for it was
much talked of at the time. One of your countrymen, who had never handled
a fencing-foil nor fired a pistol, took offence at something M. de
Mauleon had said in disparagement of the Duke of Wellington, and called
him out. Victor de Mauleon accepted the challenge, discharged his pistol,
not in the air--that might have been an affront--but so as to be wide of
the mark, walked up to the lines to be shot at, and when missed, said,
'Excuse the susceptibility of a Frenchman loath to believe that his
countryman can be beaten save by accident, and accept every apology one
gentleman can make to another for having forgotten the respect due to one
of the most renowned of your national heroes.' The Englishman's name was
Vane. Could it have been your father?"

"Very probably; just like my father to call out any man who insulted the
honour of his country, as represented by its men. I hope the two
combatants became friends?"

"That I never heard; the duel was over; there my story ends."

"Pray go on."

"One day--it was in the midst of political events which would have
silenced most subjects of private gossip--the beau monde was startled by
the news that the Vicomte (he was then, by his father's death, Vicomte)
de Mauleon had been given into the custody of the police on the charge of
stealing the jewels of the Duchesse de (the wife of a distinguished
foreigner). It seems that some days before this event, the Duc, wishing
to make Madame his spouse an agreeable surprise, had resolved to have a
diamond necklace belonging to her, and which was of setting so
old-fashioned that she had not lately worn it, reset for her birthday. He
therefore secretly possessed himself of the key to an iron safe in a
cabinet adjoining her dressing-room (in which safe her more valuable
jewels were kept), and took from it the necklace. Imagine his dismay when
the jeweller in the Rue Vivienne to whom he carried it recognized the
pretended diamonds as imitation paste which he himself had some days
previously inserted into an empty setting brought to him by a Monsieur
with whose name he was unacquainted. The Duchesse was at that time in
delicate health; and as the Duc's suspicions naturally fell on the
servants, especially on the femme de chambre, who was in great favour
with his wife, he did not like to alarm Madame, nor through her to put
the servants on their guard. He resolved, therefore, to place the matter
in the hands of the famous --------, who was then the pride and ornament
of the Parisian police. And the very night afterwards the Vicomte de
Mauleon was caught and apprehended in the cabinet where the jewels were
kept, and to which he had got access by a false key, or at least a
duplicate key, found in his possession. I should observe that M. de
Mauleon occupied the entresol in the same hotel in which the upper rooms
were devoted to the Duc and Duchesse and their suite. As soon as this
charge against the Vicomte was made known (and it was known the next
morning), the extent of his debts and the utterness of his ruin (before
scarcely conjectured or wholly unheeded) became public through the medium
of the journals, and furnished an obvious motive for the crime of which
he was accused. We Parisians, Monsieur, are subject to the most startling
reactions of feeling. The men we adore one day we execrate the next. The
Vicomte passed at once from the popular admiration one bestows on a hero
to the popular contempt with which one regards a petty larcener. Society
wondered how it had ever condescended to receive into its bosom the
gambler, the duellist, the Don Juan. However, one compensation in the way
of amusement he might still afford to society for the grave injuries he
had done it. Society would attend his trial, witness his demeanour at the
bar, and watch the expression of his face when he was sentenced to the
galleys. But, Monsieur, this wretch completed the measure of his
iniquities. He was not tried at all. The Duc and Duchesse quitted Paris
for Spain, and the Duc instructed his lawyer to withdraw his charge,
stating his conviction of the Vicomte's complete innocence of any other
offence than that which he himself had confessed."

"What did the Vicomte confess? You omitted to state that."

"The Vicomte, when apprehended, confessed that, smitten by an insane
passion for the Duchesse, which she had, on his presuming to declare it,
met with indignant scorn, he had taken advantage of his lodgment in the
same house to admit himself into the cabinet adjoining her dressing-room
by means of a key which he had procured, made from an impression of the
key-hole taken in wax.

"No evidence in support of any other charge against the Vicomte was
forthcoming,--nothing, in short, beyond the infraction du domicile caused
by the madness of youthful love, and for which there was no prosecution.
The law, therefore, could have little to say against him. But society was
more rigid; and exceedingly angry to find that a man who had been so
conspicuous for luxury should prove to be a pauper, insisted on believing
that M. de Mauleon was guilty of the meaner, though not perhaps, in the
eyes of husbands and fathers, the more heinous, of the two offences. I
presume that the Vicomte felt that he had got into a dilemma from which
no pistol-shot or sword-thrust could free him, for he left Paris
abruptly, and has not since reappeared. The sale of his stud and effects
sufficed, I believe, to pay his debts, for I will do him the justice to
say that they were paid."

"But though the Vicomte de Mauleon has disappeared, he must have left
relations at Paris, who would perhaps know what has become of him and of
his niece."

"I doubt it. He had no very near relations. The nearest was an old
celibataire of the same name, from whom he had some expectations, but who
died shortly after this esclandre, and did not name the Vicomte in his
will. M. Victor had numerous connections among the highest families, the
Rochebriants, Chavignys, Vandemars, Passys, Beauvilliers; but they are
not likely to have retained any connection with a ruined vaurien, and
still less with a niece of his who was the child of a drawing-master. But
now you have given me a clew, I will try to follow it up. We must find
the Vicomte, and I am not without hope of doing so. Pardon me if I
decline to say more at present. I would not raise false expectations; but
in a week or two I will have the honour to call again upon Monsieur."

"Wait one instant. You have really a hope of discovering M. de Mauleon?"

"Yes. I cannot say more at present."

M. Renard departed. Still that hope, however faint it might prove, served
to reanimate Graham; and with that hope his heart, as if a load had been
lifted from its mainspring, returned instinctively to the thought of
Isaura. Whatever seemed to promise an early discharge of the commission
connected with the discovery of Louise Duval seemed to bring Isaura
nearer to him, or at least to excuse his yearning desire to see more of
her, to understand her better. Faded into thin air was the vague jealousy
of Gustave Rameau which he had so unreasonably conceived; he felt as if
it were impossible that the man whom the "Ondine of Paris" claimed as her
lover could dare to woo or hope to win an Isaura. He even forgot the
friendship with the eloquent denouncer of the marriage-bond, which a
little while ago had seemed to him an unpardonable offence. He remembered
only the lovely face, so innocent, yet so intelligent; only the sweet
voice, which had for the first time breathed music into his own soul;
only the gentle hand, whose touch had for the first time sent through his
veins the thrill which distinguishes from all her sex the woman whom we
love. He went forth elated and joyous, and took his way to Isaura's
villa. As he went, the leaves on the trees under which he passed seemed
stirred by the soft May breeze in sympathy with his own delight. Perhaps
it was rather the reverse: his own silent delight sympathized with all
delight in awakening Nature. The lover seeking reconciliation with the
loved one from whom some trifle has unreasonably estranged him, in a
cloudless day of May,--if he be not happy enough to feel a brotherhood in
all things happy,--a leaf in bloom, a bird in song,--then indeed he may
call himself lover, but he does not know what is love.



                 BOOK IV.



CHAPTER I.

FROM ISAURA CICOGNA TO MADAME DE GRANTMESNIL.

It is many days since I wrote to you, and but for your delightful note
just received, reproaching me for silence, I should still be under the
spell of that awe which certain words of M. Savarin were well fitted to
produce. Chancing to ask him if he had written to you lately, he said,
with that laugh of his, good-humouredly ironical, "No, Mademoiselle, I am
not one of the Facheux whom Moliere has immortalized. If the meeting of
lovers should be sacred from the intrusion of a third person, however
amiable, more sacred still should be the parting between an author and
his work. Madame de Grantmesnil is in that moment so solemn to a genius
earnest as hers,--she is bidding farewell to a companion with whom, once
dismissed into the world, she can never converse familiarly again; it
ceases to be her companion when it becomes ours. Do not let us disturb
the last hours they will pass together."

These words struck me much. I suppose there is truth in them. I can
comprehend that a work which has long been all in all to its author,
concentrating his thoughts, gathering round it the hopes and fears of his
inmost heart, dies, as it were, to him when he has completed its life for
others, and launched it into a world estranged from the solitude in which
it was born and formed. I can almost conceive that, to a writer like you,
the very fame which attends the work thus sent forth chills your own love
for it. The characters you created in a fairyland, known but to yourself,
must lose something of their mysterious charm when you hear them
discussed and cavilled at, blamed or praised, as if they were really the
creatures of streets and salons.

I wonder if hostile criticism pains or enrages you as it seems to do such
other authors as I have known. M. Savarin, for instance, sets down in his
tablets as an enemy to whom vengeance is due the smallest scribbler who
wounds his self-love, and says frankly, "To me praise is food, dispraise
is poison. Him who feeds me I pay; him who poisons me I break on the
wheel." M. Savarin is, indeed, a skilful and energetic administrator
to his own reputation. He deals with it as if it were a
kingdom,--establishes fortifications for its defence, enlists soldiers to
fight for it. He is the soul and centre of a confederation in which each
is bound to defend the territory of the others, and all those territories
united constitute the imperial realm of M. Savarin. Don't think me an
ungracious satirist in what I am thus saying of our brilliant friend. It
is not I who here speak; it is himself. He avows his policy with the
naivete which makes the charm of his style as writer. "It is the greatest
mistake," he said to me yesterday, "to talk of the Republic of Letters.
Every author who wins a name is a sovereign in his own domain, be it
large or small. Woe to any republican who wants to dethrone me!" Somehow
or other, when M. Savarin thus talks I feel as if he were betraying the
cause of, genius. I cannot bring myself to regard literature as a
craft,--to me it is a sacred mission; and in hearing this "sovereign"
boast of the tricks by which he maintains his state, I seem to listen to
a priest who treats as imposture the religion he professes to teach. M.
Savarin's favourite eleve now is a young contributor to his journal,
named Gustave Rameau. M. Savarin said the other day in my hearing, "I and
my set were Young France; Gustave Rameau and his set are New Paris."

"And what is the distinction between the one and the other?" asked my
American friend, Mrs. Morley.

"The set of 'Young France,'" answered M. Savarin, "had in it the hearty
consciousness of youth; it was bold and vehement, with abundant vitality
and animal spirits; whatever may be said against it in other respects,
the power of thews and sinews must be conceded to its chief
representatives. But the set of 'New Paris' has very bad health, and very
indifferent spirits. Still, in its way, it is very clever; it can sting
and bite as keenly as if it were big and strong. Rameau is the most
promising member of the set. He will be popular in his time, because he
represents a good deal of the mind of his time,--namely, the mind and the
time of 'New Paris.'"

Do you know anything of this young Rameau's writings? You do not know
himself, for he told me so, expressing a desire, that was evidently very
sincere, to find some occasion on which to render you his homage. He said
this the first time I met him at M. Savarin's, and before he knew how
dear to me are yourself and your fame. He came and sat by me after
dinner, and won my interest at once by asking me if I had heard that you
were busied on a new work; and then, without waiting for my answer, he
launched forth into praises of you, which made a notable contrast to the
scorn with which he spoke of all your contemporaries,--except indeed M.
Savarin, who, however, might not have been pleased to hear his favourite
pupil style him "a great writer in small things." I spare you his
epigrams on Dumas and Victor Hugo and my beloved Lamartine. Though his
talk was showy, and dazzled me at first, I soon got rather tired of it,
even the first time we met. Since then I have seen him very often, not
only at M. Savarin's, but he calls here at least every other day, and we
have become quite good friends. He gains on acquaintance so far that one
cannot help feeling how much he is to be pitied. He is so envious! and
the envious must be so unhappy. And then he is at once so near and so far
from all the things that he envies. He longs for riches and luxury, and
can only as yet earn a bare competence by his labours. Therefore he hates
the rich and luxurious. His literary successes, instead of pleasing him,
render him miserable by their contrast with the fame of the authors whom
he envies and assails. He has a beautiful head, of which he is conscious,
but it is joined to a body without strength or grace. He is conscious of
this too,--but it is cruel to go on with this sketch. You can see at once
the kind of person who, whether he inspire affection or dislike, cannot
fail to create an interest, painful but compassionate.

You will be pleased to hear that Dr. C. considers my health so improved
that I may next year enter fairly on the profession for which I was
intended and trained. Yet I still feel hesitating and doubtful. To give
myself wholly up to the art in which I am told I could excel must
alienate me entirely from the ambition that yearns for fields in which,
alas! it may perhaps never appropriate to itself a rood for
culture,--only wander, lost in a vague fairyland, to which it has not the
fairy's birthright. O thou great Enchantress, to whom are equally subject
the streets of Paris and the realm of Faerie, thou who hast sounded to
the deeps that circumfluent ocean called "practical human life," and hast
taught the acutest of its navigators to consider how far its courses are
guided by orbs in heaven,--canst thou solve this riddle which, if it
perplexes me, must perplex so many? What is the real distinction between
the rare genius and the commonalty of human souls that feel to the quick
all the grandest and divinest things which the rare genius places before
them, sighing within themselves, "This rare genius does but express that
which was previously familiar to us, so far as thought and sentiment
extend"? Nay, the genius itself, however eloquent, never does, never can,
express the whole of the thought or the sentiment it interprets; on the
contrary, the greater the genius is, the more it leaves a something of
incomplete satisfaction on our minds,--it promises so much more than it
performs; it implies so much more than it announces. I am impressed with
the truth of what I thus say in proportion as I re-peruse and re-study
the greatest writers that have come within my narrow range of reading;
and by the greatest writers I mean those who are not exclusively
reasoners (of such I cannot judge), nor mere poets (of whom, so far as
concerns the union of words with music, I ought to be able to judge), but
the few who unite reason and poetry, and appeal at once to the
common-sense of the multitude and the imagination of the few. The highest
type of this union to me is Shakspeare; and I can comprehend the justice
of no criticism on him which does not allow this sense of incomplete
satisfaction augmenting in proportion as the poet soars to his highest. I
ask again, In what consists this distinction between the rare genius and
the commonalty of minds that exclaim, "He expresses what we feel, but
never the whole of what we feel"? Is it the mere power over language, a
larger knowledge of dictionaries, a finer ear for period and cadence, a
more artistic craft in casing our thoughts and sentiments in
well-selected words? Is it true what Buffon says, "that the style is the
man"? Is it true what I am told Goethe said, "Poetry is form"? I cannot
believe this; and if you tell me it is true, then I no longer pine to be
a writer. But if it be not true, explain to me how it is that the
greatest genius is popular in proportion as it makes itself akin to us by
uttering in better words than we employ that which was already within us,
brings to light what in our souls was latent, and does but correct,
beautify, and publish the correspondence which an ordinary reader carries
on privately every day between himself and his mind or his heart. If this
superiority in the genius be but style and form, I abandon my dream of
being something else than a singer of words by another to the music of
another. But then, what then? My knowledge of books and art is
wonderfully small. What little I do know I gather from very few books and
from what I hear said by the few worth listening to whom I happen to
meet; and out of these, in solitude and revery, not by conscious effort,
I arrive at some results which appear to my inexperience original.
Perhaps, indeed, they have the same kind of originality as the musical
compositions of amateurs who effect a cantata or a quartette made up of
borrowed details from great masters, and constituting a whole so original
that no real master would deign to own it. Oh, if I could get you to
understand how unsettled, how struggling my whole nature at this moment
is! I wonder what is the sensation of the chrysalis which has been a
silkworm, when it first feels the new wings stirring within its
shell,--wings, alas! they are but those of the humblest and
shortest-lived sort of moth, scarcely born into daylight before it dies.
Could it reason, it might regret its earlier life, and say, "Better be
the silkworm than the moth."


FROM THE SAME TO THE SAME.

Have you known well any English people in the course of your life? I say
well, for you must have had acquaintance with many. But it seems to me so
difficult to know an Englishman well. Even I, who so loved and revered
Mr. Selby,--I, whose childhood was admitted into his companionship by
that love which places ignorance and knowledge, infancy and age, upon
ground so equal that heart touches heart, cannot say that I understand
the English character to anything like the extent to which I fancy I
understand the Italian and the French. Between us of the Continent and
them of the island the British Channel always flows. There is an
Englishman here to whom I have been introduced, whom I have met, though
but seldom, in that society which bounds the Paris world to me. Pray,
pray tell me, did you ever know, ever meet him? His name is Graham Vane.
He is the only son, I am told, of a man who was a celebrite in England as
an orator and statesman, and on both sides he belongs to the haute
aristocratic. He himself has that indescribable air and mien to which we
apply the epithet 'distinguished.' In the most crowded salon the eye
would fix on him, and involuntarily follow his movements. Yet his manners
are frank and simple, wholly without the stiffness or reserve which are
said to characterize the English. There is an inborn dignity in his
bearing which consists in the absence of all dignity assumed. But what
strikes me most in this Englishman is an expression of countenance which
the English depict by the word 'open,'--that expression which inspires
you with a belief in the existence of sincerity. Mrs. Morley said of him,
in that poetic extravagance of phrase by which the Americans startle the
English, "That man's forehead would light up the Mammoth Cave." Do you
not know, Eulalie, what it is to us cultivators of art--art being the
expression of truth through fiction--to come into the atmosphere of one
of those souls in which Truth stands out bold and beautiful in itself,
and needs no idealization through fiction? Oh, how near we should be to
heaven could we live daily, hourly, in the presence of one the honesty of
whose word we could never doubt, the authority of whose word we could
never disobey! Mr. Vane professes not to understand music, not even to
care for it, except rarely, and yet he spoke of its influence over others
with an enthusiasm that half charmed me once more back to my destined
calling; nay, might have charmed me wholly, but that he seemed to think
that I--that any public singer--must be a creature apart from the
world,--the world in which such men live. Perhaps that is true.



CHAPTER II.

It was one of those lovely noons towards the end of May in which a rural
suburb has the mellow charm of summer to him who escapes awhile from the
streets of a crowded capital. The Londoner knows its charm when he feels
his tread on the softening swards of the Vale of Health, or, pausing at
Richmond under the budding willow, gazes on the river glittering in the
warmer sunlight, and hears from the villa-gardens behind him the brief
trill of the blackbird. But the suburbs round Paris are, I think, a yet
more pleasing relief from the metropolis; they are more easily reached,
and I know not why, but they seem more rural,--perhaps because the
contrast of their repose with the stir left behind, of their redundance
of leaf and blossom compared with the prim efflorescence of trees in the
Boulevards and Tuileries, is more striking. However that may be, when
Graham reached the pretty suburb in which Isaura dwelt, it seemed to him
as if all the wheels of the loud busy life were suddenly smitten still.
The hour was yet early; he felt sure that he should find Isaura at home.
The garden-gate stood unfastened and ajar; he pushed it aside and
entered. I think I have before said that the garden of the villa was shut
out from the road and the gaze of neighbours by a wall and thick belts of
evergreens; it stretched behind the house somewhat far for the garden of
a suburban villa. He paused when he had passed the gateway, for he heard
in the distance the voice of one singing,--singing low, singing
plaintively. He knew it was the voice of Isaura-he passed on, leaving the
house behind him, and tracking the voice till he reached the singer.

Isaura was seated within an arbour towards the farther end of the
garden,--an arbour which, a little later in the year, must indeed be
delicate and dainty with lush exuberance of jessamine and woodbine; now
into its iron trelliswork leaflets and flowers were insinuating their
gentle way. Just at the entrance one white rose--a winter rose that had
mysteriously survived its relations--opened its pale hues frankly to the
noonday sun. Graham approached slowly, noiselessly, and the last note of
the song had ceased when he stood at the entrance of the arbour. Isaura
did not perceive him at first, for her face was bent downward musingly,
as was often her wont after singing, especially when alone; but she felt
that the place was darkened, that something stood between her and the
sunshine. She raised her face, and a quick flush mantled over it as she
uttered his name, not loudly, not as in surprise, but inwardly and
whisperingly, as in a sort of fear.

"Pardon me, Mademoiselle," said Graham, entering; "but I heard your voice
as I came into the garden, and it drew me onward involuntarily. What a
lovely air! and what simple sweetness in such of the words as reached me!
I am so ignorant of music that you must not laugh at me if I ask whose is
the music and whose are the words? Probably both are so well known as to
convict me of a barbarous ignorance."

"Oh, no," said Isaura, with a still heightened colour, and in accents
embarrassed and hesitating. "Both the words and music are by an unknown
and very humble composer, yet not, indeed, quite original,--they have not
even that merit; at least they were suggested by a popular song in the
Neapolitan dialect which is said to be very old."

"I don't know if I caught the true meaning of the words, for they seemed
to me to convey a more subtle and refined sentiment than is common in the
popular songs of southern Italy."

"The sentiment in the original is changed in the paraphrase, and not, I
fear, improved by the change."

"Will you explain to me the sentiment in both, and let me judge which I
prefer?"

"In the Neapolitan song a young fisherman, who has moored his boat under
a rock on the shore, sees a beautiful face below the surface of the
waters; he imagines it to be that of a Nereid, and casts in his net to
catch this supposed nymph of the ocean. He only disturbs the water, loses
the image, and brings up a few common fishes. He returns home
disappointed, and very much enamoured of the supposed Nereid. The next
day he goes again to the same place, and discovers that the face which
had so charmed him was that of a mortal girl reflected on the waters from
the rock behind him, on which she had been seated, and on which she had
her home. The original air is arch and lively; just listen to it." And
Isaura warbled one of those artless and somewhat meagre tunes to which
light-stringed instruments are the fitting accompaniment.

"That," said Graham, "is a different music indeed from the other, which
is deep and plaintive, and goes to the heart."

"But do you not see how the words have been altered? In the song you
first heard me singing, the fisherman goes again to the spot, again and
again sees the face in the water, again and again seeks to capture the
Nereid, and never knows to the last that the face was that of the mortal
on the rock close behind him, and which he passed by without notice every
day. Deluded by an ideal image, the real one escapes from his eye."

"Is the verse that is recast meant to symbolize a moral in love?"

"In love? nay, I know not; but in life, yes,--at least the life of the
artist."

"The paraphrase of the original is yours, Signorina, words and music
both. Am I not right? Your silence answers 'Yes.' Will you pardon me if I
say that, though there can be no doubt of the new beauty you have given
to the old song, I think that the moral of the old was the sounder one,
the truer to human life. We do not go on to the last duped by an
allusion. If enamoured by the shadow on the waters, still we do look
around us and discover the image it reflects."

Isaura shook her head gently, but made no answer. On the table before her
there were a few myrtle-sprigs and one or two buds from the last winter
rose, which she had been arranging into a simple nosegay; she took up
these, and abstractedly began to pluck and scatter the rose-leaves.

"Despise the coming May flowers if you will, they will soon be so
plentiful," said Graham; "but do not cast away the few blossoms which
winter has so kindly spared, and which even summer will not give again;"
and placing his hand on the winter buds, it touched hers,--lightly,
indeed, but she felt the touch, shrank from it, coloured, and rose from
her seat.

"The sun has left this side of the garden, the east wind is rising, and
you must find it chilly here," she said, in an altered tone; "will you
not come into the house?"

"It is not the air that I feel chilly," said Graham, with a half-smile;
"I almost fear that my prosaic admonitions have displeased you."

"They were not prosaic; and they were kind and very wise," she added,
with her exquisite laugh,--laugh so wonderfully sweet and musical. She
now had gained the entrance of the arbour; Graham joined her, and they
walked towards the house. He asked her if she had seen much of the
Savarins since they had met.

"Once or twice we have been there of an evening."

"And encountered, no doubt, the illustrious young minstrel who despises
Tasso and Corneille?"

"M. Rameau? Oh, yes; he is constantly at the Savarins. Do not be severe
on him. He is unhappy, he is struggling, he is soured. An artist has
thorns in his path which lookers-on do not heed."

"All people have thorns in their path, and I have no great respect for
those who want lookers-on to heed them whenever they are scratched. But
M. Rameau seems to me one of those writers very common nowadays, in
France and even in England; writers who have never read anything worth
studying, and are, of course, presumptuous in proportion to their
ignorance. I should not have thought an artist like yourself could have
recognized an artist in a M. Rameau who despises Tasso without knowing
Italian."

Graham spoke bitterly; he was once more jealous.

"Are you not an artist yourself? Are you not a writer? M. Savarin told me
you were a distinguished man of letters."

"M. Savarin flatters me too much. I am not an artist, and I have a great
dislike to that word as it is now hackneyed and vulgarized in England and
in France. A cook calls himself an artist; a tailor does the same; a man
writes a gaudy melodrame, a spasmodic song, a sensational novel, and
straightway he calls Himself an artist, and indulges in a pedantic jargon
about 'essence' and 'form,' assuring us that a poet we can understand
wants essence, and a poet we can scan wants form. Thank heaven, I am not
vain enough to call myself artist. I have written some very dry
lucubrations in periodicals, chiefly political, or critical upon other
subjects than art. But why, a propos of M. Rameau, did you ask me that
question respecting myself?"

"Because much in your conversation," answered Isaura, in rather a
mournful tone, "made me suppose you had more sympathies with art and its
cultivators than you cared to avow; and if you had such sympathies, you
would comprehend what a relief it is to a poor aspirant to art like
myself to come into communication with those who devote themselves to any
art distinct from the common pursuits of the world, what a relief it is
to escape from the ordinary talk of society. There is a sort of
instinctive freemasonry among us, including masters and disciples; and
one art has a fellowship with other arts. Mine is but song and music, yet
I feel attracted towards a sculptor, a painter, a romance-writer, a poet,
as much as towards a singer, a musician. Do you understand why I cannot
contemn M. Rameau as you do? I differ from his tastes in literature; I do
not much admire such of his writings as I have read; I grant that he
overestimates his own genius, whatever that be,--yet I like to converse
with him. He is a struggler upwards, though with weak wings, or with
erring footsteps, like myself."

"Mademoiselle," said Graham, earnestly, "I cannot say how I thank you for
this candour. Do not condemn me for abusing it, if--" he paused.

"If what?"

"If I, so much older than yourself,--I do not say only in years, but in
the experience of life, I whose lot is cast among those busy and
'positive' pursuits, which necessarily quicken that unromantic faculty
called common-sense,--if, I say, the deep interest with which you must
inspire all whom you admit into an acquaintance even as unfamiliar as
that now between us makes me utter one caution, such as might be uttered
by a friend or brother. Beware of those artistic sympathies which you so
touchingly confess; beware how, in the great events of life, you allow
fancy to misguide your reason. In choosing friends on whom to rely,
separate the artist from the human being. Judge of the human being for
what it is in itself. Do not worship the face on the waters, blind to the
image on the rock. In one word, never see in an artist like a M. Rameau
the human being to whom you could intrust the destinies of your life.
Pardon me, pardon me; we may meet little hereafter, but you are a
creature so utterly new to me, so wholly unlike any woman I have ever
before encountered and admired, and to me seem endowed with such wealth
of mind and soul, exposed to such hazard, that--that--" again he paused,
and his voice trembled as he concluded--"that it would be a deep sorrow
to me if, perhaps years hence, I should have to say, 'Alas'! by what
mistake has that wealth been wasted!'"

While they had thus conversed, mechanically they had turned away from the
house, and were again standing before the arbour.

Graham, absorbed in the passion of his adjuration, had not till now
looked into the face of the companion by his side. Now, when he had
concluded, and heard no reply, he bent down and saw that Isaura was
weeping silently.

His heart smote him.

"Forgive me," he exclaimed, drawing her hand into his; "I have had no
right to talk thus; but it was not from want of respect; it was--it
was--"

The hand which was yielded to his pressed it gently, timidly, chastely.

"Forgive!" murmured Isaura; "do you think that I, an orphan, have never
longed for a friend who would speak to me thus?" And so saying, she
lifted her eyes, streaming still, to his bended countenance,--eyes,
despite their tears, so clear in their innocent limpid beauty, so
ingenuous, so frank, so virgin-like, so unlike the eyes of 'any other
woman he had encountered and admired.'

"Alas!" he said, in quick and hurried accents, "you may remember, when we
have before conversed, how I, though so uncultured in your art, still
recognized its beautiful influence upon human breasts; how I sought to
combat your own depreciation of its rank among the elevating agencies of
humanity; how, too, I said that no man could venture to ask you to
renounce the boards, the lamps,--resign the fame of actress, of singer.
Well, now that you accord to me the title of friend, now that you so
touchingly remind me that you are an orphan, thinking of all the perils
the young and the beautiful of your sex must encounter when they abandon
private life for public, I think that a true friend might put the
question, 'Can you resign the fame of actress, of singer?'"

"I will answer you frankly. The profession which once seemed to me so
alluring began to lose its charms in my eyes some months ago. It was your
words, very eloquently expressed, on the ennobling effects of music and
song upon a popular audience, that counteracted the growing distaste to
rendering up my whole life to the vocation of the stage; but now I think
I should feel grateful to the friend whose advice interpreted the voice
of my own heart, and bade me relinquish the career of actress."

Graham's face grew radiant. But whatever might have been his reply was
arrested; voices and footsteps were heard behind. He turned round and saw
the Venosta, the Savarins, and Gustave Rameau.

Isaura heard and saw also, started in a sort of alarmed confusion, and
then instinctively retreated towards the arbour. Graham hurried on to
meet the Signora and the visitors, giving time to Isaura to compose
herself by arresting them in the pathway with conventional salutations.

A few minutes later Isaura joined them, and there was talk to which
Graham scarcely listened, though he shared in it by abstracted
monosyllables. He declined going into the house, and took leave at the
gate. In parting, his eyes fixed themselves on Isaura. Gustave Rameau was
by her side. That nosegay which had been left in the arbour was in her
hand; and though she was bending over it, she did not now pluck and
scatter the rose-leaves. Graham at that moment felt no jealousy of the
fair-faced young poet beside her.

As he walked slowly back, he muttered to himself, "But am I yet in the
position to hold myself wholly free? Am I, am I? Were the sole choice
before me that between her and ambition and wealth, how soon it would be
made! Ambition has no prize equal to the heart of such a woman; wealth no
sources of joy equal to the treasures of her love."



CHAPTER III.

FROM ISAURA CICOGNA TO MADAME DE GRANTMESNIL.

The day after I posted my last, Mr. Vane called on us. I was in our
little garden at the time. Our conversation was brief, and soon
interrupted by visitors,--the Savarins and M. Rameau. I long for your
answer. I wonder how he impressed you, if you have met him; how he would
impress, if you met him now. To me he is so different from all others;
and I scarcely know why his words ring in my ears, and his image rests in
my thoughts. It is strange altogether; for though he is young, he speaks
to me as if he were so much older than I,--so kindly, so tenderly, yet as
if I were a child, and much as the dear Maestro might do, if he thought I
needed caution or counsel. Do not fancy, Eulalie, that there is any
danger of my deceiving myself as to the nature of such interest as he may
take in me. Oh, no! There is a gulf between us there which he does not
lose sight of, and which we could not pass. How, indeed, I could interest
him at all, I cannot guess. A rich, high-born Englishman, intent on
political life; practical, prosaic--no, not prosaic; but still with the
kind of sense which does not admit into its range of vision that world of
dreams which is familiar as their daily home to Romance and to Art. It
has always seemed to me that for love, love such as I conceive it, there
must be a deep and constant sympathy between two persons,--not, indeed,
in the usual and ordinary trifles of taste and sentiment, but in those
essentials which form the root of character, and branch out in all the
leaves and blooms that expand to the sunshine and shrink from the
cold,--that the worldling should wed the worldling, the artist the
artist. Can the realist and the idealist blend together, and hold
together till death and beyond death? If not, can there be true love
between them?

By true love, I mean the love which interpenetrates the soul, and once
given can never die. Oh, Eulalie, answer me, answer!

P. S.--I have now fully made up my mind to renounce all thought of the
stage.


FROM MADAME DE GRANTMESNIL TOISAURA CICOGNA.

MY DEAR CHILD,--how your mind has grown since you left me, the sanguine
and aspiring votary of an art which, of all arts, brings the most
immediate reward to a successful cultivator, and is in itself so divine
in its immediate effects upon human souls! Who shall say what may be the
after-results of those effects which the waiters on posterity presume to
despise because they are immediate? A dull man, to whose mind a ray of
that vague starlight undetected in the atmosphere of workday life has
never yet travelled; to whom the philosopher, the preacher, the poet
appeal in vain,--nay, to whom the conceptions of the grandest master of
instrumental music are incomprehensible; to whom Beethoven unlocks no
portal in heaven; to whom Rossini has no mysteries on earth unsolved by
the critics of the pit,--suddenly hears the human voice of the human
singer, and at the sound of that voice the walls which enclosed him fall.
The something far from and beyond the routine of his commonplace
existence becomes known to him. He of himself, poor man, can make nothing
of it. He cannot put it down on paper, and say the next morning, "I am an
inch nearer to heaven than I was last night;" but the feeling that he is
an inch nearer to heaven abides with him. Unconsciously he is gentler, he
is less earthly, and, in being nearer to heaven, he is stronger for
earth. You singers do not seem to me to understand that you have--to use
your own word, so much in vogue that it has become abused and trite--a
mission! When you talk of missions, from whom comes the mission? Not from
men. If there be a mission from man to men, it must be appointed from on
high.

Think of all this; and in being faithful to your art, be true to
yourself. If you feel divided between that art and the art of the writer,
and acknowledge the first to be too exacting to admit a rival, keep to
that in which you are sure to excel. Alas, my fair child! do not imagine
that we writers feel a happiness in our pursuits and aims more complete
than that which you can command. If we care for fame (and, to be frank,
we all do), that fame does not come up before us face to face, a real,
visible, palpable form, as it does to the singer, to the actress. I grant
that it may be more enduring, but an endurance on the length of which we
dare not reckon. A writer cannot be sure of immortality till his language
itself be dead; and then he has but a share in an uncertain lottery.
Nothing but fragments remains of the Phrynichus who rivalled AEschylus;
of the Agathon who perhaps excelled Euripides; of the Alcaeus, in whom
Horace acknowledged a master and a model; their renown is not in their
works, it is but in their names. And, after all, the names of singers and
actors last perhaps as long. Greece retains the name of Polus, Rome of
Roscius, England of Garrick, France of Talma, Italy of Pasta, more
lastingly than posterity is likely to retain mine. You address to me a
question, which I have often put to myself,--"What is the distinction
between the writer and the reader, when the reader says, 'These are my
thoughts, these are my feelings; the writer has stolen them, and clothed
them in his own words'?" And the more the reader says this, the more wide
is the audience, the more genuine the renown, and, paradox though it
seems, the more consummate the originality, of the writer. But no, it is
not the mere gift of expression, it is not the mere craft of the pen, it
is not the mere taste in arrangement of word and cadence, which thus
enables the one to interpret the mind, the heart, the soul of the many.
It is a power breathed into him as he lay in his cradle, and a power that
gathered around itself, as he grew up, all the influences he acquired,
whether from observation of external nature, or from study of men and
books, or from that experience of daily life which varies with every
human being. No education could make two intellects exactly alike, as no
culture can make two leaves exactly alike. How truly you describe the
sense of dissatisfaction which every writer of superior genius
communicates to his admirers! how truly do you feel that the greater is
the dissatisfaction in proportion to the writer's genius, and the
admirer's conception of it! But that is the mystery which makes--let me
borrow a German phrase--the cloud-land between the finite and the
infinite. The greatest philosopher, intent on the secrets of Nature,
feels that dissatisfaction in Nature herself. The finite cannot reduce
into logic and criticism the infinite.

Let us dismiss these matters, which perplex the reason, and approach that
which touches the heart, which in your case, my child, touches the heart
of woman. You speak of love, and deem that the love which lasts--the
household, the conjugal love--should be based upon such sympathies of
pursuit that the artist should wed the artist.

This is one of the questions you do well to address to me; for whether
from my own experience, or from that which I have gained from observation
extended over a wide range of life, and quickened and intensified by the
class of writing that I cultivate, and which necessitates a calm study of
the passions, I am an authority on such subjects, better than most women
can be. And alas, my child, I come to this result: there is no
prescribing to men or to women whom to select, whom to refuse. I cannot
refute the axiom of the ancient poet, "In love there is no wherefore."
But there is a time--it is often but a moment of time--in which love is
not yet a master, in which we can say, "I will love, I will not love."

Now, if I could find you in such a moment, I would say to you, "Artist,
do not love, do not marry, an artist." Two artistic natures rarely
combine. The artistic nature is wonderfully exacting. I fear it is
supremely egotistical,--so jealously sensitive that it writhes at the
touch of a rival. Racine was the happiest of husbands; his wife adored
his genius, but could not understand his plays. Would Racine have been
happy if he had married a Corneille in petticoats? I who speak have loved
an artist, certainly equal to myself. I am sure that he loved me. That
sympathy in pursuits of which you speak drew us together, and became very
soon the cause of antipathy. To both of us the endeavour to coalesce was
misery.

I don't know your M. Rameau. Savarin has sent me some of his writings;
from these I judge that his only chance of happiness would be to marry a
commonplace woman, with separation de biens. He is, believe me, but one
of the many with whom New Paris abounds, who because they have the
infirmities of genius imagine they have its strength.

I come next to the Englishman. I see how serious is your questioning
about him. You not only regard him as a being distinct from the crowd of
a salon; he stands equally apart in the chamber of your thoughts,--you do
not mention him in the same letter as that which treats of Rameau and
Savarin. He has become already an image not to be lightly mixed up with
others. You would rather not have mentioned him at all to me, but you
could not resist it. The interest you feel in him so perplexed you, that
in a kind of feverish impatience you cry out to me, "Can you solve the
riddle? Did you ever know well Englishmen? Can an Englishman be
understood out of his island?" etc. Yes, I have known well many
Englishmen; in affairs of the heart they are much like all other men. No;
I do not know this Englishman in particular, nor any one of his name.

Well, my child, let us frankly grant that this foreigner has gained some
hold on your thoughts, on your fancy, perhaps also on your heart. Do not
fear that he will love you less enduringly, or that you will become
alienated from him, because he is not an artist. If he be a strong
nature, and with some great purpose in life, your ambition will fuse
itself in his; and knowing you as I do, I believe you would make an
excellent wife to an Englishman whom you honoured as well as loved; and
sorry though I should be that you relinquished the singer's fame, I
should be consoled in thinking you safe in the woman's best sphere,--a
contented home, safe from calumny, safe from gossip. I never had that
home; and there has been no part in my author's life in which I would not
have given all the celebrity it won for the obscure commonplace of such
woman-lot. Could I move human beings as pawns on a chessboard, I should
indeed say that the most suitable and congenial mate for you, for a woman
of sentiment and genius, would be a well-born and well-educated German;
for such a German unites, with domestic habits and a strong sense of
family ties, a romance of sentiment, a love of art, a predisposition
towards the poetic side of life, which is very rare among Englishmen of
the same class. But as the German is not forthcoming, I give my vote for
the Englishman, provided only you love him. Ah, child, be sure of that.
Do not mistake fancy for love. All women do not require love in marriage,
but without it that which is best and highest in you would wither and
die. Write to me often and tell me all. M. Savarin is right. My book is
no longer my companion. It is gone from me, and I am once more alone in
the world.

Yours affectionately.

P. S.--Is not your postscript a woman's? Does it not require a woman's
postscript in reply? You say in yours that you have fully made up your
mind to renounce all thoughts of the stage. I ask in mine, "What has the
Englishman to do with that determination?"



CHAPTER IV.

Some weeks have passed since Graham's talk with Isaura in the garden; he
has not visited the villa since. His cousins the D'Altons have passed
through Paris on their way to Italy, meaning to stay a few days; they
stayed nearly a month, and monopolized much of Graham's companionship.
Both these were reasons why, in the habitual society of the Duke,
Graham's persuasion that he was not yet free to court the hand of Isaura
became strengthened, and with that persuasion necessarily came a question
equally addressed to his conscience. "If not yet free to court her hand,
am I free to expose myself to the temptation of seeking to win her
affection?" But when his cousin was gone, his heart began to assert its
own rights, to argue its own case, and suggest modes of reconciling its
dictates to the obligations which seemed to oppose them. In this
hesitating state of mind he received the following note:--

                     VILLA ------, LAC D'ENGHIEN.

MY DEAR MR. VANE,--We have retreated from Paris to the banks of this
beautiful little lake. Come and help to save Frank and myself from
quarrelling with each other, which, until the Rights of Women are firmly
established, married folks always will do when left to themselves,
especially if they are still lovers, as Frank and I are. Love is a
terribly quarrelsome thing. Make us a present of a few days out of your
wealth of time. We will visit Montmorency and the haunts of Rousseau,
sail on the lake at moonlight, dine at gypsy restaurants under trees not
yet embrowned by summer heats, discuss literature and politics,
"Shakspeare and the musical glasses,"--and be as sociable and pleasant as
Boccaccio's tale-tellers, at Fiesole. We shall be but a small party, only
the Savarins, that unconscious sage and humourist Signora Venosta, and
that dimple-cheeked Isaura, who embodies the song of nightingales and the
smile of summer. Refuse, and Frank shall not have an easy moment till he
sends in his claims for thirty millions against the Alabama.

           Yours, as you behave,
                  LIZZIE MORLEY.

Graham did not refuse. He went to Enghien for four days and a quarter. He
was under the same roof as Isaura. Oh, those happy days! so happy that
they defy description. But though to Graham the happiest days he had ever
known, they were happier still to Isaura. There were drawbacks to his
happiness, none to hers,--drawbacks partly from reasons the weight of
which the reader will estimate later; partly from reasons the reader may
at once comprehend and assess. In the sunshine of her joy, all the vivid
colourings of Isaura's artistic temperament came forth, so that what I
may call the homely, domestic woman-side of her nature faded into shadow.
If, my dear reader, whether you be man or woman, you have come into
familiar contact with some creature of a genius to which, even assuming
that you yourself have a genius in its own way, you have no special
affinities, have you not felt shy with that creature? Have you not,
perhaps, felt how intensely you could love that creature, and doubted if
that creature could possibly love you? Now I think that shyness and that
disbelief are common with either man or woman, if, however conscious of
superiority in the prose of life, he or she recognizes inferiority in the
poetry of it. And yet this self-abasement is exceedingly mistaken. The
poetical kind of genius is so grandly indulgent, so inherently
deferential, bows with such unaffected modesty to the superiority in
which it fears it may fail (yet seldom does fail),--the superiority of
common-sense. And when we come to women, what marvellous truth is
conveyed by the woman who has had no superior in intellectual gifts among
her own sex! Corinne, crowned at the Capitol, selects out of the whole
world as the hero of her love no rival poet and enthusiast, but a
cold-blooded, sensible Englishman.

Graham Vane, in his strong masculine form of intellect--Graham Vane, from
whom I hope much, if he live to fulfil his rightful career--had, not
unreasonably, the desire to dominate the life of the woman whom he
selected as the partner of his own; but the life of Isaura seemed to
escape him. If at moments, listening to her, he would say to himself,
"What a companion! life could never be dull with her," at other moments
he would say, "True, never dull, but would it be always safe?" And then
comes in that mysterious power of love which crushes all beneath its
feet, and makes us end self-commune by that abject submission of reason,
which only murmurs, "Better be unhappy with the one you love than happy
with one whom you do not." All such self-communes were unknown to Isaura.
She lived in the bliss of the hour. If Graham could have read her heart,
he would have dismissed all doubt whether he could dominate her life.
Could a Fate or an Angel have said to her, "Choose,--on one side I
promise you the glories of a Catalani, a Pasta, a Sappho, a De Stael, a
Georges Sand, all combined into one immortal name; or, on the other side,
the whole heart of the man who would estrange himself from you if you had
such combination of glories,"--her answer would have brought Graham Vane
to her feet. All scruples, all doubts, would have vanished; he would have
exclaimed, with the generosity inherent in the higher order of man, "Be
glorious, if your nature wills it so. Glory enough to me that you would
have resigned glory itself to become mine." But how is it that men worth
a woman's loving become so diffident when they love intensely? Even in
ordinary cases of love there is so ineffable a delicacy in virgin woman,
that a man, be he how refined soever, feels himself rough and rude and
coarse in comparison; and while that sort of delicacy was pre-eminent in
this Italian orphan, there came, to increase the humility of the man so
proud and so confident in himself when he had only men to deal with, the
consciousness that his intellectual nature was hard and positive beside
the angel-like purity and the fairy-like play of hers.

There was a strong wish on the part of Mrs. Morley to bring about the
union of these two. She had a great regard and a great admiration for
both. To her mind, unconscious of all Graham's doubts and prejudices,
they were exactly suited to each other. A man of intellect so cultivated
as Graham's, if married to a commonplace English "Miss," would surely
feel as if life had no sunshine and no flowers. The love of an Isaura
would steep it in sunshine, pave it with flowers. Mrs. Morley
admitted--all American Republicans of gentle birth do admit--the
instincts which lead "like" to match with "like," an equality of blood
and race. With all her assertion of the Rights of Woman, I do not think
that Mrs. Morley would ever have conceived the possibility of consenting
that the richest and prettiest and cleverest girl in the States could
become the wife of a son of hers if the girl had the taint of negro
blood, even though shown nowhere save the slight distinguishing hue of
her finger-nails. So had Isaura's merits been threefold what they were
and she had been the wealthy heiress of a retail grocer, this fair
Republican would have opposed (more strongly than many an English
duchess, or at least a Scotch duke, would do, the wish of a son), the
thought of an alliance between Graham Vane and the grocer's daughter! But
Isaura was a Cicogna, an offspring of a very ancient and very noble
house. Disparities of fortune, or mere worldly position, Mrs. Morley
supremely despised. Here were the great parities of alliance,--parities
in years and good looks and mental culture. So, in short, she in the
invitation given to them had planned for the union between Isaura and
Graham. To this plan she had an antagonist, whom she did not even guess,
in Madame Savarin. That lady, as much attached to Isaura as was Mrs.
Morley herself, and still more desirous of seeing a girl, brilliant and
parentless, transferred from the companionship of Signora Venosta to the
protection of a husband, entertained no belief in the serious attentions
of Graham Vane. Perhaps she exaggerated his worldly advantages, perhaps
she undervalued the warmth of his affections; but it was not within the
range of her experience, confined much to Parisian life, nor in harmony
with her notions of the frigidity and morgue of the English national
character, that a rich and high-born young man, to whom a great career in
practical public life was predicted, should form a matrimonial alliance
with a foreign orphan girl, who, if of gentle birth, had no useful
connections, would bring no correspondent dot, and had been reared and
intended for the profession of the stage. She much more feared that the
result of any attentions on the part of such a man would be rather
calculated to compromise the orphan's name, or at least to mislead her
expectations, than to secure her the shelter of a wedded home. Moreover,
she had cherished plans of her own for Isaura's future. Madame Savarin
had conceived for Gustave Rameau a friendly regard, stronger than that
which Mrs. Morley entertained for Graham Vane, for it was more motherly.
Gustave had been familiarized to her sight and her thoughts since he had
first been launched into the literary world under her husband's auspices;
he had confided to her his mortification in his failures, his joy in his
successes. His beautiful countenance, his delicate health, his very
infirmities and defects, had endeared him to her womanly heart. Isaura
was the wife of all others who, in Madame Savarin's opinion, was made for
Rameau. Her fortune, so trivial beside the wealth of the Englishman,
would be a competence to Rameau; then that competence might swell into
vast riches if Isaura succeeded on the stage. She found with extreme
displeasure that Isaura's mind had become estranged from the profession
to which she had been destined, and divined that a deference to the
Englishman's prejudices had something to do with that estrangement. It
was not to be expected that a Frenchwoman, wife to a sprightly man of
letters, who had intimate friends and allies in every department of the
artistic world, should cherish any prejudice whatever against the
exercise of an art in which success achieved riches and renown; but she
was prejudiced, as most Frenchwomen are, against allowing to unmarried
girls the same freedom and independence of action that are the rights of
women--French women--when married; and she would have disapproved the
entrance of Isaura on her professional career until she could enter it as
a wife, the wife of an artist, the wife of Gustave Rameau.

Unaware of the rivalry between these friendly diplomatists and schemers,
Graham and Isaura glided hourly more and more down the current, which as
yet ran smooth. No words by which love is spoken were exchanged between
them; in fact, though constantly together, they were very rarely, and
then but for moments, alone with each other. Mrs. Morley artfully schemed
more than once to give them such opportunities for that mutual
explanation of heart which, she saw, had not yet taken place; with art
more practised and more watchful, Madame Savarin contrived to baffle her
hostess's intention. But, indeed, neither Graham nor Isaura sought to
make opportunities for themselves. He, as we know, did not deem himself
wholly justified in uttering the words of love by which a man of honour
binds himself for life; and she!--what girl pure-hearted and loving truly
does not shrink from seeking the opportunities which it is for the man to
court? Yet Isaura needed no words to tell her that she was loved,--no,
nor even a pressure of the hand, a glance of the eye; she felt it
instinctively, mysteriously, by the glow of her own being in the presence
of her lover. She knew that she herself could not so love unless she were
beloved.

Here woman's wit is keener and truthfuller than man's. Graham, as I have
said, did not feel confident that he had reached the heart of Isaura. He
was conscious that he had engaged her interest, that he had attracted her
fancy; but often, when charmed by the joyous play of her imagination, he
would sigh to himself, "To natures so gifted what single mortal can be
the all in all."

They spent the summer mornings in excursions round the beautiful
neighbourhood, dined early, and sailed on the calm lake at moonlight.
Their talk was such as might be expected from lovers of books in summer
holidays. Savarin was a critic by profession; Graham Vane, if not that,
at least owed such literary reputation as he had yet gained to essays in
which the rare critical faculty was conspicuously developed.

It was pleasant to hear the clash of these two minds encountering each
other; they differed perhaps less in opinions than in the mode by which
opinions are discussed. The Englishman's range of reading was wider than
the Frenchman's, and his scholarship more accurate; but the Frenchman had
a compact neatness of expression, a light and nimble grace, whether in
the advancing or the retreat of his argument, which covered deficiencies,
and often made them appear like merits. Graham was compelled, indeed, to
relinquish many of the forces of superior knowledge or graver eloquence,
which with less lively antagonists he could have brought into the field,
for the witty sarcasm of Savarin would have turned them aside as pedantry
or declamation. But though Graham was neither dry nor diffuse, and the
happiness at his heart brought out the gayety of humour which had been
his early characteristic, and yet rendered his familiar intercourse
genial and playful, still there was this distinction between his humour
and Savarin's wit,--that in the first there was always something earnest,
in the last always something mocking. And in criticism Graham seemed ever
anxious to bring out a latent beauty, even in writers comparatively
neglected; Savarin was acutest when dragging forth a blemish never before
discovered in writers universally read.

Graham did not perhaps notice the profound attention with which Isaura
listened to him in these intellectual skirmishes with the more glittering
Parisian. There was this distinction she made between him and
Savarin,--when the last spoke she often chimed in with some happy
sentiment of her own; but she never interrupted Graham, never intimated a
dissent from his theories of art, or the deductions he drew from them;
and she would remain silent and thoughtful for some minutes when his
voice ceased. There was passing from his mind into hers an ambition which
she imagined, poor girl, that he would be pleased to think he had
inspired, and which might become a new bond of sympathy between them. But
as yet the ambition was vague and timid,--an idea or a dream to be
fulfilled in some indefinite future.

The last night of this short-lived holiday-time, the party, after staying
out on the lake to a later hour than usual, stood lingering still on the
lawn of the villa; and their host, who was rather addicted to superficial
studies of the positive sciences, including, of course, the most popular
of all, astronomy, kept his guests politely listening to speculative
conjectures on the probable size of the inhabitants of Sirius, that very
distant and very gigantic inhabitant of heaven who has led philosophers
into mortifying reflections upon the utter insignificance of our own poor
little planet, capable of producing nothing greater than Shakspeares and
Newtons, Aristotles and Caesars,--mannikins, no doubt, beside intellects
proportioned to the size of the world in which they flourish.

As it chanced, Isaura and Graham were then standing close to each other
and a little apart from the rest. "It is very strange," said Graham,
laughing low, "how little I care about Sirius. He is the sun of some
other system, and is perhaps not habitable at all, except by Salamanders.
He cannot be one of the stars with which I have established familiar
acquaintance, associated with fancies and dreams and hopes, as most of us
do, for instance, with Hesperus, the moon's harbinger and comrade. But
amid all those stars there is one--not Hesperus--which has always had
from my childhood a mysterious fascination for me. Knowing as little of
astrology as I do of astronomy, when I gaze upon that star I become
credulously superstitious, and fancy it has an influence on my life. Have
you, too, any favourite star?"

"Yes," said Isaura; "and I distinguish it now, but I do not even know its
name, and never would ask it."

"So like me. I would not vulgarize my unknown source of beautiful
illusions by giving it the name it takes in technical catalogues. For
fear of learning that name I never have pointed it out to any one before.
I too at this moment distinguish it apart from all its brotherhood. Tell
me which is yours."

Isaura pointed and explained. The Englishman was startled. By what
strange coincidence could they both have singled out from all the host of
heaven the same favourite star? "Cher Vane," cried Savarin, "Colonel
Morley declares that what America is to the terrestrial system Sirius is
to the heavenly. America is to extinguish Europe, and then Sirius is to
extinguish the world."

"Not for some millions of years; time to look about us," said the
Colonel, gravely. "But I certainly differ from those who maintain that
Sirius recedes from us. I say that he approaches. The principles of a
body so enlightened must be those of progress." Then addressing Graham in
English, he added, "there will be a mulling in this fogified planet some
day, I predicate. Sirius is a keener!"

"I have not imagination lively enough to interest myself in the destinies
of Sirius in connection with our planet at a date so remote," said
Graham, smiling. Then he added in a whisper to Isaura, "My imagination
does not carry me further than to wonder whether this day
twelvemonth--the 8th of July-we two shall both be singling out that same
star, and gazing on it as now, side by side."

This was the sole utterance of that sentiment in which the romance of
love is so rich that the Englishman addressed to Isaura during those
memorable summer days at Enghien.



CHAPTER V.

The next morning the party broke up. Letters had been delivered both to
Savarin and to Graham, which, even had the day for departure not been
fixed, would have summoned them away. On reading his letter, Savarin's
brow became clouded. He made a sign to his wife after breakfast, and
wandered away with her down an alley in the little garden. His trouble
was of that nature which a wife either soothes or aggravates, according
sometimes to her habitual frame of mind, sometimes to the mood of temper
in which she may chance to be,--a household trouble, a pecuniary trouble.

Savarin was by no means an extravagant man. His mode of living, though
elegant and hospitable, was modest compared to that of many French
authors inferior to himself in the fame which at Paris brings a very good
return in francs; but his station itself as the head of a powerful
literary clique necessitated many expenses which were too congenial to
his extreme good-nature to be regulated by strict prudence. His hand was
always open to distressed writers and struggling artists, and his sole
income was derived from his pen and a journal in which he was chief
editor and formerly sole proprietor. But that journal had of late not
prospered. He had sold or pledged a considerable share in the
proprietorship. He had been compelled also to borrow a sum large for him,
and the debt obtained from a retired bourgeois who lent out his moneys
"by way," he said, "of maintaining an excitement and interest in life,"
would in a few days become due. The letter was not from that creditor;
but it was from his publisher, containing a very disagreeable statement
of accounts, pressing for settlement, and declining an offer of Savarin
for a new book (not yet begun) except upon terms that the author valued
himself too highly to accept. Altogether, the situation was unpleasant.
There were many times in which Madame Savarin presumed to scold her
distinguished husband for his want of prudence and thrift. But those were
never the times when scolding could be of no use. It could clearly be of
no use now. Now was the moment to cheer and encourage him; to reassure
him as to his own undiminished powers and popularity, for he talked
dejectedly of himself as obsolete and passing out of fashion; to convince
him also of the impossibility that the ungrateful publisher whom
Savarin's more brilliant successes had enriched could encounter the odium
of hostile proceedings; and to remind him of all the authors, all the
artists, whom he in their earlier difficulties had so liberally assisted,
and from whom a sum sufficing to pay the bourgeois creditor when the day
arrived could now be honourably asked and would be readily contributed.
In this last suggestion the homely prudent good-sense of Madame Savarin
failed her. She did not comprehend that delicate pride of honour which,
with all his Parisian frivolities and cynicism, dignified the Parisian
man of genius. Savarin could not, to save his neck from a rope, have sent
round the begging-hat to friends whom he had obliged. Madame Savarin was
one of those women with large-lobed ears, who can be wonderfully
affectionate, wonderfully sensible, admirable wives and mothers, and yet
are deficient in artistic sympathies with artistic natures. Still, a
really good honest wife is such an incalculable blessing to her lord,
that, at the end of the talk in the solitary alley, this man of exquisite
finesse, of the undefinably high-bred temperament, and, alas! the painful
morbid susceptibility, which belongs to the genuine artistic character,
emerged into the open sunlit lawn with his crest uplifted, his lip curved
upward in its joyous mockery, and perfectly persuaded that somehow or
other he should put down the offensive publisher, and pay off the
unoffending creditor when the day for payment came. Still he had judgment
enough to know that to do this he must get back to Paris, and could not
dawdle away precious hours in discussing the principles of poetry with
Graham Vane.

There was only one thing, apart from "the begging-hat," in which Savarin
dissented from his wife.--She suggested his starting a new journal in
conjunction with Gustave Rameau, upon whose genius and the expectations
to be formed from it (here she was tacitly thinking of Isaura wedded to
Rameau, and more than a Malibran on the stage) she insisted vehemently.
Savarin did not thus estimate Gustave Rameau, thought him a clever,
promising young writer in a very bad school of writing, who might do well
some day or other. But that a Rameau could help a Savarin to make a
fortune! No; at that idea he opened his eyes, patted his wife's shoulder,
and called her "enfant."

Graham's letter was from M. Renard, and ran thus:--

   MONSIEUR,--I had the honour to call at your apartment this morning,
   and I write this line to the address given to me by your concierge
   to say that I have been fortunate enough to ascertain that the
   relation of the missing lady is now at Paris. I shall hold myself
   in readiness to attend your summons. Deign to accept, Monsieur, the
   assurance of my profound consideration.
                       J. RENARD.

This communication sufficed to put Graham into very high spirits.
Anything that promised success to his research seemed to deliver his
thoughts from a burden and his will from a fetter. Perhaps in a few days
he might frankly and honourably say to Isaura words which would justify
his retaining longer, and pressing more ardently, the delicate hand which
trembled in his as they took leave.

On arriving at Paris, Graham despatched a note to M. Renard requesting to
see him, and received a brief line in reply that M. Renard feared he
should be detained on other and important business till the evening, but
hoped to call at eight o'clock. A few minutes before that hour he entered
Graham's apartment.

"You have discovered the uncle of Louise Duval!" exclaimed Graham; "of
course you mean M. de Mauleon, and he is at Paris?"

"True so far, Monsieur; but do not be too sanguine as to the results of
the information I can give you. Permit me, as briefly as possible, to
state the circumstances. When you acquainted me with the fact that M. de
Mauleon was the uncle of Louise Duval, I told you that I was not without
hopes of finding him out, though so long absent from Paris. I will now
explain why. Some months ago, one of my colleagues engaged in the
political department (which I am not) was sent to Lyons, in consequence
of some suspicions conceived by the loyal authorities there of a plot
against the emperor's life. The suspicions were groundless, the plot a
mare's nest. But my colleague's attention was especially drawn towards a
man not mixed up with the circumstances from which a plot had been
inferred, but deemed in some way or other a dangerous enemy to the
Government. Ostensibly, he exercised a modest and small calling as a sort
of courtier or agent de change; but it was noticed that certain persons
familiarly frequenting his apartment, or to whose houses he used to go at
night, were disaffected to the Government,--not by any means of the
lowest rank,--some of them rich malcontents who had been devoted
Orleanists; others, disappointed aspirants to office or the 'cross;' one
or two well-born and opulent fanatics dreaming of another Republic.
Certain very able articles in the journals of the excitable Midi, though
bearing another signature, were composed or dictated by this
man,--articles evading the censure and penalties of the law, but very
mischievous in their tone. All who had come into familiar communication
with this person were impressed with a sense of his powers; and also with
a vague belief that he belonged to a higher class in breeding and
education than that of a petty agent de change. My colleague set himself
to watch the man, and took occasions of business at his little office to
enter into talk with him. Not by personal appearance, but by voice, he
came to a conclusion that the man was not wholly a stranger to him,--a
peculiar voice with a slight Norman breadth of pronunciation, though a
Parisian accent; a voice very low, yet very distinct; very masculine, yet
very gentle. My colleague was puzzled till late one evening he observed
the man coming out of the house of one of these rich malcontents, the
rich malcontent himself accompanying him. My colleague, availing himself
of the dimness of light, as the two passed into a lane which led to the
agent's apartment, contrived to keep close behind and listen to their
conversation; but of this he heard nothing,--only, when at the end of the
lane, the rich man turned abruptly, shook his companion warmly by the
hand, and parted from him, saying, 'Never fear; all shall go right with
you, my dear Victor.' At the sound of that name 'Victor,' my colleague's
memories, before so confused, became instantaneously clear. Previous to
entering our service, he had been in the horse business, a votary of the
turf; as such he had often seen the brilliant 'sportman,' Victor de
Mauleon; sometimes talked to him. Yes, that was the voice,--the slight
Norman intonation (Victor de Mauleon's father had it strongly, and Victor
had passed some of his early childhood in Normandy), the subdued
modulation of speech which had made so polite the offence to men, or so
winning the courtship to women,--that was Victor de Mauleon. But why
there in that disguise? What was his real business and object? My
confrere had no time allowed to him to prosecute such inquiries. Whether
Victor or the rich malcontent had observed him at their heels, and feared
he might have overheard their words, I know not; but the next day
appeared in one of the popular journals circulating among the ouvriers a
paragraph stating that a Paris spy had been seen at Lyons, warning all
honest men against his machinations, and containing a tolerably accurate
description of his person. And that very day, on venturing forth, my
estimable colleague suddenly found himself hustled by a ferocious throng,
from whose hands he was with great difficulty rescued by the municipal
guard. He left Lyons that night; and for recompense of his services
received a sharp reprimand from his chief. He had committed the worst
offence in our profession, trop de zele. Having only heard the outlines
of this story from another, I repaired to my confrere after my last
interview with Monsieur, and learned what I now tell you from his own
lips. As he was not in my branch of the service, I could not order him to
return to Lyons; and I doubt whether his chief would have allowed it. But
I went to Lyons myself, and there ascertained that our supposed Vicomte
had left that town for Paris some months ago, not long after the
adventure of my colleague. The man bore a very good character
generally,--was said to be very honest and inoffensive; and the notice
taken of him by persons of higher rank was attributed generally to a
respect for his talents, and not on account of any sympathy in political
opinions. I found that the confrere mentioned, and who alone could
identify M. de Mauleon in the disguise which the Vicomte had assumed, was
absent on one of those missions abroad in which he is chiefly employed. I
had to wait for his return, and it was only the day before yesterday that
I obtained the following particulars. M. de Mauleon bears the same name
as he did at Lyons,--that name is Jean Lebeau; he exercises the
ostensible profession of a 'letter-writer,' and a sort of adviser on
business among the workmen and petty bourgeoisie, and he nightly
frequents the cafe Jean Jacques, Rue Faubourg Montmartre. It is not yet
quite half-past eight, and, no doubt, you could see him at the cafe this
very night, if you thought proper to go."

"Excellent! I will go! Describe him!"

"Alas! that is exactly what I cannot do at present; for after hearing
what I now tell you, I put the same request you do to my colleague, when,
before he could answer me, he was summoned to the bureau of his chief,
promising to return and give me the requisite description. He did not
return; and I find that he was compelled, on quitting his chief, to seize
the first train starting for Lille upon an important political
investigation which brooked no delay. He will be back in a few days, and
then Monsieur shall have the description."

"Nay; I think I will seize time by the forelock, and try my chance
tonight. If the man be really a conspirator, and it looks likely enough,
who knows but what he may see quick reason to take alarm and vanish from
Paris at any hour?--Cafe Jean Jacques, Rue ------; I will go. Stay; you
have seen Victor de Mauleon in his youth: what was he like then?"

"Tall, slender, but broad-shouldered, very erect, carrying his head high,
a profusion of dark curls, a small black mustache, fair clear complexion,
light-coloured eyes with dark lashes, fort bel homme. But he will not
look like that now."

"His present age?"

"Forty-seven or forty-eight. But before you go, I must beg you to
consider well what you are about. It is evident that M. de Mauleon has
some strong reason, whatever it be, for merging his identity in that of
Jean Lebeau. I presume, therefore, that you could scarcely go up to M.
Lebeau, when you have discovered him, and say, 'Pray, Monsieur le
Vicomte, can you give me some tidings of your niece, Louise Duval?' If
you thus accosted him, you might possibly bring some danger on yourself,
but you would certainly gain no information from him."

"True."

"On the other hand, if you make his acquaintance as M. Lebeau, how can you
assume him to know anything about Louise Duval?"

"Parbleu! Monsieur Renard, you try to toss me aside on both horns of the
dilemma; but it seems to me that, if I once make his acquaintance as M.
Lebeau, I might gradually and cautiously feel my way as to the best mode
of putting the question to which I seek reply. I suppose, too, that the
man must be in very poor circumstances to adopt so humble a calling, and
that a small sum of money may smooth all difficulties."

"I am not so sure of that," said M. Renard, thoughtfully; "but grant that
money may do so, and grant also that the Vicomte, being a needy man, has
become a very unscrupulous one,--is there anything in your motives for
discovering Louise Duval which might occasion you trouble and annoyance,
if it were divined by a needy and unscrupulous man; anything which might
give him a power of threat or exaction? Mind, I am not asking you to tell
me any secret you have reasons for concealing, but I suggest that it
might be prudent if you did not let M. Lebeau know your real name and
rank; if, in short, you could follow his example, and adopt a disguise.
But no; when I think of it, you would doubtless be so unpractised in the
art of disguise that he would detect you at once to be other than you
seem; and if suspecting you of spying into his secrets, and if those
secrets be really of a political nature, your very life might not be
safe."

"Thank you for your hint; the disguise is an excellent idea, and combines
amusement with precaution. That this Victor de Mauleon must be a very
unprincipled and dangerous man is, I think, abundantly clear. Granting
that he was innocent of all design of robbery in the affair of the
jewels, still, the offence which he did own--that of admitting himself at
night by a false key into the rooms of a wife, whom he sought to surprise
or terrify into dishonour--was a villanous action; and his present course
of life is sufficiently mysterious to warrant the most unfavourable
supposition. Besides, there is another motive for concealing my name from
him: you say that he once had a duel with a Vane, who was very probably
my father, and I have no wish to expose myself to the chance of his
turning up in London some day, and seeking to renew there the
acquaintance that I had courted at Paris. As for my skill in playing any
part I may assume, do not fear; I am no novice in that. In my younger
days I was thought clever in private theatricals, especially in the
transformations of appearance which belong to light comedy and farce.
Wait a few minutes, and you shall see."

Graham then retreated into his bedroom, and in a few minutes reappeared
so changed, that Renard at first glance took him for a stranger. He had
doffed his dress--which habitually, when in Capitals, was characterized
by the quiet, indefinable elegance that to a man of the great world,
high-bred and young, seems "to the manner born"--for one of those coarse
suits which Englishmen are wont to wear in their travels, and by which
they are represented in French or German caricatures,--loose jacket of
tweed with redundant pockets, waistcoat to match, short dust-coloured
trousers. He had combed his hair straight over his forehead, which, as I
have said somewhere before, appeared in itself to alter the character of
his countenance, and, without any resort to paints or cosmetics, had
somehow or other given to the expression of his face an impudent,
low-bred expression, with a glass screwed on to his right eye,--such a
look as a cockney journeyman, wishing to pass for a "swell" about town,
may cast on a servant-maid in the pit of a suburban theatre.

"Will it do, old fellow?" he exclaimed, in a rollicking, swaggering tone
of voice, speaking French with a villanous British accent.

"Perfectly," said Renard, laughing. "I offer my compliments, and if ever
you are ruined, Monsieur, I will promise you a place in our police. Only
one caution,--take care not to overdo your part."

"Right. A quarter to nine; I'm off."



CHAPTER VI.

There is generally a brisk exhilaration of spirits in the return to any
special amusement or light accomplishment associated with the pleasant
memories of earlier youth; and remarkably so, I believe, when the
amusement or accomplishment has been that of the amateur stage-player.
Certainly I have known persons of very grave pursuits, of very dignified
character and position, who seem to regain the vivacity of boyhood when
disguising look and voice for a part in some drawing-room comedy or
charade. I might name statesmen of solemn repute rejoicing to raise and
to join in a laugh at their expense in such travesty of their habitual
selves.

The reader must not therefore be surprised, nor, I trust, deem it
inconsistent with the more serious attributes of Graham's character, if
the Englishman felt the sort of joyful excitement I describe, as, in his
way to the cafe Jean Jacques, he meditated the role he had undertaken;
and the joyousness was heightened beyond the mere holiday sense of
humouristic pleasantry by the sanguine hope that much to effect his
lasting happiness might result from the success of the object for which
his disguise was assumed.

It was just twenty minutes past nine when he arrived at the cafe Jean
Jacques. He dismissed the fiacre and entered.

The apartment devoted to customers comprised two large rooms. The first
was the cafe properly speaking; the second, opening on it, was the
billiard-room. Conjecturing that he should probably find the person of
whom he was in quest employed at the billiard-table, Graham passed
thither at once. A tall man, who might be seven-and-forty, with a long
black beard, slightly grizzled, was at play with a young man of perhaps
twenty-eight, who gave him odds,--as better players of twenty-eight ought
to give odds to a player, though originally of equal force, whose eye is
not so quick, whose hand is not so steady, as they were twenty years ago.
Said Graham to himself, "The bearded man is my Vicomte." He called for a
cup of coffee, and seated himself on a bench at the end of the room.

The bearded man was far behind in the game. It was his turn to play; the
balls were placed in the most awkward position for him. Graham himself
was a fair billiard-player, both in the English and the French game. He
said to himself, "No man who can make a cannon there should accept odds."
The bearded man made a cannon; the bearded man continued to make cannons;
the bearded man did not stop till he had won the game. The gallery of
spectators was enthusiastic. Taking care to speak in very bad, very
English-French, Graham expressed to one of the enthusiasts seated beside
him his admiration of the bearded man's playing, and ventured to ask if
the bearded man were a professional or an amateur player.

"Monsieur," replied the enthusiast, taking a short cutty-pipe from his
mouth, "it is an amateur, who has been a great player in his day, and is
so proud that he always takes less odds than he ought of a younger man.
It is not once in a month that he comes out as he has done to-night; but
to-night he has steadied his hand. He has had six petits verres."

"Ah, indeed! Do you know his name?"

"I should think so: he buried my father, my two aunts, and my wife."

"Buried?" said Graham, more and more British in his accent; "I don't
understand."

"Monsieur, you are English."

"I confess it."

"And a stranger to the Faubourg Montmartre."

"True."

"Or you would have heard of M. Giraud, the liveliest member of the State
Company for conducting funerals. They are going to play La Poule."

Much disconcerted, Graham retreated into the cafe, and seated himself
haphazard at one of the small tables. Glancing round the room, he saw no
one in whom he could conjecture the once brilliant Vicomte.

The company appeared to him sufficiently decent, and especially what may
be called local. There were some blouses drinking wine, no doubt of the
cheapest and thinnest; some in rough, coarse dresses, drinking beer.
These were evidently English, Belgian, or German artisans. At one table,
four young men, who looked like small journeymen, were playing cards. At
three other tables, men older, better dressed, probably shop-keepers,
were playing dominos. Graham scrutinized these last, but among them all
could detect no one corresponding to his ideal of the Vicomte de Mauleon.
"Probably," thought he, "I am too late, or perhaps he will not be here
this evening. At all events, I will wait a quarter of an hour." Then, the
garcon approaching his table, he deemed it necessary to call for
something, and, still in strong English accent, asked for lemonade and an
evening journal. The garcon nodded and went his way. A monsieur at the
round table next his own politely handed to him the "Galignani," saying
in very good English, though unmistakably the good English of a
Frenchman, "The English journal, at your service."

Graham bowed his head, accepted the "Galignani," and inspected his
courteous neighbour. A more respectable-looking man no Englishman could
see in an English country town. He wore an unpretending flaxen wig, with
limp whiskers that met at the chin, and might originally have been the
same colour as the wig, but were now of a pale gray,--no beard, no
mustache. He was dressed with the scrupulous cleanliness of a sober
citizen,--a high white neckcloth, with a large old-fashioned pin,
containing a little knot of hair covered with glass or crystal, and
bordered with a black framework, in which were inscribed
letters,--evidently a mourning pin, hallowed to the memory of lost spouse
or child,--a man who, in England, might be the mayor of a cathedral town,
at least the town-clerk. He seemed suffering from some infirmity of
vision, for he wore green spectacles. The expression of his face was very
mild and gentle; apparently he was about sixty years old,--somewhat more.

Graham took kindly to his neighbour, insomuch that, in return for the
"Galignani," he offered him a cigar, lighting one himself.

His neighbour refused politely.

"Merci! I never smoke, never; mon medecin forbids it. If I could be
tempted, it would be by, an English cigar. Ah, how you English beat us in
all things,--your ships, your iron, your tabac,--which you do not grow!"

This speech rendered literally as we now render it may give the idea of a
somewhat vulgar speaker. But there was something in the man's manner, in
his smile, in his courtesy, which did not strike Graham as vulgar; on the
contrary, he thought within himself, "How instinctive to all Frenchmen
good breeding is!"

Before, however, Graham had time to explain to his amiable neighbour the
politico-economical principle according to which England, growing no
tobacco, had tobacco much better than France, which did grow it, a rosy
middle-aged monsieur made his appearance, saying hurriedly to Graham's
neighbour, "I'm afraid I'm late, but there is still a good half-hour
before us if you will give me my revenge."

"Willingly, Monsieur Georges. Garcon, the dominos."

"Have you been playing at billiards?" asked M. Georges.

"Yes, two games."

"With success?"

"I won the first, and lost the second through the defect of my eyesight;
the game depended on a stroke which would have been easy to an infant,--I
missed it."

Here the dominos arrived, and M. Georges began shuffling them; the other
turned to Graham and asked politely if he understood the game.

"A little, but not enough to comprehend why it is said to require so much
skill."

"It is chiefly an affair of memory with me; but M. Georges, my opponent,
has the talent of combination, which I have not."

"Nevertheless," replied M. Georges, gruffly, "you are not easily beaten;
it is for you to play first, Monsieur Lebeau." Graham almost started. Was
it possible! This mild, limp-whiskered, flaxen-wigged man Victor de
Mauleon, the Don Juan of his time; the last person in the room he should
have guessed. Yet, now examining his neighbour with more attentive eye,
he wondered at his stupidity in not having recognized at once the
ci-devant gentilhomme and beau garcon. It happens frequently that our
imagination plays us this trick; we form to ourselves an idea of some one
eminent for good or for evil,--a poet, a statesman, a general, a
murderer, a swindler, a thief. The man is before us, and our ideas have
gone into so different a groove that he does not excite a suspicion; we
are told who he is, and immediately detect a thousand things that ought
to have proved his identity.

Looking thus again with rectified vision at the false Lebeau, Graham
observed an elegance and delicacy of feature which might, in youth, have
made the countenance very handsome, and rendered it still good-looking,
nay, prepossessing. He now noticed, too, the slight Norman accent, its
native harshness of breadth subdued into the modulated tones which
bespoke the habits of polished society. Above all, as M. Lebeau moved his
dominos with one hand, not shielding his pieces with the other (as M.
Georges warily did), but allowing it to rest carelessly on the table, he
detected the hands of the French aristocrat,--hands that had never done
work; never (like those of the English noble of equal birth) been
embrowned or freckled, or roughened or enlarged by early practice in
athletic sports; but hands seldom seen save in the higher circles of
Parisian life,--partly perhaps of hereditary formation, partly owing
their texture to great care begun in early youth, and continued
mechanically in after life,--with long taper fingers and polished nails;
white and delicate as those of a woman, but not slight, not feeble;
nervous and sinewy as those of a practised swordsman.

Graham watched the play, and Lebeau good-naturedly explained to him its
complications as it proceeded; though the explanation, diligently
attended to by M. Georges, lost Lebeau the game.

The dominos were again shuffled, and during that operation M. Georges
said, "By the way, Monsieur Lebeau, you promised to find me a locataire
for my second floor; have you succeeded?"

"Not yet. Perhaps you had better advertise in 'Les Petites Affiches.' You
ask too much for the habitues of this neighbourhood,--one hundred francs
a month."

"But the lodging is furnished, and well too, and has four rooms. One
hundred francs are not much."

A thought flashed upon Graham. "Pardon, Monsieur," he said, "have you an
appartement de garcon to let furnished?"

"Yes, Monsieur, a charming one. Are you in search of an apartment?"

"I have some idea of taking one, but only by the month. I am but just
arrived at Paris, and I have business which may keep me here a few weeks.
I do but require a bedroom and a small cabinet, and the rent must be
modest. I am not a milord."

"I am sure we could arrange, Monsieur," said M. Georges, "though I could
not well divide my logement. But one hundred francs a month is not much!"

"I fear it is more than I can afford; however, if you will give me your
address, I will call and see the rooms,--say the day after to-morrow.
Between this and then, I expect letters which may more clearly decide my
movements."

"If the apartments suit you," said M. Lebeau, "you will at least be in
the house of a very honest man, which is more than can be said of every
one who lets furnished apartments. The house, too, has a concierge, with
a handy wife who will arrange your rooms and provide you with coffee--or
tea, which you English prefer--if you breakfast at home." Here M. Georges
handed a card to Graham, and asked what hour he would call.

"About twelve, if that hour is convenient," said Graham, rising. "I
presume there is a restaurant in the neighbourhood where I could dine
reasonably."

"Je crois bien, half-a-dozen. I can recommend to you one where you can
dine en prince for thirty sous. And if you are at Paris on business, and
want any letters written in private, I can also recommend to you my
friend here, M. Lebeau. Ay, and on affairs his advice is as good as a
lawyer's, and his fee a bagatelle."

"Don't believe all that Monsieur Georges so flatteringly says of me," put
in M. Lebeau, with a modest half-smile, and in English. "I should tell
you that I, like yourself, am recently arrived at Paris, having bought
the business and goodwill of my predecessor in the apartment I occupy;
and it is only to the respect due to his antecedents, and on the score of
a few letters of recommendation which I bring from Lyons, that I can
attribute the confidence shown to me, a stranger in this neighbourhood.
Still I have some knowledge of the world, and I am always glad if I can
be of service to the English. I love the English"--he said this with a
sort of melancholy earnestness which seemed sincere; and then added in a
more careless tone,--"I have met with much kindness from them in the
course of a chequered life."

"You seem a very good fellow,--in fact, a regular trump, Monsieur
Lebeau," replied Graham, in the same language. "Give me your address. To
say truth, I am a very poor French scholar, as you must have seen, and am
awfully bother-headed how to manage some correspondence on matters with
which I am entrusted by my employer, so that it is a lucky chance which
has brought me acquainted with you."

M. Lebeau inclined his head gracefully, and drew from a very neat morocco
case a card, which Graham took and pocketed. Then he paid for his coffee
and lemonade, and returned home well satisfied with the evening's
adventure.



CHAPTER VII.

The next morning Graham sent for M. Renard, and consulted with that
experienced functionary as to the details of the plan of action which he
had revolved during the hours of a sleepless night.

"In conformity with your advice," said he, "not to expose myself to the
chance of future annoyance, by confiding to a man so dangerous as the
false Lebeau my name and address, I propose to take the lodging offered
to me, as Mr. Lamb, an attorney's clerk, commissioned to get in certain
debts, and transact other matters of business, on behalf of his
employer's clients. I suppose there will be no difficulty with the police
in this change of name, now that passports for the English are not
necessary?"

"Certainly not. You will have no trouble in that respect."

"I shall thus be enabled very naturally to improve acquaintance with the
professional letter-writer, and find an easy opportunity to introduce the
name of Louise Duval. My chief difficulty, I fear, not being a practical
actor, will be to keep up consistently the queer sort of language I have
adopted, both in French and in English. I have too sharp a critic in a
man so consummate himself in stage trick and disguise as M. Lebeau not to
feel the necessity of getting through my role as quickly as I can.
Meanwhile, can you recommend me to some magasin where I can obtain a
suitable change of costume? I can't always wear a travelling suit, and I
must buy linen of coarser texture than mine, and with the initials of my
new name inscribed on it."

"Quite right to study such details; I will introduce you to a magasin
near the Temple, where you will find all you want."

"Next, have you any friends or relations in the provinces unknown to M.
Lebeau, to whom I might be supposed to write about debts or business
matters, and from whom I might have replies?"

"I will think over it, and manage that for you very easily. Your letters
shall find their way to me, and I will dictate the answers."

After some further conversation on that business, M. Renard made an
appointment to meet Graham at a cafe near the Temple later in the
afternoon, and took his departure.

Graham then informed his laquais de place that, though he kept on his
lodgings, he was going into the country for a few days, and should not
want the man's services till he returned. He therefore dismissed and paid
him off at once, so that the laquais might not observe, when he quitted
his rooms the next day, that he took with him no change of clothes, etc.



CHAPTER VIII.

Graham Vane has been for some days in the apartment rented of M. Georges.
He takes it in the name of Mr. Lamb,--a name wisely chosen, less common
than Thompson and Smith, less likely to be supposed an assumed name, yet
common enough not to be able easily to trace it to any special family. He
appears, as he had proposed, in the character of an agent employed by a
solicitor in London to execute sundry commissions and to collect certain
outstanding debts. There is no need to mention the name of the solicitor;
if there were, he could give the name of his own solicitor, to whose
discretion he could trust implicitly. He dresses and acts up to his
assumed character with the skill of a man who, like the illustrious
Charles Fox, has, though in private representations, practised the
stage-play in which Demosthenes said the triple art of oratory consisted;
who has seen a great deal of the world, and has that adaptability of
intellect which knowledge of the world lends to one who is so thoroughly
in earnest as to his end that he agrees to be sportive as to his means.

The kind of language he employs when speaking English to Lebeau is that
suited to the role of a dapper young underling of vulgar mind habituated
to vulgar companionships. I feel it due, if not to Graham himself, at
least to the memory of the dignified orator whose name he inherits, so to
modify and soften the hardy style of that peculiar diction in which he
disguises his birth and disgraces his culture, that it is only here and
there that I can venture to indicate the general tone of it; but in order
to supply my deficiencies therein, the reader has only to call to mind
the forms of phraseology which polite novelists in vogue, especially
young-lady novelists, ascribe to well-born gentlemen, and more
emphatically to those in the higher ranks of the Peerage. No doubt
Graham, in his capacity of critic, had been compelled to read, in order
to review, those contributions to refined literature, and had
familiarized himself to a vein of conversation abounding with "swell" and
"stunner" and "awfully jolly," in its libel on manners and outrage on
taste.

He has attended nightly the cafe Jean Jacques; he has improved
acquaintance with M. Georges and M. Lebeau; he has played at billiards,
he has played at dominos, with the latter. He has been much surprised at
the unimpeachable honesty which M. Lebeau has exhibited in both these
games. In billiards, indeed, a man cannot cheat except by disguising his
strength; it is much the same in dominos,--it is skill combined with
luck, as in whist; but in whist there are modes of cheating which dominos
do not allow,--you can't mark a domino as you can a card. It was
perfectly clear to Graham that M. Lebeau did not gain a livelihood by
billiards or dominos at the cafe Jean Jacques. In the former he was not
only a fair but a generous player. He played exceedingly well, despite
his spectacles; but he gave, with something of a Frenchman's lofty
fanfaronnade, larger odds to his adversary than his play justified. In
dominos, where such odds could not well be given, he insisted on playing
such small stakes as two or three francs might cover. In short, M. Lebeau
puzzled Graham. All about M. Lebeau, his manner, his talk, was
irreproachable, and baffled suspicion; except in this,--Graham gradually
discovered that the cafe had a quasi-political character. Listening to
talkers round him, he overheard much that might well have shocked the
notions of a moderate Liberal; much that held in disdain the objects to
which, in 1869, an English Radical directed his aspirations. Vote by
ballot, universal suffrage, etc.,--such objects the French had already
attained. By the talkers at the cafe Jean Jacques they were deemed to be
the tricky contrivances of tyranny. In fact, the talk was more scornful
of what Englishmen understand by radicalism or democracy than Graham ever
heard from the lips of an ultra-Tory. It assumed a strain of philosophy
far above the vulgar squabbles of ordinary party politicians,--a
philosophy which took for its fundamental principles the destruction of
religion and of private property. These two objects seemed dependent the
one on the other. The philosophers of the Jean Jacques held with that
expounder of Internationalism, Eugene Dupont, "Nous ne voulons plus de
religion, car les religions etouffent l'intelligence."

   [Discours par Eugene Dupont a la Cloture du Congres de Bruxelles,
   Sept. 3, 1868]

Now and then, indeed, a dissentient voice was raised as to the existence
of a Supreme Being, but, with one exception, it soon sank into silence.
No voice was raised in defence of private property. These sages appeared
for the most part to belong to the class of ouvriers or artisans. Some of
them were foreigners,--Belgian, German, English; all seemed well off for
their calling. Indeed they must have had comparatively high wages, to
judge by their dress and the money they spent on regaling themselves. The
language of several was well chosen, at times eloquent. Some brought with
them women who seemed respectable, and who often joined in the
conversation, especially when it turned upon the law of marriage as a
main obstacle to all personal liberty and social improvement. If this was
a subject on which the women did not all agree, still they discussed it,
without prejudice and with admirable sang froid. Yet many of them looked
like wives and mothers. Now and then a young journeyman brought with him
a young lady of more doubtful aspect, but such a couple kept aloof from
the others. Now and then, too, a man evidently of higher station than
that of ouvrier, and who was received by the philosophers with courtesy
and respect, joined one of the tables and ordered a bowl of punch for
general participation. In such occasional visitors, Graham, still
listening, detected a writer of the press; now and then, a small artist
or actor or medical student. Among the habitues there was one man, an
ouvrier, in whom Graham could not help feeling an interest. He was called
Monnier, sometimes more familiarly Armand, his baptismal appellation.
This man had a bold and honest expression of countenance. He talked like
one who, if he had not read much, had thought much on the subjects he
loved to discuss. He argued against the capital of employers quite as
ably as Mr. Mill has argued against the rights of property in land. He
was still more eloquent against the laws of marriage and Heritage. But
his was the one voice not to be silenced in favour of a Supreme Being. He
had at least the courage of his opinions, and was always thoroughly in
earnest. M. Lebeau seemed to know this man, and honoured him with a nod
and a smile, when passing by him to the table he generally occupied. This
familiarity with a man of that class, and of opinions so extreme, excited
Graham's curiosity. One evening he said to Lebeau, "A queer fellow that
you have just nodded to.

"How so?"

"Well, he has queer notions."

"Notions shared, I believe, by many of your countrymen?"

"I should think not many. Those poor simpletons yonder may have caught
'em from their French fellow-workmen, but I don't think that even the
gobemouches in our National Reform Society open their mouths to swallow
such wasps."

"Yet I believe the association to which most of those ouvriers belong had
its origin in England."

"Indeed! what association?"

"The International."

"Ah, I have heard of that."

Lebeau turned his green spectacles full on Graham's face as he said
slowly, "And what do you think of it?"

Graham prudently checked the disparaging reply that first occurred to
him, and said, "I know so little about it that I would rather ask you."

"I think it might become formidable if it found able leaders who knew how
to use it. Pardon me, how came you to know of this cafe? Were you
recommended to it?"

"No; I happened to be in this neighbourhood on business, and walked in,
as I might into any other cafe."

"You don't interest yourself in the great social questions which are
agitated below the surface of this best of all possible worlds?"

"I can't say that I trouble my head much about them."

"A game at dominos before M. Georges arrives?"

"Willingly. Is M. Georges one of those agitators below the surface?"

"No, indeed. It is for you to play."

Here M. Georges arrived, and no further conversation on political or
social questions ensued.

Graham had already called more than once at M. Lebeau's office, and asked
him to put into good French various letters on matters of business, the
subjects of which had been furnished by M. Renard. The office was rather
imposing and stately, considering the modest nature of M. Lebeau's
ostensible profession. It occupied the entire ground-floor of a corner
house, with a front-door at one angle and a back-door at the other. The
anteroom to his cabinet, and in which Graham had generally to wait some
minutes before he was introduced, was generally well filled, and not only
by persons who, by their dress and outward appearance, might be fairly
supposed sufficiently illiterate to require his aid as polite
letter-writers,--not only by servant-maids and grisettes, by sailors,
zouaves, and journeymen workmen,--but not unfrequently by clients
evidently belonging to a higher, or at least a richer, class of
society,--men with clothes made by a fashionable tailor; men, again, who,
less fashionably attired; looked like opulent tradesmen and fathers of
well-to-do families,--the first generally young, the last generally
middle-aged. All these denizens of a higher world were introduced by a
saturnine clerk into M. Lebeau's reception-room, very quickly and in
precedence of the ouvriers and grisettes.

"What can this mean?" thought Graham; "is it really that this humble
business avowed is the cloak to some political conspiracy concealed,--the
International Association?" And so pondering, the clerk one day singled
him from the crowd and admitted him into M. Lebeau's cabinet. Graham
thought the time had now arrived when he might safely approach the
subject that had brought him to the Faubourg Montmartre.

"You are very good," said Graham, speaking in the English of a young earl
in our elegant novels,--"you are very good to let me in while you have so
many swells and nobs waiting for you in the other room. But, I say, old
fellow, you have not the cheek to tell me that they want you to correct
their cocker or spoon for them by proxy?"

"Pardon me," answered M. Lebeau in French, "if I prefer my own language
in replying to you. I speak the English I learned many years ago, and
your language in the beau monde, to which you evidently belong, is
strange to me. You are quite right, however, in your surmise that I have
other clients than those who, like yourself, think I could correct their
verbs or their spelling. I have seen a great deal of the world,--I know
something of it, and something of the law; so that many persons come to
me for advice and for legal information on terms more moderate than those
of an avoue. But my ante-chamber is full, I am pressed for time; excuse
me if I ask you to say at once in what I can be agreeable to you to-day."

"Ah!" said Graham, assuming a very earnest look, "you do know the world,
that is clear; and you do know the law of France, eh?"

"Yes, a little."

"What I wanted to say at present may have something to do with French
law, and I meant to ask you either to recommend to me a sharp lawyer, or
to tell me how I can best get at your famous police here."

"Police?"

"I think I may require the service of one of those officers whom we in
England call detectives; but if you are busy now, I can call to-morrow."

"I spare you two minutes. Say at once, dear Monsieur, what you want with
law or police."

"I am instructed to find out the address of a certain Louise Duval,
daughter of a drawing-master named Adolphe Duval, living in the Rue
----in the year 1848."

Graham, while he thus said, naturally looked Lebeau in the face,--not
pryingly, not significantly, but as a man generally does look in the face
the other man whom he accosts seriously. The change in the face he
regarded was slight, but it was unmistakable. It was the sudden meeting
of the eyebrows, accompanied with the sudden jerk of the shoulder and
bend of the neck, which betoken a man taken by surprise, and who pauses
to reflect before he replies. His pause was but momentary,

"For what object is this address required?"

"That I don't know; but evidently for some advantage to Madame or
Mademoiselle Duval, if still alive, because my employer authorizes me to
spend no less than L100 in ascertaining where she is, if alive, or where
she was buried, if dead; and if other means fail, I am instructed to
advertise to the effect that if Louise Duval, or, in case of her death,
any children of hers living in the year 1849, will communicate with some
person whom I may appoint at Paris, such intelligence, authenticated, may
prove to the advantage of the party advertised for. I am, however, told
not to resort to this means without consulting either with a legal
adviser or the police."

"Hem! have you inquired at the house where this lady was, you say, living
in 1848?"

"Of course I have done that; but very clumsily, I dare say, through a
friend, and learned nothing. But I must not keep you now. I think I shall
apply at once to the police. What should I say when I get to the bureau?"

"Stop, Monsieur, stop. I do not advise you to apply to the police. It
would be waste of time and money. Allow me to think over the matter. I
shall see you this evening at the cafe Jean Jacques at eight o'clock.
Till then do nothing."

"All right; I obey you. The whole thing is out of my way of business
awfully. Bonjour."



CHAPTER IX.

Punctually at eight o'clock Graham Vane had taken his seat at a corner
table at the remote end of the cafe Jean Jacques, called for his cup of
coffee and his evening journal, and awaited the arrival of M. Lebeau. His
patience was not tasked long. In a few minutes the Frenchman entered,
paused at the comptoir, as was his habit, to address a polite salutation
to the well-dressed lady who there presided, nodded as usual to Armand
Monnier, then glanced round, recognized Graham with a smile, and
approached his table with the quiet grace of movement by which he was
distinguished.

Seating himself opposite to Graham, and speaking in a voice too low to be
heard by others, and in French, he then said,

"In thinking over your communication this morning, it strikes me as
probable, perhaps as certain, that this Louise Duval or her children, if
she have any, must be entitled to some moneys bequeathed to her by a
relation or friend in England. What say you to that assumption, Monsieur
Lamb?"

"You are a sharp fellow," answered Graham. "Just what I say to myself.
Why else should I be instructed to go to such expense in finding her out?
Most likely, if one can't trace her, or her children born before the date
named, any such moneys will go to some one else; and that some one else,
whoever he be, has commissioned my employer to find out. But I don't
imagine any sum due to her or her heirs can be much, or that the matter
is very important; for, if so, the thing would not be carelessly left in
the hands of one of the small fry like myself, and clapped in along with
a lot of other business as an off-hand job."

"Will you tell me who employed you?"

"No, I don't feel authorized to do that at present; and I don't see the
necessity of it. It seems to me, on consideration, a matter for the
police to ferret out; only, as I asked before, how should I get at the
police?"

"That is not difficult. It is just possible that I might help you better
than any lawyer or any detective."

"Why, did you ever know this Louise Duval?"

"Excuse me, Monsieur Lamb; you refuse me your full confidence; allow me
to imitate your reserve."

"Oho!" said Graham; "shut up as close as you like; it is nothing to me.
Only observe, there is this difference between us, that I am employed by
another. He does not authorize me to name him, and if I did commit that
indiscretion, I might lose my bread and cheese. Whereas you have nobody's
secret to guard but your own, in saying whether or not you ever knew a
Madame or Mademoiselle Duval; and if you have some reason for not getting
me the information I am instructed to obtain, that is also a reason for
not troubling you further. And after all, old boy" (with a familiar slap
on Lebeau's stately shoulder), "after all, it is I who would employ you;
you don't employ me. And if you find out the lady, it is you who would
get the L100., not I."

M. Lebeau mechanically brushed, with a light movement of hand, the
shoulder which the Englishman had so pleasantly touched, drew himself and
chair some inches back, and said slowly,--

"Monsieur Lamb, let us talk as gentleman to gentleman. Put aside the
question of money altogether; I must first know why your employer wants
to hunt out this poor Louise Duval. It may be to her injury, and I would
do her none if you offered thousands where you offer pounds. I forestall
the condition of mutual confidence; I own that I have known her,--it is
many years ago; and, Monsieur Lamb, though a Frenchman very often injures
a woman from love, he is in a worse plight for bread and cheese than I am
if he injures her for money."

"Is he thinking of the duchess's jewels?" thought Graham. "Bravo, mon
vieux," he said aloud; "but as I don't know what my employer's motive in
his commission is, perhaps you can enlighten me. How could his inquiry
injure Louise Duval?"

"I cannot say; but you English have the power to divorce your wives.
Louise Duval may have married an Englishman, separated from him, and he
wants to know where he can find, in order to criminate and divorce her,
or it may be to insist on her return to him."

"Bosh! that is not likely."

"Perhaps, then, some English friend she may have known has left her a
bequest, which would of course lapse to some one else if she be not
living."

"By gad!" cried Graham, "I think you hit the right nail on the head:
c'est cela. But what then?"

"Well, if I thought any substantial benefit to Louise Duval might result
from the success of your inquiry, I would really see if it were in my
power to help you. But I must have time to consider."

"How long?"

"I can't exactly say; perhaps three or four days."

"Bon! I will wait. Here comes M. Georges. I leave you to dominos and him.
Good-night."

Late that night M. Lebeau was seated alone in a chamber connected with
the cabinet in which he received visitors. A ledger was open before him,
which he scanned with careful eyes, no longer screened by spectacles. The
survey seemed to satisfy him. He murmured, "It suffices, the time has
come," closed the book, returned it to his bureau, which he locked up,
and then wrote in cipher the letter here reduced into English:--

   "DEAR AND NOBLE FRIEND,--Events march; the Empire is everywhere
   undermined. Our treasury has thriven in my hands; the sums
   subscribed and received by me through you have become more than
   quadrupled by advantageous speculations, in which M. Georges has
   been a most trustworthy agent. A portion of them I have continued
   to employ in the mode suggested,--namely, in bringing together men
   discreetly chosen as being in their various ways representatives and
   ringleaders of the motley varieties that, when united at the right
   moment, form a Parisian mob. But from that right moment we are as
   yet distant. Before we can call passion into action, we must
   prepare opinion for change. I propose now to devote no
   inconsiderable portion of our fund towards the inauguration of a
   journal which shall gradually give voice to our designs. Trust me
   to insure its success, and obtain the aid of writers who will have
   no notion of the uses to which they ultimately contribute. Now that
   the time has come to establish for ourselves an organ in the press,
   addressing higher orders of intelligence than those which are needed
   to destroy and incapable of reconstructing, the time has also
   arrived for the reappearance in his proper name and rank of the man
   in whom you take so gracious an interest. In vain you have pressed
   him to do so before; till now he had not amassed together, by the
   slow process of petty gains and constant savings, with such
   additions as prudent speculations on his own account might
   contribute, the modest means necessary to his resumed position; and
   as he always contended against your generous offers, no
   consideration should ever tempt him either to appropriate to his
   personal use a single sou intrusted to him for a public purpose, or
   to accept from friendship the pecuniary aid which would abase him
   into the hireling of a cause. No! Victor de Mauleon despises too
   much the tools that he employs to allow any man hereafter to say,
   'Thou also wert a tool, and hast been paid for thy uses.'

   "But to restore the victim of calumny to his rightful place in this
   gaudy world, stripped of youth and reduced in fortune, is a task
   that may well seem impossible. To-morrow he takes the first step
   towards the achievement of the impossible. Experience is no bad
   substitute for youth, and ambition is made stronger by the goad of
   poverty.

   "Thou shalt hear of his news soon."



                 BOOK V.



CHAPTER I.

The next day at noon M. Louvier was closeted in his study with M.
Gandrin.

"Yes," cried Louvier, "I have behaved very handsomely to the beau
Marquis. No one can say to the contrary."

"True," answered Gandrin. "Besides the easy terms for the transfer of the
mortgages, that free bonus of one thousand louis is a generous and noble
act of munificence."

"Is it not! and my youngster has already begun to do with it as I meant
and expected. He has taken a fine apartment; he has bought a coupe and
horses; he has placed himself in the hands of the Chevalier de
Finisterre; he is entered at the Jockey Club. Parbleu, the one thousand
louis will be soon gone."

"And then?"

"And then! why, he will have tasted the sweets of Parisian life; he will
think with disgust of the vieux manoir. He can borrow no more. I must
remain sole mortgagee, and I shall behave as handsomely in buying his
estates as I have behaved in increasing his income."

Here a clerk entered and said that a monsieur wished to see M. Louvier
for a few minutes in private, on urgent business.

"Tell him to send in his card."

"He has declined to do so, but states that he has already the honour of
your acquaintance."

"A writer in the press, perhaps; or is he an artist?"

"I have not seen him before, Monsieur, but he has the air tres comme il
faut."

"Well, you may admit him. I will not detain you longer, my dear Gandrin.
My homages to Madame. Bonjour."

Louvier bowed out M. Gandrin, and then rubbed his hands complacently. He
was in high spirits. "Aha, my dear Marquis, thou art in my trap now.
Would it were thy father instead," he muttered chucklingly, and then took
his stand on the hearth, with his back to the fireless grate. There
entered a gentleman exceedingly well dressed,--dressed according to the
fashion, but still as became one of ripe middle age, not desiring to pass
for younger than he was.

He was tall, with a kind of lofty ease in his air and his movements; not
slight of frame, but spare enough to disguise the strength and endurance
which belong to sinews and thews of steel, freed from all superfluous
flesh, broad across the shoulders, thin in the flanks. His dark hair had
in youth been luxuriant in thickness and curl; it was now clipped short,
and had become bare at the temples, but it still retained the lustre of
its colour and the crispness of its ringlets. He wore neither beard nor
mustache, and the darkness of his hair was contrasted by a clear fairness
of complexion, healthful, though somewhat pale, and eyes of that rare
gray tint which has in it no shade of blue,--peculiar eyes, which give a
very distinct character to the face. The man must have been singularly
handsome in youth; he was handsome still, though probably in his
forty-seventh or forty-eighth year, doubtless a very different kind of
comeliness. The form of the features and the contour of the face were
those that suit the rounded beauty of the Greek outline, and such beauty
would naturally have been the attribute of the countenance in earlier
days; but the cheeks were now thin, and with lines of care and sorrow
between nostril and lip, so that the shape of the face seemed lengthened,
and the features had become more salient.

Louvier gazed at his visitor with a vague idea that he had seen him
before, and could not remember where or when; but at all events he
recognized at the first glance a man of rank and of the great world.

"Pray be seated, Monsieur," he said, resuming his own easy-chair.

The visitor obeyed the invitation with a very graceful bend of his head,
drew his chair near to the financier's, stretched his limbs with the ease
of a man making himself at home, and fixing his calm bright eyes quietly
on Louvier, said, with a bland smile,--

"My dear old friend, do you not remember me? You are less altered than I
am."

Louvier stared hard and long; his lip fell, his cheek paled, and at last
he faltered out, "Ciel! is it possible! Victor, the Vicomte de Mauleon?"

"At your service, my dear Louvier."

There was a pause; the financier was evidently confused and embarrassed,
and not less evidently the visit of the "dear old friend" was unwelcome.

"Vicomte," he said at last, "this is indeed a surprise; I thought you had
long since quitted Paris for good."

"'L'homme propose,' etc. I have returned, and mean to enjoy the rest of
my days in the metropolis of the Graces and the Pleasures. What though we
are not so young as we were, Louvier,--we have more vigour in us than the
new generation; and though it may no longer befit us to renew the gay
carousals of old, life has still excitements as vivid for the social
temperament and ambitious mind. Yes, the roi des viveurs returns to Paris
for a more solid throne than he filled before."

"Are you serious?"

"As serious as the French gayety will permit one to be."

"Alas, Monsieur le Vicomte! can you flatter yourself that you will regain
the society you have quitted, and the name you have--"

Louvier stopped short; something in the Vicomte's eye daunted him.

"The name I have laid aside for convenience of travel. Princes travel
incognito, and so may a simple gentilhomme. 'Regain my place in society,'
say you? Yes; it is not that which troubles me."

"What does?"

"The consideration whether on a very modest income I can be sufficiently
esteemed for myself to render that society more pleasant than ever. Ah,
mon cher! why recoil? why so frightened? Do you think I am going to ask
you for money? Have I ever done so since we parted; and did I ever do so
before without repaying you? Bah! you roturiers are worse than the
Bourbons. You never learn or unlearn. 'Fors non mutat genus.'"

The magnificent millionaire, accustomed to the homage of grandees from
the Faubourg and lions from the Chaussee d'Antin, rose to his feet in
superb wrath, less at the taunting words than at the haughtiness of mien
with which they were uttered.

"Monsieur, I cannot permit you to address me in that tone. Do you mean to
insult me?"

"Certainly not. Tranquillize your nerves, reseat yourself, and
listen,--reseat yourself, I say."

Louvier dropped into his chair.

"No," resumed the Vicomte, politely, "I do not come here to insult you,
neither do I come to ask money; I assume that I am in my rights when I
ask Monsieur Louvier what has become of Louise Duval?"

"Louise Duval! I know nothing about her."

"Possibly not now; but you did know her well enough, when we two parted,
to be a candidate for her hand. You did know her enough to solicit my
good offices in promotion of your suit; and you did, at my advice, quit
Paris to seek her at Aix-la-Chapelle."

"What! have you, Monsieur de Mauleon, not heard news of her since that
day?"

"I decline to accept your question as an answer to mine. You went to
Aix-la-Chapelle; you saw Louise Duval, at my urgent request she
condescended to accept your hand."

"No, Monsieur de Mauleon, she did not accept my hand. I did not even see
her. The day before I arrived at Aix-la-Chapelle she had left it,--not
alone,--left it with her lover."

"Her lover! You do not mean the miserable Englishman who--"

"No Englishman," interrupted Louvier, fiercely. "Enough that the step she
took placed an eternal barrier between her and myself. I have never even
sought to hear of her since that day. Vicomte, that woman was the one
love of my life. I loved her, as you must have known, to folly, to
madness. And how was my love requited? Ah! you open a very deep wound,
Monsieur le Vicomte."

"Pardon me, Louvier; I did not give you credit for feelings so keen and
so genuine, nor did I think myself thus easily affected by matters
belonging to a past life so remote from the present. For whom did Louise
forsake you?"

"It matters not; he is dead."

"I regret to hear that; I might have avenged you."

"I need no one to avenge my wrong. Let this pass."

"Not yet. Louise, you say, fled with a seducer? So proud as she was, I
can scarcely believe it."

"Oh, it was not with a roturier she fled; her pride would not have
allowed that."

"He must have deceived her somehow. Did she continue to live with him?"

"That question, at least, I can answer; for though I lost all trace of
her life, his life was pretty well known to me till its end; and a very
few months after she fled he was enchained to another. Let us talk of her
no more."

"Ay, ay," muttered De Mauleon, "some disgraces are not to be redeemed,
and therefore not to be discussed. To me, though a relation, Louise Duval
was but little known, and after what you tell me, I cannot dispute your
right to say, 'Talk of her no more.' You loved her, and she wronged you.
My poor Louvier, pardon me if I made an old wound bleed afresh."

These words were said with a certain pathetic tenderness; they softened
Louvier towards the speaker.

After a short pause the Vicomte swept his hand over his brow, as if to
dismiss from his mind a painful and obtrusive thought; then with a
changed expression of countenance,--an expression frank and
winning,--with voice and with manner in which no vestige remained of the
irony or the haughtiness with which he had resented the frigidity of his
reception, he drew his chair still nearer to Louvier's, and resumed: "Our
situations, Paul Louvier, are much changed since we two became friends. I
then could say, 'Open sesame' to whatever recesses, forbidden to vulgar
footsteps, the adventurer whom I took by the hand might wish to explore.
In those days my heart was warm; I liked you, Louvier,--honestly liked
you. I think our personal acquaintance commenced in some gay gathering of
young viveurs, whose behaviour to you offended my sense of good
breeding?"

Louvier coloured and muttered inaudibly. De Mauleon continued: "I felt it
due to you to rebuke their incivilities, the more so as you evinced on
that occasion your own superiority in sense and temper, permit me to add,
with no lack of becoming spirit."

Louvier bowed his head, evidently gratified.

"From that day we became familiar. If any obligation to me were incurred,
you would not have been slow to return it. On more than one occasion when
I was rapidly wasting money--and money was plentiful with you--you
generously offered me your purse. On more than one occasion I accepted
the offer; and you would never have asked repayment if I had not insisted
on repaying. I was no less grateful for your aid." Louvier made a
movement as if to extend his hand, but he checked the impulse.

"There was another attraction which drew me towards you. I recognized in
your character a certain power in sympathy with that power which I
imagined lay dormant in myself, and not to be found among the freluquets
and lions who were my more habitual associates. Do you not remember some
hours of serious talk we have had together when we lounged in the
Tuileries, or sipped our coffee in the garden of the Palais Royal?--hours
when we forgot that those were the haunts of idlers, and thought of the
stormy actions affecting the history of the world of which they had been
the scene; hours when I confided to you, as I confided to no other man,
the ambitious hopes for the future which my follies in the present, alas!
were hourly tending to frustrate."

"Ay, I remember the starlit night; it was not in the gardens of the
Tuileries nor in the Palais Royal,--it was on the Pont de la Concorde, on
which we had paused, noting the starlight on the waters, that you said,
pointing towards the walls of the Corps Legislatif, 'Paul, when I once
get into the Chamber, how long will it take me to become First Minister
of France?'"

"Did I say so?--possibly; but I was too young then for admission to the
Chamber, and I fancied I had so many years yet to spare in idle
loiterings at the Fountain of Youth. Pass over these circumstances. You
became in love with Louise. I told you her troubled history; it did not
diminish your love; and then I frankly favoured your suit. You set out
for Aix-la-Chapelle a day or two afterwards; then fell the thunderbolt
which shattered my existence, and we have never met again till this hour.
You did not receive me kindly, Paul Louvier."

"But," said Louvier, falteringly, "but since you refer to that
thunderbolt, you cannot but be aware that--that--"

"I was subjected to a calumny which I expect those who have known me as
well as you did to assist me now to refute."

"If it be really a calumny."

"Heavens, man! could you ever doubt that?" cried De Mauleon, with heat;
"ever doubt that I would rather have blown out my brains than allowed
them even to conceive the idea of a crime so base?"

"Pardon me," answered Louvier, meekly, "but I did not return to Paris for
months after you had disappeared. My mind was unsettled by the news that
awaited me at Aix; I sought to distract it by travel,--visited Holland
and England; and when I did return to Paris, all that I heard of your
story was the darker side of it. I willingly listen to your own account.
You never took, or at least never accepted, the Duchesse de ------'s
jewels; and your friend M. de ----- never sold them to one jeweller and
obtained their substitutes in paste from another?"

The Vicomte made a perceptible effort to repress an impulse of rage; then
reseating himself in his chair, and with that slight shrug of the
shoulder by which a Frenchman implies to himself that rage would be out
of place, replied calmly, "M. de N. did as you say, but of course not
employed by me, nor with my knowledge. Listen; the truth is this,--the
time has come to tell it. Before you left Paris for Aix I found myself on
the brink of ruin. I had glided towards it with my characteristic
recklessness, with that scorn of money for itself, that sanguine
confidence in the favour of fortune, which are vices common to every roi
des viveurs. Poor mock Alexanders that we spendthrifts are in youth! we
divide all we have among others, and when asked by some prudent friend,
'What have you left for your own share?' answer, 'Hope.' I knew, of
course, that my patrimony was rapidly vanishing; but then my horses were
matchless. I had enough to last me for years on their chance of
winning--of course they would win. But you may recollect when we parted
that I was troubled,--creditors' bills before me--usurers' bills
too,--and you, my dear Louvier, pressed on me your purse, were angry when
I refused it. How could I accept? All my chance of repayment was in the
speed of a horse. I believed in that chance for myself; but for a
trustful friend, no. Ask your own heart now,--nay, I will not say
heart,--ask your own common-sense, whether a man who then put aside your
purse--spendthrift, vaurien, though he might be--was likely to steal or
accept a woman's jewels. Va, mon pauvre Louvier, again I say, 'Fors non
mutat genus.'"

Despite the repetition of the displeasing patrician motto, such
reminiscences of his visitor's motley character--irregular, turbulent,
the reverse of severe, but, in its own loose way, grandly generous and
grandly brave--struck both on the common-sense and the heart of the
listener; and the Frenchman recognized the Frenchman. Louvier doubted De
Mauleon's word no more, bowed his head, and said, "Victor de Mauleon, I
have wronged you; go on."

"On the day after you left for Aix came that horse-race on which my all
depended: it was lost. The loss absorbed the whole of my remaining
fortune; it absorbed about twenty thousand francs in excess, a debt of
honour to De N., whom you called my friend. Friend he was not; imitator,
follower, flatterer, yes. Still I deemed him enough my friend to say to
him, 'Give me a little time to pay the money; I must sell my stud, or
write to my only living relation from whom I have expectations.' You
remember that relation,--Jacques de Mauleon, old and unmarried. By De
N.'s advice I did write to my kinsman. No answer came; but what did come
were fresh bills from creditors. I then calmly calculated my assets. The
sale of my stud and effects might suffice to pay every sou that I owed,
including my debt to De N.; but that was not quite certain. At all
events, when the debts were paid I should be beggared. Well, you know,
Louvier, what we Frenchmen are: how Nature has denied to us the quality
of patience; how involuntarily suicide presents itself to us when hope is
lost; and suicide seemed to me here due to honour, namely, to the certain
discharge of my liabilities,--for the stud and effects of Victor de
Mauleon, roi des viveurs, would command much higher prices if he died
like Cato than if he ran away from his fate like Pompey. Doubtless De N.
guessed my intention from my words or my manner; but on the very day in
which I had made all preparations for quitting the world from which
sunshine had vanished, I received in a blank envelope bank-notes
amounting to seventy thousand francs, and the post-mark on the envelope
was that of the town of Fontainebleau, near to which lived my rich
kinsman Jacques. I took it for granted that the sum came from him.
Displeased as he might have been with my wild career, still I was his
natural heir. The sum sufficed to pay my debt to De N., to all creditors,
and leave a surplus. My sanguine spirits returned. I would sell my stud;
I would retrench, reform, go to my kinsman as the penitent son. The
fatted calf would be killed, and I should wear purple yet. You understand
that, Louvier?"

"Yes, yes; so like you. Go on."

"Now, then, came the thunderbolt! Ah! in those sunny days you used to
envy me for being so spoilt by women. The Duchesse de ------ had
conceived for me one of those romantic fancies which women without
children and with ample leisure for the waste of affection do sometimes
conceive for very ordinary men younger than themselves, but in whom they
imagine they discover sinners to reform or heroes to exalt. I had been
honoured by some notes from the Duchesse in which this sort of romance
was owned. I had not replied to them encouragingly. In truth, my heart
was then devoted to another,--the English girl whom I had wooed as my
wife; who, despite her parents' retraction of their consent to our union
when they learned how dilapidated were my fortunes, pledged herself to
remain faithful to me, and wait for better days." Again De Mauleon paused
in suppressed emotion, and then went on hurriedly: "No, the Duchesse did
not inspire me with guilty passion, but she did inspire me with an
affectionate respect. I felt that she was by nature meant to be a great
and noble creature, and was, nevertheless, at that moment wholly misled
from her right place amongst women by an illusion of mere imagination
about a man who happened then to be very much talked about, and perhaps
resembled some Lothario in the novels which she was always reading. We
lodged, as you may remember, in the same house."

"Yes, I remember. I remember how you once took me to a great ball given
by the Duchesse; how handsome I thought her, though no longer young; and
you say right--how I did envy you, that night!"

"From that night, however, the Duc, not unnaturally, became jealous. He
reproved the Duchesse for her too amiable manner towards a mauvais sujet
like myself, and forbade her in future to receive my visits. It was then
that these notes became frequent and clandestine, brought to me by her
maid, who took back my somewhat chilling replies.

"But to proceed. In the flush of my high spirits, and in the insolence of
magnificent ease with which I paid De N------ the trifle I owed him,
something he said made my heart stand still."

"I told him that the money received had come from Jacques de Mauleon, and
that I was going down to his house that day to thank him. He replied,
'Don't go; it did not come from him.' 'It must; see the post-mark of the
envelope,--Fontainebleau.' 'I posted it at Fontainebleau.' 'You sent me
the money, you!' 'Nay, that is beyond my means. Where it came from,' said
this miserable, 'much more may yet come;' and then be narrated, with that
cynicism so in vogue at Paris, how he had told the Duchesse (who knew him
as my intimate associate) of my stress of circumstance, of his fear that
I meditated something desperate; how she gave him the jewels to sell and
to substitute; how, in order to baffle my suspicion and frustrate my
scruples, he had gone to Fontainebleau and there posted the envelope
containing the bank-notes, out of which he secured for himself the
payment he deemed otherwise imperilled. De N. having made this
confession, hurried down the stairs swiftly enough to save himself a
descent by the window. Do you believe me still?"

"Yes; you were always so hot-blooded, and De N. so considerate of self, I
believe you implicitly."

"Of course I did what any man would do; I wrote a hasty letter to the
Duchesse, stating all my gratitude for an act of pure friendship so
noble; urging also the reasons that rendered it impossible for a man of
honour to profit by such an act. Unhappily, what had been sent was paid
away ere I knew the facts; but I could not bear the thought of life till
my debt to her was acquitted; in short, Louvier, conceive for yourself
the sort of letter which I--which any honest man--would write, under
circumstances so cruel."

"H'm!" grunted Louvier.

"Something, however, in my letter, conjoined with what De N. had told her
as to my state of mind, alarmed this poor woman, who had deigned to take
in me an interest so little deserved. Her reply, very agitated and
incoherent, was brought to me by her maid, who had taken my letter, and
by whom, as I before said, our correspondence had been of late carried
on. In her reply she implored me to decide, to reflect on nothing till I
had seen her; stated how the rest of her day was pre-engaged; and since
to visit her openly had been made impossible by the Due's interdict,
enclosed the key to the private entrance to her rooms, by which I could
gain an interview with her at ten o'clock that night, an hour at which
the Duc had informed her he should be out till late at his club. Now,
however great the indiscretion which the Duchesse here committed, it is
due to her memory to say that I am convinced that her dominant idea was
that I meditated self-destruction; that no time was to be lost to save me
from it; and for the rest she trusted to the influence which a woman's
tears and adjurations and reasonings have over even the strongest and
hardest men. It is only one of those coxcombs in whom the world of
fashion abounds who could have admitted a thought that would have done
wrong to the impulsive, generous, imprudent eagerness of a woman to be in
time to save from death by his own hand a fellow-being for whom she had
conceived an interest. I so construed her note. At the hour she named I
admitted myself into the rooms by the key she sent. You know the rest: I
was discovered by the Duc and by the agents of police in the cabinet in
which the Duchesse's jewels were kept. The key that admitted me into the
cabinet was found in my possession."

De Mauleon's voice here faltered, and he covered his face with a
convulsive hand. Almost in the same breath he recovered from visible sign
of emotion, and went on with a half laugh.

"Ah! you envied me, did you, for being spoiled by the women? Enviable
position indeed was mine that night! The Duc obeyed the first impulse of
his wrath. He imagined that I had dishonoured him; he would dishonour me
in return. Easier to his pride, too, a charge against the robber of
jewels than against a favoured lover of his wife. But when I, obeying the
first necessary obligation of honour, invented on the spur of the moment
the story by which the Duchesse's reputation was cleared from suspicion,
accused myself of a frantic passion and the trickery of a fabricated key,
the Due's true nature of gentilhomme came back. He retracted the charge
which he could scarcely even at the first blush have felt to be
well-founded; and as the sole charge left was simply that which men comme
il faut do not refer to criminal courts and police investigations, I was
left to make my bow unmolested and retreat to my own rooms, awaiting
there such communciations as the Duc might deem it right to convey to me
on the morrow.

"But on the morrow the Duc, with his wife and personal suite, quitted
Paris en route for Spain; the bulk of his retinue, including the
offending Abigail, was discharged; and, whether through these servants or
through the police, the story before evening was in the mouth of every
gossip in club or cafe,--exaggerated, distorted, to my ignominy and
shame. My detection in the cabinet, the sale of the jewels, the
substitution of paste by De N., who was known to be my servile imitator
and reputed to be my abject tool, all my losses on the turf, my
debts,--all these scattered fibres of flax were twisted together in a
rope that would have hanged a dog with a much better name than mine. If
some disbelieved that I could be a thief, few of those who should have
known me best held me guiltless of a baseness almost equal to that of
theft,--the exaction of profit from the love of a foolish woman."

"But you could have told your own tale, shown the letters you had
received from the Duchesse, and cleared away every stain on your honour."

"How?--shown her letters, ruined her character, even stated that she had
caused her jewels to be sold for the uses of a young roue! Ah, no,
Louvier! I would rather have gone to the galleys."

"H'm!" grunted Louvier again.

"The Duc generously gave me better means of righting myself. Three days
after he quitted Paris I received a letter from him, very politely
written, expressing his great regret that any words implying the
suspicion too monstrous and absurd to need refutation should have escaped
him in the surprise of the moment; but stating that since the offence I
had owned was one that he could not overlook, he was under the necessity
of asking the only reparation I could make. That if it 'deranged' me to
quit Paris, he would return to it for the purpose required; but that if I
would give him the additional satisfaction of suiting his convenience, he
should prefer to await my arrival at Bayonne, where he was detained by
the indisposition of the Duchesse."

"You have still that letter?" asked Louvier, quickly. "Yes; with other
more important documents constituting what I may call my pieces
justificatives.

"I need not say that I replied stating the time at which I should arrive
at Bayonne, and the hotel at which I should await the Duc's command.
Accordingly I set out that same day, gained the hotel named, despatched
to the Duc the announcement of my arrival, and was considering how I
should obtain a second in some officer quartered in the town--for my
soreness and resentment at the marked coldness of my former acquaintances
at Paris had forbidden me to seek a second among any of that faithless
number--when the Due himself entered my room. Judge of my amaze at seeing
him in person; judge how much greater the amaze became when he advanced
with a grave but cordial smile, offering me his hand!

"'Monsieur de Mauleon,' said he, 'since I wrote to you, facts have become
known to me which would induce me rather to ask your friendship than call
on you to defend your life. Madame la Duchesse has been seriously ill
since we left Paris, and I refrained from all explanations likely to add
to the hysterical excitement under which she was suffering. It is only
this day that her mind became collected, and she herself then gave me her
entire confidence. Monsieur, she insisted on my reading the letters that
you addressed to her. Those letters, Monsieur, suffice to prove your
innocence of any design against my peace. The Duchesse has so candidly
avowed her own indiscretion, has so clearly established the distinction
between indiscretion and guilt, that I have granted her my pardon with a
lightened heart and a firm belief that we shall be happier together than
we have been yet.'

"The Due continued his journey the next day, but he subsequently honoured
me with two or three letters written as friend to friend, and in which
you will find repeated the substance of what I have stated him to say by
word of mouth."

"But why not then have returned to Paris? Such letters, at least, you
might have shown, and in braving your calumniators you would have soon
lived them down."

"You forget that I was a ruined man. When, by the sale of my horses,
etc., my debts, including what was owed to the Duchesse, and which I
remitted to the Duc, were discharged, the balance left to me would not
have maintained me a week at Paris. Besides, I felt so sore, so
indignant. Paris and the Parisians had become to me so hateful. And to
crown all, that girl, that English girl whom I had so loved, on whose
fidelity I had so counted--well, I received a letter from her, gently but
coldly bidding me farewell forever. I do not think she believed me guilty
of theft; but doubtless the offence I had confessed, in order to save the
honour of the Duchesse, could but seem to her all sufficient! Broken in
spirit, bleeding at heart to the very core, still self-destruction was no
longer to be thought of. I would not die till I could once more lift up
my head as Victor de Mauleon."

"What then became of you, my poor Victor?"

"Ah! that is a tale too long for recital. I have played so many parts
that I am puzzled to recognize my own identity with the Victor de Mauleon
whose name I abandoned. I have been a soldier in Algeria, and won my
cross on the field of battle,--that cross and my colonel's letter are
among my pieces justificatives; I have been a gold-digger in California,
a speculator in New York, of late in callings obscure and humble. But in
all my adventures, under whatever name, I have earned testimonials of
probity, could manifestations of so vulgar a virtue be held of account by
the enlightened people of Paris. I come now to a close. The Vicomte de
Mauleon is about to re-appear in Paris, and the first to whom he
announces that sublime avatar is Paul Louvier. When settled in some
modest apartment, I shall place in your hands my pieces justificatives. I
shall ask you to summon my surviving relations or connections, among
which are the Counts de Vandemar, Beauvilliers, De Passy, and the Marquis
de Rochebriant, with any friends of your own who sway the opinions of the
Great World. You will place my justification before them, expressing your
own opinion that it suffices; in a word, you will give me the sanction of
your countenance. For the rest, I trust to myself to propitiate the
kindly and to silence the calumnious. I have spoken; what say you?"

"You overrate my power in society. Why not appeal yourself to your
high-born relations?"

"No, Louvier; I have too well considered the case to alter my decision.
It is through you, and you alone, that I shall approach my relations. My
vindicator must be a man of whom the vulgar cannot say, 'Oh, he is a
relation,--a fellow-noble; those aristocrats whitewash each other.' It
must be an authority with the public at large,--a bourgeois, a
millionaire, a roi de la Bourse. I choose you, and that ends the
discussion."

Louvier could not help laughing good-humouredly at the sang froid of the
Vicomte. He was once more under the domination of a man who had for a
time dominated all with whom he lived.

De Mauleon continued: "Your task will be easy enough. Society changes
rapidly at Paris. Few persons now exist who have more than a vague
recollection of the circumstances which can be so easily explained to my
complete vindication when the vindication comes from a man of your solid
respectability and social influence. Besides, I have political objects in
view. You are a Liberal; the Vandemars and Rochebriants are Legitimists.
I prefer a godfather on the Liberal side. Pardieu, mon ami, why such
coquettish hesitation? Said and done. Your hand on it."

"There is my hand then. I will do all I can to help you."

"I know you will, old friend; and you do both kindly and wisely." Here De
Mauleon cordially pressed the hand he held, and departed.

On gaining the street, the Vicomte glided into a neighbouring courtyard,
in which he had left his fiacre, and bade the coachman drive towards the
Boulevard Sebastopol. On the way, he took from a small bag that he had
left in the carriage the flaxen wig and pale whiskers which distinguished
M. Lebeau, and mantled his elegant habiliments in an immense cloak, which
he had also left in the fiacre. Arrived at the Boulevard Sebastopol, he
drew up the collar of the cloak so as to conceal much of his face,
stopped the driver, paid him quickly, and, bag in hand, hurried on to
another stand of fiacres at a little distance, entered one, drove to the
Faubourg Montmartre, dismissed the vehicle at the mouth of a street not
far from M. Lebeau's office, and gained on foot the private side-door of
the house, let himself in with his latchkey, entered the private room on
the inner side of his office, locked the door, and proceeded leisurely to
exchange the brilliant appearance which the Vicomte de Mauleon had borne
on his visit to the millionaire for the sober raiment and bourgeois air
of M. Lebeau, the letter-writer.

Then after locking up his former costume in a drawer of his secretaire,
he sat himself down and wrote the following lines:--

   DEAR MONSIEUR GEORGES,--I advise you strongly, from information that
   has just reached me, to lose no time in pressing M. Savarin to repay
   the sum I recommended you to lend him, and for which you hold his
   bill due this day. The scandal of legal measures against a writer
   so distinguished should be avoided if possible. He will avoid it
   and get the money somehow; but he must be urgently pressed. If you
   neglect this warning, my responsibility is past. Agreez mes
   sentimens les plus sinceres.
                       J. L.



CHAPTER II.

The Marquis de Rochebriant is no longer domiciled in an attic in the
gloomy Faubourg. See him now in a charming appartement de garcon an
premier in the Rue du Helder, close by the promenades and haunts of the
mode. It had been furnished and inhabited by a brilliant young provincial
from Bordeaux, who, coming into an inheritance of one hundred thousand
francs, had rushed up to Paris to enjoy himself, and make his million at
the Bourse. He had enjoyed himself thoroughly,--he had been a darling of
the demi monde; he had been a successful and an inconstant gallant. Zelie
had listened to his vows of eternal love, and his offers of unlimited
cachemires; Desiree, succeeding Zelie, had assigned to him her whole
heart--or all that was left of it--in gratitude for the ardour of his
passion, and the diamonds and coupe which accompanied and attested the
ardour; the superb Hortense, supplanting Desiree, received his visits in
the charming apartment he furnished for her, and entertained him and his
friends at the most delicate little suppers, for the moderate sum of four
thousand francs a month. Yes, he had enjoyed himself thoroughly, but he
had not made a million at the Bourse. Before the year was out, the one
hundred thousand francs were gone. Compelled to return to his province,
and by his hard-hearted relations ordained, on penalty of starvation, to
marry the daughter of an avoue, for the sake of her dot and a share in
the hated drudgery of the avoue's business,--his apartment was to be had
for a tenth part of the original cost of its furniture. A certain
Chevalier de Finisterre, to whom Louvier had introduced the Marquis as a
useful fellow who knew Paris, and would save him from being cheated, had
secured this bijou of an apartment for Alain, and concluded the bargain
for the bagatelle of L500. The Chevalier took the same advantageous
occasion to purchase the English well-bred hack and the neat coupe and
horses which the Bordelais was also necessitated to dispose of. These
purchases made, the Marquis had some five thousand francs (L200) left out
of Louvier's premium of L1,000. The Marquis, however, did not seem
alarmed or dejected by the sudden diminution of capital so expeditiously
effected. The easy life thus commenced seemed to him too natural to be
fraught with danger; and easy though it was, it was a very simple and
modest sort of life compared with that of many other men of his age to
whom Enguerrand had introduced him, though most of them had an income
less than his, and few, indeed, of them were his equals in dignity of
birth. Could a Marquis de Rochebriant, if he lived at Paris at all, give
less than three thousand francs a year for his apartment, or mount a more
humble establishment than that confined to a valet and a tiger, two
horses for his coupe and one for the saddle? "Impossible," said the
Chevalier de Finisterre, decidedly; and the Marquis bowed to so high an
authority. He thought within himself, "If I find in a few months that I
am exceeding my means, I can but dispose of my rooms and my horses, and
return to Rochebriant a richer man by far than I left it."

To say truth, the brilliant seductions of Paris had already produced
their effect, not only on the habits, but on the character and cast of
thought, which the young noble had brought with him from the feudal and
melancholy Bretagne.

Warmed by the kindness with which, once introduced by his popular
kinsmen, he was everywhere received, the reserve or shyness which is the
compromise between the haughtiness of self-esteem and the painful doubt
of appreciation by others rapidly melted away. He caught insensibly the
polished tone, at once so light and so cordial, of his new-made friends.
With all the efforts of the democrats to establish equality and
fraternity, it is among the aristocrats that equality and fraternity are
most to be found. All gentilshommes in the best society are equals; and
whether they embrace or fight each other, they embrace or fight as
brothers of the same family. But with the tone of manners Alain de
Rochebriant imbibed still more insensibly the lore of that philosophy
which young idlers in pursuit of pleasure teach to each other. Probably
in all civilized and luxurious capitals that philosophy is very much the
same among the same class of idlers at the same age; probably it
flourishes in Pekin not less than at Paris. If Paris has the credit, or
discredit, of it more than any other capital, it is because in Paris more
than in any other capital it charms the eye by grace and amuses the ear
by wit. A philosophy which takes the things of this life very easily;
which has a smile and a shrug of the shoulders for any pretender to the
Heroic; which subdivides the wealth of passion into the pocket-money of
caprices, is always in or out of love ankle-deep, never venturing a
plunge; which, light of heart as of tongue, turns "the solemn
plausibilities" of earth into subjects for epigrams and bons mots,--jests
at loyalty to kings and turns up its nose at enthusiasm for
commonwealths, abjures all grave studies and shuns all profound emotions.
We have crowds of such philosophers in London; but there they are less
noticed, because the agreeable attributes of the sect are there dimmed
and obfuscated. It is not a philosophy that flowers richly in the reek of
fogs and in the teeth of east winds; it wants for full development the
light atmosphere of Paris. Now this philosophy began rapidly to exercise
its charms upon Alain de Rochebriant. Even in the society of professed
Legitimists, he felt that faith had deserted the Legitimist creed or
taken refuge only as a companion of religion in the hearts of high-born
women and a small minority of priests. His chivalrous loyalty still
struggled to keep its ground, but its roots were very much loosened. He
saw--for his natural intellect was keen--that the cause of the Bourbon
was hopeless, at least for the present, because it had ceased, at least
for the present, to be a cause. His political creed thus shaken, with it
was shaken also that adherence to the past which had stifled his ambition
of a future. That ambition began to breathe and to stir, though he owned
it not to others, though, as yet, he scarce distinguished its whispers,
much less directed its movements towards any definite object. Meanwhile,
all that he knew of his ambition was the new-born desire for social
success.

We see him, then, under the quick operation of this change in sentiments
and habits, reclined on the fauteuil before his fireside, and listening
to his college friend, of whom we have so long lost sight, Frederic
Lemercier. Frederic had breakfasted with Alain,--a breakfast such as
might have contented the author of the "Almanach des Gourmands," and
provided from the cafe Anglais. Frederic has just thrown aside his
regalia.

"Pardieu! my dear Alain. If Louvier has no sinister object in the
generosity of his dealings with you, he will have raised himself
prodigiously in my estimation. I shall forsake, in his favour, my
allegiance to Duplessis, though that clever fellow has just made a
wondrous coup in the Egyptians, and I gain forty thousand francs by
having followed his advice. But if Duplessis has a head as long as
Louvier's, he certainly has not an equal greatness of soul. Still, my
dear friend, will you pardon me if I speak frankly, and in the way of a
warning homily?"

"Speak; you cannot oblige me more."

"Well, then, I know that you can no more live at Paris in the way you are
doing, or mean to do, without some fresh addition to your income, than a
lion could live in the Jardin des Plantes upon an allowance of two mice a
week."

"I don't see that. Deducting what I pay to my aunt,--and I cannot get her
to take more than six thousand francs a year,--I have seven hundred
napoleons left, net and clear. My rooms and stables are equipped, and I
have twenty-five hundred francs in hand. On seven hundred napoleons a
year, I calculate that I can very easily live as I do; and if I
fail--well, I must return to Pochebriant. Seven hundred napoleons a year
will be a magnificent rental there."

Frederic shook his head. "You do not know how one expense leads to
another. Above all, you do not calculate the chief part of one's
expenditure,--the unforeseen. You will play at the Jockey Club, and lose
half your income in a night."

"I shall never touch a card."

"So you say now, innocent as a lamb of the force of example. At all
events, beau seigneur, I presume you are not going to resuscitate the
part of the Ermite de la Chaussee d'Antin; and the fair Parisiennes are
demons of extravagance."

"Demons whom I shall not court."

"Did I say you would? They will court you. Before another month has flown
you will be inundated with billets-doux."

"It is not a shower that will devastate my humble harvest. But, mon cher,
we are falling upon very gloomy topics. Laissez-moi tranquille in my
illusions, if illusions they be. Ah, you cannot conceive what a new life
opens to the man who, like myself, has passed the dawn of his youth in
privation and fear, when he suddenly acquires competence and hope. If it
lasts only a year, it will be something to say 'Vixi.'"

"Alain," said Frederic; very earnestly, "believe me, I should not have
assumed the ungracious and inappropriate task of Mentor, if it were only
a year's experience at stake, or if you were in the position of men like
myself,--free from the encumbrance of a great name and heavily mortgaged
lands. Should you fail to pay regularly the interest due to Louvier, he
has the power to put up at public auction, and there to buy in for
himself, your chateau and domain."

"I am aware that in strict law he would have such power, though I doubt
if he would use it. Louvier is certainly a much better and more generous
fellow than I could have expected; and if I believe De Finisterre, he has
taken a sincere liking to me on account of affection to my poor father.
But why should not the interest be paid regularly? The revenues from
Rochebriant are not likely to decrease, and the charge on them is
lightened by the contract with Louvier. And I will confide to you a hope
I entertain of a very large addition to my rental."

"How?"

"A chief part of my rental is derived from forests, and De Finisterre has
heard of a capitalist who is disposed to make a contract for their sale
at the fall this year, and may probably extend it to future years, at a
price far exceeding that which I have hitherto obtained."

"Pray be cautious. De Finisterre is not a man I should implicitly trust
in such matters."

"Why? Do you know anything against him? He is in the best
society,--perfect gentilhomme,--and, as his name may tell you, a
fellow-Breton. You yourself allow, and so does Enguerrand, that the
purchases he made for me--in this apartment, my horses, etc.--are
singularly advantageous."

"Quite true; the Chevalier is reputed sharp and clever, is said to be
very amusing, and a first-rate piquet-player. I don't know him
personally,--I am not in his set. I have no valid reason to disparage his
character, nor do I conjecture any motive he could have to injure or
mislead you. Still, I say, be cautious how far you trust to his advice or
recommendation."

"Again I ask why?"

"He is unlucky to his friends. He attaches himself much to men younger
than himself; and somehow or other I have observed that most of them have
come to grief. Besides, a person in whose sagacity I have great
confidence warned me against making the Chevalier's acquaintance, and
said to me, in his blunt way, 'De Finisterre came to Paris with nothing;
he has succeeded to nothing; he belongs to no ostensible profession by
which anything can be made. But evidently now he has picked up a good
deal; and in proportion as any young associate of his becomes poorer, De
Finisterre seems mysteriously to become richer. Shun that sort of
acquaintance.'"

"Who is your sagacious adviser!"

"Duplessis."

"Ah, I thought so. That bird of prey fancies every other bird looking out
for pigeons. I fancy that Duplessis is, like all those money-getters, a
seeker after fashion, and De Finisterre has not returned his bow."

"My dear Alain, I am to blame; nothing is so irritating as a dispute
about the worth of the men we like. I began it, now let it be dropped;
only make me one promise,--that if you should be in arrear, or if need
presses, you will come at once to me. It was very well to be absurdly
proud in an attic, but that pride will be out of place in your
appartement au premier."

"You are the best fellow in the world, Frederic, and I make you the
promise you ask," said Alain, cheerfully, but yet with a secret emotion
of tenderness and gratitude. "And now, mon cher, what day will you dine
with me to meet Raoul and Enguerrand, and some others whom you would like
to know?"

"Thanks, and hearty ones, but we move now in different spheres, and I
shall not trespass on yours. Je suis trop bourgeois to incur the ridicule
of le bourgeois gentilhomme."

"Frederic, how dare you speak thus? My dear fellow, my friends shall
honour you as I do."

"But that will be on your account, not mine. No; honestly that kind of
society neither tempts nor suits me. I am a sort of king in my own walk;
and I prefer my Bohemian royalty to vassalage in higher regions. Say no
more of it. It will flatter my vanity enough if you will now and then
descend to my coteries, and allow me to parade a Rochebriant as my
familiar crony, slap him on the shoulder, and call him Alain."

"Fie! you who stopped me and the English aristocrat in the Champs
Elysees, to humble us with your boast of having fascinated une grande
dame,--I think you said a duchesse."

"Oh," said Lemercier, conceitedly, and passing his hand through his
scented locks, "women are different; love levels all ranks. I don't blame
Ruy Blas for accepting the love of a queen, but I do blame him for
passing himself off as a noble,--a plagiarism, by the by, from an English
play. I do not love the English enough to copy them. A propos, what has
become of ce beau Grarm Varn? I have not seen him of late."

"Neither have I."

"Nor the belle Italienne?"

"Nor her," said Alain, slightly blushing.

At this moment Enguerrand lounged into the room. Alain stopped Lemercier
to introduce him to his kinsman. "Enguerrand, I present to you M.
Lemercier, my earliest and one of my dearest friends."

The young noble held out his hand with the bright and joyous grace which
accompanied all his movements, and expressed in cordial words his delight
to make M. Lemercier's acquaintance. Bold and assured as Frederic was in
his own circles, he was more discomposed than set at ease by the gracious
accost of a lion, whom he felt at once to be of a breed superior to his
own. He muttered some confused phrases, in which ravi and flatte were
alone audible, and evanished.

"I know M. Lemercier by sight very well," said Enguerrand, seating
himself. "One sees him very often in the Bois; and I have met him in the
Coulisses and the Bal Mabille. I think, too, that he plays at the Bourse,
and is lie with M. Duplessis, who bids fair to rival Louvier one of these
days. Is Duplessis also one of your dearest friends?"

"No, indeed. I once met him, and was not prepossessed in his favour."

"Nevertheless, he is a man much to be admired and respected."

"Why so?"

"Because he understands so well the art of making what we all
covet,--money. I will introduce you to him."

"I have been already introduced."

"Then I will re-introduce you. He is much courted in a society which I
have recently been permitted by my father to frequent,--the society, of
the Imperial Court."

"You frequent that society, and the Count permits it?"

"Yes; better the Imperialists than the Republicans; and my father begins
to own that truth, though he is too old or too indolent to act on it."

"And Raoul?"

"Oh, Raoul, the melancholy and philosophical Raoul, has no ambition of
any kind, so long as--thanks somewhat to me--his purse is always
replenished for the wants of his stately existence, among the foremost of
which wants are the means to supply the wants of others. That is the true
reason why he consents to our glove-shop. Raoul belongs, with some other
young men of the Faubourg, to a society enrolled under the name of Saint
Francois de Sales, for the relief of the poor. He visits their houses,
and is at home by their sickbeds as at their stinted boards. Nor does he
confine his visitations to the limits of our Faubourg; he extends his
travels to Montmartre and Belleville. As to our upper world, he does not
concern himself much with its changes. He says that we have destroyed too
much ever to rebuild solidly; and that whatever we do build could be
upset any day by a Paris mob, which he declares to be the only
institution we have left. A wonderful fellow is Raoul,--full of mind,
though he does little with it; full of heart, which he devotes to
suffering humanity, and to a poetic, knightly reverence (not to be
confounded with earthly love, and not to be degraded into that sickly
sentiment called Platonic affection) for the Comtesse di Rimini, who is
six years older than himself, and who is very faithfully attached to her
husband, Raoul's intimate friend, whose honour he would guard as his own.
It is an episode in the drama of Parisian life, and one not so uncommon
as the malignant may suppose. Di Rimini knows and approves of his
veneration; my mother, the best of women, sanctions it, and deems truly
that it preserves Raoul safe from all the temptations to which ignobler
youth is exposed. I mention this lest you should imagine there was
anything in Raoul's worship of his star less pure than it is. For the
rest, Raoul, to the grief and amazement of that disciple of Voltaire, my
respected father, is one of the very few men I know in our circles who is
sincerely religious,--an orthodox Catholic,--and the only man I know who
practises the religion he professes; charitable, chaste, benevolent; and
no bigot, no intolerant ascetic. His only weakness is his entire
submission to the worldly common-sense of his good-for-nothing, covetous,
ambitious brother Enguerrand. I cannot say how I love him for that. If he
had not such a weakness, his excellence would gall me, and I believe I
should hate him."

Alain bowed his head at this eulogium. Such had been the character that a
few months ago he would have sought as example and model. He seemed to
gaze upon a flattered portrait of himself as he had been.

"But," said Enguerrand, "I have not come here to indulge in the overflow
of brotherly affection. I come to take you to your relation, the Duchesse
of Tarascon. I have pledged myself to her to bring you, and she is at
home on purpose to receive you."

"In that case I cannot be such a churl as to refuse. And, indeed, I no
longer feel quite the same prejudices against her and the Imperialists as
I brought from Bretagne. Shall I order my carriage?"

"No; mine is at the door. Yours can meet you where you will, later.
Allons."



CHAPTER III.

The Duchesse de Tarascon occupied a vast apartment in the Rue Royale,
close to the Tuileries. She held a high post among the ladies who graced
the brilliant court of the Empress. She had survived her second husband
the duke, who left no issue, and the title died with him.

Alain and Enguerrand were ushered up the grand staircase, lined with
tiers of costly exotics as if for a fete; but in that and in all kinds of
female luxury, the Duchesse lived in a state of fete perpetuelle. The
doors on the landing-place were screened by heavy portieres of Genoa
velvet, richly embroidered in gold with the ducal crown and cipher. The
two salons through which the visitors passed to the private cabinet or
boudoir were decorated with Gobelin tapestries, fresh, with a mixture of
roseate hues, and depicting incidents in the career of the first emperor;
while the effigies of the late duke's father--the gallant founder of a
short-lived race figured modestly in the background. On a table of
Russian malachite within the recess of the central window lay, preserved
in glass cases, the baton and the sword, the epaulettes and the
decorations of the brave Marshal. On the consoles and the mantelpieces
stood clocks and vases of Sevres that could scarcely be eclipsed by those
in the Imperial palaces. Entering the cabinet, they found the Duchesse
seated at her writing-table, with a small Skye terrier, hideous in the
beauty of the purest breed, nestled at her feet. This room was an
exquisite combination of costliness and comfort,--Luxury at home. The
hangings were of geranium-coloured silk, with double curtains of white
satin; near to the writing-table a conservatory, with a white marble
fountain at play in the centre, and a trellised aviary at the back. The
walls were covered with small pictures,--chiefly portraits and miniatures
of the members of the imperial family, of the late Duc, of his father the
Marshal and Madame la Marechale, of the present Duchesse herself, and of
some of the principal ladies of the court.

The Duchesse was still in the prime of life. She had passed her fortieth
year, but was so well "conserved" that you might have guessed her to be
ten years younger. She was tall; not large, but with rounded figure
inclined to en bon point; with dark hair and eyes, but fair complexion,
injured in effect rather than improved by pearl-powder, and that
atrocious barbarism of a dark stain on the eyelids which has of late
years been a baneful fashion; dressed,--I am a man, and cannot describe
her dress; all I know is that she had the acknowledged fame of the
best-dressed subject of France. As she rose from her seat there was in
her look and air the unmistakable evidence of grande dame,--a family
likeness in feature to Alain himself, a stronger likeness to the picture
of her first cousin (his mother) which was preserved at Rochebriant. Her
descent was indeed from ancient and noble houses. But to the distinction
of race she added that of fashion, crowning both with a tranquil
consciousness of lofty position and unblemished reputation.

"Unnatural cousin!" she said to Alain, offering her hand to him, with a
gracious smile,--"all this age in Paris, and I see you for the first
time. But there is joy on earth as in heaven over sinners who truly
repent. You repent truly--n'est ce pas?"

It is impossible to describe the caressing charm which the Duchesse threw
into her words, voice, and look. Alain was fascinated and subdued.

"Ah, Madame la Duchesse," said he, bowing over the fait hand he lightly
held, "it was not sin, unless modesty be a sin, which made a rustic
hesitate long before he dared to offer his homage to the queen of the
graces."

"Not badly said for a rustic," cried Enguerrand; "eh, Madame?"

"My cousin, you are pardoned," said the Duchesse. "Compliment is the
perfume of gentilhommerie; and if you brought enough of that perfume from
the flowers of Rochebriant to distribute among the ladies at court, you
will be terribly the mode there. Seducer!"--here she gave the Marquis a
playful tap on the cheek, not in a coquettish but in a mother-like
familiarity, and looking at him attentively, said: "Why, you are even
handsomer than your father. I shall be proud to present to their Imperial
Majesties so becoming a cousin. But seat yourselves here, Messieurs,
close to my arm-chair, caussons."

The Duchesse then took up the ball of the conversation. She talked
without any apparent artifice, but with admirable tact; put just the
questions about Rochebriant most calculated to please Alain, shunning all
that might have pained him; asking him for descriptions of the
surrounding scenery, the Breton legends; hoping that the old castle would
never be spoiled by modernizing restorations; inquiring tenderly after
his aunt, whom she had in her childhood once seen, and still remembered
with her sweet, grave face; paused little for replies; then turned to
Enguerrand with sprightly small-talk on the topics of the day, and every
now and then bringing Alain into the pale of the talk, leading on
insensibly until she got Enguerrand himself to introduce the subject of
the emperor, and the political troubles which were darkening a reign
heretofore so prosperous and splendid.

Her countenance then changed; it became serious, and even grave in its
expression.

"It is true," she said, "that the times grow menacing, menacing not only
to the throne, but to order and property and France. One by one they are
removing all the breakwaters which the empire had constructed between the
executive and the most fickle and impulsive population that ever shouted
'long live' one day to the man whom they would send to the guillotine the
next. They are denouncing what they call personal government. Grant that
it has its evils; but what would they substitute,--a constitutional
monarchy like the English? That is impossible with universal suffrage and
without an hereditary chamber. The nearest approach to it was the
monarchy of Louis Philippe,--we know how sick they became of that. A
republic?--mon Dieu! composed of Republicans terrified out of their wits
at each other. The moderate men, mimics of the Girondins, with the Reds
and the Socialists and the Communists, ready to tear them to pieces. And
then--What then?--the commercialists, the agriculturists, the middle
class combining to elect some dictator who will cannonade the mob and
become a mimic Napoleon, grafted on a mimic Necker or a mimic Danton. Oh,
Messieurs, I am French to the core. You inheritors of such names must be
as French as I am; and yet you men insist on remaining more useless to
France in the midst of her need than I am,--I, a woman who can but talk
and weep."

The Duchesse spoke with a warmth of emotion which startled and profoundly
affected Alain. He remained silent, leaving it to Enguerrand to answer.

"Dear Madame," said the latter, "I do not see how either myself or our
kinsman can merit your reproach. We are not legislators. I doubt if there
is a single department in France that would elect us, if we offered
ourselves. It is not our fault if the various floods of revolution leave
men of our birth and opinions stranded wrecks of a perished world. The
emperor chooses his own advisers, and if they are bad ones, his Majesty
certainly will not ask Alain and me to replace them."

"You do not answer--you evade me," said the Duchesse; with a mournful
smile. "You are too skilled a man of the world, Monsieur Enguerrand, not
to know that it is not only legislators and ministers that are necessary
to the support of a throne, and the safeguard of a nation. Do you not see
how great a help it is to both throne and nation when that section of
public opinion which is represented by names illustrious in history,
identified with records of chivalrous deeds and loyal devotion, rallies
round the order established? Let that section of public opinion stand
aloof, soured and discontented, excluded from active life, lending no
counter-balance to the perilous oscillations of democratic passion, and
tell me if it is not an enemy to itself as well as a traitor to the
principles it embodies?"

"The principles it embodies, Madame," said Alain, "are those of fidelity
to a race of kings unjustly set aside, less for the vices than the
virtues of ancestors. Louis XV. was the worst of the Bourbons,--he was
the bien aime: he escapes. Louis XVI. was in moral attributes the best of
the Bourbons,--he dies the death of a felon. Louis XVIII., against whom
much may be said, restored to the throne by foreign bayonets, reigning as
a disciple of Voltaire might reign, secretly scoffing alike at the
royalty and the religion which were crowned in his person, dies
peacefully in his bed. Charles X., redeeming the errors of his youth by a
reign untarnished by a vice, by a religion earnest and sincere, is sent
into exile for defending established order from the very inroads which
you lament. He leaves an heir against whom calumny cannot invent a tale,
and that heir remains an outlaw simply because he descends from Henry
IV., and has a right to reign. Madame, you appeal to us as among the
representatives of the chivalrous deeds and loyal devotion which
characterized the old nobility of France. Should we deserve that
character if we forsook the unfortunate, and gained wealth and honour in
forsaking?"

"Your words endear you to me. I am proud to call you cousin," said the
Duchesse. "But do you, or does any man in his senses believe that if you
upset the Empire you could get back the Bourbons; that you would not be
in imminent danger of a Government infinitely more opposed to the
theories on which rests the creed of Legitimists than that of Louis
Napoleon? After all, what is there in the loyalty of you Bourbonites that
has in it the solid worth of an argument which can appeal to the
comprehension of mankind, except it be the principle of a hereditary
monarchy? Nobody nowadays can maintain the right divine of a single regal
family to impose itself upon a nation. That dogma has ceased to be a
living principle; it is only a dead reminiscence. But the institution of
monarchy is a principle strong and vital, and appealing to the practical
interests of vast sections of society. Would you sacrifice the principle
which concerns the welfare of millions, because you cannot embody it in
the person of an individual utterly insignificant in himself? In a word,
if you prefer monarchy to the hazard of republicanism for such a country
as France, accept the monarchy you find, since it is quite clear you
cannot rebuild the monarchy you would prefer. Does it not embrace all the
great objects for which you call yourself Legitimist? Under it religion
is honoured, a national Church secured, in reality if not in name; under
it you have united the votes of millions to the establishment of the
throne; under it all the material interests of the country, commercial,
agricultural, have advanced with an unequalled rapidity of progress;
under it Paris has become the wonder of the world for riches, for
splendour, for grace and beauty; under it the old traditional enemies of
France have been humbled and rendered impotent. The policy of Richelieu
has been achieved in the abasement of Austria; the policy of Napoleon I.
has been consummated in the salvation of Europe from the semi-barbarous
ambition of Russia. England no longer casts her trident in the opposition
scale of the balance of European power. Satisfied with the honour of our
alliance, she has lost every other ally; and her forces neglected, her
spirit enervated, her statesmen dreaming believers in the safety of their
island, provided they withdraw from the affairs of Europe, may sometimes
scold us, but will certainly not dare to fight. With France she is but an
inferior satellite; without France she is--nothing. Add to all this a
court more brilliant than that of Louis XIV., a sovereign not indeed
without faults and errors, but singularly mild in his nature,
warm-hearted to friends, forgiving to foes, whom personally no one could
familiarly know and not be charmed with a bonte of character, lovable as
that of Henri IV.,--and tell me what more than all this could you expect
from the reign of a Bourbon?"

"With such results," said Alain, "from the monarchy you so eloquently
praise, I fail to discover what the emperor's throne could possibly gain
by a few powerless converts from an unpopular, and you say, no doubt
truly, from a hopeless cause."

"I say monarchy gains much by the loyal adhesion of any man of courage,
ability, and honour. Every new monarchy gains much by conversions from
the ranks by which the older monarchies were strengthened and adorned.
But I do not here invoke your aid merely to this monarchy, my cousin; I
demand your devotion to the interests of France; I demand that you should
not rest an outlaw from her service. Ah, you think that France is in no
danger, that you may desert or oppose the Empire as you list, and that
society will remain safe! You are mistaken. Ask Enguerrand."

"Madame," said Enguerrand, "you overrate my political knowledge in that
appeal; but, honestly speaking, I subscribe to your reasonings. I agree
with you that the empire sorely needs the support of men of honour; it
has one cause of rot which now undermines it,--dishonest jobbery in its
administrative departments; even in that of the army, which apparently is
so heeded and cared for. I agree with you that France is in danger, and
may need the swords of all her better sons, whether against the foreigner
or against her worst enemies,--the mobs of her great towns. I myself
received a military education, and but for my reluctance to separate
myself from my father and Raoul, I should be a candidate for employments
more congenial to me than those of the Bourse and my trade in the
glove-shop. But Alain is happily free from all family ties, and Alain
knows that my advice to him is not hostile to your exhortations."

"I am glad to think he is under so salutary an influence," said the
Duchesse; and seeing that Alain remained silent and thoughtful, she
wisely changed the subject, and shortly afterwards the two friends took
leave.



CHAPTER IV.

Three days elapsed before Graham again saw M. Lebeau. The letter-writer
did not show himself at the cafe, and was not to be found at his office,
the ordinary business of which was transacted by his clerk, saying that
his master was much engaged on important matters that took him from home.

Graham naturally thought that these matters concerned the discovery of
Louise Duval, and was reconciled to suspense. At the cafe, awaiting
Lebeau, he had slid into some acquaintance with the ouvrier Armand
Monnier, whose face and talk had before excited his interest. Indeed, the
acquaintance had been commenced by the ouvrier, who seated himself at a
table near to Graham's, and, after looking at him earnestly for some
minutes, said, "You are waiting for your antagonist at dominos, M.
Lebeau,--a very remarkable man."

"So he seems. I know, however, but little of him. You, perhaps, have
known him longer?"

"Several months. Many of your countrymen frequent this cafe, but you do
not seem to care to associate with the blouses."

"It is not that; but we islanders are shy, and don't make acquaintance
with each other readily. By the way, since you so courteously accost me,
I may take the liberty of saying that I overheard you defend the other
night, against one of my countrymen, who seemed to me to talk great
nonsense, the existence of le bon Dieu. You had much the best of it. I
rather gathered from your argument that you went somewhat further, and
were not too enlightened to admit of Christianity."

Armand Monnier looked pleased. He liked praise; and he liked to hear
himself talk, and he plunged at once into a very complicated sort of
Christianity,--partly Arian, partly Saint Simonian, with a little of
Rousseau and a great deal of Armand Monnier. Into this we need not follow
him; but, in sum, it was a sort of Christianity, the main heads of which
consisted in the removal of your neighbour's landmarks, in the right of
the poor to appropriate the property of the rich, in the right of love to
dispense with marriage, and the duty of the State to provide for any
children that might result from such union,--the parents being
incapacitated to do so, as whatever they might leave was due to the
treasury in common. Graham listened to these doctrines with melancholy
not unmixed with contempt. "Are these opinions of yours," he asked,
"derived from reading or your own reflection?"

"Well, from both, but from circumstances in life that induced me to read
and reflect. I am one of the many victims of the tyrannical law of
marriage. When very young I married a woman who made me miserable, and
then forsook me. Morally, she has ceased to be my wife; legally, she is.
I then met with another woman who suits me, who loves me. She lives with
me; I cannot marry her; she has to submit to humiliations, to be called
contemptuously an ouvrier's mistress. Then, though before I was only a
Republican, I felt there was something wrong in society which needed a
greater change than that of a merely political government; and then, too,
when I was all troubled and sore, I chanced to read one of Madame de
Grantmesnil's books. A glorious genius that woman's!"

"She has genius, certainly," said Graham, with a keen pang at his
heart,--Madame de Grantmesnil, the dearest friend of Isaura! "But," he
added, "though I believe that eloquent author has indirectly assailed
certain social institutions, including that of marriage, I am perfectly
persuaded that she never designed to effect such complete overthrow of
the system which all civilized communities have hitherto held in
reverence as your doctrines would attempt; and, after all, she but
expresses her ideas through the medium of fabulous incidents and
characters. And men of your sense should not look for a creed in the
fictions of poets and romance-writers."

"Ah," said Monnier, "I dare say neither Madame de Grantmesnil nor even
Rousseau ever even guessed the ideas they awoke in their readers; but one
idea leads on to another. And genuine poetry and romance touch the heart
so much more than dry treatises. In a word, Madame de Grantmesnil's book
set me thinking; and then I read other books, and talked with clever men,
and educated myself. And so I became the man I am." Here, with a
self-satisfied air, Monnier bowed to the Englishman, and joined a group
at the other end of the room.

The next evening, just before dusk, Graham Vane was seated musingly in
his own apartment in the Faubourg Montmartre, when there came a slight
knock at his door. He was so wrapped in thought that he did not hear the
sound, though twice repeated. The door opened gently, and M. Lebeau
appeared on the threshold. The room was lighted only by the gas-lamp from
the street without.

Lebeau advanced through the gloom, and quietly seated himself in the
corner of the fireplace opposite to Graham before he spoke. "A thousand
pardons for disturbing your slumbers, Monsieur Lamb."

Startled then by the voice so near him, Graham raised his head, looked
round, and beheld very indistinctly the person seated so near him.

"Monsieur Lebeau?"

"At your service. I promise to give an answer to your question; accept my
apologies that it has been deferred so long. I shall not this evening go
to our cafe. I took the liberty of calling--"

"Monsieur Lebeau, you are a brick."

"A what, Monsieur!--a brique?"

"I forgot; you are not up to our fashionable London idioms. A brick means
a jolly fellow, and it is very kind in you to call. What is your
decision?"

"Monsieur, I can give you some information, but it is so slight that I
offer it gratis, and forego all thought of undertaking further inquiries.
They could only be prosecuted in another country, and it would not be
worth my while to leave Paris on the chance of gaining so trifling a
reward as you propose. Judge for yourself. In the year 1849, and in the
month of July, Louise Duval left Paris for Aix-la-Chapelle. There she
remained some weeks, and then left it. I can learn no further traces of
her movements."

"Aix-la-Chapelle! What could she do there?"

"It is a Spa in great request; crowded during the summer season with
visitors from all countries. She might have gone there for health or for
pleasure."

"Do you think that one could learn more at the Spa itself if one went
there?"

"Possibly. But it is so long,--twenty years ago."

"She might have revisited the place."

"Certainly; but I know no more."

"Was she there under the same name,--Duval?"

"I am sure of that."

"Do you think she left it alone or with others? You tell me she was
awfully belle; she might have attracted admirers."

"If," answered Lebeau, reluctantly, "I could believe the report of my
informant, Louise Duval left Aix not alone, but with some gallant; not an
Englishman. They are said to have parted soon, and the man is now dead.
But, speaking frankly, I do not think Mademoiselle Duval would have thus
compromised her honour and sacrificed her future. I believe she would
have scorned all proposals that were not those of marriage. But all I can
say for certainty is that nothing is known to me of her fate since she
quitted Aix-la-Chapelle."

"In 1849? She had then a child living."

"A child? I never heard that she had any child; and I do not believe she
could have had any child in 1849."

Graham mused. Somewhat less than five years after 1849 Louise Duval had
been seen at Aix-la-Chapelle. Possibly she found some attraction at that
place, and might yet be discovered there. "Monsieur Lebeau," said Graham,
"you know this lady by sight; you would recognize her in spite of the
lapse of years. Will you go to Aix and find out there what you can? Of
course, expenses will be paid, and the reward will be given if you
succeed."

"I cannot oblige you. My interest in this poor lady is not very strong,
though I should be willing to serve her, and glad to know that she were
alive. I have now business on hand which interests me much more, and
which will take me from Paris, but not in the direction of Aix."

"If I wrote to my employer, and got him to raise the reward to some
higher amount, that might make it worth your while?"

"I should still answer that my affairs will not permit such a journey.
But if there be any chance of tracing Louise Duval at Aix,--and there may
be,--you would succeed quite as well as I should. You must judge for
yourself if it be worth your trouble to attempt such a task; and if you
do attempt it, and do succeed, pray let me know.--A line to my office
will reach me for some little time, even if I am absent from Paris.
Adieu, Monsieur Lamb."

Here M. Lebeau Lose and departed.

Graham relapsed into thought; but a train of thought much more active,
much more concentred than before. "No," thus ran his meditations,--"no,
it would not be safe to employ that man further. The reasons that forbid
me to offer any very high reward for the discovery of this woman operate
still more strongly against tendering to her own relation a sum that
might indeed secure his aid, but would unquestionably arouse his
suspicions, and perhaps drag into light all that must be concealed. Oh,
this cruel mission! I am, indeed, an impostor to myself till it be
fulfilled. I will go to Aix, and take Renard with me. I am impatient till
I set out, but I cannot quit Paris without once more seeing Isaura. She
consents to relinquish the stage; surely I could wean her too from
intimate friendship with a woman whose genius has so fatal an effect upon
enthusiastic minds. And then--and then?"

He fell into a delightful revery; and contemplating Isaura as his future
wife, he surrounded her sweet image with all those attributes of dignity
and respect with which an Englishman is accustomed to invest the destined
bearer of his name, the gentle sovereign of his household, the sacred
mother of his children. In this picture the more brilliant qualities of
Isaura found, perhaps, but faint presentation. Her glow of sentiment, her
play of fancy, her artistic yearnings for truths remote, for the
invisible fairyland of beautiful romance, receded into the background of
the picture. It was all these, no doubt, that had so strengthened and
enriched the love at first sight, which had shaken the equilibrium of his
positive existence; and yet he now viewed all these as subordinate to the
one image of mild decorous matronage into which wedlock was to transform
the child of genius, longing for angel wings and unlimited space.



CHAPTER V.

On quitting the sorry apartment of the false M. Lamb, Lebeau walked on
with slow steps and bended head, like a man absorbed in thought. He
threaded a labyrinth of obscure streets, no longer in the Faubourg
Montmartre, and dived at last into one of the few courts which preserve
the cachet of the moyen age untouched by the ruthless spirit of
improvement which during the second empire has so altered the face of
Paris. At the bottom of the court stood a large house, much dilapidated,
but bearing the trace of former grandeur in pilasters and fretwork in the
style of the Renaissance, and a defaced coat of arms, surmounted with a
ducal coronet, over the doorway. The house had the aspect of desertion:
many of the windows were broken; others were jealously closed with
mouldering shutters. The door stood ajar; Lebeau pushed it open, and the
action set in movement a bell within a porter's lodge. The house, then,
was not uninhabited; it retained the dignity of a concierge. A man with a
large grizzled beard cut square, and holding a journal in his hand,
emerged from the lodge, and moved his cap with a certain bluff and surly
reverence on recognizing Lebeau.

"What! so early, citizen?"

"Is it too early?" said Lebeau, glancing at his watch. "So it is; I was
not aware of the time. But I am tired with waiting; let me into the
salon. I will wait for the rest; I shall not be sorry for a little
repose."

"Bon," said the porter, sententiously; "while man reposes men advance."

"A profound truth, citizen Le Roux; though if they advance on a reposing
foe, they have blundering leaders unless they march through unguarded
by-paths and with noiseless tread."

Following the porter up a dingy broad staircase, Lebeau was admitted into
a large room, void of all other furniture than a table, two benches at
its sides, and a fauteuil at its head. On the mantelpiece there was a
huge clock, and some iron sconces were fixed on the panelled walls.

Lebeau flung himself, with a wearied air, into the fauteuil. The porter
looked at him with a kindly expression. He had a liking to Lebeau, whom
he had served in his proper profession of messenger or commissionnaire
before being placed by that courteous employer in the easy post he now
held. Lebeau, indeed, had the art, when he pleased, of charming
inferiors; his knowledge of mankind allowed him to distinguish
peculiarities in each individual, and flatter the amour propre by
deference to such eccentricities. Marc le Roux, the roughest of "red
caps," had a wife of whom he was very proud. He would have called the
empress Citoyenne Eugenie, but he always spoke of his wife as Madame.
Lebeau won his heart by always asking after Madame.

"You look tired, citizen," said the porter; "let me bring you a glass of
wine."

"Thank you, mon ami, no. Perhaps later, if I have time, after we break
up, to pay my respects to Madame."

The porter smiled, bowed, and retired muttering, "Nom d'un petit
bonhomme; il n'y a rien de tel que les belles manieres."

Left alone, Lebeau leaned his elbow on the table, resting his chin on his
hand, and gazing into the dim space,--for it was now, indeed, night, and
little light came through the grimy panes of the one window left unclosed
by shutters. He was musing deeply. This man was, in much, an enigma to
himself. Was he seeking to unriddle it? A strange compound of
contradictory elements. In his stormy youth there had been lightning-like
flashes of good instincts, of irregular honour, of inconsistent
generosity,--a puissant wild nature, with strong passions of love and of
hate, without fear, but not without shame. In other forms of society that
love of applause which had made him seek and exult in the notoriety which
he mistook for fame might have settled down into some solid and useful
ambition. He might have become great in the world's eye, for at the
service of his desires there were no ordinary talents. Though too true a
Parisian to be a severe student, still, on the whole, he had acquired
much general information, partly from books, partly from varied commerce
with mankind. He had the gift, both by tongue and by pen, of expressing
himself with force and warmth; time and necessity had improved that gift.
Coveting, during his brief career of fashion, the distinctions which
necessitate lavish expenditure, he had been the most reckless of
spendthrifts; but the neediness which follows waste had never destroyed
his original sense of personal honour. Certainly Victor de Mauleon was
not, at the date of his fall, a man to whom the thought of accepting,
much less of stealing, the jewels of a woman who loved him could have
occurred as a possible question of casuistry between honour and
temptation. Nor could that sort of question have, throughout the sternest
trials or the humblest callings to which his after-life had been
subjected, forced admission into his brain. He was one of those men,
perhaps the most terrible though unconscious criminals, who are the
offsprings produced by intellectual power and egotistical ambition. If
you had offered to Victor de Mauleon the crown of the Caesars, on
condition of his doing one of those base things which "a gentleman"
cannot do, pick a pocket, cheat at cards,--Victor de Mauleon would have
refused the crown. He would not have refused on account of any laws of
morality affecting the foundations of the social system, but from the
pride of his own personality. "I, Victor de Mauleon! I pick a pocket! I
cheat at cards! I!" But when something incalculably worse for the
interests of society than picking a pocket or cheating at cards was
concerned; when for the sake either of private ambition or political
experiment hitherto untested, and therefore very doubtful, the peace and
order and happiness of millions might be exposed to the release of the
most savage passions, rushing on revolutionary madness or civil massacre,
then this French dare-devil would have been just as unscrupulous as any
English philosopher whom a metropolitan borough might elect as its
representative. The system of the empire was in the way of Victor de
Mauleon,--in the way of his private ambition, in the way of his political
dogmas; and therefore it must be destroyed, no matter what nor whom it
crushed beneath its ruins. He was one of those plotters of revolutions
not uncommon in democracies, ancient and modern, who invoke popular
agencies with the less scruple because they have a supreme contempt for
the populace. A man with mental powers equal to De Mauleon's, and who
sincerely loves the people and respects the grandeur of aspiration with
which, in the great upheaving of their masses, they so often contrast the
irrational credulities of their ignorance and the blind fury of their
wrath, is always exceedingly loath to pass the terrible gulf that divides
reform from revolution. He knows how rarely it happens that genuine
liberty is not disarmed in the passage, and what sufferings must be
undergone by those who live by their labour during the dismal intervals
between the sudden destruction of one form of society and the gradual
settlement of another. Such a man, however, has no type in a Victor de
Mauleon. The circumstances of his life had placed this strong nature at
war with society, and corrupted into misanthropy affections that had once
been ardent. That misanthropy made his ambition more intense, because it
increased his scorn for the human instruments it employed.

Victor de Mauleon knew that however innocent of the charges that had so
long darkened his name, and however--thanks to his rank, his manners, his
savoir vivre, the aid of Louvier's countenance and the support of his own
high-born connections--he might restore himself to his rightful grade in
private life, the higher prizes in public life would scarcely be within
reach, to a man of his antecedents and stinted means, in the existent
form and conditions of established political order. Perforce, the
aristocrat must make himself democrat if he would become a political
chief. Could he assist in turning upside down the actual state of things,
he trusted to his individual force of character to find himself among the
uppermost in the general bouleversement. And in the first stage of
popular revolution the mob has no greater darling than the noble who
deserts his order, though in the second stage it may guillotine him at
the denunciation of his cobbler. A mind so sanguine and so audacious as
that of Victor de Mauleon never thinks of the second step if it sees a
way to the first.



CHAPTER VI.

The room was in complete darkness, save where a ray from a gas-lamp at
the mouth of the court came aslant through the window, when citizen Le
Roux re-entered, closed the window, lighted two of the sconces, and drew
forth from a drawer in the table implements of writing, which he placed
thereon noiselessly, as if he feared to disturb M. Lebeau, whose head,
buried in his hands, rested on the table. He seemed in a profound sleep.
At last the porter gently touched the arm of the slumberer, and whispered
in his ear, "It is on the stroke of ten, citizen; they will be here in a
minute or so." Lebeau lifted his head drowsily.

"Eh," said he--"what?"

"You have been asleep."

"I suppose so, for I have been dreaming. Ha! I hear the door-bell. I am
wide awake now."

The porter left him, and in a few minutes conducted into the salon two
men wrapped in cloaks, despite the warmth of the summer night. Lebeau
shook hands with them silently, and not less silently they laid aside
their cloaks and seated themselves. Both these men appeared to belong to
the upper section of the middle class. One, strongly built, with a keen
expression of countenance, was a surgeon considered able in his
profession, but with limited practice, owing to a current suspicion
against his honour in connection with a forged will. The other, tall,
meagre, with long grizzled hair and a wild unsettled look about the eyes,
was a man of science; had written works well esteemed upon mathematics
and electricity, also against the existence of any other creative power
than that which he called "nebulosity," and defined to be the combination
of heat and moisture. The surgeon was about the age of forty, the atheist
a few years older. In another minute or so, a knock was heard against the
wall. One of the men rose and touched a spring in the panel, which then
flew back, and showed an opening upon a narrow stair, by which, one after
the other, entered three other members of the society. Evidently there
was more than one mode of ingress and exit.

The three new-comers were not Frenchmen,--one might see that at a glance;
probably they had reasons for greater precaution than those who entered
by the front door. One, a tall, powerfully-built man, with fair hair and
beard, dressed with a certain pretension to elegance,--faded threadbare
elegance,--exhibiting no appearance of linen, was a Pole. One, a slight
bald man, very dark and sallow, was an Italian. The third, who seemed
like an ouvrier in his holiday clothes, was a Belgian.

Lebeau greeted them all with an equal courtesy, and each with an equal
silence took his seat at the table.

Lebeau glanced at the clock. "Confreres," he said, "our number as fixed
for this seance still needs two to be complete, and doubtless they will
arrive in a few minutes. Till they come, we can but talk upon trifles.
Permit me to offer you my cigar-case." And so saying, he who professed to
be no smoker handed his next neighbour, who was the Pole, a large
cigar-case amply furnished; and the Pole, helping himself to two cigars,
handed the case to the man next him,--two only declining the luxury, the
Italian and the Belgian. But the Pole was the only man who took two
cigars.

Steps were now heard on the stairs, the door opened, and citizen Le Toux
ushered in, one after the other, two men, this time unmistakably
French,--to an experienced eye unmistakably Parisians: the one, a young
beardless man, who seemed almost boyish, with a beautiful face, and a
stinted, meagre frame; the other, a stalwart man of about eight-and
twenty, dressed partly as an ouvrier, not in his Sunday clothes, rather
affecting the blouse,--not that he wore that antique garment, but that he
was in rough costume unbrushed and stained, with thick shoes and coarse
stockings, and a workman's cap. But of all who gathered round the table
at which M. Lebeau presided, he had the most distinguished exterior,--a
virile honest exterior, a massive open forehead, intelligent eyes, a
handsome clear-cut incisive profile, and solid jaw. The expression of the
face was stern, but not mean,--an expression which might have become an
ancient baron as well as a modern workman; in it plenty of haughtiness
and of will, and still more of self-esteem.

"Confreres," said Lebeau, rising, and every eye turned to him, "our
number for the present seance is complete. To business. Since we last
met, our cause has advanced with rapid and not with noiseless stride. I
need not tell you that Louis Bonaparte has virtually abnegated Les idees
Napoleoniennes,--a fatal mistake for him, a glorious advance for us. The
liberty of the press must very shortly be achieved, and with it personal
government must end. When the autocrat once is compelled to go by the
advice of his ministers, look for sudden changes. His ministers will be
but weathercocks, turned hither and thither according as the wind chops
at Paris; and Paris is the temple of the winds. The new revolution is
almost at hand. [Murmurs of applause.] It would move the laughter of the
Tuileries and its ministers, of the Bourse and of its gamblers, of every
dainty salon of this silken city of would-be philosophers and wits, if
they were told that here within this mouldering baraque, eight men, so
little blessed by fortune, so little known to fame as ourselves, met to
concert the fall of an empire. The Government would not deem us important
enough to notice our existence."

"I know not that," interrupted the Pole.

"Ah, pardon," resumed the orator; "I should have confined my remark to
the five of us who are French. I did injustice to the illustrious
antecedents of our foreign allies. I know that you, Thaddeus Loubisky,
that you, Leonardo Raselli, have been too eminent for hands hostile to
tyrants not to be marked with a black cross in the books of the police; I
know that you, Jan Vanderstegen, if hitherto unscarred by those wounds in
defence of freedom which despots and cowards would fain miscall the
brands of the felon, still owe it to your special fraternity to keep your
movements rigidly concealed. The tyrant would suppress the International
Society, and forbids it the liberty of congress. To you three is granted
the secret entrance to our council-hall. But we Frenchmen are as yet safe
in our supposed insignificance. Confreres, permit me to impress on you
the causes why, insignificant as we seem, we are really formidable. In
the first place, we are few: the great mistake in most secret
associations has been to admit many councillors; and disunion enters
wherever many tongues can wrangle. In the next place, though so few in
council, we are legion when the time comes for action; because we are
representative men, each of his own section, and each section is capable
of an indefinite expansion.

"You, valiant Pole, you, politic Italian, enjoy the confidence of
thousands now latent in unwatched homes and harmless callings, but who,
when you lift a finger, will, like the buried dragon's teeth, spring up
into armed men. You, Jan Vanderstegen, the trusted delegate from
Verviers, that swarming camp of wronged labour in its revolt from the
iniquities of capital,--you, when the hour arrives, can touch the wire
that flashes the telegram 'Arise' through all the lands in which workmen
combine against their oppressors.

"Of us five Frenchmen, let me speak more modestly. You, sage and scholar,
Felix Ruvigny, honoured alike for the profundity of your science and the
probity of your manners, induced to join us by your abhorrence of
priestcraft and superstition,--you made a wide connection among all the
enlightened reasoners who would emancipate the mind of man from the
trammels of Church-born fable, and when the hour arrives in which it is
safe to say, 'Delenda est Roma,' you know where to find the pens that are
more victorious than swords against a Church and a Creed. You" (turning
to the surgeon)--"you, Gaspard le Noy, whom a vile calumny has robbed of
the throne in your profession so justly due to your skill, you, nobly
scorning the rich and great, have devoted yourself to tend and heal the
humble and the penniless, so that you have won the popular title of the
'Medecin des Pauvres,' when the time comes wherein soldiers shall fly
before the sansculottes, and the mob shall begin the work which they who
move mobs will complete, the clients of Gaspard le Noy will be the
avengers of his wrongs.

"You, Armand Monnier, simple ouvrier, but of illustrious parentage, for
your grandsire was the beloved friend of the virtuous Robespierre, your
father perished a hero and a martyr in the massacre of the coup d'etat;
you, cultured in the eloquence of Robespierre himself, and in the
persuasive philosophy of Robespierre's teacher, Rousseau; you, the
idolized orator of the Red Republicans,--you will be indeed a chief of
dauntless bands when the trumpet sounds for battle. Young publicist and
poet, Gustave Rameau,--I care not which you are at present, I know what
you will be soon, you need nothing for the development of your powers
over the many but an organ for their manifestation. Of that anon. I now
descend into the bathos of egotism. I am compelled lastly to speak of
myself. It was at Marseilles and Lyons, as you already know, that I first
conceived the plan of this representative association. For years before I
had been in familiar intercourse with the friends of freedom,--that is,
with the foes of the Empire. They are not all poor; some few are rich and
generous. I do not say these rich and few concur in the ultimate objects
of the poor and many; 'but they concur in the first object, the
demolition of that which exists,--the Empire. In the course of my special
calling of negotiator or agent in the towns of the Midi, I formed
friendships with some of these prosperous malcontents; and out of these
friendships I conceived the idea which is embodied in this council.

"According to that conception, while the council may communicate as it
will with all societies, secret or open, having revolution for their
object, the council refuses to merge itself in any other confederation;
it stands aloof and independent; it declines to admit into its code any
special articles of faith in a future beyond the bounds to which it
limits its design and its force. That design unites us; to go beyond
would divide. We all agree to destroy the Napoleonic dynasty; none of us
might agree as to what we should place in its stead. All of us here
present might say, 'A republic.' Ay, but of what kind? Vanderstegen would
have it socialistic; Monnier goes further, and would have it communistic,
on the principles of Fourier; Le Noy adheres to the policy of Danton, and
would commence the republic by a reign of terror; our Italian ally abhors
the notion of general massacre, and advocates individual assassination.
Ruvigny would annihilate the worship of a Deity; Monnier holds with
Voltaire and Robespierre, that, 'if there were no Deity, it would be
necessary to man to create one.' Bref, we could not agree upon any plan
for the new edifice, and therefore we refuse to discuss one till the
ploughshare has gone over the ruins of the old. But I have another and
more practical reason for keeping our council distinct from all societies
with professed objects beyond that of demolition. We need a certain
command of money. It is I who bring to you that, and--how? Not from my
own resources,--they but suffice to support myself; not by contributions
from ouvriers who, as you well know, will subscribe only for their own
ends in the victory of workmen over masters. I bring money to you from
the coffers of the rich malcontents. Their politics are not those of most
present; their politics are what they term moderate. Some are indeed for
a republic, but for a republic strong in defence of order, in support of
property; others--and they are more numerous and the more rich--for a
constitutional monarchy, and, if possible, for the abridgment of
universal suffrage, which in their eyes tends only to anarchy in the
towns and arbitrary rule under priestly influence in the rural districts.
They would not subscribe a sou if they thought it went to further the
designs whether of Ruvigny the atheist, or of Monnier, who would enlist
the Deity of Rousseau on the side of the drapeau rouge; not a sou if they
knew I had the honour to boast such confreres as I see around me. They
subscribe, as we concert, for the fall of Bonaparte. The policy I adopt I
borrow from the policy of the English Liberals. In England, potent
millionnaires, high-born dukes, devoted Churchmen, belonging to the
Liberal party, accept the services of men who look forward to measures
which would ruin capital, eradicate aristocracy, and destroy the Church,
provided these men combine with them in some immediate step onward
against the Tories. They have a proverb which I thus adapt to French
localities: if a train passes Fontainebleau on its way to Marseilles, why
should I not take it to Fontainebleau because other passengers are going
on to Marseilles?

"Confreres, it seems to me the moment has come when we may venture some
of the fund placed at my disposal to other purposes than those to which
it has been hitherto devoted. I propose, therefore, to set up a journal
under the auspices of Gustave Rameau as editor-in-chief,--a journal
which, if he listen to my advice, will create no small sensation. It will
begin with a tone of impartiality; it will refrain from all violence of
invective; it will have wit, it will have sentiment, and eloquence; it
will win its way into the salons and cafes of educated men; and then, and
then, when it does change from polished satire into fierce denunciation
and sides with the blouses, its effect will be startling and terrific. Of
this I will say more to citizen Rameau in private. To you I need not
enlarge upon the fact that, at Paris, a combination of men, though
immeasurably superior to us in status or influence, without a journal at
command is nowhere; with such a journal, written not to alarm but to
seduce fluctuating opinions, a combination of men immeasurably inferior
to us may be anywhere.

"Confreres, this affair settled, I proceed to distribute amongst you sums
of which each who receives will render me an account, except our valued
confrere the Pole. All that we can subscribe to the cause of humanity a
representative of Poland requires for himself." (A suppressed laugh among
all but the Pole, who looked round with a grave, imposing air, as much as
to say, "What is there to laugh at?--a simple truth.")

M. Lebeau then presented to each of his confreres a sealed envelope,
containing no doubt a bank-note, and perhaps also private instructions as
to its disposal. It was one of his rules to make the amount of any sum
granted to an individual member of the society from the fund at his
disposal a confidential secret between himself and the recipient. Thus
jealousy was avoided if the sums were unequal; and unequal they generally
were. In the present instance the two largest sums were given to the
"Medecin des Pauvres" and to the delegate from Verviers. Both were no
doubt to be distributed among "the poor," at the discretion of the
trustee appointed.

Whatever rules with regard to the distribution of money M. Lebeau laid
down were acquiesced in without demur, for the money was found
exclusively by himself, and furnished without the pale of the Secret
Council, of which he had made himself founder and dictator. Some other
business was then discussed, sealed reports from each member were handed
to the president, who placed them unopened in his pocket, and resumed,
"Confreres, our seance is now concluded. The period for our next meeting
must remain indefinite, for I myself shall leave Paris as soon as I have
set on foot the journal, on the details of which I will confer with
citizen Rameau. I am not satisfied with the progress made by the two
travelling missionaries who complete our Council of Ten; and though I do
not question their zeal, I think my experience may guide it if I take a
journey to the towns of Bordeaux and Marseilles, where they now are. But
should circumstances demanding concert or action arise, you may be sure
that I will either summon a meeting or transmit instructions to such of
our members as may be most usefully employed. For the present, confreres,
you are relieved. Remain only you, dear young author."



CHAPTER VII.

Left alone with Gustave Rameau, the President of the Secret Council
remained silently musing for some moments; but his countenance was no
longer moody and overcast,--his nostrils were dilated, as in triumph;
there was a half-smile of pride on his lips. Rameau watched him curiously
and admiringly. The young man had the impressionable, excitable
temperament common to Parisian genius,--especially when it nourishes
itself on absinthe. He enjoyed the romance of belonging to a secret
society; he was acute enough to recognize the sagacity by which this
small conclave was kept out of those crazed combinations for
impracticable theories more likely to lead adventurers to the Tarpeian
Rock than to the Capitol, while yet those crazed combinations might, in
some critical moment, become strong instruments in the hands of practical
ambition. Lebeau fascinated him, and took colossal proportions in his
intoxicated vision,--vision indeed intoxicated at this moment, for before
it floated the realized image of his aspirations,--a journal of which he
was to be the editor-in-chief; in which his poetry, his prose, should
occupy space as large as he pleased; through which his name, hitherto
scarce known beyond a literary clique, would resound in salon and club
and cafe, and become a familiar music on the lips of fashion. And he owed
this to the man seated there,--a prodigious man.

"Cher poete," said Lebeau, breaking silence, "it gives me no mean
pleasure to think I am opening a career to one whose talents fit him for
those goals on which they who reach write names that posterity shall
read. Struck with certain articles of yours in the journal made
celebrated by the wit and gayety of Savarin, I took pains privately to
inquire into your birth, your history, connections, antecedents. All
confirmed my first impression,--that you were exactly the writer I wish
to secure to our cause. I therefore sought you in your rooms,
unintroduced and a stranger, in order to express my admiration of your
compositions. Bref, we soon became friends; and after comparing minds, I
admitted you, at your request, into this Secret Council. Now, in
proposing to you the conduct of the journal I would establish, for which
I am prepared to find all necessary funds, I am compelled to make
imperative conditions. Nominally you will be editor-in-chief: that
station, if the journal succeeds, will secure you position and fortune;
if it fail, you fail with it. But we will not speak of failure; I must
have it succeed. Our interest, then, is the same. Before that interest
all puerile vanities fade away. Nominally, I say, you are
editor-in-chief; but all the real work of editing will, at first, be done
by others."

"Ah!" exclaimed Rameau, aghast and stunned. Lebeau resumed,

"To establish the journal I propose needs more than the genius of youth;
it needs the tact and experience of mature years."

Rameau sank back on his chair with a sullen sneer on his pale lips.
Decidedly Lebeau was not so great a man as he had thought.

"A certain portion of the journal," continued Lebeau, "will be
exclusively appropriated to your pen."

Rameau's lip lost the sneer.

"But your pen must be therein restricted to compositions of pure fancy,
disporting in a world that does not exist; or, if on graver themes
connected with the beings of the world that does exist, the subjects will
be dictated to you and revised. Yet even in the higher departments of a
journal intended to make way at its first start, we need the aid, not
indeed of men who write better than you, but of men whose fame is
established,--whose writings, good or bad, the public run to read, and
will find good even if they are bad. You must consign one column to the
playful comments and witticisms of Savarin."

"Savarin? But he has a journal of his own. He will not, as an author,
condescend to write in one just set up by me; and as a politician, he as
certainly will not aid in an ultrademocratic revolution. If he care for
politics at all, he is a constitutionalist, an Orleanist."

"Enfant! as an author Savarin will condescend to contribute to your
journal, first, because it in no way attempts to interfere with his own;
secondly,--I can tell you a secret, Savarin's journal no longer suffices
for his existence. He has sold more than two-thirds of its property; he
is in debt, and his creditor is urgent; and to-morrow you will offer
Savarin thirty thousand francs for one column from his pen, and signed by
his name, for two months from the day the journal starts. He will accept,
partly because the sum will clear off the debt that hampers him, partly
because he will take care that the amount becomes known; and that will
help him to command higher terms for the sale of the remaining shares in
the journal he now edits, for the new book which you told me he intended
to write, and for the new journal which he will be sure to set up as soon
as he has disposed of the old one. You say that, as a politician,
Savarin, an Orleanist, will not aid in an ultra-democratic revolution.
Who asks him to do so? Did I not imply at the meeting that we commence
our journal with politics the mildest? Though revolutions are not made
with rose-water, it is rose-water that nourishes their roots. The polite
cynicism of authors, read by those who float on the surface of society,
prepares the way for the social ferment in its deeps. Had there been no
Voltaire, there would have been no Camille Desmoulins; had there been no
Diderot, there would have been no Marat. We start as polite cynics. Of
all cynics Savarin is the politest. But when I bid high for him, it is
his clique that I bid for. Without his clique he is but a wit; with his
clique, a power. Partly out of that clique, partly out of a circle beyond
it, which Savarin can more or less influence, I select ten. Here is the
list of them; study it. Entre nous, I esteem their writings as little as
I do artificial flies; but they are the artificial flies at which, in
this particular season of the year, the public rise. You must procure at
least five of the ten; and I leave you carte blanche as to the terms.
Savarin gained, the best of them will be proud of being his associates.
Observe, none of these messieurs of brilliant imagination are to write
political articles; those will be furnished to you anonymously, and
inserted without erasure or omission. When you have secured Savarin, and
five at least of the collaborateurs in the list, write to me at my
office. I give you four days to do this; and the day the journal starts
you enter into the income of fifteen thousand francs a year, with a rise
in salary proportioned to profits. Are you contented with the terms?"

"Of course I am; but supposing I do not gain the aid of Savarin, or five
at least of the list you give, which I see at a glance contains names the
most a la mode in this kind of writing, more than one of them of high
social rank, whom it is difficult for me even to approach,--if, I say, I
fail?"

"What! with a carte blanche of terms? fie! Are you a Parisian? Well, to
answer you frankly, if you fail in so easy a task, you are not the man to
edit our journal, and I shall find another. Allez, courage! Take my
advice; see Savarin the first thing to-morrow morning. Of course, my name
and calling you will keep a profound secret from him, as from all. Say as
mysteriously as you can that parties you are forbidden to name instruct
you to treat with M. Savarin, and offer him the terms I have specified,
the thirty thousand francs paid to him in advance the moment he signs the
simple memorandum of agreement. The more mysterious you are, the more you
will impose,--that is, wherever you offer money and don't ask for it."

Here Lebeau took up his hat, and, with a courteous nod of adieu, lightly
descended the gloomy stairs.



CHAPTER VIII.

At night, after this final interview with Lebeau, Graham took leave for
good of his lodgings in Montmartre, and returned to his apartment in the
Rue d'Anjou. He spent several hours of the next morning in answering
numerous letters accumulated during his absence. Late in the afternoon he
had an interview with M. Renard, who, as at that season of the year he
was not over-busied with other affairs, engaged to obtain leave to place
his services at Graham's command during the time requisite for inquiries
at Aix, and to be in readiness to start the next day. Graham then went
forth to pay one or two farewell visits; and these over, bent his way
through the Champs Elysees towards Isaura's villa, when he suddenly
encountered Rochebriant on horseback. The Marquis courteously dismounted,
committing his horse to the care of the groom, and linking his arm in
Graham's, expressed his pleasure at seeing him again; then, with some
visible hesitation and embarrassment, he turned the conversation towards
the political aspects of France.

"There was," he said, "much in certain words of yours, when we last
walked together in this very path, that sank deeply into my mind at the
time, and over which I have of late still more earnestly reflected. You
spoke of the duties a Frenchman owed to France, and the 'impolicy' of
remaining aloof from all public employment on the part of those attached
to the Legitimist cause."

"True; it cannot be the policy of any party to forget that between the
irrevocable past and the uncertain future there intervenes the action of
the present time."

"Should you, as an impartial bystander, consider it dishonourable in me
if I entered the military service under the ruling sovereign?"

"Certainly not, if your country needed you."

"And it may, may it not? I hear vague rumours of coming war in almost
every salon I frequent. There has been gunpowder in the atmosphere we
breathe ever since the battle of Sadowa. What think you of German
arrogance and ambition? Will they suffer the swords of France to rust in
their scabbards?"

"My dear Marquis, I should incline to put the question otherwise. Will
the jealous amour propre of France permit the swords of Germany to remain
sheathed? But in either case, no politician can see without grave
apprehension two nations so warlike, close to each other, divided by a
borderland that one covets and the other will not yield, each armed to
the teeth,--the one resolved to brook no rival, the other equally
determined to resist all aggression. And therefore, as you say, war is in
the atmosphere; and we may also hear, in the clouds that give no sign of
dispersion, the growl of the gathering thunder. War may come any day; and
if France be not at once the victor--"

"France not at once the victor?" interrupted Alain, passionately; "and
against a Prussian! Permit me to say no Frenchman can believe that."

"Let no man despise a foe," said Graham, smiling half sadly. "However, I
must not incur the danger of wounding your national susceptibilities. To
return to the point you raise. If France needed the aid of her best and
bravest, a true descendant of Henri Quatre ought to blush for his ancient
noblesse were a Rochebriant to say, 'But I don't like the colour of the
flag.'"

"Thank you," said Alain, simply; "that is enough." There was a pause, the
young men walking on slowly, arm in arm. And then there flashed across
Graham's mind the recollection of talk on another subject in that very
path. Here he had spoken to Alain in deprecation of any possible alliance
with Isaura Cicogna, the destined actress and public; singer. His cheek
flushed; his heart smote him. What! had he spoken slightingly of her--of
her? What if she became his own wife? What! had he himself failed in the
respect which he would demand as her right from the loftiest of his
high-born kindred? What, too, would this man, of fairer youth than
himself, think of that disparaging counsel, when he heard that the
monitor had won the prize from which he had warned another? Would it not
seem that he had but spoken in the mean cunning dictated by the fear of a
worthier rival? Stung by these thoughts, he arrested his steps, and,
looking the Marquis full in the face, said, "You remind me of one subject
in our talk many weeks since; it is my duty to remind you of another. At
that time you, and, speaking frankly, I myself, acknowledged the charm in
the face of a young Italian lady. I told you then that, on learning she
was intended for the stage, the charm for me had vanished. I said bluntly
that it should vanish perhaps still more utterly for a noble of your
illustrious name; you remember?"

"Yes," answered Alain, hesitatingly, and with a look of surprise.

"I wish now to retract all I said thereon. Mademoiselle Cicogna is not
bent on the profession for which she was educated. She would willingly
renounce all idea of entering it. The only counterweight which, viewed
whether by my reason or my prejudices, could be placed in the opposite
scale to that of the excellences which might make any man proud to win
her, is withdrawn. I have become acquainted with her since the date of
our conversation. Hers is a mind which harmonizes with the loveliness of
her face. In one word, Marquis, I should deem myself honoured, as well as
blest, by such a bride. It was due to her that I should say this; it was
due also to you, in case you should retain the impression I sought in
ignorance to efface. And I am bound, as a gentleman, to obey this twofold
duty, even though in so doing I bring upon myself the affliction of a
candidate for the hand to which I would fain myself aspire,--a candidate
with pretensions in every way far superior to my own."

An older or a more cynical man than Alain de Rochebriant might well have
found something suspicious in a confession thus singularly volunteered;
but the Marquis was himself so loyal that he had no doubt of the loyalty
of Graham.

"I reply to you," he said, "with a frankness which finds an example in
your own. The first fair face which attracted my fancy since my arrival
at Paris was that of the Italian demoiselle of whom you speak in terms of
such respect. I do think if I had then been thrown into her society, and
found her to be such as you no doubt truthfully describe, that fancy
might have become a very grave emotion. I was then so poor, so
friendless, so despondent! Your words of warning impressed me at the
time, but less durably than you might suppose; for that very night as I
sat in my solitary attic I said to myself, 'Why should I shrink, with an
obsolete old-world prejudice, from what my forefathers would have termed
a mesalliance? What is the value of my birthright now? None,--worse than
none. It excludes me from all careers; my name is but a load that weighs
me down. Why should I make that name a curse as well as a burden? Nothing
is left to me but that which is permitted to all men,--wedded and holy
love. Could I win to my heart the smile of a woman who brings me that
dower, the home of my fathers would lose its gloom.' And therefore, if at
that time I had become familiarly acquainted with her who had thus
attracted my eye and engaged my thoughts, she might have become my
destiny; but now!"

"But now?"

"Things have changed. I am no longer poor, friendless, solitary. I have
entered the world of my equals as a Rochebriant; I have made myself
responsible for the dignity of my name. I could not give that name to
one, however peerless in herself, of whom the world would say, 'But for
her marriage she would have been a singer on the stage!' I will own more:
the fancy I conceived for the first fair face, other fair faces have
dispelled. At this moment, however, I have no thought of marriage; and
having known the anguish of struggle, the privations of poverty, I would
ask no woman to share the hazard of my return to them. You might present
me, then, safely to this beautiful Italian,--certain, indeed, that I
should be her admirer; equally certain that I could not become your
rival."

There was something in this speech that jarred upon Graham's sensitive
pride; but on the whole, he felt relieved, both in honour and in heart.
After a few more words, the two young men shook hands and parted. Alain
remounted his horse. The day was now declining. Graham hailed a vacant
fiacre, and directed the driver to Isaura's villa.



CHAPTER IX.

ISAURA.

The sun was sinking slowly as Isaura sat at her window, gazing dreamily
on the rose-hued clouds that made the western borderland between earth
and heaven. On the table before her lay a few sheets of manuscript
hastily written, not yet reperused. That restless mind of hers had left
its trace on the manuscript.

It is characteristic perhaps of the different genius of the sexes, that
woman takes to written composition more impulsively, more intuitively,
than man,--letter-writing, to him a task-work, is to her a recreation.
Between the age of sixteen and the date of marriage, six well-educated
clever girls out of ten keep a journal; not one well-educated man in ten
thousand does. So, without serious and settled intention of becoming an
author, how naturally a girl of ardent feeling and vivid fancy seeks in
poetry or romance a confessional,--an outpouring of thought and
sentiment, which are mysteries to herself till she has given them words,
and which, frankly revealed on the page, she would not, perhaps could
not, utter orally to a living ear.

During the last few days, the desire to create in the realm of fable
beings constructed by her own breath, spiritualized by her own soul, had
grown irresistibly upon this fair child of song. In fact, when Graham's
words had decided the renunciation of her destined career, her
instinctive yearnings for the utterance of those sentiments or thoughts
which can only find expression in some form of art, denied the one vent,
irresistibly impelled her to the other. And in this impulse she was
confirmed by the thought that here at least there was nothing which her
English friend could disapprove,--none of the perils that beset the
actress. Here it seemed as if, could she but succeed, her fame would be
grateful to the pride of all who loved her. Here was a career ennobled by
many a woman, and side by side in rivalry with renowned men. To her it
seemed that, could she in this achieve an honoured name, that name took
its place at once amid the higher ranks of the social world, and in
itself brought a priceless dowry and a starry crown. It was, however, not
till after the visit to Enghien that this ambition took practical life
and form. One evening after her return to Paris, by an effort so
involuntary that it seemed to her no effort, she had commenced a
tale,--without plan, without method, without knowing in one page what
would fill the next. Her slight fingers hurried on as if, like the
pretended spirit manifestations, impelled by an invisible agency without
the pale of the world. She was intoxicated by the mere joy of inventing
ideal images. In her own special art an elaborate artist, here she had no
thought of art; if art was in her work, it sprang unconsciously from the
harmony between herself and her subject,--as it is, perhaps, with the
early soarings of the genuine lyric poets, in contrast to the dramatic.
For the true lyric poet is intensely personal, intensely subjective. It
is himself that he expresses, that he represents; and he almost ceases to
be lyrical when he seeks to go out of his own existence into that of
others with whom he has no sympathy, no rapport. This tale was vivid with
genius as yet untutored,--genius in its morning freshness, full of
beauties, full of faults. Isaura distinguished not the faults from the
beauties. She felt only a vague persuasion that there was a something
higher and brighter--a something more true to her own idiosyncrasy--than
could be achieved by the art that "sings other people's words to other
people's music." From the work thus commenced she had now paused; and it
seemed to her fancies that between her inner self and the scene without,
whether in the skies and air and sunset, or in the abodes of men
stretching far and near till lost amid the roofs and domes of the great
city, she had fixed and riveted the link of a sympathy hitherto
fluctuating, unsubstantial, evanescent, undefined. Absorbed in her
revery, she did not notice the deepening of the short twilight, till the
servant entering drew the curtains between her and the world without, and
placed the lamp on the table beside her. Then she turned away with a
restless sigh; her eyes fell on the manuscript, but the charm of it was
gone. A sentiment of distrust in its worth had crept into her thoughts,
unconsciously to herself, and the page open before her at an uncompleted
sentence seemed unwelcome and wearisome as a copy-book is to a child
condemned to relinquish a fairy tale half told, and apply himself to a
task half done. She fell again into a revery, when, starting as from a
dream, she heard herself addressed by name, and turning round saw Savarin
and Gustave Rameau in the room.

"We are come, Signorina," said Savarin, "to announce to you a piece of
news, and to hazard a petition. The news is this: my young friend here
has found a Maecenas who has the good taste so to admire his lucubrations
under the nom de plume of Alphonse de Valcour as to volunteer the
expenses for starting a new journal, of which Gustave Rameau is to be
editor-in-chief; and I have promised to assist him as contributor for the
first two months. I have given him notes of introduction to certain other
feuilletonistes and critics whom he has on his list. But all put together
would not serve to float the journal like a short roman from Madame de
Grantmesnil. Knowing your intimacy with that eminent artist, I venture to
back Rameau's supplication that you would exert your influence on his,
behalf. As to the honoraires, she has but to name them."

"Carte blanche," cried Rameau, eagerly.

"You know Eulalie too well, Monsieur Savarin," answered Isaura, with a
smile half reproachful, "to suppose that she is a mercenary in letters,
and sells her services to the best bidder."

"Bah, belle enfant!" said Savarin, with his gay light laugh. "Business is
business, and books as well as razors are made to sell. But, of course, a
proper prospectus of the journal must accompany your request to write in
it. Meanwhile Rameau will explain to you, as he has done to me, that the
journal in question is designed for circulation among readers of haute
classe it is to be pleasant and airy, full of bons mots and anecdote;
witty, but not ill-natured. Politics to be Liberal, of course, but of
elegant admixture,--champagne and seltzer-water. In fact, however, I
suspect that the politics will be a very inconsiderable feature in this
organ of fine arts and manners; some amateur scribbler in the beau monde
will supply them. For the rest, if my introductory letters are
successful, Madame de Grantmesnil will not be in bad company."

"You will write to Madame de Grantmesnil?" asked Rameau, pleadingly.

"Certainly I will, as soon--"

"As soon as you have the prospectus, and the names of the
collaborateurs," interrupted Rameau. "I hope to send you these in a very
few days."

While Rameau was thus speaking, Savarin had seated himself by the table,
and his eye mechanically resting on the open manuscript lighted by chance
upon a sentence--an aphorism--embodying a very delicate sentiment in very
felicitous diction,--one of those choice condensations of thought,
suggesting so much more than is said, which are never found in mediocre
writers, and, rare even in the best, come upon us like truths seized by
surprise.

"Parbleu!" exclaimed Savarin, in the impulse of genuine admiration, "but
this is beautiful; what is more, it is original,"--and he read the words
aloud. Blushing with shame and resentment, Isaura turned and hastily
placed her hand on the manuscript.

"Pardon," said Savarin, humbly; "I confess my sin, but it was so
unpremeditated that it does not merit a severe penance. Do not look at me
so reproachfully. We all know that young ladies keep commonplace books in
which they enter passages that strike them in the works they read; and
you have but shown an exquisite taste in selecting this gem. Do tell me
where you found it. Is it somewhere in Lamartine?"

"No," answered Isaura, half inaudibly, and with an effort to withdraw the
paper. Savarin gently detained her hand, and looking earnestly into her
tell-tale face, divined her secret.

"It is your own, Signorina! Accept the congratulations of a very
practised and somewhat fastidious critic. If the rest of what you write
resembles this sentence, contribute to Rameau's journal, and I answer for
its success."

Rameau approached, half incredulous, half envious.

"My dear child," resumed Savarin, drawing away the manuscript from
Isaura's coy, reluctant clasp, "do permit me to cast a glance over these
papers. For what I yet know, there may be here more promise of fame than
even you could gain as a singer."

The electric chord in Isaura's heart was touched. Who cannot conceive
what the young writer feels, especially the young woman-writer, when
hearing the first cheery note of praise from the lips of a writer of
established fame?

"Nay, this cannot be worth your reading," said Isaura, falteringly; "I
have never written anything of the kind before, and this is a riddle to
me. I know not," she added, with a sweet low laugh, "why I began, nor how
I should end it."

"So much the better," said Savarin; and he took the manuscript, withdrew
to a recess by the farther window, and seated himself there, reading
silently and quickly, but now and then with a brief pause of reflection.

Rameau placed himself beside Isaura on the divan, and began talking with
her earnestly,--earnestly, for it was about himself and his aspiring
hopes. Isaura, on the other hand, more woman-like than author-like,
ashamed even to seem absorbed in herself and her hopes, and with her back
turned, in the instinct of that shame, against the reader of her
manuscript,--Isaura listened and sought to interest herself solely in the
young fellow-author. Seeking to do so she succeeded genuinely, for ready
sympathy was a prevalent characteristic of her nature.

"Oh," said Rameau, "I am at the turning-point of my life. Ever since
boyhood I have been haunted with the words of Andre Chenier on the
morning he was led to the scaffold 'And yet there was something here,'
striking his forehead. Yes, I, poor, low-born, launching myself headlong
in the chase of a name; I, underrated, uncomprehended, indebted even for
a hearing to the patronage of an amiable trifler like Savarin, ranked by
petty rivals in a grade below themselves,--I now see before me, suddenly,
abruptly presented, the expanding gates into fame and fortune. Assist me,
you!"

"But how?" said Isaura, already forgetting her manuscript; and certainly
Rameau did not refer to that.

"How!" echoed Rameau; "how! But do you not see--or at least, do you not
conjecture--this journal of which Savarin speaks contains my present and
my future? Present independence, opening to fortune and renown. Ay,--and
who shall say? renown beyond that of the mere writer. Behind the gaudy
scaffolding of this rickety Empire, a new social edifice unperceived
arises; and in that edifice the halls of State shall be given to the men
who help obscurely to build it,--to men like me." Here, drawing her hand
into his own, fixing on her the most imploring gaze of his dark
persuasive eyes, and utterly unconscious of bathos in his adjuration, he
added: "Plead for me with your whole mind and heart; use your uttermost
influence with the illustrious writer whose pen can assure the fates of
my journal."

Here the door suddenly opened, and following the servant, who announced
unintelligibly his name, there entered Graham Vane.



CHAPTER X.

The Englishman halted at the threshold. His eye, passing rapidly over the
figure of Savarin reading in the window-niche, rested upon Rameau and
Isaura seated on the same divan, he with her hand clasped in both his
own, and bending his face towards hers so closely that a loose tress of
her hair seemed to touch his forehead.

The Englishman halted, and no revolution which changes the habitudes and
forms of States was ever so sudden as that which passed without a word in
the depths of his unconjectured heart. The heart has no history which
philosophers can recognize. An ordinary political observer, contemplating
the condition of a nation, may very safely tell us what effects must
follow the causes patent to his eyes; but the wisest and most far-seeing
sage, looking at a man at one o'clock, cannot tell us what revulsions of
his whole being may be made ere the clock strike two.

As Isaura rose to greet her visitor, Savarin came from the window-niche,
the manuscript in his hand.

"Son of perfidious Albion," said Savarin, gayly, "we feared you had
deserted the French alliance. Welcome back to Paris, and the entente
cordiale."

"Would I could stay to enjoy such welcome! but I must again quit Paris."

"Soon to return, n'est ce pas? Paris is an irresistible magnet to les
beaux esprits. A propos of beaux esprits, be sure to leave orders with
your bookseller, if you have one, to enter your name as subscriber to a
new journal."

"Certainly, if Monsieur Savarin recommends it."

"He recommends it as a matter of course; he writes in it," said Rameau.

"A sufficient guarantee for its excellence. What is the name of the
journal?"

"Not yet thought of," answered Savarin. "Babes must be born before they
are christened; but it will be instruction enough to your bookseller to
order the new journal to be edited by Gustave Rameau."

Bowing ceremoniously to the editor in prospect, Graham said, half
ironically, "May I hope that in the department of criticism you will not
be too hard upon poor Tasso?"

"Never fear; the Signorina, who adores Tasso, will take him under her
special protection," said Savarin, interrupting Rameau's sullen and
embarrassed reply.

Graham's brow slightly contracted. "Mademoiselle," he said, "is then to
be united in the conduct of this journal with M. Gustave Rameau?"

"No, indeed!" exclaimed Isaura, somewhat frightened at the idea.

"But I hope," said Savarin, "that the Signorina may become a contributor
too important for an editor to offend by insulting her favourites, Tasso
included. Rameau and I came hither to entreat her influence with her
intimate and illustrious friend, Madame de Grantmesnil, to insure the
success of our undertaking by sanctioning the announcement of her name as
a contributor."

"Upon social questions,--such as the laws of marriage?" said Graham, with
a sarcastic smile, which concealed the quiver of his lip and the pain in
his voice.

"Nay," answered Savarin, "our journal will be too sportive, I hope, for
matters so profound. We would rather have Madame de Grantmesnil's aid in
some short roman, which will charm the fancy of all and offend the
opinions of none. But since I came into the room, I care less for the
Signorina's influence with the great authoress," and he glanced
significantly at the manuscript.

"How so?" asked Graham, his eye following the glance.

"If the writer of this manuscript will conclude what she has begun, we
shall be independent of Madame de Grantmesnil."

"Fie!" cried Isaura, impulsively, her face and neck bathed in
blushes,--"fie! such words are a mockery."

Graham gazed at her intently, and then turned his eyes on Savarin. He
guessed aright the truth. "Mademoiselle then is an author? In the style
of her friend Madame de Grantmesnil?"

"Bah!" said Savarin, "I should indeed be guilty of mockery if I paid the
Signorina so false a compliment as to say that in a first effort she
attained to the style of one of the most finished sovereigns of language
that has ever swayed the literature of France. When I say, 'Give us this
tale completed, and I shall be consoled if the journal does not gain the
aid of Madame de Grantmesnil,' I mean that in these pages there is that
nameless charm of freshness and novelty which compensates for many faults
never committed by a practised pen like Madame de Grantmesnil's. My dear
young lady, go on with this story,--finish it; when finished, do not
disdain any suggestions I may offer in the way of correction,--and I will
venture to predict to you so brilliant a career as author, that you will
not regret should you resign for that career the bravoes you could
command as actress and singer."

The Englishman pressed his hand convulsively to his heart, as if smitten
by a sudden spasm. But as his eyes rested on Isaura's face, which had
become radiant with the enthusiastic delight of genius when the path it
would select opens before it as if by a flash from heaven, whatever of
jealous irritation, whatever of selfish pain he might before have felt;
was gone, merged in a sentiment of unutterable sadness and compassion.
Practical man as he was, he knew so well all the dangers, all the snares,
all the sorrows, all the scandals menacing name and fame, that in the
world of Paris must beset the fatherless girl who, not less in authorship
than on the stage, leaves the safeguard of private life forever behind
her, who becomes a prey to the tongues of the public. At Paris, how
slender is the line that divides the authoress from the Bohemienne! He
sank into his chair silently, and passed his hand over his eyes, as if to
shut out a vision of the future.

Isaura in her excitement did not notice the effect on her English
visitor. She could not have divined such an effect as possible. On the
contrary, even subordinate to her joy at the thought that she had not
mistaken the instincts which led her to a nobler vocation than that of
the singer, that the cage-bar was opened, and space bathed in sunshine
was inviting the new-felt wings,--subordinate even to that joy was a joy
more wholly, more simply woman's. "If," thought she, in this joy, "if
this be true, my proud ambition is realized; all disparities of worth and
fortune are annulled between me and him to whom I would bring no shame of
mesalliance!" Poor dreamer, poor child!

"You will let me see what you have written," said Rameau, somewhat
imperiously, in the sharp voice habitual to him, and which pierced
Graham's ear like a splinter of glass.

"No, not now; when finished."

"You will finish it?"

"Oh, yes; how can I help it after such encouragement?" She held out her
hand to Savarin, who kissed it gallantly; then her eyes intuitively
sought Graham's. By that time he had recovered his self-possession. He
met her look tranquilly, and with a smile; but the smile chilled her, she
knew not why.

The conversation then passed upon books and authors of the day, and was
chiefly supported by the satirical pleasantries of Savarin, who was in
high good-spirits.

Graham, who, as we know, had come with the hope of seeing Isaura alone,
and with the intention of uttering words which, however guarded, might
yet in absence serve as links of union, now no longer coveted that
interview, no longer meditated those words. He soon rose to depart.

"Will you dine with me to-morrow?" asked Savarin. "Perhaps I may induce
the Signorina and Rameau to offer you the temptation of meeting them."

"By to-morrow I shall be leagues away."

Isaura's heart sank. This time the manuscript was fairly forgotten.

"You never said you were going so soon," cried Savarin. "When do you come
back, vile deserter?"

"I cannot even guess. Monsieur Rameau, count me among your subscribers.
Mademoiselle, my best regards to Signora Venosta. When I see you again,
no doubt you will have become famous."

Isaura here could not control herself. She rose impulsively, and
approached him, holding out her hand, and attempting a smile.

"But not famous in the way that you warned me from," she said in
whispered tones. "You are friends with me still?" It was like the piteous
wail of a child seeking to make it up with one who wants to quarrel, the
child knows not why. Graham was moved, but what could he say? Could he
have the right to warn her from this profession also; forbid all desires,
all roads of fame to this brilliant aspirant? Even a declared and
accepted lover might well have deemed that that would be to ask too much.
He replied, "Yes, always a friend, if you could ever need one." Her hand
slid from his, and she turned away wounded to the quick.

"Have you your coupe at the door?" asked Savarin.

"Simply a fiacre."

"And are going back at once to Paris?"

"Yes."

"Will you kindly drop me in the Rue de Rivoli?"

"Charmed to be of use."



CHAPTER XI.

As the fiacre bore to Paris Savarin and Graham, the former said, "I
cannot conceive what rich simpleton could entertain so high an opinion of
Gustave Rameau as to select a man so young, and of reputation though
promising so undecided, for an enterprise which requires such a degree of
tact and judgment as the conduct of a new journal,--and a journal, too,
which is to address itself to the beau monde. However, it is not for me
to criticise a selection which brings a god-send to myself."

"To yourself? You jest; you have a journal of your own. It can only be
through an excess of good-nature that you lend your name and pen to the
service of M. Gustave Rameau."

"My good-nature does not go to that extent. It is Rameau who confers a
service upon me. Peste! mon cher, we French authors have not the rents of
you rich English milords. And though I am the most economical of our
tribe, yet that journal of mine has failed me of late; and this morning I
did not exactly see how I was to repay a sum I had been obliged to borrow
of a money-lender,--for I am too proud to borrow of friends, and too
sagacious to borrow of publishers,--when in walks ce cher petit Gustave
with an offer, for a few trifles towards starting this new-born journal,
which makes a new man of me. Now I am in the undertaking, my amour propre
and my reputation are concerned in its success; and I shall take care
that collaborateurs of whose company I am not ashamed are in the same
boat. But that charming girl, Isaura! What an enigma the gift of the pen
is! No one can ever guess who has it until tried."

"The young lady's manuscript, then, really merits the praise you bestowed
on it?"

"Much more praise, though a great deal of blame, which I did not
bestow,--for in a first work faults insure success as much as beauties.
Anything better than tame correctness. Yes, her first work, to judge by
what is written, must make a hit,--a great hit. And that will decide her
career. A singer, an actress, may retire,--often does when she marries an
author; but once an author always an author."

"Ah! is it so? If you had a beloved daughter, Savarin, would you
encourage her to be an author?"

"Frankly, no: principally because in that case the chances are that she
would marry an author; and French authors, at least in the imaginative
school, make very uncomfortable husbands."

"Ah! you think the Signorina will marry one of those uncomfortable
husbands,--M. Rameau, perhaps?"

"Rameau! Hein! nothing more likely. That beautiful face of his has its
fascination. And to tell you the truth, my wife, who is a striking
illustration of the truth that what woman wills heaven wills, is bent
upon that improvement in Gustave's moral life which she thinks a union
with Mademoiselle Cicogna would achieve. At all events, the fair Italian
would have in Rameau a husband who would not suffer her to bury her
talents under a bushel. If she succeeds as a writer (by succeeding I mean
making money), he will see that her ink-bottle is never empty; and if she
don't succeed as a writer, he will take care that the world shall gain an
actress or a singer. For Gustave Rameau has a great taste for luxury and
show; and whatever his wife can make, I will venture to say that he will
manage to spend."

"I thought you had an esteem and regard for Mademoiselle Cicogna. It is
Madame your wife, I suppose, who has a grudge against her?"

"On the contrary, my wife idolizes her."

"Savages sacrifice to their idols the things they deem of value;
civilized Parisians sacrifice their idols themselves, and to a thing that
is worthless."

"Rameau is not worthless; he has beauty and youth and talent. My wife
thinks more highly of him than I do; but I must respect a man who has
found admirers so sincere as to set him up in a journal, and give him
carte blanche for terms to contributors. I know of no man in Paris more
valuable to me. His worth to me this morning is thirty thousand francs. I
own I do not think him likely to be a very safe husband; but then French
female authors and artists seldom take any husbands except upon short
leases. There are no vulgar connubial prejudices in the pure atmosphere
of art. Women of genius, like Madame de Grantmesnil, and perhaps like our
charming young friend, resemble canary-birds,--to sing their best you
must separate them from their mates."

The Englishman suppressed a groan, and turned the conversation.

When he had set down his lively companion, Vane dismissed his fiacre, and
walked to his lodgings musingly.

"No," he said inly; "I must wrench myself from the very memory of that
haunting face,--the friend and pupil of Madame de Grantmesnil, the
associate of Gustave Rameau, the rival of Julie Caumartin, the aspirant
to that pure atmosphere of art in which there are no vulgar connubial
prejudices! Could I--whether I be rich or poor--see in her the ideal of
an English wife? As it is--as it is--with this mystery which oppresses
me, which, till solved, leaves my own career insoluble,--as it is, how
fortunate that I did not find her alone; did not utter the words that
would fain have leaped from my heart; did not say, 'I may not be the rich
man I seem, but in that case I shall be yet more ambitious, because
struggle and labour are the sinews of ambition! Should I be rich, will
you adorn my station? Should I be poor, will you enrich poverty with your
smile? And can you, in either case, forego--really, painlessly forego, as
you led me to hope--the pride in your own art?' My ambition were killed
did I marry an actress, a singer. Better that than the hungerer after
excitements which are never allayed, the struggler in a career which
admits of no retirement,--the woman to whom marriage is no goal, who
remains to the last the property of the public, and glories to dwell in a
house of glass into which every bystander has a right to peer. Is this
the ideal of an Englishman's wife and home? No, no!--woe is me, no!"



                 BOOK VI.



CHAPTER I.

A few weeks after the date of the preceding chapter, a gay party of men
were assembled at supper in one of the private salons of the Maison
Doree. The supper was given by Frederic Lemercier, and the guests were,
though in various ways, more or less distinguished. Rank and fashion were
not unworthily represented by Alain de Rochebriant and Enguerrand de
Vandemar, by whose supremacy as "lion" Frederic still felt rather
humbled, though Alain had contrived to bring them familiarly together.
Art, Literature, and the Bourse had also their representatives in Henri
Bernard, a rising young portrait-painter, whom the Emperor honoured with
his patronage, the Vicomte de Braze, and M. Savarin. Science was not
altogether forgotten, but contributed its agreeable delegate in the
person of the eminent physician to whom we have been before
introduced,--Dr. Bacourt. Doctors in Paris are not so serious as they
mostly are in London; and Bacourt, a pleasant philosopher of the school
of Aristippus, was no unfrequent nor ungenial guest at any banquet in
which the Graces relaxed their zones. Martial glory was also represented
at that social gathering by a warrior, bronzed and decorated, lately
arrived from Algiers, on which arid soil he had achieved many laurels and
the rank of Colonel. Finance contributed Duplessis. Well it might; for
Duplessis had just assisted the host to a splendid coup at the Bourse.

"Ah, cher Monsieur Savarin," says Enguerrand de Vandemar, whose patrician
blood is so pure from revolutionary taint that he is always instinctively
polite, "what a masterpiece in its way is that little paper of yours in
the 'Sens Commun,' upon the connection between the national character and
the national diet! so genuinely witty!--for wit is but truth made
amusing."

"You flatter me," replied Savarin, modestly; "but I own I do think there
is a smattering of philosophy in that trifle. Perhaps, however, the
character of a people depends more on its drinks than its food. The wines
of Italy, heady, irritable, ruinous to the digestion, contribute to the
character which belongs to active brains and disordered livers. The
Italians conceive great plans, but they cannot digest them. The English
common-people drink beer, and the beerish character is stolid, rude, but
stubborn and enduring. The English middle-class imbibe port and sherry;
and with these strong potations their ideas become obfuscated. Their
character has no liveliness; amusement is not one of their wants; they
sit at home after dinner and doze away the fumes of their beverage in the
dulness of domesticity. If the English aristocracy are more vivacious and
cosmopolitan, it is thanks to the wines of France, which it is the mode
with them to prefer; but still, like all plagiarists, they are imitators,
not inventors; they borrow our wines and copy our manners. The Germans--"

"Insolent barbarians!" growled the French Colonel, twirling his mustache;
"if the Emperor were not in his dotage, their Sadowa would ere this have
cost them their Rhine."

"The Germans," resumed Savarin, unheeding the interruption, "drink acrid
wines, varied with beer, to which last their commonalty owes a quasi
resemblance in stupidity and endurance to the English masses. Acrid wines
rot the teeth Germans are afflicted with toothache from infancy. All
people subject to toothache are sentimental. Goethe was a martyr to
toothache. 'Werther' was written in one of those paroxysms which
predispose genius to suicide. But the German character is not all
toothache; beer and tobacco step in to the relief of Rhenish acridities,
blend philosophy with sentiment, and give that patience in detail which
distinguishes their professors and their generals. Besides, the German
wines in themselves have other qualities than that of acridity. Taken
with sourkrout and stewed prunes, they produce fumes of self-conceit. A
German has little of French vanity; he has German self-esteem. He extends
the esteem of self to those around him; his home, his village, his city,
his country,--all belong to him. It is a duty he owes to himself to
defend them. Give him his pipe and his sabre, and, Monsieur le Colonel,
believe me, you will never take the Rhine from him."

"P-r-r," cried the Colonel; "but we have had the Rhine."

"We did not keep it. And I should not say I had a francpiece if I
borrowed it from your purse and had to give it back the next day."

Here there arose a very general hubbub of voices, all raised against M.
Savarin. Enguerrand, like a man of good ton, hastened to change the
conversation.

"Let us leave these poor wretches to their sour wines and toothaches. We
drinkers of the champagne, all our own, have only pity for the rest of
the human race. This new journal 'Le Sens Commun' has a strange title,
Monsieur Savarin."

"Yes; 'Le Sens Commun' is not common in Paris, where we all have too much
genius for a thing so vulgar."

"Pray," said the young painter, "tell me what you mean by the title 'Le
Sens Commun.' It is mysterious."

"True," said Savarin; "it may mean the Sensus communis of the Latins, or
the Good Sense of the English. The Latin phrase signifies the sense of
the common interest; the English phrase, the sense which persons of
understanding have in common. I suppose the inventor of our title meant
the latter signification."

"And who was the inventor?" asked Bacourt.

"That is a secret which I do not know myself," answered Savarin.

"I guess," said Enguerrand, "that it must be the same person who writes
the political leaders. They are most remarkable; for they are so unlike
the articles in other journals, whether those journals be the best or the
worst. For my own part, I trouble my head very little about politics, and
shrug my shoulders at essays which reduce the government of flesh and
blood into mathematical problems. But these articles seem to be written
by a man of the world, and as a man of the world myself, I read them."

"But," said the Vicomte de Breze, who piqued himself on the polish of his
style, "they are certainly not the composition of any eminent writer. No
eloquence, no sentiment; though I ought not to speak disparagingly of a
fellow-contributor."

"All that may be very true;" said Savarin; "but M. Enguerrand is right.
The papers are evidently the work of a man of the world, and it is for
that reason that they have startled the public, and established the
success of 'Le Sens Commun.' But wait a week or two longer, Messieurs,
and then tell me what you think of a new roman by a new writer, which we
shall announce in our impression to-morrow. I shall be disappointed,
indeed, if that does not charm you. No lack of eloquence and sentiment
there."

"I am rather tired of eloquence and sentiment," said Enguerrand. "Your
editor, Gustave Rameau, sickens me of them with his 'Starlit Meditations
in the Streets of Paris,' morbid imitations of Heine's enigmatical
'Evening Songs.' Your journal would be perfect if you could suppress the
editor."

"Suppress Gustave Rameau!" cried Bernard, the painter; "I adore his
poems, full of heart for poor suffering humanity."

"Suffering humanity so far as it is packed up in himself," said the
physician, dryly,--"and a great deal of the suffering is bile. But a
propos of your new journal, Savarin, there is a paragraph in it to-day
which excites my curiosity. It says that the Vicomte de Mauleon has
arrived in Paris, after many years of foreign travel; and then, referring
modestly enough to the reputation for talent which he had acquired in
early youth, proceeds to indulge in a prophecy of the future political
career of a man who, if he have a grain of sens common, must think that
the less said about him the better. I remember him well; a terrible
mauvais sujet, but superbly handsome. There was a shocking story about
the jewels of a foreign duchess, which obliged him to leave Paris."

"But," said Savarin, "the paragraph you refer to hints that that story is
a groundless calumny, and that the true reason for De Mauleon's voluntary
self-exile was a very common one among young Parisians,--he had lavished
away his fortune. He returns, when, either by heritage or his own
exertions, he has secured elsewhere a competence."

"Nevertheless I cannot think that society will receive him," said
Bacourt. "When he left Paris, there was one joyous sigh of relief among
all men who wished to avoid duels, and keep their wives out of
temptation. Society may welcome back a lost sheep, but not a
reinvigorated wolf."

"I beg your pardon, mon cher," said Enguerrand; "society has already
opened its fold to this poor ill-treated wolf. Two days ago Louvier
summoned to his house the surviving relations or connections of De
Mauleon--among whom are the Marquis de Rochebriant, the Counts de Passy,
De Beauvilliers, De Chavigny, my father, and of course his two sons--and
submitted to us the proofs which completely clear the Vicomte de Mauleon
of even a suspicion of fraud or dishonour in the affair of the jewels.
The proofs include the written attestation of the Duke himself, and
letters from that nobleman after De Mauleon's disappearance from Paris,
expressive of great esteem, and indeed, of great admiration, for the
Vicomte's sense of honour and generosity of character. The result of this
family council was that we all went in a body to call on De Mauleon; and
he dined with my father that same day. You know enough of the Comte de
Vandemar, and, I may add, of my mother, to be sure that they are both, in
their several ways, too regardful of social conventions to lend their
countenance even to a relation without well weighing the pros and cons.
And as for Raoul, Bayard himself could not be a greater stickler on the
point of honour."

This declaration was followed by a silence that had the character of
stupor.

At last Duplessis said, "But what has Louvier to do in this galere?
Louvier is no relation of that well-born vaurien; why should he summon
your family council?"

"Louvier excused his interference on the ground of early and intimate
friendship with De Mauleon, who, he said, came to consult him on arriving
at Paris, and who felt too proud or too timid to address relations with
whom he had long dropped all intercourse. An intermediary was required,
and Louvier volunteered to take that part on himself; nothing more
natural nor more simple. By the way, Alain, you dine with Louvier
to-morrow, do you not?--a dinner in honour of our rehabilitated kinsman.
I and Raoul go."

"Yes, I shall be charmed to meet again a man who, whatever might be his
errors in youth, on which," added Alain, slightly colouring, "it
certainly does not become me to be severe, must have suffered the most
poignant anguish a man of honour can undergo,--namely, honour suspected;
and who now, whether by years or sorrow, is so changed that I cannot
recognize a likeness to the character I have just heard given to him as
mauvais sujet and vaurien."

"Bravo!" cried Enguerrand; "all honour to courage!--and at Paris it
requires great courage to defend the absent."

"Nay," answered Alain, in a low voice. "The gentilhomme who will not
defend another gentilhomme traduced, would, as a soldier, betray a
citadel and desert a flag."

"You say M. de Mauleon is changed," said De Breze; "yes, he must be
growing old. No trace left of his good looks?"

"Pardon me," said Enguerrand; "he is bien conserve, and has still a very
handsome head and an imposing presence. But one cannot help doubting
whether he deserved the formidable reputation he acquired in youth; his
manner is so singularly mild and gentle, his conversation so winningly
modest, so void of pretence, and his mode of life is as simple as that of
a Spanish hidalgo."

"He does not, then, affect the role of Monte Cristo," said Duplessis,
"and buy himself into notice like that hero of romance?"

"Certainly not: he says very frankly that he has but a very small income,
but more than enough for his wants,--richer than in his youth, for he has
learned content. We may dismiss the hint in 'Le Sens Commun' about his
future political career,--at least he evinces no such ambition."

"How could he as a Legitimist?" said Alain, bitterly. "What department
would elect him?"

"But is he a Legitimist?" asked De Breze.

"I take it for granted that he must be that," answered Alain, haughtily,
"for he is a De Mauleon."

"His father was as good a De Mauleon as himself, I presume," rejoined De
Breze, dryly; "and he enjoyed a place at the Court of Louis Philippe,
which a Legitimist could scarcely accept. Victor did not, I fancy,
trouble his head about politics at all, at the time I remember him; but
to judge by his chief associates, and the notice he received from the
Princes of the House of Orleans, I should guess that he had no
predilections in favour of Henri V."

"I should regret to think so," said Alain, yet more haughtily, "since the
De Mauleons acknowledge the head of their house in the representative of
the Rochebriants."

"At all events," said Duplessis, "M. de Mauleon appears to be a
philosopher of rare stamp. A Parisian who has known riches and is
contented to be poor is a phenomenon I should like to study."

"You have that chance to-morrow evening, Monsieur Duplessis," said
Enguerrand.

"What! at M. Louvier's dinner? Nay, I have no other acquaintance with M.
Louvier than that of the Bourse, and the acquaintance is not cordial."

"I did not mean at M. Louvier's dinner, but at the Duchesse de Tarascon's
ball. You, as one of her special favourites, will doubtless honour her
reunion."

"Yes; I have promised my daughter to go to the ball. But the Duchesse is
Imperialist. M. de Mauleon seems to be either a Legitimist, according to
Monsieur le Marquis, or an Orleanist, according to our friend De Breze."

"What of that? Can there be a more loyal Bourbonite than De
Rochebriant?--and he goes to the ball. It is given out of the season, in
celebration of a family marriage. And the Duchesse de Tarascon is
connected with Alain, and therefore with De Mauleon, though but
distantly."

"Ah! excuse my ignorance of genealogy."

"As if the genealogy of noble names were not the history of France,"
muttered Alain, indignantly.



CHAPTER II.

Yes, the "Sens Commun" was a success: it had made a sensation at
starting; the sensation was on the increase. It is difficult for an
Englishman to comprehend the full influence of a successful journal at
Paris; the station--political, literary, social--which it confers on the
contributors who effect the success. M. Lebeau had shown much more
sagacity in selecting Gustave Rameau for the nominal editor than Savarin
supposed or my reader might detect. In the first place, Gustave himself,
with all his defects of information and solidity of intellect, was not
without real genius,--and a sort of genius that when kept in restraint,
and its field confined to sentiment or sarcasm, was in unison with the
temper of the day; in the second place, it was only through Gustave that
Lebeau could have got at Savarin, and the names which that brilliant
writer had secured at the outset would have sufficed to draw attention to
the earliest numbers of the "Sens Commun," despite a title which did not
seem alluring. But these names alone could not have sufficed to circulate
the new journal to the extent it had already reached. This was due to the
curiosity excited by leading articles of a style new to the Parisian
public, and of which the authorship defied conjecture. They were signed
Pierre Firmin,--supposed to be a nom de plume, as, that name was utterly
unknown in the world of letters. They affected the tone of an impartial
observer; they neither espoused nor attacked any particular party; they
laid down no abstract doctrines of government. But somehow or other, in
language terse yet familiar, sometimes careless yet never vulgar, they
expressed a prevailing sentiment of uneasy discontent, a foreboding of
some destined change in things established, without defining the nature
of such change, without saying whether it would be for good or for evil.
In his criticisms upon individuals, the writer was guarded and
moderate--the keenest-eyed censor of the press could not have found a
pretext for interference with expression of opinions so polite. Of the
Emperor these articles spoke little, but that little was not
disrespectful; yet, day after day, the articles contributed to sap the
Empire. All malcontents of every shade comprehended, as by a secret of
freemasonry, that in this journal they had an ally. Against religion not
a word was uttered, yet the enemies of religion bought that journal;
still, the friends of religion bought it too, for those articles treated
with irony the philosophers on paper who thought that their contradictory
crotchets could fuse themselves into any single Utopia, or that any
social edifice, hurriedly run up by the crazy few, could become a
permanent habitation for the turbulent many, without the clamps of a
creed.

The tone of these articles always corresponded with the title of the
journal,--"Common-sense." It was to common-sense that it
appealed,--appealed in the utterance of a man who disdained the subtle
theories, the vehement declamation, the credulous beliefs, or the
inflated bombast, which constitute so large a portion of the Parisian
press. The articles rather resembled certain organs of the English press,
which profess to be blinded by no enthusiasm for anybody or anything,
which find their sale in that sympathy with ill-nature to which Huet
ascribes the popularity of Tacitus, and, always quietly undermining
institutions with a covert sneer, never pretend to a spirit of
imagination so at variance with common-sense as a conjecture how the
institutions should be rebuilt or replaced.

Well, somehow or other the journal, as I was saying, hit the taste of the
Parisian public. It intimated, with the easy grace of an unpremeditated
agreeable talker, that French society in all its classes was rotten; and
each class was willing to believe that all the others were rotten, and
agreed that unless the others were reformed, there was something very
unsound in itself.

The ball at the Duchesse de Tarascon's was a brilliant event. The summer
was far advanced; many of the Parisian holiday-makers had returned to the
capital, but the season had not commenced, and a ball at that time of
year was a very unwonted event. But there was a special occasion for this
fete,--a marriage between a niece of the Duchesse and the son of a great
official in high favour at the Imperial Court.

The dinner at Louvier's broke up early, and the music for the second
waltz was sounding when Enguerrand, Alain, and the Vicomte de Mauleon
ascended the stairs. Raoul did not accompany them; he went very rarely to
any balls,--never to one given by an Imperialist, however nearly related
to him the Imperialist might be. But in the sweet indulgence of his
good-nature, he had no blame for those who did go,--not for Enguerrand,
still less, of course, for Alain.

Something too might well here be said as to his feeling towards Victor de
Mauleon. He had joined in the family acquittal of that kinsman as to the
grave charge of the jewels; the proofs of innocence thereon seemed to him
unequivocal and decisive, therefore he had called on the Vicomte and
acquiesced in all formal civilities shown to him. But such acts of
justice to a fellow-gentilhomme and a kinsman duly performed, he desired
to see as little as possible of the Vicomte de Mauleon. He reasoned thus:
"Of every charge which society made against this man he is guiltless; but
of all the claims to admiration which society accorded to him before it
erroneously condemned, there are none which make me covet his friendship,
or suffice to dispel doubts as to what he may be when society once more
receives him. And the man is so captivating that I should dread his
influence over myself did I see much of him."

Raoul kept his reasonings to himself, for he had that sort of charity
which indisposes an amiable man to be severe on bygone offences. In the
eyes of Enguerrand and Alain, and such young votaries of the mode as they
could influence, Victor de Mauleon assumed almost heroic proportions. In
the affair which had inflicted on him a calumny so odious, it was clear
that he had acted with chivalrous delicacy of honour. And the turbulence
and recklessness of his earlier years, redeemed as they were, in the
traditions of his contemporaries, by courage and generosity, were not
offences to which young Frenchmen are inclined to be harsh. All question
as to the mode in which his life might have been passed during his long
absence from the capital was merged in the respect due to the only facts
known, and these were clearly proved in his pieces justificatives: First,
that he had served under another name in the ranks of the army in
Algiers; had distinguished himself there for signal valour, and received,
with promotion, the decoration of the cross. His real name was known only
to his colonel, and on quitting the service, the colonel placed in his
hands a letter of warm eulogy on his conduct, and identifying him as
Victor de Mauleon. Secondly, that in California he had saved a wealthy
family from midnight murder, fighting single-handed against and
overmastering three ruffians, and declining all other reward from those
he had preserved than a written attestation of their gratitude. In all
countries, valour ranks high in the list of virtues; in no country does
it so absolve from vices as it does in France.

But as yet Victor de Mauleon's vindication was only known by a few, and
those belonging to the gayer circles of life. How he might be judged by
the sober middle class, which constitutes the most important section of
public opinion to a candidate for political trusts and distinctions, was
another question.

The Duchesse stood at the door to receive her visitors. Duplessis was
seated near the entrance, by the side of a distinguished member of the
Imperial Government, with whom he was carrying on a whispered
conversation. The eye of the financier, however, turned towards the
doorway as Alain and Enguerrand entered, and passing over their familiar
faces, fixed itself attentively on that of a mach older man whom
Enguerrand was presenting to the Duchesse, and in whom Duplessis rightly
divined the Vicomte de Mauleon. Certainly if no one could have recognized
M. Lebeau in the stately personage who had visited Louvier, still less
could one who had heard of the wild feats of the roi des viveurs in his
youth reconcile belief in such tales with the quiet modesty of mien which
distinguished the cavalier now replying, with bended head and subdued
accents, to the courteous welcome of the brilliant hostess. But for such
difference in attributes between the past and the present De Mauleon,
Duplessis had been prepared by the conversation at the Maison Doree. And
now, as the Vicomte, yielding his place by the Duchesse to some
new-comer, glided on, and, leaning against a column, contemplated the gay
scene before him with that expression of countenance, half sarcastic,
half mournful, with which men regard, after long estrangement, the scenes
of departed joys, Duplessis felt that no change in that man had impaired
the force of character which had made him the hero of reckless coevals.
Though wearing no beard, not even a mustache, there was something
emphatically masculine in the contour of the close-shaven cheek and
resolute jaw; in a forehead broad at the temples, and protuberant in
those organs over the eyebrows which are said to be significant of quick
perception and ready action; in the lips, when in repose compressed,
perhaps somewhat stern in their expression, but pliant and mobile when
speaking, and wonderfully fascinating when they smiled. Altogether, about
this Victor de Mauleon there was a nameless distinction, apart from that
of conventional elegance. You would have said, "That is a man of some
marked individuality, an eminence of some kind in himself." You would not
be surprised to hear that he was a party-leader, a skilled diplomatist, a
daring soldier, an adventurous traveller; but you would not guess him to
be a student, an author, an artist.

While Duplessis thus observed the Vicomte de Mauleon, all the while
seeming to lend an attentive ear to the whispered voice of the Minister
by his side, Alain passed on into the ball-room. He was fresh enough to
feel the exhilaration of the dance. Enguerrand (who had survived that
excitement, and who habitually deserted any assembly at an early hour for
the cigar and whist of his club) had made his way to De Mauleon, and
there stationed himself. The lion of one generation has always a mixed
feeling of curiosity and respect for the lion of a generation before him,
and the young Vandemar had conceived a strong and almost an affectionate
interest in this discrowned king of that realm in fashion which, once
lost, is never to be regained; for it is only Youth that can hold its
sceptre and command its subjects.

"In this crowd, Vicomte," said Enguerrand, "there must be many old
acquaintances of yours?"

"Perhaps so, but as yet I have only seen new faces."

As he thus spoke, a middle-aged man, decorated with the grand cross of
the Legion and half-a-dozen foreign orders, lending his arm to a lady of
the same age radiant in diamonds, passed by towards the ball-room, and in
some sudden swerve of his person, occasioned by a pause of his companion
to adjust her train, he accidentally brushed against De Mauleon, whom he
had not before noticed. Turning round to apologize for his awkwardness,
he encountered the full gaze of the Vicomte, started, changed
countenance, and hurried on his companion.

"Do you not recognize his Excellency?" said Enguerrand, smiling. "His
cannot be a new face to you."

"Is it the Baron de Lacy?" asked De Mauleon.

"The Baron de Lacy, now Comte d'Epinay, ambassador at the Court of -----,
and, if report speak true, likely soon to exchange that post for the
porte feuille of Minister."

"He has got on in life since I saw him last, the little Baron. He was
then my devoted imitator, and I was not proud of the imitation."

"He has got on by always clinging to the skirts of some one stronger than
himself,--to yours, I dare say, when, being a parvenu despite his usurped
title of baron, he aspired to the entree into clubs and salons. The
entree thus obtained, the rest followed easily; he became a millionaire
through a wife's dot, and an ambassador through the wife's lover, who is
a power in the State."

"But he must have substance in himself. Empty bags can not be made to
stand upright. Ah! unless I mistake, I see some one I knew better. Yon
pale, thin man, also with the grand cross--surely that is Alfred
Hennequin. Is he too a decorated Imperialist? I left him a socialistic
Republican."

"But, I presume, even then an eloquent avocat. He got into the Chamber,
spoke well, defended the coup-d'etat. He has just been made Prefet of the
great department of the a popular appointment. He bears a high character.
Pray renew your acquaintance with him; he is coming this way."

"Will so grave a dignitary renew acquaintance with me? I doubt it."

But as De Mauleon said this, he moved from the column, and advanced
towards the Prefet. Enguerrand followed him, and saw the Vicomte extend
his hand to his old acquaintance.

The Prefet stared, and said, with frigid courtesy, "Pardon me,--some
mistake."

"Allow me, Monsieur Hennequin," said Enguerrand, interposing, and wishing
good-naturedly to save De Mauleon the awkwardness of introducing
himself,--"allow me to reintroduce you to my kinsman, whom the lapse of
years may well excuse you for forgetting, the Vicomte de Mauleon."

Still the Prefet did not accept the hand. He bowed with formal ceremony,
said, "I was not aware that Monsieur le Vicomte had returned to Paris,"
and moving to the doorway, made his salutation to the hostess and
disappeared.

"The insolent!" muttered Enguerrand.

"Hush!" said De Mauleon, quietly, "I can fight no more duels,--especially
with a Prefet. But I own I am weak enough to feel hurt at such a
reception from Hennequin, for he owed me some obligations,--small,
perhaps, but still they were such as might have made me select him,
rather than Louvier, as the vindicator of my name, had I known him to be
so high placed. But a man who has raised himself into an authority may
well be excused for forgetting a friend whose character needs defence. I
forgive him."

There was something pathetic in the Vicomte's tone which touched
Enguerrand's warm if light heart. But De Mauleon did not allow him time
to answer. He went on quickly through an opening in the gay crowd, which
immediately closed behind him, and Enguerrand saw him no more that
evening.

Duplessis ere this had quitted his seat by the Minister, drawn thence by
a young and very pretty girl resigned to his charge by a cavalier with
whom she had been dancing. She was the only daughter of Duplessis, and he
valued her even more than the millions he had made at the Bourse. "The
Princess," she said, "has been swept off in the train of some German
Royalty; so, petit pere, I must impose myself on thee."

The Princess, a Russian of high rank, was the chaperon that evening of
Mademoiselle Valerie Duplessis.

"And I suppose I must take thee back into the ballroom," said the
financier, smiling proudly, "and find thee partners."

"I don't want your aid for that, Monsieur; except this quadrille, my list
is pretty well filled up."

"And I hope the partners will be pleasant. Let me know who they are," he
whispered, as they threaded their way into the ball-room.

The girl glanced at her tablet.

"Well, the first on the list is milord somebody, with an unpronounceable
English name."

"Beau cavalier?"

"No; ugly, old too; thirty at least."

Duplessis felt relieved. He did not wish his daughter to fall in love
with an Englishman.

"And the next?"

"The next?" she said hesitatingly, and he observed that a soft blush
accompanied the hesitation.

"Yes, the next. Not English too?"

"Oh, no; the Marquis de Rochebriant."

"Ah! who presented him to thee?"

"Thy friend, petit pere, M. de Braze."

Duplessis again glanced at his daughter's face; it was bent over her
bouquet.

"Is he ugly also?"

"Ugly!" exclaimed the girl, indignantly; "why, he is--" she checked
herself and turned away her head.

Duplessis became thoughtful. He was glad that he had accompanied his
child into the ball-room; he would stay there, and keep watch on her and
Rochebriant also.

Up to that moment he had felt a dislike to Rochebriant. That young
noble's too obvious pride of race had nettled him, not the less that the
financier himself was vain of his ancestry. Perhaps he still disliked
Alain, but the dislike was now accompanied with a certain, not hostile,
interest; and if he became connected with the race, the pride in it might
grow contagious.

They had not been long in the ball-room before Alain came up to claim his
promised partner. In saluting Duplessis, his manner was the same as
usual, not more cordial, not less ceremoniously distant. A man so able as
the financier cannot be without quick knowledge of the human heart.

"If disposed to fall in love with Valerie," thought Duplessis, "he would
have taken more pains to please her father. Well, thank heaven, there are
better matches to be found for her than a noble without fortune and a
Legitimist without career."

In fact, Alain felt no more for Valerie than for any other pretty girl in
the room. In talking with the Vicomte de Braze in the intervals of the
dance, he had made some passing remark on her beauty. De Braze had said,
"Yes, she is charming; I will present you," and hastened to do so before
Rochebriant even learned her name. So introduced, he could but invite her
to give him her first disengaged dance, and when that was fixed, he had
retired, without entering into conversation.

Now, as they took their places in the quadrille, he felt that effort of
speech had become a duty, if not a pleasure; and of course, he began with
the first commonplace which presented itself to his mind.

"Do you not think it a very pleasant ball, Mademoiselle?"

"Yes," dropped, in almost inaudible reply, from Valerie's rosy lips.

"And not over-crowded, as most balls are?"

Valerie's lips again moved, but this time quite inaudibly. The
obligations of the figure now caused a pause. Alain racked his brains and
began,

"They tell me the last season was more than usually gay; of that I cannot
judge, for it was well-nigh over when I came to Paris for the first
time."

Valerie looked up with a more animated expression than her childlike face
had yet shown, and said, this time distinctly, "This is my first ball,
Monsieur le Marquis."

"One has only to look at Mademoiselle to divine that fact," replied
Alain, gallantly.

Again the conversation was interrupted by the dance; but the ice between
the two was now broken; and when the quadrille was concluded, and
Rochebriant led the fair Valerie back to her father's side, she felt as
if she had been listening to the music of the spheres, and that the music
had now suddenly stopped. Alain, alas for her! was under no such pleasing
illusion. Her talk had seemed to him artless indeed, but very insipid,
compared with the brilliant conversation of the wedded Parisiennes with
whom he more habitually danced; and it was with rather a sensation of
relief that he made his parting bow, and receded into the crowd of
bystanders.

Meanwhile De Mauleon had quitted the assemblage, walking slowly through
the deserted streets towards his apartment. The civilities he had met at
Louvier's dinner-party, and the marked distinction paid to him by kinsmen
of rank and position so unequivocal as Alain and Enguerrand, had softened
his mood and cheered his spirits. He had begun to question himself
whether a fair opening to his political ambition was really forbidden to
him under the existent order of things, whether it necessitated the
employment of such dangerous tools as those to which anger and despair
had reconciled his intellect. But the pointed way in which he had been
shunned or slighted by the two men who belonged to political life--two
men who in youth had looked up to himself, and whose dazzling career of
honours was identified with the Imperial system--reanimated his fiercer
passions and his more perilous designs. The frigid accost of Hennequin
more especially galled him; it wounded not only his pride but his heart;
it had the venom of ingratitude, and it is the peculiar privilege of
ingratitude to wound hearts that have learned to harden themselves to the
hate or contempt of men to whom no services have been rendered. In some
private affair concerning his property, De Mauleon had had occasion to
consult Hennequin, then a rising young avocat. Out of that consultation a
friendship had sprung up, despite the differing habits and social grades
of the two men. One day, calling on Hennequin, he found him in a state of
great nervous excitement. The avocat had received a public insult in the
salon of a noble, to whom De Mauleon had introduced him, from a man who
pretended to the hand of a young lady to whom Hennequin was attached, and
indeed almost affianced. The man was a notorious spadassin,--a duellist
little less renowned for skill in all weapons than De Mauleon himself.
The affair had been such that Hennequin's friends assured him he had no
choice but to challenge this bravo. Hennequin, brave enough at the bar,
was no hero before sword-point or pistol. He was utterly ignorant of the
use of either weapon; his death in the encounter with an antagonist so
formidable seemed to him certain, and life was so precious,--an
honourable and distinguished career opening before him, marriage with the
woman he loved. Still he had the Frenchman's point of honour. He had been
told that he must fight; well, then, he must. He asked De Mauleon to be
one of his seconds, and in asking him, sank in his chair, covered his
face with his hands, and burst into tears.

"Wait till to-morrow," said De Mauleon; "take no step till then.
Meanwhile, you are in my hands, and I answer for your honour."

On leaving Hennequin, Victor sought the spadassin at the club of which
they were both members, and contrived, without reference to Hennequin, to
pick a quarrel with him. A challenge ensued; a duel with swords took
place the next morning. De Mauleon disarmed and wounded his antagonist,
not gravely, but sufficiently to terminate the encounter. He assisted to
convey the wounded man to his apartment, and planted himself by his
bedside, as if he were a friend.

"Why on earth did you fasten a quarrel on me?" asked the spadassin; "and
why, having done so, did you spare my life; for your sword was at my
heart when you shifted its point, and pierced my shoulder?"

"I will tell you, and in so doing, beg you to accept my friendship
hereafter, on one condition. In the course of the day, write or dictate a
few civil words of apology to M. Hennequin. Ma foi! every one will praise
you for a generosity so becoming in a man who has given such proofs of
courage and skill to an avocat who has never handled a sword nor fired a
pistol."

That same day De Mauleon remitted to Hennequin an apology for heated
words freely retracted, which satisfied all his friends. For the service
thus rendered by De Mauleon, Hennequin declared himself everlastingly
indebted. In fact, he entirely owed to that friend his life, his
marriage, his honour, his career.

"And now," thought De Mauleon, "now, when he could so easily requite
me,--now he will not even take my hand. Is human nature itself at war
with me?"



CHAPTER III.

Nothing could be simpler than the apartment of the Vicomte de Mauleon, in
the second story of a quiet old-fashioned street. It had been furnished
at small cost out of his savings. Yet, on the whole, it evinced the good
taste of a man who had once been among the exquisites of the polite
world. You felt that you were in the apartment of a gentleman, and a
gentleman of somewhat severe tastes, and of sober matured years. He was
sitting the next morning in the room which he used as a private study.
Along the walls were arranged dwarf bookcases, as yet occupied by few
books, most of them books of reference, others cheap editions of the
French classics in prose--no poets, no romance-writers, with a few Latin
authors also in prose,--Cicero, Sallust, Tacitus. He was engaged at his
desk writing,--a book with its leaves open before him, "Paul Louis
Courier," that model of political irony and masculine style of
composition. There was a ring at his door-bell. The Vicomte kept no
servant. He rose and answered the summons. He recoiled a few paces on
recognizing his visitor in M. Hennequin.

The Prefet this time did not withdraw his hand; he extended it, but it
was with a certain awkwardness and timidity. "I thought it my duty to
call on you, Vicomte, thus early, having already seen M. Enguerrand de
Vandemar. He has shown me the copies of the pieces which were inspected
by your distinguished kinsmen, and which completely clear you of the
charge that--grant me your pardon when I say--seemed to me still to
remain unanswered when I had the honour to meet you last night."

"It appears to me, Monsieur Hennequin, that you, as an avocat so eminent,
might have convinced yourself very readily of that fact."

"Monsieur le Vicomte, I was in Switzerland with my wife at the time of
the unfortunate affair in which you were involved."

"But when you returned to Paris, you might perhaps have deigned to make
inquiries so affecting the honour of one you had called a friend, and for
whom you had professed"--De Mauleon paused; he disdained to add--"an
eternal gratitude."

Hennequin coloured slightly, but replied with self-possession.

"I certainly did inquire. I did hear that the charge against you with
regard to the abstraction of the jewels was withdrawn, that you were
therefore acquitted by law; but I heard also that society did not acquit
you, and that, finding this, you had quitted France. Pardon me again, no
one would listen to me when I attempted to speak on your behalf but now
that so many years have elapsed, that the story is imperfectly
remembered, that relations so high-placed receive you so cordially,--now
I rejoice to think that you will have no difficulty in regaining a social
position never really lost, but for a time resigned."

"I am duly sensible of the friendly joy you express. I was reading the
other day in a lively author some pleasant remarks on the effects of
medisance or calumny upon our impressionable Parisian public. 'If,' says
the writer, 'I found myself accused of having put the two towers of Notre
Dame into my waistcoat-pocket I should not dream of defending myself; I
should take to flight. And,' adds the writer, 'if my best friend were
under the same accusation, I should be so afraid of being considered his
accomplice that I should put my best friend outside the door.' Perhaps,
Monsieur Hennequin, I was seized with the first alarm. Why should I blame
you if seized with the second? Happily, this good city of Paris has its
reactions. And you can now offer me your hand. Paris has by this time
discovered that the two towers of Notre Dame are not in my pocket."

There was a pause. De Mauleon had resettled himself at his desk, bending
over his papers, and his manner seemed to imply that he considered the
conversation at an end.

But a pang of shame, of remorse, of tender remembrance, shot across the
heart of the decorous, worldly, self-seeking man, who owed all that he
now was to the ci-devant vaurien before him. Again he stretched forth his
hand, and this time grasped De Mauleon's warmly. "Forgive me," he said,
feelingly and hoarsely; "forgive me, I was to blame. By character, and
perhaps by the necessities of my career, I am over-timid to public
opinion, public scandal. Forgive me. Say if in anything now I can
requite, though but slightly, the service I owe you."

De Mauleon looked steadily at the Prefet, and said slowly, "Would you
serve me in turn? Are you sincere?"

The Prefet hesitated a moment, then answered firmly, "Yes."

"Well, then, what I ask of you is a frank opinion,--not as lawyer, not as
Prefet, but as a man who knows the present state of French society. Give
that opinion without respect to my feelings one way or other. Let it
emanate solely from your practised judgment."

"Be it so," said Hennequin, wondering what was to come. De Mauleon
resumed, "As you may remember, during my former career I had no political
ambition. I did not meddle with politics. In the troubled times that
immediately succeeded the fall of Louis Philippe I was but an epicurean
looker-on. Grant that, so far as admission to the salons is concerned, I
shall encounter no difficulty in regaining position; but as regards the
Chamber, public life, a political career, can I have my fair opening
under the Empire? You pause. Answer as you have promised, frankly."

"The difficulties in the way of a political career would be very great."

"Insuperable?"

"I fear so. Of course, in my capacity of Prefet, I have no small
influence in my department in support of a Government candidate. But I do
not think that the Imperial Government could, at this time especially, in
which it must be very cautious in selecting its candidates, be induced to
recommend you. The affair of the jewels would be raked up; your
vindication disputed, denied; the fact that for so many years you have
acquiesced in that charge without taking steps to refute it; your
antecedents, even apart from that charge; your present want of property
(M. Enguerrand tells me your income is but moderate); the absence of all
previous repute in public life. No; relinquish the idea of political
contest,--it would expose you to inevitable mortifications, to a failure
that would even jeopardize the admission to the salons which you are now
gaining. You could not be a Government candidate."

"Granted. I may have no desire to be one; but an opposition candidate,
one of the Liberal party?"

"As an Imperialist," said Hennequin, smiling gravely, "and holding the
office I do, it would not become me to encourage a candidate against the
Emperor's Government. But speaking with the frankness you solicit, I
should say that your chances there are infinitely worse. The Opposition
are in a pitiful minority,--the most eminent of the Liberals can scarcely
gain seats for themselves; great local popularity or property, high
established repute for established patriotism, or proved talents of
oratory and statesmanship, are essential qualifications for a seat in the
Opposition; and even these do not suffice for a third of the persons who
possess them. Be again what you were before,--the hero of salons remote
from the turbulent vulgarity of politics."

"I am answered. Thank you once more. The service I rendered you once is
requited now."

"No, indeed,--no; but will you dine with me quietly today, and allow me
to present to you my wife and two children, born since we parted? I say
to-day, for to-morrow I return to my Prefecture."

"I am infinitely obliged by your invitation, but to-day I dine with the
Comte de Beauvilliers to meet some of the Corps Diplomatique. I must make
good my place in the salons, since you so clearly show me that I have no
chance of one in the Legislature--unless--"

"Unless what?"

"Unless there happen one of those revolutions in which the scum comes
uppermost."

"No fear of that. The subterranean barracks and railway have ended
forever the rise of the scum, the reign of the canaille and its
barricades."

"Adieu, my dear Hennequin. My respectful hommages a Madame."

After that day the writing of Pierre Firmin in "Le Sens Commun," though
still keeping within the pale of the law, became more decidedly hostile
to the Imperial system, still without committing their author to any
definite programme of the sort of government that should succeed it.



CHAPTER IV.

The weeks glided on. Isaura's manuscript bad passed into print; it came
out in the French fashion of feuilletons,--a small detachment at a time.
A previous flourish of trumpets by Savarin and the clique at his command
insured it attention, if not from the general public, at least from
critical and literary coteries. Before the fourth instalment appeared it
had outgrown the patronage of the coteries; it seized hold of the public.
It was not in the last school in fashion; incidents were not crowded and
violent,--they were few and simple, rather appertaining to an elder
school, in which poetry of sentiment and grace of diction prevailed. That
very resemblance to old favourites gave it the attraction of novelty. In
a word, it excited a pleased admiration, and great curiosity was felt as
to the authorship. When it oozed out that it was by the young lady whose
future success in the musical world had been so sanguinely predicted by
all who had heard her sing, the interest wonderfully increased. Petitions
to be introduced to her acquaintance were showered upon Savarin. Before
she scarcely realized her dawning fame, she was drawn from her quiet home
and retired habits; she was fetee and courted in the literary circle of
which Savarin was a chief. That circle touched, on one side, Bohemia; on
the other, that realm of politer fashion which, in every intellectual
metropolis, but especially in Paris, seeks to gain borrowed light from
luminaries in art and letters. But the very admiration she obtained
somewhat depressed, somewhat troubled her; after all, it did not differ
from that which was at her command as a singer.

On the one hand, she shrank instinctively from the caresses of female
authors and the familiar greetings of male authors, who frankly lived in
philosophical disdain of the conventions respected by sober, decorous
mortals. On the other hand, in the civilities of those who, while they
courted a rising celebrity, still held their habitual existence apart
from the artistic world, there was a certain air of condescension, of
patronage, towards the young stranger with no other protector but Signora
Venosta, the ci-devant public singer, and who had made her debut in a
journal edited by M. Gustave Rameau, which, however disguised by
exaggerated terms of praise, wounded her pride of woman in flattering her
vanity as author. Among this latter set were wealthy, high-born men, who
addressed her as woman--as woman beautiful and young--with words of
gallantry that implied love, but certainly no thought of marriage,--many
of the most ardent were indeed married already. But once launched into
the thick of Parisian hospitalities, it was difficult to draw back. The
Venosta wept at the thought of missing some lively soiree, and Savarin
laughed at her shrinking fastidiousness as that of a child's ignorance of
the world. But still she had her mornings to herself; and in those
mornings, devoted to the continuance of her work (for the commencement
was in print before a third was completed), she forgot the commonplace
world that received her in the evenings. Insensibly to herself the tone
of this work had changed as it proceeded. It had begun seriously indeed,
but in the seriousness there was a certain latent joy. It might be the
joy of having found vent of utterance; it might be rather a joy still
more latent, inspired by the remembrance of Graham's words and looks, and
by the thought that she had renounced all idea of the professional career
which he had evidently disapproved. Life then seemed to her a bright
possession. We have seen that she had begun her roman without planning
how it should end. She had, however, then meant it to end, somehow or
other, happily. Now the lustre had gone from life; the tone of the work
was saddened; it foreboded a tragic close. But for the general reader it
became, with every chapter, still more interesting; the poor child had a
singularly musical gift of style,--a music which lent itself naturally to
pathos. Every very young writer knows how his work, if one of feeling,
will colour itself from the views of some truth in his innermost self;
and in proportion as it does so, how his absorption in the work
increases, till it becomes part and parcel of his own mind and heart. The
presence of a hidden sorrow may change the fate of the beings he has
created, and guide to the grave those whom, in a happier vein, he would
have united at the altar. It is not till a later stage of experience and
art that the writer escapes from the influence of his individual
personality, and lives in existences that take no colourings from his
own. Genius usually must pass through the subjective process before it
gains the objective. Even a Shakspeare represents himself in the Sonnets
before no trace of himself is visible in a Falstaff or a Lear.

No news of the Englishman,--not a word. Isaura could not but feel that in
his words, his looks, that day in her own garden, and those yet happier
days at Enghien, there had been more than friendship; there had been
love,--love enough to justify her own pride in whispering to herself,
"And I love too." But then that last parting! how changed he was! how
cold! She conjectured that jealousy of Rameau might, in some degree,
account for the coldness when he first entered the room, but surely not
when he left; surely not when she had overpassed the reserve of her sex,
and implied by signs rarely misconstrued by those who love that he had no
cause for jealousy of another. Yet he had gone,--parted with her
pointedly as a friend, a mere friend. How foolish she had been to think
this rich ambitious foreigner could ever have meant to be more! In the
occupation of her work she thought to banish his image; but in that work
the image was never absent; there were passages in which she pleadingly
addressed it, and then would cease abruptly, stifled by passionate tears.
Still she fancied that the work would reunite them; that in its pages he
would hear her voice and comprehend her heart. And thus all praise of the
work became very, very dear to her.

At last, after many weeks, Savarin heard from Graham. The letter was
dated Aix-la-Chapelle, at which the Englishman said he might yet be some
time detained. In the letter Graham spoke chiefly of the new journal: in
polite compliment of Savarin's own effusions; in mixed praise and
condemnation of the political and social articles signed Pierre
Firmin,--praise of their intellectual power, condemnation of their moral
cynicism.

   "The writer," he said, "reminds me of a passage in which Montesquieu
   compares the heathen philosophers to those plants which the earth
   produces in places that have never seen the heavens. The soil of
   his experience does not grow a single belief; and as no community
   can exist without a belief of some kind, so a politician without
   belief can but help to destroy; he cannot reconstruct. Such writers
   corrupt a society; they do not reform a system."

He closed his letter with a reference to Isaura:

   "Do, in your reply, my dear Savarin, tell me something about your
   friends Signora Venosta and the Signorina, whose work, so far as yet
   published, I have read with admiring astonishment at the power of a
   female writer so young to rival the veteran practitioners of fiction
   in the creation of interest in imaginary characters, and in
   sentiments which, if they appear somewhat over-romantic and
   exaggerated, still touch very fine chords in human nature not
   awakened in our trite every-day existence. I presume that the
   beauty of the roman has been duly appreciated by a public so
   refined as the Parisian, and that the name of the author is
   generally known. No doubt she is now much the rage of the literary
   circles, and her career as a writer may be considered fixed. Pray
   present my congratulations to the Signorina when you see her."

Savarin had been in receipt of this letter some days before he called on
Isaura, and carelessly showed it to her. She took it to the window to
read, in order to conceal the trembling of her hands. In a few minutes
she returned it silently.

"Those Englishmen," said Savarin, "have not the heart of compliment. I am
by no means flattered by what he says of my trifles, and I dare say you
are still less pleased with this chilly praise of your charming tale; but
the man means to be civil."

"Certainly," said Isaura, smiling faintly.

"Only think of Rameau!" resumed Savarin. "On the strength of his salary
in the 'Sens Commun,' and on the chateaux en Espagne which he constructs
thereon, he has already furnished an apartment in the Chaussee d'Antin,
and talks of setting up a coupe in order to maintain the dignity of
letters when he goes to dine with the duchesses who are some day or other
to invite him. Yet I admire his self-confidence, though I laugh at it. A
man gets on by a spring in his own mechanism, and he should always keep
it wound up. Rameau will make a figure. I used to pity him; I begin to
respect. Nothing succeeds like success. But I see I am spoiling your
morning. Au revoir, mon enfant."

Left alone, Isaura brooded in a sort of mournful wonderment over the
words referring to herself in Graham's letter. Read though but once, she
knew them by heart. What! did he consider those characters she had
represented as wholly imaginary? In one--the most prominent, the most
attractive--could he detect no likeness to himself? What! did he consider
so "over-romantic and exaggerated" sentiments which couched appeals from
her heart to his? Alas! in matters of sentiment it is the misfortune of
us men that even the most refined of us often grate upon some sentiment
in a woman, though she may not be romantic,--not romantic at all, as
people go,--some sentiment which she thought must be so obvious if we
cared a straw about her, and which, though we prize her above the Indies,
is by our dim, horn-eyed, masculine vision undiscernible. It may be
something in itself the airiest of trifles: the anniversary of a day in
which the first kiss was interchanged, nay, of a violet gathered, a
misunderstanding cleared up; and of that anniversary we remember no more
than we do of our bells and coral. But she--she remembers it; it is no
bells and coral to her. Of course, much is to be said in excuse of man,
brute though he be. Consider the multiplicity of his occupations, the
practical nature of his cares. But granting the validity of all such
excuse, there is in man an original obtuseness of fibre as regards
sentiment in comparison with the delicacy of woman's. It comes, perhaps,
from the same hardness of constitution which forbids us the luxury of
ready tears. Thus it is very difficult for the wisest man to understand
thoroughly a woman. Goethe says somewhere that the highest genius in man
must have much of the woman in it. If this be true, the highest genius
alone in man can comprehend and explain the nature of woman, because it
is not remote from him, but an integral part of his masculine self. I am
not sure, however, that it necessitates the highest genius, but rather a
special idiosyncrasy in genius which the highest may or may not have. I
think Sophocles a higher genius than Euripides; but Euripides has that
idiosyncrasy, and Sophocles not. I doubt whether women would accept
Goethe as their interpreter with the same readiness with which they would
accept Schiller. Shakspeare, no doubt, excels all poets in the
comprehension of women, in his sympathy with them in the woman-part of
his nature which Goethe ascribes to the highest genius; but, putting
aside that "monster," I do not remember any English poet whom we should
consider conspicuously eminent in that lore, unless it be the prose poet,
nowadays generally underrated and little read, who wrote the letters of
Clarissa Harlowe. I say all this in vindication of Graham Vane, if,
though a very clever man in his way, and by no means uninstructed in
human nature, he had utterly failed in comprehending the mysteries which
to this poor woman-child seemed to need no key for one who really loved
her. But we have said somewhere before in this book that music speaks in
a language which cannot explain itself except in music. So speaks, in the
human heart, much which is akin to music. Fiction (that is, poetry,
whether in form of rhyme or prose) speaks thus pretty often. A reader
must be more commonplace than, I trust, my gentle readers are, if he
suppose that when Isaura symbolized the real hero of her thoughts in the
fabled hero of her romance, she depicted him as one of whom the world
could say, "That is Graham Vane." I doubt if even a male poet would so
vulgarize any woman whom he thoroughly reverenced and loved. She is too
sacred to him to be thus unveiled to the public stare; as the sweetest of
all ancient love-poets says well--

        "Qui sapit in tacito gaudeat ille sinu."

But a girl, a girl in her first untold timid love, to let the world know,
"that is the man I love and would die for!"--if such a girl be, she has
no touch of the true woman-genius, and certainly she and Isaura have
nothing in common. Well, then, in Isaura's invented hero, though she saw
the archetypal form of Graham Vane,--saw him as in her young, vague,
romantic dreams idealized, beautified, transfigured,--he would have been
the vainest of men if he had seen therein the reflection of himself. On
the contrary he said, in the spirit of that jealousy to which he was too
prone, "Alas! this, then, is some ideal, already seen perhaps, compared
to which how commonplace am I!" and thus persuading himself, no wonder
that the sentiments surrounding this unrecognized archetype appeared to
him over-romantic. His taste acknowledged the beauty of form which
clothed them; his heart envied the ideal that inspired them. But they
seemed so remote from him; they put the dreamland of the writer farther
and farther from his workday real life.

In this frame of mind, then, he had written to Savarin, and the answer he
received hardened it still more. Savarin had replied, as was his laudable
wont in correspondence, the very day he received Graham's letter, and
therefore before he had even seen Isaura. In his reply, he spoke much of
the success her work had obtained; of the invitations showered upon her,
and the sensation she caused in the salons; of her future career, with
hope that she might even rival Madame de Grantmesnil some day, when her
ideas became emboldened by maturer experience, and a closer study of that
model of eloquent style,--saying that the young editor was evidently
becoming enamoured of his fair contributor; and that Madame Savarin had
ventured the prediction that the Signorina's roman would end in the death
of the heroine, and the marriage of the writer.



CHAPTER V.

And still the weeks glided on: autumn succeeded to summer, the winter to
autumn; the season of Paris was at its height. The wondrous capital
seemed to repay its Imperial embellisher by the splendour and the joy of
its fetes. But the smiles on the face of Paris were hypocritical and
hollow. The Empire itself had passed out of fashion. Grave men and
impartial observers felt anxious. Napoleon had renounced les ideas
Napoleoniennes. He was passing into the category of constitutional
sovereigns, and reigning, not by his old undivided prestige, but by the
grace of party. The press was free to circulate complaints as to the past
and demands as to the future, beneath which the present reeled, ominous
of earthquake. People asked themselves if it were possible that the
Empire could co-exist with forms of government not imperial, yet not
genuinely constitutional, with a majority daily yielding to a minority.
The basis of universal suffrage was sapped. About this time the articles
in the "Sens Commun" signed Pierre Firmin were creating not only
considerable sensation, but marked effect on opinion; and the sale of the
journal was immense.

Necessarily the repute and the position of Gustave Rameau, as the avowed
editor of this potent journal, rose with its success. Nor only his repute
and position; bank-notes of considerable value were transmitted to him by
the publisher, with the brief statement that they were sent by the sole
proprietor of the paper as the editor's fair share of profit. The
proprietor was never named, but Rameau took it for granted that it was M.
Lebeau. M. Lebeau he had never seen since the day he had brought him the
list of contributors, and was then referred to the publisher, whom he
supposed M. Lebeau had secured, and received the first quarter of his
salary in advance. The salary was a trifle compared to the extra profits
thus generously volunteered. He called at Lebeau's office, and saw only
the clerk, who said that his chef was abroad.

Prosperity produced a marked change for the better, if not in the
substance of Rameau's character, at least in his manners and social
converse. He no longer exhibited that restless envy of rivals, which is
the most repulsive symptom of vanity diseased. He pardoned Isaura her
success; nay, he was even pleased at it. The nature of her work did not
clash with his own kind of writing. It was so thoroughly woman like that
one could not compare it to a man's. Moreover, that success had
contributed largely to the profits by which he had benefited, and to his
renown as editor of the journal which accorded place to this new-found
genius. But there was a deeper and more potent cause for sympathy with
the success of his fair young contributor. He had imperceptibly glided
into love with her,--a love very different from that with which poor
Julie Caumartin flattered herself she had inspired the young poet. Isaura
was one of those women for whom, even in natures the least chivalric,
love, however ardent, cannot fail to be accompanied with a certain
reverence,--the reverence with which the ancient knighthood, in its love
for women, honoured the ideal purity of womanhood itself. Till then
Rameau had never revered any one.

On her side, brought so frequently into communication with the young
conductor of the journal in which she wrote, Isaura entertained for him a
friendly, almost sister-like affection.

I do not think that, even if she had never known the Englishman, she
would have really become in love with Rameau, despite the picturesque
beauty of his countenance and the congeniality of literary pursuits; but
perhaps she might have fancied herself in love with him. And till one,
whether man or woman, has known real love, fancy is readily mistaken for
it. But little as she had seen of Graham, and that little not in itself
wholly favourable to him, she knew in her heart of hearts that his image
would never be replaced by one equally dear. Perhaps in those qualities
that placed him in opposition to her she felt his attractions. The
poetical in woman exaggerates the worth of the practical in man. Still
for Rameau her exquisitely kind and sympathizing nature conceived one of
those sentiments which in woman are almost angel-like. We have seen in
her letters to Madame de Grantmesnil that from the first he inspired her
with a compassionate interest; then the compassion was checked by her
perception of his more unamiable and envious attributes. But now those
attributes, if still existent, had ceased to be apparent to her, and the
compassion became unalloyed. Indeed, it was thus so far increased that it
was impossible for any friendly observer to look at the beautiful face of
this youth, prematurely wasted and worn, without the kindliness of pity.
His prosperity had brightened and sweetened the expression of that face,
but it had not effaced the vestiges of decay; rather perhaps deepened
them, for the duties of his post necessitated a regular labour, to which
he had been unaccustomed, and the regular labour necessitated, or seemed
to him to necessitate, an increase of fatal stimulants. He imbibed
absinthe with everything he drank, and to absinthe he united opium. This,
of course, Isaura knew not, any more than she knew of his liaison with
the "Ondine" of his muse; she saw only the increasing delicacy of his
face and form, contrasted by his increased geniality and liveliness of
spirits, and the contrast saddened her. Intellectually, too, she felt for
him compassion. She recognized and respected in him the yearnings of a
genius too weak to perform a tithe of what, in the arrogance of youth, it
promised to its ambition. She saw, too, those struggles between a higher
and a lower self, to which a weak degree of genius united with a strong
degree of arrogance is so often subjected. Perhaps she overestimated the
degree of genius, and what, if rightly guided, it could do; but she did,
in the desire of her own heavenlier instinct, aspire to guide it
heavenward. And as if she were twenty years older than himself, she
obeyed that desire in remonstrating and warning and urging, and the young
man took all these "preachments" with a pleased submissive patience.
Such, as the new year dawned upon the grave of the old one, was the
position between these two. And nothing more was heard from Graham Vane.



CHAPTER VI.

It has now become due to Graham Vane, and to his place in the estimation
of my readers, to explain somewhat more distinctly the nature of the
quest in prosecution of which he had sought the aid of the Parisian
police, and under an assumed name made the acquaintance of M. Lebeau.

The best way of discharging this duty will perhaps be to place before the
reader the contents of the letter which passed under Graham's eyes on the
day in which the heart of the writer ceased to beat.

(Confidential. To be opened immediately after my death, and before the
perusal of my will.--Richard King.)

TO GRAHAM VANE, Esq.

My DEAR GRAHAM,--By the direction on the envelope of this letter, "Before
the perusal of my will," I have wished to save you from the
disappointment you would naturally experience if you learned my bequest
without being prevised of the conditions which I am about to impose upon
your honour. You will see ere you conclude this letter that you are the
only man living to whom I could intrust the secret it contains and the
task it enjoins.

You are aware that I was not born to the fortune that passed to me by the
death of a distant relation, who had, in my earlier youth, children of
his own. I was an only son, left an orphan at the age of sixteen with a
very slender pittance. My guardians designed me for the medical
profession. I began my studies at Edinburgh, and was sent to Paris to
complete them, It so chanced that there I lodged in the same house with
an artist named Auguste Duval, who, failing to gain his livelihood as a
painter, in what--for his style was ambitious--is termed the Historical
School, had accepted the humbler calling of a drawing-master. He had
practised in that branch of the profession for several years at Tours,
having a good clientele among English families settled there. This
clientele, as he frankly confessed, he had lost from some irregularities
of conduct. He was not a bad man, but of convivial temper, and easily led
into temptation. He had removed to Paris a few months before I made his
acquaintance. He obtained a few pupils, and often lost them as soon as
gained. He was unpunctual and addicted to drink. But he had a small
pension, accorded to him, he was wont to say mysteriously, by some
high-born kinsfolk, too proud to own connection with a drawing-master,
and on the condition that he should never name them. He never did name
them to me, and I do not know to this day whether the story of this noble
relationship was true or false. A pension, however, he did receive
quarterly from some person or other, and it was an unhappy provision for
him. It tended to make him an idler in his proper calling; and whenever
he received the payment he spent it in debauch, to the neglect, while it
lasted, of his pupils. This man had residing with him a young daughter,
singularly beautiful. You may divine the rest. I fell in love with
her,--a love deepened by the compassion with which she inspired me. Her
father left her so frequently that, living on the same floor, we saw much
of each other. Parent and child were often in great need,--lacking even
fuel or food. Of course I assisted them to the utmost of my scanty means
Much as I was fascinated by Louise Duval, I was not blind to great
defects in her character. She was capricious, vain, aware of her beauty,
and sighing for the pleasures or the gauds beyond her reach. I knew that
she did not love me,--there was little, indeed, to captivate her fancy in
a poor, thread-bare medical student,--and yet I fondly imagined that my
own persevering devotion would at length win her affections, I spoke to
her father more than once of my hope some day to make Louise my wife.
This hope, I must frankly acknowledge, he never encouraged. On the
contrary, he treated it with scorn,--"His child with her beauty would
look much higher;" but be continued all the same to accept my assistance,
and to sanction my visits. At length my slender purse was pretty well
exhausted, and the luckless drawing-master was so harassed with petty
debts that further credit became impossible. At this time I happened to
hear from a fellow-student that his sister, who was the principal of a
lady's school in Cheltenham, bad commissioned him to look out for a
first-rate teacher of drawing with whom her elder pupils could converse
in French, but who should be sufficiently acquainted with English to make
his instructions intelligible to the young. The salary was liberal, the
school large and of high repute, and his appointment to it would open to
an able teacher no inconsiderable connection among private families. I
communicated this intelligence to Duval. He caught at it eagerly. He had
learned at Tours to speak English fluently; and as his professional skill
was of high order, and he was popular with several eminent artists, he
obtained certificates as to his talents, which my fellow-student
forwarded to England with specimens of Duval's drawings. In a few days
the offer of an engagement arrived, was accepted, and Duval and his
daughter set out for Cheltenham. At the eve of their departure, Louise,
profoundly dejected at the prospect of banishment to a foreign country,
and placing no trust in her father's reform to steady habits, evinced a
tenderness for me hitherto new; she wept bitterly; she allowed me to
believe that her tears flowed at the thought of parting with me, and even
besought me to accompany them to Cheltenham, if only for a few days. You
may suppose how delightedly I complied with the request. Duval had been
about a week at the watering place, and was discharging the duties he had
undertaken with such unwonted steadiness and regularity that I began
sorrowfully to feel I had no longer an excuse for not returning to my
studies at Paris, when the poor teacher was seized with a fit of
paralysis. He lost the power of movement, and his mind was affected. The
medical attendant called in said that he might linger thus for some time,
but that, even if he recovered his intellect, which was more than
doubtful, he would never be able to resume his profession. I could not
leave Louise in circumstances so distressing,--I remained. The little
money Duval had brought from Paris was now exhausted; and when the day on
which he had been in the habit of receiving his quarter's pension came
round, Louise was unable even to conjecture how it was to be applied for.
It seems he had always gone for it in person; but to whom he went was a
secret which he had never divulged, and at this critical juncture his
mind was too enfeebled even to comprehend us when we inquired. I had
already drawn from the small capital on the interest of which I had
maintained myself; I now drew out most of the remainder. But this was a
resource that could not last long. Nor could I, without seriously
compromising Louise's character, be constantly in the house with a girl
so young, and whose sole legitimate protector was thus afflicted. There
seemed but one alternative to that of abandoning her altogether,--namely,
to make her my wife, to conclude the studies necessary to obtain my
diploma, and purchase some partnership in a small country practice with
the scanty surplus that might be left of my capital. I placed this option
before Louise timidly, for I could not bear the thought of forcing her
inclinations. She seemed much moved by what she called my generosity: she
consented; we were married. I was, as you may conceive, wholly ignorant
of French law. We were married according to the English ceremony and the
Protestant ritual. Shortly after our marriage we all three returned to
Paris, taking an apartment in a quarter remote from that in which we had
before lodged, in order to avoid any, harassment to which such small
creditors as Duval had left behind him might subject us. I resumed my
studies with redoubled energy, and Louise was necessarily left much alone
with her poor father in the daytime. The defects in her character became
more and more visible. She reproached me for the solitude to which I
condemned her; our poverty galled her; she had no kind greeting for me
when I returned at evening, wearied out. Before marriage she had not
loved me; after marriage, alas! I fear she hated. We had been returned to
Paris some months when poor Duval died; he had never recovered his
faculties, nor had we ever learned from whom his pension had been
received. Very soon after her father's death I observed a singular change
in the humour and manner of Louise. She was no longer peevish, irascible,
reproachful; but taciturn and thoughtful. She seemed to me under the
influence of some suppressed excitement, her cheeks flushed and her eye
abstracted. At length, one evening when I returned I found her gone. She
did not come back that night nor the next day. It was impossible for me
to conjecture what had become of her. She had no friends, so far as I
knew; no one had visited at our squalid apartment. The poor house in
which we lodged had no concierge whom I could question; but the
ground-floor was occupied by a small tobacconist's shop, and the woman at
the counter told me that for some days before my wife's disappearance,
she had observed her pass the shop-window in going out in the afternoon
and returning towards the evening. Two terrible conjectures beset me
either in her walk she had met some admirer, with whom she had fled; or,
unable to bear the companionship and poverty of a union which she had
begun to loathe, she had gone forth to drown herself in the Seine. On the
third day from her flight I received the letter I enclose. Possibly the
handwriting may serve you as a guide in the mission I intrust to you.

   MONSIEUR,--You have deceived me vilely,--taken advantage of my
   inexperienced youth and friendless position to decoy me into an
   illegal marriage. My only consolation under my calamity and
   disgrace is, that I am at least free from a detested bond. You will
   not see me again,--it is idle to attempt to do so. I have obtained
   refuge with relations whom I have been fortunate enough to discover,
   and to whom I intrust my fate; and even if you could learn the
   shelter I have sought, and have the audacity to molest me, you would
   but subject yourself to the chastisement you so richly deserve.

                    Louise DUVAL.

At the perusal of this cold-hearted, ungrateful letter, the love I had
felt for this woman--already much shaken by her wayward and perverse
temper--vanished from my heart, never to return. But as an honest man, my
conscience was terribly stung. Could it be possible that I had
unknowingly deceived her,--that our marriage was not legal? When I
recovered from the stun which was the first effect of her letter, I
sought the opinion of an avoue in the neighbourbood, named Sartiges, and
to my dismay, I learned that while I, marrying according to the customs
of my own country, was legally bound to Louise in England, and could not
marry another, the marriage was in all ways illegal for her,--being
without the consent of her relations while she was under age; without the
ceremonials of the Roman Catholic Church,--to which, though I never heard
any profession of religious belief from her or her father, it might
fairly be presumed that she belonged; and, above all, without the form of
civil contract which is indispensable to the legal marriage of a French
subject.

The avoue said that the marriage, therefore, in itself was null, and that
Louise could, without incurring legal penalties for bigamy, marry again
in France according to the French laws; but that under the circumstances
it was probable that her next of kin would apply on her behalf to the
proper court for the formal annulment of the marriage, which would be the
most effectual mode of saving her from any molestation on my part, and
remove all possible questions hereafter as to her single state and
absolute right to remarry. I had better remain quiet, and wait for
intimation of further proceedings. I knew not what else to do, and
necessarily submitted.

From this wretched listlessness of mind, alternated now by vehement
resentment against Louise, now by the reproach of my own sense of honour
in leaving that honour in so questionable a point of view, I was aroused
by a letter from the distant kinsman by whom hitherto I had been so
neglected. In the previous year he had lost one of his two children; the
other was just dead. No nearer relation now surviving stood between me
and my chance of inheritance from him. He wrote word of his domestic
affliction with a manly sorrow which touched me, said that his health was
failing, and begged me, as soon as possible, to come and visit him in
Scotland. I went, and continued to reside with him till his death, some
months afterwards. By his will I succeeded to his ample fortune on
condition of taking his name.

As soon as the affairs connected with this inheritance permitted, I
returned to Paris, and again saw M. Sartiges. I had never heard from
Louise, nor from any one connected with her since the letter you have
read. No steps had been taken to annul the marriage, and sufficient time
had elapsed to render it improbable that such steps would be taken now;
but if no such steps were taken, however free from the marriage-bond
Louise might be, it clearly remained binding on myself.

At my request, M. Sartiges took the most vigorous measures that occurred
to him to ascertain where Louise was, and what and who was the relation
with whom she asserted she had found refuge. The police were employed;
advertisements were issued, concealing names, but sufficiently clear to
be intelligible to Louise if they came under her eye, and to the effect
that if any informality in our marriage existed, she was implored for her
own sake to remove it by a second ceremonial--answer to be addressed to
the avoue. No answer came; the police had hitherto failed of discovering
her, but were sanguine of success, when a few weeks after these
advertisements a packet reached M. Sartiges, enclosing the certificates
annexed to this letter, of the death of Louise Duval at Munich. The
certificates, as you will see, are to appearance officially attested and
unquestionably genuine. So they were considered by M. Sartiges as well as
by myself. Here, then, all inquiry ceased; the police were dismissed. I
was free. By little and little I overcame the painful impressions which
my ill-starred union and the announcement of Louise's early death
bequeathed. Rich, and of active mind, I learned to dismiss the trials of
my youth as a gloomy dream. I entered into public life; I made myself a
creditable position; became acquainted with your aunt; we were wedded,
and the beauty of her nature embellished mine. Alas, alas! two years
after our marriage--nearly five years after I had received the
certificates of Louise's death--I and your aunt made a summer excursion
into the country of the Rhine; on our return we rested at
Aix-la-Chapelle. One day while there I was walking alone in the environs
of the town, when, on the road, a little girl, seemingly about five years
old, in chase of a butterfly, stumbled and fell just before my feet; I
took her up, and as she was crying more from the shock of the fall than
any actual hurt, I was still trying my best to comfort her, when a lady
some paces behind her came up, and in taking the child from my arms as I
was bending over her, thanked me in a voice that made my heart stand
still. I looked up, and beheld Louise.

It was not till I had convulsively clasped her hand and uttered her name
that she recognized me. I was, no doubt, the more altered of the
two,--prosperity and happiness had left little trace of the needy, care
worn, threadbare student. But if she were the last to recognize, she was
the first to recover self-possession. The expression of her face became
hard and set. I cannot pretend to repeat with any verbal accuracy the
brief converse that took place between us, as she placed the child on the
grass bank beside the path, bade her stay there quietly, and walked on
with me some paces as if she did not wish the child to hear what was
said.

The purport of what passed was to this effect: She refused to explain the
certificates of her death further than that, becoming aware of what she
called the "persecution" of the advertisements issued and inquiries
instituted, she had caused those documents to be sent to the address
given in the advertisement, in order to terminate all further
molestation. But how they could have been obtained, or by what art so
ingeniously forged as to deceive the acuteness of a practised lawyer, I
know not to this day. She declared, indeed, that she was now happy, in
easy circumstances, and that if I wished to make some reparation for the
wrong I had done her, it would be to leave her in peace; and in
case--which was not likely--we ever met again, to regard and treat her as
a stranger; that she, on her part, never would molest me, and that the
certified death of Louise Duval left me as free to marry again as she
considered herself to be.

My mind was so confused, so bewildered, while she thus talked, that I did
not attempt to interrupt her. The blow had so crushed me that I scarcely
struggled under it; only, as she turned to leave me, I suddenly
recollected that the child, when taken from my arms, had called her
"Maman," and, judging by the apparent age of the child, it must have been
born but a few months after Louise had left me,--that it must be mine.
And so, in my dreary woe, I faltered out, "But what of your infant?
Surely that has on me a claim that you relinquish for yourself. You were
not unfaithful to me while you deemed you were my wife?"

"Heavens! can you insult me by such a doubt? No!" she cried out,
impulsively and haughtily. "But as I was not legally your wife, the child
is not legally yours; it is mine, and only mine. Nevertheless, if you
wish to claim it"--here she paused as in doubt. I saw at once that she
was prepared to resign to me the child if I had urged her to do so. I
must own, with a pang of remorse, that I recoiled from such a proposal.
What could I do with the child? How explain to my wife the cause of my
interest in it? If only a natural child of mine, I should have shrunk
from owning to Janet a youthful error. But as it was,--the child by a
former marriage, the former wife still living!--my blood ran cold with
dread. And if I did take the child, invent what story I might as to its
parentage, should I not expose myself, expose Janet, to terrible constant
danger? The mother's natural affection might urge her at any time to seek
tidings of the child, and in so doing she might easily discover my new
name, and, perhaps years hence, establish on me her own claim.

No, I could not risk such perils. I replied sullenly, "You say rightly;
the child is yours,--only yours." I was about to add an offer of
pecuniary provision for it, but Louise had already turned scornfully
towards the bank on which she had left the infant. I saw her snatch from
the child's hand some wild flowers the poor thing had been gathering; and
how often have I thought of the rude way in which she did it,--not as a
mother who loves her child. Just then other passengers appeared on the
road; two of them I knew,--an English couple very intimate with Lady
Janet and myself. They stopped to accost me, while Louise passed by with
the infant towards the town. I turned in the opposite direction, and
strove to collect my thoughts. Terrible as was the discovery thus
suddenly made, it was evident that Louise had as strong an interest as
myself to conceal it. There was little chance that it would ever be
divulged. Her dress and that of the child were those of persons in the
richer classes of life. After all, doubtless, the child needed not
pecuniary assistance from me, and was surely best off under the mother's
care. Thus I sought to comfort and to delude myself.

The next day Janet and I left Aix-la-Chapelle and returned to England.
But it was impossible for me to banish the dreadful thought that Janet
was not legally my wife; that could she even guess the secret lodged in
my breast she would be lost to me forever, even though she died of the
separation (you know well how tenderly she loved me). My nature underwent
a silent revolution. I had previously cherished the ambition common to
most men in public life,--the ambition for fame, for place, for power.
That ambition left me; I shrank from the thought of becoming too well
known, lest Louise or her connections, as yet ignorant of my new name,
might more easily learn what the world knew; namely that I had previously
borne another name,--the name of her husband,--and finding me wealthy and
honoured, might hereafter be tempted to claim for herself or her daughter
the ties she adjured for both while she deemed me poor and despised. But
partly my conscience, partly the influence of the angel by my side,
compelled me to seek whatever means of doing good to others position and
circumstances placed at my disposal. I was alarmed when even such quiet
exercise of mind and fortune acquired a sort of celebrity. How pain fully
I shrank from it! The world attributed my dread of publicity to
unaffected modesty. The world praised me, and I knew myself an impostor.
But the years stole on. I heard no more of Louise or her child, and my
fears gradually subsided. Yet I was consoled when the two children born
to me by Janet died in their infancy. Had they lived, who can tell
whether something might not have transpired to prove them illegitimate.

I must hasten on. At last came the great and crushing calamity of my
life,--I lost the woman who was my all in all. At least she was spared
the discovery that would have deprived me of the right of tending her
deathbed, and leaving within her tomb a place vacant for myself.

But after the first agonies that followed her loss, the conscience I had
so long sought to tranquillize became terribly reproachful. Louise had
forfeited all right to my consideration, but my guiltless child had not
done so. Did it live still? If so, was it not the heir to my
fortunes,--the only child left to me? True, I have the absolute right to
dispose of my wealth: it is not in land; it is not entailed: but was not
the daughter I had forsaken morally the first claimant; was no reparation
due to her? You remember that my physician ordered me, some little time
after your aunt's death, to seek a temporary change of scene. I obeyed,
and went away no one knew whither. Well, I repaired to Paris; there I
sought M. Sartiges, the avoue. I found he had been long dead. I
discovered his executors, and inquired if any papers or correspondence
between Richard Macdonald and himself many years ago were in existence.
All such documents, with others not returned to correspondents at his
decease, had been burned by his desire. No possible clew to the
whereabouts of Louise, should any have been gained since I last saw her,
was left. What then to do I knew not. I did not dare to make inquiries
through strangers, which, if discovering my child, might also bring to
light a marriage that would have dishonoured the memory of my lost saint.
I returned to England, feeling that my days were numbered. It is to you
that I transmit the task of those researches which I could not institute.
I bequeath to you, with the exception of trifling legacies and donations
to public charities, the whole of my fortune; but you will understand by
this letter that it is to be held on a trust which I cannot specify in my
will. I could not, without dishonouring the venerated name of your aunt,
indicate as the heiress of my wealth a child by a wife living at the time
I married Janet. I cannot form any words for such a devise which would
not arouse gossip and suspicion, and furnish ultimately a clew to the
discovery I would shun. I calculate that, after all deductions, the sum
that will devolve to you will be about L220,000. That which I mean to be
absolutely and at once yours is the comparatively trifling legacy of
L20,000. If Louise's child be not living, or if you find full reason to
suppose that despite appearances the child is not mine, the whole of my
fortune lapses to you; but should Louise be surviving and need pecuniary
aid, you will contrive that she may have such an annuity as you may deem
fitting, without learning whence it come. You perceive that it is your
object, if possible, even more than mine, to preserve free from slur the
name and memory of her who was to you a second mother. All ends we desire
would be accomplished could you, on discovering my lost child, feel that,
without constraining your inclinations, you could make her your wife. She
would then naturally share with you my fortune, and all claims of justice
and duty would be quietly appeased. She would now be of age suitable to
yours. When I saw her at Aix she gave promise of inheriting no small
share of her mother's beauty. If Louise's assurance of her easy
circumstances were true, her daughter has possibly been educated and
reared with tenderness and care. You have already assured me that you
have no prior attachment. But if, on discovering this child, you find her
already married, or one whom you could not love nor esteem, I leave it
implicitly to your honour and judgment to determine what share of the
L200,000 left in your hands should be consigned to her. She may have been
corrupted by her mother's principles. She may--Heaven forbid!--have
fallen into evil courses, and wealth would be misspent in her hands. In
that case a competence sufficing to save her from further degradation,
from the temptations of poverty, would be all that I desire you to devote
from my wealth. On the contrary, you may find in her one who, in all
respects, ought to be my chief inheritor. All this I leave in full
confidence to you, as being, of all the men I know, the one who unites
the highest sense of honour with the largest share of practical sense and
knowledge of life. The main difficulty, whatever this lost girl may
derive from my substance, will be in devising some means to convey it to
her so that neither she nor those around her may trace the bequest to me.
She can never be acknowledged as my child,--never! Your reverence for the
beloved dead forbids that. This difficulty your clear strong sense must
overcome; mine is blinded by the shades of death. You too will
deliberately consider how to institute the inquiries after mother and
child so as not to betray our secret. This will require great caution.
You will probably commence at Paris, through the agency of the police, to
whom you will be very guarded in your communications. It is most
unfortunate that I have no miniature of Louise, and that any description
of her must be so vague that it may not serve to discover her; but such
as it is, it may prevent your mistaking for her some other of her name.
Louise was above the common height, and looked taller than she was, with
the peculiar combination of very dark hair, very fair complexion, and
light-gray eyes. She would now be somewhat under the age of forty. She
was not without accomplishments, derived from the companionship with her
father. She spoke English fluently; she drew with taste, and even with
talent. You will see the prudence of confining research at first to
Louise, rather than to the child who is the principal object of it; for
it is not till you can ascertain what has become of her that you can
trust the accuracy of any information respecting the daughter, whom I
assume, perhaps after all erroneously, to be mine. Though Louise talked
with such levity of holding herself free to marry, the birth of her child
might be sufficient injury to her reputation to become a serious obstacle
to such second nuptials, not having taken formal steps to annul her
marriage with myself. If not thus remarried, there would be no reason why
she should not resume her maiden name of Duval, as she did in the
signature of her letter to me: finding that I had ceased to molest her by
the inquiries, to elude which she had invented the false statement of her
death. It seems probable, therefore, that she is residing somewhere in
Paris, and in the name of Duval. Of course the burden of uncertainty as
to your future cannot be left to oppress you for an indefinite length of
time. If at the end, say, of two years, your researches have wholly
failed, consider three-fourths of my whole fortune to have passed to you,
and put by the fourth to accumulate, should the child afterwards be
discovered, and satisfy your judgment as to her claims on me as her
father. Should she not, it will be a reserve fund for your own children.
But oh, if my child could be found in time! and oh, if she be all that
could win your heart, and be the wife you would select from free choice!
I can say no more. Pity me, and judge leniently of Janet's husband.

                  R. K.

The key to Graham's conduct is now given,--the deep sorrow that took him
to the tomb of the aunt he so revered, and whose honoured memory was
subjected to so great a risk; the slightness of change in his expenditure
and mode of life, after an inheritance supposed to be so ample; the
abnegation of his political ambition; the subject of his inquiries, and
the cautious reserve imposed upon them; above all, the position towards
Isaura in which he was so cruelly placed.

Certainly, his first thought in revolving the conditions of his trust had
been that of marriage with this lost child of Richard King's, should she
be discovered single, disengaged, and not repulsive to his inclinations.
Tacitly he subscribed to the reasons for this course alleged by the
deceased. It was the simplest and readiest plan of uniting justice to the
rightful inheritor with care for a secret so important to the honour of
his aunt, of Richard King himself,--his benefactor,--of the illustrious
house from which Lady Janet had sprung. Perhaps, too, the consideration
that by this course a fortune so useful to his career was secured was not
without influence on the mind of a man naturally ambitious. But on that
consideration he forbade himself to dwell. He put it away from him as a
sin. Yet, to marriage with any one else, until his mission was fulfilled,
and the uncertainty as to the extent of his fortune was dispelled, there
interposed grave practical obstacles. How could he honestly present
himself to a girl and to her parents in the light of a rich man, when in
reality he might be but a poor man? How could he refer to any lawyer the
conditions which rendered impossible any settlement that touched a
shilling of the large sum which at any day he might have to transfer to
another? Still, when once fully conspicuous how deep was the love with
which Isaura had inspired him, the idea of wedlock with the daughter of
Richard King, if she yet lived and was single, became inadmissible. The
orphan condition of the young Italian smoothed away the obstacles to
proposals of marriage which would have embarrassed his addresses to girls
of his own rank, and with parents who would have demanded settlements.
And if he had found Isaura alone on that day on which he had seen her
last, he would doubtless have yielded to the voice of his heart, avowed
his love, wooed her own, and committed both to the tie of betrothal. We
have seen how rudely such yearnings of his heart were repelled on that
last interview. His English prejudices were so deeply rooted, that, even
if he had been wholly free from the trust bequeathed to him, he would
have recoiled from marriage with a girl who, in the ardour for notoriety,
could link herself with such associates as Gustave Rameau, by habits a
Bohemian, and by principles a Socialist.

In flying from Paris, he embraced the resolve to banish all thought of
wedding Isaura, and to devote himself sternly to the task which had so
sacred a claim upon him. Not that he could endure the idea of marrying
another, even if the lost heiress should be all that his heart could have
worshipped, had that heart been his own to give; but he was impatient of
the burden heaped on him,--of the fortune which might not be his, of the
uncertainty which paralyzed all his ambitious schemes for the future.

Yet, strive as he would--and no man could strive more resolutely--he
could not succeed in banishing the image of Isaura. It was with him
always; and with it a sense of irreparable loss, of a terrible void, of a
pining anguish.

And the success of his inquiries at Aix-la-Chapelle, while sufficient to
detain him in the place, was so slight, and advanced by such slow
degrees, that it furnished no continued occupation to his restless mind.
M. Renard was acute and painstaking. But it was no easy matter to obtain
any trace of a Parisian visitor to so popular a Spa so many years ago.
The name Duval, too, was so common, that at Aix, as we have seen at
Paris, time was wasted in the chase of a Duval who proved not to be the
lost Louise. At last M. Renard chanced on a house in which, in the year
1849, two ladies from Paris had lodged for three weeks. One was named
Madame Duval, the other Madame Marigny. They were both young, both very
handsome, and much of the same height and colouring. But Madame Marigny
was the handsomer of the two. Madame Duval frequented the gaming-tables
and was apparently of very lively temper. Madame Marigny lived very
quietly, rarely or never stirred out, and seemed in delicate health. She,
however, quitted the apartment somewhat abruptly, and, to the best of the
lodging-house-keeper's recollection, took rooms in the country near
Aix--she could not remember where. About two months after the departure
of Madame Marigny, Madame Duval also left Aix, and in company with a
French gentleman who had visited her much of late,--a handsome man of
striking appearance. The lodging house-keeper did not know what or who he
was. She remembered that he used to be announced to Madame Duval by the
name of M. Achille. Madame Duval had never been seen again by the
lodging-house-keeper after she had left. But Madame Marigny she had once
seen, nearly five years after she had quitted the lodgings,--seen her by
chance at the railway station, recognized her at once, and accosted her,
offering her the old apartment. Madame Marigny had, however, briefly
replied that she was only at Aix for a few hours, and should quit it the
same day.

The inquiry now turned towards Madame Marigny. The date on which the
lodging-house-keeper had last seen her coincided with the year in which
Richard King had met Louise. Possibly, therefore, she might have
accompanied the latter to Aix at that time, and could, if found, give
information as to her subsequent history and present whereabouts.

After a tedious search throughout all the environs of Aix, Graham himself
came, by the merest accident, upon the vestiges of Louise's friend. He
had been wandering alone in the country round Aix, when a violent
thunderstorm drove him to ask shelter in the house of a small farmer,
situated in a field, a little off the byway which he had taken. While
waiting for the cessation of the storm, and drying his clothes by the
fire in a room that adjoined the kitchen, he entered into conversation
with the farmer's wife, a pleasant, well-mannered person, and made some
complimentary observation on a small sketch of the house in water-colours
that hung upon the wall. "Ah," said the farmer's wife, "that was done by
a French lady who lodged here many years ago. She drew very prettily,
poor thing."

"A lady who lodged here many years ago,--how many?"

"Well, I guess somewhere about twenty."

"Ah, indeed! Was it a Madame Marigny?"

"Bon Dieu! That was indeed her name. Did you know her? I should be so
glad to hear she is well and--I hope--happy."

"I do not know where she is now, and am making inquiries to ascertain.
Pray help me. How long did Madame Marigny lodge with you?"

"I think pretty well two months; yes, two months. She left a month after
her confinement."

"She was confined here?"

"Yes. When she first came, I had no idea that she was enceinte. She had a
pretty figure, and no one would have guessed it, in the way she wore her
shawl. Indeed I only began to suspect it a few days before it happened;
and that was so suddenly, that all was happily over before we could send
for the accoucheur."

"And the child lived?--a girl or a boy?"

"A girl,--the prettiest baby."

"Did she take the child with her when she went?"

"No; it was put out to nurse with a niece of my husband who was confined
about the same time. Madame paid liberally in advance, and continued to
send money half-yearly, till she came herself and took away the little
girl."

"When was that,--a little less than five years after she had left it?"

"Why, you know all about it, Monsieur; yes, not quite five years after.
She did not come to see me, which I thought unkind, but she sent me,
through my niece-in-law, a real gold watch and a shawl. Poor dear
lady--for lady she was all over,--with proud ways, and would not bear to
be questioned. But I am sure she was none of your French light ones, but
an honest wife like myself, though she never said so."

"And have you no idea where she was all the five years she was away, or
where she went after reclaiming her child?"

"No, indeed, Monsieur."

"But her remittances for the infant must have been made by letters, and
the letters would have had post-marks?"

"Well, I dare say; I am no scholar myself. But suppose you see Marie
Hubert, that is my niece-in-law, perhaps she has kept the envelopes."

"''Where does Madame Hubert live?"

"It is just a league off by the short path; you can't miss the way. Her
husband has a bit of land of his own, but he is also a carrier--'Max
Hubert, carrier,'--written over the door, just opposite the first church
you get to. The rain has ceased, but it may be too far for you to-day."

"Not a bit of it. Many thanks."

"But if you find out the dear lady and see her, do tell her how pleased I
should be to hear good news of her and the little one."

Graham strode on under the clearing skies to the house indicated. He
found Madame Hubert at home, and ready to answer all questions; but,
alas! she had not the envelopes. Madame Marigny, on removing the child,
had asked for all the envelopes or letters, and carried them away with
her. Madame Hubert, who was as little of a scholar as her aunt-in-law
was, had never paid much attention to the post-marks on the envelopes;
and the only one that she did remember was the first, that contained a
bank-note, and that post-mark was "Vienna."

"But did not Madame Marigny's letters ever give you an address to which
to write with news of her child?"

"I don't think she cared much for her child, Monsieur. She kissed it very
coldly when she came to take it away. I told the poor infant that that
was her own mamma; and Madame said, 'Yes, you may call me maman,' in a
tone of voice--well, not at all like that of a mother. She brought with
her a little bag which contained some fine clothes for the child, and was
very impatient till the child had got them on."

"Are you quite sure it was the same lady who left the child?"

"Oh, there is no doubt of that. She was certainly tres belle, but I did
not fancy her as aunt did. She carried her head very high, and looked
rather scornful. However, I must say she behaved very generously."

"Still you have not answered my question whether her letters contained no
address."

"She never wrote more than two letters. One enclosing the first remittance
was but a few lines, saying that if the child was well and thriving, I
need not write; but if it died or became dangerously ill, I might at any
time write a line to Madame -----, Poste Restante, Vienna. She was
travelling about, but the letter would be sure to reach her sooner or
later. The only other letter I had was to apprise me that she was coming
to remove the child, and might be expected in three days after the
receipt of her letter."

"And all the other communications from her were merely remittances in
blank envelopes?"

"Exactly so."

Graham, finding he could learn no more, took his departure. On his way
home, meditating the new idea that his adventure that day suggested, he
resolved to proceed at once, accompanied by M. Renard, to Munich, and
there learn what particulars could be yet ascertained respecting those
certificates of the death of Louise Duval, to which (sharing Richard
King's very natural belief that they had been skilfully forged) he had
hitherto attached no importance.



CHAPTER VII.

No satisfactory result attended the inquiries made at Munich save indeed
this certainty,--the certificates attesting the decease of some person
calling herself Louise Duval had not been forged. They were indubitably
genuine. A lady bearing that name had arrived at one of the principal
hotels late in the evening, and had there taken handsome rooms. She was
attended by no servant, but accompanied by a gentleman, who, however,
left the hotel as soon as he had seen her lodged to her satisfaction. The
books of the hotel still retained the entry of her name,--Madame Duval,
Francaise rentiere. On comparing the handwriting of this entry with the
letter from Richard King's first wife, Graham found it to differ; but
then it was not certain, though probable, that the entry had been written
by the alleged Madame Duval herself. She was visited the next day by the
same gentleman who had accompanied her on arriving. He dined and spent
the evening with her. But no one at the hotel could remember what was the
gentleman's name, nor even if he were announced by any name. He never
called again. Two days afterwards, Madame Duval was taken ill; a doctor
was sent for, and attended her till her death. This doctor was easily
found. He remembered the case perfectly,--congestion of the lungs,
apparently caused by cold caught on her journey. Fatal symptoms rapidly
manifested themselves, and she died on the third day from the seizure.
She was a young and handsome woman. He had asked her during her short
illness if he should not write to her friends; if there were no one she
would wish to be sent for. She replied that there was only one friend, to
whom she had already written, and who would arrive in a day or two; and
on inquiring, it appeared that she had written such a letter, and taken
it herself to the post on the morning of the day she was taken ill.

She had in her purse not a large sum, but money enough to cover all her
expenses, including those of her funeral, which, according to the law in
force at the place, followed very quickly on her decease. The arrival of
the friend to whom she had written being expected, her effects were, in
the meanwhile, sealed up. The day after her death a letter arrived for
her, which was opened. It was evidently written by a man, and apparently
by a lover. It expressed an impassioned regret that the writer was
unavoidably prevented returning to Munich so soon as he had hoped, but
trusted to see his dear bouton de rose in the course of the following
week; it was only signed Achille, and gave no address. Two or three days
after, a lady, also young and handsome, arrived at the hotel, and
inquired for Madame Duval. She was greatly shocked at hearing of her
decease. When sufficiently recovered to bear being questioned as to
Madame Duval's relations and position, she appeared confused; said, after
much pressing, that she was no relation to the deceased; that she
believed Madame Duval had no relations with whom she was on friendly
terms,--at least she had never heard her speak of any; and that her own
acquaintance with the deceased, though cordial, was very recent. She
could or would not give any clew to the writer of the letter signed
Achille, and she herself quitted Munich that evening, leaving the
impression that Madame Duval had been one of those ladies who, in
adopting a course of life at variance with conventional regulations, are
repudiated by their relations, and probably drop even their rightful
names.

Achille never appeared; but a few days after, a lawyer at Munich received
a letter from another at Vienna, requesting, in compliance with a
client's instructions, the formal certificates of Louise Duval's death.
These were sent as directed, and nothing more about the ill-fated woman
was heard of. After the expiration of the time required by law, the seals
were removed from the effects, which consisted of two malles and a
dressing-case. But they only contained the articles appertaining to a
lady's wardrobe or toilet,--no letters, not even another note from
Achille,--no clew, in short, to the family or antecedents of the
deceased. What then had become of these effects, no one at the hotel
could give a clear or satisfactory account. It was said by the mistress
of the hotel, rather sullenly, that they had, she supposed, been sold by
her predecessor, and by order of the authorities, for the benefit of the
poor.

If the lady who had represented herself as Louise Duval's acquaintance
had given her own name, which doubtless she did, no one recollected it.
It was not entered in the books of the hotel, for she had not lodged
there; nor did it appear that she had allowed time for formal examination
by the civil authorities. In fact, it was clear that poor Louise Duval
had been considered as an adventuress by the hotel-keeper and the medical
attendant at Munich; and her death had excited so little interest, that
it was strange that even so many particulars respecting it could be
gleaned.

After a prolonged but fruitless stay at Munich, Graham and M. Renard
repaired to Vienna; there, at least, Madame Marigny had given an address,
and there she might be heard of.

At Vienna, however, no research availed to discover a trace of any such
person; and in despair Graham returned to England in the January of 1870,
and left the further prosecution of his inquiries to M. Renard, who,
though obliged to transfer himself to Paris for a time, promised that he
would leave no stone unturned for the discovery of Madame Marigny; and
Graham trusted to that assurance when M. Renard, rejecting half of the
large gratuity offered him, added, "Je suis Francais; this with me has
ceased to be an affair of money; it has become an affair that involves my
amour propre."



CHAPTER VIII.

If Graham Vane had been before caressed and courted for himself, he was
more than ever appreciated by polite society, now that he added the
positive repute of wealth to that of a promising intellect. Fine ladies
said that Graham Vane was a match for any girl. Eminent politicians
listened to him with a more attentive respect, and invited him to
selecter dinner-parties. His cousin the Duke urged him to announce his
candidature for the county, and purchase back, at least, the old
Stamm-schloss. But Graham obstinately refused to entertain either
proposal, continued to live as economically as before in his old
apartments, and bore with an astonishing meekness of resignation the
unsolicited load of fashion heaped upon his shoulders. At heart he was
restless and unhappy. The mission bequeathed to him by Richard King
haunted his thoughts like a spectre not to be exorcised. Was his whole
life to be passed in the weary sustainment of an imposture which in
itself was gall and wormwood to a nature constitutionally frank and open?
Was he forever to appear a rich man and live as a poor one? Was he till
his deathbed to be deemed a sordid miser whenever he refused a just claim
on his supposed wealth, and to feel his ambition excluded from the
objects it earnestly coveted, and which he was forced to appear too much
of an Epicurean philosopher to prize?

More torturing than all else to the man's innermost heart was the
consciousness that he had not conquered, could not conquer, the yearning
love with which Isaura had inspired him, and yet that against such love
all his reasonings, all his prejudices, more stubbornly than ever were
combined. In the French newspapers which he had glanced over while
engaged in his researches in Germany-nay, in German critical journals
themselves--he had seen so many notices of the young author,--highly
eulogistic, it is true, but which to his peculiar notions were more
offensive than if they had been sufficiently condemnatory of her work to
discourage her from its repetition; notices which seemed to him the
supreme impertinences which no man likes exhibited towards the woman to
whom he would render the chivalrous homage of respect. Evidently this
girl had become as much public property as if she had gone on the stage.
Minute details of her personal appearance,--of the dimples on her cheek,
of the whiteness of her arms, of her peculiar way of dressing her hair;
anecdotes of her from childhood (of course invented, but how could Graham
know that?); of the reasons why she had adopted the profession of author
instead of that of the singer; of the sensation she had created in
certain salons (to Graham, who knew Paris so well, salons in which he
would not have liked his wife to appear); of the compliments paid to her
by grands seigneurs noted for their liaisons with ballet-dancers, or by
authors whose genius soared far beyond the flammantia maenia of a world
confined by respect for one's neighbours' land-marks,--all this, which
belongs to ground of personal gossip untouched by English critics of
female writers, ground especially favoured by Continental, and, I am
grieved to say, by American journalists,--all this was to the sensitive
Englishman much what the minute inventory of Egeria's charms would have
been to Numa Pompilius. The nymph, hallowed to him by secret devotion,
was vulgarized by the noisy hands of the mob, and by the popular voices,
which said, "We know more about Egeria than you do." And when he returned
to England, and met with old friends familiar to Parisian life, who said,
"of course you have read the Cicogna's roman. What do you think of it?
Very fine writing, I dare say, but above me. I go in for 'Les Mysteres de
Paris' or 'Monte Cristo;' but I even find Georges Sand a bore," then as a
critic Graham Vane fired up, extolled the roman he would have given his
ears for Isaura never to have written; but retired from the contest
muttering inly, "How can I--I, Graham Vane--how can I be such an idiot;
how can I in every hour of the twenty-four sigh to myself, 'What are
other women to me? Isaura, Isaura!'"



                BOOK VII.



CHAPTER I.

It is the first week in the month of May, 1870. Celebrities are of rapid
growth in the salons of Paris. Gustave Rameau has gained the position for
which he sighed. The journal he edits has increased its hold on the
public, and his share of the profits has been liberally augmented by the
secret proprietor. Rameau is acknowledged as a power in literary circles.
And as critics belonging to the same clique praise each other in Paris,
whatever they may do in communities more rigidly virtuous, his poetry has
been declared by authorities in the press to be superior to that of
Alfred de Musset in vigour--to that of Victor Hugo in refinement; neither
of which assertions would much, perhaps, shock a cultivated
understanding.

It is true that it (Gustave's poetry) has not gained a wide audience
among the public. But with regard to poetry nowadays, there are plenty of
persons who say as Dr. Johnson said of the verse of Spratt, "I would
rather praise it than read."

At all events, Rameau was courted in gay and brilliant circles, and,
following the general example of French litterateurs in fashion, lived
well up to the income he received, had a delightful bachelor's apartment,
furnished with artistic effect, spent largely on the adornment of his
person, kept a coupe, and entertained profusely at the cafe Anglais and
the Maison Doree. A reputation that inspired a graver and more unquiet
interest had been created by the Vicomte de Mauleon. Recent articles in
the Sens Commun, written under the name of Pierre Firmin on the
discussions on the vexed question of the plebiscite, had given umbrage to
the Government, and Rameau had received an intimation that he, as editor,
was responsible for the compositions of the contributors to the journal
he edited; and that though, so long as Pierre Firmin had kept his caustic
spirit within proper bounds, the Government had winked at the evasion of
the law which required every political article in a journal to be signed
by the real name of its author, it could do so no longer. Pierre Firmin
was apparently a nom de plume; if not, his identity must be proved, or
Rameau would pay the penalty which his contributor seemed bent on
incurring.

Rameau, much alarmed for the journal that might be suspended, and for
himself who might be imprisoned, conveyed this information through the
publisher to his correspondent Pierre Firmin, and received the next day
an article signed Victor de Mauleon, in which the writer proclaimed
himself to be one and the same with Pierre Firmin, and, taking a yet
bolder tone than he had before assumed, dared the Government to attempt
legal measures against him. The Government was prudent enough to
disregard that haughty bravado, but Victor de Mauleon rose at once into
political importance. He had already in his real name and his quiet way
established a popular and respectable place in Parisian society. But if
this revelation created him enemies whom he had not before provoked, he
was now sufficiently acquitted, by tacit consent, of the sins formerly
laid to his charge, to disdain the assaults of party wrath. His old
reputation for personal courage and skill in sword and pistol served,
indeed, to protect him from such charges as a Parisian journalist does
not reply to with his pen. If he created some enemies, he created many
more friends, or, at least, partisans and admirers. He only needed fine
and imprisonment to become a popular hero.

A few days after he had thus proclaimed himself, Victor de Mauleon--who
had before kept aloof from Rameau, and from salons at which he was likely
to meet that distinguished minstrel--solicited his personal acquaintance,
and asked him to breakfast.

Rameau joyfully went. He had a very natural curiosity to see the
contributor whose articles had so mainly insured the sale of the Sens
Commun.

In the dark-haired, keen-eyed, well-dressed, middle-aged man, with
commanding port and courtly address, he failed to recognise any
resemblance to the flaxen-wigged, long-coated, be-spectacled, shambling
sexagenarian whom he had known as Lebeau. Only now and then a tone of
voice struck him as familiar, but he could not recollect where he had
heard the voice it resembled. The thought of Lebeau did not occur to him;
if it had occurred it would only have struck him as a chance coincidence.
Rameau, like most egotists, was rather a dull observer of men. His genius
was not objective.

"I trust, Monsieur Rameau," said the Vicomte, as he and his guest were
seated at the breakfast-table, "that you are not dissatisfied with the
remuneration your eminent services in the journal have received."

"The proprietor, whoever he be, has behaved most liberally," answered
Rameau.

"I take that compliment to myself, cher confrere; for though the expenses
of starting the Sens Commun, and the caution money lodged, were found by
a friend of mine, that was as a loan, which I have long since repaid, and
the property in the journal is now exclusively mine. I have to thank you
not only for your own brilliant contributions, but for those of the
colleagues you secured. Monsieur Savarin's piquant criticisms were most
valuable to us at starting. I regret to have lost his aid. But as he has
set up a new journal of his own, even he has not wit enough to spare for
another. A propos of our contributors, I shall ask you to present me to
the fair author of The Artist's Daughter. I am of too prosaic a nature to
appreciate justly the merits of a roman; but I have heard warm praise of
this story from the young--they are the best judges of that kind of
literature; and I can at least understand the worth of a contributor who
trebled the sale of our journal. It is a misfortune to us, indeed, that
her work is completed, but I trust that the sum sent to her through our
publisher suffices to tempt her to favour us with another roman in
series."

"Mademoiselle Cicogna," said Rameau, with a somewhat sharper intonation
of his sharp voice, "has accepted for the republication of her roman in a
separate form terms which attest the worth of her genius, and has had
offers from other journals for a serial tale of even higher amount than
the sum so generously sent to her through your publisher."

"Has she accepted them, Monsieur Rameau? If so, tant pis pour vous.
Pardon me, I mean that your salary suffers in proportion as the Sens
Commun declines in sale."

"She has not accepted them. I advised her not to do so until she could
compare them with those offered by the proprietor of the Sens Commun."

"And your advice guides her? Ah, cher confrere, you are a happy man!--you
have influence over this young aspirant to the fame of a De Stael or a
Georges Sand."

"I flatter myself that I have some," answered Rameau, smiling loftily as
he helped himself to another tumbler of. Volnay wine--excellent, but
rather heady.

"So much the better. I leave you free to arrange terms with Mademoiselle
Cicogna, higher than she can obtain elsewhere, and kindly contrive my own
personal introduction to her--you have breakfasted already?--permit me to
offer you a cigar--excuse me if I do not bear you company; I seldom
smoke--never of a morning. Now to business, and the state of France. Take
that easy-chair, seat yourself comfortably. So! Listen! If ever
Mephistopheles revisit the earth, how he will laugh at Universal Suffrage
and Vote by Ballot in an old country like France, as things to be admired
by educated men, and adopted by friends of genuine freedom!"

"I don't understand you," said Rameau.

"In this respect at least, let me hope that I can furnish you with
understanding.

"The Emperor has resorted to a plebiscite--viz., a vote by ballot and
universal suffrage--as to certain popular changes which circumstances
compel him to substitute for his former personal rule. Is there a single
intelligent Liberal who is not against that plebiscite?--is there any
such who does not know that the appeal of the Emperor to universal
suffrage and vote by ballot must result in a triumph over all the
variations of free thought, by the unity which belongs to Order,
represented through an able man at the head of the State? The multitude
never comprehend principles; principles are complex ideas; they
comprehend a single idea, and the simplest idea is, a Name that rids
their action of all responsibility to thought.

"Well, in France there are principles superabundant which you can pit
against the principle of Imperial rule. But there is not one name you can
pit against Napoleon the Third; therefore, I steer our little bark in the
teeth of the popular gale when I denounce the plebiscite, and Le Sens
Commun will necessarily fall in sale--it is beginning to fall already. We
shall have the educated men with us, the rest against. In every
country--even in China, where all are highly educated--a few must be yet
more highly educated than the many. Monsieur Rameau, I desire to
overthrow the Empire: in order to do that, it is not enough to have on my
side the educated men, I must have the canaille--the canaille of Paris
and of the manufacturing towns. But I use the canaille for my purpose--I
don't mean to enthrone it. You comprehend?--the canaille quiescent is
simply mud at the bottom of a stream; the canaille agitated is mud at the
surface. But no man capable of three ideas builds the palaces and senates
of civilised society out of mud, be it at the top or the bottom of an
ocean. Can either you or I desire that the destinies of France shall be
swayed by coxcombical artisans who think themselves superior to every man
who writes grammar, and whose idea of a common-wealth is the confiscation
of private property?" Rameau, thoroughly puzzled by this discourse, bowed
his head, and replied whisperingly, "Proceed. You are against the Empire,
yet against the populace!--What are you for? not, surely, the
Legitimists?--are you Republican? Orleanist? or what?"

"Your questions are very pertinent," answered the Vicomte, courteously,
"and my answer shall be very frank. I am against absolute rule, whether
under a Buonaparte or a Bourbon. I am for a free State, whether under a
constitutional hereditary sovereign like the English or Belgian, or
whether, republican in name, it be less democratic than constitutional
monarchy in practice, like the American. But as a man interested in the
fate of le Sens Commun, I hold in profound disdain all crotchets for
revolutionising the elements of Human Nature. Enough of this abstract
talk. To the point. You are of course aware of the violent meetings held
by the Socialists, nominally against the plebiscite, really against the
Emperor himself?"

"Yes, I know at least that the working class are extremely discontented;
the numerous strikes last month were not on a mere question of
wages--they were against the existing forms of society. And the articles
by Pierre Firmin which brought me into collision with the Government,
seemed to differ from what you now say. They approve those strikes; they
appeared to sympathise with the revolutionary meetings at Belleville and
Montmartre."

"Of course--we use coarse tools for destroying; we cast them aside for
finer ones when we want to reconstruct.

"I attended one of those meetings last night. See, I have a pass for all
such assemblies, signed by some dolt who cannot even spell the name he
assumes--'Pom-de-Tair.' A commissary of police sat yawning at the end of
the orchestra, his secretary by his side, while the orators stammer out
fragments of would-be thunderbolts. Commissary of police yawns more
wearily than before, secretary disdains to use his pen, seizes his
penknife and pares his nails. Up rises a wild-haired, weak-limbed
silhouette of a man, and affecting a solemnity of mien which might have
become the virtuous Guizot, moves this resolution: 'The French people
condemns Charles Louis Napoleon the Third to the penalty of perpetual
hard labour.' Then up rises the commissary of police and says quietly, 'I
declare this meeting at an end.'

"Sensation among the audience--they gesticulate--they screech--they
bellow--the commissary puts on his greatcoat--the secretary gives a last
touch to his nails and pockets his penknife--the audience disperses--the
silhouette of a man effaces itself--all is over."

"You describe the scene most wittily," said Rameau, laughing, but the
laugh was constrained. A would-be cynic himself, there was a something
grave and earnest in the real cynic that awed him.

"What conclusion do you draw from such a scene, cher poete" asked De
Mauleon, fixing his keen quiet eyes on Rameau.

"What conclusion? Well, that--that--"

"Yes, continue."

"That the audience were sadly degenerated from the time when Mirabeau
said to a Master of the Ceremonies, 'We are here by the power of the
French people, and nothing but the point of the bayonet shall expel us.'"

"Spoken like a poet, a French poet. I suppose you admire M. Victor Hugo.
Conceding that he would have employed a more sounding phraseology,
comprising more absolute ignorance of men, times, and manners in
unintelligible metaphor and melodramatic braggadocio, your answer might
have been his; but pardon me if I add, it would not be that of Common
Sense."

"Monsieur le Vicomte might rebuke me more politely," said Rameau,
colouring high.

"Accept my apologies; I did not mean to rebuke, but to instruct. The
times are not those of 1789. And Nature, ever repeating herself in the
production of coxcombs and blockheads, never repeats herself in the
production of Mirabeaus. The Empire is doomed--doomed, because it is
hostile to the free play of intellect. Any Government that gives absolute
preponderance to the many is hostile to intellect, for intellect is
necessarily confined to the few.

"Intellect is the most revengeful of all the elements of society. It
cares not what the materials through which it insinuates or forces its
way to its seat.

"I accept the aid of Pom-de-Tair. I do not demean myself to the extent of
writing articles that may favor the principles of Pom-de-Tair, signed in
the name of Victor de Mauleon or of Pierre Firinin.

"I will beg you, my dear editor, to obtain clever, smart writers, who
know nothing about Socialists and Internationalists, who therefore will
not commit Le Sens Commun by advocating the doctrines of those idiots,
but who will flatter the vanity of the canaille--vaguely; write any stuff
they please about the renown of Paris, 'the eye of the world,' 'the sun
of the European system,' &c., of the artisans of Paris as supplying soul
to that eye and fuel to that sun--any blague of that sort--genre Victor
Hugo; but nothing definite against life and property, nothing that may
not be considered hereafter as the harmless extravagance of a poetic
enthusiasm. You might write such articles yourself. In fine, I want to
excite the multitude, and yet not to commit our journal to the contempt
of the few. Nothing is to be admitted that may bring the law upon us
except it be signed by my name. There may be a moment in which it would
be desirable for somebody to be sent to prison: in that case, I allow no
substitute--I go myself.

"Now you have my most secret thoughts. I intrust them to your judgment
with entire confidence. Monsieur Lebeau gave you a high character, which
you have hitherto deserved. By the way, have you seen anything lately of
that bourgeois conspirator?"

"No, his professed business of letter-writer or agent is transferred to a
clerk, who says M. Lebeau is abroad."

"Ah! I don't think that is true. I fancy I saw him the other evening
gilding along the lanes of Belleville. He is too confirmed a conspirator
to be long out of Paris; no place like Paris for seething brains."

"Have you known M. Lebeau long?" asked Rameau. "Ay, many years. We are
both Norman by birth, as you may perceive by something broad in our
accent."

"Ha! I knew your voice was familiar to me; certainly it does remind me of
Lebeau's."

"Normans are like each other in many things besides voice and
accent--obstinacy, for instance, in clinging to ideas once formed; this
makes them good friends and steadfast enemies. I would advise no man to
make an enemy of Lebeau.

"Au revoir, cher confrere. Do not forget to present me to Mademoiselle
Cicogna."



CHAPTER II.

On leaving De Mauleon and regaining his coupe, Rameau felt at once
bewildered and humbled, for he was not prepared for the tone of careless
superiority which the Vicomte assumed over him. He had expected to be
much complimented, and he comprehended vaguely that he had been somewhat
snubbed. He was not only irritated--he was bewildered; for De Mauleon's
political disquisitions did not leave any clear or definite idea on his
mind as to the principles which as editor of the Sens Commun he was to
see adequately represented and carried out. In truth, Rameau was one of
those numerous Parisian politicians who have read little and reflected
less on the government of men and States. Envy is said by a great French
writer to be the vice of Democracies. Envy certainly had made Rameau a
democrat. He could talk and write glibly enough upon the themes of
equality and fraternity, and was so far an ultra-democrat that he thought
moderation the sign of a mediocre understanding.

De Mauleon's talk, therefore, terribly perplexed him. It was unlike
anything he had heard before. Its revolutionary professions, accompanied
with so much scorn for the multitude, and the things the multitude
desired, were Greek to him. He was not shocked by the cynicism which
placed wisdom in using the passions of mankind as tools for the interests
of an individual; but he did not understand the frankness of its avowal.

Nevertheless the man had dominated over and subdued him. He recognized
the power of his contributor without clearly analysing its nature--a
power made up of large experience of life, of cold examination of
doctrines that heated others--of patrician calm--of intellectual
sneer--of collected confidence in self.

Besides, Rameau felt, with a nervous misgiving, that in this man, who so
boldly proclaimed his contempt for the instruments he used, he had found
a master. De Mauleon, then, was sole proprietor of the journal from which
Rameau drew his resources; might at any time dismiss him; might at any
time involve the journal in penalties which, even if Rameau could escape
in his official capacity as editor, still might stop the Sens Commun, and
with it Rameau's luxurious subsistence.

Altogether the visit to De Mauleon had been anything but a pleasant one.
He sought, as the carriage rolled on, to turn his thoughts to more
agreeable subjects, and the image of Isaura rose before him. To do him
justice he had learned to love this girl as well as his nature would
permit: he loved her with the whole strength of his imagination, and
though his heart was somewhat cold, his imagination was very ardent. He
loved her also with the whole strength of his vanity, and vanity was even
a more preponderant organ of his system than imagination. To carry off as
his prize one who had already achieved celebrity, whose beauty and
fascination of manner were yet more acknowledged than her genius, would
certainly be a glorious triumph.

Every Parisian of Rameau's stamp looks forward in marriage to a brilliant
salon. What salon more brilliant than that which he and Isaura united
could command? He had long conquered his early impulse of envy at
Isaura's success,--in fact that success had become associated with his
own, and had contributed greatly to his enrichment. So that to other
motives of love he might add the prudential one of interest. Rameau well
knew that his own vein of composition, however lauded by the cliques, and
however unrivalled in his own eyes, was not one that brings much profit
in the market. He compared himself to those poets who are too far in
advance of their time to be quite as sure of bread and cheese as they are
of immortal fame.

But he regarded Isaura's genius as of a lower order, and a thing in
itself very marketable. Marry her, and the bread and cheese were so
certain that he might elaborate as slowly as he pleased the verses
destined to immortal fame. Then he should be independent of inferior
creatures like Victor de Mauleon. But while Rameau convinced himself that
he was passionately in love with Isaura, he could not satisfy himself
that she was in love with him.

Though during the past year they had seen each other constantly, and
their literary occupations had produced many sympathies between
them--though he had intimated that many of his most eloquent love-poems
were inspired by her--though he had asserted in prose, very pretty prose
too, that she was all that youthful poets dream of,--yet she had hitherto
treated such declarations with a playful laugh, accepting them as elegant
compliments inspired by Parisian gallantry; and he felt an angry and sore
foreboding that if he were to insist too seriously on the earnestness of
their import and ask her plainly to be his wife, her refusal would be
certain, and his visits to her house might be interdicted.

Still Isaura was unmarried, still she had refused offers of marriage from
men higher placed than himself,--still he divined no one whom she could
prefer. And as he now leaned back in his coupe he muttered to himself,
"Oh, if I could but get rid of that little demon Julie, I would devote
myself so completely to winning Isaura's heart that I must succeed!--but
how to get rid of Julie? She so adores me, and is so headstrong! She is
capable of going to Isaura--showing my letters--making such a scene!"

Here he checked the carriage at a cafe on the Boulevard--descended,
imbibed two glasses of absinthe,--and then feeling much emboldened,
remounted his coupe and directed the driver to Isaura's apartment.



CHAPTER III.

Yes, celebrities are of rapid growth in the salons of Paris. Far more
solid than that of Rameau, far more brilliant than that of De Mauleon,
was the celebrity which Isaura had now acquired. She had been unable to
retain the pretty suburban villa at A------. The owner wanted to alter
and enlarge it for his own residence, and she had been persuaded by
Signora Venosta, who was always sighing for fresh salons to conquer, to
remove (towards the close of the previous year) to apartments in the
centre of the Parisian beau monde. Without formally professing to
receive, on one evening in the week her salon was open to those who had
eagerly sought her acquaintance--comprising many stars in the world of
fashion, as well as those in the world of art and letters. And as she had
now wholly abandoned the idea of the profession for which her voice had
been cultivated, she no longer shrank from the exercise of her surpassing
gift of song for the delight of private friends. Her physician had
withdrawn the interdict on such exercise. His skill, aided by the rich
vitality of her constitution, had triumphed over all tendencies to the
malady for which he had been consulted. To hear Isaura Cicogna sing in
her own house was a privilege sought and prized by many who never read a
word of her literary compositions. A good critic of a book is rare; but
good judges of a voice are numberless. Adding this attraction of song to
her youth, her beauty, her frank powers of converse--an innocent
sweetness of manner free from all conventional affectation--and to the
fresh novelty of a genius which inspired the young with enthusiast and
beguiled the old to indulgence, it was no wonder that Isaura became a
celebrity at Paris.

Perhaps it was a wonder that her head was not turned by the adulation
that surrounded her. But I believe, be it said with diffidence, that a
woman of mind so superior that the mind never pretends to efface the
heart, is less intoxicated with flattery than a man equally exposed to
it.

It is the strength of her heart that keeps her head sober. Isaura had
never yet overcome her first romance of love; as yet, amid all her
triumphs, there was not a day in which her thoughts did not wistfully,
mournfully, fly back to those blessed moments in which she felt her cheek
colour before a look, her heart beat at the sound of a footfall. Perhaps
if there had been the customary finis to this young romance--the lover's
deliberate renunciation, his formal farewell--the girl's pride would ere
this have conquered her affection,--possibly--who knows?--replaced it.

But, reader, be you male or female, have you ever known this sore trial
of affection and pride, that from some cause or other, to you mysterious,
the dear intercourse to which you had accustomed the secret life of your
life, abruptly ceases; you know that a something has come between you and
the beloved which you cannot distinguish, cannot measure, cannot guess,
and therefore cannot surmount; and you say to yourself at the dead of
solitary night, "Oh for an explanation! Oh for one meeting more! All
might be so easily set right; or if not, I should know the worst, and
knowing it, could conquer!"

This trial was Isaura's. There had been no explanation, no last farewell
between her and Graham. She divined--no woman lightly makes a mistake
there--that he loved her! She knew that this dread something had
intervened between her and him when he took leave of her before others so
many months ago; that this dread something still continued--what was it?
She was certain that it would vanish, could they but once meet again and
not before others. Oh for such a meeting!

She could not herself destroy hope. She could not marry another. She
would have no heart to give to another while he was free, while in doubt
if his heart was still her own. And thus her pride did not help her to
conquer her affection.

Of Graham Vane she heard occasionally. He had ceased to correspond with
Savarin; but among those who most frequented her salon were the Morleys.
Americans so well educated and so well placed as the Morleys knew
something about every Englishman of the social station of Graham Vane.
Isaura learned from them that Graham, after a tour on the Continent, had
returned to England at the commencement of the year, had been invited to
stand for Parliament, had refused, that his name was in the list
published by the Morning Post of the elite whose arrivals in London, or
whose presence at dinner-tables, is recorded as an event. That the
Athenaeum had mentioned a rumour that Graham Vane was the author of a
political pamphlet which, published anonymously, had made no
inconsiderable sensation. Isaura sent to England for that pamphlet: the
subject was somewhat dry, and the style, though clear and vigorous, was
scarcely of the eloquence which wins the admiration of women; and yet she
learned every word of it by heart.

We know how little she dreamed that the celebrity which she hailed as an
approach to him was daily making her more remote. The sweet labours she
undertook for that celebrity continued to be sweetened yet more by secret
associations with the absent one. How many of the passages most admired
could never have been written had he been never known!

And she blessed those labours the more that they upheld her from the
absolute feebleness of sickened reverie, beguiled her from the gnawing
torture of unsatisfied conjecture. She did comply with Madame de
Grantmesnil's command--did pass from the dusty beaten road of life into
green fields and along flowery river-banks, and did enjoy that ideal
by-world.

But still the one image which reigned over her human heart moved beside
her in the gardens of fairyland.



CHAPTER IV.

Isaura was seated in her pretty salon, with the Venosta, M. Savarin, the
Morleys, and the financier Louvier, when Rameau was announced.

"Ha!" cried Savarin, "we were just discussing a matter which nearly
concerns you, cher poete. I have not seen you since the announcement that
Pierre Firmin is no other than Victor de Mauleon. Ma foi, that worthy
seems likely to be as dangerous with his pen as he was once with his
sword. The article in which he revealed himself makes a sharp lunge on
the Government. 'Take care of yourself. When hawks and nightingales fly
together the hawk may escape, and the nightingale complain of the
barbarity of kings, in a cage: 'flebiliter gemens infelix avis.''"

"He is not fit to conduct a journal," replied Rameau, magniloquently,
"who will not brave a danger for his body in defence of the right to
infinity for his thought."

"Bravo!" said Mrs. Morley, clapping her pretty hands. "That speech
reminds me of home. The French are very much like the Americans in their
style of oratory."

"So," said Louvier, "my old friend the Vicomte has come out as a writer,
a politician, a philosopher; I feel hurt that he kept this secret from me
despite our intimacy. I suppose you knew it from the first, M. Rameau?"

"No, I was as much taken by surprise as the rest of the world. You have
long known M. de Mauleon?"

"Yes, I may say we began life together--that is, much at the same time."

"What is he like in appearance?" asked Mrs. Morley. "The ladies thought
him very handsome when he was young," replied Louvier. "He is still a
fine-looking man, about my height."

"I should like to know him!" cried Mrs. Morley, "if only to tease that
husband of mine. He refuses me the dearest of woman's rights.--I can't
make him jealous."

"You may have the opportunity of knowing this ci-devant Lovelace very
soon," said Rameau, "for he has begged me to present him to Mademoiselle
Cicogna, and I will ask her permission to do so, on Thursday evening when
she receives."

Isaura, who had hitherto attended very listlessly to the conversation,
bowed assent. "Any friend of yours will be welcome. But I own the
articles signed in the name of Pierre Firmin do not prepossess me in
favour of their author."

"Why so?" asked Louvier; "surely you are not an Imperialist?"

"Nay, I do not pretend to be a politician at all, but there is something
in the writing of Pierre Firmin that pains and chills me."

"Yet the secret of its popularity," said Savarin, "is that it says what
every one says--only better."

"I see now that it is exactly that which displeases me; it is the Paris
talk condensed into epigram: the graver it is the less it elevates--the
lighter it is, the more it saddens."

"That is meant to hit me," said Savarin, with his sunny laugh--"me whom
you call cynical."

"No, dear M. Savarin; for above all your cynicism is genuine gaiety, and
below it solid kindness. You have that which I do not find in M. de
Mauleon's writing, nor often in the talk of the salon--you have
youthfulness."

"Youthfulness at sixty--flatterer!"

"Genius does not count its years by the almanac," said Mrs. Morley. "I
know what Isaura means--she is quite right; there is a breath of winter
in M. de Mauleon's style, and an odour of fallen leaves. Not that his
diction wants vigour; on the contrary, it is crisp with hoar-frost. But
the sentiments conveyed by the diction are those of a nature sear and
withered. And it is in this combination of brisk words and decayed
feelings that his writing represents the talk and mind of Paris. He and
Paris are always fault-finding: fault-finding is the attribute of old
age."

Colonel Morley looked round with pride, as much as to say, "Clever talker
my wife."

Savarin understood that look, and replied to it courteously. "Madame has
a gift of expression which Emile de Girardin can scarcely surpass. But
when she blames us for fault-finding, can she expect the friends of
liberty to praise the present style of things?"

"I should be obliged to the friends of liberty," said the Colonel, drily,
"to tell me how that state of things is to be mended. I find no
enthusiasm for the Orleanists, none for a Republic; people sneer at
religion; no belief in a cause, no adherence to an opinion. But the worst
of it is that, like all people who are blases, the Parisians are eager
for strange excitement, and ready to listen to any oracle who promises a
relief from indifferentism. This it is which makes the Press more
dangerous in France than it is in any other country. Elsewhere the Press
sometimes leads, sometimes follows, public opinion. Here there is no
public opinion to consult, and instead of opinion the Press represents
passion."

"My dear Colonel Morley," said Savarin, "I hear you very often say that a
Frenchman cannot understand America. Permit me to observe that an
American cannot understand France--or at least Paris. Apropos of Paris
that is a large speculation of yours, Louvier, in the new suburb."

"And a very sound one; I advise you to invest in it. I can secure you at
present 5 per cent. on the rental; that is nothing--the houses will be
worth double when the Rue de Louvier is completed."

"Alas! I have no money; my new journal absorbs all my capital."

"Shall I transfer the money I hold for you, Signorina, and add to them
whatever you may have made by your delightful roman, as yet lying idle,
to this investment? I cannot say more in its favour than this: I have
embarked a very large portion of my capital in the Rue de Louvier, and I
flatter myself that I am not one of those men who persuade their friends
to do a foolish thing by setting them the example."

"Whatever you advise on such a subject," said Isaura, graciously, "is
sure to be as wise as it is kind!"

"You consent, then?"

"Certainly."

Here the Venosta, who had been listening with great attention to
Louvier's commendation of this investment, drew him aside, and whispered
in his ear: "I suppose, M. Louvier, that one can't put a little money-a
very little money--poco-poco pocolino, into your street."

"Into my street! Ah, I understand--into the speculation of the Rue de
Louvier! Certainly you can. Arrangements are made on purpose to suit the
convenience of the smallest capitalists--from 500 francs upwards."

"And you feel quite sure that we shall double our money when the street
is completed--I should not like to have my brains in my heels."

   ["'Avere il cervello nella calcagna,"--viz., to act without prudent
   reflection.]

"More than double it, I hope, long before the street is completed."

"I have saved a little money--very little. I have no relations, and I
mean to leave it all to the Signorina; and if it could be doubled, why,
there would be twice as much to leave her."

"So there would," said Louvier. "You can't do better than put it all into
the Rue de Louvier. I will send you the necessary papers to-morrow, when
I send hers to the Signorina."

Louvier here turned to address himself to Colonel Morley, but finding
that degenerate son of America indisposed to get cent. per cent. for his
money when offered by a Parisian, he very soon took his leave. The other
visitors followed his example, except Rameau, who was left alone with the
Venosta and Isaura. The former had no liking for Rameau, who showed her
none of the attentions her innocent vanity demanded, and she soon took
herself off to her own room to calculate the amount of her savings, and
dream of the Rue de Louvier and "golden joys."

Rameau approaching his chair to Isaura's then commenced conversation,
drily enough, upon pecuniary matters; acquitting himself of the mission
with which De Mauleon had charged him, the request for a new work from
her pen for the Sens Commun, and the terms that ought to be asked for
compliance. The young lady-author shrank from this talk. Her private
income, though modest, sufficed for her wants, and she felt a sensitive
shame in the sale of her thoughts and fancies.

Putting hurriedly aside the mercantile aspect of the question, she said
that she had no other work in her mind at present--that, whatever her
vein of invention might be, it flowed at its own will, and could not be
commanded.

"Nay," said Rameau, "this is not true. We fancy, in our hours of
indolence, that we must wait for inspiration; but once force ourselves to
work, and ideas spring forth at the wave of the pen. You may believe me
here, I speak from experience: I, compelled to work, and in modes not to
my taste--I do my task I know not how. I rub the lamp, 'the genius
comes.'"

"I have read in some English author that motive power is necessary to
continued labour: you have motive power, I have none."

"I do not quite understand you."

"I mean that a strong ruling motive is required to persist in any regular
course of action that needs effort: the motive with the majority of men
is the need of subsistence; with a large number (as in trades or
professions), not actually want, but a desire of gain, and perhaps of
distinction, in their calling: the desire of professional distinction
expands into the longings for more comprehensive fame, more exalted
honours, with the few who become great writers, soldiers, statesmen,
orators."

"And do you mean to say you have no such motive?"

"None in the sting of want, none in the desire of gain."

"But fame?"

"Alas! I thought so once. I know not now--I begin to doubt if fame should
be sought by women." This was said very dejectedly.

"Tut, dearest Signorina! what gadfly has stung you? Your doubt is a
weakness unworthy of your intellect; and even were it not, genius is
destiny and will be obeyed: you must write, despite yourself--and your
writing must bring fame, whether you wish it or not."

Isaura was silent, her head drooped on her breast--there were tears in
her downcast eyes.

Rameau took her hand, which she yielded to him passively, and clasping it
in both his own, he rushed on impulsively--

"Oh, I know what these misgivings are when we feel ourselves solitary,
unloved: how often have they been mine! But how different would labour be
if shared and sympathised with by a congenial mind, by a heart that beats
in unison with one's own!"

Isaura's breast heaved beneath her robe, she sighed softly.

"And then how sweet the fame of which the one we love is proud! how
trifling becomes the pang of some malignant depreciation, which a word
from the beloved one can soothe! O Signorina! O Isaura! are we not made
for each other? Kindred pursuits, hopes, and fears in common; the same
race to run, the same goal to win! I need a motive stronger than I have
yet known for the persevering energy that insures success: supply to me
that motive. Let me think that whatever I win in the strife of the world
is a tribute to Isaura. No, do not seek to withdraw this hand, let me
claim it as mine for life. I love you as man never loved before--do not
reject my love."

They say the woman who hesitates is lost. Isaura hesitated, but was not
yet lost. The words she listened to moved her deeply. Offers of marriage
she had already received: one from a rich middle-aged noble, a devoted
musical virtuoso; one from a young avocat fresh from the provinces, and
somewhat calculating on her dot; one from a timid but enthusiastic
admirer of her genius and her beauty, himself rich, handsome, of good
birth, but with shy manners and faltering tongue.

But these had made their proposals with the formal respect habitual to
French decorum in matrimonial proposals. Words so eloquently impassioned
as Gustave Rameau's had never before thrilled her ears; Yes, she was
deeply moved; and yet, by that very emotion she knew that it was not to
the love of this wooer that her heart responded.

There is a circumstance in the history of courtship familiar to the
experience of many women, that while the suitor is pleading his cause,
his language may touch every fibre in the heart of his listener, yet
substitute, as it were, another presence for his own. She may be saying
to herself, "Oh that another had said those words!" and be dreaming of
the other, while she hears the one. Thus it was with Isaura, and not till
Rameau's voice had ceased did that dream pass away, and with a slight
shiver she turned her face towards the wooer sadly and pityingly. "It
cannot be," she said, in a low whisper; "I were not worthy of your love
could I accept it. Forget that you have so spoken; let me still be a
friend admiring your genius, interested in your career. I cannot be more.
Forgive me if I unconsciously led you to think I could, I am so grieved
to pain you."

"Am I to understand," said Rameau, coldly, for his amour propre was
resentful, "that the proposals of another have been more fortunate than
mine?" And he named the youngest and comeliest of those whom she had
rejected. "Certainly not," said Isaura.

Rameau rose and went to the window, turning his face from her. In reality
he was striving to collect his thoughts and decide on the course it were
most prudent for him now to pursue. The fumes of the absinthe which had,
despite his previous forebodings, emboldened him to hazard his avowal,
had now subsided into the languid reaction which is generally consequent
on that treacherous stimulus, a reaction not unfavourable to passionless
reflection. He knew that if he said he could not conquer his love, he
would still cling to hope, and trust to perseverance and time, he should
compel Isaura to forbid his visits and break off their familiar
intercourse. This would be fatal to the chance of yet winning her, and
would also be of serious disadvantage to his more worldly interests. Her
literary aid might become essential to the journal on which his fortunes
depended; and at all events, in her conversation, in her encouragement,
in her sympathy with the pains and joys of his career, he felt a support,
a comfort, nay, an inspiration. For the spontaneous gush of her fresh
thoughts and fancies served to recruit his own jaded ideas, and enlarge
his own stinted range of invention. No, he could not commit himself to
the risk of banishment from Isaura.

And mingled with meaner motives for discretion, there was one of which he
was but vaguely conscious, purer and nobler. In the society of this girl,
in whom whatever was strong and high in mental organisation became so
sweetened into feminine grace by gentleness of temper and kindliness of
disposition, Rameau felt himself a better man. The virgin-like dignity
with which she moved, so untainted by a breath of scandal, amid salons in
which the envy of virtues doubted sought to bring innocence itself into
doubt, warmed into a genuine reverence the cynicism of his professed
creed.

While with her, while under her chastening influence, he was sensible of
a poetry infused within him far more true to the Camoenae than all he had
elaborated into verse. In these moments he was ashamed of the vices he
had courted as distractions. He imagined that with her all his own, it
would be easy to reform.

No; to withdraw wholly from Isaura was to renounce his sole chance of
redemption.

While these thoughts, which it takes so long to detail, passed rapidly
through his brain, he felt a soft touch on his arm, and, turning his face
slowly, encountered the tender, compassionate eyes of Isaura.

"Be consoled, dear friend," she said, with a smile, half cheering, half
mournful. "Perhaps for all true artists the solitary lot is the best."

"I will try to think so," answered Rameau; "and meanwhile I thank you
with a full heart for the sweetness with which you have checked my
presumption--the presumption shall not be repeated. Gratefully I accept
the friendship you deign to tender me. You bid me forget the words I
uttered. Promise in turn that you will forget them--or at least consider
them withdrawn. You will receive me still as friend?"

"As friend, surely: yes. Do we not both need friends?" She held out her
hand as she spoke; he bent over it, kissed it with respect, and the
interview thus closed.



CHAPTER V.

It was late in the evening that day when a man who had the appearance of
a decent bourgeois, in the lower grades of that comprehensive class,
entered one of the streets in the Faubourg Montmartre, tenanted chiefly
by artisans. He paused at the open doorway of a tall narrow house, and
drew back as he heard footsteps descending a very gloomy staircase.

The light from a gas lamp on the street fell full on the face of the
person thus quitting the house--the face of a young and handsome man,
dressed with the quiet elegance which betokened one of higher rank or
fashion than that neighbourhood was habituated to find among its
visitors. The first comer retreated promptly into the shade, and, as by
sudden impulse, drew his hat low down over his eyes.

The other man did not, however, observe him, went his way with a quick
step along the street, and entered another house some yards distant.

"What can that pious Bourbonite do here?" muttered the first comer. "Can
he be a conspirator? Diable! 'tis as dark as Erebus on that staircase."

Taking cautious hold of the banister, the man now ascended the stairs. On
the landing of the first floor there was a gas lamp which threw upward a
faint ray that finally died at the third story. But at that third story
the man's journey ended; he pulled a bell at the door to the right, and
in another moment or so the door was opened by a young woman of
twenty-eight or thirty, dressed very simply, but with a certain neatness
not often seen in the wives of artisans in the Faubourg Montmartre. Her
face, which, though pale and delicate, retained much of the beauty of
youth, became clouded as she recognised the visitor; evidently the visit
was not welcome to her.

"Monsieur Lebeau again!" she exclaimed, shrinking back.

"At your service, chere dame. The goodman is of course at home? Ah, I
catch sight of him," and sliding by the woman, M. Lebeau passed the
narrow lobby in which she stood, through the open door conducting into
the room in which Armand Monnier was seated, his chin propped on his
hand, his elbow resting on a table, looking abstractedly into space. In a
corner of the room two small children were playing languidly with a set
of bone tablets, inscribed with the letters of the alphabet. But whatever
the children were doing with the alphabet, they were certainly not
learning to read from it.

The room was of fair size and height, and by no means barely or shabbily
furnished. There was a pretty clock on the mantelpiece. On the wall were
hung designs for the decoration of apartments, and shelves on which were
ranged a few books.

The window was open, and on the sill were placed flowerpots; you could
scent the odour they wafted into the room. Altogether it was an apartment
suited to a skilled artisan earning high wages. From the room we are now
in, branched on one side a small but commodious kitchen; on the other
side, on which the door was screened by a portiere, with a border
prettily worked by female hands--some years ago, for it was faded
now--was a bedroom, communicating with one of less size in which the
children slept. We do not enter those additional rooms, but it may be
well here to mention them as indications of the comfortable state of an
intelligent skilled artisan of Paris, who thinks he can better that state
by some revolution which may ruin his employer.

Monnier started up at the entrance of Lebeau, and his face showed that he
did not share the dislike to the visit which that of the female partner
of his life had evinced. On the contrary, his smile was cordial, and
there was a hearty ring in the voice which cried out--

"I am glad to see you--something to do? Eh!"

"Always ready to work for liberty, mon brave."

"I hope so: what's in the wind now?"

"O Armand, be prudent--be prudent!" cried the woman, piteously. "Do not
lead him into further mischief, Monsieur Lebeau;" as she faltered forth
the last words, she bowed her head over the two little ones, and her
voice died in sobs.

"Monnier," said Lebeau, gravely, "Madame is right. I ought not to lead
you into further mischief; there are three in the room who have better
claims on you than--"

"The cause of millions," interrupted Monnier.

"No."

He approached the woman and took up one of the children very tenderly,
stroking back its curls and kissing the face, which, if before surprised
and saddened by the mother's sob, now smiled gaily under the father's
kiss.

"Canst thou doubt, my Heloise," said the artisan, mildly, "that whatever
I do thou and these are not uppermost in my thoughts? I act for thine
interest and theirs--the world as it exists is the foe of you three. The
world I would replace it by will be more friendly."

The poor woman made no reply, but as he drew her towards him, she leant
her head upon his breast and wept quietly. Monnier led her thus from the
room, whispering words of soothing. The children followed the parents
into the adjoining chamber. In a few minutes Monnier returned, shutting
the door behind him, and drawing the portiere close.

"You will excuse me, Citizen, and my poor wife--wife she is to me and to
all who visit here, though the law says she is not."

"I respect Madame the more for her dislike to myself," said Lebeau, with
a somewhat melancholy smile.

"Not dislike to you personally, Citizen, but dislike to the business
which she connects with your visits, and she is more than usually
agitated on that subject this evening, because, just before you came,
another visitor had produced a great effect on her feelings--poor dear
Heloise!"

"Indeed! how?"

"Well, I was employed in the winter in redecorating the salon, and
boudoir, of Madame de Vandemar; her son, M. Raoul, took great interest in
superintending the details. He would sometimes talk to me very civilly,
not only on my work, but on other matters. It seems that Madame now wants
something done to the salle-a-manger, and asked old Gerard--my late
master, you know--to send me. Of course he said that was impossible--for,
though I was satisfied with my own wages, I had induced his other men to
strike, and was one of the ringleaders in the recent strike of artisans
in general--a dangerous man, and he would have nothing more to do with
me. So M. Raoul came to see and talk to me--scarce gone before you rang
at the bell--you might have almost met him on the stairs."

"I saw a beau monsieur come out of the house. And so his talk has
affected Madame."

"Very much; it was quite brother-like. He is one of the religious set,
and they always get at the weak side of the soft sex."

"Ay," said Lebeau, thoughtfully; "if religion were banished from the laws
of men, it would still find a refuge in the hearts of women. But Raoul de
Vandemar did not presume to preach to Madame upon the sin of loving you
and your children?"

"I should like to have heard him preach to her," cried Monnier, fiercely.
"No, he only tried to reason with me about matters he could not
understand."

"Strikes?"

"Well, not exactly strikes--he did not contend that we workmen had not
full right to combine and to strike for obtaining fairer money's worth
for our work; but he tried to persuade me that where, as in my case, it
was not a matter of wages, but of political principle--of war against
capitalists--I could but injure myself and mislead others. He wanted to
reconcile me to old Gerard, or to let him find me employment elsewhere;
and when I told him that my honour forbade me to make terms for myself
till those with whom I was joined were satisfied, he said, 'But if this
lasts much longer, your children will not look so rosy;' then poor
Heloise began to wring her hands and cry, and he took me aside and wanted
to press money on me--as a loan. He spoke so kindly that I could not be
angry; but when he found I would take nothing, he asked me about some
families in the street of whom he had a list, and who, he was informed,
were in great distress. That is true; I am feeding some of them myself
out of my savings. You see, this young Monsieur belongs to a society of
men, many as young as he is, which visits the poor and dispenses charity.
I did not feel I had a right to refuse aid for others, and I told him
where his money would be best spent. I suppose he went there when he left
me."

"I know the society you mean, that of St. Francois de Sales. It comprises
some of the most ancient of that old noblesse to which the ouvriers in
the great Revolution were so remorseless."

"We ouvriers are wiser now; we see that in assailing them, we gave
ourselves worse tyrants in the new aristocracy of the capitalists. Our
quarrel now is that of artisans against employers."

"Of course, I am aware of that; but to leave general politics, tell me
frankly, How has the strike affected you as yet? I mean in purse? Can you
stand its pressure? If not, you are above the false pride of not taking
help from me, a fellow-conspirator, though you were justified in refusing
it when offered by Raoul de Vandemar, the servant of the Church."

"Pardon, I refuse aid from any one, except for the common cause. But do
not fear for me, I am not pinched as yet. I have had high wages for some
years, and since I and Heloise came together, I have not wasted a sous
out of doors, except in the way of public duty, such as making converts
at the Jean Jacques and elsewhere; a glass of beer and a pipe don't cost
much. And Heloise is such a house-wife, so thrifty, scolds me if I buy
her a ribbon, poor love! No wonder that I would pull down a society that
dares to scoff at her--dares to say she is not my wife, and her children
are base born. No, I have some savings left yet. War to society, war to
the knife!"

"Monnier," said Lebeau, in a voice that evinced emotion, "listen to me: I
have received injuries from society which, when they were fresh,
half-maddened me--that is twenty years ago. I would then have thrown
myself into any plot against society that proffered revenge; but society,
my friend, is a wall of very strong masonry, as it now stands; it may be
sapped in the course of a thousand years, but stormed in a day--no. You
dash your head against it--you scatter your brains, and you dislodge a
stone. Society smiles in scorn, effaces the stain, and replaces the
stone. I no longer war against society. I do war against a system in that
society which is hostile to me--systems in France are easily overthrown.
I say this because I want to use you, and I do not want to deceive."

"Deceive me, bah! You are an honest man," cried Monnier; and he seized
Lebeau's hand, and shook it with warmth and vigour.

"But for you I should have been a mere grumbler. No doubt I should have
cried out where the shoe pinched, and railed against laws that vex me;
but from the moment you first talked to me I became a new man. You taught
me to act, as Rousseau and Madame de Grantmesnil had taught me to think
and to feel. There is my brother, a grumbler too, but professes to have a
wiser head than mine. He is always warning me against you--against
joining a strike--against doing any thing to endanger my skin. I always
went by his advice till you taught me that it was well enough for women
to talk and complain; men should dare and do."

"Nevertheless," said Lebeau, "your brother is a safer counsellor to a
pere de famille than I. I repeat what I have so often said before: I
desire, and I resolve, that the Empire of M. Bonaparte shall be
overthrown. I see many concurrent circumstances to render that desire and
resolve of practicable fulfilment. You desire and resolve the same thing.
Up to that point we can work together. I have encouraged your action only
so far as it served my design; but I separate from you the moment you
would ask me to aid your design in the hazard of experiments which the
world has never yet favoured, and trust me, Monnier, the world never will
favour."

"That remains to be seen," said Monnier, with compressed, obstinate lips.
"Forgive me, but you are not young; you belong to an old school."

"Poor young man!" said Lebeau, readjusting his spectacles, "I recognise
in you the genius of Paris, be the genius good or evil. Paris is never
warned by experience. Be it so. I want you so much, your enthusiasm is so
fiery, that I can concede no more to the mere sentiment which makes me
say to myself, 'It is a shame to use this great-hearted, wrong-headed
creature for my personal ends.' I come at once to the point--that is, the
matter on which I seek you this evening. At my suggestion, you have been
a ringleader in strikes which have terribly shaken the Imperial system,
more than its Ministers deem; now I want a man like you to assist in a
bold demonstration against the Imperial resort to a rural priest-ridden
suffrage, on the part of the enlightened working class of Paris."

"Good!" said Monnier.

"In a day or two the result of the plebiscite will be known. The result
of universal suffrage will be enormously in favour of the desire
expressed by one man."

"I don't believe it," said Monnier, stoutly. "France cannot be so
hoodwinked by the priests."

"Take what I say for granted," resumed Lebeau, calmly. "On the 8th of
this month we shall know the amount of the majority--some millions of
French votes. I want Paris to separate itself from France, and declare
against those blundering millions. I want an emeute, or rather a menacing
demonstration--not a premature revolution, mind. You must avoid
bloodshed."

"It is easy to say that beforehand; but when a crowd of men once meets in
the streets of Paris--"

"It can do much by meeting, and cherishing resentment if the meeting be
dispersed by an armed force, which it would be waste of life to resist."

"We shall see when the time comes," said Monnier, with a fierce gleam in
his bold eyes.

"I tell you, all that is required at this moment is an evident protest of
the artisans of Paris against the votes of the 'rurals' of France. Do you
comprehend me?"

"I think so; if not, I obey. What we ouvriers want is what we have not
got--a head to dictate action to us."

"See to this, then. Rouse the men you can command. I will take care that
you have plentiful aid from foreigners. We may trust to the confreres of
our council to enlist Poles and Italians; Gaspard le Noy will turn out
the volunteer rioters at his command. Let the emeute be within, say a
week, after the vote of the plebiscite is taken. You will need that time
to prepare."

"Be contented--it shall be done."

"Good night, then." Lebeau leisurely took up his hat and drew on his
gloves--then, as if struck by a sudden thought, he turned briskly on the
artisan and said in quick blunt tones:

"Armand Monnier, explain to me why it is that you--a Parisian artisan,
the type of a class the most insubordinate, the most self-conceited that
exists on the face of earth--take without question, with so docile a
submission, the orders of a man who plainly tells you he does not
sympathise in your ultimate objects, of whom you really know very little,
and whose views you candidly own you think are those of an old and
obsolete school of political reasoners."

"You puzzle me to explain," said Monnier, with an ingenuous laugh, that
brightened up features stern and hard, though comely when in repose.
"Partly, because you are so straightforward, and do not talk blague;
partly, because I don't think the class I belong to would stir an inch
unless we had a leader of another class--and you give me at least that
leader. Again, you go to that first stage which we all agree to take,
and--well, do you want me to explain more?"

"Yes."

"Et bien! you have warned me, like an honest man; like an honest man I
warn you. That first step we take together; I want to go a step further;
you retreat, you say, 'No:' I reply you are committed; that further step
you must take, or I cry 'Traitre!--au la lanterne!' You talk of 'superior
experience:' bah! what does experience really tell you? Do you suppose
that Philippe Egalite, when he began to plot against Louis XVI., meant to
vote for his kinsman's execution by the guillotine? Do you suppose that
Robespierre, when he commenced his career as the foe of capital
punishment, foresaw that he should be the Minister of the Reign of
Terror? Not a bit of it. Each was committed by his use of those he
designed for his tools: so must you be--or you perish."

Lebeau, leaning against the door, heard the frank avowal he had courted
without betraying a change of countenance. But when Armand Monnier had
done, a slight movement of his lips showed emotion; was it of fear or
disdain?

"Monnier," he said, gently; "I am so much obliged to you for the manly
speech you have made. The scruples which my conscience had before
entertained are dispelled. I dreaded lest I, a declared wolf, might
seduce into peril an innocent sheep. I see I have to deal with a wolf of
younger vigour and sharper fangs than myself, so much the better: obey my
orders now; leave it to time to say whether I obey yours later. Au
revoir."



CHAPTER VI.

Isaura's apartment, on the following Thursday evening, was more filled
than usual. Besides her habitual devotees in the artistic or literary
world, there were diplomatists and deputies commixed with many fair
chiefs of la jeunesse doree; amongst the latter the brilliant Enguerrand
de Vandemar, who, deeming the acquaintance of every celebrity essential
to his own celebrity in either Carthage, the beau monde, or the
demi-monde, had, two Thursdays before, made Louvier attend her soiree and
present him. Louvier, though gathering to his own salons authors and
artists, very rarely favoured their rooms with his presence; he did not
adorn Isaura's party that evening. But Duplessis was there, in
compensation. It had chanced that Valerie had met Isaura at some house in
the past winter, and conceived an enthusiastic affection for her: since
then, Valerie came very often to see her, and made a point of dragging
with her to Isaura's Thursday reunions her obedient father. Soirees,
musical or literary, were not much in his line; but he had no pleasure
like that of pleasing his spoilt child. Our old friend Frederic Lemercier
was also one of Isaura's guests that night. He had become more and more
intimate with Duplessis, and Duplessis had introduced him to the fair
Valerie as "un jeune homme plein de moyens, qui ira loin."

Savarin was there of course, and brought with him an English gentleman of
the name of Bevil, as well known at Paris as in London--invited
everywhere--popular everywhere,--one of those welcome contributors to the
luxuries of civilised society who trade in gossip, sparing no pains to
get the pick of it, and exchanging it liberally sometimes for a haunch of
venison, sometimes for a cup of tea. His gossip not being adulterated
with malice was in high repute for genuine worth.

If Bevil said, "This story is a fact," you no more thought of doubting
him than you would doubt Rothschild if he said, "This is Lafitte of '48."

Mr. Bevil was at present on a very short stay at Paris, and, naturally
wishing to make the most of his time, he did not tarry beside Savarin,
but, after being introduced to Isaura, flitted here and there through the
assembly.

            "Apis Matinae--
             More modoque--
             Grata carpentis thyma"--

The bee proffers honey, but bears a sting.

The room was at its fullest when Gustave Rameau entered, accompanied by
Monsieur de Mauleon.

Isaura was agreeably surprised by the impression made on her by the
Vicomte's appearance and manner. His writings, and such as she had heard
of his earlier repute, had prepared her to see a man decidedly old, of
withered aspect and sardonic smile--aggressive in demeanour--forward or
contemptuous in his very politeness--a Mephistopheles engrafted on the
stem of a Don Juan. She was startled by the sight of one who, despite his
forty-eight years--and at Paris a man is generally older at forty-eight
than he is elsewhere--seemed in the zenith of ripened manhood--startled
yet more by the singular modesty of a deportment too thoroughly high-bred
not to be quietly simple--startled most by a melancholy expression in
eyes that could be at times soft, though always so keen, and in the grave
pathetic smile which seemed to disarm censure of past faults in saying,
"I have known sorrows."

He did not follow up his introduction to his young hostess by any of the
insipid phrases of compliment to which she was accustomed; but, after
expressing in grateful terms his thanks for the honour she had permitted
Rameau to confer on him, he moved aside, as if he had no right to detain
her from other guests more worthy her notice, towards the doorway, taking
his place by Enguerrand amidst a group of men of whom Duplessis was the
central figure.

At that time--the first week in May, 1870--all who were then in Paris
will remember that there were two subjects uppermost in the mouths of
men: first, the plebiscite; secondly, the conspiracy to murder the
Emperor--which the disaffected considered to be a mere fable, a pretence
got up in time to serve the plebiscite and prop the Empire.

Upon this latter subject Duplessis had been expressing himself with
unwonted animation. A loyal and earnest Imperialist, it was only with
effort that he could repress his scorn of that meanest sort of gossip
which is fond of ascribing petty motives to eminent men.

To him nothing could be more clearly evident than the reality of this
conspiracy, and he had no tolerance for the malignant absurdity of
maintaining that the Emperor or his Ministers could be silly and wicked
enough to accuse seventy-two persons of a crime which the police had been
instructed to invent.

As De Mauleon approached, the financier brought his speech to an abrupt
close. He knew in the Vicomte de Mauleon the writer of articles which had
endangered the Government, and aimed no pointless shafts against its
Imperial head.

"My cousin," said Enguerrand, gaily, as he exchanged a cordial shake of
the hand with Victor, "I congratulate you on the fame of journalist, into
which you have vaulted, armed cap-a pie, like a knight of old into his
saddle; but I don't sympathise with the means you have taken to arrive at
that renown. I am not myself an Imperialist--a Vandemar can be scarcely
that. But if I am compelled to be on board a ship, I don't wish to take
out its planks and let in an ocean, when all offered to me instead is a
crazy tub and a rotten rope."

"Tres bien," said Duplessis, in Parliamentary tone and phrase.

"But," said De Mauleon, with his calm smile, "would you like the captain
of the ship, when the sky darkened and the sea rose, to ask the common
sailors 'whether they approved his conduct on altering his course or
shortening his sail'? Better trust to a crazy tub and a rotten rope than
to a ship in which the captain consults a plebiscite."

"Monsieur," said Duplessis, "your metaphor is ill chosen no metaphor
indeed is needed. The head of the State was chosen by the voice of the
people, and, when required to change the form of administration which the
people had sanctioned, and inclined to do so from motives the most
patriotic and liberal, he is bound again to consult the people from whom
he holds his power. It is not, however, of the plebiscite we were
conversing, so much as of the atrocious conspiracy of assassins--so
happily discovered in time. I presume that Monsieur de Mauleon must share
the indignation which true Frenchmen of every party must feel against a
combination united by the purpose of murder."

The Vicomte bowed as in assent. "But do you believe," asked a Liberal
Depute, "that such a combination existed, except in the visions of the
police or the cabinet of a Minister?"

Duplessis looked keenly at De Mauleon while this question was put to him.
Belief or disbelief in the conspiracy was with him, and with many, the
test by which a sanguinary revolutionist was distinguished from an honest
politician.

"Ma foi," answered De Mauleon, shrugging his shoulders, "I have only one
belief left; but that is boundless. I believe in the folly of mankind in
general, and of Frenchmen in particular. That seventy-two men should plot
the assassination of a sovereign on whose life interests so numerous and
so watchful depend, and imagine they could keep a secret which any
drunkard amongst them would blab out, any tatterdemalion would sell, is a
betise so gross that I think it highly probable. But pardon me if I look
upon the politics of Paris much as I do upon its mud--one must pass
through it when one walks in the street. One changes one's shoes before
entering the salon. A word with you, Enguerrand,"--and taking his
kinsman's arm he drew him aside from the circle. "What has become of your
brother? I see nothing of him now."

"Oh, Raoul," answered Enguerrand, throwing himself on a couch in a
recess, and making room for De Mauleon beside him--"Raoul is devoting
himself to the distressed ouvriers who have chosen to withdraw from work.
When he fails to persuade them to return, he forces food and fuel on
their wives and children. My good mother encourages him in this costly
undertaking, and no one but you who believe in the infinity of human
folly would credit me when I tell you that his eloquence has drawn from
me all the argent de poche I get from our shop. As for himself, he has
sold his horses, and even grudges a cab-fare, saying, 'That is a meal for
a family.' Ah! if he had but gone into the Church, what a saint would
have deserved canonisation!"

"Do not lament--he will probably have what is a better claim than mere
saintship on Heaven--martyrdom," said De Mauleon, with a smile in which
sarcasm disappeared in melancholy. "Poor Raoul!--and what of my other
cousin, the beau Marquis? Several months ago his Legitimist faith seemed
vacillating--he talked to me very fairly about the duties a Frenchman
owed to France, and hinted that he should place his sword at the command
of Napoleon III. I have not yet heard of him as a soldat de France--I
hear a great deal of him as a viveur de Paris."

"Don't you know why his desire for a military career was frost-bitten?"

"No! why?"

"Alain came from Bretagne profoundly ignorant of most things known to a
gamin of Paris. When he conscientiously overcame the scruples natural to
one of his name and told the Duchesse de Tarascon that he was ready to
fight under the flag of France whatever its colour, he had a vague
reminiscence of ancestral Rochebriants earning early laurels at the head
of their regiments. At all events he assumed as a matter of course that
he, in the first rank as gentilhomme, would enter the army, if as a
sous-lieutenant, still as gentilhomme. But when told that, as he had been
at no military college, he could only enter the ranks as a private
soldier--herd with private soldiers--for at least two years before,
passing through the grade of corporal, his birth, education, habits of
life could, with great favour, raise him to the station of a
sous-lieutenant, you may conceive that the martial ardour of a
Rochebriant was somewhat cooled."

"If he knew what the dormitory of French privates is, and how difficult a
man well educated well brought up, finds it, first, to endure the
coarsest ribaldry and the loudest blasphemy, and then, having endured and
been compelled to share them, ever enforce obedience and discipline as a
superior among those with whom just before he was an equal, his ardour
would not have been merely cooled--it would have been changed into
despair for the armies of France, if hereafter they are met by those
whose officers have been trained to be officers from the outset and have
imbibed from their cradle an education not taught to the boy-pedants from
school--the two-fold education how with courtesy to command, how with
dignity to obey. To return to Rochebriant, such salons as I frequent are
somewhat formal--as befits my grave years and my modest income; I may
add, now that you know my vocation, befits me also as a man who seeks
rather to be instructed than amused. In those salons I did, last year
sometimes, however, meet Rochebriant--as I sometimes still meet you; but
of late he has deserted such sober reunions, and I hear with pain that he
is drifting among those rocks against which my own youth was shipwrecked.
Is the report true?"

"I fear," said Enguerrand, reluctantly, "that at least the report is not
unfounded. And my conscience accuses me of having been to blame in the
first instance. You see, when Alain made terms with Louvier by which he
obtained a very fair income, if prudently managed, I naturally wished
that a man of so many claims to social distinction, and who represents
the oldest branch of my family, should take his right place in our world
of Paris. I gladly therefore presented him to the houses and the men most
a la mode--advised him as to the sort of establishment, in apartments,
horses, &c., which it appeared to me that he might reasonably afford--I
mean such as, with his means, I should have prescribed to myself--"

"Ah! I understand. But you, dear Enguerrand, are a born Parisian, every
inch of you: and a born Parisian is, whatever be thought to the contrary,
the best manager in the world. He alone achieves the difficult art of
uniting thrift with show. It is your Provincial who comes to Paris in the
freshness of undimmed youth, who sows his whole life on its barren
streets. I guess the rest: Alain is ruined." Enguerrand, who certainly
was so far a born Parisian that with all his shrewdness and savoir faire,
he had a wonderfully sympathetic heart, very easily moved, one way or the
other--Enguerrand winced at his elder kinsman's words complimentarily
reproachful, and said in unwonted tones of humility: "Cousin, you are
cruel, but you are in the right. I did not calculate sufficiently on the
chances of Alain's head being turned. Hear my excuse. He seemed to me so
much more thoughtful than most at our age are, so much more stately and
proud; well, also so much more pure, so impressed with the
responsibilities of station, so bent on retaining the old lands in
Bretagne; by habit and rearing so simple and self-denying,--that I took
it for granted he was proof against stronger temptations than those which
a light nature like my own puts aside with a laugh. And at first I had no
reason to think myself deceived, when, some months ago, I heard that he
was getting into debt, losing at play, paying court to female vampires,
who drain the life-blood of those on whom they fasten their fatal lips.
Oh, then I spoke to him earnestly!"

"And in vain?"

"In vain. A certain Chevalier de Finisterre, whom you may have heard
of--"

"Certainly, and met; a friend of Louvier's--"

"The same man--has obtained over him an influence which so far subdues
mine, that he almost challenged me when I told him his friend was a
scamp. In fine, though Alain and I have not actually quarrelled, we pass
each other with, 'Bon jour, mon ami.'"

"Hum! My dear Enguerrand, you have done all you could. Flies will be
flies, and spiders, spiders, till the earth is destroyed by a comet. Nay,
I met a distinguished naturalist in America who maintained that we shall
find flies and spiders in the next world."

"You have been in America? Ah, true--I remember, California!"

"Where have I not been? Tush! music--shall I hear our fair hostess sing?"

"I am afraid not to-night: because Madame S---------- is to favour us,
and the Signorina makes it a rule not to sing at her own house when
professional artists do. You must hear the Cicogna quietly some day; such
a voice, nothing like it."

Madame S---------, who, since she had learned that there was no cause to
apprehend that Isaura might become her professional rival, conceived for
her a wonderful affection, and willingly contributed her magnificent
gifts of song to the charms of Isaura's salon, now began a fragment from
I Puritani, which held the audience as silent as the ghosts listening to
Sappho, and when it was over, several of the guests slipped away,
especially those who disliked music, and feared Madame S--------- might
begin again. Enguerrand was not one of such soulless recreants, but he
had many other places to go to. Besides, Madame S-------- was no novelty
to him.

De Mauleon now approached Isaura, who was seated next to Valerie, and
after well-merited encomium on Madame S------'s performance, slid into
some critical comparisons between that singer and those of a former
generation, which interested Isaura, and evinced to her quick perceptions
that kind of love for music which has been refined by more knowledge of
the art than is common to mere amateurs.

"You have studied music, Monsieur de Mauleon," she said. "Do you not
perform yourself?"

"I? No. But music has always had a fatal attraction for me. I ascribe
half the errors of my life to that temperament which makes me too
fascinated by harmonies--too revolted by discords."

"I should have thought such a temperament would have led from errors--are
not errors discords?"

"To the inner sense, yes; but to the outer sense not always. Virtues are
often harsh to the ear--errors very sweet-voiced. The sirens did not sing
out of tune. Better to stop one's ears than glide on Scylla or be merged
into Charybdis."

"Monsieur," cried Valerie, with a pretty brusquerie which became her
well, "you talk like a Vandal."

"It is, I think, by Mademoiselle Duplessis that I have the honour to be
rebuked. Is Monsieur your father very susceptible to music?"

"Well, I cannot say that he cares much for it. But then his mind is so
practical--"

"And his life so successful. No Scylla, no Charybdis for him. However,
Mademoiselle, I am not quite the Vandal you suppose, I do not say that
susceptibility to the influence of music may not be safe, nay, healthful,
to others it was not so to me in my youth. It can do me no harm now."

Here Duplessis came up and whispered his daughter "it was time to leave;
they had promised the Duchesse de Tarascon to assist at the soiree she
gave that night." Valerie took her father's arm with a brightening smile
and a heightened colour. Alain de Rochebriant might probably be at the
Duchesse's.

"Are you not going also to the Hotel de Tarascon, M. de Mauleon?" asked
Duplessis.

"No; I was never there but once. The Duchesse is an Imperialist, at once
devoted and acute, and no doubt very soon divined my lack of faith in her
idols."

Duplessis frowned, and hastily led Valerie away.

In a few minutes the room was comparatively deserted. De Mauleon,
however, lingered by the side of Isaura till all the other guests were
gone. Even then he lingered still, and renewed the interrupted
conversation with her, the Venosta joining therein; and so agreeable did
he make himself to her Italian tastes by a sort of bitter-sweet wisdom
like that of her native proverbs--comprising much knowledge of mankind on
the unflattering side of humanity in that form of pleasantry which has a
latent sentiment of pathos--that the Venosta exclaimed, "Surely you must
have been brought up in Florence!"

There was that in De Mauleon's talk hostile to all which we call romance
that excited the imagination of Isaura, and compelled her instinctive
love for whatever is more sweet, more beautiful, more ennobling on the
many sides of human life, to oppose what she deemed the paradoxes of a
man who had taught himself to belie even his own nature. She became
eloquent, and her countenance, which in ordinary moments owed much of its
beauty to an expression of meditative gentleness, was now lighted up by
the energy of earnest conviction--the enthusiasm of an impassioned zeal.

Gradually De Mauleon relaxed his share in the dialogue, and listened to
her, rapt and dreamily as in his fiery youth he had listened to the songs
of the sirens. No siren Isaura! She was defending her own cause, though
unconsciously--defending the vocation of art as the embellisher of
external nature, and more than embellisher of the nature which dwells
crude, but plastic in the soul of man: indeed therein the creator of a
new nature, strengthened, expanded, and brightened in proportion as it
accumulates the ideas that tend beyond the boundaries of the visible and
material nature, which is finite; for ever seeking in the unseen and the
spiritual the goals in the infinite which it is their instinct to divine.
"That which you contemptuously call romance," said Isaura, "is not
essential only to poets and artists. The most real side of every life,
from the earliest dawn of mind in the infant, is the romantic."

"When the child is weaving flower-chains, chasing butterflies, or sitting
apart and dreaming what it will do in the future, is not that the child's
real life, and yet is it not also the romantic?"

"But there comes a time when we weave no flower-chains, and chase no
butterflies."

"Is it so?--still on one side of life, flowers and butterflies may be
found to the last; and at least to the last are there no dreams of the
future? Have you no such dreams at this moment? and without the romance
of such dreams, would there be any reality to human life which could
distinguish it from the life of the weed that rots on Lethe?"

"Alas, Mademoiselle," said De Mauleon, rising to take leave, "your
argument must rest without answer. I would not, if I could, confute the
beautiful belief that belongs to youth, fusing into one rainbow all the
tints that can colour the world. But the Signora Venosta will acknowledge
the truth of an old saying expressed in every civilised language, but
best, perhaps in that of the Florentine--'You might as well physic the
dead as instruct the old.'"

"But you are not old!" said the Venosta, with Florentine politeness,--
"you! not a grey hair."

"'Tis not by the grey of the hair that one knows the age of the heart,"
answered De Mauleon, in another paraphrase of Italian proverb, and he was
gone.

As he walked homeward, through deserted streets, Victor de Mauleon
thought to himself, "Poor girl, how I pity her! married to a Gustave
Rameau--married to any man--nothing in the nature of man, be he the best
and the cleverest, can ever realise the dream of a girl who is pure and
has genius. Ah, is not the converse true? What girl, the best and the
cleverest, comes up to the ideal of even a commonplace man--if he ever
dreamed of an ideal!"

Then he paused, and in a moment or so afterwards his thought knew such
questionings no more. It turned upon personalities, on stratagems and
plots, on ambition. The man had more than his share of that peculiar
susceptibility which is one of the characteristics of his
countrymen--susceptibility to immediate impulse--susceptibility to
fleeting impressions. It was a key to many mysteries in his character
when he owned his subjection to the influence of music, and in music
recognised not the seraph's harp, but the siren's song. If you could have
permanently fixed Victor de Mauleon in one of the good moments of his
life--even now--some moment of exquisite kindness--of superb
generosity--of dauntless courage--you would have secured a very rare
specimen of noble humanity. But so to fix him was impossible.

That impulse of the moment vanished the moment after; swept aside by the
force of his very talents--talents concentrated by his intense sense of
individuality--sense of wrongs or of rights--interests or objects
personal to himself. He extended the royal saying, "L'etat, c'est moi,"
to words far more grandiloquent. "The universe, 'tis I." The Venosta
would have understood him and smiled approvingly, if he had said with
good-humoured laugh, "I dead, the world is dead!" That is an Italian
proverb, and means much the same thing.



                BOOK VIII.



CHAPTER I.

On the 8th of May the vote of the plebiscite was recorded,--between seven
and eight millions of Frenchmen in support of the Imperial programme--in
plain words, of the Emperor himself--against a minority of 1,500,000. But
among the 1,500,000 were the old throne-shakers-those who compose and
those who lead the mob of Paris. On the 14th, as Rameau was about to quit
the editorial bureau of his printing-office, a note was brought in to him
which strongly excited his nervous system. It contained a request to see
him forthwith, signed by those two distinguished foreign members of the
Secret Council of Ten, Thaddeus Loubinsky and Leonardo Raselli.

The meetings of that Council had been so long suspended that Rameau had
almost forgotten its existence. He gave orders to admit the conspirators.
The two men entered, the Pole, tall, stalwart, and with martial
stride--the Italian, small, emaciated, with skulking, noiseless, cat-like
step, both looking wondrous threadbare, and in that state called "shabby
genteel," which belongs to the man who cannot work for his livelihood,
and assumes a superiority over the man who can. Their outward appearance
was in notable discord with that of the poet-politician--he all new in
the last fashions of Parisian elegance, and redolent of Parisian
prosperity and extrait de Mousseline!

"Confrere," said the Pole, seating himself on the edge of the table,
while the Italian leaned against the mantelpiece, and glanced round the
room with furtive eye, as if to detect its innermost secrets, or decide
where safest to drop a Lucifer-match for its conflagration,--"confrere,"
said the Pole, "your country needs you--"

"Rather the cause of all countries," interposed the Italian
softly,--"Humanity."

"Please to explain yourselves; but stay, wait a moment," said Rameau; and
rising, he went to the door, opened it, looked forth, ascertained that
the coast was clear, then reclosed the door as cautiously as a prudent
man closes his pocket whenever shabby-genteel visitors appeal to him in
the cause of his country, still more if they appeal in that of Humanity.

"Confrere," said the Pole, "this day a movement is to be made--a
demonstration on behalf of your country--"

"Of Humanity," again softly interposed the Italian. "Attend and share
it," said the Pole.

"Pardon me," said Rameau, "I do not know what you mean. I am now the
editor of a journal in which the proprietor does not countenance
violence; and if you come to me as a member of the Council, you must be
aware that I should obey no orders but that of its president, whom I--I
have not seen for nearly a year; indeed I know not if the Council still
exists."

"The Council exists, and with it the obligation it imposes," replied
Thaddeus.

"Pampered with luxury," here the Pole raised his voice, "do you dare to
reject the voice of Poverty and Freedom?"

"Hush, dear but too vehement confrere," murmured the bland Italian;
"permit me to dispel the reasonable doubts of our confrere," and he took
out of his breast-pocket a paper which he presented to Rameau; on it were
written these words:

"This evening May 24th. Demonstration.--Faubourg du Temple.--Watch
events, under orders of A. M. Bid the youngest member take that first
opportunity to test nerves and discretion. He is not to act, but to
observe."

No name was appended to this instruction, but a cipher intelligible to
all members of the Council as significant of its president, Jean Lebeau.

"If I err not," said the Italian, "Citizen Rameau is our youngest
confrere."

Rameau paused. The penalties for disobedience to an order of the
President of the Council were too formidable to be disregarded. There
could be no doubt that,--though his name was not mentioned, he, Rameau,
was accurately designated as the youngest member of the Council. Still,
however he might have owed his present position to the recommendation of
Lebeau, there was nothing in the conversation of M. de Mauleon which
would warrant participation in a popular emeute by the editor of a
journal belonging to that mocker of the mob. Ah! but--and here again he
glanced over the paper--he was asked "not to act; but to observe." To
observe was the duty of a journalist. He might go to the demonstration as
De Mauleon confessed he had gone to the Communist Club, a philosophical
spectator.

"You do not disobey this order?" said the Pole, crossing his arms.

"I shall certainly go into the Faubourg du Temple this evening," answered
Rameau, drily, "I have business that way."

"Bon!" said the Pole; "I did not think you would fail us, though you do
edit a journal which says not a word on the duties that bind the French
people to the resuscitation of Poland."

"And is not pronounced in decided accents upon the cause of the human
race," put in the Italian, whispering.

"I do not write the political articles in Le Seas Commun," answered
Rameau; "and I suppose that our president is satisfied with them since he
recommended me to the preference of the person who does. Have you more to
say? Pardon me, my time is precious, for it does not belong to me."

"Eno'!" said the Italian, "we will detain you no longer." Here, with a
bow and a smile, he glided towards the door.

"Confrere," muttered the Pole, lingering, "you must have become
very rich!--do not forget the wrongs of Poland--I am their
Representative--I--speaking in that character, not as myself
individually--I have not breakfasted!"

Rameau, too thoroughly Parisian not to be as lavish of his own money as
he was envious of another's, slipped some pieces of gold in the Pole's
hand. The Pole's bosom heaved with manly emotion: "These pieces bear the
effigies of the tyrant--I accept them as redeemed from disgrace by their
uses to Freedom."

"Share them with Signor Raselli in the name of the same cause," whispered
Rameau, with a smile he might have plagiarised from De Mauleon.

The Italian, whose ear was inured to whispers, heard and turned round as
he stood at the threshold.

"No, confrere of France--no, confrere of Poland--I am Italian. All ways
to take the life of an enemy are honourable--no way is honourable which
begs money from a friend."

An hour or so later, Rameau was driven in his comfortable coupe to the
Faubourg du Temple.

Suddenly, at the angle of a street, his coachman was stopped--a
rough-looking man appeared at the door--__"Descends, mon petit
bourgeois__." Behind the rough-looking man were menacing faces.

Rameau was not physically a coward--very few Frenchmen are, still fewer
Parisians; and still fewer no matter what their birthplace, the men whom
we call vain--the men who over-much covet distinction, and over-much
dread reproach.

"Why should I descend at your summons?" said Rameau, haughtily. "Bah!
Coachman, drive on!"

The rough-looking man opened the door, and silently extended a hand to
Rameau, saying gently: "Take my advice, mon bourgeois. Get out--we want
your carriage. It is a day of barricades--every little helps, even your
coupe!"

While this man spoke others gesticulated; some shrieked out, "He is an
employer! he thinks he can drive over the employed!"

Some leader of the crowd--a Parisian crowd always has a classical leader,
who has never read the classics--thundered forth, "Tarquin's car! Down
with Tarquin!" Therewith came a yell, "A la lanterne--Tarquin!"

We Anglo-Saxons, of the old country or the new, are not familiarised to
the dread roar of a populace delighted to have a Roman authority for
tearing us to pieces; still Americans know what is Lynch law. Rameau was
in danger of Lynch law, when suddenly a face not unknown to him
interposed between himself and the rough-looking man.

"Ha!" cried this new comer, "my young confrere, Gustave Rameau, welcome!
Citizens, make way. I answer for this patriot--I, Armand Monnier. He
comes to help use! Is this the way you receive him?" Then in a low voice
to Rameau, "Come out. Give your coupe to the barricade. What matters such
rubbish? Trust to me--I expected you. Hist!--Lebeau bids me see that you
are safe." Rameau then, seeking to drape himself in majesty,--as the
aristocrats of journalism in a city wherein no other aristocracy is
recognised naturally and commendably do, when ignorance combined with
physical strength asserts itself to be a power, beside which the power of
knowledge is what a learned poodle is to a tiger--Rameau then descended
from his coupe, and said to this Titan of labour, as a French marquis
might have said to his valet, and as, when the French marquis has become
a ghost of the past, the man who keeps a coupe says to the man who mends
its wheels, "Honest fellow, I trust you."

Monnier led the journalist through the mob to the rear of the barricade
hastily constructed. Here were assembled very motley groups.

The majority were ragged boys, the gamins of Paris, commingled with
several women of no reputable appearance, some dingily, some gaudily
apparelled. The crowd did not appear as if the business in hand was a
very serious one. Amidst the din of voices the sounds of laughter rose
predominant, jests and bon mots flew from lip to lip. The astonishing
good-humour of the Parisians was not yet excited into the ferocity that
grows out of it by a street contest. It was less like a popular emeute
than a gathering of schoolboys, bent not less on fun than on mischief.
But, still, amid this gayer crowd were sinister, lowering faces; the
fiercest were not those of the very poor, but rather of artisans, who, to
judge by their dress, seemed well off of men belonging to yet higher
grades. Rameau distinguished amongst these the medecin des pauvres, the
philosophical atheist, sundry young, long-haired artists, middle aged
writers for the Republican press, in close neighbourhood with ruffians of
villainous aspect, who might have been newly returned from the galleys.
None were regularly armed; still revolvers and muskets and long knives
were by no means unfrequently interspersed among the rioters. The whole
scene was to Rameau a confused panorama, and the dissonant tumult of
yells and laughter, of menace and joke, began rapidly to act on his
impressionable nerves. He felt that which is the prevalent character of a
Parisian riot--the intoxication of an impulsive sympathy; coming there as
a reluctant spectator, if action commenced he would have been borne
readily into the thick of the action--he could not have helped it;
already he grew impatient of the suspense of strife. Monnier having
deposited him safely with his back to a wall, at the corner of a street
handy for flight, if flight became expedient, had left him for several
minutes, having business elsewhere. Suddenly the whisper of the Italian
stole into his ear--"These men are fools. This is not the way to do
business; this does not hurt the robber of Nice--Garibaldi's Nice: they
should have left it to me."

"What would you do?"

"I have invented a new machine," whispered the Friend of humanity; "it
would remove all at one blow--lion and lioness, whelp and jackals--and
then the Revolution if you will! not this paltry tumult. The cause of the
human race is being frittered away. I am disgusted with Lebeau. Thrones
are not overturned by gamins."

Before Rameau could answer, Monnier rejoined him. The artisan's face was
overcast--his lips compressed, yet quivering with indignation. "Brother,"
he said to Rameau, "to-day the cause is betrayed"--(the word trahi was
just then coming into vogue at Paris)--"the blouses I counted on are
recreant. I have just learned that all is quiet in the other quartiers
where the rising was to have been simultaneous with this. We are in a
guet-apens--the soldiers will be down on us in a few minutes; hark! don't
you hear the distant tramp? Nothing for us but to die like men. Our blood
will be avenged later. Here," and he thrust a revolver into Rameau's
hand. Then with a lusty voice that rang through the crowd, he shouted
"Vive le peuple!" The rioters caught and re-echoed the cry, mingled with
other cries,' "Vive la Republique!" "Vive le drapeau rouge!"

The shouts were yet at their full when a strong hand grasped Monnier's
arm, and a clear, deep, but low voice thrilled through his ear: "Obey! I
warned you. No fight to-day. Time not ripe. All that is needed is
done--do not undo it. Hist! the sergens de ville are force enough to
disperse the swarm of those gnats. Behind the sergens come soldiers who
will not fraternise. Lose not one life to-day. The morrow when we shall
need every man--nay, every gamin--will dawn soon. Answer not. Obey!" The
same strong hand quitting its hold on Monnier, then seized Rameau by the
wrist, and the same deep voice said, "Come with me." Rameau, turning in
amaze, not unmixed with anger, saw beside him a tall man with sombrero
hat pressed close over his head, and in the blouse of a labourer, but
through such disguise he recognized the pale grey whiskers and green
spectacles of Lebeau. He yielded passively to the grasp that led him away
down the deserted street at the angle.

At the further end of that street, however, was heard the steady thud of
hoofs.

"The soldiers are taking the mob at its rear," said Lebeau, calmly; "we
have not a moment to lose--this way," and he plunged into a dismal court,
then into a labyrinth of lanes, followed mechanically by Rameau. They
issued at last on the Boulevards, in which the usual loungers were
quietly sauntering, wholly unconscious of the riot elsewhere. "Now, take
that fiacre and go home; write down your impressions of what you have
seen, and take your MS. to M. de Mauleon." Lebeau here quitted him.

Meanwhile all happened as Lebeau had predicted. The sergens de ville
showed themselves in front of the barricades, a small troop of mounted
soldiers appeared in the rear. The mob greeted the first with yells and a
shower of stones; at the sight of the last they fled in all directions;
and the sergens de ville, calmly scaling the barricades, carried off in
triumph, as prisoners of war, 4 gamins, 3 women, and 1 Irishman loudly
protesting innocence, and shrieking "Murther!" So ended the first
inglorious rise against the plebiscite and the Empire, on the 14th of
May, 1870.

From Isaura Cicogna to Madame de Grantmesnil. Saturday. May 21.

"I am still, dearest Eulalie, under the excitement of impressions wholly
new to me. I have this day witnessed one of those scenes which take us
out of our private life, not into the world of fiction, but of history,
in which we live as in the life of a nation. You know how intimate I have
become with Valerie Duplessis. She is in herself so charming in her
combination of petulant wilfulness and guileless naivete, that she might
sit as a model for one of your exquisite heroines. Her father, who is in
great favour at Court, had tickets for the Salle des Etats of the Louvre
today--when, as the journals will tell you, the results of the plebiscite
were formally announced to the Emperor--and I accompanied him and
Valerie. I felt, on entering the hall, as if I had been living for months
in an atmosphere of false rumours, for those I chiefly meet in the
circles of artists and men of letters, and the wits and flaneurs who
haunt such circles, are nearly all hostile to the Emperor. They agree, at
least, in asserting the decline of his popularity--the failure of his
intellectual powers; in predicting his downfall--deriding the notion of a
successor in his son. Well, I know not how to reconcile these statements
with the spectacle I have beheld to-day.

"In the chorus of acclamation amidst which the Emperor entered the hall,
it seemed as if one heard the voice of the France he had just appealed
to. If the Fates are really weaving woe and shame in his woof, it is in
hues which, to mortal eyes, seem brilliant with glory and joy.

"You will read the address of the President of the Corps Legislatif; I
wonder how it will strike you! I own fairly that me it wholly carried
away. At each sentiment I murmured to myself, 'Is not this true? and, if
true, are France and human nature ungrateful?'

"'It is now,' said the President, 'eighteen years since France, wearied
with confusion, and anxious for security, confiding in your genuis and
the Napoleonic dynasty, placed in your hands, together with the Imperial
Crown, the authority which the public necessity demanded.' Then the
address proceeded to enumerate the blessings that ensued--social order
speedily restored--the welfare of all classes of society
promoted--advances in commerce and manufactures to an extent hitherto
unknown. Is not this true? and, if so, are you, noble daughter of France,
ungrateful?

"Then came words which touched me deeply--me, who, knowing nothing of
politics, still feel the link that unites Art to Freedom: 'But from the
first your Majesty has looked forward to the time when this concentration
of power would no longer correspond to the aspirations of a tranquil and
reassured country, and, foreseeing the progress of modern society, you
proclaimed that 'Liberty must be the crowning of the edifice.'' Passing
then over the previous gradual advances in popular government, the
President came to the 'present self-abnegation, unprecedented in
history,' and to the vindication of that plebiscite which I have heard so
assailed--viz., Fidelity to the great principle upon which the throne was
founded, required that so important a modification of a power bestowed by
the people should not be made without the participation of the people
themselves. Then, enumerating the millions who had welcomed the new form
of government--the President paused a second or two, as if with
suppressed emotion--and every one present held his breath, till, in a
deeper voice, through which there ran a quiver that thrilled through the
hall, he concluded with--'France is with you; France places the cause of
liberty under the protection of your dynasty and the great bodies of the
State.' Is France with him? I know not; but if the malcontents of France
had been in the hall at that moment, I believe they would have felt the
power of that wonderful sympathy which compels all the hearts in great
audiences to beat in accord, and would have answered, 'It is true.'

"All eyes now fixed on the Emperor, and I noticed few eyes which were not
moist with tears. You know that calm unrevealing face of his--a face
which sometimes disappoints expectation. But there is that in it which I
have seen in no other, but which I can imagine to have been common to the
Romans of old, the dignity that arises from self-control--an expression
which seems removed from the elation of joy, the depression of
sorrow--not unbecoming to one who has known great vicissitudes of
Fortune, and is prepared alike for her frowns or her smiles.

"I had looked at that face while M. Schneider was reading the address--it
moved not a muscle, it might have been a face of marble. Even when at
moments the words were drowned in applause and the Empress, striving at
equal composure, still allowed us to see a movement of her eye lids, a
tremble on her lips. The boy at his right, heir to his dynasty, had his
looks fixed on the President, as if eagerly swallowing each word in the
address, save once or twice, when he looked around the hall curiously,
and with a smile as a mere child might look. He struck me as a mere
child. Next to the Prince was one of those countenances which once seen
are never to be forgotten--the true Napoleonic type, brooding,
thoughtful, ominous, beautiful. But not with the serene energy that
characterises the head of the first Napoleon when Emperor, and wholly
without the restless eagerness for action which is stamped in the lean
outline of Napoleon when First Consul: no--in Prince Napoleon there is a
beauty to which, as woman, I could never give my heart--were I a man, the
intellect that would not command my trust. But, nevertheless, in beauty,
it is signal, and in that beauty the expression of intellect is
predominant.

"Oh, dear Eulalie, how I am digressing! The Emperor spoke--and believe
me, Eulalie, whatever the journals or your compatriots may insinuate,
there is in that man no sign of declining intellect or failing health. I
care not what may be his years, but that man is in mind and in health as
young as Caesar when he crossed the Rubicon.

"The old cling to the past--they do not go forward to the future. There
was no going back in that speech of the Emperor. There was something
grand and something young in the modesty with which he put aside all
references to that which his Empire had done in the past, and said with a
simple earnestness of manner which I cannot adequately describe--

"'We must more than ever look fearlessly forward to the future. Who can
be opposed to the progressive march of a regime founded by a great people
in the midst of political disturbance, and which now is fortified by
liberty?'

"As he closed, the walls of that vast hall seemed to rock with an
applause that must have been heard on the other side of the Seine.

"'Vive l'Empereur!'" "'Vive l'Imperatrice!'" "'Vive le Prince
Imperial!'"--and the last cry was yet more prolonged than the others, as
if to affirm the dynasty.

"Certainly I can imagine no Court in the old days of chivalry more
splendid than the audience in that grand hall of the Louvre. To the right
of the throne all the ambassadors of the civilised world in the blaze of
their rich costumes and manifold orders. In the gallery at the left, yet
more behind, the dresses and jewels of the dames d'honneur and of the
great officers of State. And when the Empress rose to depart, certainly
my fancy cannot picture a more queenlike image, or one that seemed more
in unison with the representation of royal pomp and power. The very
dress, of colour which would have been fatal to the beauty of most women
equally fair--a deep golden colour--(Valerie profanely called it
buff)--seemed so to suit the splendour of the ceremony and the day; it
seemed as if that stately form stood in the midst of a sunlight reflected
from itself. Day seemed darkened when that sunlight passed away.

"I fear you will think I have suddenly grown servile to the gauds and
shows of mere royalty. I ask myself if that be so--I think not. Surely it
is a higher sense of greatness which has been impressed on me by the
pageant of to-day I feel as if there were brought vividly before me the
majesty of France, through the representation of the ruler she has
crowned.

"I feel also as if there, in that hall, I found a refuge from all the
warring contests in which no two seem to me in agreement as to the sort
of government to be established in place of the present. The 'Liberty'
clamoured for by one would cut the throat of the 'Liberty' worshipped by
another.

"I see a thousand phantom forms of LIBERTY--but only one living symbol of
ORDER--that which spoke from a throne to-day."

Isaura left her letter uncompleted. On the following Monday she was
present at a crowded soiree given by M. Louvier. Among the guests were
some of the most eminent leaders of the Opposition, including that
vivacious master of sharp sayings, M. P-------, whom Savarin entitled
"the French Sheridan;" if laws could be framed in epigrams he would be
also the French Solon.

There, too, was Victor de Mauleon, regarded by the Republican party with
equal admiration and distrust. For the distrust, he himself pleasantly
accounted in talk with Savarin.

"How can I expect to be trusted? I represent 'Common Sense;' every
Parisian likes Common Sense in print, and cries 'Je suis trahi' when
Common Sense is to be put into action."

A group of admiring listeners had collected round one (perhaps the most
brilliant) of those oratorical lawyers by whom, in France, the respect
for all laws has been so often talked away: he was speaking of the
Saturday's ceremonial with eloquent indignation. It was a mockery to
France to talk of her placing Liberty under the protection of the Empire.

There was a flagrant token of the military force under which civil
freedom was held in the very dress of the Emperor and his insignificant
son: the first in the uniform of a General of Division; the second,
forsooth, in that of a sous-lieutenant. The other liberal chiefs chimed
in: "The army," said one, "was an absurd expense; it must be put down:"
"The world was grown too civilised for war," said another: "The Empress
was priest-ridden," said a third: "Churches might be tolerated; Voltaire
built a church, but a church simply to the God of Nature, not of
priestcraft,"--and so on.

Isaura, whom any sneer at religion pained and revolted, here turned away
from the orators to whom she had before been listening with earnest
attention, and her eyes fell on the countenance of De Mauleon, who was
seated opposite.

The countenance startled her, its expression was so angrily scornful;
that expression, however, vanished at once as De Mauleon's eyes met her
own, and drawing his chair near to her, he said, smiling: "Your look
tells me that I almost frightened you by the ill-bred frankness with
which my face must have betrayed my anger, at hearing such imbecile
twaddle from men who aspire to govern our turbulent France. You remember
that after Lisbon was destroyed by an earthquake a quack advertised
'pills against earthquakes.' These messieurs are not so cunning as the
quack; he did not name the ingredients of his pills."

"But, M. de Mauleon," said Isaura, "if you, being opposed to the Empire,
think so ill of the wisdom of those who would destroy it, are you
prepared with remedies for earthquakes more efficacious than their
pills?"

"I reply as a famous English statesman, when in opposition, replied to a
somewhat similar question,--'I don't prescribe till I'm called in.'"

"To judge by the seven millions and a half whose votes were announced on
Saturday, and by the enthusiasm with which the Emperor was greeted, there
is too little fear of an earthquake for a good trade of the pills of
these messieurs, or for fair play to the remedies you will not disclose
till called in."

"Ah, Mademoiselle! playful wit from lips not formed for politics makes me
forget all about emperors and earthquakes. Pardon that commonplace
compliment--remember I am a Frenchman, and cannot help being frivolous."

"You rebuke my presumption too gently. True, I ought not to intrude
political subjects on one like you--I understand so little about
them--but this is my excuse, I do so desire to know more."

M. de Mauleon paused, and looked at her earnestly with a kindly, half
compassionate look, wholly free from the impertinence of gallantry.
"Young poetess," he said, softly, "you care for politics. Happy, indeed,
is he--and whether he succeed or fail in his ambition abroad, proud
should he be of an ambition crowned at home--he who has made you desire
to know more of politics!"

The girl felt the blood surge to her temples. How could she have been so
self-confessed? She made no reply, nor did M. de Mauleon seem to expect
one; with that rare delicacy of high breeding which appears in France to
belong to a former generation, he changed his tone, and went on as if
there had been no interruption to the question her words implied.

"You think the Empire secure--that it is menaced by on earthquake? You
deceive yourself. The Emperor began with a fatal mistake, but a mistake
it needs many years to discover. He disdained the slow natural process of
adjustment between demand and supply--employer and workmen. He
desired--no ignoble ambition--to make Paris the wonder of the world, the
eternal monument of his reign. In so doing, he sought to create
artificial modes of content for revolutionary workmen. Never has any
ruler had such tender heed of manual labour to the disparagement of
intellectual culture. Paris is embellished; Paris is the wonder of the
world; other great towns have followed its example; they, too, have their
rows of palaces and temples. Well, the time comes when the magician can
no longer give work to the spirits he raises; then they must fall on him
and rend: out of the very houses he built for the better habitation of
workmen will flock the malcontents who cry, 'Down with the Empire!' On
the 21st of May you witnessed the pompous ceremony which announces to the
Empire a vast majority of votes, that will be utterly useless to it
except as food for gunpowder in the times that are at hand. Seven days
before, on the 14th of May, there was a riot in the Faubourg
d'Temple--easily put down--you scarcely hear of it. That riot was not the
less necessary to those who would warn the Empire that it is mortal.
True, the riot disperses--but it is unpunished; riot unpunished is a
revolution begun. The earthquake is nearer than you think; and for that
earthquake what are the pills you quacks advertise? They prate of an age
too enlightened for war; they would mutilate the army--nay, disband it if
they could--with Prussia next door to France. Prussia, desiring, not
unreasonably, to take that place in the world which France now holds,
will never challenge France; if she did, she would be too much in the
wrong to find a second: Prussia knowing that she has to do with the
vainest, the most conceited, the rashest antagonist that ever flourished
a rapier in the face of a spadassin--Prussia will make France challenge
her.

"And how do ces messieurs deal with the French army? Do they dare to say
to the ministers, 'Reform it'? Do they dare say, 'Prefer for men whose
first duty it is to obey, discipline to equality--insist on the
distinction between the officer and the private, and never confound it;
Prussian officers are well-educated gentlemen, see that yours are'? Oh
no; they are democrats too stanch not to fraternise with an armed mob;
they content themselves with grudging an extra sou to the Commissariat,
and winking at the millions fraudulently pocketed by some 'Liberal
contractor.' Dieu des dieux! France to be beaten, not as at Waterloo by
hosts combined, but in fair duel by a single foe! Oh, the shame! the
shame! But as the French army is now organised, beaten she must be, if
she meets the march of the German."

"You appal me with your sinister predictions," said Isaura; "but,
happily, there is no sign of war. M. Duplessis, who is in the confidence
of the Emperor, told us only the other day that Napoleon, on learning the
result of the plebiscite, said: 'The foreign journalists who have been
insisting that the Empire cannot coexist with free institutions, will no
longer hint that it can be safely assailed from without.' And more than
ever I may say L'Empire c'est la paix!"

Monsieur de Mauleon shrugged his shoulders. "The old story--Troy and the
wooden horse."

"Tell me, M. de Mauleon, why do you, who so despise the Opposition, join
with it in opposing the Empire?"

"Mademoiselle, the Empire opposes me; while it lasts I cannot be even a
Depute; when it is gone, Heaven knows that I may be, perhaps Dictator;
one thing, you may rely upon, that I would, if not Dictator myself,
support any man who was better fitted for that task."

"Better fitted to destroy the liberty which he pretended to fight for."

"Not exactly so," replied M. de Mauleon, imperturbably--"better fitted to
establish a good government in lieu of the bad one he had fought against,
and the much worse governments that would seek to turn France into a
madhouse, and make the maddest of the inmates the mad doctor!" He turned
away, and here their conversation ended.

But it so impressed Isaura, that the same night she concluded her letter
to Madame de Grantmesnil, by giving a sketch of its substance, prefaced
by an ingenuous confession that she felt less sanguine confidence in the
importance of the applauses which had greeted the Emperor at the
Saturday's ceremonial, and ending thus: "I can but confusedly transcribe
the words of this singular man, and can give you no notion of the manner
and the voice which made them eloquent. Tell me, can there be any truth
in his gloomy predictions? I try not to think so, but they seem to rest
over that brilliant hall of the Louvre like an ominous thunder-cloud."



CHAPTER II.

The Marquis de Rochebriant was seated in his pleasant apartment, glancing
carelessly at the envelopes of many notes and letters lying yet unopened
on his breakfast-table. He had risen late at noon, for he had not gone to
bed till dawn. The night had been spent at his club--over the
card-table--by no means to the pecuniary advantage of the Marquis. The
reader will have learned, through the conversation recorded in a former
chapter between De Mauleon and Enguerrand de Vandemar, that the austere
Seigneur Breton had become a fast viveur of Paris. He had long since
spent the remnant of Louvier's premium of L10,000., and he owed a year's
interest. For this last there was an excuse. M. Collot, the contractor to
whom he had been advised to sell the yearly fall of his forest-trees, had
removed the trees, but had never paid a sou beyond the preliminary
deposit; so that the revenue, out of which the mortgagee should be paid
his interest, was not forthcoming. Alain had instructed M. Hebert to
press the contractor; the contractor had replied, that if not pressed he
could soon settle all claims--if pressed, he must declare himself
bankrupt. The Chevalier de Finisterre had laughed at the alarm which
Alain conceived when he first found himself in the condition of debtor
for a sum he could not pay--creditor for a sum he could not recover.

"Bagatelle!" said the Chevalier. "Tschu! Collot, if you give him time, is
as safe as the Bank of France, and Louvier knows it. Louvier will not
trouble you--Louvier, the best fellow in the world! I'll call on him and
explain matters."

It is to be presumed that the Chevalier did so explain; for though both
at the first, and quite recently at the second default of payment, Alain
received letters from M. Louvier's professional agent, as reminders of
interest due, and as requests for its payment, the Chevalier assured him
that these applications were formalities of convention--that Louvier, in
fact, knew nothing about them; and when dining with the great financier
himself, and cordially welcomed and called "Mon cher," Alain had taken
him aside and commenced explanation and excuse, Louvier had cut him
short. "Peste! don't mention such trifles. There is such a thing as
business--that concerns my agent; such a thing as friendship--that
concerns me. Allez!"

Thus M. de Rochebriant, confiding in debtor and in creditor, had suffered
twelve months to glide by without much heed of either, and more than live
up to an income amply sufficient indeed for the wants of an ordinary
bachelor, but needing more careful thrift than could well be expected
from the head of one of the most illustrious houses in France, cast so
young into the vortex of the most expensive capital in the world.

The poor Marquis glided into the grooves that slant downward, much as the
French Marquis of tradition was wont to glide; not that he appeared to
live extravagantly, but he needed all he had for his pocket-money, and
had lost that dread of being in debt which he had brought up from the
purer atmosphere of Bretagne.

But there were some debts which; of course, a Rochebriant must pay--debts
of honour--and Alain had, on the previous night, incurred such a debt and
must pay it that day. He had been strongly tempted, when the debt rose to
the figure it had attained, to risk a change of luck; but whatever his
imprudence, he was incapable of dishonesty. If the luck did not change,
and he lost more, he would be without means to meet his obligations. As
the debt now stood, he calculated that he could just discharge it by the
sale of his coupe and horses. It is no wonder he left his letters
unopened, however charming they might be; he was quite sure they would
contain no cheque which would enable him to pay his debt and retain his
equipage.

The door opened, and the valet announced M. le Chevalier de Finisterre--a
man with smooth countenance and air distinque, a pleasant voice and
perpetual smile.

"Well, mon cher," cried the Chevalier, "I hope that you recovered the
favour of Fortune before you quitted her green table last night. When I
left she seemed very cross with you."

"And so continued to the end," answered Alain, with well-simulated
gaiety--much too bon gentilhomme to betray rage or anguish for pecuniary
loss.

"After all," said de Finisterre, lighting his cigarette, "the uncertain
goddess could not do you much harm; the stakes were small, and your
adversary, the Prince, never goes double or quits."

"Nor I either. 'Small,' however, is a word of relative import; the stakes
might be small to you, to me large. Entre nous, cher ami, I am at the end
of my purse, and I have only this consolation-I am cured of play: not
that I leave the complaint, the complaint leaves me; it can no more feed
on me than a fever can feed on a skeleton."

"Are you serious?"

"As serious as a mourner who has just buried his all."

"His all? Tut, with such an estate as Rochebriant!"

For the first time in that talk Alain's countenance became overcast.

"And how long will Rochebriant be mine? You know that I hold it at the
mercy of the mortgagee, whose interest has not been paid, and who could
if, he so pleased, issue notice, take proceedings--that--"

"Peste!" interrupted de Finisterre; "Louvier take proceedings! Louvier,
the best fellow in the world! But don't I see his handwriting on that
envelope? No doubt an invitation to dinner."

Alain took up the letter thus singled forth from a miscellany of
epistles, some in female handwritings, unsealed but ingeniously twisted
into Gordian knots--some also in female handwritings, carefully
sealed--others in ill-looking envelopes, addressed in bold, legible,
clerk-like caligraphy. Taken altogether, these epistles had a character
in common; they betokened the correspondence of a viveur, regarded from
the female side as young, handsome, well-born--on the male side, as a
viveur who had forgotten to pay his hosier and tailor.

Louvier wrote a small, not very intelligible, but very masculine hand, as
most men who think cautiously and act promptly do write. The letter ran
thus:

"Cher petit Marquis" (at that commencement Alain haughtily raised his
head and bit his lips).

   "CHER PETIT MARQUIS,--It is an age since I have seen you. No
   doubt my humble soirees are too dull for a beau seigueur so
   courted. I forgive you. Would I were a beau seigneur at your age!
   Alas! I am only a commonplace man of business, growing old, too.
   Aloft from the world in which I dwell, you can scarcely be aware
   that I have embarked a great part of my capital in building
   speculations. There is a Rue de Louvier that runs its drains right
   through my purse. I am obliged to call in the moneys due to me. My
   agent informs me that I am just 7000 louis short of the total I
   need--all other debts being paid in--and that there is a trifle more
   than 7000 louis owned to me as interest on my hypotheque on
   Rochebriant: kindly pay into his hands before the end of this week
   that sum. You have been too lenient to Collot, who must owe you
   more than that. Send agent to him. Desole to trouble you, and am
   au desespoir to think that my own pressing necessities compel me
   to urge you to take so much trouble. Mais que faire? The Rue de
   Louvier stops the way, and I must leave it to my agent to clear it.

   "Accept all my excuses, with the assurance of my sentiments the most
   cordial. PAUL LOUVIER."

Alain tossed the letter to De Finisterre. "Read that from the best fellow
in the world."

The Chevalier laid down his cigarette and read. "Diable!" he said, when
he returned the letter and resumed the cigarette--"Diable! Louvier must
be much pressed for money, or he would not have written in this strain.
What does it matter? Collot owes you more than 7000 louis. Let your
lawyer get them, and go to sleep with both ears on your pillow."

"Ah! you think Collot can pay if he will?"

"Ah! foi! did not M. Gandrin tell you that M. Collot was safe to buy your
wood at more money than any one else would give?"

"Certainly," said Alain, comforted. "Gandrin left that impression on my
mind. I will set him on the man. All will come right, I dare say; but if
it does not come right, what would Louvier do?"

"Louvier do!" answered Finisterre, reflectively. "Well do you ask my
opinion and advice?"

"Earnestly, I ask."

"Honestly, then, I answer. I am a little on the Bourse myself--most
Parisians are. Louvier has made a gigantic speculation in this new
street, and with so many other irons in the fire he must want all the
money he can get at. I dare say that if you do not pay him what you owe,
he must leave it to his agent to take steps for announcing the sale of
Rochebriant. But he detests scandal; he hates the notion of being severe;
rather than that, in spite of his difficulties, he will buy Rochebriant
of you at a better price than it can command at public sale. Sell it to
him. Appeal to him to act generously, and you will flatter him. You will
get more than the old place is worth. Invest the surplus--live as you
have done, or better--and marry an heiress. Morbleu! a Marquis de
Rochebriant, if he were sixty years old, would rank high in the
matrimonial market. The more the democrats have sought to impoverish
titles and laugh down historical names, the more do rich democrat
fathers-in-law seek to decorate their daughters with titles and give
their grandchildren the heritage of historical names. You look shocked,
pauvre anti. Let us hope, then, that Collot will pay. Set your dog--I
mean your lawyer--at him; seize him by the throat!"

Before Alain had recovered from the stately silence with which he had
heard this very practical counsel, the valet again appeared, and ushered
in M. Frederic Lemercier.

There was no cordial acquaintance between the visitors. Lemercier was
chafed at finding himself supplanted in Alain's intimate companionship by
so new a friend, and De Finisterre affected to regard Lemercier as a
would-be exquisite of low birth and bad taste.

Alain, too, was a little discomposed at the sight of Lemercier,
remembering the wise cautious which that old college friend had wasted on
him at the commencement of his Parisian career, and smitten with vain
remorse that the cautions had been so arrogantly slighted.

It was with some timidity that he extended his hand to Frederic, and he
was surprised as well as moved by the more than usual warmth with which
it was grasped by the friend he had long neglected. Such affectionate
greeting was scarcely in keeping with the pride which characterised
Frederic Lemercier.

"Ma foi!" said the Chevalier, glancing towards the clock, "how time
flies! I had no idea it was so late. I must leave you now, my dear
Rochebriant. Perhaps we shall meet at the club later--I dine there
to-day. Au plaisir, M. Lemercier."



CHAPTER III.

When the door had closed on the Chevalier, Frederic's countenance became
very grave. Drawing his chair near to Alain, he said: "We have not seen
much of each other lately,--nay, no excuses; I am well aware that it
could scarcely be otherwise. Paris has grown so large and so subdivided
into sets, that the best friends belonging to different sets become as
divided as if the Atlantic flowed between them. I come to-day in
consequence of something I have just heard from Duplessis. Tell me, have
you got the money for the wood you sold to M. Collot a year ago?"

"No," said Alain, falteringly.

"Good heavens! none of it?"

"Only the deposit of ten per cent., which of course I spent, for it
formed the greater part of my income. What of Collot? Is he really
unsafe?"

"He is ruined, and has fled the country. His flight was the talk of the
Bourse this morning. Duplessis told me of it."

Alain's face paled. "How is Louvier to be paid? Read that letter!"

Lemercier rapidly scanned his eye over the contents of Louvier's letter.

"It is true, then, that you owe this man a year's interest--more than
7,000 louis?"

"Somewhat more--yes. But that is not the first care that troubles
me--Rochebriant may be lost, but with it not my honour. I owe the Russian
Prince 300 louis, lost to him last night at ecarte. I must find a
purchaser for my coupe and horses; they cost me 600 louis last year,--do
you know any one who will give me three?"

"Pooh! I will give you six; your alezan alone is worth half the money!"

"My dear Frederic, I will not sell them to you on any account. But you
have so many friends--"

"Who would give their soul to say, 'I bought these horses of
Rochebriant.' Of course I do. Ha! young Rameau, you are acquainted with
him?"

"Rameau! I never heard of him!"

"Vanity of vanities, then what is fame? Rameau is the editor of Le Sens
Commun. You read that journal?"

"Yes, it has clever articles, and I remember how I was absorbed in the
eloquent romance which appeared in it."

"Ah! by the Signora Cicogna, with whom I think you were somewhat smitten
last year."

"Last year--was I? How a year can alter a man! But my debt to the Prince.
What has Le Sens Commun to do with my horses?"

"I met Rameau at Savarin's the other evening. He was making himself out a
hero and a martyr! his coupe had been taken from him to assist in a
barricade in that senseless emeute ten days ago; the coupe got smashed,
the horses disappeared. He will buy one of your horses and coupe.

"Leave it to me! I know where to dispose of the other two horses. At what
hour do you want the money?"

"Before I go to dinner at the club."

"You shall have it within two hours; but you must not dine at the club
to-day. I have a note from Duplessis to invite you to dine with him
to-day!"

"Duplessis! I know so little of him!"

"You should know him better. He is the only man who can give you sound
advice as to this difficulty with Louvier; and he will give it the more
carefully and zealously because he has that enmity to Louvier which one
rival financier has to another. I dine with him too. We shall find an
occasion to consult him quietly; he speaks of you most kindly. What a
lovely girl his daughter is!"

"I dare say. Ah! I wish I had been less absurdly fastidious. I wish I had
entered the army as a private soldier six months ago; I should have been
a corporal by this time! Still it is not too late. When Rochebriant is
gone, I can yet say with the Mouszquetaire in the melodrame: 'I am
rich--I have my honour and my sword!'"

"Nonsense! Rochebriant shall be saved; meanwhile I hasten to Rameau. Au
revoir, at the Hotel Duplessis--seven o'clock."

Lemercier went, and in less than two hours sent the Marquis bank-notes
for 600 louis, requesting an order for the delivery of the horses and
carriage.

That order written and signed, Alain hastened to acquit himself of his
debt of honour, and contemplating his probable ruin with a lighter heart
presented himself at the Hotel Duplessis.

Duplessis made no pretensions to vie with the magnificent existence of
Louvier. His house, though agreeably situated and flatteringly styled the
Hotel Duplessis, was of moderate size, very unostentatiously furnished;
nor was it accustomed to receive the brilliant motley crowds which
assembled in the salons of the elder financier.

Before that year, indeed, Duplessis had confined such entertainments as
he gave to quiet men of business, or a few of the more devoted and loyal
partisans of the Imperial dynasty; but since Valerie came to live with
him he had extended his hospitalities to wider and livelier circles,
including some celebrities in the world of art and letters as well as of
fashion. Of the party assembled that evening at dinner were Isaura, with
the Signora Venosta, one of the Imperial Ministers, the Colonel whom
Alain had already met at Lemercier's supper, Deputes (ardent
Imperialists), and the Duchesse de Tarascon; these, with Alain and
Frederic, made up the party. The conversation was not particularly gay.
Duplessis himself, though an exceedingly well-read and able man, had not
the genial accomplishments of a brilliant host. Constitutionally grave
and habitually taciturn--though there were moments in which he was roused
out of his wonted self into eloquence or wit--he seemed to-day absorbed
in some engrossing train of thought. The Minister, the Deputes and the
Duchesse de Tarascon talked politics, and ridiculed the trumpery emeute
of the 14th; exulted in the success of the plebiscite; and admitting,
with indignation, the growing strength of Prussia, and--with scarcely
less indignation, but more contempt, censuring the selfish egotism of
England in disregarding the due equilibrium of the European balance of
power,--hinted at the necessity of annexing Belgium as a set-off against
the results of Sadowa.

Alain found himself seated next to Isaura--to the woman who had so
captivated his eye and fancy on his first arrival in Paris.

Remembering his last conversation with Graham nearly a year ago, he felt
some curiosity to ascertain whether the rich Englishman had proposed to
her, and if so, been refused or accepted.

The first words that passed between them were trite enough, but after a
little pause in the talk, Alain said:

"I think Mademoiselle and myself have an acquaintance in common-Monsieur
Vane, a distinguished Englishman. Do you know if he be in Paris at
present? I have not seen him for many months."

"I believe he is in London; at least, Colonel Morley met the other day a
friend of his who said so."

Though Isaura strove to speak in a tone of indifference, Alain's ear
detected a ring of pain in her voice; and watching her countenance, he
was impressed with a saddened change in its expression. He was touched,
and his curiosity was mingled with a gentler interest as he said "When I
last saw M. Vane I should have judged him to be too much under the spell
of an enchantress to remain long without the pale of the circle she draws
around her."

Isaura turned her face quickly towards the speaker, and her lips moved,
but she said nothing audibly.

"Can there have been quarrel or misunderstanding?" thought Alain; and
after that question his heart asked itself, "Supposing Isaura were free,
her affections disengaged, could he wish to woo and to win her?" and his
heart answered--"Eighteen months ago thou wert nearer to her than now.
Thou wert removed from her for ever when thou didst accept the world as a
barrier between you; then, poor as thou wert, thou wouldst have preferred
her to riches. Thou went then sensible only of the ingenuous impulses of
youth, but the moment thou saidst, 'I am Rochebriant, and having once
owned the claims of birth and station, I cannot renounce them for love,
Isaura became but a dream. Now that ruin stares thee in the face--now
that thou must grapple with the sternest difficulties of adverse
fate--thou hast lost the poetry of sentiment which could alone give to
that dream the colours and the form of human life." He could not again
think of that fair creature as a prize that he might even dare to covet.
And as he met her inquiring eyes, and saw her quivering lip, he felt
instinctively that Graham was dear to her, and that the tender interest
with which she inspired himself was untroubled by one pang of jealousy.
He resumed:

"Yes, the last time I saw the Englishman he spoke with such respectful
homage of one lady, whose hand he would deem it the highest reward of
ambition to secure, that I cannot but feel deep compassion for him if
that ambition has been foiled; and thus only do I account for his absence
from Paris."

"You are an intimate friend of Mr. Vane's?"

"No, indeed, I have not that honour; our acquaintance is but slight, but
it impressed me with the idea of a man of vigorous intellect, frank
temper, and perfect honour."

Isaura's face brightened with the joy we feel when we hear the praise of
those we love.

At this moment, Duplessis, who had been observing the Italian and the
young Marquis, for the first time during dinner, broke silence.

"Mademoiselle," he said, addressing Isaura across the table, "I hope I
have not been correctly informed that your literary triumph has induced
you to forego the career in which all the best judges concur that your
successes would be not less brilliant; surely one art does not exclude
another."

Elated by Alain's report of Graham's words, by the conviction that these
words applied to herself, and by the thought that her renunciation of the
stage removed a barrier between them, Isaura answered, with a sort of
enthusiasm:

"I know not, M. Duplessis, if one art excludes another; if there be
desire to excel in each. But I have long lost all desire to excel in the
art you refer to, and resigned all idea of the career in which it opens."

"So M. Vane told me," said Alain, in a whisper.

"When?"

"Last year--on the day that he spoke in terms of admiration so merited of
the lady whom M. Duplessis has just had the honour to address."

All this while, Valerie, who was seated at the further end of the table
beside the Minister, who had taken her in to dinner, had been watching,
with eyes, the anxious tearful sorrow of which none but her father had
noticed, the low-voiced confidence between Alain and the friend, whom
till that day she had so enthusiastically loved. Hitherto she had been
answering in monosyllables all attempts of the great man to draw her into
conversation; but now, observing how Isaura blushed and looked down, that
strange faculty in women, which we men call dissimulation, and which in
them is truthfulness to their own nature, enabled her to carry off the
sharpest anguish she had ever experienced, by a sudden burst of levity of
spirit. She caught up some commonplace the Minister had adapted to what
he considered the poverty of her understanding, with a quickness of
satire which startled that grave man, and he gazed at her astonished. Up
to that moment he had secretly admired her as a girl well brought up--as
girls fresh from a French convent are supposed to be; now, hearing her
brilliant rejoinder to his stupid observation, he said inly: "Dame! the
low birth of a financier's daughter shows itself."

But, being a clever man himself, her retort put him on his mettle, and he
became, to his own amazement, brilliant himself. With that matchless
quickness which belongs to Parisians, the guests around him seized the
new esprit de conversation which had been evoked between the statesman
and the childlike girl beside him; and as they caught up the ball,
lightly flung among them, they thought within themselves how much more
sparkling the financier's pretty, lively daughter was than that dark-eyed
young muse, of whom all the journalists of Paris were writing in a chorus
of welcome and applause, and who seemed not to have a word to say worth
listening to, except to the handsome young Marquis, whom, no doubt, she
wished to fascinate.

Valerie fairly outshone Isaura in intellect and in wit; and neither
Valerie nor Isaura cared, to the value of a bean-straw, about that
distinction. Each was thinking only of the prize which the humblest
peasant women have in common with the most brilliantly accomplished of
their sex--the heart of a man beloved.



CHAPTER IV.

On the Continent generally, as we all know, men do not sit drinking wine
together after the ladies retire. So when the signal was given all the
guests adjourned to the salon; and Alain quitted Isaura to gain the ear
of the Duchesse de Tarascon.

"It is long--at, least long for Paris life," said the Marquis--"since my
first visit to you, in company with Enguerrand de Vandemar. Much that you
then said rested on my mind, disturbing the prejudices I took from
Bretagne."

"I am proud to hear it, my kinsman."

"You know that I would have taken military service under the Emperor, but
for the regulation which would have compelled me to enter the ranks as a
private soldier."

"I sympathise with that scruple; but you are aware that the Emperor
himself could not have ventured to make any exception even in your
favour."

"Certainly not. I repent me of my pride; perhaps I may enlist still in
some regiment sent to Algiers."

"No; there are other ways in which a Rochebriant can serve a throne.
There will be an office at Court vacant soon, which would not misbecome
your birth."

"Pardon me; a soldier serves his country--a courtier owns a master; and I
cannot take the livery of the Emperor, though I could wear the uniform of
France."

"Your distinction is childish, my kinsman," said the Duchesse,
impetuously. "You talk as if the Emperor had an interest apart from the
nation. I tell you that he has not a corner of his heart--not even one
reserved for his son and his dynasty--in which the thought of France does
not predominate."

"I do not presume, Madame la Duchesse, to question the truth of what you
say; but I have no reason to suppose that the same thought does not
predominate in the heart of the Bourbon. The Bourbon would be the first
to say to me: 'If France needs your sword against her foes, let it not
rest in the scabbard.' But would the Bourbon say, 'The place of a
Rochebriant is among the valetaille of the Corsican's successor'?"

"Alas for poor France!" said the Duchesse; "and alas for men like you, my
proud cousin, if the Corsican's successors or successor be--"

"Henry V." interrupted Alain, with a brightening eye. "Dreamer! No; some
descendant of the mob-kings who gave Bourbons and nobles to the
guillotine."

While the Duchesse and Alain were thus conversing, Isaura had seated
herself by Valerie, and, unconscious of the offence she had given,
addressed her in those pretty caressing terms with which young-lady
friends are wont to compliment each other; but Valerie answered curtly or
sarcastically, and turned aside to converse with the Minister. A few
minutes more, and the party began to break up. Lemercier, however,
detained Alain, whispering, "Duplessis will see us on your business so
soon as the other guests have gone."



CHAPTER V.

"Monsieur le Marquis," said Duplessis, when the salon was cleared of all
but himself and the two friends, "Lemercier has confided to me the state
of your affairs in connection with M. Louvier, and flatters me by
thinking my advice may be of some service; if so, command me."

"I shall most gratefully accept your advice," answered Alain, "but I fear
my condition defies even your ability and skill."

"Permit me to hope not, and to ask a few necessary questions. M. Louvier
has constituted himself your sole mortgagee; to what amount, at what
interest, and from what annual proceeds is the interest paid?"

Herewith Alain gave details already furnished to the reader. Duplessis
listened, and noted down the replies.

"I see it all," he said, when Alain had finished. "M. Louvier had
predetermined to possess himself of your estate: he makes himself
mortgagee at a rate of interest so low, that I tell you fairly, at the
present value of money, I doubt if you could find any capitalist who
would accept the transfer of the mortgage at the same rate. This is not
like Louvier, unless he had an object to gain, and that object is your
land. The revenue from your estate is derived chiefly from wood, out of
which the interest due to Louvier is to be paid. M. Gandrin, in a
skilfully-guarded letter, encourages you to sell the wood from your
forests to a man who offers you several thousand francs more than it
could command from customary buyers. I say nothing against M. Gandrin,
but every man who knows Paris as I do, knows that M. Louvier can put, and
has put, a great deal of money into M. Gandrin's pocket. The purchaser of
your wood does not pay more than his deposit, and has just left the
country insolvent. Your purchaser, M. Collot, was an adventurous
speculator; he would have bought anything at any price, provided he had
time to pay; if his speculations had been lucky he would have paid. M.
Louvier knew, as I knew, that M. Collot was a gambler, and the chances
were that he would not pay. M. Louvier allows a year's interest on his
hypotheque to become due-notice thereof duly given to you by his
agent--now you come under the operation of the law. Of course, you know
what the law is?"

"Not exactly," answered Alain, feeling frostbitten by the congealing
words of his counsellor; "but I take it for granted that if I cannot pay
the interest of a sum borrowed on my property, that property itself is
forfeited."

"No, not quite that--the law is mild. If the interest which should be
paid half-yearly remains unpaid at the end of a year, the mortgagee has a
right to be impatient, has he not?"

"Certainly he has."

"Well, then, on fait un commandement tendant de saisie immobiliere, viz:
The mortgagee gives a notice that the property shall be put up for sale.
Then it is put up for sale, and in most cases the mortgagee buys it in.
Here, certainly, no competitors in the mere business way would vie with
Louvier; the mortgage at three and a half per cent. covers more than the
estate is apparently worth. Ah! but stop, M. le Marquis; the notice is
not yet served: the whole process would take six months from the day it
is served to the taking possession after the sale; in the meanwhile, if
you pay the interest due, the action drops. Courage, M. le Marquis! Hope
yet, if you condescend to call me friend."

"And me," cried Lemercier; "I will sell out of my railway shares
to-morrow-see to it, Duplessis--enough to pay off the damnable interest.
See to it, mon ami."

"Agree to that, M. le Marquis, and you are safe for another year," said
Duplessis, folding up the paper on which he had made his notes, but
fixing on Alain quiet eyes half concealed under drooping lids.

"Agree to that!" cried Rochebriant, rising--"agree to allow even my worst
enemy to pay for me moneys I could never hope to repay--agree to allow
the oldest and most confiding friends to do so--M. Duplessis, never! If I
carried the porter's knot of an Auverguat, I should still remain
gentilhomme and Breton."

Duplessis, habitually the driest of men, rose with a moistened eye and
flushing cheek--"Monsieur le Marquis, vouchsafe me the honour to shake
hands with you. I, too, am by descent gentilhomme, by profession a
speculator on the Bourse. In both capacities I approve the sentiment you
have uttered. Certainly, if our friend Frederic lent you 7000 Louis or so
this year, it would be impossible for you even to foresee the year in
which you could repay it; but,"--here Duplessis paused a minute, and then
lowering the tone of his voice, which had been somewhat vehement and
enthusiastic, into that of a colloquial good-fellowship, equally rare to
the measured reserve of the financier, he asked, with a lively twinkle of
his grey eye, "Did you never hear, Marquis, of a little encounter between
me and M. Louvier?"

"Encounter at arms--does Louvier fight?" asked Alain, innocently.

"In his own way he is always fighting; but I speak metaphorically. You
see this small house of mine--so pinched in by the houses next to it that
I can neither get space for a ball-room for Valerie, nor a dining-room
for more than a friendly party like that which has honoured me to-day. Eh
bien! I bought this house a few years ago, meaning to buy the one next to
it and throw the two into one. I went to the proprietor of the next
house, who, as I knew, wished to sell. 'Aha,' he thought, 'this is the
rich Monsieur Duplessis;' and he asked me 2000 louis more than the house
was worth. We men of business cannot bear to be too much cheated; a
little cheating we submit to--much cheating raises our gall. Bref--this
was on Monday. I offered the man 1000 louis above the fair price, and
gave him till Thursday to decide. Somehow or other Louvier hears of this.
'Hillo!' says Louvier, 'here is a financier who desires a hotel to vie
with mine!' He goes on Wednesday to my next-door neighbour. 'Friend, you
want to sell your house. I want to buy--the price?' The proprietor, who
does not know him by sight, says: 'It is as good as sold. M. Duplessis
and I shall agree.' 'Bah! What sum did you ask M. Duplessis?' He names
the sum; 2000 louis more than he can get elsewhere. 'But M. Duplessis
will give me the sum.' 'You ask too little. I will give 3000. A fig for
M. Duplessis. I am Monsieur Louvier.' So when I call on Thursday the
house is sold. I reconcile myself easily enough to the loss of space for
a larger dining-room; but though Valerie was then a child at a convent, I
was sadly disconcerted by the thought that I could have no salle de bal
ready for her when she came to reside with me. Well, I say to myself,
patience; I owe M. Louvier a good turn; my time to pay him off will come.
It does come, and very soon. M. Louvier buys an estate near Paris--builds
a superb villa. Close to his property is a rising forest ground for sale.
He goes to the proprietor: says the proprietor to himself, 'The great
Louvier wants this,' and adds 5000 louis to its market price. Louvier,
like myself, can't bear to be cheated egregiously. Louvier offers 2000
louis more than the man could fairly get, and leaves him till Saturday to
consider. I hear of this--speculators hear of everything. On Friday night
I go to the man and I give him 6000 louis, where he had asked 5000. Fancy
Louvier's face the next day! But there my revenge only begins," continued
Duplessis, chuckling inwardly. "My forest looks down on the villa he is
building. I only wait till his villa is built, in order to send to my
architect and say, Build me a villa at least twice as grand as M.
Louvier's, then clear away the forest trees, so that every morning he may
see my palace dwarfing into insignificance his own."

"Bravo!" cried Lemercier, clapping his hands. Lemercier had the spirit of
party, and felt for Duplessis against Louvier much as in England Whig
feels against Tory, or vice versa.

"Perhaps now," resumed Duplessis, more soberly,--"perhaps now, M. le
Marquis, you may understand why I humiliate you by no sense of obligation
if I say that M. Louvier shall not be the Seigneur de Rochebriant if I
can help it. Give me a line of introduction to your Breton lawyer and to
Mademoiselle your aunt--let me have your letters early to-morrow. I will
take the afternoon train. I know not how many days I may be absent, but I
shall not return till I have carefully examined the nature and conditions
of your property. If I see my way to save your estate, and give a mauvais
quart d'heure to Louvier, so much the better for you, M. le Marquis; if I
cannot, I will say frankly, 'Make the best terms you can with your
creditor.'"

"Nothing can be more delicately generous than the way you put it," said
Alain; "but pardon me, if I say that the pleasantry with which you
narrate your grudge against M. Louvier does not answer its purpose in
diminishing my sense of obligation." So, linking his arm in Lemercier's,
Alain made his bow and withdrew.

When his guests had gone, Duplessis remained seated in
meditation--apparently pleasant meditation, for he smiled while indulging
it; he then passed through the reception-rooms to one at the far end
appropriated to Valerie as a boudoir or morning-room, adjoining her
bed-chamber; he knocked gently at the door, and, all remaining silent
within, he opened it noiselessly and entered. Valerie was reclining on
the sofa near the window-her head drooping, her hands clasped on her
knees. Duplessis neared her with tender stealthy steps, passed his arm
round her, and drew her head towards his bosom. "Child!" he murmured; "my
child, my only one!"

At that soft loving voice, Valerie flung her arms round him, and wept
aloud like an infant in trouble. He seated himself beside her, and wisely
suffered her to weep on, till her passion had exhausted itself; he then
said, half fondly, half chillingly: "Have you forgotten our conversation
only three days ago? Have you forgotten that I then drew forth the secret
of your heart? Have you forgotten what I promised you in return for your
confidence? and a promise to you have I ever yet broken?"

"Father! father! I am so wretched and so ashamed of myself for being
wretched! Forgive me. No, I do not forget your promise; but who can
promise to dispose of the heart of another? and that heart will never be
mine. But bear with me a little, I shall soon recover."

"Valerie, when I made you the promise you now think I cannot keep, I
spoke only from that conviction of power to promote the happiness of a
child which nature implants in the heart of parents; and it may be also
from the experience of my own strength of will, since that which I have
willed I have always won. Now I speak on yet surer ground. Before the
year is out you shall be the beloved wife of Alain de Rochebriant. Dry
your tears and smile on me, Valerie. If you will not see in me mother and
father both, I have double love for you, motherless child of her who
shared the poverty of my youth, and did not live to enjoy the wealth
which I hold as a trust for that heir to mine all which she left me."

As this man thus spoke you would scarcely have recognized in him the old
saturnine Duplessis, his countenance became so beautified by the one soft
feeling which care and contest, ambition and money-seeking, had left
unaltered in his heart. Perhaps there is no country in which the love of
parent and child, especially of father and daughter, is so strong as it
is in France; even in the most arid soil, among the avaricious, even
among the profligate, it forces itself into flower. Other loves fade
away: in the heart of the true Frenchman that parent love blooms to the
last. Valerie felt the presence of that love as a divine protecting
guardianship. She sank on her knees and covered his hand with grateful
kisses.

"Do not torture yourself, my child, with jealous fears of the fair
Italian. Her lot and Alain de Rochebriant's can never unite; and whatever
you may think of their whispered converse, Alain's heart at this moment
is too filled with anxious troubles to leave one spot in it accessible
even to a frivolous gallantry. It is for us to remove these troubles; and
then, when he turns his eyes towards you, it will be with the gaze of one
who beholds his happiness. You do not weep now, Valerie!"



PREFATORY NOTE. (BY THE AUTHOR'S SON.)

The Parisians and Kenelm Chillingly were begun about the same time, and
had their common origin in the same central idea. That idea first found
fantastic expression in The Coming Race; and the three books, taken
together, constitute a special group distinctly apart from all the other
works of their author.

The satire of his earlier novels is a protest against false social
respectabilities; the humour of his later ones is a protest against the
disrespect of social realities. By the first he sought to promote social
sincerity, and the free play of personal character; by the last, to
encourage mutual charity and sympathy amongst all classes on whose
interrelation depends the character of society itself. But in these three
books, his latest fictions, the moral purpose is more definite and
exclusive. Each of them is an expostulation against what seemed to him
the perilous popularity of certain social and political theories, or a
warning against the influence of certain intellectual tendencies upon
individual character and national life. This purpose, however, though
common to the three fictions, is worked out in each of them by a
different method. The Coming Race is a work of pure fancy, and the satire
of it is vague and sportive. The outlines of a definite purpose are more
distinctly drawn in Chillingly-a romance which has the source of its
effect in a highly-wrought imagination. The humour and pathos of
Chillingly are of a kind incompatible with the design of The Parisians,
which is a work of dramatised observation. Chillingly is a romance; The
Parisians is a Novel. The subject of Chillingly is psychological; that of
The Parisians is social. The author's object in Chillingly being to
illustrate the effects of "modern ideas" upon an individual character, he
has confined his narrative to the biography of that one character. Hence
the simplicity of plot and small number of dramatis personae; whereby the
work gains in height and depth what it loses in breadth of surface. The
Parisians, on the contrary, is designed to illustrate the effect of
"modern ideas" upon a whole community. This novel is therefore panoramic
in the profusion and variety of figures presented by it to the reader's
imagination. No exclusive prominence is vouchsafed to any of these
figures. All of them are drawn and coloured with an equal care, but by
means of the bold broad touches necessary for their effective
presentation on a canvas so large and so crowded. Such figures are,
indeed, but the component features of one great Form, and their actions
only so many modes of one collective impersonal character-that of the
Parisian Society of Imperial and Democratic France;-a character
everywhere present and busy throughout the story, of which it is the real
hero or heroine. This society was doubtless selected for characteristic
illustration as being the most advanced in the progress of "modern
ideas." Thus, for a complete perception of its writer's fundamental
purpose, The Parisians should be read in connection with Chillingly, and
these two books in connection with The Coming Race. It will then be
perceived that, through the medium of alternate fancy, sentiment, and
observation assisted by humour and passion, these three books (in all
other respects so different from each other) complete the presentation of
the same purpose under different aspects; and thereby constitute a group
of fictions which claims a separate place of its own in any thoughtful
classification of their author's works.

One last word to those who will miss from these pages the connecting and
completing touches of the master's hand. It may be hoped that such a
disadvantage, though irreparable, is somewhat mitigated by the essential
character of the work itself. The aesthetic merit of this kind of novel
is in the vivacity of a general effect produced by large swift strokes of
character; and in such strokes, if they be by a great artist, force and
freedom of style must still be apparent, even when they are left rough
and unfinished. Nor can any lack of final verbal correction much diminish
the intellectual value which many of the more thoughtful passages of the
present work derive from a long, keen, and practical study of political
phenomena, guided by personal experience of public life, and enlightened
by a large, instinctive knowledge of the human heart.

Such a belief is, at least, encouraged by the private communications
spontaneously made, to him who expresses it, by persons of political
experience and social position in France; who have acknowledged the
general accuracy of the author's descriptions, and noticed the suggestive
sagacity and penetration of his occasional comments on the circumstances
and sentiments he describes.



                 BOOK IX.



CHAPTER I.

On waking some morning, have you ever felt, reader, as if a change for
the brighter in the world, without and within you, had suddenly come to
pass-some new glory has been given to the sunshine, some fresh balm to
the air-you feel younger, and happier, and lighter, in the very beat of
your heart-you almost fancy you hear the chime of some spiritual music
far off, as if in the deeps of heaven? You are not at first conscious
how, or wherefore, this change has been brought about. Is it the effect
of a dream in the gone sleep, that has made this morning so different
from mornings that have dawned before? And while vaguely asking yourself
that question, you become aware that the cause is no mere illusion, that
it has its substance in words spoken by living lips, in things that
belong to the work-day world.

It was thus that Isaura woke the morning after the conversation with
Alain de Rochebriant, and as certain words, then spoken, echoed back on
her ear, she knew why she was so happy, why the world was so changed.

In those words she heard the voice of Graham Vane--nor she had not
deceived herself--she was loved! she was loved! What mattered that long
cold interval of absence? She had not forgotten--she could not believe
that absence had brought forgetfulness. There are moments when we insist
on judging another's heart by our own. All would be explained some
day--all would come right.

How lovely was the face that reflected itself in the glass as she stood
before it, smoothing back her long hair, murmuring sweet snatches of
Italian love-song, and blushing with sweeter love-thoughts as she sang!
All that had passed in that year so critical to her outer life--the
authorship, the fame, the public career, the popular praise--vanished
from her mind as a vapour that rolls from the face of a lake to which the
sunlight restores the smile of a brightened heaven.

She was more the girl now than she had ever been since the day on which
she sat reading Tasso on the craggy shore of Sorrento.

Singing still as she passed from her chamber, and entering the
sitting-room, which fronted the east, and seemed bathed in the sunbeams
of deepening May, she took her bird from its cage, and stopped her song
to cover it with kisses, which perhaps yearned for vent somewhere.

Later in the day she went out to visit Valerie. Recalling the altered
manner of her young friend, her sweet nature became troubled. She divined
that Valerie had conceived some jealous pain which she longed to heal;
she could not bear the thought of leaving any one that day unhappy.
Ignorant before of the girl's feelings towards Alain, she now partly
guessed them--one woman who loves in secret is clairvoyante as to such
secrets in another.

Valerie received her visitor with a coldness she did not attempt to
disguise. Not seeming to notice this, Isaura commenced the conversation
with frank mention of Rochebriant. "I have to thank you so much, dear
Valerie, for a pleasure you could not anticipate--that of talking about
an absent friend, and hearing the praise he deserved from one so capable
of appreciating excellence as M. de Rochebriant appears to be."

"You were talking to M. de Rochebriant of an absent friend--ah! you
seemed indeed very much interested in the conversation--"

"Do not wonder at that, Valerie; and do not grudge me the happiest
moments I have known for months."

"In talking with M. de Rochebriant! No doubt, Mademoiselle Cicogna, you
found him very charming."

To her surprise and indignation, Valerie here felt the arm of Isaura
tenderly entwining her waist, and her face drawn towards Isaura's
sisterly kiss.

"Listen to me, naughty child-listen and believe. M. de Rochebriant can
never be charming to me--never touch a chord in my heart or my fancy
except as friend to another, or--kiss me in your turn, Valerie--as suitor
to yourself."

Valerie here drew back her pretty childlike head, gazed keenly a moment
into Isaura's eyes, felt convinced by the limpid candour of their
unmistakable honesty, and flinging herself on her friend's bosom, kissed
her passionately, and burst into tears.

The complete reconciliation between the two girls was thus peacefully
effected; and then Isaura had to listen, at no small length, to the
confidences poured into her ears by Valerie, who was fortunately too
engrossed by her own hopes and doubts to exact confidences in return.
Valerie's was one of those impulsive eager natures that longs for a
confidante. Not so Isaura's. Only when Valerie had unburthened her heart,
and been soothed and caressed into happy trust in the future, did she
recall Isaura's explanatory words, and said, archly: "And your absent
friend? Tell me about him. Is he as handsome as Alain?"

"Nay," said Isaura, rising to take up the mantle and hat she had laid
aside on entering, "they say that the colour of a flower is in our
vision, not in the leaves." Then with a grave melancholy in the look she
fixed upon Valerie, she added: "Rather than distrust of me should
occasion you pain, I have pained myself, in making clear to you the
reason why I felt interest in M. de Rochebriant's conversation. In turn,
I ask of you a favour--do not on this point question me farther. There
are some things in our past which influence the present, but to which we
dare not assign a future--on which we cannot talk to another. What
soothsayer can tell us if the dream of a yesterday will be renewed on the
night of a morrow? All is said--we trust one another, dearest."



CHAPTER II.

That evening the Morleys looked in at Isaura's on their way to a crowded
assembly at the house of one of those rich Americans, who were then
outvying the English residents at Paris in the good graces of Parisian
society. I think the Americans get on better with the French than the
English do--I mean the higher class of Americans. They spend more money;
their men speak French better; the women are better dressed, and, as a
general rule, have read more largely, and converse more frankly. Mrs.
Morley's affection for Isaura had increased during the last few months.
As so notable an advocate of the ascendancy of her sex, she felt a sort
of grateful pride in the accomplishments and growing renown of so
youthful a member of the oppressed sisterhood. But, apart from that
sentiment, she had conceived a tender mother-like interest for the girl
who stood in the world so utterly devoid of family ties, so destitute of
that household guardianship and protection which, with all her assertion
of the strength and dignity of woman, and all her opinions as to woman's
right of absolute emancipation from the conventions fabricated by the
selfishness of man, Mrs. Morley was too sensible not to value for the
individual, though she deemed it not needed for the mass. Her great
desire was that Isaura should marry well, and soon. American women
usually marry so young that it seemed to Mrs. Morley an anomaly in social
life, that one so gifted in mind and person as Isaura should already have
passed the age in which the belles of the great Republic are enthroned as
wives and consecrated as mothers. We have seen that in the past year she
had selected from our unworthy but necessary sex, Graham Vane as a
suitable spouse to her young friend. She had divined the state of his
heart--she had more than suspicions of the state of Isaura's. She was
exceedingly perplexed and exceedingly chafed at the Englishman's strange
disregard to his happiness and her own projects. She had counted, all
this past winter, on his return to Paris; and she became convinced that
some misunderstanding, possibly some lover's quarrel, was the cause of
his protracted absence, and a cause that, if ascertained, could be
removed. A good opportunity now presented itself--Colonel Morley was
going to London the next day. He had business there which would detain
him at least a week. He would see Graham; and as she considered her
husband the shrewdest and wisest person in the world--I mean of the male
sex--she had no doubt of his being able to turn Graham's mind thoroughly
inside out, and ascertain his exact feelings and intentions. If the
Englishman, thus assayed, were found of base metal, then, at least, Mrs.
Morley would be free to cast him altogether aside, and coin for the uses
of the matrimonial market some nobler effigy in purer gold.

"My dear child," said Mrs. Morley, in a low voice, nestling herself close
to Isaura, while the Colonel, duly instructed, drew off the Venosta,
"have you heard anything lately of our pleasant friend Mr. Vane?"

You can guess with what artful design Mrs. Morley put that question
point-blank, fixing keen eyes on Isaura while she put it. She saw the
heightened colour, the quivering lip of the girl thus abruptly appealed
to, and she said inly: "I was right--she loves him!"

"I heard of Mr. Vane last night--accidentally."

"Is he coming to Paris soon?"

"Not that I know of. How charmingly that wreath becomes you! it suits the
earrings so well, too."

"Frank chose it; he has good taste for a man. I trust him with my
commissions to Hunt and Roskell's but I limit him as to price, he is so
extravagant--men are, when they make presents. They seem to think we
value things according to their cost. They would gorge us with jewels,
and let us starve for want of a smile. Not that Frank is so bad as the
rest of them. But a propos of Mr. Vane--Frank will be sure to see him,
and scold him well for deserting us all. I should not be surprised if he
brought the deserter back with him, for I send a little note by Frank,
inviting him to pay us a visit. We have spare rooms in our apartments."

Isaura's heart heaved beneath her robe, but she replied in a tone of
astonishing indifference: "I believe this is the height of the London
season, and Mr. Vane would probably be too engaged to profit even by an
invitation so tempting."

"Nous verrons. How pleased he will be to hear of your triumphs! He
admired you so much before you were famous: what will be his admiration
now! men are so vain--they care for us so much more when people praise
us. But till we have put the creatures in their proper place, we must
take them for what they are."

Here the Venosta, with whom the poor Colonel had exhausted all the arts
at his command for chaining her attention, could be no longer withheld
from approaching Mrs. Morley, and venting her admiration of that lady's
wreath, earrings, robes, flounces. This dazzling apparition had on her
the effect which a candle has on a moth--she fluttered round it, and
longed to absorb herself in its blaze. But the wreath especially
fascinated her--a wreath which no prudent lady with colourings less pure,
and features less exquisitely delicate than the pretty champion of the
rights of women, could have fancied on her own brows without a shudder.
But the Venosta in such matters was not prudent. "It can't be dear," she
cried piteously, extending her arms towards Isaura. "I must have one
exactly like. Who made it? Cara signora, give me the address."

"Ask the Colonel, dear Madame; he chose and bought it," and Mrs. Morley
glanced significantly at her well-tutored Frank.

"Madame," said the Colonel, speaking in English, which he usually did
with the Venosta--who valued herself on knowing that language and was
flattered to be addressed in it--while he amused himself by introducing
into its forms the dainty Americanisms with which he puzzled the
Britisher--he might well puzzle the Florentine,--"Madame, I am too
anxious for the appearance of my wife to submit to the test of a rival
schemer like yourself in the same apparel. With all the homage due to a
sex of which I am enthused dreadful, I decline to designate the florist
from whom I purchased Mrs. Morley's head-fixings."

"Wicked man!" cried the Venosta, shaking her finger at him coquettishly.
"You are jealous! Fie! a man should never be jealous of a woman's rivalry
with women;" and then, with a cynicism that might have become a
greybeard, she added, "but of his own sex every man should be
jealous--though of his dearest friend. Isn't it so, Colonello?"

The Colonel looked puzzled, bowed, and made no reply. "That only shows,"
said Mrs. Morley, rising, "what villains the Colonel has the misfortune
to call friends and fellow-men."

"I fear it is time to go," said Frank, glancing at the clock.

In theory the most rebellious, in practice the most obedient, of wives,
Mrs. Morley here kissed Isaura, resettled her crinoline, and shaking
hands with the Venosta, retreated to the door.

"I shall have the wreath yet," cried the Venosta, impishly. "La speranza
e fenamina" (Hope is female).

"Alas!" said Isaura, half mournfully, half smiling, "alas! do you not
remember what the poet replied when asked what disease was most
mortal?--'the hectic fever caught from the chill of hope.'"



CHAPTER III.

Graham Vane was musing very gloomily in his solitary apartment one
morning, when his servant announced Colonel Morley.

He received his visitor with more than the cordiality with which every
English politician receives an American citizen. Graham liked the Colonel
too well for what he was in himself to need any national title to his
esteem. After some preliminary questions and answers as to the health of
Mrs. Morley, the length of the Colonel's stay in London, what day he
could dine with Graham at Richmond or Gravesend, the Colonel took up the
ball. "We have been reckoning to see you at Paris, sir, for the last six
months."

"I am very much flattered to hear that you have thought of me at all; but
I am not aware of having warranted the expectation you so kindly
express."

"I guess you must have said something to my wife which led her to do more
than expect--to reckon on your return. And, by the way, sir, I am charged
to deliver to you this note from her, and to back the request it contains
that you will avail yourself of the offer. Without summarising the points
I do so."

Graham glanced over the note addressed to him

   "DEAR MR. VANE,--Do you forget how beautiful the environs of Paris
   are in May and June? how charming it was last year at the lake of
   Enghien? how gay were our little dinners out of doors in the garden
   arbours, with the Savarins and the fair Italian, and her
   incomparably amusing chaperon? Frank has my orders to bring you
   back to renew these happy days, while the birds are in their first
   song, and the leaves are in their youngest green. I have prepared
   your rooms chez nous--a chamber that looks out on the Champs
   Elysees, and a quiet cabinet de travail at the back, in which you
   can read, write, or sulk undisturbed. Come, and we will again visit
   Enghien and Montmorency. Don't talk of engagements. If man
   proposes, woman disposes. Hesitate not--obey. Your sincere little
   friend, Lizzy."

"My dear Morley," said Graham, with emotion, "I cannot find words to
thank your wife sufficiently for an invitation so graciously conveyed.
Alas! I cannot accept it."

"Why?" asked the Colonel, drily.

"I have too much to do in London."

"Is that the true reason, or am I to suspicion that there is anything,
sir, which makes you dislike a visit to Paris?"

The Americans enjoy the reputation of being the frankest putters of
questions whom liberty of speech has yet educated into la recherche de la
verite, and certainly Colonel Morley in this instance did not impair the
national reputation.

Graham Vane's brow slightly contracted, and he bit his lip as if stung by
a sudden pang; but after a moment's pause, he answered with a
good-humoured smile:

"No man who has taste enough to admire the most beautiful city, and
appreciate the charms of the most brilliant society in the world, can
dislike Paris."

"My dear sir, I did not ask you if you disliked Paris, but if there were
anything that made you dislike coming back to it on a visit."

"What a notion! and what a cross-examiner you would have made if you had
been called to the bar! Surely, my dear friend, you can understand that
when a man has in one place business which he cannot neglect, he may
decline going to another place, whatever pleasure it would give him to do
so. By the way, there is a great ball at one of the Ministers' to-night;
you should go there, and I will point out to you all those English
notabilities in whom Americans naturally take interest. I will call for
you at eleven o'clock. Lord ------, who is a connection of mine, would be
charmed to know you."

Morley hesitated; but when Graham said, "How your wife will scold you if
you lose such an opportunity of telling her whether the Duchess of ---- is
as beautiful as report says, and whether Gladstone or Disraeli seems to
your phrenological science to have the finer head!" the Colonel gave in,
and it was settled that Graham should call for him at the Langham Hotel.

That matter arranged, Graham probably hoped that his inquisitive visitor
would take leave for the present, but the Colonel evinced no such
intention. On the contrary, settling himself more at ease in his
arm-chair, he said, "if I remember aright, you do not object to the odour
of tobacco?"

Graham rose and presented to his visitor a cigar-box which he took from
the mantelpiece.

The Colonel shook his head, and withdrew from his breast pocket a leather
case, from which he extracted a gigantic regalia; this he lighted from a
gold match-box in the shape of a locket attached to his watch-chain, and
took two or three preliminary puffs, with his head thrown back and his
eyes meditatively intent upon the ceiling.

We know already that strange whim of the Colonel's (than whom, if he so
pleased, no man could speak purer English as spoken by the Britisher) to
assert the dignity of the American citizen by copious use of expressions
and phrases familiar to the lips of the governing class of the great
Republic--delicacies of speech which he would have carefully shunned in
the polite circles of the Fifth Avenue in New York. Now the Colonel was
much too experienced a man of the world not to be aware that the
commission with which his Lizzy had charged him was an exceedingly
delicate one; and it occurred to his mother wit that the best way to
acquit himself of it, so as to avoid the risk of giving or of receiving
serious affront, would be to push that whim of his into more than wonted
exaggeration. Thus he could more decidedly and briefly come to the point;
and should he, in doing so, appear too meddlesome, rather provoke a laugh
than a frown-retiring from the ground with the honours due to a humorist.
Accordingly, in his deepest nasal intonation, and withdrawing his eyes
from the ceiling, he began:

"You have not asked, sir, after the signorina, or as we popularly call
her, Mademoiselle Cicogna?"

"Have I not? I hope she is quite well, and her lively companion, Signora
Venosta."

"They are not sick, sir; or at least they were not so last night when my
wife and I had the pleasure to see them. Of course you have read
Mademoiselle Cicogna's book--a bright performance, sir, age considered."

"Certainly, I have read the book; it is full of unquestionable genius. Is
Mademoiselle writing another? But of course she is."

"I am not aware of the fact, sir. It may be predicated; such a mind
cannot remain inactive; and I know from M. Savarin and that rising young
man Gustave Rameau, that the publishers bid high for her brains
considerable. Two translations have already appeared in our country. Her
fame, sir, will be world-wide. She may be another George Sand, or at
least another Eulalie Grantmesnil."

Graham's cheek became as white as the paper I write on. He inclined his
head as in assent, but without a word. The Colonel continued:

"We ought to be very proud of her acquaintance, sir. I think you detected
her gifts while they were yet unconjectured. My wife says so. You must be
gratified to remember that, sir--clear grit, sir, and no mistake."

"I certainly more than once have said to Mrs. Morley, that I esteemed
Mademoiselle's powers so highly that I hoped she would never become a
stage-singer and actress. But this M. Rameau? You say he is a rising man.
It struck me when at Paris that he was one of those charlatans with a
great deal of conceit and very little information, who are always found
in scores on the ultra-Liberal side of politics;-possibly I was
mistaken."

"He is the responsible editor of Le Sens Commun, in which talented
periodical Mademoiselle Cicogna's book was first raised."

"Of course, I know that; a journal which, so far as I have looked into
its political or social articles, certainly written by a cleverer and an
older man than M. Rameau, is for unsettling all things and settling
nothing. We have writers of that kind among ourselves--I have no sympathy
with them. To me it seems that when a man says, 'Off with your head,' he
ought to let us know what other head he would put on our shoulders, and
by what process the change of heads shall be effected. Honestly speaking,
if you and your charming wife are intimate friends and admirers of
Mademoiselle Cicogna, I think you could not do her a greater service than
that of detaching her from all connection with men like M. Rameau, and
journals like La Sens Commun."

The Colonel here withdrew his cigar from his lips, lowered his head to a
level with Graham's, and relaxing into an arch significant smile, said:
"Start to Paris, and dissuade her yourself. Start--go ahead--don't be
shy--don't seesaw on the beam of speculation. You will have more
influence with that young female than we can boast." Never was England in
greater danger of quarrel with America than at that moment; but Graham
curbed his first wrathful impulse, and replied coldly:

"It seems to me, Colonel, that you, though very unconsciously, derogate
from the respect due to Mademoiselle Cicogna. That the counsel of a
married couple like yourself and Mrs. Morley should be freely given to
and duly heeded by a girl deprived of her natural advisers in parents, is
a reasonable and honourable supposition; but to imply that the most
influential adviser of a young lady so situated is a young single man, in
no way related to her, appears to me a dereliction of that regard to the
dignity of her sex which is the chivalrous characteristic of your
countrymen--and to Mademoiselle Cicogna herself, a surmise which she
would be justified in resenting as an impertinence."

"I deny both allegations," replied the Colonel serenely. "I maintain that
a single man whips all connubial creation when it comes to gallantising a
single young woman; and that no young lady would be justified in
resenting as impertinence my friendly suggestion to the single man so
deserving of her consideration as I estimate you to be, to solicit the
right to advise her for life. And that's a caution."

Here the Colonel resumed his regalia, and again gazed intent on the
ceiling.

"Advise her for life! You mean, I presume, as a candidate for her hand."

"You don't Turkey now. Well, I guess, you are not wide of the mark there,
sir."

"You do me infinite honour, but I do not presume so far."

"So, so--not as yet. Before a man who is not without gumption runs
himself for Congress, he likes to calculate how the votes will run. Well,
sir, suppose we are in caucus, and let us discuss the chances of the
election with closed doors."

Graham could not help smiling at the persistent officiousness of his
visitor, but his smile was a very sad one.

"Pray change the subject, my dear Colonel Morley--it is not a pleasant
one to me; and as regards Mademoiselle Cicogna, can you think it would
not shock her to suppose that her name was dragged into the discussions
you would provoke, even with closed doors?"

"Sir," replied the Colonel, imperturbably, "since the doors are closed,
there is no one, unless it be a spirit-listener under the table, who can
wire to Mademoiselle Cicogna the substance of debate. And, for my part, I
do not believe in spiritual manifestations. Fact is, that I have the most
amicable sentiments towards both parties, and if there is a
misunderstanding which is opposed to the union of the States, I wish to
remove it while yet in time. Now, let us suppose that you decline to be a
candidate; there are plenty of others who will run; and as an elector
must choose one representative or other, so a gal must choose one husband
or other. And then you only repent when it is too late. It is a great
thing to be first in the field. Let us approximate to the point; the
chances seem good-will you run? Yes or no?"

"I repeat, Colonel Morley, that I entertain no such presumption."

The Colonel here, rising, extended his hand, which Graham shook with
constrained cordiality, and then leisurely walked to the door; there he
paused, as if struck by a new thought, and said gravely, in his natural
tone of voice, "You have nothing to say, sir, against the young lady's
character and honour?"

"I!--heavens, no! Colonel Morley, such a question insults me."

The Colonel resumed his deepest nasal bass: "It is only, then, because
you don't fancy her now so much as you did last year--fact, you are
soured on her and fly off the handle. Such things do happen. The same
thing has happened to myself, sir. In my days of celibacy, there was a
gal at Saratoga whom I gallantised, and whom, while I was at Saratoga, I
thought Heaven had made to be Mrs. Morley: I was on the very point of
telling her so, when I was suddenly called off to Philadelphia; and at
Philadelphia, sir, I found that Heaven had made another Mrs. Morley. I
state this fact, sir, though I seldom talk of my own affairs, even when
willing to tender my advice in the affairs of another, in order to prove
that I do not intend to censure you if Heaven has served you in the same
manner. Sir, a man may go blind for one gal when he is not yet dry behind
the ears, and then, when his eyes are skinned, go in for one better. All
things mortal meet with a change, as my sisters little boy said when, at
the age of eight, he quitted the Methodys and turned Shaker. Threep and
argue as we may, you and I are both mortals--more's the pity. Good
morning, sir (glancing at the clock, which proclaimed the hour of 3
P.M.),--I err--good evening."

By the post that day the Colonel transmitted a condensed and laconic
report of his conversation with Graham Vane. I can state its substance in
yet fewer words. He wrote word that Graham positively declined the
invitation to Paris; that he had then, agreeably to Lizzy's instruction,
ventilated the Englishman, in the most delicate terms, as to his
intentions with regard to Isaura, and that no intentions at all existed.
The sooner all thoughts of him were relinquished, as a new suitor on the
ground, the better it would be for the young lady's happiness in the only
state in which happiness should be, if not found, at least sought,
whether by maid or man.

Mrs. Morley was extremely put out by this untoward result of the
diplomacy she had intrusted to the Colonel; and when, the next day, came
a very courteous letter from Graham, thanking her gratefully for the
kindness of her invitation, and expressing his regret briefly, though
cordially, at his inability to profit by it, without the most distant
allusion to the subject which the Colonel had brought on the tapis, or
even requesting his compliments to the Signoras Venosta and Cicogna, she
was more than put out, more than resentful,--she was deeply grieved.
Being, however, one of those gallant heroes of womankind who do not give
in at the first defeat, she began to doubt whether Frank had not rather
overstrained the delicacy which he said he had put into his "soundings."
He ought to have been more explicit. Meanwhile she resolved to call on
Isaura, and, without mentioning Graham's refusal of her invitation,
endeavour to ascertain whether the attachment which she felt persuaded
the girl secretly cherished for this recalcitrant Englishman were
something more than the first romantic fancy--whether it were
sufficiently deep to justify farther effort on Mrs. Morley's part to
bring it to a prosperous issue.

She found Isaura at home and alone; and, to do her justice, she exhibited
wonderful tact in the fulfilment of the task she had set herself. Forming
her judgment by manner and look--not words--she returned home, convinced
that she ought to seize the opportunity afforded to her by Graham's
letter. It was one to which she might very naturally reply, and in that
reply she might convey the object at her heart more felicitously than the
Colonel had done. "The cleverest man is," she said to herself, "stupid
compared to an ordinary woman in the real business of life, which does
not consist of fighting and moneymaking."

Now there was one point she had ascertained by words in her visit to
Isaura--a point on which all might depend. She had asked Isaura when and
where she had seen Graham last; and when Isaura had given her that
information, and she learned it was on the eventful day on which Isaura
gave her consent to the publication of her MS. if approved by Savarin, in
the journal to be set up by the handsome-faced young author, she leapt to
the conclusion that Graham had been seized with no unnatural jealousy,
and was still under the illusive glamoury of that green-eyed fiend. She
was confirmed in this notion, not altogether an unsound one, when asking
with apparent carelessness, "And in that last interview, did you see any
change in Mr. Vane's manner, especially when he took leave?"

Isaura turned away pale, and involuntarily clasping her hands-as women do
when they would suppress pain-replied, in a low murmur, "His manner was
changed."

Accordingly, Mrs. Morley sat down and wrote the following letter:

"DEAR MR. VANE,--I am very angry indeed with you for refusing my
invitation--I had so counted on you, and I don't believe a word of your
excuse. Engagements! To balls and dinners, I suppose, as if you were not
much too clever to care about such silly attempts to enjoy solitude in
crowds. And as to what you men call business, you have no right to have
any business at all. You are not in commerce; you are not in Parliament;
you told me yourself that you had no great landed estates to give you
trouble; you are rich, without any necessity to take pains to remain
rich, or to become richer; you have no business in the world except to
please yourself: and when you will not come to Paris to see one of your
truest friends--which I certainly am--it simply means, that no matter how
such a visit would please me, it does not please yourself. I call that
abominably rude and ungrateful.

"But I am not writing merely to scold you. I have something else on my
mind, and it must come out. Certainly, when you were at Paris last year
you did admire, above all other young ladies, Isaura Cicogna. And I
honoured you for doing so. I know no other young lady to be called her
equal. Well, if you admired her then, what would you do now if you met
her? Then she was but a girl--very brilliant, very charming, it is
true--but undeveloped, untested. Now she is a woman, a princess among
women, but retaining all that is most lovable in a girl; so courted, yet
so simple--so gifted, yet so innocent. Her head is not a bit turned by
all the flattery that surrounds her. Come and judge for yourself. I still
hold the door of the rooms destined to you open for repentance.

"My dear Mr. Vane, do not think me a silly match-making little woman,
when I write to you thus, a coeur ouvert.

"I like you so much that I would fain secure to you the rarest prize
which life is ever likely to offer to your ambition. Where can you hope
to find another Isaura? Among the stateliest daughters of your English
dukes, where is there one whom a proud man would be more proud to show to
the world, saying, 'She is mine!' where one more distinguished--I will
not say by mere beauty, there she might be eclipsed--but by sweetness and
dignity combined--in aspect, manner, every movement, every smile?

"And you, who are yourself so clever, so well read--you who would be so
lonely with a wife who was not your companion, with whom you could not
converse on equal terms of intellect,--my dear friend, where could you
find a companion in whom you would not miss the poet-soul of Isaura? Of
course I should not dare to obtrude all these questionings on your
innermost reflection, if I had not some idea, right or wrong, that since
the days when at Enghien and Montmorency, seeing you and Isaura side by
side, I whispered to Frank, 'So should those two be through life,' some
cloud has passed between your eyes and the future on which they gazed.
Cannot that cloud be dispelled? Were you so unjust to yourself as to be
jealous of a rival, perhaps of a Gustave Rameau? I write to you
frankly--answer me frankly; and if you answer, 'Mrs. Morley, I don't
know, what you mean; I admired Mademoiselle Cicogna as I might admire any
other pretty, accomplished girl, but it is really nothing to me whether
she marries Gustave Rameau or any one else,'--why, then, burn this
letter--forget that it has been written; and may you never know the pang
of remorseful sigh, if, in the days to come, you see her--whose name in
that case I should profane did I repeat it--the comrade of another man's
mind, the half of another man's heart, the pride and delight of another
man's blissful home."



CHAPTER IV.

There is somewhere in Lord Lytton's writings--writings so numerous that I
may be pardoned if I cannot remember where-a critical definition of the
difference between dramatic and narrative art of story, instanced by that
marvellous passage in the loftiest of Sir Walter Scott's works, in which
all the anguish of Ravenswood on the night before he has to meet Lucy's
brother in mortal combat is conveyed without the spoken words required in
tragedy. It is only to be conjectured by the tramp of his heavy boots to
and fro all the night long in his solitary chamber, heard below by the
faithful Caleb. The drama could not have allowed that treatment; the
drama must have put into words, as "soliloquy," agonies which the
non-dramatic narrator knows that no soliloquy can describe. Humbly do I
imitate, then, the great master of narrative in declining to put into
words the conflict between love and reason that tortured the heart of
Graham Vane when, dropping noiselessly the letter I have just
transcribed, he covered his face with his hands and remained--I know not
how long--in the same position, his head bowed, not a sound escaping from
his lips.

He did not stir from his rooms that day; and had there been a Caleb's
faithful ear to listen, his tread, too, might have been heard all that
sleepless night passing to and fro, but pausing oft, along his solitary
floors.

Possibly love would have borne down all opposing seasonings, doubts, and
prejudices, but for incidents that occurred the following evening. On
that evening Graham dined en famille with his cousins the Altons. After
dinner, the Duke produced the design for a cenotaph inscribed to the
memory of his aunt, Lady Janet King, which he proposed to place in the
family chapel at Alton.

"I know," said the Duke, kindly, "you would wish the old house from which
she sprang to preserve some such record of her who loved you as her son;
and even putting you out of the question, it gratifies me to attest the
claim of our family to a daughter who continues to be famous for her
goodness, and made the goodness so lovable that envy forgave it for being
famous. It was a pang to me when poor Richard King decided on placing her
tomb among strangers; but in conceding his rights as to her
resting-place, I retain mine to her name,--Nostris liberis virtutis
exemplar."

Graham wrung his cousin's hand-he could not speak, choked by suppressed
tears.

The Duchess, who loved and honoured Lady Janet almost as much as did her
husband, fairly sobbed aloud. She had, indeed, reason for grateful
memories of the deceased: there had been some obstacles to her marriage
with the man who had won her heart, arising from political differences
and family feuds between their parents, which the gentle meditation of
Lady Janet had smoothed away. And never did union founded on mutual and
ardent love more belie the assertions of the great Bichat (esteemed by
Dr. Buckle the finest intellect which practical philosophy has exhibited
since Aristotle), that "Love is a sort of fever which does not last
beyond two years," than that between those eccentric specimens of a class
denounced as frivolous and artless by philosophers, English and French,
who have certainly never heard of Bichat.

When the emotion the Duke had exhibited was calmed down, his wife pushed
towards Graham a sheet of paper, inscribed with the epitaph composed by
his hand. "Is it not beautiful," she said, falteringly--"not a word too
much or too little?"

Graham read the inscription slowly, and with very dimmed eyes. It
deserved the praise bestowed on it; for the Duke, though a shy and
awkward speaker, was an incisive and graceful writer.

Yet, in his innermost self, Graham shivered when he read that epitaph, it
expressed so emphatically the reverential nature of the love which Lady
Janet had inspired--the genial influences which the holiness of a
character so active in doing good had diffused around it. It brought
vividly before Graham that image of perfect spotless womanhood. And a
voice within him asked, "Would that cenotaph be placed amid the monuments
of an illustrious lineage if the secret known to thee could transpire?
What though the lost one were really as unsullied by sin as the world
deems, would the name now treasured as an heirloom not be a memory of
gall and a sound of shame?"

He remained so silent after putting down the inscription, that the Duke
said modestly: "My dear Graham, I see that you do not like what I have
written. Your pen is much more practised than mine. If I did not ask you
to compose the epitaph, it was because I thought it would please you more
in coming, as a spontaneous tribute due to her, from the representative
of her family. But will you correct my sketch, or give me another
according to your own ideas?"

"I see not a word to alter," said Graham; "forgive me if my silence
wronged my emotion; the truest eloquence is that which holds us too mute
for applause."

"I knew you would like it. Leopold is always so disposed to underrate
himself," said the duchess, whose hand was resting fondly on her
husband's shoulder. "Epitaphs are so difficult to write-especially
epitaphs on women of whom in life the least said the better. Janet was
the only woman I ever knew whom one could praise in safety."

"Well expressed," said the Duke, smiling: "and I wish you would make that
safety clear to some lady friends of yours, to whom it might serve as a
lesson. Proof against every breath of scandal herself, Janet King never
uttered and never encouraged one ill-natured word against another. But I
am afraid, my dear fellow, that I must leave you to a tete-a-tete with
Eleanor. You know that I must be at the House this evening--I only paired
till half-past nine."

"I will walk down to the House with you, if you are going on foot."

"No," said the Duchess; "you must resign yourself to me for at least half
an hour. I was looking over your aunt's letters to-day, and I found one
which I wish to show you; it is all about yourself, and written within
the last few months of her life." Here she put her arm into Graham's, and
led him into her own private drawing-room, which, though others might
call it a boudoir, she dignified by the name of her study. The Duke
remained for some minutes thoughtfully leaning his arm on the
mantelpiece. It was no unimportant debate in the Lords that night, and on
a subject in which he took great interest, and the details of which he
had thoroughly mastered. He had been requested to speak, if only a few
words, for his high character and his reputation for good sense gave
weight to the mere utterance of his opinion. But though no one had more
moral courage in action, the Duke had a terror at the very thought of
addressing an audience, which made him despise himself.

"Ah!" he muttered, "if Graham Vane were but in Parliament, I could trust
him to say exactly what I would rather be swallowed up by an earthquake
than stand up and say for myself. But now he has got money he seems to
think of nothing but saving it."



CHAPTER V.

The letter from Lady Janet, which the Duchess took from the desk and
placed in Graham's hand, was in strange coincidence with the subject that
for the last twenty-four hours had absorbed his thoughts and tortured his
heart. Speaking of him in terms of affectionate eulogy, the writer
proceeded to confide her earnest wish that he should not longer delay
that change in life which, concentrating so much that is vague in the
desires and aspirations of man, leaves his heart and his mind, made
serene by the contentment of home, free for the steadfast consolidation
of their warmth and their light upon the ennobling duties that unite the
individual to his race.

"There is no one," wrote Lady Janet, "whose character and career a
felicitous choice in marriage can have greater influence over than this
dear adopted son of mine. I do not fear that in any case he will be
liable to the errors of his brilliant father. His early reverse of
fortune here seems to me one of those blessings which Heaven conceals in
the form of affliction. For in youth, the genial freshness of his gay
animal spirits, a native generosity mingled with desire of display and
thirst for applause, made me somewhat alarmed for his future. But, though
he still retains these attributes of character, they are no longer
predominant; they are modified and chastened. He has learned prudence.
But what I now fear most for him is that which he does not show in the
world, which neither Leopold nor you seem to detect,--it is an exceeding
sensitiveness of pride. I know not how else to describe it. It is so
interwoven with the highest qualities, that I sometimes dread injury to
them could it be torn away from the faultier ones which it supports.

"It is interwoven with that lofty independence of spirit which has made
him refuse openings the most alluring to his ambition; it communicates a
touching grandeur to his self-denying thrift; it makes him so tenacious
of his word once given, so cautious before he gives it. Public life to
him is essential; without it he would be incomplete; and yet I sigh to
think that whatever success he may achieve in it will be attended with
proportionate pain. Calumny goes side by side with fame, and courting
fame as a man, he is as thin-skinned to calumny as a woman.

"The wife for Graham should have qualities, not taken individually,
uncommon in English wives, but in combination somewhat rare.

"She must have mind enough to appreciate his--not to clash with it. She
must be fitted with sympathies to be his dearest companion, his
confidante in the hopes and fears which the slightest want of sympathy
would make him keep ever afterwards pent within his breast. In herself
worthy of distinction, she must merge all distinction in his. You have
met in the world men who, marrying professed beauties, or professed
literary geniuses, are spoken of as the husband of the beautiful Mrs.
A------, or of the clever Mrs. B-------: can you fancy Graham Vane in the
reflected light of one of those husbands? I trembled last year when I
thought he was attracted by a face which the artists raved about, and
again by a tongue which dropped bons mots that went the round of the
club. I was relieved, when, sounding him, he said, laughingly, 'No, dear
aunt, I should be one sore from head to foot if I married a wife that was
talked about for anything but goodness.'

"No,--Graham Vane will have pains sharp enough if he live to be talked
about himself. But that tenderest half of himself, the bearer of the name
he would make, and for the dignity of which he alone would be
responsible,--if that were the town talk, he would curse the hour he gave
any one the right to take on herself his man's burden of calumny and
fame. I know not which I should pity the most, Graham Vane or his wife.

"Do you understand me, dearest Eleanor? No doubt you do so far, that you
comprehend that the women whom men most admire are not the women we, as
women ourselves, would wish our sons or brothers to marry. But perhaps
you do not comprehend my cause of fear, which is this--for in such
matters men do not see as we women do--Graham abhors, in the girls of our
time, frivolity and insipidity. Very rightly, you will say. True, but
then he is too likely to be allured by contrasts. I have seen him
attracted by the very girls we recoil from more than we do from those we
allow to be frivolous and insipid. I accused him of admiration for a
certain young lady whom you call 'odious,' and whom the slang that has
come into vogue calls 'fast;' and I was not satisfied with his answer,
'Certainly I admire her; she is not a doll--she has ideas.' I would
rather of the two see Graham married to what men call a doll, than to a
girl with ideas which are distasteful to women."

Lady Janet then went on to question the Duchess about a Miss Asterisk,
with whom this tale will have nothing to do, but who, from the little
which Lady Janet had seen of her, might possess all the requisites that
fastidious correspondent would exact for the wife of her adopted son.

This Miss Asterisk had been introduced into the London world by the
Duchess. The Duchess had replied to Lady Janet, that if earth could be
ransacked, a more suitable wife for Graham Vane than Miss Asterisk could
not be found; she was well born--an heiress; the estates she inherited
were in the county of--(viz., the county in which the ancestors of
D'Altons and Vanes had for centuries established their whereabout). Miss
Asterisk was pretty enough to please any man's eye, but not with the
beauty of which artists rave; well informed enough to be companion to a
well-informed man, but certainly not witty enough to supply bons mots to
the clubs. Miss Asterisk was one of those women of whom a husband might
be proud, yet with whom a husband would feel safe from being talked
about.

And in submitting the letter we have read to Graham's eye, the Duchess
had the cause of Miss Asterisk pointedly in view. Miss Asterisk had
confided to her friend, that, of all men she had seen, Mr. Graham Vane
was the one she would feel the least inclined to refuse.

So when Graham Vane returned the letter to the Duchess, simply saying,
"How well my dear aunt divined what is weakest in me!" the Duchess
replied quickly, "Miss Asterisk dines here to-morrow; pray come; you
would like her if you knew more of her."

"To-morrow I am engaged--an American friend of mine dines with me; but
'tis no matter, for I shall never feel more for Miss Asterisk than I feel
for Mont Blanc."



CHAPTER VI.

On leaving his cousin's house Graham walked on, he scarce knew or cared
whither, the image of the beloved dead so forcibly recalled the solemnity
of the mission with which he had been intrusted, and which hitherto he
had failed to fulfil. What if the only mode by which he could, without
causing questions and suspicions that might result in dragging to day the
terrible nature of the trust he held, enrich the daughter of Richard
King, repair all wrong hitherto done to her, and guard the sanctity of
Lady Janet's home,--should be in that union which Richard King had
commended to him while his heart was yet free? In such a case, would not
gratitude to the dead, duty to the living, make that union imperative at
whatever sacrifice of happiness to himself? The two years to which
Richard King had limited the suspense of research were not yet expired.
Then, too, that letter of Lady Janet's,--so tenderly anxious for his
future, so clear-sighted as to the elements of his own character in its
strength or its infirmities--combined with graver causes to withhold his
heart from its yearning impulse, and--no, not steel it against Isaura,
but forbid it to realise, in the fair creature and creator of romance,
his ideal of the woman to whom an earnest, sagacious, aspiring man
commits all the destinies involved in the serene dignity of his hearth.
He could not but own that this gifted author--this eager seeker after
fame--this brilliant and bold competitor with men on their own stormy
battle-ground-was the very person from whom Lady Janet would have warned
away his choice. She (Isaura) merge her own distinctions in a
husband's;--she leave exclusively to him the burden of fame and
calumny!--she shun "to be talked about!" she who could feel her life to
be a success or a failure, according to the extent and the loudness of
the talk which it courted!

While these thoughts racked his mind, a kindly hand was laid on his arm,
and a cheery voice accosted him. "Well met, my dear Vane! I see we are
bound to the same place; there will be a good gathering to-night."

"What do you mean, Bevil? I am going nowhere, except to my own quiet
rooms."

"Pooh! Come in here at least for a few minutes,"--and Bevil drew him up
to the door-step of a house close by, where, on certain evenings, a
well-known club drew together men who seldom meet so familiarly
elsewhere--men of all callings; a club especially favoured by wits,
authors, and the flaneurs of polite society.

Graham shook his head, about to refuse, when Bevil added, "I have just
come from Paris, and can give you the last news, literary, political, and
social. By the way, I saw Savarin the other night at the Cicogna's--he
introduced me there." Graham winced; he was spelled by the music of a
name, and followed his acquaintance into the crowded room, and, after
returning many greetings and nods, withdrew into a remote corner, and
motioned Bevil to a seat beside him.

"So you met Savarin? Where, did you say?"

"At the house of the new lady-author--I hate the word
authoress--Mademoiselle Cicogna! Of course you have read her book?"

"Yes."

"Full of fine things, is it not?--though somewhat highflown and
sentimental: however, nothing succeeds like success. No book has been
more talked about at Paris: the only thing more talked about is the
lady-author herself."

"Indeed, and how?"

"She doesn't look twenty, a mere girl--of that kind of beauty which so
arrests the eye that you pass by other faces to gaze on it, and the
dullest stranger would ask, 'Who, and what is she?' A girl, I say, like
that--who lives as independently as if she were a middle-aged widow,
receives every week (she has her Thursdays), with no other chaperon than
an old ci-devant Italian singing woman, dressed like a guy--must set
Parisian tongues into play even if she had not written the crack book of
the season."

"Mademoiselle Cicogna receives on Thursdays,--no harm in that; and if she
have no other chaperon than the Italian lady you mention, it is because
Mademoiselle Cicogna is an orphan, and having a fortune, such as it is,
of her own, I do not see why she should not live as independently as many
an unmarried woman in London placed under similar circumstances. I
suppose she receives chiefly persons in the literary or artistic world,
and if they are all as respectable as the Savarins, I do not think
ill-nature itself could find fault with her social circle."

"Ah! you know the Cicogna, I presume. I am sure I did not wish to say
anything that could offend her best friends, only I do think it is a pity
she is not married, poor girl!"

"Mademoiselle Cicogna, accomplished, beautiful, of good birth (the
Cicogna's rank among the oldest of Lombard families), is not likely to
want offers."

"Offers of marriage,--h'm--well, I dare say, from authors and artists.
You know Paris better even than I do, but I don't suppose authors and
artists there make the most desirable husbands; and I scarcely know a
marriage in France between a man-author and lady-author which does not
end in the deadliest of all animosities--that of wounded amour propre.
Perhaps the man admires his own genius too much to do proper homage to
his wife's."

"But the choice of Mademoiselle Cicogna need not be restricted to the
pale of authorship--doubtless she has many admirers beyond that
quarrelsome borderland."

"Certainly-countless adorers. Enguerrand de Vandemar--you know that
diamond of dandies?"

"Perfectly--is he an admirer?"

"Cela va sans dire--he told me that though she was not the handsomest
woman in Paris, all other women looked less handsome since he had seen
her. But, of course, French lady-killers like Enguerrand, when it comes
to marriage, leave it to their parents to choose their wives and arrange
the terms of the contract. Talking of lady-killers, I beheld amid the
throng at Mademoiselle Cicogna's the ci-devant Lovelace whom I remember
some twenty-three years ago as the darling of wives and the terror of
husbands-Victor de Mauleon."

"Victor de Mauleon at Mademoiselle Cicogna's!--what, is that man restored
to society?"

"Ah! you are thinking of the ugly old story about the jewels--oh, yes, he
has got over that; all his grand relations, the Vandemars, Beauvilliers,
Rochebriant, and others, took him by the hand when he reappeared at Paris
last year; and though I believe he is still avoided by many, he is
courted by still more--and avoided, I fancy, rather from political than
social causes. The Imperialist set, of course, execrate and prescribe
him. You know he is the writer of those biting articles signed Pierre
Firmin in the Sens Commun; and I am told he is the proprietor of that
very clever journal, which has become a power."

"So, so--that is the journal in which Mademoiselle Cicogna's roman first
appeared. So, so--Victor de Mauleon one of her associates, her counsellor
and friend--ah!"

"No, I didn't say that; on the contrary, he was presented to her the
first time the evening I was at the house. I saw that young silk-haired
coxcomb, Gustave Rameau, introduce him to her. You don't perhaps know
Rameau, editor of the Sens Commun--writes poems and criticisms. They say
he is a Red Republican, but De Mauleon keeps truculent French politics
subdued if not suppressed in his cynical journal. Somebody told me that
the Cicogna is very much in love with Rameau; certainly he has a handsome
face of his own, and that is the reason why she was so rude to the
Russian Prince X-----."

"How rude! Did the Prince propose to her?"

"Propose! you forget--he is married. Don't you know the Princess? Still
there are other kinds of proposals than those of marriage which a rich
Russian prince may venture to make to a pretty novelist brought up for
the stage."

"Bevil!" cried Graham, grasping the man's arm fiercely, "how dare you?"

"My dear boy," said Bevil, very much astonished, "I really did not know
that your interest in the young lady was so great. If I have wounded you
in relating a mere on dit picked up at the Jockey Club, I beg you a
thousand pardons. I dare say there was not a word of truth in it."

"Not a word of truth, you may be sure, if the on dit was injurious to
Mademoiselle Cicogna. It is true, I have a strong interest in her; any
man--any gentleman--would have such interest in a girl so brilliant and
seemingly so friendless. It shames one of human nature to think that the
reward which the world makes to those who elevate its platitudes,
brighten its dulness, delight its leisure, is Slander! I have had the
honour to make the acquaintance of this lady before she became a
'celebrity,' and I have never met in my paths through life a purer heart
or a nobler nature. What is the wretched on dit you condescend to
circulate? Permit me to add:

"'He who repeats a slander shares the crime.'"

"Upon my honour, my dear Vane," said Bevil seriously (he did not want for
spirit), "I hardly know you this evening. It is not because duelling is
out of fashion that a man should allow himself to speak in a tone that
gives offence to another who intended none; and if duelling is out of
fashion in England, it is still possible in France.--Entre nous, I would
rather cross the Channel with you than submit to language that conveys
unmerited insult."

Graham's cheek, before ashen pale, flushed into dark red. "I understand
you," he said quietly, "and will be at Boulogne to-morrow."

"Graham Vane," replied Bevil, with much dignity, "you and I have known
each other a great many years, and neither of us has cause to question
the courage of the other; but I am much older than yourself--permit me to
take the melancholy advantage of seniority. A duel between us in
consequence of careless words said about a lady in no way connected with
either, would be a cruel injury to her; a duel on grounds so slight would
little injure me--a man about town, who would not sit an hour in the
House of Commons if you paid him a thousand pounds a minute. But you,
Graham Vane--you whose destiny it is to canvass electors and make
laws--would it not be an injury to you to be questioned at the hustings
why you broke the law, and why you sought another man's life? Come, come!
shake hands and consider all that seconds, if we chose them, would exact,
is said, every affront on either side retracted, every apology on either
side made."

"Bevil, you disarm and conquer me. I spoke like a hotheaded fool; forget
it--forgive. But--but--I can listen calmly now--what is that on dit?"

"One that thoroughly bears out your own very manly upholding of the poor
young orphan, whose name I shall never again mention without such respect
as would satisfy her most sensitive champion. It was said that the Prince
X------ boasted that before a week was out Mademoiselle Cicogna should
appear in his carriage at the Bois de Boulogne, and wear at the opera
diamonds he had sent to her; that this boast was enforced by a wager, and
the terms of the wager compelled the Prince to confess the means he had
taken to succeed, and produce the evidence that he had lost or won.
According to this on dit, the Prince had written to Mademoiselle Cicogna,
and the letter had been accompanied by a parure that cost him half a
million of francs; that the diamonds had been sent back with a few words
of such scorn as a queen might address to an upstart lackey. But, my dear
Vane, it is a mournful position for the girl to receive such offers; and
you must agree with me in wishing she were safely married, even to
Monsieur Rameau, coxcomb though he be. Let us hope that they will be an
exception to French authors, male and female, in general, and live like
turtle-doves."



CHAPTER VII.

A few days after the date of the last chapter, Colonel Morley returned to
Paris. He had dined with Graham at Greenwich, had met him afterwards in
society, and paid him a farewell visit on the day before the Colonel's
departure; but the name of Isaura Cicogna had not again been uttered by
either. Morley was surprised that his wife did not question him minutely
as to the mode in which he had executed her delicate commission, and the
manner as well as words with which Graham had replied to his
"ventilations." But his Lizzy cut him short when he began his recital:

"I don't want to hear anything more about the man. He has thrown away a
prize richer than his ambition will ever gain, even if it gained him a
throne."

"That it can't gain him in the old country. The people are loyal to the
present dynasty, whatever you may be told to the contrary."

"Don't be so horribly literal, Frank; that subject is done with. How was
the Duchess of ------ dressed?"

But when the Colonel had retired to what the French call the cabinet de
traivail--and which he more accurately termed his "smoke den"--and there
indulged in the cigar which, despite his American citizenship, was
forbidden in the drawing-room of the tyrant who ruled his life, Mrs.
Morley took from her desk a letter received three days before, and
brooded over it intently, studying every word. When she had thus
reperused it, her tears fell upon the page. "Poor Isaura!" she
muttered--"poor Isaura! I know she loves him--and how deeply a nature
like hers can love! But I must break it to her. If I did not, she would
remain nursing a vain dream, and refuse every chance of real happiness
for the sake of nursing it." Then she mechanically folded up the
letter--I need not say it was from Graham Vane--restored it to the desk,
and remained musing till the Colonel looked in at the door and said
peremptorily, "Very late--come to bed."

The next day Madame Savarin called on Isaura.

"Chere enfant," said she, "I have bad news for you. Poor Gustave is very
ill--an attack of the lungs and fever; you know how delicate he is."

"I am sincerely grieved," said Isaura, in earnest tender tones; "it must
be a very sudden attack: he was here last Thursday."

"The malady only declared itself yesterday morning, but surely you must
have observed how ill he has been looking for several days past? It
pained me to see him."

"I did not notice any change in him," said Isaura, somewhat
conscience-stricken. Wrapt in her own happy thoughts, she would not have
noticed change in faces yet more familiar to her than that of her young
admirer.

"Isaura," said Madame Savarin, "I suspect there are moral causes for our
friend's failing health. Why should I disguise my meaning? You know well
how madly he is in love with you, and have you denied him hope?"

"I like M. Rameau as a friend; I admire him--at times I pity him."

"Pity is akin to love."

"I doubt the truth of that saying, at all events as you apply it now. I
could not love M. Rameau; I never gave him cause to think I could."

"I wish for both your sakes that you could make me a different answer;
for his sake, because, knowing his faults and failings, I am persuaded
that they would vanish in a companionship so pure, so elevating as yours:
you could make him not only so much happier but so much better a man.
Hush! let me go on, let me come to yourself,--I say for your sake I wish
it. Your pursuits, your ambition, are akin to his; you should not marry
one who could not sympathise with you in these. If you did, he might
either restrict the exercise of your genius or be chafed at its display.
The only authoress I ever knew whose married lot was serenely happy to
the last, was the greatest of English poetesses married to a great
English poet. You cannot, you ought not, to devote yourself to the
splendid career to which your genius irresistibly impels you, without
that counsel, that support, that protection, which a husband alone can
give. My dear child, as the wife myself of a man of letters, and
familiarised to all the gossip, all the scandal, to which they who give
their names to the public are exposed, I declare that if I had a daughter
who inherited Savarin's talents, and was ambitious of attaining to his
renown, I would rather shut her up in a convent than let her publish a
book that was in every one's hands until she had sheltered her name under
that of a husband; and if I say this of my child, with a father so wise
in the world's ways, and so popularly respected as my bon homme, what
must I feel to be essential to your safety, poor stranger in our land!
poor solitary orphan! with no other advice or guardian than the singing
mistress whom you touchingly call 'Madre!' I see how I distress and pain
you--I cannot help it. Listen! The other evening Savarin came back from
his favourite cafe in a state of excitement that made me think he came to
announce a revolution. It was about you; he stormed, he wept--actually
wept--my philosophical laughing Savarin. He had just heard of that
atrocious wager made by a Russian barbarian. Every one praised you for
the contempt with which you had treated the savage's insolence. But that
you should have been submitted to such an insult without one male friend
who had the right to resent and chastise it,--you cannot think how
Savarin was chafed and galled. You know how he admires, but you cannot
guess how he reveres you; and since then he says to me every day: 'That
girl must not remain single. Better marry any man who has a heart to
defend a wife's honour and the nerve to fire a pistol: every Frenchman
has those qualifications!'"

Here Isaura could no longer restrain her emotions; she burst into sobs so
vehement, so convulsive, that Madame Savarin became alarmed; but when she
attempted to embrace and soothe her, Isaura recoiled with a visible
shudder, and gasping out, "Cruel, cruel!" turned to the door, and rushed
to her own room.

A few minutes afterwards a maid entered the salon with a message to
Madame Savarin that Mademoiselle was so unwell that she must beg Madame
to excuse her return to the salon.

Later in the day Mrs. Morley called, but Isaura would not see her.

Meanwhile poor Rameau was stretched on his sick-bed, and in sharp
struggle between life and death. It is difficult to disentangle, one by
one, all the threads in a nature so complex as Rameau's; but if we may
hazard a conjecture, the grief of disappointed love was not the immediate
cause of his illness, and yet it had much to do with it. The goad of
Isaura's refusal had driven him into seeking distraction in excesses
which a stronger frame could not have courted with impunity. The man was
thoroughly Parisian in many things, but especially in impatience of any
trouble. Did love trouble him--love could be drowned in absinthe; and too
much absinthe may be a more immediate cause of congested lungs than the
love which the absinthe had lulled to sleep.

His bedside was not watched by hirelings. When first taken thus ill--too
ill to attend to his editorial duties--information was conveyed to the
publisher of the Sens Commun, and in consequence of that information,
Victor de Mauleon came to see the sick man. By his bed he found Savarin,
who had called, as it were by chance, and seen the doctor, who had said,
"It is grave. He must be well nursed." Savarin whispered to De Mauleon,
"Shall we call in a professional nurse, or a soeur de charite?"

De Mauleon replied, also in a whisper, "Somebody told me that the man had
a mother."

It was true--Savarin had forgotten it. Rameau never mentioned his
parents--he was not proud of them.

They belonged to a lower class of the bourgeoisie, retired shopkeepers,
and a Red Republican is sworn to hate of the bourgeoisie, high or low;
while a beautiful young author pushing his way into the Chaussee d'Antin
does not proclaim to the world that his parents had sold hosiery in the
Rue St. Denis.

Nevertheless Savarin knew that Rameau had such parents still living, and
took the hint. Two hours afterwards Rameau was leaning his burning
forehead on his mother's breast.

The next morning the doctor said to the mother, "You are worth ten of me.
If you can stay here we shall pull him through."

"Stay here!--my own boy!" cried indignantly the poor mother.



CHAPTER VIII.

The day which had inflicted on Isaura so keen an anguish was marked by a
great trial in the life of Alain de Rochebriant.

In the morning he received the notice "of un commandement tendant a
saisie immobiliere," on the part of his creditor, M. Louvier; in plain
English, an announcement that his property at Rochebriant would be put up
to public sale on a certain day, in case all debts due to the mortgagee
were not paid before. An hour afterwards came a note from Duplessis
stating that "he had returned from Bretagne on the previous evening, and
would be very happy to see the Marquis de Rochebriant before two o'clock,
if not inconvenient to call."

Alain put the "commandement" into his pocket, and repaired to the Hotel
Duplessis.

The financier received him with very cordial civility. Then he began: "I
am happy to say I left your excellent aunt in very good health. She
honoured the letter of introduction to her which I owe to your politeness
with the most amiable hospitalities; she insisted on my removing from the
auberge at which I first put up and becoming a guest under your venerable
roof-tree--a most agreeable lady, and a most interesting chateau."

"I fear your accommodation was in striking contrast to your comforts at
Paris; my chateau is only interesting to an antiquarian enamoured of
ruins."

"Pardon me, 'ruins' is an exaggerated expression. I do not say that the
chateau does not want some repairs, but they would not be costly; the
outer walls are strong enough to defy time for centuries to come, and a
few internal decorations and some modern additions of furniture would
make the old manoir a home fit for a prince. I have been over the whole
estate, too, with the worthy M. Hebert,--a superb property."

"Which M. Louvier appears to appreciate," said Alain, with a somewhat
melancholy smile, extending to Duplessis the menacing notice.

Duplessis glanced at it, and said drily: "M. Louvier knows what he is
about. But I think we had better put an immediate stop to formalities
which must be painful to a creditor so benevolent. I do not presume to
offer to pay the interest due on the security you can give for the
repayment. If you refused that offer from so old a friend as Lemercier,
of course you could not accept it from me. I make another proposal, to
which you can scarcely object. I do not like to give my scheming rival on
the Bourse the triumph of so profoundly planned a speculation. Aid me to
defeat him. Let me take the mortgage on myself, and become sole
mortgagee--hush!--on this condition,--that there should be an entire
union of interests between us two; that I should be at liberty to make
the improvements I desire, and when the improvements be made, there
should be a fair arrangement as to the proportion of profits due to me as
mortgagee and improver, to you as original owner. Attend, my dear
Marquis,--I am speaking as a mere man of business. I see my way to adding
more than a third, I might even say a half--to the present revenues of
Rochbriant. The woods have been sadly neglected, drainage alone would add
greatly to their produce. Your orchards might be rendered magnificent
supplies to Paris with better cultivation. Lastly, I would devote to
building purposes or to market gardens all the lands round the two towns
of ------ and ---------. I think I can lay my hands on suitable
speculators for these last experiments. In a word, though the market
value of Rochebriant, as it now stands, would not be equivalent to the
debt on it, in five or six years it could be made worth--well, I will not
say how much--but we shall be both well satisfied with the result.
Meanwhile, if you allow me to find purchasers for your timber, and if you
will not suffer the Chevalier de Finisterre to regulate your expenses,
you need have no fear that the interest due to me will not be regularly
paid, even though I shall be compelled, for the first year or two at
least, to ask a higher rate of interest than Louvier exacted--say a
quarter per cent. more; and in suggesting that, you will comprehend that
this is now a matter of business between us, and not of friendship."

Alain turned his head aside to conceal his emotion, and then, with the
quick affectionate impulse of the genuine French nature, threw himself on
the financier's breast and kissed him on both cheeks.

"You save me! you save the home and the tombs of my ancestors! Thank you
I cannot; but I believe in God--I pray--I will pray for you as for a
father; and if ever," he hurried on in broken words, "I am mean enough to
squander on idle luxuries one franc that I should save for the debt due
to you, chide me as a father would chide a graceless son."

Moved as Alain was, Duplessis was moved yet more deeply. "What father
would not be proud of such a son? Ah, if I had such a one!" he said
softly. Then, quickly recovering his wonted composure, he added, with the
sardonic smile which often chilled his friends and alarmed his foes,
"Monsieur Louvier is about to pass that which I ventured to promise him,
a 'mauvais quart-d'heure.' Lend me that commandement tendant a saisie. I
must be off to my avoue with instructions. If you have no better
engagement, pray dine with me to-day and accompany Valerie and myself to
the opera."

I need not say that Alain accepted the invitation. How happy Valerie was
that evening!



CHAPTER IX.

The next day Duplessis was surprised by a visit from M. Louvier--that
magnate of millionaires had never before set foot in the house of his
younger and less famous rival.

The burly man entered the room with a face much flushed, and with more
than his usual mixture of jovial brusquerie and opulent swagger.

"Startled to see me, I dare say," began Louvier, as soon as the door was
closed. "I have this morning received a communication from your agent
containing a cheque for the interest due to me from M. Rochebriant, and a
formal notice of your intention to pay off the principal on behalf of
that popinjay prodigal. Though we two have not hitherto been the best
friends in the world, I thought it fair to a man in your station to come
to you direct and say, 'Cher confrere, what swindler has bubbled you? You
don't know the real condition of this Breton property, or you would never
so throw away your millions. The property is not worth the mortgage I
have on it by 30,000 louis."

"Then, M. Louvier, you will be 30,000 louis the richer if I take the
mortgage off your hands."

"I can afford the loss--no offence--better than you can; and I may have
fancies which I don't mind paying for, but which cannot influence
another. See, I have brought with me the exact schedule of all details
respecting this property. You need not question their accuracy; they have
been arranged by the Marquis's own agents, M. Gandrin and M. Hebert. They
contain, you will perceive, every possible item of revenue, down to an
apple-tree. Now, look at that, and tell me if you are justified in
lending such a sum on such a property."

"Thank you very much for an interest in my affairs that I scarcely
ventured to expect M. Louvier to entertain; but I see that I have a
duplicate of this paper, furnished to me very honestly by M. Hebert
himself. Besides, I, too, have fancies which I don't mind paying for, and
among them may be a fancy for the lands of Rochebriant."

"Look you, Duplessis, when a man like me asks a favour, you may be sure
that he has the power to repay it. Let me have my whim here, and ask
anything you like from me in return!"

"Desole not to oblige you, but this has become not only a whim of mine,
but a matter of honour; and honour you know, my dear M. Louvier, is the
first principle of sound finance. I have myself, after careful inspection
of the Rochebriant property, volunteered to its owner to advance the
money to pay off your hypotheque; and what would be said on the Bourse if
Lucien Duplessis failed in an obligation?"

"I think I can guess what will one day be said of Lucien Duplessis if he
make an irrevocable enemy of Paul Louvier. Corbleu! mon cher, a man of
thrice your capital, who watched every speculation of yours with a
hostile eye, might some beau jour make even you a bankrupt!"

"Forewarned, forearmed!" replied Duplessis, imperturbably, "Fas est ab
hoste doceri,--I mean, 'It is right to be taught by an enemy;' and I
never remember the day when you were otherwise, and yet I am not a
bankrupt, though I receive you in a house which, thanks to you, is so
modest in point of size!"

"Bah! that was a mistake of mine,--and, ha! ha! you had your revenge
there--that forest!"

"Well, as a peace offering, I will give you up the forest, and content my
ambition as a landed proprietor with this bad speculation of
Rochebriant!"

"Confound the forest, I don't care for it now! I can sell my place for
more than it has cost me to one of your imperial favourites. Build a
palace in your forest. Let me have Rochebriant, and name your terms."

"A thousand pardons! but I have already had the honour to inform you,
that I have contracted an obligation which does not allow me to listen to
terms."

As a serpent, that, after all crawlings and windings, rears itself on
end, Louvier rose, crest erect:

"So then it is finished. I came here disposed to offer peace--you refuse,
and declare war."

"Not at all, I do not declare war; I accept it if forced on me."

"Is that your last word, M. Duplessis?"

"Monsieur Louvier, it is."

"Bon jour!"

And Louvier strode to the door; here he paused: "Take a day to consider."

"Not a moment."

"Your servant, Monsieur,--your very humble servant." Louvier vanished.

Duplessis leaned his large thoughtful forehead on his thin nervous hand.
"This loan will pinch me," he muttered. "I must be very wary now with
such a foe. Well, why should I care to be rich? Valerie's dot, Valerie's
happiness, are secured."



CHAPTER X.

Madame Savarin wrote a very kind and very apologetic letter to Isaura,
but no answer was returned to it. Madame Savarin did not venture to
communicate to her husband the substance of a conversation which had
ended so painfully. He had, in theory, a delicacy of tact, which, if he
did not always exhibit it in practice, made him a very severe critic of
its deficiency in others. Therefore, unconscious of the offence given, he
made a point of calling at Isaura's apartments, and leaving word with her
servant that "he was sure she would be pleased to hear M. Rameau was
somewhat better, though still in danger."

It was not till the third day after her interview with Madame Savarin
that Isaura left her own room,--she did so to receive Mrs. Morley.

The fair American was shocked to see the change in Isaura's countenance.
She was very pale, and with that indescribable appearance of exhaustion
which betrays continued want of sleep; her soft eyes were dim, the play
of her lips was gone, her light step weary and languid.

"My poor darling!" cried Mrs. Morley, embracing her, "you have indeed
been ill! What is the matter?--who attends you?"

"I need no physician, it was but a passing cold--the air of Paris is very
trying. Never mind me, dear--what is the last news?"

Therewith Mrs. Morley ran glibly through the principal topics of the
hour: the breach threatened between M. Ollivier and his former liberal
partisans; the tone unexpectedly taken by M. de Girardin; the
speculations as to the result of the trial of the alleged conspirators
against the Emperor's life, which was fixed to take place towards the end
of that month of June,--all matters of no slight importance to the
interests of an empire. Sunk deep into the recesses of her fauteuil,
Isaura seemed to listen quietly, till, when a pause came, she said in
cold clear tones:

"And Mr. Graham Vane--he has refused your invitation?"

"I am sorry to say he has--he is so engaged in London."

"I knew he had refused," said Isaura, with a low bitter laugh.

"How? who told you?"

"My own good sense told me. One may have good sense, though one is a poor
scribbler."

"Don't talk in that way; it is beneath you to angle for compliments."

"Compliments, ah! And so Mr. Vane has refused to come to Paris; never
mind, he will come next year. I shall not be in Paris then. Did Colonel
Morley see Mr. Vane?"

"Oh, yes; two or three times."

"He is well?"

"Quite well, I believe--at least Frank did not say to the contrary; but,
from what I hear, he is not the person I took him for. Many people told
Frank that he is much changed since he came into his fortune--is grown
very stingy, quite miserly indeed; declines even a seat in Parliament
because of the expense. It is astonishing how money does spoil a man."

"He had come into his fortune when he was here. Money had not spoiled him
then."

Isaura paused, pressing her hands tightly together; then she suddenly
rose to her feet, the colour on her cheek mantling and receding rapidly,
and fixing on her startled visitor eyes no longer dim, but with something
half fierce, half imploring in the passion of their gaze, said: "Your
husband spoke of me to Mr. Vane: I know he did. What did Mr. Vane answer?
Do not evade my question. The truth! the truth! I only ask the truth!"

"Give me your hand; sit here beside me, dearest child."

"Child!--no, I am a woman!--weak as a woman, but strong as a woman
too!--The truth!"

Mrs. Morley had come prepared to carry out the resolution she had formed
and "break" to Isaura "the truth," that which the girl now demanded. But
then she had meant to break the truth in her own gentle, gradual way.
Thus suddenly called upon, her courage failed her. She burst into tears.
Isaura gazed at her dry-eyed.

"Your tears answer me. Mr. Vane has heard that I have been insulted. A
man like him does not stoop to love for a woman who has known an insult.
I do not blame him; I honour him the more--he is right."

"No-no-no!--you insulted! Who dared to insult you? (Mrs. Morley had never
heard the story about the Russian Prince.) Mr. Vane spoke to Frank, and
writes of you to me as of one whom it is impossible not to admire, to
respect; but--I cannot say it--you will have the truth,--there, read and
judge for yourself." And Mrs. Morley drew forth and thrust into Isaura's
hands the letter she had concealed from her husband. The letter was not
very long; it began with expressions of warm gratitude to Mrs. Morley,
not for her invitation only, but for the interest she had conceived in
his happiness. It went on thus "I join with my whole heart in all that
you say, with such eloquent justice, of the mental and personal gifts so
bounteously lavished by nature on the young lady whom you name.

"No one can feel more sensible than I of the charm of so exquisite a
loveliness; no one can more sincerely join in the belief that the praise
which greets the commencement of her career is but the whisper of the
praise that will cheer its progress with louder and louder plaudits.

"He only would be worthy of her hand, who, if not equal to herself in
genius, would feel raised into partnership with it by sympathy with its
objects and joy in its triumphs. For myself, the same pain with which I
should have learned she had adopted the profession which she originally
contemplated, saddened and stung me when, choosing a career that confers
a renown yet more lasting than the stage, she no less left behind her the
peaceful immunities of private life. Were I even free to consult only my
own heart in the choice of the one sole partner of my destinies (which I
cannot at present honestly say that I am, though I had expected to be so
ere this, when I last saw you at Paris); could I even hope--which I have
no right to do--that I could chain to myself any private portion of
thoughts which now flow into the large channels by which poets enrich the
blood of the world,--still (I say it in self-reproach, it may be the
fault of my English rearing, it may rather be the fault of an egotism
peculiar to myself)--still I doubt if I could render happy any woman
whose world could not be narrowed to the Home that she adorned and
blessed.

"And yet not even the jealous tyranny of man's love could dare to say to
natures like hers of whom we speak, 'Limit to the household glory of one
the light which genius has placed in its firmament for the use and
enjoyment of all.'"

"I thank you so much," said Isaura, calmly; "suspense makes a woman so
weak--certainty so strong." Mechanically she smoothed and refolded the
letter--mechanically, with slow, lingering hands--then she extended it to
her friend, smiling.

"Nay, will you not keep it yourself?" said Mrs. Morley. "The more you
examine the narrow-minded prejudices, the English arrogant man's jealous
dread of superiority--nay, of equality--in the woman he 'can only value
as he does his house or his horse, because she is his exclusive property,
the more you will be rejoiced to find yourself free for a more worthy
choice. Keep the letter; read it till you feel for the writer forgiveness
and disdain."

Isaura took back the letter, and leaned her cheek on her hand, looking
dreamily into space. It was some moments before she replied, and her
words then had no reference to Mrs. Morley's consolatory exhortation.

"He was so pleased when he learned that I renounced the career on which I
had set my ambition. I thought he would have been so pleased when I
sought in another career to raise myself nearer to his level--I see now
how sadly I was mistaken. All that perplexed me before in him is
explained. I did not guess how foolishly I had deceived myself till three
days ago,--then I did guess it; and it was that guess which tortured me
so terribly that I could not keep my heart to myself when I saw you
to-day; in spite of all womanly pride it would force its way--to the
truth.

"Hush! I must tell you what was said to me by another friend of mine--a
good friend, a wise and kind one. Yet I was so angry when she said it
that I thought I could never see her more."

"My sweet darling! who was this friend, and what did she say to you?"

"The friend was Madame Savarin."

"No woman loves you more except myself--and she said?"

"That she would have suffered no daughter of hers to commit her name to
the talk of the world as I have done--be exposed to the risk of insult as
I have been--until she had the shelter and protection denied to me. And I
have thus overleaped the bound that a prudent mother would prescribe to
her child, have become one whose hand men do not seek, unless they
themselves take the same roads to notoriety. Do you not think she was
right?"

"Not as you so morbidly put it, silly girl,--certainly not right. But I
do wish that you had the shelter and protection which Madame Savarin
meant to express; I do wish that you were happily married to one very
different from Mr. Vane--one who would be more proud of your genius than
of your beauty--one who would say, 'My name, safer far in its enduring
nobility than those that depend on titles and lands--which are held on
the tenure of the popular breath--must be honoured by posterity, for She
has deigned to make it hers. No democratic revolution can disennoble me."

"Ay, ay, you believe that men will be found to think with complacency
that they owe to a wife a name they could not achieve for themselves.
Possibly there are such men. Where?--among those that are already united
by sympathies in the same callings, the same labours, the same hopes and
fears with the women who have left behind them the privacies of home.
Madame de Grantmesnil was wrong. Artists should wed with artists.
True--true!"

Here she passed her hand over her forehead--it was a pretty way of hers
when seeking to concentrate thought--and was silent a moment or so.

"Did you ever feel," she then asked dreamily, "that there are moments in
life when a dark curtain seems to fall over one's past that a day before
was so clear, so blended with the present? One cannot any longer look
behind; the gaze is attracted onward, and a track of fire flashes upon
the future,--the future which yesterday was invisible. There is a line by
some English poet--Mr. Vane once quoted it, not to me, but to M. Savarin,
and in illustration of his argument, that the most complicated recesses
of thought are best reached by the simplest forms of expression. I said
to myself, 'I will study that truth if ever I take to literature as I
have taken to song;' and--yes--it was that evening that the ambition
fatal to woman fixed on me its relentless fangs--at Enghien--we were on
the lake--the sun was setting."

"But you do not tell me the line that so impressed you," said Mrs.
Morley, with a woman's kindly tact.

"The line--which line? Oh, I remember; the line was this:

"'I see as from a tower the end of all."

"And now--kiss me, dearest--never a word again to me about this
conversation: never a word about Mr. Vane--the dark curtain has fallen on
the past."



CHAPTER XI.

Men and women are much more like each other in certain large elements of
character than is generally supposed, but it is that very resemblance
which makes their differences the more incomprehensible to each other;
just as in politics, theology, or that most disputatious of all things
disputable, metaphysics, the nearer the reasoners approach each other in
points that to an uncritical bystander seem the most important, the more
sure they are to start off in opposite directions upon reaching the speck
of a pin-prick.

Now there are certain grand meeting-places between man and woman--the
grandest of all is on the ground of love, and yet here also is the great
field of quarrel. And here the teller of a tale such as mine ought, if he
is sufficiently wise to be humble, to know that it is almost profanation
if, as man, he presumes to enter the penetralia of a woman's innermost
heart, and repeat, as a man would repeat, all the vibrations of sound
which the heart of a woman sends forth undistinguishable even to her own
ear.

I know Isaura as intimately as if I had rocked her in her cradle, played
with her in her childhood, educated and trained her in her youth; and yet
I can no more tell you faithfully what passed in her mind during the
forty-eight hours that intervened between her conversation with that
American lady and her reappearance in some commonplace drawing-room, than
I can tell you what the Man in the Moon might feel if the sun that his
world reflected were blotted out of creation.

I can only say that when she reappeared in that commonplace drawing-room
world, there was a change in her face not very perceptible to the
ordinary observer. If anything, to his eye she was handsomer--the eye was
brighter--the complexion (always lustrous, though somewhat pale, the
limpid paleness that suits so well with dark hair) was yet more
lustrous,--it was flushed into delicate rose hues--hues that still better
suit with dark hair. What, then, was the change, and change not for the
better? The lips, once so pensively sweet, had grown hard; on the brow
that had seemed to laugh when the lips did, there was no longer sympathy
between brow and lip; there was scarcely seen a fine threadlike line that
in a few years would be a furrow on the space between the eyes; the voice
was not so tenderly soft; the step was haughtier. What all such change
denoted it is for a woman to decide-I can only guess. In the mean while,
Mademoiselle Cicogna had sent her servant daily to inquire after M.
Rameau. That, I think, she would have done under any circumstances.
Meanwhile, too, she had called on Madame Savarin--made it up with
her--sealed the reconciliation by a cold kiss. That, too, under any
circumstances, I think she would have done--under some circumstances the
kiss might have been less cold.

There was one thing unwonted in her habits. I mention it, though it is
only a woman who can say if it means anything worth noticing.

For six days she had left a letter from Madame de Grantmesnil unanswered.
With Madame de Grantmesnil was connected the whole of her innermost
life--from the day when the lonely desolate child had seen, beyond
the dusty thoroughfares of life, gleams of the faery land in
poetry and art-onward through her restless, dreamy, aspiring
youth-onward--onward--till now, through all that constitutes the glorious
reality that we call romance.

Never before had she left for two days unanswered letters which were to
her as Sibylline leaves to some unquiet neophyte yearning for solutions
to enigmas suggested whether by the world without or by the soul within.
For six days Madame de Grantmesnil's letter remained unanswered, unread,
neglected, thrust out of sight; just as when some imperious necessity
compels us to grapple with a world that is, we cast aside the romance
which, in our holiday hours, had beguiled us to a world with which we
have interests and sympathies no more.



CHAPTER XII.

Gustave recovered, but slowly. The physician pronounced him out of all
immediate danger, but said frankly to him, and somewhat more guardedly to
his parents, "There is ample cause to beware." "Look you, my young
friend," he added to Rameau, "mere brain-work seldom kills a man once
accustomed to it like you; but heart-work, and stomach-work, and
nerve-work, added to brain-work, may soon consign to the coffin a frame
ten times more robust than yours. Write as much as you will--that is your
vocation; but it is not your vocation to drink absinthe--to preside at
orgies in the Maison Doree. Regulate yourself, and not after the fashion
of the fabulous Don Juan. Marry--live soberly and quietly--and you may
survive the grandchildren of viveurs. Go on as you have done, and before
the year is out you are in Pere la Chaise."

Rameau listened languidly, but with a profound conviction that the
physician thoroughly understood his case.

Lying helpless on his bed, he had no desire for orgies at the Maison
Doree; with parched lips thirsty for innocent tisane of lime-blossoms,
the thought of absinthe was as odious to him as the liquid fire of
Phlegethon. If ever sinner became suddenly convinced that there was a
good deal to be said in favour of a moral life, that sinner at the moment
I speak of was Gustave Rameau: Certainly a moral life--'Domus et placens
uxor',--was essential to the poet who, aspiring to immortal glory, was
condemned to the ailments of a very perishable frame.

"Ah," he murmured plaintively to himself, "that girl Isaura can have no
true sympathy with genius! It is no ordinary man that she will kill in
me!"

And so murmuring he fell asleep. When he woke and found his head pillowed
on his mother's breast, it was much as a sensitive, delicate man may wake
after having drunk too much the night before. Repentant, mournful,
maudlin, he began to weep, and in the course of his weeping he confided
to his mother the secret of his heart.

Isaura had refused him--that refusal had made him desperate.

"Ah! with Isaura how changed would be his habits! how pure! how
healthful!" His mother listened fondly, and did her best to comfort him
and cheer his drooping spirits.

She told him of Isaura's messages of inquiry duly twice a day. Rameau,
who knew more about women in general, and Isaura in particular, than his
mother conjectured, shook his head mournfully. "She could not do less,"
he said. "Has no one offered to do more?"--he thought of Julie when he
asked that--Madame Rameau hesitated.

The poor Parisians! it is the mode to preach against them; and before my
book closes, I shall have to preach--no, not to preach, but to
imply--plenty of faults to consider and amend. Meanwhile I try my best to
take them, as the philosophy of life tells us to take other people, for
what they are.

I do not think the domestic relations of the Parisian bourgeoisie are as
bad as they are said to be in French novels. Madame Rameau is not an
uncommon type of her class. She had been when she first married
singularly handsome. It was from her that Gustave inherited his beauty;
and her husband was a very ordinary type of the French shopkeeper--very
plain, by no means intellectual, but gay, good-humoured, devotedly
attached to his wife, and with implicit trust in her conjugal virtue.
Never was trust better placed. There was not a happier nor a more
faithful couple in the quartier in which they resided. Madame Rameau
hesitated when her boy, thinking of Julie, asked if no one had done more
than send to inquire after him as Isaura had done.

After that hesitating pause she said, "Yes--a young lady calling herself
Mademoiselle Julie Caumartin wished to instal herself here as your nurse.
When I said, 'But I am his mother--he needs no other nurses,' she would
have retreated, and looked ashamed--poor thing! I don't blame her if she
loved my son. But, my son, I say this,--if you love her, don't talk to me
about that Mademoiselle Cicogna; and if you love Mademoiselle Cicogna,
why, then your father will take care that the poor girl who loved you not
knowing that you loved another is not left to the temptation of penury."

Rameau's pale lips withered into a phantom-like sneer! Julie! the
resplendent Julie!--true, only a ballet-dancer, but whose equipage in the
Bois had once been the envy of duchesses--Julie! who had sacrificed
fortune for his sake--who, freed from him, could have millionaires again
at her feet!--Julie! to be saved from penury, as a shopkeeper would save
an erring nursemaid--Julie! the irrepressible Julie! who had written to
him, the day before his illness, in a pen dipped, not in ink, but in
blood from a vein she had opened in her arm:

   "Traitor!--I have not seen thee for three days. Dost thou dare to
   love another? If so, I care not how thou attempt to conceal it--woe
   to her! Ingrat! woe to thee! Love is not love, unless, when
   betrayed by Love, it appeals to death. Answer me quick--quick.
   JULIE."

Poor Gustave thought of that letter and groaned. Certainly his mother was
right--he ought to get rid of Julie; but he did not clearly see how Julie
was to be got rid of. He replied to Madame Rameau peevishly, "Don't
trouble your head about Mademoiselle Caumartin; she is in no want of
money. Of course, if I could hope for Isaura--but, alas! I dare not hope.
Give me my tisane."

When the doctor called next day, he looked grave, and, drawing Madame
Rameau into the next room, he said, "We are not getting on so well as I
had hoped; the fever is gone, but there is much to apprehend from the
debility left behind. His spirits are sadly depressed." Then added the
doctor, pleasantly, and with that wonderful insight into our complex
humanity in which physicians excel poets, and in which Parisian
physicians are not excelled by any physicians in the world: "Can't you
think of any bit of good news--that 'M. Thiers raves about your son's
last poem! that 'it is a question among the Academicians between him and
Jules Janin'--or that 'the beautiful Duchesse de ------- has been placed
in a lunatic asylum because she has gone mad for love of a certain young
Red Republican whose name begins with R.'--can't you think of any bit of
similar good news? If you can, it will be a tonic to the relaxed state of
your dear boy's amour propre, compared to which all the drugs in the
Pharmacopoeia are moonshine and water; and meanwhile be sure to remove
him to your own house, and out of the reach of his giddy young friends,
as soon as you possibly can."

When that great authority thus left his patient's case in the hands of
the mother, she said, "The boy shall be saved."



CHAPTER XIII.

Isaura was seated beside the Venosta,--to whom, of late, she seemed to
cling with greater fondness than ever,--working at some piece of
embroidery--a labour from which she had been estranged for years; but now
she had taken writing, reading, music, into passionate disgust. Isaura
was thus seated, silently intent upon her work, and the Venosta in full
talk, when the servant announced Madame Rameau.

The name startled both; the Venosta had never heard that the poet had a
mother living, and immediately jumped to the conclusion that Madame
Rameau must be a wife he had hitherto kept unrevealed. And when a woman,
still very handsome, with a countenance grave and sad, entered the salon,
the Venosta murmured, "The husband's perfidy reveals itself on a wife's
face," and took out her handkerchief in preparation for sympathising
tears.

"Mademoiselle," said the visitor, halting, with eyes fixed on Isaura.
"Pardon my intrusion-my son has the honour to be known to you. Every one
who knows him must share in my sorrow--so young--so promising, and in
such danger--my poor boy!" Madame Rameau stopped abruptly. Her tears
forced their way--she turned aside to conceal them.

In her twofold condition of being--womanhood and genius--Isaura was too
largely endowed with that quickness of sympathy which distinguishes woman
from man, and genius from talent, not to be wondrously susceptible to
pity.

Already she had wound her arm round the grieving mother--already drawn
her to the seat from which she herself had risen--and bending over her
had said some words--true, conventional enough in themselves,--but cooed
forth in a voice the softest I ever expect to hear, save in dreams, on
this side of the grave.

Madame Rameau swept her hand over her eyes, glanced round the room, and
noticing the Venosta in dressing-robe and slippers, staring with those
Italian eyes, in seeming so quietly innocent, in reality so searchingly
shrewd, she whispered pleadingly, "May I speak to you a few minutes
alone?" This was not a request that Isaura could refuse, though she was
embarrassed and troubled by the surmise of Madame Rameau's object in
asking it; accordingly she led her visitor into the adjoining room, and
making an apologetic sign to the Venosta, closed the door.



CHAPTER XIV.

When they were alone, Madame Rameau took Isaura's hand in both her own,
and, gazing wistfully into her face, said, "No wonder you are so
loved--yours is the beauty that sinks into the hearts and rests there. I
prize my boy more, now that I have seen you. But, oh, Mademoiselle!
pardon me--do not withdraw your hand--pardon the mother who comes from
the sick-bed of her only son and asks if you will assist to save him! A
word from you is life or death to him!"

"Nay, nay, do not speak thus, Madame; your son knows how much I value,
how sincerely I return, his friendship; but--but," she paused a moment,
and continued sadly and with tearful eyes--"I have no heart to give to
him-to any one."

"I do not--I would not if I dared--ask what it would be violence to
yourself to promise. I do not ask you to bid me return to my son and say,
'Hope and recover,' but let me take some healing message from your lips.
If I understand your words rightly, I at least may say that you do not
give to another the hopes you, deny to him?"

"So far you understand me rightly, Madame. It has been said, that
romance-writers give away so much of their hearts to heroes or heroines
of their own creation, that they leave nothing worth the giving to human
beings like themselves. Perhaps it is so; yet, Madame," added Isaura,
with a smile of exquisite sweetness in its melancholy, "I have heart
enough left to feel for you."

Madame Rameau was touched. "Ah, Mademoiselle, I do not believe in the
saying you have quoted. But I must not abuse your goodness by pressing
further upon you subjects from which you shrink. Only one word more: you
know that my husband and I are but quiet tradesfolks, not in the society,
nor aspiring to it, to which my son's talents have raised himself; yet
dare I ask that you will not close here the acquaintance that I have
obtruded on you?--dare I ask, that I may, now and then, call on you--that
now and then I may see you at my own home? Believe that I would not here
ask anything which your own mother would disapprove if she overlooked
disparities of station. Humble as our home is, slander never passed its
threshold."

"Ah, Madame, I and the Signora Venosta, whom in our Italian tongue I call
mother, can but feel honoured and grateful whenever it pleases you to
receive visits from us."

"It would be a base return for such gracious compliance with my request
if I concealed from you the reason why I pray Heaven to bless you for
that answer. The physician says that it may be long before my son is
sufficiently convalescent to dispense with a mother's care, and resume
his former life and occupation in the great world. It is everything for
us if we can coax him into coming under our own roof-tree. This is
difficult to do. It is natural for a young man launched into the world to
like his own chez lui. Then what will happen to Gustave? He, lonely and
heart-stricken, will ask friends, young as himself, but far stronger, to
come and cheer him; or he will seek to distract his thoughts by the
overwork of his brain; in either case he is doomed. But I have stronger
motives yet to fix him a while at our hearth. This is just the moment,
once lost never to be regained, when soothing companionship, gentle
reproachless advice, can fix him lastingly in the habits and modes of
life which will banish all fears of his future from the hearts of his
parents. You at least honour him with friendship, with kindly
interest--you at least would desire to wean him from all that a friend
may disapprove or lament--a creature whom Providence meant to be good,
and perhaps great. If I say to him, 'It will be long before you can go
out and see your friends, but at my house your friends shall come and see
you--among them Signora Venosta and Mademoiselle Cicogna will now and
then drop in'--my victory is gained, and my son is saved."

"Madame," said Isaura, half sobbing, "what a blessing to have a mother
like you! Love so noble ennobles those who hear its voice. Tell your son
how ardently I wish him to be well, and to fulfil more than the promise
of his genius; tell him also this--how I envy him his mother."



CHAPTER XV.

It needs no length of words to inform thee, my intelligent reader, be
thou man or woman--but more especially woman--of the consequences
following each other, as wave follows wave in a tide, that resulted from
the interview with which my last chapter closed. Gustave is removed to
his parents' house; he remains for weeks confined within doors, or, on
sunny days, takes an hour or so in his own carriage, drawn by the horse
bought from Rochebriant, into by-roads remote from the fashionable world;
Isaura visits his mother, liking, respecting, influenced by her more and
more; in those visits she sits beside the sofa on which Rameau reclines.
Gradually, gently--more and more by his mother's lips--is impressed on
her the belief that it is in her power to save a human life, and to
animate its career towards those goals which are never based wholly upon
earth in the earnest eyes of genius, or perhaps in the yet more upward
vision of pure-souled believing woman.

And Gustave himself, as he passes through the slow stages of
convalescence, seems so gratefully to ascribe to her every step in his
progress--seems so gently softened in character--seems so refined from
the old affectations, so ennobled above the old cynicism--and, above all,
so needing her presence, so sunless without it, that--well, need I finish
the sentence?--the reader will complete what I leave unsaid.

Enough, that one day Isaura returned home from a visit at Madame Rameau's
with the knowledge that her hand was pledged--her future life disposed
of; and that, escaping from the Venosta, whom she so fondly, and in her
hunger for a mother's love, called Madre, the girl shut herself up in her
own room with locked doors.

Ah, poor child! ah, sweet-voiced Isaura! whose delicate image I feel
myself too rude and too hard to transfer to this page in the purity of
its outlines, and the blended softnesses of its hues--thou who, when
saying things serious in the words men use, saidst them with a
seriousness so charming, and with looks so feminine--thou, of whom no man
I ever knew was quite worthy--ah, poor, simple, miserable girl, as I see
thee now in the solitude of that white-curtained virginal room; hast
thou, then, merged at last thy peculiar star into the cluster of all
these commonplace girls whose lips have said "Ay," when their hearts said
"No"?--thou, O brilliant Isaura! thou, O motherless child!

She had sunk into her chair--her own favourite chair, the covering of it
had been embroidered by Madame de Grantmesnil, and bestowed on her as a
birthday present last year--the year in which she had first learned what
it is to love--the year in which she had first learned what it is to
strive for fame. And somehow uniting, as many young people do, love and
fame in dreams of the future, that silken seat had been to her as the
Tripod of Delphi was to the Pythian: she had taken to it, as it were
intuitively, in all those hours, whether of joy or sorrow, when youth
seeks to prophesy, and does but dream.

There she sat now, in a sort of stupor--a sort of dreary
bewilderment--the illusion of the Pythian gone--desire of dream and of
prophecy alike extinct--pressing her hands together, and muttering to
herself, "What has happened?--what have I done?"

Three hours later you would not have recognised the same face that you
see now. For then the bravery, the honour, the loyalty of the girl's
nature had asserted their command. Her promise had been given to one
man--it could not be recalled. Thought itself of any other man must be
banished. On her hearth lay ashes and tinder--the last remains of every
treasured note from Graham Vane; of the hoarded newspaper extracts that
contained his name; of the dry treatise he had published, and which had
made the lovely romance-writer first desire "to know something about
politics." Ay, if the treatise had been upon fox-hunting, she would have
desired "to know something about" that! Above all, yet distinguishable
from the rest--as the sparks still upon stem and leaf here and there
faintly glowed and twinkled--the withered flowers which recorded that
happy hour in the arbour, and the walks of the forsaken garden--the hour
in which she had so blissfully pledged herself to renounce that career in
art wherein fame would have been secured, but which would not have united
Fame with Love--in dreams evermore over now.



                 BOOK X.



CHAPTER I.

Graham Vane had heard nothing for months from M. Renard, when one morning
he received the letter I translate:

"MONSIEUR,--I am happy to inform you that I have at last obtained one
piece of information which may lead to a more important discovery. When
we parted after our fruitless research in Vienna, we had both concurred
in the persuasion that, for some reason known only to the two ladies
themselves, Madame Marigny and Madame Duval had exchanged names--that it
was Madame Marigny who had deceased in the name of Madame Duval, and
Madame Duval who had survived in that of Marigny.

"It was clear to me that the beau Monsieur who had visited the false
Duval must have been cognisant of this exchange of name, and that, if his
name and whereabouts could be ascertained, he, in all probability, would
know what had become of the lady who is the object of our research; and
after the lapse of so many years he would probably have very slight
motive to preserve the concealment of facts which might, no doubt, have
been convenient at the time. The lover of the soi-disant Mademoiselle
Duval was by such accounts as we could gain a man of some rank--very
possibly a married man; and the liaison, in short, was one of those
which, while they last, necessitate precautions and secrecy.

"Therefore, dismissing all attempts at further trace of the missing lady,
I resolved to return to Vienna as soon as the business that recalled me
to Paris was concluded, and devote myself exclusively to the search after
the amorous and mysterious Monsieur.

"I did not state this determination to you, because, possibly, I might be
in error--or, if not in error, at least too sanguine in my
expectations--and it is best to avoid disappointing an honourable client.

"One thing was clear, that, at the time of the soi-disant Duval's
decease, the beau Monsieur was at Vienna.

"It appeared also tolerably clear that when the lady friend of the
deceased quitted Munich so privately, it was to Vienna she repaired, and
from Vienna comes the letter demanding the certificates of Madame Duval's
death. Pardon me, if I remind you of all these circumstances no doubt
fresh in your recollection. I repeat them in order to justify the
conclusions to which they led me.

"I could not, however, get permission to absent myself from Paris for the
time I might require till the end of last April. I had meanwhile sought
all private means of ascertaining what Frenchmen of rank and station were
in that capital in the autumn of 1849. Among the list of the very few
such Messieurs I fixed upon one as the most likely to be the mysterious
Achille--Achille was, indeed, his nom de bapteme.

"A man of intrigue--a bonnes fortunes--of lavish expenditure withal; very
tenacious of his dignity, and avoiding any petty scandals by which it
might be lowered; just the man who, in some passing affair of gallantry
with a lady of doubtful repute, would never have signed his titular
designation to a letter, and would have kept himself as much incognito as
he could. But this man was dead--had been dead some years. He had not
died at Vienna--never visited that capital for some years before his
death. He was then, and had long been, the ami de la maison of one of
those grandes dames of whose intimacy grands seigneurs are not ashamed.
They parade there the bonnes fortunes they conceal elsewhere. Monsieur
and the grande dame were at Baden when the former died. Now, Monsieur, a
Don Juan of that stamp is pretty sure always to have a confidential
Leporello. If I could find Leporello alive I might learn the secrets not
to be extracted from a Don Juan defunct. I ascertained, in truth, both at
Vienna, to which I first repaired in order to verify the renseignements I
had obtained at Paris, and at Baden, to which I then bent my way, that
this brilliant noble had a favourite valet who had lived with him from
his youth--an Italian, who had contrived in the course of his service to
lay by savings enough to set up a hotel somewhere in Italy, supposed to
be Pisa. To Pisa I repaired, but the man had left some years; his hotel
had not prospered--he had left in debt. No one could say what had become
of him. At last, after a long and tedious research, I found him installed
as manager of a small hotel at Genoa--a pleasant fellow enough; and after
friendly intercourse with him (of course I lodged at his hotel), I easily
led him to talk of his earlier life and adventures, and especially of his
former master, of whose splendid career in the army of 'La Belle Deesse'
he was not a little proud. It was not very easy to get him to the
particular subject in question. In fact, the affair with the poor false
Duval had been so brief and undistinguished an episode in his master's
life, that it was not without a strain of memory that he reached it.

"By little and little, however, in the course of two or three evenings,
and by the aid of many flasks of Orviette or bottles of Lacrima (wines,
Monsieur, that I do not commend to any one who desires to keep his
stomach sound and his secrets safe), I gathered these particulars.

"Our Don Juan, since the loss of a wife in the first year of marriage,
had rarely visited Paris where he had a domicile--his ancestral hotel
there he had sold.

"But happening to visit that capital of Europe a few months before we
come to our dates at Aix-la-Chapelle, he made acquaintance with Madame
Marigny, a natural daughter of high-placed parents, by whom, of course,
she had never been acknowledged, but who had contrived that she should
receive a good education at a convent; and on leaving it also contrived
that an old soldier of fortune--which means an officer without
fortune--who had served in Algiers with some distinction, should offer
her his hand, and add the modest dot they assigned her to his yet more
modest income. They contrived also that she should understand the offer
must be accepted. Thus Mademoiselle 'Quelque Chose' became Madame
Marigny, and she, on her part, contrived that a year or so later she
should be left a widow. After a marriage, of course the parents washed
their hands of her--they had done their duty. At the time Don Juan made
this lady's acquaintance nothing could be said against her character; but
the milliners and butchers had begun to imply that they would rather have
her money than trust to her character. Don Juan fell in love with her,
satisfied the immediate claims of milliner and butcher, and when they
quitted Paris it was agreed that they should meet later at
Aix-la-Chapelle. But when he resorted to that sultry and, to my mind,
unalluring spa, he was surprised by a line from her saying that she had
changed her name of Marigny for that of Duval.

"'I recollect,' said Leporello, 'that two days afterwards my master said
to me, 'Caution and secrecy. Don't mention my name at the house to which
I may send you with any note for Madame Duval. I don't announce my name
when I call. La petite Marigny has exchanged her name for that of Louise
Duval; and I find that there is a Louise Duval here, her friend, who is
niece to a relation of my own, and a terrible relation to quarrel with--a
dead shot and unrivalled swordsman--Victor de Mauleon. My master was
brave enough, but he enjoyed life, and he did not think la petite Marigny
worth being killed for.'

"Leporello remembered very little of what followed. All he did remember
is that Don Juan, when at Vienna, said to him one morning, looking less
gay than usual, 'It is finished with ca petite Marigny-she is no more.'
Then he ordered his bath, wrote a note, and said with tears in his eyes,
'Take this to Mademoiselle Celeste; not to be compared to la petite
Marigny; but la petite Celeste is still alive.' Ah, Monsieur! if only any
man in France could be as proud of his ruler as that Italian was of my
countrymen! Alas! we Frenchmen are all made to command--or at least we
think ourselves so--and we are insulted by one who says to us, 'Serve and
obey.' Nowadays, in France, we find all Don Juans and no Leporellos.

"After strenuous exertions upon my part to recall to Leporello's mind the
important question whether he had ever seen the true Duval, passing under
the name of Marigny--whether she had not presented herself to his master
at Vienna or elsewhere--he rubbed his forehead, and drew from it these
reminiscences.

"'On the day that his Excellency,'--Leporello generally so styled his
master--'Excellency,' as you are aware, is the title an Italian would
give to Satan if taking his wages,'told me that la petite Marigny was no
more, he had received previously a lady veiled and mantled, whom I did
not recognise as any one I had seen before, but I noticed her way of
carrying herself--haughtily--her head thrown back; and I thought to
myself, that lady is one of his grandes dames. She did call again two or
three times, never announcing her name; then she did not reappear. She
might be Madame Duval--I can't say.'

"'But did you never hear his Excellency speak of the real Duval after
that time?'

"'No--non mi ricordo--I don't remember.'

"'Nor of some living Madame Marigny, though the real one was dead?'

"'Stop, I do recollect; not that he ever named such a person to me, but
that I have posted letters for him to a Madame Marigny--oh, yes! even
years after the said petite Marigny was dead; and once I did venture to
say, 'Pardon me, Eccellenza, but may I ask if that poor lady is really
dead, since I have to prepay this letter to her?'"

"'Oh,' said he, 'Madame Marigny! Of course the one you know is dead, but
there are others of the same name; this lady is of my family. Indeed, her
house, though noble in itself, recognises the representative of mine as
its head, and I am too bon prince not to acknowledge and serve any one
who branches out of my own tree.'"

"A day after this last conversation on the subject, Leporello said to me:
'My friend, you certainly have some interest in ascertaining what became
of the lady who took the name of Marigny (I state this frankly, Monsieur,
to show how difficult even for one so prudent as I am to beat about a
bush long but what you let people know the sort of bird you are in search
of).

"'Well,' said I, 'she does interest me. I knew something of that Victor
de Mauleon, whom his Excellency did not wish to quarrel with; and it
would be a kindly act to her relation if one could learn what became of
Louise Duval.'

"'I can put you on the way of learning all that his Excellency was likely
to have known of her through correspondence. I have often heard him
quote, with praise, a saying so clever that it might have been Italian,
"Never write, never burn;" that is, never commit yourself by a
letter--keep all letters that could put others in your power. All the
letters he received were carefully kept and labelled. I sent them to his
son in four large trunks. His son, no doubt, has them still.'

"Now, however, I have exhausted my budget. I arrived at Paris last night.
I strongly advise you to come hither at once, if you still desire to
prosecute your search.

"You, Monsieur, can do what I could not venture to do; you can ask the
son of Don Juan if, amid the correspondence of his father, which he may
have preserved, there be any signed Marigny or Duval--any, in short,
which can throw light on this very obscure complication of circumstances.
A grand seigneur would naturally be more complaisant to a man of your
station than he would be to an agent of police. Don Juan's son,
inheriting his father's title, is Monsieur le Marquis de Rochebriant; and
permit me to add, that at this moment, as the journals doubtless inform
you, all Paris resounds with the rumour of the coming war; and Monsieur
de Rochebriant--who is, as I have ascertained, now in Paris--it may be
difficult to find anywhere on earth a month or two hence.--I have the
honour, with profound consideration, &c., &c., RENARD."

The day after the receipt of this letter Graham Vane was in Paris.



CHAPTER II.

Among things indescribable is that which is called "Agitation" in
Paris--"Agitation" without riot or violence--showing itself by no
disorderly act, no turbulent outburst. Perhaps the cafes are more
crowded; passengers in the streets stop each other more often, and
converse in small knots and groups; yet, on the whole, there is little
externally to show how loudly the heart of Paris is beating. A traveller
may be passing through quiet landscapes, unconscious that a great battle
is going on some miles off, but if he will stop and put his ear to the
ground he will recognise by a certain indescribable vibration, the voice
of the cannon.

But at Paris an acute observer need not stop and put his ear to the
ground; he feels within himself a vibration--a mysterious inward sympathy
which communicates to the individual a conscious thrill--when the
passions of the multitude are stirred, no matter how silently.

Tortoni's cafe was thronged when Duplessis and Frederic Lemercier entered
it: it was in vain to order breakfast; no table was vacant either within
the rooms or under the awnings without.

But they could not retreat so quickly as they had entered. On catching
sight of the financier several men rose and gathered round him, eagerly
questioning:

"What do you think, Duplessis? Will any insult to France put a drop of
warm blood into the frigid veins of that miserable Ollivier?"

"It is not yet clear that France has been insulted, Messieurs," replied
Duplessis, phlegmatically.

"Bah! Not insulted! The very nomination of a Hohenzollern to the crown of
Spain was an insult--what would you have more?"

"I tell you what it is, Duplessis," said the Vicomte de Breze, whose
habitual light good temper seemed exchanged for insolent swagger--"I tell
you what it is, your friend the Emperor has no more courage than a
chicken. He is grown old, and infirm, and lazy; he knows that he can't
even mount on horseback. But if, before this day week, he has not
declared war on the Prussians, he will be lucky if he can get off as
quietly as poor Louis Philippe did under shelter of his umbrella, and
ticketed 'Schmidt.' Or could you not, M. Duplessis, send him back to
London in a bill of exchange?"

"For a man of your literary repute, M. le Vicomte," said Duplessis, "you
indulge in a strange confusion of metaphors. But, pardon me, I came here
to breakfast, and I cannot remain to quarrel. Come, Lemercier, let us
take our chance of a cutlet at the Trois Freres."

"Fox, Fox," cried Lemercier, whistling to a poodle that had followed him
into the cafe, and, frightened by the sudden movement and loud voices of
the habitues, had taken refuge under the table.

"Your dog is poltron," said De Breze; "call him Nap." At this stroke of
humour there was a general laugh, in the midst of which Duplessis
escaped, and Frederic, having discovered and caught his dog, followed
with that animal tenderly clasped in his arms.

"I would not lose Fox for a great deal," said Lemercier with effusion; "a
pledge of love and fidelity from an English lady the most distinguished:
the lady left me--the dog remains."

Duplessis smiled grimly: "What a thoroughbred Parisian you are, my dear
Frederic! I believe if the tramp of the last angel were sounding, the
Parisians would be divided into two sets: one would be singing the
Marseillaise, and parading the red flag; the other would be shrugging
their shoulders and saying, 'Bah! as if le Bon Dieu would have the bad
taste to injure Paris--the Seat of the Graces, the School of the Arts,
the Fountain of Reason, the Eye of the World;' and so be found by the
destroying angel caressing poodles and making bons mots about les
femmes."

"And quite right, too," said Lemercier, complacently; "what other people
in the world could retain lightness of heart under circumstances so
unpleasant? But why do you take things so solemnly? Of course there will
be war idle now to talk of explanations and excuses. When a Frenchman
says, 'I am insulted,' he is not going to be told that he is not
insulted. He means fighting, and not apologising. But what if there be
war? Our brave soldiers beat the Prussians--take the Rhine--return to
Paris covered with laurels; a new Boulevard de Berlin eclipses the
Boulevard Sebastopol. By the way, Duplessis, a Boulevard de Berlin will
be a good speculation--better than the Rue de Louvier. Ah! is not that my
English friend, Grarm Varn?" here, quitting the arm of Duplessis,
Lemercier stopped a gentleman who was about to pass him unnoticing. "Bon
jour, mon ami! how long have you been at Paris?"

"I only arrived last evening," answered Graham, "and my stay will be so
short that it is a piece of good luck, my dear Lemercier, to meet with
you, and exchange a cordial shake of the hand."

"We are just going to breakfast at the Trois Freres--Duplessis and
I--pray join us."

"With great pleasure--ah, M. Duplessis, I shall be glad to hear from you
that the Emperor will be firm enough to check the advances of that
martial fever which, to judge by the persons I meet, seems to threaten
delirium."

Duplessis looked very keenly at Graham's face, as he replied slowly: "The
English, at least, ought to know that when the Emperor by his last
reforms resigned his personal authority for constitutional monarchy, it
ceased to be a question whether he could or could not be firm in matters
that belonged to the Cabinet and the Chambers. I presume that if Monsieur
Gladstone advised Queen Victoria to declare war upon the Emperor of
Russia, backed by a vast majority in Parliament, you would think me very
ignorant of constitutional monarchy and Parliamentary government if I
said, 'I hope Queen Victoria will resist that martial fever.'"

"You rebuke me very fairly, M. Duplessis, if you can show me that the two
cases are analogous; but we do not understand in England that, despite
his last reforms, the Emperor has so abnegated his individual ascendency,
that his will, clearly and resolutely expressed, would not prevail in his
Council and silence opposition in the Chambers. Is it so? I ask for
information."

The three men were walking on towards the Palais Royal side by side while
this conversation proceeded.

"That all depends," replied Duplessis, "upon what may be the increase of
popular excitement at Paris. If it slackens, the Emperor, no doubt, could
turn to wise account that favourable pause in the fever. But if it
continues to swell, and Paris cries, 'War,' in a voic