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Title: Monsieur De Camors — Volume 1
Author: Feuillet, Octave
Language: English
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MONSIEUR DE CAMORS

By OCTAVE FEUILLET


With a Preface by MAXIME DU CAMP, of the French Academy



OCTAVE FEUILLET

OCTAVE FEUILLET'S works abound with rare qualities, forming a harmonious
ensemble; they also exhibit great observation and knowledge of humanity,
and through all of them runs an incomparable and distinctive charm.  He
will always be considered the leader of the idealistic school in the
nineteenth century.  It is now fifteen years since his death, and the
judgment of posterity is that he had a great imagination, linked to great
analytical power and insight; that his style is neat, pure, and fine, and
at the same time brilliant and concise.  He unites suppleness with force,
he combines grace with vigor.

Octave Feuillet was born at Saint-Lo (Manche), August 11, 1821, his
father occupying the post of Secretary-General of the Prefecture de la
Manche.  Pupil at the Lycee Louis le Grand, he received many prizes, and
was entered for the law.  But he became early attracted to literature,
and like many of the writers at that period attached himself to the
"romantic school."  He collaborated with Alexander Dumas pere and with
Paul Bocage.  It can not now be ascertained what share Feuillet may have
had in any of the countless tales of the elder Dumas.  Under his own name
he published the novels 'Onesta' and 'Alix', in 1846, his first romances.
He then commenced writing for the stage.  We mention 'Echec et Mat'
(Odeon, 1846); 'Palma, ou la Nuit du Vendredi-Saint' (Porte St.  Martin,
1847); 'La Vieillesse de Richelieu' (Theatre Francais, 1848); 'York'
(Palais Royal, 1852).  Some of them are written in collaboration with
Paul Bocage.  They are dramas of the Dumas type, conventional, not
without cleverness, but making no lasting mark.

Realizing this, Feuillet halted, pondered, abruptly changed front, and
began to follow in the footsteps of Alfred de Musset.  'La Grise' (1854),
'Le Village' (1856), 'Dalila' (1857), 'Le Cheveu Blanc', and other plays
obtained great success, partly in the Gymnase, partly in the Comedie
Francaise.  In these works Feuillet revealed himself as an analyst of
feminine character, as one who had spied out all their secrets, and could
pour balm on all their wounds.  'Le Roman d'un Jeune Homme Pauvre'
(Vaudeville, 1858) is probably the best known of all his later dramas;
it was, of course, adapted for the stage from his romance, and is well
known to the American public through Lester Wallack and Pierrepont
Edwards.  'Tentation' was produced in the year 1860, also well known in
this country under the title 'Led Astray'; then followed 'Montjoye'
(1863), etc.  The influence of Alfred de Musset is henceforth less
perceptible.  Feuillet now became a follower of Dumas fils, especially so
in 'La Belle au Bois Dormant' (Vaudeville, 1865); 'Le Cas de Conscience
(Theatre Francais, 1867); 'Julie' (Theatre Francais 1869).  These met
with success, and are still in the repertoire of the Comedie Francaise.

As a romancer, Feuillet occupies a high place.  For thirty years he was
the representative of a noble and tender genre, and was preeminently the
favorite novelist of the brilliant society of the Second Empire.  Women
literally devoured him, and his feminine public has always remained
faithful to him.  He is the advocate of morality and of the aristocracy
of birth and feeling, though under this disguise he involves his heroes
and heroines in highly romantic complications, whose outcome is often for
a time in doubt.  Yet as the accredited painter of the Faubourg Saint-
Germain he contributed an essential element to the development of
realistic fiction.  No one has rendered so well as he the high-strung,
neuropathic women of the upper class, who neither understand themselves
nor are wholly comprehensible to others.  In 'Monsieur de Camors',
crowned by the Academy, he has yielded to the demands of a stricter
realism.  Especially after the fall of the Empire had removed a powerful
motive for gilding the vices of aristocratic society, he painted its hard
and selfish qualities as none of his contemporaries could have done.
Octave Feuillet was elected to the Academie Francaise in 1862 to succeed
Scribe.  He died December 29, 1890.
                                   MAXIME DU CAMP
                              de l'Acadamie Francaise.



MONSIEUR DE CAMORS


BOOK 1.


CHAPTER I

"THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH"

Near eleven o'clock, one evening in the month of May, a man about fifty
years of age, well formed, and of noble carriage, stepped from a coupe in
the courtyard of a small hotel in the Rue Barbet-de-Jouy.  He ascended,
with the walk of a master, the steps leading to the entrance, to the hall
where several servants awaited him.  One of them followed him into an
elegant study on the first floor, which communicated with a handsome
bedroom, separated from it by a curtained arch.  The valet arranged the
fire, raised the lamps in both rooms, and was about to retire, when his
master spoke:

"Has my son returned home?"

"No, Monsieur le Comte.  Monsieur is not ill?"

"Ill!  Why?"

"Because Monsieur le Comte is so pale."

"Ah! It is only a slight cold I have taken this evening on the banks of
the lake."

"Will Monsieur require anything?"

"Nothing," replied the Count briefly, and the servant retired.  Left
alone, his master approached a cabinet curiously carved in the Italian
style, and took from it a long flat ebony box.

This contained two pistols.  He loaded them with great care, adjusting
the caps by pressing them lightly to the nipple with his thumb.  That
done, he lighted a cigar, and for half an hour the muffled beat of his
regular tread sounded on the carpet of the gallery.  He finished his
cigar, paused a moment in deep thought, and then entered the adjoining
room, taking the pistols with him.

This room, like the other, was furnished in a style of severe elegance,
relieved by tasteful ornament.  It showed some pictures by famous
masters, statues, bronzes, and rare carvings in ivory.  The Count threw a
glance of singular interest round the interior of this chamber, which was
his own--on the familiar objects--on the sombre hangings--on the bed,
prepared for sleep.  Then he turned toward a table, placed in a recess of
the window, laid the pistols upon it, and dropping his head in his hands,
meditated deeply many minutes.  Suddenly he raised his head, and wrote
rapidly as follows:

     "TO MY SON:

     "Life wearies me, my son, and I shall relinquish it.  The true
     superiority of man over the inert or passive creatures that surround
     him, lies in his power to free himself, at will, from those,
     pernicious servitudes which are termed the laws of nature.  Man,
     if he will it, need not grow old: the lion must.  Reflect, my son,
     upon this text, for all human power lies in it.

     "Science asserts and demonstrates it.  Man, intelligent and free,
     is an animal wholly unpremeditated upon this planet.  Produced by
     unexpected combinations and haphazard transformations, in the midst
     of a general subordination of matter, he figures as a dissonance and
     a revolt!

     "Nature has engendered without having conceived him.  The result is
     as if a turkey-hen had unconsciously hatched the egg of an eagle.
     Terrified at the monster, she has sought to control it, and has
     overloaded it with instincts, commonly called duties, and police
     regulations known as religion.  Each one of these shackles broken,
     each one of these servitudes overthrown, marks a step toward the
     thorough emancipation of humanity.

     "I must say to you, however, that I die in the faith of my century,
     believing in matter uncreated, all-powerful, and eternal--the Nature
     of the ancients.  There have been in all ages philosophers who have
     had conceptions of the truth.  But ripe to-day, it has become the
     common property of all who are strong enough to stand it--for, in
     sooth, this latest religion of humanity is food fit only for the
     strong.  It carries sadness with it, for it isolates man; but it
     also involves grandeur, making man absolutely free, or, as it were,
     a very god.  It leaves him no actual duties except to himself, and
     it opens a superb field to one of brain and courage.

     "The masses still remain, and must ever remain, submissive under the
     yoke of old, dead religions, and under the tyranny of instincts.
     There will still be seen very much the same condition of things as
     at present in Paris; a society the brain of which is atheistic, and
     the heart religious.  And at bottom there will be no more belief in
     Christ than in Jupiter; nevertheless, churches will continue to be
     built mechanically.  There are no longer even Deists; for the old
     chimera of a personal, moral God-witness, sanction, and judge,--is
     virtually extinct; and yet hardly a word is said, or a line written,
     or a gesture made, in public or private life, which does not ever
     affirm that chimera.  This may have its uses perchance, but it is
     nevertheless despicable.  Slip forth from the common herd, my son,
     think for yourself, and write your own catechism upon a virgin page.

     "As for myself, my life has been a failure, because I was born many
     years too soon.  As yet the earth and the heavens were heaped up and
     cumbered with ruins, and people did not see.  Science, moreover, was
     relatively still in its infancy.  And, besides, I retained the
     prejudices and the repugnance to the doctrines of the new world that
     belonged to my name.  I was unable to comprehend that there was
     anything better to be done than childishly to pout at the conqueror;
     that is, I could not recognize that his weapons were good, and that
     I should seize and destroy him with them.  In short, for want of a
     definite principle of action I have drifted at random, my life
     without plan--I have been a mere trivial man of pleasure.

     "Your life shall be more complete, if you will only follow my
     advice.

     "What, indeed, may not a man of this age become if he have the good
     sense and energy to conform his life rigidly to his belief!

     "I merely state the question, you must solve it; I can leave you
     only some cursory ideas, which I am satisfied are just, and upon
     which you may meditate at your leisure.  Only for fools or the weak
     does materialism become a debasing dogma; assuredly, in its code
     there are none of those precepts of ordinary morals which our
     fathers entitled virtue; but I do find there a grand word which may
     well counterbalance many others, that is to say, Honor, self-esteem!
     Unquestionably a materialist may not be a saint; but he can be a
     gentleman, which is something.  You have happy gifts, my son, and I
     know of but one duty that you have in the world--that of developing
     those gifts to the utmost, and through them to enjoy life
     unsparingly.  Therefore, without scruple, use woman for your
     pleasure, man for your advancement; but under no circumstances do
     anything ignoble.

     "In order that ennui shall not drive you, like myself, prematurely
     from the world so soon as the season for pleasure shall have ended,
     you should leave the emotions of ambition and of public life for the
     gratification of your riper age.  Do not enter into any engagements
     with the reigning government, and reserve for yourself to hear its
     eulogium made by those who will have subverted it.  That is the
     French fashion.  Each generation must have its own prey.  You will
     soon feel the impulse of the coming generation.  Prepare yourself,
     from afar, to take the lead in it.

     "In politics, my son, you are not ignorant that we all take our
     principles from our temperament.  The bilious are demagogues, the
     sanguine, democrats, the nervous, aristocrats.  You are both
     sanguine and nervous, an excellent constitution, for it gives you a
     choice.  You may, for example, be an aristocrat in regard to
     yourself personally, and, at the same time, a democrat in relation
     to others; and in that you will not be exceptional.

     "Make yourself master of every question likely to interest your
     contemporaries, but do not become absorbed in any yourself.  In
     reality, all principles are indifferent--true or false according to
     the hour and circumstance.  Ideas are mere instruments with which
     you should learn to play seasonably, so as to sway men.  In that
     path, likewise, you will have associates.

     "Know, my son, that having attained my age, weary of all else, you
     will have need of strong sensations.  The sanguinary diversions of
     revolution will then be for you the same as a love-affair at twenty.

     "But I am fatigued, my son, and shall recapitulate.  To be loved by
     women, to be feared by men, to be as impassive and as imperturbable
     as a god before the tears of the one and the blood of the other, and
     to end in a whirlwind--such has been the lot in which I have failed,
     but which, nevertheless, I bequeath to you.  With your great
     faculties you, however, are capable of accomplishing it, unless
     indeed you should fail through some ingrained weakness of the heart
     that I have noticed in you, and which, doubtless, you have imbibed
     with your mother's milk.

     "So long as man shall be born of woman, there will be something
     faulty and incomplete in his character.  In fine, strive to relieve
     yourself from all thraldom, from all natural instincts, affections,
     and sympathies as from so many fetters upon your liberty, your
     strength.

     "Do not marry unless some superior interest shall impel you to do
     so.  In that event, have no children.

     "Have no intimate friends.  Caesar having grown old, had a friend.
     It was Brutus!

     "Contempt for men is the beginning of wisdom.

     "Change somewhat your style of fencing, it is altogether too open,
     my son.  Do not get angry.  Rarely laugh, and never weep.  Adieu.

                                             "CAMORS."


The feeble rays of dawn had passed through the slats of the blinds.
The matin birds began their song in the chestnut-tree near the window.
M. de Camors raised his head and listened in an absent mood to the sound
which astonished him.  Seeing that it was daybreak, he folded in some
haste the pages he had just finished, pressed his seal upon the envelope,
and addressed it, "For the Comte Louis de Camors."  Then he rose.

M. de Camors was a great lover of art, and had carefully preserved a
magnificent ivory carving of the sixteenth century, which had belonged to
his wife.  It was a Christ the pallid white relieved by a medallion of
dark velvet.

His eye, meeting this pale, sad image, was attracted to it for a moment
with strange fascination.  Then he smiled bitterly, seized one of the
pistols with a firm hand and pressed it to his temple.

A shot resounded through the house; the fall of a heavy body shook the
floor-fragments of brains strewed the carpet.  The Comte de Camors had
plunged into eternity!

His last will was clenched in his hand.

To whom was this document addressed?  Upon what kind of soil will these
seeds fall?

At this time Louis de Camors was twenty-seven years old.  His mother had
died young.  It did not appear that she had been particularly happy with
her husband; and her son barely remembered her as a young woman, pretty
and pale, and frequently weeping, who used to sing him to sleep in a low,
sweet voice.  He had been brought up chiefly by his father's mistress,
who was known as the Vicomtesse d'Oilly, a widow, and a rather good sort
of woman.  Her natural sensibility, and the laxity of morals then
reigning at Paris, permitted her to occupy herself at the same time with
the happiness of the father and the education of the son.  When the
father deserted her after a time, he left her the child, to comfort her
somewhat by this mark of confidence and affection.  She took him out
three times a week; she dressed him and combed him; she fondled him and
took him with her to church, and made him play with a handsome Spaniard,
who had been for some time her secretary.  Besides, she neglected no
opportunity of inculcating precepts of sound morality.  Thus the child,
being surprised at seeing her one evening press a kiss upon the forehead
of her secretary, cried out, with the blunt candor of his age:

"Why, Madame, do you kiss a gentleman who is not your husband?"

"Because, my dear," replied the Countess, "our good Lord commands us to
be charitable and affectionate to the poor, the infirm, and the exile;
and Monsieur Perez is an exile."

Louis de Camors merited better care, for he was a generous-hearted child;
and his comrades of the college of Louis-le-Grand always remembered the
warm-heartedness and natural grace which made them forgive his successes
during the week, and his varnished boots and lilac gloves on Sunday.
Toward the close of his college course, he became particularly attached
to a poor bursar, by name Lescande, who excelled in mathematics,
but who was very ungraceful, awkwardly shy and timid, with a painful
sensitiveness to the peculiarities of his person.  He was nicknamed
"Wolfhead," from the refractory nature of his hair; but the elegant
Camors stopped the scoffers by protecting the young man with his
friendship.  Lescande felt this deeply, and adored his friend, to whom he
opened the inmost recesses of his heart, letting out some important
secrets.

He loved a very young girl who was his cousin, but was as poor as
himself.  Still it was a providential thing for him that she was poor,
otherwise he never should have dared to aspire to her.  It was a sad
occurrence that had first thrown Lescande with his cousin--the loss of
her father, who was chief of one of the Departments of State.

After his death she lived with her mother in very straitened
circumstances; and Lescande, on occasion of his last visit, found her
with soiled cuffs.  Immediately after he received the following note:

     "Pardon me, dear cousin!  Pardon my not wearing white cuffs.  But I
     must tell you that we can change our cuffs--my mother and I--only
     three times a week.  As to her, one would never discover it.  She is
     neat as a bird.  I also try to be; but, alas! when I practise the
     piano, my cuffs rub.  After this explanation, my good Theodore, I
     hope you will love me as before.
                                             "JULIETTE."


Lescande wept over this note.  Luckily he had his prospects as an
architect; and Juliette had promised to wait for him ten years, by which
time he would either be dead, or living deliciously in a humble house
with his cousin.  He showed the note, and unfolded his plans to Camors.
"This is the only ambition I have, or which I can have," added Lescande.
"You are different.  You are born for great things."

"Listen, my old Lescande," replied Camors, who had just passed his
rhetoric examination in triumph.  "I do not know but that my destiny
may be ordinary; but I am sure my heart can never be.  There I feel
transports--passions, which give me sometimes great joy, sometimes
inexpressible suffering.  I burn to discover a world--to save a nation--
to love a queen!  I understand nothing but great ambitions and noble
alliances, and as for sentimental love, it troubles me but little.  My
activity pants for a nobler and a wider field!

"I intend to attach myself to one of the great social parties, political
or religious, that agitate the world at this era.  Which one I know not
yet, for my opinions are not very fixed.  But as soon as I leave college
I shall devote myself to seeking the truth.  And truth is easily found.
I shall read all the newspapers.

"Besides, Paris is an intellectual highway, so brilliantly lighted it is
only necessary to open one's eyes and have good faith and independence,
to find the true road.

"And I am in excellent case for this, for though born a gentleman, I have
no prejudices.  My father, who is himself very enlightened and very
liberal, leaves me free.  I have an uncle who is a Republican; an aunt
who is a Legitimist--and what is still more, a saint; and another uncle
who is a Conservative.  It is not vanity that leads me to speak of these
things; but only a desire to show you that, having a foot in all parties,
I am quite willing to compare them dispassionately and make a good
choice.  Once master of the holy truth, you may be sure, dear old
Lescande, I shall serve it unto death--with my tongue, with my pen, and
with my sword!"

Such sentiments as these, pronounced with sincere emotion and accompanied
by a warm clasp of the hand, drew tears from the old Lescande, otherwise
called Wolfhead.



CHAPTER II

FRUIT FROM THE HOTBED OF PARIS

Early one morning, about eight years after these high resolves, Louis de
Camors rode out from the 'porte-cochere' of the small hotel he had
occupied with his father.

Nothing could be gayer than Paris was that morning, at that charming
golden hour of the day when the world seems peopled only with good and
generous spirits who love one another.  Paris does not pique herself on
her generosity; but she still takes to herself at this charming hour an
air of innocence, cheerfulness, and amiable cordiality.

The little carts with bells, that pass one another rapidly, make one
believe the country is covered with roses.  The cries of old Paris cut
with their sharp notes the deep murmur of a great city just awaking.

You see the jolly concierges sweeping the white footpaths; half-dressed
merchants taking down their shutters with great noise; and groups of
ostlers, in Scotch caps, smoking and fraternizing on the hotel steps.

You hear the questions of the sociable neighborhood; the news proper to
awakening; speculations on the weather bandied across from door to door,
with much interest.

Young milliners, a little late, walk briskly toward town with elastic
step, making now a short pause before a shop just opened; again taking
wing like a bee just scenting a flower.

Even the dead in this gay Paris morning seem to go gayly to the cemetery,
with their jovial coachmen grinning and nodding as they pass.

Superbly aloof from these agreeable impressions, Louis de Camors,
a little pale, with half-closed eyes and a cigar between his teeth,
rode into the Rue de Bourgogne at a walk, broke into a canter on the
Champs Elysees, and galloped thence to the Bois.  After a brisk run, he
returned by chance through the Porte Maillot, then not nearly so thickly
inhabited as it is to-day.  Already, however, a few pretty houses, with
green lawns in front, peeped out from the bushes of lilac and clematis.
Before the green railings of one of these a gentleman played hoop with a
very young, blond-haired child.  His age belonged in that uncertain area
which may range from twenty-five to forty.  He wore a white cravat,
spotless as snow; and two triangles of short, thick beard, cut like the
boxwood at Versailles, ornamented his cheeks.  If Camors saw this
personage he did not honor him with the slightest notice.  He was,
notwithstanding, his former comrade Lescande, who had been lost sight of
for several years by his warmest college friend.  Lescande, however,
whose memory seemed better, felt his heart leap with joy at the majestic
appearance of the young cavalier who approached him.  He made a movement
to rush forward; a smile covered his good-natured face, but it ended in
a grimace.  Evidently he had been forgotten.  Camors, now not more than
a couple of feet from him, was passing on, and his handsome countenance
gave not the slightest sign of emotion.  Suddenly, without changing
a single line of his face, he drew rein, took the cigar from his lips,
and said, in a tranquil voice:

"Hello!  You have no longer a wolf head!"

"Ha!  Then you know me?"  cried Lescande.

"Know you?  Why not?"

"I thought--I was afraid--on account of my beard--"

"Bah!  your beard does not change you--except that it becomes you.
But what are you doing here?"

"Doing here!  Why, my dear friend, I am at home here.  Dismount, I pray
you, and come into my house."

"Well, why not?"  replied Camors, with the same voice and manner of
supreme indifference; and, throwing his bridle to the servant who
followed him, he passed through the gardengate, led, supported, caressed
by the trembling hand of Lescande.

The garden was small, but beautifully tended and full of rare plants.
At the end, a small villa, in the Italian style, showed its graceful
porch.

"Ah, that is pretty!"  exclaimed Camors, at last.

"And you recognize my plan, Number Three, do you not?"  asked Lescande,
eagerly.

"Your plan Number Three?  Ah, yes, perfectly," replied Camors, absently.
"And your pretty little cousin--is she within?"

"She is there, my dear friend," answered Lescande, in a low voice--and he
pointed to the closed shutters of a large window of a balcony surmounting
the veranda.  "She is there; and this is our son."

Camors let his hand pass listlessly over the child's hair.  "The deuce!"
he said; "but you have not wasted time.  And you are happy, my good
fellow?"

"So happy, my dear friend, that I am sometimes uneasy, for the good God
is too kind to me.  It is true, though, I had to work very hard.  For
instance, I passed two years in Spain--in the mountains of that infernal
country.  There I built a fairy palace for the Marquis of Buena-Vista,
a great nobleman, who had seen my plan at the Exhibition and was
delighted with it.  This was the beginning of my fortune; but you must
not imagine that my profession alone has enriched me so quickly.  I made
some successful speculations--some unheard of chances in lands; and, I
beg you to believe, honestly, too.  Still, I am not a millionaire; but
you know I had nothing, and my wife less; now, my house paid for, we have
ten thousand francs' income left.  It is not a fortune for us, living in
this style; but I still work and keep good courage, and my Juliette is
happy in her paradise!"

"She wears no more soiled cuffs, then?"  said Camors.

"I warrant she does not!  Indeed, she has a slight tendency to luxury--
like all women, you know.  But I am delighted to see you remember so well
our college follies.  I also, through all my distractions, never forgot
you a moment.  I even had a foolish idea of asking you to my wedding,
only I did not dare.  You are so brilliant, so petted, with your
establishment and your racers.  My wife knows you very well; in fact, we
have talked of you a hundred thousand times.  Since she patronizes the
turf and subscribes for 'The Sport', she says to me, 'Your friend's horse
has won again'; and in our family circle we rejoice over your triumphs."

A flush tinged the cheek of Camors as he answered, quietly, "You are
really too good."

They walked a moment in silence over the gravel path bordered by grass,
before Lescande spoke again.

"And yourself, dear friend, I hope that you also are happy."

"I--happy!"  Camors seemed a little astonished.  "My happiness is simple
enough, but I believe it is unclouded.  I rise in the morning, ride to
the Bois, thence to the club, go to the Bois again, and then back to the
club.  If there is a first representation at any theatre, I wish to see
it.  Thus, last evening they gave a new piece which was really exquisite.
There was a song in it, beginning:

                        'He was a woodpecker,
                         A little woodpecker,
                         A young woodpecker--'

and the chorus imitated the cry of the woodpecker!  Well, it was
charming, and the whole of Paris will sing that song with delight for a
year.  I also shall do like the whole of Paris, and I shall be happy."

"Good heavens! my friend," laughed Lescande, "and that suffices you for
happiness?"

"That and--the principles of 'eighty-nine," replied Camors, lighting a
fresh cigar from the old one.

Here their dialogue was broken by the fresh voice of a woman calling from
the blinds of the balcony--

"Is that you, Theodore?"

Camors raised his eyes and saw a white hand, resting on the slats of the
blind, bathed in sunlight.

"That is my wife.  Conceal yourself!"  cried Lescande, briskly; and he
pushed Camors behind a clump of catalpas, as he turned to the balcony and
lightly answered:

"Yes, my dear; do you wish anything?"

"Maxime is with you?"

"Yes, mother.  I am here," cried the child.  "It is a beautiful morning.
Are you quite well?"

"I hardly know.  I have slept too long, I believe."  She opened the
shutters, and, shading her eyes from the glare with her hand, appeared on
the balcony.

She was in the flower of youth, slight, supple, and graceful, and
appeared, in her ample morning-gown of blue cashmere, plumper and taller
than she really was.  Bands of the same color interlaced, in the Greek
fashion, her chestnut hair--which nature, art, and the night had
dishevelled--waved and curled to admiration on her small head.

She rested her elbows on the railing, yawned, showing her white teeth,
and looking at her husband, asked:

"Why do you look so stupid?"

At the instant she observed Camors--whom the interest of the moment had
withdrawn from his concealment--gave a startled cry, gathered up her
skirts, and retired within the room.

Since leaving college up to this hour, Louis de Camors had never formed
any great opinion of the Juliet who had taken Lescande as her Romeo.  He
experienced a flash of agreeable surprise on discovering that his friend
was more happy in that respect than he had supposed.

"I am about to be scolded, my friend," said Lescande, with a hearty
laugh, "and you also must stay for your share.  You will stay and
breakfast with us?"

Camors hesitated; then said, hastily, "No, no!  Impossible!  I have an
engagement which I must keep."

Notwithstanding Camors's unwillingness, Lescande detained him until he
had extorted a promise to come and dine with them--that is, with him,
his wife, and his mother-in-law, Madame Mursois--on the following
Tuesday.  This acceptance left a cloud on the spirit of Camors until the
appointed day.  Besides abhorring family dinners, he objected to being
reminded of the scene of the balcony.  The indiscreet kindness of
Lescande both touched and irritated him; for he knew he should play but a
silly part near this pretty woman.  He felt sure she was a coquette,
notwithstanding which, the recollections of his youth and the character
of her husband should make her sacred to him.  So he was not in the most
agreeable frame of mind when he stepped out of his dog-cart, that Tuesday
evening, before the little villa of the Avenue Maillot.

At his reception by Madame Lescande and her mother he took heart a
little.  They appeared to him what they were, two honest-hearted women,
surrounded by luxury and elegance.  The mother--an ex-beauty--had been
left a widow when very young, and to this time had avoided any stain on
her character.  With them, innate delicacy held the place of those solid
principles so little tolerated by French society.  Like a few other women
of society, Madame had the quality of virtue just as ermine has the
quality of whiteness.  Vice was not so repugnant to her as an evil as it
was as a blemish.  Her daughter had received from her those instincts of
chastity which are oftener than we imagine hidden under the appearance of
pride.  But these amiable women had one unfortunate caprice, not uncommon
at this day among Parisians of their position.  Although rather clever,
they bowed down, with the adoration of bourgeoises, before that
aristocracy, more or less pure, that paraded up and down the Champs
Elysees, in the theatres, at the race-course, and on the most frequented
promenades, its frivolous affairs and rival vanities.

Virtuous themselves, they read with interest the daintiest bits of
scandal and the most equivocal adventures that took place among the
elite.  It was their happiness and their glory to learn the smallest
details of the high life of Paris; to follow its feasts, speak in its
slang, copy its toilets, and read its favorite books.  So that if not the
rose, they could at least be near the rose and become impregnated with
her colors and her perfumes.  Such apparent familiarity heightened them
singularly in their own estimation and in that of their associates.

Now, although Camors did not yet occupy that bright spot in the heaven of
fashion which was surely to be his one day, still he could here pass for
a demigod, and as such inspire Madame Lescande and her mother with a
sentiment of most violent curiosity.  His early intimacy with Lescande
had always connected a peculiar interest with his name: and they knew the
names of his horses--most likely knew the names of his mistresses.

So it required all their natural tact to conceal from their guest the
flutter of their nerves caused by his sacred presence; but they did
succeed, and so well that Camors was slightly piqued.  If not a coxcomb,
he was at least young: he was accustomed to please: he knew the Princess
de Clam-Goritz had lately applied to him her learned definition of an
agreeable man--"He is charming, for one always feels in danger near him!"

Consequently, it seemed a little strange to him that the simple mother of
the simple wife of simple Lescande should be able to bear his radiance
with such calmness; and this brought him out of his premeditated reserve.

He took the trouble to be irresistible--not to Madame Lescande, to whom
he was studiously respectful--but to Madame Mursois.  The whole evening
he scattered around the mother the social epigrams intended to dazzle the
daughter; Lescande meanwhile sitting with his mouth open, delighted with
the success of his old schoolfellow.

Next afternoon, Camors, returning from his ride in the Bois, by chance
passed the Avenue Maillot.  Madame Lescande was embroidering on the
balcony, by chance, and returned his salute over her tapestry.  He
remarked, too, that she saluted very gracefully, by a slight inclination
of the head, followed by a slight movement of her symmetrical, sloping
shoulders.

When he called upon her two or three days after--as was only his duty--
Camors reflected on a strong resolution he had made to keep very cool,
and to expatiate to Madame Lescande only on her husband's virtues.  This
pious resolve had an unfortunate effect; for Madame, whose virtue had
been piqued, had also reflected; and while an obtrusive devotion had not
failed to frighten her, this course only reassured her.  So she gave up
without restraint to the pleasure of receiving in her boudoir one of the
brightest stars from the heaven of her dreams.

It was now May, and at the races of La Marche--to take place the
following Sunday--Camors was to be one of the riders.  Madame Mursois and
her daughter prevailed upon Lescande to take them, while Camors completed
their happiness by admitting them to the weighing-stand.  Further, when
they walked past the judge's stand, Madame Mursois, to whom he gave his
arm, had the delight of being escorted in public by a cavalier in an
orange jacket and topboots.  Lescande and his wife followed in the wake
of the radiant mother-in-law, partaking of her ecstasy.

These agreeable relations continued for several weeks, without seeming to
change their character.  One day Camors would seat himself by the lady,
before the palace of the Exhibition, and initiate her into the mysteries
of all the fashionables who passed before them.  Another time he would
drop into their box at the opera, deign to remain there during an act or
two, and correct their as yet incomplete views of the morals of the
ballet.  But in all these interviews he held toward Madame Lescande the
language and manner of a brother: perhaps because he secretly persisted
in his delicate resolve; perhaps because he was not ignorant that every
road leads to Rome--and one as surely as another.

Madame Lescande reassured herself more and more; and feeling it
unnecessary to be on her guard, as at first, thought she might permit
herself a little levity.  No woman is flattered at being loved only as
a sister.

Camors, a little disquieted by the course things were taking, made some
slight effort to divert it.  But, although men in fencing wish to spare
their adversaries, sometimes they find habit too strong for them, and
lunge home in spite of themselves.  Besides, he began to be really
interested in Madame Lescande--in her coquettish ways, at once artful and
simple, provoking and timid, suggestive and reticent--in short, charming.

The same evening that M. de Camors, the elder, returned to his home bent
on suicide, his son, passing up the Avenue Maillot, was stopped by
Lescande on the threshold of his villa.

"My friend," said the latter, "as you are here you can do me a great
favor.  A telegram calls me suddenly to Melun--I must go on the instant.
The ladies will be so lonely, pray stay and dine with them!  I can't tell
what the deuce ails my wife.  She has been weeping all day over her
tapestry; my mother-in-law has a headache.  Your presence will cheer
them.  So stay, I beg you."

Camors refused, hesitated, made objections, and consented.  He sent back
his horse, and his friend presented him to the ladies, whom the presence
of the unexpected guest seemed to cheer a little.  Lescande stepped into
his carriage and departed, after receiving from his wife an embrace more
fervent than usual.

The dinner was gay.  In the atmosphere was that subtle suggestion of
coming danger of which both Camors and Madame Lescande felt the
exhilarating influence.  Their excitement, as yet innocent, employed
itself in those lively sallies--those brilliant combats at the barriers
--that ever precede the more serious conflict.  About nine o'clock the
headache of Madame Mursois--perhaps owing to the cigar they had allowed
Camors--became more violent.  She declared she could endure it no longer,
and must retire to her chamber.  Camors wished to withdraw, but his
carriage had not yet arrived and Madame Mursois insisted that he should
wait for it.

"Let my daughter amuse you with a little music until then," she added.

Left alone with her guest, the younger lady seemed embarrassed.  "What
shall I play for you?"  she asked, in a constrained voice, taking her
seat at the piano.

"Oh! anything--play a waltz," answered Camors, absently.

The waltz finished, an awkward silence ensued.  To break it she arose
hesitatingly; then clasping her hands together exclaimed, "It seems to me
there is a storm.  Do you not think so?"  She approached the window,
opened it, and stepped out on the balcony.  In a second Camors was at her
side.

The night was beautifully clear.  Before them stretched the sombre shadow
of the wood, while nearer trembling rays of moonlight slept upon the
lawn.

How still all was!  Their trembling hands met and for a moment did not
separate.

"Juliette!" whispered the young man, in a low, broken voice.  She
shuddered, repelled the arm that Camors passed round her, and hastily
reentered the room.

"Leave me, I pray you!"  she cried, with an impetuous gesture of her
hand, as she sank upon the sofa, and buried her face in her hands.

Of course Camors did not obey.  He seated himself by her.

In a little while Juliette awoke from her trance; but she awoke a lost
woman!

How bitter was that awakening!  She measured at a first glance the depth
of the awful abyss into which she had suddenly plunged.  Her husband, her
mother, her infant, whirled like spectres in the mad chaos of her brain.

Sensible of the anguish of an irreparable wrong, she rose, passed her
hand vacantly across her brow, and muttering, "Oh, God!  oh, God!" peered
vainly into the dark for light--hope--refuge!  There was none!

Her tortured soul cast herself utterly on that of her lover.  She turned
her swimming eyes on him and said:

"How you must despise me!"

Camors, half kneeling on the carpet near her, kissed her hand
indifferently and half raised his shoulders in sign of denial.  "Is it
not so?"  she repeated.  "Answer me, Louis."

His face wore a strange, cruel smile--"Do not insist on an answer, I pray
you," he said.

"Then I am right?  You do despise me?"

Camors turned himself abruptly full toward her, looked straight in her
face, and said, in a cold, hard voice, "I do!"

To this cruel speech the poor child replied by a wild cry that seemed to
rend her, while her eyes dilated as if under the influence of strong
poison.  Camors strode across the room, then returned and stood by her as
he said, in a quick, violent tone:

"You think I am brutal?  Perhaps I am, but that can matter little now.
After the irreparable wrong I have done you, there is one service--and
only one which I can now render you.  I do it now, and tell you the
truth.  Understand me clearly; women who fall do not judge themselves
more harshly than their accomplices judge them.  For myself, what would
you have me think of you?

"To his misfortune and my shame, I have known your husband since his
boyhood.  There is not a drop of blood in his veins that does not throb
for you; there is not a thought of his day nor a dream of his night that
is not yours; your every comfort comes from his sacrifices--your every
joy from his exertion!  See what he is to you!

"You have only seen my name in the journals; you have seen me ride by
your window; I have talked a few times with you, and you yield to me in
one moment the whole of his life with your own--the whole of his
happiness with your own.

"I tell you, woman, every man like me, who abuses your vanity and your
weakness and afterward tells you he esteems you--lies!  And if after all
you still believe he loves you, you do yourself fresh injury.  No: we
soon learn to hate those irksome ties that become duties where we only
sought pleasures; and the first effort after they are formed is to
shatter them.

"As for the rest: women like you are not made for unholy love like ours.
Their charm is their purity, and losing that, they lose everything.  But
it is a blessing to them to encounter one wretch, like myself, who cares
to say--Forget me, forever!  Farewell!"

He left her, passed from the room with rapid strides, and, slamming the
door behind him, disappeared.  Madame Lescande, who had listened,
motionless, and pale as marble, remained in the same lifeless attitude,
her eyes fixed, her hands clenched--yearning from the depths of her heart
that death would summon her.  Suddenly a singular noise, seeming to come
from the next room, struck her ear.  It was only a convulsive sob, or
violent and smothered laughter.  The wildest and most terrible ideas
crowded to the mind of the unhappy woman; the foremost of them, that her
husband had secretly returned, that he knew all--that his brain had given
way, and that the laughter was the gibbering of his madness.

Feeling her own brain begin to reel, she sprang from the sofa, and
rushing to the door, threw it open.  The next apartment was the dining-
room, dimly lighted by a hanging lamp.  There she saw Camors, crouched
upon the floor, sobbing furiously and beating his forehead against a
chair which he strained in a convulsive embrace.  Her tongue refused its
office; she could find no word, but seating herself near him, gave way to
her emotion, and wept silently.  He dragged himself nearer, seized the
hem of her dress and covered it with kisses; his breast heaved
tumultuously, his lips trembled and he gasped the almost inarticulate
words, "Pardon!  Oh, pardon me!"

This was all.  Then he rose suddenly, rushed from the house, and the
instant after she heard the rolling of the wheels as his carriage whirled
him away.

If there were no morals and no remorse, French people would perhaps be
happier.  But unfortunately it happens that a young woman, who believes
in little, like Madame Lescande, and a young man who believes in nothing,
like M. de Camors, can not have the pleasures of an independent code of
morals without suffering cruelly afterward.

A thousand old prejudices, which they think long since buried, start up
suddenly in their consciences; and these revived scruples are nearly
fatal to them.

Camors rushed toward Paris at the greatest speed of his thoroughbred,
Fitz-Aymon, awakening along the route, by his elegance and style,
sentiments of envy which would have changed to pity were the wounds of
the heart visible.  Bitter weariness, disgust of life and disgust for
himself, were no new sensations to this young man; but he never had
experienced them in such poignant intensity as at this cursed hour,
when flying from the dishonored hearth of the friend of his boyhood.
No action of his life had ever thrown such a flood of light on the depths
of his infamy in doing such gross outrage to the friend of his purer
days, to the dear confidant of the generous thoughts and proud
aspirations of his youth.  He knew he had trampled all these under foot.
Like Macbeth, he had not only murdered one asleep, but had murdered sleep
itself.

His reflections became insupportable.  He thought successively of
becoming a monk, of enlisting as a soldier, and of getting drunk--ere he
reached the corner of the Rue Royale and the Boulevard.  Chance favored
his last design, for as he alighted in front of his club, he found
himself face to face with a pale young man, who smiled as he extended his
hand.  Camors recognized the Prince d'Errol.

"The deuce!  You here, my Prince!  I thought you in Cairo."

"I arrived only this morning."

"Ah, then you are better?--Your chest?"

"So--so."

"Bah! you look perfectly well.  And isn't Cairo a strange place?"

"Rather; but I really believe Providence has sent you to me."

"You really think so, my Prince?  But why?"

"Because--pshaw!  I'll tell you by-and-bye; but first I want to hear all
about your quarrel."

"What quarrel?"

"Your duel for Sarah."

"That is to say, against Sarah!"

"Well, tell me all that passed; I heard of it only vaguely while abroad."

"Well, I only strove to do a good action, and, according to custom, I was
punished for it.  I heard it said that that little imbecile La Brede
borrowed money from his little sister to lavish it upon that Sarah.
This was so unnatural that you may believe it first disgusted, and then
irritated me.  One day at the club I could not resist saying, 'You are an
ass, La Bride, to ruin yourself--worse than that, to ruin your sister,
for the sake of a snail, as little sympathetic as Sarah, a girl who
always has a cold in her head, and who has already deceived you.'
'Deceived me!' cried La Brede, waving his long arms.  'Deceived me!
and with whom?'--'With me.'  As he knew I never lied, he panted for my
life.  Luckily my life is a tough one."

"You put him in bed for three months, I hear."

"Almost as long as that, yes.  And now, my friend, do me a service.  I am
a bear, a savage, a ghost!  Assist me to return to life.  Let us go and
sup with some sprightly people whose virtue is extraordinary."

"Agreed!  That is recommended by my physician."

"From Cairo?  Nothing could be better, my Prince."

Half an hour later Louis de Camors, the Prince d'Errol, and a half-dozen
guests of both sexes, took possession of an apartment, the closed doors
of which we must respect.

Next morning, at gray dawn, the party was about to disperse; and at the
moment a ragpicker, with a gray beard, was wandering up and down before
the restaurant, raking with his hook in the refuse that awaited the
public sweepers.  In closing his purse, with an unsteady hand, Camors let
fall a shining louis d'or, which rolled into the mud on the sidewalk.
The ragpicker looked up with a timid smile.

"Ah!  Monsieur," he said, "what falls into the trench should belong to
the soldier."

"Pick it up with your teeth, then," answered Camors, laughing, "and it is
yours."

The man hesitated, flushed under his sunburned cheeks, and threw a look
of deadly hatred upon the laughing group round him.  Then he knelt,
buried his chest in the mire, and sprang up next moment with the coin
clenched between his sharp white teeth.  The spectators applauded.  The
chiffonnier smiled a dark smile, and turned away.

"Hello, my friend!"  cried Camors, touching his arm, "would you like to
earn five Louis?  If so, give me a knock-down blow.  That will give you
pleasure and do me good."

The man turned, looked him steadily in the eye, then suddenly dealt him
such a blow in the face that he reeled against the opposite wall.  The
young men standing by made a movement to fall upon the graybeard.

"Let no one harm him!"  cried Camors.  "Here, my man, are your hundred
francs."

"Keep them," replied the other, "I am paid;" and walked away.

"Bravo, Belisarius!"  laughed Camors.  "Faith, gentlemen, I do not know
whether you agree with me, but I am really charmed with this little
episode.  I must go dream upon it.  By-bye, young ladies!  Good-day,
Prince!"

An early cab was passing, he jumped in, and was driven rapidly to his
hotel, on the Rue Babet-de-Jouy.

The door of the courtyard was open, but being still under the influence
of the wine he had drunk, he failed to notice a confused group of
servants and neighbors standing before the stable-doors.  Upon seeing
him, these people became suddenly silent, and exchanged looks of sympathy
and compassion.  Camors occupied the second floor of the hotel; and
ascending the stairs, found himself suddenly facing his father's valet.
The man was very pale, and held a sealed paper, which he extended with a
trembling hand.

"What is it, Joseph?"  asked Camors.

"A letter which--which Monsieur le Comte wrote for you before he left."

"Before he left! my father is gone, then?  But--where--how?  What, the
devil! why do you weep?"

Unable to speak, the servant handed him the paper.  Camors seized it and
tore it open.

"Good God!  there is blood!  what is this!"  He read the first words--
"My son, life is a burden to me.  I leave it--" and fell fainting to the
floor.

The poor lad loved his father, notwithstanding the past.

They carried him to his chamber.



CHAPTER III

DEBRIS FROM THE REVOLUTION

De Camors, on leaving college had entered upon life with a heart swelling
with the virtues of youth--confidence, enthusiasm, sympathy.  The
horrible neglect of his early education had not corrupted in his veins
those germs of weakness which, as his father declared, his mother's milk
had deposited there; for that father, by shutting him up in a college to
get rid of him for twelve years, had rendered him the greatest service in
his power.

Those classic prisons surely do good.  The healthy discipline of the
school; the daily contact of young, fresh hearts; the long familiarity
with the best works, powerful intellects, and great souls of the
ancients--all these perhaps may not inspire a very rigid morality, but
they do inspire a certain sentimental ideal of life and of duty which has
its value.

The vague heroism which Camors first conceived he brought away with him.
He demanded nothing, as you may remember, but the practical formula for
the time and country in which he was destined to live.  He found,
doubtless, that the task he set himself was more difficult than he had
imagined; that the truth to which he would devote himself--but which he
must first draw from the bottom of its well--did not stand upon many
compliments.  But he failed no preparation to serve her valiantly as a
man might, as soon as she answered his appeal.  He had the advantage of
several years of opposing to the excitements of his age and of an opulent
life the austere meditations of the poor student.

During that period of ardent, laborious youth, he faithfully shut himself
up in libraries, attended public lectures, and gave himself a solid
foundation of learning, which sometimes awakened surprise when discovered
under the elegant frivolity of the gay turfman.  But while arming himself
for the battle of life, he lost, little by little, what was more
essential than the best weapons-true courage.

In proportion as he followed Truth day by day, she flew before and eluded
him, taking, like an unpleasant vision, the form of the thousand-headed
Chimera.

About the middle of the last century, Paris was so covered with political
and religious ruins, that the most piercing vision could scarcely
distinguish the outlines of the fresh structures of the future.
One could, see that everything was overthrown; but one could not see any
power that was to raise the ruins.  Over the confused wrecks and remains
of the Past, the powerful intellectual life of the Present-Progress--the
collision of ideas--the flame of French wit, criticism and the sciences--
threw a brilliant light, which, like the sun of earlier ages, illuminated
the chaos without making it productive.  The phenomena of Life and of
Death were commingled in one huge fermentation, in which everything
decomposed and whence nothing seemed to spring up again.

At no period of history, perhaps, has Truth been less simple, more
enveloped in complications; for it seemed that all essential notions of
humanity had been fused in a great furnace, and none had come out whole.

The spectacle is grand; but it troubles profoundly all souls--or at least
those that interest and curiosity do not suffice to fill; which is to
say, nearly all.  To disengage from this bubbling chaos one pure
religious moral, one positive social idea, one fixed political creed,
were an enterprise worthy of the most sincere.  This should not be beyond
the strength of a man of good intentions; and Louis de Camors might have
accomplished the task had he been aided by better instruction and
guidance.

It is the common misfortune of those just entering life to find in it
less than their ideal.  But in this respect Camors was born under a
particularly unfortunate star, for he found in his surroundings--in his
own family even--only the worst side of human nature; and, in some
respects, of those very opinions to which he was tempted to adhere.

The Camors were originally from Brittany, where they had held, in the
eighteenth century, large possessions, particularly some extensive
forests, which still bear their name.  The grandfather of Louis, the
Comte Herve de Camors, had, on his return from the emigration, bought
back a small part of the hereditary demesne.  There he established
himself in the old-fashioned style, and nourished until his death
incurable prejudices against the French Revolution and against Louis
XVIII.

Count Herve had four children, two boys and two girls, and, feeling it
his duty to protest against the levelling influences of the Civil Code,
he established during his life, by a legal subterfuge, a sort of entail
in favor of his eldest son, Charles-Henri, to the prejudice of Robert-
Sosthene, Eleanore-Jeanne and Louise-Elizabeth, his other heirs.
Eleanore-Jeanne and Louise-Elizabeth accepted with apparent willingness
the act that benefited their brother at their expense--notwithstanding
which they never forgave him.  But Robert-Sosthene, who, in his position
as representative of the younger branch, affected Liberal leanings and
was besides loaded with debt, rebelled against the paternal procedure.
He burned his visiting-cards, ornamented with the family crest and his
name "Chevalier Lange d'Ardennes"--and had others printed, simply
"Dardennes, junior (du Morbihan)."

Of these he sent a specimen to his father, and from that hour became a
declared Republican.

There are people who attach themselves to a party by their virtues;
others, again, by their vices.  No recognized political party exists
which does not contain some true principle; which does not respond to
some legitimate aspiration of human society.  At the same time, there is
not one which can not serve as a pretext, as a refuge, and as a hope, for
the basest passions of our nature.

The most advanced portion of the Liberal party of France is composed of
generous spirits, ardent and absolute, who torture a really elevated
ideal; that of a society of manhood, constituted with a sort of
philosophic perfection; her own mistress each day and each hour;
delegating few of her powers, and yielding none; living, not without
laws, but without rulers; and, in short, developing her activity, her
well-being, her genius, with that fulness of justice, of independence,
and of dignity, which republicanism alone gives to all and to each one.

Every other system appears to them to preserve some of the slaveries and
iniquities of former ages; and it also appears open to the suspicion of
generating diverse interests--and often hostile ones--between the
governors and the governed.  They claim for all that political system
which, without doubt, holds humanity in the most esteem; and however one
may despise the practical working of their theory, the grandeur of its
principles can not be despised.

They are in reality a proud race, great-hearted and high-spirited.  They
have had in their age their heroes and their martyrs; but they have had,
on the other hand, their hypocrites, their adventurers, and their
radicals--their greatest enemies.

Young Dardennes, to obtain grace for the equivocal origin of his
convictions, placed himself in the front rank of these last.

Until he left college Louis de Camors never knew his uncle, who had
remained on bad terms with his father; but he entertained for him, in
secret; an enthusiastic admiration, attributing to him all the virtues of
that principle of which he seemed the exponent.

The Republic of '48 soon died: his uncle was among the vanquished; and
this, to the young man, had but an additional attraction.  Without his
father's knowledge, he went to see him, as if on a pilgrimage to a holy
shrine; and he was well received.

He found his uncle exasperated--not so much against his enemies as
against his own party, to which he attributed all the disasters of the
cause.

"They never can make revolutions with gloves on," he said in a solemn,
dogmatic tone.  "The men of 'ninety-three did not wear them.  You can not
make an omelette without first breaking the eggs.

"The pioneers of the future should march on, axe in hand!

"The chrysalis of the people is not hatched upon roses!

"Liberty is a goddess who demands great holocausts.  Had they made a
Reign of Terror in 'forty-eight, they would now be masters!"

These high-flown maxims astonished Louis de Camors.  In his youthful
simplicity he had an infinite respect for the men who had governed his
country in her darkest hour; not more that they had given up power as
poor as when they assumed it, than that they left it with their hands
unstained with blood: To this praise--which will be accorded them in
history, which redresses many contemporary injustices--he added a
reproach which he could not reconcile with the strange regrets of his
uncle.  He reproached them with not having more boldly separated the New
Republic, in its management and minor details, from the memories of the
old one.  Far from agreeing with his uncle that a revival of the horrors
of 'ninety-three would have assured the triumph of the New Republic, he
believed it had sunk under the bloody shadow of its predecessor.  He
believed that, owing to this boasted Terror, France had been for
centuries the only country in which the dangers of liberty outweighed its
benefits.

It is useless to dwell longer on the relations of Louis de Camors with
his uncle Dardennes.  It is enough that he was doubtful and discouraged,
and made the error of holding the cause responsible for the violence of
its lesser apostles, and that he adopted the fatal error, too common in
France at that period, of confounding progress with discord, liberty with
license, and revolution with terrorism!

The natural result of irritation and disenchantment on this ardent spirit
was to swing it rapidly around to the opposite pole of opinion.  After
all, Camors argued, his birth, his name, his family ties all pointed out
his true course, which was to combat the cruel and despotic doctrines
which he believed he detected under these democratic theories.  Another
thing in the habitual language of his uncle also shocked and repelled
him--the profession of an absolute atheism.  He had within him, in
default of a formal creed, a fund of general belief and respect for holy
things--that kind of religious sensibility which was shocked by impious
cynicism.  Further he could not comprehend then, or ever afterward, how
principles alone, without faith in some higher sanction, could sustain
themselves by their own strength in the human conscience.

God--or no principles!  This was the dilemma from which no German
philosophy could rescue him.

This reaction in his mind drew him closer to those other branches of his
family which he had hitherto neglected.  His two aunts, living at Paris,
had been compelled, in consequence of their small fortunes, to make some
sacrifices to enter into the blessed state of matrimony.  The elder,
Eleanore-Jeanne, had married, during her father's life, the Comte de la
Roche-Jugan--a man long past fifty, but still well worthy of being loved.
Nevertheless, his wife did not love him.  Their views on many essential
points differed widely.  M. de la Roche-Jugan was one of those who had
served the Government of the Restoration with an unshaken but hopeless
devotion.  In his youth he had been attached to the person and to the
ministry of the Duc de Richelieu; and he had preserved the memory of that
illustrious man--of the elevated moderation of his sentiments--of the
warmth of his patriotism and of his constancy.  He saw the pitfalls
ahead, pointed them out to his prince--displeased him by so doing, but
still followed his fortunes.  Once more retired to private life with but
small means, he guarded his political principles rather like a religion
than a hope.  His hopes, his vivacity, his love of right--all these he
turned toward God.

His piety, as enlightened as profound, ranked him among the choicest
spirits who then endeavored to reconcile the national faith of the past
with the inexorable liberty of thought of the present.  Like his
colaborers in this work, he experienced only a mortal sadness under which
he sank.  True, his wife contributed no little to hasten his end by the
intemperance of her zeal and the acrimony of her bigotry.

She had little heart and great pride, and made her God subserve her
passions, as Dardennes made liberty subserve his malice.

No sooner had she become a widow than she purified her salons.
Thenceforth figured there only parishioners more orthodox than their
bishops, French priests who denied Bossuet; consequently she believed
that religion was saved in France.  Louis de Camors, admitted to this
choice circle by title both of relative and convert, found there the
devotion of Louis XI and the charity of Catherine de Medicis; and he
there lost very soon the little faith that remained to him.

He asked himself sadly whether there was no middle ground between Terror
and Inquisition; whether in this world one must be a fanatic or nothing.
He sought a middle course, possessing the force and cohesion of a party;
but he sought in vain.  It seemed to him that the whole world of politics
and religion rushed to extremes; and that what was not extreme was inert
and indifferent--dragging out, day by day, an existence without faith and
without principle.

Thus at least appeared to him those whom the sad changes of his life
showed him as types of modern politics.

His younger aunt, Louise-Elizabeth, who enjoyed to the full all the
pleasures of modern life, had already profited by her father's death to
make a rich misalliance.  She married the Baron Tonnelier, whose father,
although the son of a miller, had shown ability and honesty enough to
fill high positions under the First Empire.

The Baron Tonnelier had a large fortune, increasing every day by
successful speculation.  In his youth he had been a good horseman,
a Voltairian, and a Liberal.

In time--though he remained a Voltairian--he renounced horsemanship,
and Liberalism.  Although he was a simple deputy, he had a twinge of
democracy now and then; but after he was invested with the peerage, he
felt sure from that moment that the human species had no more progress to
make.

The French Revolution was ended; its giddiest height attained.  No longer
could any one walk, talk, write, or rise.  That perplexed him.  Had he
been sincere, he would have avowed that he could not comprehend that
there could be storms, or thunder-clouds in the heavens--that the world
was not perfectly happy and tranquil, while he himself was so.  When his
nephew was old enough to comprehend him, Baron Tonnelier was no longer
peer of France; but being one who does himself no hurt--and sometimes
much good by a fall, he filled a high office under the new government.
He endeavored to discharge its duties conscientiously, as he had those of
the preceding reign.

He spoke with peculiar ease of suppressing this or that journal--such an
orator, such a book; of suppressing everything, in short, except himself.
In his view, France had been in the wrong road since 1789, and he sought
to lead her back from that fatal date.

Nevertheless, he never spoke of returning, in his proper person, to his
grandfather's mill; which, to say the least, was inconsistent.  Had
Liberty been mother to this old gentleman, and had he met her in a clump
of woods, he would have strangled her.  We regret to add that he had the
habit of terming "old duffers" such ministers as he suspected of liberal
views, and especially such as were in favor of popular education.  A more
hurtful counsellor never approached a throne; but luckily, while near it
in office, he was far from it in influence.

He was still a charming man, gallant and fresh--more gallant, however,
than fresh.  Consequently his habits were not too good, and he haunted
the greenroom of the opera.  He had two daughters, recently married,
before whom he repeated the most piquant witticisms of Voltaire, and the
most improper stories of Tallemant de Reaux; and consequently both
promised to afford the scandalmongers a series of racy anecdotes, as
their mother had before them.

While Louis de Camors was learning rapidly, by the association and
example of the collateral branches of his family, to defy equally all
principles and all convictions, his terrible father finished the task.

Worldling to the last extreme, depraved to his very core; past-master in
the art of Parisian high life; an unbridled egotist, thinking himself
superior to everything because he abased everything to himself; and,
finally, flattering himself for despising all duties, which he had all
his life prided himself on dispensing with--such was his father.  But for
all this, he was the pride of his circle, with a pleasing presence and an
indefinable charm of manner.

The father and son saw little of each other.  M. de Camors was too proud
to entangle his son in his own debaucheries; but the course of every-day
life sometimes brought them together at meal-time.  He would then listen
with cool mockery to the enthusiastic or despondent speeches of the
youth.  He never deigned to argue seriously, but responded in a few
bitter words, that fell like drops of sleet on the few sparks still
glowing in the son's heart.

Becoming gradually discouraged, the latter lost all taste for work, and
gave himself up, more and more, to the idle pleasures of his position.
Abandoning himself wholly to these, he threw into them all the seductions
of his person, all the generosity of his character--but at the same time
a sadness always gloomy, sometimes desperate.

The bitter malice he displayed, however, did not prevent his being loved
by women and renowned among men.  And the latter imitated him.

He aided materially in founding a charming school of youth without
smiles.  His air of ennui and lassitude, which with him at least had the
excuse of a serious foundation, was servilely copied by the youth around
him, who never knew any greater distress than an overloaded stomach, but
whom it pleased, nevertheless, to appear faded in their flower and
contemptuous of human nature.

We have seen Camors in this phase of his existence.  But in reality
nothing was more foreign to him than the mask of careless disdain that
the young man assumed.  Upon falling into the common ditch, he, perhaps,
had one advantage over his fellows: he did not make his bed with base
resignation; he tried persistently to raise himself from it by a violent
struggle, only to be hurled upon it once more.

Strong souls do not sleep easily: indifference weighs them down.

They demand a mission--a motive for action--and faith.

Louis de Camors was yet to find his.



CHAPTER IV

A NEW ACTRESS IN A NOVEL ROLE

Louis de Camor's father had not I told him all in that last letter.

Instead of leaving him a fortune, he left him only embarrassments, for he
was three fourths ruined.  The disorder of his affairs had begun a long
time before, and it was to repair them that he had married; a process
that had not proved successful.  A large inheritance on which he had
relied as coming to his wife went elsewhere--to endow a charity hospital.
The Comte de Camors began a suit to recover it before the tribunal of the
Council of State, but compromised it for an annuity of thirty thousand
francs.  This stopped at his death.  He enjoyed, besides, several fat
sinecures, which his name, his social rank, and his personal address
secured him from some of the great insurance companies.  But these
resources did not survive him; he only rented the house he had occupied;
and the young Comte de Camors found himself suddenly reduced to the
provision of his mother's dowry--a bare pittance to a man of his habits
and rank.

His father had often assured him he could leave him nothing, so the son
was accustomed to look forward to this situation.  Therefore, when he
realized it, he was neither surprised nor revolted by the improvident
egotism of which he was the victim.  His reverence for his father
continued unabated, and he did not read with the less respect or
confidence the singular missive which figures at the beginning of this
story.  The moral theories which this letter advanced were not new to
him.  They were a part of the very atmosphere around him; he had often
revolved them in his feverish brain; yet, never before had they appeared
to him in the condensed form of a dogma, with the clear precision of a
practical code; nor as now, with the authorization of such a voice and of
such an example.

One incident gave powerful aid in confirming the impression of these last
pages on his mind.  Eight days after his father's death, he was reclining
on the lounge in his smoking-room, his face dark as night and as his
thoughts, when a servant entered and handed him a card.  He took it
listlessly, and read" Lescande, architect."  Two red spots rose to his
pale cheeks--"I do not see any one," he said.

"So I told this gentleman," replied the servant, "but he insists in such
an extraordinary manner--"

"In an extraordinary manner?"

"Yes, sir; as if he had something very serious to communicate."

"Something serious--aha!  Then let him in."  Camors rose and paced the
chamber, a smile of bitter mockery wreathing his lips.  "And must I now
kill him?"  he muttered between his teeth.

Lescande entered, and his first act dissipated the apprehension his
conduct had caused.  He rushed to the young Count and seized him by both
hands, while Camors remarked that his face was troubled and his lips
trembled.  "Sit down and be calm," he said.

"My friend," said the other, after a pause, "I come late to see you, for
which I crave pardon; but--I am myself so miserable!  See, I am in
mourning!"

Camors felt a chill run to his very marrow.  "In mourning! and why?"  he
asked, mechanically.

"Juliette is dead!"  sobbed Lescande, and covered his eyes with his great
hands.

"Great God!"  cried Camors in a hollow voice.  He listened a moment to
Lescande's bitter sobs, then made a movement to take his hand, but dared
not do it.  "Great God! is it possible?"  he repeated.

"It was so sudden!"  sobbed Lescande, brokenly.  "It seems like a dream--
a frightful dream!  You know the last time you visited us she was not
well.  You remember I told you she had wept all day.  Poor child!  The
morning of my return she was seized with congestion--of the lungs--of the
brain--I don't know!--but she is dead!  And so good!--so gentle, so
loving! to the last moment!  Oh, my friend!  my friend!  A few moments
before she died, she called me to her side.  'Oh, I love you so!  I love
you so!' she said.  'I never loved any but you--you only!  Pardon me!--
oh, pardon me!'  Pardon her, poor child!  My God, for what?  for dying?
--for she never gave me a moment's grief before in this world.  Oh, God
of mercy!"

"I beseech you, my friend--"

"Yes, yes, I do wrong.  You also have your griefs.

"But we are all selfish, you know.  However, it was not of that that I
came to speak.  Tell me--I know not whether a report I hear is correct.
Pardon me if I mistake, for you know I never would dream of offending
you; but they say that you have been left in very bad circumstances.  If
this is indeed so, my friend--"

"It is not," interrupted Camors, abruptly.

"Well, if it were--I do not intend keeping my little house.  Why should
I, now?  My little son can wait while I work for him.  Then, after
selling my house, I shall have two hundred thousand francs.  Half of this
is yours--return it when you can!"

"I thank you, my unselfish friend," replied Camors, much moved, "but I
need nothing.  My affairs are disordered, it is true; but I shall still
remain richer than you."

"Yes, but with your tastes--"

"Well?"

"At all events, you know where to find me.  I may count upon you--may I
not?"

"You may."

"Adieu, my friend!  I can do you no good now; but I shall see you again
--shall I not?"

"Yes--another time."

Lescande departed, and the young Count remained immovable, with his
features convulsed and his eyes fixed on vacancy.

This moment decided his whole future.

Sometimes a man feels a sudden, unaccountable impulse to smother in
himself all human love and sympathy.


In the presence of this unhappy man, so unworthily treated, so broken-
spirited, so confiding, Camors--if there be any truth in old spiritual
laws--should have seen himself guilty of an atrocious act, which should
have condemned him to a remorse almost unbearable.

But if it were true that the human herd was but the product of material
forces in nature, producing, haphazard, strong beings and weak ones--
lambs and lions--he had played only the lion's part in destroying his
companion.  He said to himself, with his father's letter beneath his
eyes, that this was the fact; and the reflection calmed him.

The more he thought, that day and the next, in depth of the retreat in
which he had buried himself, the more was he persuaded that this doctrine
was that very truth which he had sought, and which his father had
bequeathed to him as the whole rule of his life.  His cold and barren
heart opened with a voluptuous pleasure under this new flame that filled
and warmed it.

From this moment he possessed a faith--a principle of action--a plan of
life--all that he needed; and was no longer oppressed by doubts,
agitation, and remorse.  This doctrine, if not the most elevated, was at
least above the level of the most of mankind.  It satisfied his pride and
justified his scorn.

To preserve his self-esteem, it was only necessary for him to preserve
his honor, to do nothing low, as his father had said; and he determined
never to do anything which, in his eyes, partook of that character.
Moreover, were there not men he himself had met thoroughly steeped in
materialism, who were yet regarded as the most honorable men of their
day?

Perhaps he might have asked himself whether this incontestable fact might
not, in part, have been attributed rather to the individual than to the
doctrine; and whether men's beliefs did not always influence their
actions.  However that might have been, from the date of this crisis
Louis de Camors made his father's will the rule of his life.

To develop in all their strength the physical and intellectual gifts
which he possessed; to make of himself the polished type of the
civilization of the times; to charm women and control men; to revel in
all the joys of intellect, of the senses, and of rank; to subdue as
servile instincts all natural sentiments; to scorn, as chimeras and
hypocrisies, all vulgar beliefs; to love nothing, fear nothing, respect
nothing, save honor--such, in fine, were the duties which he recognized,
and the rights which he arrogated to himself.

It was with these redoubtable weapons, and strengthened by a keen
intelligence and vigorous will, that he would return to the world--his
brow calm and grave, his eye caressing while unyielding, a smile upon his
lips, as men had known him.

From this moment there was no cloud either upon his mind or upon his
face, which wore the aspect of perpetual youth.  He determined, above
all, not to retrench, but to preserve, despite the narrowness of his
present fortune, those habits of elegant luxury in which he still might
indulge for several years, by the expenditure of his principal.

Both pride and policy gave him this council in an equal degree.  He was
not ignorant that the world is as cold toward the needy as it is warm to
those not needing its countenance.  Had he been thus ignorant, the
attitude of his family, just after the death of his father, would have
opened his eyes to the fact.

His aunt de la Roche-Jugan and his uncle Tonnelier manifested toward him
the cold circumspection of people who suspected they were dealing with a
ruined man.  They had even, for greater security, left Paris, and
neglected to notify the young Count in what retreat they had chosen to
hide their grief.  Nevertheless he was soon to learn it, for while he was
busied in settling his father's affairs and organizing his own projects
of fortune and ambition, one fine morning in August he met with a lively
surprise.

He counted among his relatives one of the richest landed proprietors of
France, General the Marquis de Campvallon d'Armignes, celebrated for his
fearful outbursts in the Corps Legislatif.  He had a voice of thunder,
and when he rolled out, "Bah!  Enough!  Stop this order of the day!"  the
senate trembled, and the government commissioners bounced on their
chairs.  Yet he was the best fellow in the world, although he had killed
two fellow-creatures in duels--but then he had his reasons for that.

Camors knew him but slightly, paid him the necessary respect that
politeness demanded toward a relative; met him sometimes at the club,
over a game of whist, and that was all.

Two years before, the General had lost a nephew, the direct heir to his
name and fortune.  Consequently he was hunted by an eager pack of cousins
and relatives; and Madame de la Roche-Jugan and the Baroness Tonnelier
gave tongue in their foremost rank.

Camors was indifferent, and had, since that event, been particularly
reserved in his intercourse with the General.  Therefore he was
considerably astonished when he received the following letter:

     "DEAR KINSMAN:

     "Your two aunts and their families are with me in the country.
     When it is agreeable to you to join them, I shall always feel happy
     to give a cordial greeting to the son of an old friend and
     companion-in-arms.

     "I presented myself at your house before leaving Paris, but you were
     not visible.

     "Believe me, I comprehend your grief: that you have experienced an
     irreparable loss, in which I sympathize with you most sincerely.

     "Receive, my dear kinsman, the best wishes of
               GENERAL, THE MARQUIS DE CAMPVALLON D'ARMIGNES.

     "CHATEAU DE CAMPVALLON, Voie de l'ouest.

     "P.S.--It is probable, my young cousin, that I may have something of
     interest to communicate to you!"


This last sentence, and the exclamation mark that followed it, failed
not to shake slightly the impassive calm that Camors was at that moment
cultivating.  He could not help seeing, as in a mirror, under the veil
of the mysterious postscript, the reflection of seven hundred thousand
francs of ground-rent which made the splendid income of the General.
He recalled that his father, who had served some time in Africa, had been
attached to the staff of M. de Campvallon as aide-de-camp, and that he
had besides rendered him a great service of a different nature.

Notwithstanding that he felt the absurdity of these dreams, and wished to
keep his heart free from them, he left the next day for Campvallon.
After enjoying for seven or eight hours all the comforts and luxuries the
Western line is reputed to afford its guests, Camors arrived in the
evening at the station, where the General's carriage awaited him.  The
seignorial pile of the Chateau Campvallon soon appeared to him on a
height, of which the sides were covered with magnificent woods, sloping
down nearly to the plain, there spreading out widely.

It was almost the dinner-hour; and the young man, after arranging his
toilet, immediately descended to the drawing-room, where his presence
seemed to throw a wet blanket over the assembled circle.  To make up for
this, the General gave him the warmest welcome; only--as he had a short
memory or little imagination--he found nothing better to say than to
repeat the expressions of his letter, while squeezing his hand almost to
the point of fracture.

"The son of my old friend and companion-in-arms," he cried; and the words
rang out in such a sonorous voice they seemed to impress even himself--
for it was noticeable that after a remark, the General always seemed
astonished, as if startled by the words that came out of his mouth--and
that seemed suddenly to expand the compass of his ideas and the depth of
his sentiments.

To complete his portrait: he was of medium size, square, and stout;
panting when he ascended stairs, or even walking on level ground; a face
massive and broad as a mask, and reminding one of those fabled beings who
blew fire from their nostrils; a huge moustache, white and grizzly; small
gray eyes, always fixed, like those of a doll, but still terrible.  He
marched toward a man slowly, imposingly, with eyes fixed, as if beginning
a duel to the death, and demanded of him imperatively--the time of day!

Camors well knew this innocent weakness of his host, but,
notwithstanding, was its dupe for one instant during the evening.

They had left the dining-table, and he was standing carelessly in the
alcove of a window, holding a cup of coffee, when the General approached
him from the extreme end of the room with a severe yet confidential
expression, which seemed to preface an announcement of the greatest
importance.

The postscript rose before him.  He felt he was to have an immediate
explanation.

The General approached, seized him by the buttonhole, and withdrawing him
from the depth of the recess, looked into his eyes as if he wished to
penetrate his very soul.  Suddenly he spoke, in his thunderous voice.
He said:

"What do you take in the morning, young man?"

"Tea, General."

"Aha!  Then give your orders to Pierre--just as if you were at home;"
and, turning on his heel and joining the ladies, he left Camors to digest
his little comedy as he might.

Eight days passed.  Twice the General made his guest the object of his
formidable advance.  The first time, having put him out of countenance,
he contented himself with exclaiming:

"Well, young man!"  and turned on his heel.

The next time he bore down upon Camors, he said not a word, and retired
in silence.

Evidently the General had not the slightest recollection of the
postscript.  Camors tried to be contented, but would continually ask
himself why he had come to Campvallon, in the midst of his family,
of whom he was not overfond, and in the depths of the country, which he
execrated.  Luckily, the castle boasted a library well stocked with works
on civil and international law, jurisprudence, and political economy.
He took advantage of it; and, resuming the thread of those serious
studies which had been broken off during his period of hopelessness,
plunged into those recondite themes that pleased his active intelligence
and his awakened ambition.  Thus he waited patiently until politeness
would permit him to bring to an explanation the former friend and
companion-in-arms of his father.  In the morning he rode on horseback;
gave a lesson in fencing to his cousin Sigismund, the son of Madame de la
Roche-Jugan; then shut himself up in the library until the evening, which
he passed at bezique with the General.  Meantime he viewed with the eye
of a philosopher the strife of the covetous relatives who hovered around
their rich prey.

Madame de la Roche-Jugan had invented an original way of making herself
agreeable to the General, which was to persuade him he had disease of the
heart.  She continually felt his pulse with her plump hand, sometimes
reassuring him, and at others inspiring him with a salutary terror,
although he denied it.

"Good heavens!  my dear cousin!"  he would exclaim, "let me alone.  I
know I am mortal like everybody else.  What of that?  But I see your aim-
it is to convert me!  Ta-ta!"

She not only wished to convert him, but to marry him, and bury him
besides.

She based her hopes in this respect chiefly on her son Sigismund; knowing
that the General bitterly regretted having no one to inherit his name.
He had but to marry Madame de la Roche-Jugan and adopt her son to banish
this care.  Without a single allusion to this fact, the Countess failed
not to turn the thoughts of the General toward it with all the tact of an
accomplished intrigante, with all the ardor of a mother, and with all the
piety of an unctuous devotee.

Her sister, the Baroness Tonnelier, bitterly confessed her own
disadvantage.  She was not a widow.  And she had no son.  But she had two
daughters, both of them graceful, very elegant and sparkling.  One was
Madame Bacquiere, the wife of a broker; the other, Madame Van-Cuyp, wife
of a young Hollander, doing business at Paris.

Both interpreted life and marriage gayly; both floated from one year into
another dancing, riding, hunting, coquetting, and singing recklessly the
most risque songs of the minor theatres.  Formerly, Camors, in his
pensive mood, had taken an aversion to these little examples of modern
feminine frivolity.  Since he had changed his views of life he did them
more justice.  He said, calmly:

"They are pretty little animals that follow their instincts."

Mesdames Bacquiere and Van-Cuyp, instigated by their mother, applied
themselves assiduously to making the General feel all the sacred joys
that cluster round the domestic hearth.  They enlivened his household,
exercised his horses, killed his game, and tortured his piano.  They
seemed to think that the General, once accustomed to their sweetness and
animation, could not do without it, and that their society would become
indispensable to him.  They mingled, too, with their adroit manoeuvres,
familiar and delicate attentions, likely to touch an old man.  They sat
on his knees like children, played gently with his moustache, and
arranged in the latest style the military knot of his cravat.

Madame de la Roche-Jugan never ceased to deplore confidentially to the
General the unfortunate education of her nieces; while the Baroness, on
her side, lost no opportunity of holding up in bold relief the emptiness,
impertinence, and sulkiness of young Count Sigismund.

In the midst of these honorable conflicts one person, who took no part in
them, attracted the greatest share of Camors's interest; first for her
beauty and afterward for her qualities.  This was an orphan of excellent
family, but very poor, of whom Madame de la Roche-Jugan and Madame
Tonnelier had taken joint charge.  Mademoiselle Charlotte de Luc
d'Estrelles passed six months of each year with the Countess and six with
the Baroness.  She was twenty-five years of age, tall and blonde, with
deep-set eyes under the shadow of sweeping, black lashes.  Thick masses
of hair framed her sad but splendid brow; and she was badly, or rather
poorly dressed, never condescending to wear the cast-off clothes of her
relatives, but preferring gowns of simplest material made by her own
hands.  These draperies gave her the appearance of an antique statue.

Her Tonnelier cousins nicknamed her "the goddess."  They hated her; she
despised them.  The name they gave her, however, was marvellously
suitable.

When she walked, you would have imagined she had descended from a
pedestal; the pose of her head was like that of the Greek Venus; her
delicate, dilating nostrils seemed carved by a cunning chisel from
transparent ivory.  She had a startled, wild air, such as one sees in
pictures of huntress nymphs.  She used a naturally fine voice with great
effect; and had already cultivated, so far as she could, a taste for art.

She was naturally so taciturn one was compelled to guess her thoughts;
and long since Camors had reflected as to what was passing in that self-
centred soul.  Inspired by his innate generosity, as well as his secret
admiration, he took pleasure in heaping upon this poor cousin the
attentions he might have paid a queen; but she always seemed as
indifferent to them as she was to the opposite course of her involuntary
benefactress.  Her position at Campvallon was very odd.  After Camors's
arrival, she was more taciturn than ever; absorbed, estranged, as if
meditating some deep design, she would suddenly raise the long lashes of
her blue eyes, dart a rapid glance here and there, and finally fix it on
Camors, who would feel himself tremble under it.

One afternoon, when he was seated in the library, he heard a gentle tap
at the door, and Mademoiselle entered, looking very pale.  Somewhat
astonished, he rose and saluted her.

"I wish to speak with you, cousin," she said.  The accent was pure and
grave, but slightly touched with evident emotion.  Camors stared at her,
showed her to a divan, and took a chair facing her.

"You know very little of me, cousin," she continued, "but I am frank and
courageous.  I will come at once to the object that brings me here.  Is
it true that you are ruined?"

"Why do you ask, Mademoiselle?"

"You always have been very good to me--you only.  I am very grateful to
you; and I also--" She stopped, dropped her eyes, and a bright flush
suffused her cheeks.  Then she bent her head, smiling like one who has
regained courage under difficulty.  "Well, then," she resumed, "I am
ready to devote my life to you.  You will deem me very romantic, but I
have wrought out of our united poverty a very charming picture, I
believe.  I am sure I should make an excellent wife for the husband I
loved.  If you must leave France, as they tell me you must, I will follow
you--I will be your brave and faithful helpmate.  Pardon me, one word
more, Monsieur de Camors.  My proposition would be immodest if it
concealed any afterthought.  It conceals none.  I am poor.  I have but
fifteen hundred francs' income.  If you are richer than I, consider I
have said nothing; for nothing in the world would then induce me to marry
you!"

She paused; and with a manner of mingled yearning, candor, and anguish,
fixed on him her large eyes full of fire.

There was a solemn pause.  Between these strange natures, both high and
noble, a terrible destiny seemed pending at this moment, and both felt
it.

At length Camors responded in a grave, calm voice: "It is impossible,
Mademoiselle, that you can appreciate the trial to which you expose me;
but I have searched my heart, and I there find nothing worthy of you.
Do me the justice to believe that my decision is based neither upon your
fortune nor upon my own: but I am resolved never to marry."  She sighed
deeply, and rose.  "Adieu, cousin," she said.

"I beg--I pray you to remain one moment," cried the young man, reseating
her with gentle force upon the sofa.  He walked half across the room to
repress his agitation; then leaning on a table near the young girl, said:

"Mademoiselle Charlotte, you are unhappy; are you not?"

"A little, perhaps," she answered.

"I do not mean at this moment, but always?"

"Always!"

"Aunt de la Roche-Jugan treats you harshly?"

"Undoubtedly; she dreads that I may entrap her son.  Good heavens!"

"The little Tonneliers are jealous of you, and Uncle Tonnelier torments
you?"

"Basely!"  she said; and two tears swam on her eyelashes, then glistened
like diamonds on her cheek.

"And what do you believe of the religion of our aunt?"

"What would you have me believe of religion that bestows no virtue--
restrains no vice?"

"Then you are a non-believer?"

"One may believe in God and the Gospel without believing in the religion
of our aunt."

"But she will drive you into a convent.  Why, then, do you not enter
one?"

"I love life," the girl said.

He looked at her silently a moment, then continued "Yes, you love life--
the sunlight, the thoughts, the arts, the luxuries--everything that is
beautiful, like yourself.  Then, Mademoiselle Charlotte, all these are in
your hands; why do you not grasp them?"

"How?"  she queried, surprised and somewhat startled.

"If you have, as I believe you have, as much strength of soul as
intelligence and beauty, you can escape at once and forever the miserable
servitude fate has imposed upon you.  Richly endowed as you are, you
might become to-morrow a great artiste, independent, feted, rich, adored
--the mistress of Paris and of the world!"

"And yours also?--No!"  said this strange girl.

"Pardon, Mademoiselle Charlotte.  I did not suspect you of any improper
idea, when you offered to share my uncertain fortunes.  Render me, I pray
you, the same justice at this moment.  My moral principles are very lax,
it is true, but I am as proud as yourself.  I never shall reach my aim by
any subterfuge.  No; strive to study art.  I find you beautiful and
seductive, but I am governed by sentiments superior to personal
interests.  I was profoundly touched by your sympathetic leaning toward
me, and have sought to testify my gratitude by friendly counsel.  Since,
however, you now suspect me of striving to corrupt you for my own ends, I
am silent, Mademoiselle, and permit you to depart."

"Pray proceed, Monsieur de Camors."

"You will then listen to me with confidence?"

"I will do so."

"Well, then, Mademoiselle, you have seen little of the world, but you
have seen enough to judge and to be certain of the value of its esteem.
The world!  That is your family and mine: Monsieur and Madame Tonnelier,
Monsieur and Madame de la Roche-Jugan, and the little Sigismund!"

"Well, then, Mademoiselle Charlotte, the day that you become a great
artiste, rich, triumphant, idolized, wealthy--drinking, in deep draughts,
all the joys of life--that day Uncle Tonnelier will invoke outraged
morals, our aunt will swoon with prudery in the arms of her old lovers,
and Madame de la Roche-Jugan will groan and turn her yellow eyes to
heaven!  But what will all that matter to you?"

"Then, Monsieur, you advise me to lead an immoral life."

"By no manner of means.  I only urge you, in defiance of public opinion,
to become an actress, as the only sure road to independence, fame, and
fortune.  And besides, there is no law preventing an actress marrying and
being 'honorable,' as the world understands the word.  You have heard of
more than one example of this."

"Without mother, family, or protector, it would be an extraordinary thing
for me to do!  I can not fail to see that sooner or later I should be a
lost girl."

Camors remained silent.  "Why do you not answer?"  she asked.

"Heavens!  Mademoiselle, because this is so delicate a subject, and our
ideas are so different about it.  I can not change mine; I must leave you
yours.  As for me, I am a very pagan."

"How?  Are good and bad indifferent to you?"

"No; but to me it seems bad to fear the opinion of people one despises,
to practise what one does not believe, and to yield before prejudices and
phantoms of which one knows the unreality.  It is bad to be a slave or a
hypocrite, as are three fourths of the world.  Evil is ugliness,
ignorance, folly, and baseness.  Good is beauty, talent, ability, and
courage!  That is all."

"And God?"  the girl cried.  He did not reply.  She looked fixedly at him
a moment without catching the eyes he kept turned from her.  Her head
drooped heavily; then raising it suddenly, she said: "There are
sentiments men can not understand.  In my bitter hours I have often
dreamed of this free life you now advise; but I have always recoiled
before one thought--only one."

"And that?"

"Perhaps the sentiment is not peculiar to me--perhaps it is excessive
pride, but I have a great regard for myself--my person is sacred to me.
Should I come to believe in nothing, like you--and I am far from that
yet, thank God!--I should even then remain honest and true--faithful to
one love, simply from pride.  I should prefer," she added, in a voice
deep and sustained, but somewhat strained, "I should prefer to desecrate
an altar rather than myself!"

Saying these words, she rose, made a haughty movement of the head in sign
of an adieu, and left the room.



CHAPTER V

THE COUNT LOSES A LADY AND FINDS A MISSION

Camors sat for some time plunged in thought.

He was astonished at the depths he had discovered in her character; he
was displeased with himself without well knowing why; and, above all, he
was much struck by his cousin.

However, as he had but a slight opinion of the sincerity of women, he
persuaded himself that Mademoiselle de Luc d'Estrelles, when she came to
offer him her heart and hand, nevertheless knew he was not altogether a
despicable match for her.  He said to himself that a few years back he
might have been duped by her apparent sincerity, and congratulated
himself on not having fallen into this attractive snare--on not having
listened to the first promptings of credulity and sincere emotion.

He might have spared himself these compliments.  Mademoiselle de Luc
d'Estrelles, as he was soon to discover, had been in that perfectly
frank, generous, and disinterested state of mind in which women sometimes
are.

Only, would it happen to him to find her so in the future?  That was
doubtful, thanks to M. de Camors.  It often happens that by despising men
too much, we degrade them; in suspecting women too much, we lose them.

About an hour passed; there was another rap at the library door.  Camors
felt a slight palpitation and a secret wish that it should prove
Mademoiselle Charlotte.

It was the General who entered.  He advanced with measured stride, puffed
like some sea-monster, and seized Camors by the lapel of his coat.  Then
he said, impressively:

"Well, young gentleman!"

"Well, General."

"What are you doing in here?"

"Oh, I am at work."

"At work?  Um!  Sit down there--sit down, sit down!"  He threw himself on
the sofa where Mademoiselle had been, which rather changed the
perspective for Camors.

"Well, well!"  he repeated, after a long pause.

"But what then, General?"

"What then?  The deuce!  Why, have you not noticed that I have been for
some days extraordinarily agitated?"

"No, General, I have not noticed it."

"You are not very observing!  I am extraordinarily agitated--enough to
fatigue the eyes.  So agitated, upon my word of honor, that there are
moments when I am tempted to believe your aunt is right: that I have
disease of the heart!"

"Bah, General!  My aunt is dreaming; you have the pulse of an infant."

"You believe so, really?  I do not fear death; but it is always annoying
to think of it.  But I am too much agitated--it is necessary to put a
stop to it.  You understand?"

"Perfectly; but how can it concern me?"

"Concern you?  You are about to hear.  You are my cousin, are you not?"

"Truly, General, I have that honor."

"But very distant, eh?  I have thirty-six cousins as near as you, and--
the devil!  To speak plainly, I owe you nothing."

"And I have never demanded payment even of that, General."

"Ah, I know that!  Well, you are my cousin, very far removed!  But you
are more than that.  Your father saved my life in the Atlas.  He has
related it all to you--No?  Well, that does not astonish me; for he was
no braggart, that father of yours; he was a man!  Had he not quitted the
army, a brilliant career was before him.  People talk a great deal of
Pelissier, of Canrobert, of MacMahon, and of others.  I say nothing
against them; they are good men doubtless--at least I hear so; but your
father would have eclipsed them all had he taken the trouble.  But he
didn't take the trouble!

"Well, for the story: We were crossing a gorge of the Atlas; we were in
retreat; I had lost my command; I was following as a volunteer.  It is
useless to weary you with details; we were in retreat; a shower of stones
and bullets poured upon us, as if from the moon.  Our column was slightly
disordered; I was in the rearguard--whack!  my horse was down, and I
under him!

We were in a narrow gorge with sloping sides some fifteen feet high; five
dirty guerillas slid down the sides and fell upon me and on the beast--
forty devils!  I can see them now!  Just here the gorge took a sudden
turn, so no one could see my trouble; or no one wished to see it, which
comes to the same thing.

"I have told you things were in much disorder; and I beg you to remember
that with a dead horse and five live Arabs on top of me, I was not very
comfortable.  I was suffocating; in fact, I was devilish far from
comfortable.

"Just then your father ran to my assistance, like the noble fellow he
was!  He drew me from under my horse; he fell upon the Arabs.  When I was
up, I aided him a little--but that is nothing to the point--I never shall
forget him!"

There was a pause, when the General added:

"Let us understand each other, and speak plainly.  Would it be very
repugnant to your feelings to have seven hundred thousand francs a year,
and to be called, after me, Marquis de Campvallon d'Armignes?  Come,
speak up, and give me an answer."

The young Count reddened slightly.

"My name is Camors," he said, gently.

"What!  You would not wish me to adopt you?  You refuse to become the
heir of my name and of my fortune?"

"Yes, General."

"Do you not wish time to reflect upon it?"

"No, General.  I am sincerely grateful for your goodness; your generous
intentions toward me touch me deeply, but in a question of honor I never
reflect or hesitate."

The General puffed fiercely, like a locomotive blowing off steam.  Then
he rose and took two or three turns up and down the gallery, shuffling
his feet, his chest heaving.  Then he returned and reseated himself.

"What are your plans for the future?"  he asked, abruptly.

"I shall try, in the first place, General, to repair my fortune, which is
much shattered.  I am not so great a stranger to business as people
suppose, and my father's connections and my own will give me a footing in
some great financial or industrial enterprise.  Once there, I shall
succeed by force of will and steady work.  Besides, I shall fit myself
for public life, and aspire, when circumstances permit me, to become a
deputy."

"Well, well, a man must do something.  Idleness is the parent of all
vices.  See; like yourself, I am fond of the horse--a noble animal.
I approve of racing; it improves the breed of horses, and aids in
mounting our cavalry efficiently.  But sport should be an amusement, not
a profession.  Hem!  so you aspire to become a deputy?"

"Assuredly."

"Then I can help you in that, at least.  When you are ready I will send
in my resignation, and recommend to my brave and faithful constituents
that you take my place.  Will that suit you?"

"Admirably, General; and I am truly grateful.  But why should you
resign?"

"Why?  Well, to be useful to you in the first place; in the second, I am
sick of it.  I shall not be sorry to give personally a little lesson to
the government, which I trust will profit by it.  You know me--I am no
Jacobin; at first I thought that would succeed.  But when I see what is
going on!"

"What is going on, General?"

"When I see a Tonnelier a great dignitary!  It makes me long for the pen
of Tacitus, on my word.  When I was retired in 'forty-eight, under a mean
and cruel injustice they did me, I had not reached the age of exemption.
I was still capable of good and loyal service; but probably I could have
waited until an amendment.  I found it at least in the confidence of my
brave and faithful constituents.  But, my young friend, one tires of
everything.  The Assemblies at the Luxembourg--I mean the Palace of the
Bourbons--fatigue me.  In short, whatever regret I may feel at parting
from my honorable colleagues, and from my faithful constituents, I shall
abdicate my functions whenever you are ready and willing to accept them.
Have you not some property in this district?"

"Yes, General, a little property which belonged to my mother; a small
manor, with a little land round it, called Reuilly."

"Reuilly!  Not two steps from Des Rameures!  Certainly--certainly!  Well,
that is one foot in the stirrup."

"But then there is one difficulty; I am obliged to sell it."

"The devil!  And why?"

"It is all that is left to me, and it only brings me eleven thousand
francs a year; and to embark in business I need capital--a beginning.
I prefer not to borrow."

The General rose, and once more his military tramp shook the gallery.
Then he threw himself back on the sofa.

"You must not sell that property!  I owe you nothing, 'tis true, but I
have an affection for you.  You refuse to be my adopted son.  Well, I
regret this, and must have recourse to other projects to aid you.  I warn
you I shall try other projects.  You must not sell your lands if you wish
to become a deputy, for the country people--especially those of Des
Rameures--will not hear of it.  Meantime you will need funds.  Permit me
to offer you three hundred thousand francs.  You may return them when you
can, without interest, and if you never return them you will confer a
very great favor upon me."

"But in truth, General--"

"Come, come!  Accept it as from a relative--from a friend--from your
father's friend--on any ground you please, so you accept.  If not, you
will wound me seriously."

Camors rose, took the General's hand, and pressing it with emotion, said,
briefly:

"I accept, sir.  I thank you!"

The General sprang up at these words like a furious lion, his moustache
bristling, his nostrils dilating, his chest heaving.  Staring at the
young Count with real ferocity, he suddenly drew him to his breast and
embraced him with great fervor.  Then he strode to the door with his
usual solemnity, and quickly brushing a tear from his cheek, left the
room.

The General was a good man; but, like many good people, he had not been
happy.  You might smile at his oddities: you never could reproach him
with vices.

He was a small man, but he had a great soul.  Timid at heart, especially
with women, he was delicate, passionate, and chaste.  He had loved but
little, and never had been loved at all.  He declared that he had retired
from all friendship with women, because of a wrong that he had suffered.
At forty years of age he had married the daughter of a poor colonel who
had been killed by the enemy.  Not long after, his wife had deceived him
with one of his aides-de-camp.

The treachery was revealed to him by a rival, who played on this occasion
the infamous role of Iago.  Campvallon laid aside his starred epaulettes,
and in two successive duels, still remembered in Africa, killed on two
successive days the guilty one and his betrayer.  His wife died shortly
after, and he was left more lonely than ever.  He was not the man to
console himself with venal love; a gross remark made him blush; the corps
de ballet inspired him with terror.  He did not dare to avow it, but the
dream of his old age, with his fierce moustache and his grim countenance,
was the devoted love of some young girl, at whose feet he might pour out,
without shame, without distrust even, all the tenderness of his simple
and heroic heart.

On the evening of the day which had been marked for Camors by these two
interesting episodes, Mademoiselle de Luc d'Estrelles did not come down
to dinner, but sent word she had a headache.  This message was received
with a general murmur, and with some sharp remarks from Madame de la
Roche-Jugan, which implied Mademoiselle was not in a position which
justified her in having a headache.  The dinner, however, was not less
gay than usual, thanks to Mesdames Bacquiere and Van-Cuyp, and to their
husbands, who had arrived from Paris to pass Sunday with them.

To celebrate this happy meeting, they drank very freely of champagne,
talked slang, and imitated actors, causing much amusement to the
servants.  Returning to the drawing-room, these innocent young things
thought it very funny to take their husbands' hats, put their feet in
them, and, thus shod, to run a steeplechase across the room.  Meantime
Madame de la Roche-Jagan felt the General's pulse frequently, and found
it variable.

Next morning at breakfast all the General's guests assembled, except
Mademoiselle d'Estrelles, whose headache apparently was no better.  They
remarked also the absence of the General, who was the embodiment of
politeness and punctuality.  A sense of uneasiness was beginning to creep
over all, when suddenly the door opened and the General appeared leading
Mademoiselle d'Estrelles by the hand.

The young girl's eyes were red; her face was very pale.  The General's
face was scarlet.  He advanced a few steps, like an actor about to
address his audience; cast fierce glances on all sides of him, and
cleared his throat with a sound that echoed like the bass notes of a
grand piano.  Then he spoke in a voice of thunder:

"My dear guests and friends, permit me to present to you the Marquise de
Campvallon d'Armignes!"

An iceberg at the North Pole is not colder than was the General's salon
at this announcement.

He held the young lady by the hand, and retaining his position in the
centre of the room, launched out fierce glances.  Then his eyes began to
wander and roll convulsively in their sockets, as if he was himself
astonished at the effect his announcement had produced.

Camors was the first to come to the rescue, and taking his hand, said:
"Accept, my dear General, my congratulations.  I am extremely happy, and
rejoice at your good fortune; the more so, as I feel the lady is so well
worthy of you."  Then, bowing to Mademoiselle d'Estrelles with a grave
grace, he pressed her hand, and turning away, was struck dumb at seeing
Madame de la Roche-Jugan in the arms of the General.  She passed from his
into those of Mademoiselle d'Estrelles, who feared at first, from the
violence of the caresses, that there was a secret design to strangle her.

"General," said Madame de la Roche-Jugan in a plaintive voice, "you
remember I always recommended her to you.  I always spoke well of her.
She is my daughter--my second child.  Sigismund, embrace your sister!
You permit it, General?  Ah, we never know how much we love these
children until we lose them!  I always spoke well of her; did I not--Ge--
General?"  And here Madame de la Roche-Jugan burst into tears.

The General, who began to entertain a high opinion of the Countess's
heart, declared that Mademoiselle d'Estrelles would find in him a friend
and father.  After which flattering assurance, Madame de la Roche-Jugan
seated herself in a solitary corner, behind a curtain, whence they heard
sobs and moans issue for a whole hour.  She could not even breakfast;
happiness had taken away her appetite.

The ice once broken, all tried to make themselves agreeable.  The
Tonneliers did not behave, however, with the same warmth as the tender
Countess, and it was easy to see that Mesdames Bacquiere and VanCuyp
could not picture to themselves, without envy, the shower of gold and
diamonds about to fall into the lap of their cousin.  Messrs.  Bacquiere
and Van-Cuyp were naturally the first sufferers, and their charming wives
made them understand, at intervals during the day, that they thoroughly
despised them.  It was a bitter Sunday for those poor fellows.  The
Tonnelier family also felt that little more was to be done there, and
left the next morning with a very cold adieu.

The conduct of the Countess was more noble.  She declared she would wait
upon her dearly beloved Charlotte from the altar to the very threshold of
the nuptial chamber; that she would arrange her trousseau, and that the
marriage should take place from her house.

"Deuce take me, my dear Countess!"  cried the General, "I must declare
one thing--you astonish me.  I was unjust, cruelly unjust, toward you.
I reproach myself, on my faith!  I believed you worldly, interested, not
open-hearted.  But you are none of these; you are an excellent woman--
a heart of gold--a noble soul!  My dear friend, you have found the best
way to convert me.  I have always believed the religion of honor was
sufficient for a man--eh, Camors?  But I am not an unbeliever, my dear
Countess, and, on my sacred word, when I see a perfect creature like you,
I desire to believe everything she believes, if only to be pleasant to
her!"

When Camors, who was not quite so innocent, asked himself what was the
secret of his aunt's politic conduct, but little effort was necessary to
understand it.

Madame de la Roche-Jugan, who had finally convinced herself that the
General had an aneurism, flattered herself that the cares of matrimony
would hasten the doom of her old friend.  In any event, he was past
seventy years of age.  But Charlotte was young, and so also was
Sigismund.  Sigismund could become tender; if necessary, could quietly
court the young Marquise until the day when he could marry her, with all
her appurtenances, over the mausoleum of the General.  It was for this
that Madame de la Roche-Jugan, crushed for a moment under the unexpected
blow that ruined her hopes, had modified her tactics and drawn her
batteries, so to speak, under cover of the enemy.  This was what she was
contriving while she was weeping behind the curtain.

Camors's personal feelings at the announcement of this marriage were not
of the most agreeable description.  First, he was obliged to acknowledge
that he had unjustly judged Mademoiselle d'Estrelles, and that at the
moment of his accusing her of speculating on his small fortune, she was
offering to sacrifice for him the annual seven hundred thousand francs of
the General.

He felt his vanity injured, that he had not had the best part of this
affair.  Besides, he felt obliged to stifle from this moment the secret
passion with which the beautiful and singular girl had inspired him.
Wife or widow of the General, it was clear that Mademoiselle d'Estrelles
had forever escaped him.  To seduce the wife of this good old man from
whom he accepted such favors, or even to marry her, widowed and rich,
after refusing her when poor, were equal unworthiness and baseness that
honor forbade in the same degree and with the same rigor as if this
honor, which he made the only law of his life, were not a mockery and an
empty word.

Camors, however, did not fail to comprehend the position in this light,
and he resigned himself to it.

During the four or five days he remained at Campvallon his conduct was
perfect.  The delicate and reserved attentions with which he surrounded
Mademoiselle d'Estrelles were tinged with a melancholy that showed her at
the same time his gratitude, his respect, and his regrets.

M. de Campvallon had not less reason to congratulate himself on the
conduct of the young Count.  He entered into the folly of his host with
affectionate grace.  He spoke to him little of the beauty of his fiancee:
much of her high moral qualities; and let him see his most flattering
confidence in the future of this union.

On the eve of his departure Camors was summoned into the General's study.
Handing his young relative a check for three hundred thousand francs, the
General said:

"My dear young friend, I ought to tell you, for the peace of your
conscience, that I have informed Mademoiselle d'Estrelles of this little
service I render you.  She has a great deal of love and affection for
you, my dear young friend; be sure of that.

"She therefore received my communication with sincere pleasure.  I also
informed her that I did not intend taking any receipt for this sum, and
that no reclamation of it should be made at any time, on any account.

"Now, my dear Camors, do me one favor.  To tell you my inmost thought, I
shall be most happy to see you carry into execution your project of
laudable ambition.  My own new position, my age, my tastes, and those I
perceive in the Marquise, claim all my leisure--all my liberty of action.
Consequently, I desire as soon as possible to present you to my generous
and faithful constituents, as well for the Corps Legislatif as for the
General Council.  You had better make your preliminary arrangements as
soon as possible.  Why should you defer it?  You are very well
cultivated--very capable.  Well, let us go ahead--let us begin at once.
What do you say?"

"I should prefer, General, to be more mature; but it would be both folly
and ingratitude in me not to accede to your kind wish.  What shall I do
first?"

"Well, my young friend, instead of leaving tomorrow for Paris, you must
go to your estate at Reuilly: go there and conquer Des Rameures."

"And who are the Des Rameures, General?"

"You do not know the Des Rameures?  The deuce!  no; you can not know
them!  That is unfortunate, too.

"Des Rameures is a clever fellow, a very clever fellow, and all-powerful
in his neighborhood.  He is an original, as you will see; and with him
lives his niece, a charming woman.  I tell you, my boy, you must please
them, for Des Rameures is the master of the county.  He protects me, or
else, upon my honor, I should be stopped on the road!"

"But, General, what shall I do to please this Des Rameures?"

"You will see him.  He is, as I tell you, a great oddity.  He has not
been in Paris since 1825; he has a horror of Paris and Parisians.  Very
well, it only needs a little tact to flatter his views on that point.  We
always need a little tact in this world, young man."

"But his niece, General?"

"Ah, the deuce!  You must please the niece also.  He adores her, and she
manages him completely, although he grumbles a little sometimes."

"And what sort of woman is she?"

"Oh, a respectable woman--a perfectly respectable woman.  A widow;
somewhat a devotee, but very well informed.  A woman of great merit."

"But what course must I take to please this lady?"

"What course?  By my faith, young man, you ask a great many questions.
I never yet learned to please a woman.  I am green as a goose with them
always.  It is a thing I can not understand; but as for you, my young
comrade, you have little need to be instructed in that matter.  You can't
fail to please her; you have only to make yourself agreeable.  But you
will know how to do it--you will conduct yourself like an angel, I am
sure."

"Captivate Des Rameures and his niece--this is your advice!"

Early next morning Camors left the Chateau de Campvallon, armed with
these imperfect instructions; and, further, with a letter from the
General to Des Rameures.

He went in a hired carriage to his own domain of Reuilly, which lay ten
leagues off.  While making this transit he reflected that the path of
ambition was not one of roses; and that it was hard for him, at the
outset of his enterprise, to by compelled to encounter two faces likely
to be as disquieting as those of Des Rameures and his niece.



CHAPTER VI

THE OLD DOMAIN OF REUILLY

The domain of Reuilly consisted of two farms and of a house of some
pretension, inhabited formerly by the maternal family of M. de Camors.
He had never before seen this property when he reached it on the evening
of a beautiful summer day.  A long and gloomy avenue of elms, interlacing
their thick branches, led to the dwelling-house, which was quite unequal
to the imposing approach to it; for it was but an inferior construction
of the past century, ornamented simply by a gable and a bull's-eye, but
flanked by a lordly dovecote.

It derived a certain air of dignity from two small terraces, one above
the other, in front of it, while the triple flight of steps was supported
by balusters of granite.  Two animals, which had once, perhaps, resembled
lions, were placed one upon each side of the balustrade at the platform
of the highest terrace; and they had been staring there for more than a
hundred and fifty years.  Behind the house stretched the garden; and in
its midst, mounted on a stone arch, stood a dismal sun-dial with hearts
and spades painted between its figures; while the trees around it were
trimmed into the shapes of confessionals and chess-pawns.  To the right,
a labyrinth of young trees, similarly clipped in the fashion of the time,
led by a thousand devious turns to a mysterious valley, where one heard
continually a low, sad murmur.  This proceeded from a nymph in terra-
cotta, from whose urn dripped, day and night, a thin rill of water into a
small fishpond, bordered by grand old poplars, whose shadows threw upon
its surface, even at mid-day, the blackness of Acheron.

Camors's first reflection at viewing this prospect was an exceedingly
painful one; and the second was even more so.

At another time he would doubtless have taken an interest in searching
through these souvenirs of the past for traces of an infant nurtured
there, who had a mother, and who had perhaps loved these old relics.  But
his system did not admit of sentiment, so he crushed the ideas that
crowded to his mind, and, after a rapid glance around him, called for his
dinner.

The old steward and his wife--who for thirty years had been the sole
inhabitants of Reuilly--had been informed of his coming.  They had spent
the day in cleaning and airing the house; an operation which added to the
discomfort they sought to remove, and irritated the old residents of the
walls, while it disturbed the sleep of hoary spiders in their dusty webs.
A mixed odor of the cellar, of the sepulchre, and of an old coach, struck
Camors when he penetrated into the principal room, where his dinner was
to be served.

Taking up one or two flickering candles, the like of which he had never
seen before, Camors proceeded to inspect the quaint portraits of his
ancestors, who seemed to stare at him in great surprise from their
cracked canvases.  They were a dilapidated set of old nobles, one having
lost a nose, another an arm, others again sections of their faces.  One
of them--a chevalier of St. Louis--had received a bayonet thrust through
the centre in the riotous times of the Revolution; but he still smiled at
Camors, and sniffed at a flower, despite the daylight shining through
him.

Camors finished his inspection, thinking to himself they were a highly
respectable set of ancestors, but not worth fifteen francs apiece.  The
housekeeper had passed half the previous night in slaughtering various
dwellers in the poultry-yard; and the results of the sacrifice now
successively appeared, swimming in butter.  Happily, however, the
fatherly kindness of the General had despatched a hamper of provisions
from Campvallon, and a few slices of pate, accompanied by sundry glasses
of Chateau-Yquem helped the Count to combat the dreary sadness with which
his change of residence, solitude, the night, and the smoke of his
candles, all conspired to oppress him.

Regaining his usual good spirits, which had deserted him for a moment, he
tried to draw out the old steward, who was waiting on him.  He strove to
glean from him some information of the Des Rameures; but the old servant,
like every Norman peasant, held it as a tenet of faith that he who gave a
plain answer to any question was a dishonored man.  With all possible
respect he let Camors understand plainly that he was not to be deceived
by his affected ignorance into any belief that M. le Comte did not know a
great deal better than he who and what M. des Rameures was--where he
lived, and what he did; that M. le Comte was his master, and as such was
entitled to his respect, but that he was nevertheless a Parisian, and--
as M. des Rameures said--all Parisians were jesters.

Camors, who had taken an oath never to get angry, kept it now; drew from
the General's old cognac a fresh supply of patience, lighted a cigar, and
left the room.

For a few moments he leaned over the balustrade of the terrace and looked
around.  The night, clear and beautiful, enveloped in its shadowy veil
the widestretching fields, and a solemn stillness, strange to Parisian
ears, reigned around him, broken only at intervals by the distant bay of
a hound, rising suddenly, and dying into peace again.  His eyes becoming
accustomed to the darkness, Camors descended the terrace stairs and
passed into the old avenue, which was darker and more solemn than a
cathedral-aisle at midnight, and thence into an open road into which it
led by chance.

Strictly speaking, Camors had never, until now, been out of Paris; for
wherever he had previously gone, he had carried its bustle, worldly and
artificial life, play, and the races with him; and the watering-places
and the seaside had never shown him true country, or provincial life.
It gave him a sensation for the first time; but the sensation was an
odious one.

As he advanced up this silent road, without houses or lights, it seemed
to him he was wandering amid the desolation of some lunar region.  This
part of Normandy recalled to him the least cultivated parts of Brittany.
It was rustic and savage, with its dense shrubbery, tufted grass, dark
valleys, and rough roads.

Some dreamers love this sweet but severe nature, even at night; they love
the very things that grated most upon the pampered senses of Camors, who
strode on in deep disgust, flattering himself, however, that he should
soon reach the Boulevard de Madeleine.  But he found, instead, peasants'
huts scattered along the side of the road, their low, mossy roofs seeming
to spring from the rich soil like an enormous fungus growth.  Two or
three of the dwellers in these huts were taking the fresh evening air on
their thresholds, and Camors could distinguish through the gloom their
heavy figures and limbs, roughened by coarse toil in the fields, as they
stood mute, motionless, and ruminating in the darkness like tired beasts.

Camors, like all men possessed by a dominant idea, had, ever since he
adopted the religion of his father as his rule of life, taken the pains
to analyze every impression and every thought.  He now said to himself,
that between these countrymen and a refined man like himself there was
doubtless a greater difference than between them and their beasts of
burden; and this reflection was as balm to the scornful aristocracy that
was the cornerstone of his theory.  Wandering on to an eminence, his
discouraged eye swept but a fresh horizon of apple-trees and heads of
barley, and he was about to turn back when a strange sound suddenly
arrested his steps.  It was a concert of voice and instruments, which in
this lost solitude seemed to him like a dream, or a miracle.  The music
was good-even excellent.  He recognized a prelude of Bach, arranged by
Gounod.  Robinson Crusoe, on discovering the footprint in the sand, was
not more astonished than Camors at finding in this desert so lively a
symptom of civilization.

Filled with curiosity, and led by the melody he heard, he descended
cautiously the little hill, like a king's son in search of the enchanted
princess.  The palace he found in the middle of the path, in the shape of
the high back wall of a dwelling, fronting on another road.  One of the
upper windows on this side, however, was open; a bright light streamed
from it, and thence he doubted not the sweet sounds came.

To an accompaniment of the piano and stringed instruments rose a fresh,
flexible woman's voice, chanting the mystic words of the master with such
expression and power as would have given even him delight.  Camors,
himself a musician, was capable of appreciating the masterly execution of
the piece; and was so much struck by it that he felt an irresistible
desire to see the performers, especially the singer.  With this impulse
he climbed the little hedge bordering the road, placed himself on the
top, and found himself several feet above the level of the lighted
window.  He did not hesitate to use his skill as a gymnast to raise
himself to one of the branches of an old oak stretching across the lawn;
but during the ascent he could not disguise from himself that his was
scarcely a dignified position for the future deputy of the district.  He
almost laughed aloud at the idea of being surprised in this position by
the terrible Des Rameures, or his niece.

He established himself on a large, leafy branch, directly in front of the
interesting window; and notwithstanding that he was at a respectful
distance, his glance could readily penetrate into the chamber where the
concert was taking place.  A dozen persons, as he judged, were there
assembled; several women, of different ages, were seated at a table
working; a young man appeared to be drawing; while other persons lounged
on comfortable seats around the room.  Around the piano was a group which
chiefly attracted the attention of the young Count.  At the instrument
was seated a grave young girl of about twelve years; immediately behind
her stood an old man, remarkable for his great height, his head bald,
with a crown of white hair, and his bushy black eyebrows.  He played the
violin with priestly dignity.  Seated near him was a man of about fifty,
in the dress of an ecclesiastic, and wearing a huge pair of silver-rimmed
spectacles, who played the violincello with great apparent gusto.

Between them stood the singer.  She was a pale brunette, slight and
graceful, and apparently not more than twenty-five years of age.  The
somewhat severe oval of her face was relieved by a pair of bright black
eyes that seemed to grow larger as she sang.  One hand rested gently on
the shoulder of the girl at the piano, and with this she seemed to keep
time, pressing gently on the shoulder of the performer to stimulate her
zeal.  And that hand was delicious!

A hymn by Palestrina had succeeded the Bach prelude.  It was a quartette,
to which two new voices lent their aid.  The old priest laid aside his
violoncello, stood up, took off his spectacles, and his deep bass
completed the full measure of the melody.

After the quartette followed a few moments of general conversation,
during which--after embracing the child pianist, who immediately left the
room--the songstress walked to the window.  She leaned out as if to
breathe the fresh air, and her profile was sharply relieved against the
bright light behind her, in which the others formed a group around the
priest, who once more donned his spectacles, and drew from his pocket a
paper that appeared to be a manuscript.

The lady leaned from the window, gently fanning herself, as she looked
now at the sky, now at the dark landscape.  Camors imagined he could
distinguish her gentle breathing above the sound of the fan; and leaning
eagerly forward for a better view, he caused the leaves to rustle
slightly.  She started at the sound, then remained immovable, and the
fixed position of her head showed that her gaze was fastened upon the oak
in which he was concealed.

He felt the awkwardness of his position, but could not judge whether or
not he was visible to her; but, under the danger of her fixed regard, he
passed the most painful moments of his life.

She turned into the room and said, in a calm voice, a few words which
brought three or four of her friends to the window; and among them Camors
recognized the old man with the violin.

The moment was a trying one.  He could do nothing but lie still in his
leafy retreat--silent and immovable as a statue.  The conduct of those at
the window went far to reassure him, for their eyes wandered over the
gloom with evident uncertainty, convincing him that his presence was only
suspected, not discovered.  But they exchanged animated observations, to
which the hidden Count lent an attentive ear.  Suddenly a strong voice--
which he recognized as belonging to him of the violin-rose over them all
in the pleasing order: "Loose the dog!"

This was sufficient for Camors.  He was not a coward; he would not have
budged an inch before an enraged tiger; but he would have travelled a
hundred miles on foot to avoid the shadow of ridicule.  Profiting by the
warning and a moment when he seemed unobserved, he slid from the tree,
jumped into the next field, and entered the wood at a point somewhat
farther down than the spot where he had scaled the hedge.  This done, he
resumed his walk with the assured tread of a man who had a right to be
there.  He had gone but a few steps, when he heard behind him the wild
barking of the dog, which proved his retreat had been opportune.

Some of the peasants he had noticed as he passed before, were still
standing at their doors.  Stopping before one of them he asked:

"My friend, to whom does that large house below there, facing the other
road, belong?  and whence comes that music?"

"You probably know that as well as I," replied the man, stolidly.

"Had I known, I should hardly have asked you," said Camors.

The peasant did not deign further reply.  His wife stood near him; and
Camors had remarked that in all classes of society women have more wit
and goodhumor than their husbands.  Therefore he turned to her and said:

"You see, my good woman, I am a stranger here.  To whom does that house
belong?  Probably to Monsieur des Rameures?"

"No, no," replied the woman, "Monsieur des Rameures lives much farther
on."

"Ah!  Then who lives here?"

"Why, Monsieur de Tecle, of course!"

"Ah, Monsieur de Tecle!  But tell me, he does not live alone?  There is a
lady who sings--his wife?--his sister?  Who is she?"

"Ah, that is his daughter-in-law, Madame de Tecle Madame Elise, who--"

"Ah!  thank you, thank you, my good woman!  You have children?  Buy them
sabots with this," and drop ping a gold piece in the lap of the obliging
peasant, Camors walked rapidly away.  Returning home the road seemed less
gloomy and far shorter than when he came.  As he strode on, humming the
Bach prelude, the moon rose, the country looked more beautiful, and, in
short, when he perceived, at the end of its gloomy avenue, his chateau
bathed in the white light, he found the spectacle rather enjoyable than
otherwise.  And when he had once more ensconced himself in the maternal
domicile, and inhaled the odor of damp paper and mouldy trees that
constituted its atmosphere, he found great consolation in the reflection
that there existed not very far away from him a young woman who possessed
a charming face, a delicious voice, and a pretty name.

Next morning, after plunging into a cold bath, to the profound
astonishment of the old steward and his wife, the Comte de Camors went to
inspect his farms.  He found the buildings very similar in construction
to the dams of beavers, though far less comfortable; but he was amazed to
hear his farmers arguing, in their patois, on the various modes of
culture and crops, like men who were no strangers to all modern
improvements in agriculture.  The name of Des Rameures frequently
occurred in the conversation as confirmation of their own theories, or
experiments.  M. des Rameures gave preference to this manure, to this
machine for winnowing; this breed of animals was introduced by him.  M.
des Rameures did this, M. des Rameures did that, and the farmers did like
him, and found it to their advantage.  Camors found the General had not
exaggerated the local importance of this personage, and that it was most
essential to conciliate him.  Resolving therefore to call on him during
the day, he went to breakfast.

This duty toward himself fulfilled, the young Count lounged on the
terrace, as he had the evening before, and smoked his cigar.  Though it
was near midday, it was doubtful to him whether the solitude and silence
appeared less complete and oppressive than on the preceding night.  A
hushed cackling of fowls, the drowsy hum of bees, and the muffled chime
of a distant bell--these were all the sounds to be heard.

Camors lounged on the terrace, dreaming of his club, of the noisy Paris
crowd, of the rumbling omnibuses, of the playbill of the little kiosk,
of the scent of heated asphalt--and the memory of the least of these
enchantments brought infinite peace to his soul.  The inhabitant of Paris
has one great blessing, which he does not take into account until he
suffers from its loss--one great half of his existence is filled up
without the least trouble to himself.  The all-potent vitality which
ceaselessly envelops him takes away from him in a vast degree the
exertion of amusing himself.  The roar of the city, rising like a great
bass around him, fills up the gaps in his thoughts, and never leaves that
disagreeable sensation--a void.

There is no Parisian who is not happy in the belief that he makes all the
noise he hears, writes all the books he reads, edits all the journals on
which he breakfasts, writes all the vaudevilles on which he sups, and
invents all the 'bon mots' he repeats.

But this flattering allusion vanishes the moment chance takes him a mile
away from the Rue Vivienne.  The proof confounds him, for he is bored
terribly, and becomes sick of himself.  Perhaps his secret soul, weakened
and unnerved, may even be assailed by the suspicion that he is a feeble
human creature after all!  But no!  He returns to Paris; the collective
electricity again inspires him; he rebounds; he recovers; he is busy,
keen to discern, active, and recognizes once more, to his intense
satisfaction, that he is after all one of the elect of God's creatures--
momentarily degraded, it may be, by contact with the inferior beings who
people the departments.

Camors had within himself more resources than most men to conquer the
blue-devils; but in these early hours of his experience in country life,
deprived of his club, his horses, and his cook, banished from all his old
haunts and habits, he began to feel terribly the weight of time.  He,
therefore, experienced a delicious sensation when suddenly he heard that
regular beat of hoofs upon the road which to his trained ear announced
the approach of several riding-horses.  The next moment he saw advancing
up his shaded avenue two ladies on horseback, followed by a groom with a
black cockade.

Though quite amazed at this charming spectacle, Camors remembered his
duty as a gentleman and descended the steps of the terrace.  But the two
ladies, at sight of him, appeared as surprised as himself, suddenly drew
rein and conferred hastily.  Then, recovering, they continued their way,
traversed the lower court below the terraces, and disappeared in the
direction of the lake.

As they passed the lower balustrade Camors bowed low, and they returned
his salutation by a slight inclination; but he was quite sure, in spite
of the veils that floated from their riding-hats, that he recognized the
black-eyed singer and the young pianist.  After a moment he called to his
old steward

"Monsieur Leonard," he said, "is this a public way?"

"It certainly is not a public way, Monsieur le Comte," replied Leonard.

"Then what do these ladies mean by using this road?"

"Bless me, Monsieur le Comte, it is so long since any of the owners have
been at Reuilly!  These ladies mean no harm by passing through your
woods; and sometimes they even stop at the chateau while my wife gives
them fresh milk.  Shall I tell them that this displeases Monsieur le
Comte?"

"My good Leonard, why the deuce do you suppose it displeases me?  I only
asked for information.  And now who are the ladies?"

"Oh!  Monsieur, they are quite respectable ladies; Madame de Tecle, and
her daughter, Mademoiselle Marie."

"So?  And the husband of Madame, Monsieur de Tecle, never rides out with
them?"

"Heavens!  no, Monsieur.  He never rides with them."  And the old steward
smiled a dry smile.  "He has been among the dead men for a long time, as
Monsieur le Comte well knows."

"Granting that I know it, Monsieur Leonard, I wish it understood these
ladies are not to be interfered with.  You comprehend?"

Leonard seemed pleased that he was not to be the bearer of any
disagreeable message; and Camors, suddenly conceiving that his stay at
Reuilly might be prolonged for some time, reentered the chateau and
examined the different rooms, arranging with the steward the best plan of
making the house habitable.  The little town of I------, but two leagues
distant, afforded all the means, and M. Leonard proposed going there at
once to confer with the architect.



CHAPTER VII

ELISE DE TECLE

Meantime Camors directed his steps toward the residence of M. des
Rameures, of which he at last obtained correct information.  He took the
same road as the preceding evening, passed the monastic-looking building
that held Madame de Tecle, glanced at the old oak that had served him for
an observatory, and about a mile farther on he discovered the small house
with towers that he sought.

It could only be compared to those imaginary edifices of which we have
all read in childhood's happy days in taking text, under an attractive
picture: "The castle of M. de Valmont was agreeably situated at the
summit of a pretty hill."  It had a really picturesque surrounding of
fields sloping away, green as emerald, dotted here and there with great
bouquets of trees, or cut by walks adorned with huge roses or white
bridges thrown over rivulets.  Cattle and sheep were resting here and
there, which might have figured at the Opera Comique, so shining were the
skins of the cows and so white the wool of the sheep.  Camors swung open
the gate, took the first road he saw, and reached the top of the hill
amid trees and flowers.  An old servant slept on a bench before the door,
smiling in his dreams.

Camors waked him, inquired for the master of the house, and was ushered
into a vestibule.  Thence he entered a charming apartment, where a young
lady in a short skirt and round hat was arranging bouquets in Chinese
vases.

She turned at the noise of the opening door, and Camors saw--Madame de
Tecle!

As he saluted her with an air of astonishment and doubt, she looked
fixedly at him with her large eyes.  He spoke first, with more of
hesitation than usual.

"Pardon me, Madame, but I inquired for Monsieur des Rameures."

"He is at the farm, but will soon return.  Be kind enough to wait."

She pointed to a chair, and seated herself, pushing away with her foot
the branches that strewed the floor.

"But, Madame, in the absence of Monsieur des Rameures may I have the
honor of speaking with his niece?"

The shadow of a smile flitted over Madame de Tecle's brown but charming
face.  "His niece?"  she said: "I am his niece."

"You I Pardon me, Madame, but I thought--they said--I expected to find an
elderly--a--person--that is, a respectable" he hesitated, then added
simply" and I find I am in error."

Madame de Tecle seemed completely unmoved by this compliment.

"Will you be kind enough, Monsieur," she said, "to let me know whom I
have the honor of receiving?"

"I am Monsieur de Camors."

"Ah!  Then I have excuses also to make.  It was probably you whom we saw
this morning.  We have been very rude--my daughter and I--but we were
ignorant of your arrival; and Reuilly has been so long deserted."

"I sincerely hope, Madame, that your daughter and yourself will make no
change in your rides."

Madame de Tecle replied by a movement of the hand that implied certainly
she appreciated the offer, and certainly she should not accept it.  Then
there was a pause long enough to embarrass Camors, during which his eye
fell upon the piano, and his lips almost formed the original remark--
"You are a musician, Madame."  Suddenly recollecting his tree, however,
he feared to betray himself by the allusion, and was silent.

"You come from Paris, Monsieur de Camors?"  Madame de Tecle at length
asked.

"No, Madame, I have been passing several weeks with my kinsman, General
de Campvallon, who has also the honor, I believe, to be a friend of
yours; and who has requested me to call upon you."

"We are delighted that you have done so; and what an excellent man the
General is!"

"Excellent indeed, Madame."  There was another pause.

"If you do not object to a short walk in the sun," said Madame de Tecle
at length, "let us walk to meet my uncle.  We are almost sure to meet
him."  Camors bowed.  Madame de Tecle rose and rang the bell: "Ask
Mademoiselle Marie," she said to the servant, "to be kind enough to put
on her hat and join us."

A moment after, Mademoiselle Marie entered, cast on the stranger the
steady, frank look of an inquisitive child, bowed slightly to him, and
they all left the room by a door opening on the lawn.

Madame de Tecle, while responding courteously to the graceful speeches of
Camors, walked on with a light and rapid step, her fairy-like little
shoes leaving their impression on the smooth fine sand of the path.

She walked with indescribable, unconscious grace; with that supple,
elastic undulation which would have been coquettish had it not been
undeniably natural.  Reaching the wall that enclosed the right side of
the park, she opened a wicket that led into a narrow path through a large
field of ripe corn.  She passed into this path, followed in single file
by Mademoiselle Marie and by Camors.  Until now the child had been very
quiet, but the rich golden corn-tassels, entangled with bright daisies,
red poppies, and hollyhocks, and the humming concert of myriads of flies-
blue, yellow, and reddishbrownwhich sported amid the sweets, excited her
beyond self-control.  Stopping here and there to pluck a flower, she
would turn and cry, "Pardon, Monsieur;" until, at length, on an apple-
tree growing near the path she descried on a low branch a green apple, no
larger than her finger.  This temptation proved irresistible, and with
one spring into the midst of the corn, she essayed to reach the prize, if
Providence would permit.  Madame de Tecle, however, would not permit.
She seemed much displeased, and said, sharply:

"Marie, my child!  In the midst of the corn!  Are you crazy!"

The child returned promptly to the path, but unable to conquer her wish
for the apple, turned an imploring eye to Camors and said, softly:
"Pardon, Monsieur, but that apple would make my bouquet complete."

Camors had only to reach up, stretch out his hand, and detach the branch
from the tree.

"A thousand thanks!"  cried the child, and adding this crowning glory to
her bouquet, she placed the whole inside the ribbon around her hat and
walked on with an air of proud satisfaction.

As they approached the fence running across the end of the field, Madame
de Tecle suddenly said: "My uncle, Monsieur;" and Camors, raising his
head, saw a very tall man looking at them over the fence and shading his
eyes with his hand.  His robust limbs were clad in gaiters of yellow
leather with steel buttons, and he wore a loose coat of maroon velvet and
a soft felt hat.  Camors immediately recognized the white hair and heavy
black eyebrows as the same he had seen bending over the violin the night
before.

"Uncle," said Madame de Tecle, introducing the young Count by a wave of
the hand: "This is Monsieur de Camors."

"Monsieur de Camors," repeated the old man, in a deep and sonorous voice,
"you are most welcome;" and opening the gate he gave his guest a soft,
brown hand, as he continued: "I knew your mother intimately, and am
charmed to have her son under my roof.  Your mother was a most amiable
person, Monsieur, and certainly merited--" The old man hesitated, and
finished his sentence by a sonorous "Hem!"  that resounded and rumbled
in his chest as if in the vault of a church.

Then he took the letter Camors handed to him, held it a long distance
from his eyes, and began reading it.  The General had told the Count it
would be impolite to break suddenly to M. des Rameures the plan they had
concocted.  The latter, therefore, found the note only a very warm
introduction of Camors.  The postscript gave him the announcement of the
marriage.

"The devil!"  he cried.  "Did you know this, Elise?  Campvallon is to be
married!"

All women, widows, matrons, or maids, are deeply interested in matters
pertaining to marriage.

"What, uncle!  The General!  Can it be?  Are you sure?"

"Um--rather.  He writes the news himself.  Do you know the lady, Monsieur
le Comte?"

"Mademoiselle de Luc d'Estrelles is my cousin," Camors replied.

"Ah!  That is right; and she is of a certain age?"

"She is about twenty-five."

M. des Rameures received this intelligence with one of the resonant
coughs peculiar to him.

"May I ask, without indiscretion, whether she is endowed with a pleasing
person?"

"She is exceedingly beautiful," was the reply.

"Hem!  So much the better.  It seems to me the General is a little old
for her: but every one is the best judge of his own affairs: Hem!  the
best judge of his own affairs.  Elise, my dear, whenever you are ready we
will follow you.  Pardon me, Monsieur le Comte, for receiving you in this
rustic attire, but I am a laborer.  Agricola--a mere herdsman--'custos
gregis', as the poet says.  Walk before me, Monsieur le Comte, I beg you.
Marie, child, respect my corn!

"And can we hope, Monsieur de Camors, that you have the happy idea of
quitting the great Babylon to install yourself among your rural
possessions?  It will be a good example, Monsieur--an excellent example!
For unhappily today more than ever we can say with the poet:

                            'Non ullus aratro

               Dignus honos; squalent abductis arva colonis,
               Et--et--'

"And, by gracious!  I've forgotten the rest--poor memory!  Ah, young sir,
never grow old-never grow old!"

               "'Et curvae rigidum falces conflantur in ensem,"'

said Camors, continuing the broken quotation.

"Ah!  you quote Virgil.  You read the classics.  I am charmed, really
charmed.  That is not the characteristic of our rising generation, for
modern youth has an idea it is bad taste to quote the ancients.  But that
is not my idea, young sir--not in the least.  Our fathers quoted freely
because they were familiar with them.  And Virgil is my poet.  Not that I
approve of all his theories of cultivation.  With all the respect I
accord him, there is a great deal to be said on that point; and his plan
of breeding in particular will never do--never do!  Still, he is
delicious, eh?  Very well, Monsieur Camors, now you see my little domain
--'mea paupera regna'--the retreat of the sage.  Here I live, and live
happily, like an old shepherd in the golden age--loved by my neighbors,
which is not easy; and venerating the gods, which is perhaps easier.  Ah,
young sir, as you read Virgil, you will excuse me once more.  It was for
me he wrote:

              'Fortunate senex, hic inter flumina nota,
               Et fontes sacros frigus captabis opacum.'

And this as well:

              'Fortunatus et ille deos qui novit agrestes,
               Panaque, Silvanumque senem!'"

"Nymphasque sorores!"  finished Camors, smiling and moving his head
slightly in the direction of Madame de Tecle and her daughter, who
preceded them.

"Quite to the point.  That is pure truth!"  cried M. des Rameures, gayly.
"Did you hear that, niece?"

"Yes, uncle."

"And did you understand it, niece?"

"No, uncle."

"I do not believe you, my dear!  I do not believe you!"  The old man
laughed heartily.  "Do not believe her, Monsieur de Camors; women have
the faculty of understanding compliments in every language."

This conversation brought them to the chateau, where they sat down on a
bench before the drawing-room windows to enjoy the view.

Camors praised judiciously the well-kept park, accepted an invitation to
dinner the next week, and then discreetly retired, flattering himself
that his introduction had made a favorable impression upon M. des
Rameures, but regretting his apparent want of progress with the fairy-
footed niece.

He was in error.

"This youth," said M. des Rameures, when he was left alone with Madame de
Tecle, "has some touch of the ancients, which is something; but he still
resembles his father, who was vicious as sin itself.  His eyes and his
smile recall some traits of his admirable mother; but positively, my dear
Elise, he is the portrait of his father, whose manners and whose
principles they say he has inherited."

"Who says so, uncle?"

"Current rumor, niece."

"Current rumor, my dear uncle, is often mistaken, and always exaggerates.
For my part, I like the young man, who seems thoroughly refined and at
his ease."

"Bah!  I suppose because he compared you to a nymph in the fable."

"If he compared me to a nymph in the fable he was wrong; but he never
addressed to me a word in French that was not in good taste.  Before we
condemn him, uncle, let us see for ourselves.  It is a habit you have
always recommended to me, you know."

"You can not deny, niece," said the old man with irritation, "that he
exhales the most decided and disagreeable odor of Paris!  He is too
polite--too studied!  Not a shadow of enthusiasm--no fire of youth!
He never laughs as I should wish to see a man of his age laugh; a young
man should roar to split his waistband!"

"What!  you would see him merry so soon after losing his father in such a
tragic manner, and he himself nearly ruined!  Why, uncle, what can you
mean?"

"Well, well, perhaps you are right.  I retract all I have said against
him.  If he be half ruined I will offer him my advice--and my purse if he
need it--for the sake of the memory of his mother, whom you resemble.
Ah, 'tis thus we end all our disputes, naughty child!  I grumble; I am
passionate; I act like a Tartar.  Then you speak with your good sense and
sweetness, my darling, and the tiger becomes a lamb.  All unhappy beings
whom you approach in the same way submit to your subtle charm.  And that
is the reason why my old friend, La Fontaine, said of you:

              'Sur differentes fleurs l'abeille se repose,
               Et fait du miel de toute chose!'"



CHAPTER VIII

A DISH OF POLITICS

Elise de Tecle was thirty years of age, but appeared much younger.  At
seventeen she had married, under peculiar conditions, her cousin Roland
de Tecle.  She had been left an orphan at an early age and educated by
her mother's brother, M. des Rameures.  Roland lived very near her
Everything brought them together--the wishes of the family, compatibility
of fortune, their relations as neighbors, and a personal sympathy.  They
were both charming; they were destined for each other from infancy, and
the time fixed for their marriage was the nineteenth birthday of Elise.
In anticipation of this happy event the.  Comte de Tecle rebuilt almost
entirely one wing of his castle for the exclusive use of the young pair.
Roland was continually present, superintending and urging on the work
with all the ardor of a lover.

One morning loud and alarming cries from the new wing roused all the
inhabitants of the castle; the Count burned to the spot, and found his
son stunned and bleeding in the arms of one of the workmen.  He had
fallen from a high scaffolding to the pavement.  For several months the
unfortunate young man hovered between life and death; but in the
paroxysms of fever he never ceased calling for his cousin--his betrothed;
and they were obliged to admit the young girl to his bedside.  Slowly he
recovered, but was ever after disfigured and lame; and the first time
they allowed him to look in a glass he had a fainting-fit that proved
almost fatal.

But he was a youth of high principle and true courage.  On recovering
from his swoon he wept a flood of bitter tears, which would not, however,
wash the scars from his disfigured face.  He prayed long and earnestly;
then shut himself up with his father.  Each wrote a letter, the one to M.
des Rameures, the other to Elise.  M. des Rameures and his niece were
then in Germany.  The excitement and fatigue consequent upon nursing her
cousin had so broken her health that the physicians urged a trial of the
baths of Ems.  There she received these letters; they released her from
her engagement and gave her absolute liberty.

Roland and his father implored her not to return in haste; explained that
their intention was to leave the country in a few weeks' time and
establish themselves at Paris; and added that they expected no answer,
and that their resolution--impelled by simple justice to her--was
irrevocable.

Their wishes were complied with.  No answer came.

Roland, his sacrifice once made, seemed calm and resigned; but he fell
into a sort of languor, which made fearful progress and hinted at a
speedy and fatal termination, for which in fact he seemed to long.  One
evening they had taken him to the lime-tree terrace at the foot of the
garden.  He gazed with absent eye on the tints with which the setting sun
purpled the glades of the wood, while his father paced the terrace with
long strides-smiling as he passed him and hastily brushing away a tear as
he turned his back.

Suddenly Elise de Tecle appeared before them, like an angel dropped from
heaven.  She knelt before the crippled youth, kissed his hand, and,
brightening him with the rays of her beautiful eyes, told him she never
had loved him half so well before.  He felt she spoke truly; he accepted
her devotion, and they were married soon after.

Madame de Tecle was happy--but she alone was so.  Her husband,
notwithstanding the tenderness with which she treated him--
notwithstanding the happiness which he could not fail to read in her
tranquil glance--notwithstanding the birth of a daughter--seemed never to
console himself.  Even with her he was always possessed by a cold
constraint; some secret sorrow consumed him, of which they found the key
only on the day of his death.

"My darling," he then said to his young wife--"my darling, may God reward
you for your infinite goodness!  Pardon me, if I never have told you how
entirely I love you.  With a face like mine, how could I speak of love to
one like you!  But my poor heart has been brimming over with it all the
while.  Oh, Elise!  how I have suffered when I thought of what I was
before--how much more worthy of you!  But we shall be reunited, dearest--
shall we not?--where I shall be as perfect as you, and where I may tell
you how much I adore you!  Do not weep for me, my own Elise!  I am happy
now, for the first time, for I have dared to open my heart to you.  Dying
men do not fear ridicule.  Farewell, Elise--darling-wife!  I love you!"
These tender words were his last.

After her husband's death, Madame de Tecle lived with her father-in-law,
but passed much of her time with her uncle.  She busied herself with the
greatest solicitude in the education of her daughter, and kept house for
both the old men, by both of whom she was equally idolized.

From the lips of the priest at Reuilly, whom he called on next day,
Camors learned some of these details, while the old man practiced the
violoncello with his heavy spectacles on his nose.  Despite his fixed
resolution of preserving universal scorn, Camors could not resist a vague
feeling of respect for Madame de Tecle; but it did not entirely eradicate
the impure sentiment he was disposed to dedicate to her.  Fully
determined to make her, if not his victim, at least his ally, he felt
that this enterprise was one of unusual difficulty.  But he was
energetic, and did not object to difficulties--especially when they took
such charming shape as in the present instance.

His meditations on this theme occupied him agreeably the rest of that
week, during which time he overlooked his workmen and conferred with his
architect.  Besides, his horses, his books, his domestics, and his
journals arrived successively to dispel ennui.  Therefore he looked
remarkably well when he jumped out of his dog-cart the ensuing Monday in
front of M. des Rameures's door under the eyes of Madame de Tecle.  As
the latter gently stroked with her white hand the black and smoking
shoulder of the thoroughbred Fitz-Aymon, Camors was for the first time
presented to the Comte de Tecle, a quiet, sad, and taciturn old
gentleman.  The cure, the subprefect of the district and his wife, the
tax-collector, the family physician, and the tutor completed, as the
journals say, the list of the guests.

During dinner Camors, secretly excited by the immediate vicinity of
Madame de Tecle, essayed to triumph over that hostility that the presence
of a stranger invariably excites in the midst of intimacies which it
disturbs.  His calm superiority asserted itself so mildly it was pardoned
for its grace.  Without a gayety unbecoming his mourning, he nevertheless
made such lively sallies and such amusing jokes about his first mishaps
at Reuilly as to break up the stiffness of the party.  He conversed
pleasantly with each one in turn, and, seeming to take the deepest
interest in his affairs, put him at once at his ease.

He skilfully gave M. des Rameures the opportunity for several happy
quotations; spoke naturally to him of artificial pastures, and
artificially of natural pastures; of breeding and of non-breeding cows;
of Dishley sheep--and of a hundred other matters he had that morning
crammed from an old encyclopaedia and a county almanac.

To Madame de Tecle directly he spoke little, but he did not speak one
word during the dinner that was not meant for her; and his manner to
women was so caressing, yet so chivalric, as to persuade them, even while
pouring out their wine, that he was ready to die for them.  The dear
charmers thought him a good, simple fellow, while he was the exact
reverse.

On leaving the table they went out of doors to enjoy the starlight
evening, and M. des Rameures--whose natural hospitality was somewhat
heightened by a goblet of his own excellent wine--said to Camors:

"My dear Count, you eat honestly, you talk admirably, you drink like a
man.  On my word, I am disposed to regard you as perfection--as a paragon
of neighbors--if in addition to all the rest you add the crowning one.
Do you love music?"

"Passionately!"  answered Camors, with effusion.

"Passionately?  Bravo!  That is the way one should love everything that
is worth loving.  I am delighted, for we make here a troupe of fanatical
melomaniacs, as you will presently perceive.  As for myself, I scrape
wildly on the violin, as a simple country amateur--'Orpheus in silvis'.
Do not imagine, however, Monsieur le Comte, that we let the worship of
this sweet art absorb all our faculties--all our time-certainly not.
When you take part in our little reunions, which of course you will do,
you will find we disdain no pursuit worthy of thinking beings.  We pass
from music to literature--to science--even to philosophy; but we do this
--I pray you to believe--without pedantry and without leaving the tone of
familiar converse.  Sometimes we read verses, but we never make them; we
love the ancients and do not fear the moderns: we only fear those who
would lower the mind and debase the heart.  We love the past while we
render justice to the present; and flatter ourselves at not seeing many
things that to you appear beautiful, useful, and true.

"Such are we, my young friend.  We call ourselves the 'Colony of
Enthusiasts,' but our malicious neighbors call us the 'Hotel de
Rambouillet.'  Envy, you know, is a plant that does not flourish in the
country; but here, by way of exception, we have a few jealous people--
rather bad for them, but of no consequence to us.

"We are an odd set, with the most opposite opinions.  For me, I am a
Legitimist; then there is Durocher, my physician and friend, who is a
rabid Republican; Hedouin, the tutor, is a parliamentarian; while
Monsieur our sub-prefect is a devotee to the government, as it is his
duty to be.  Our cure is a little Roman--I am Gallican--'et sic ceteris'.
Very well--we all agree wonderfully for two reasons: first, because we
are sincere, which is a very rare thing; and then because all opinions
contain at bottom some truth, and because, with some slight mutual
concessions, all really honest people come very near having the same
opinions.

"Such, my dear Count, are the views that hold in my drawing-room, or
rather in the drawing-room of my niece; for if you would see the divinity
who makes all our happiness--look at her!  It is in deference to her good
taste, her good sense, and her moderation, that each of us avoids that
violence and that passion which warps the best intentions.  In one word,
to speak truly, it is love that makes our common tie and our mutual
protection.  We are all in love with my niece--myself first, of course;
next Durocher, for thirty years; then the subprefect and all the rest of
them.

"You, too, Cure!  you know that you are in love with Elise, in all honor
and all good faith, as we all are, and as Monsieur de Camors shall soon
be, if he is not so already--eh, Monsieur le Comte?"

Camors protested, with a sinister smile, that he felt very much inclined
to fulfil the prophecy of his host; and they reentered the dining-room to
find the circle increased by the arrival of several visitors.  Some of
these rode, others came on foot from the country-seats around.

M. des Rameures soon seized his violin; while he tuned it, little Marie
seated herself at the piano, and her mother, coming behind her, rested
her hand lightly on her shoulder, as if to beat the measure.

"The music will be nothing new to you," Camors's host said to him.  "It
is simply Schubert's Serenade, which we have arranged, or deranged, after
our own fancy; of which you shall judge.  My niece sings, and the curate
and I--'Arcades ambo'--respond successively--he on the bass-viol and I on
my Stradivarius.  Come, my dear Cure, let us begin--'incipe, Mopse,
prior."

In spite of the masterly execution of the old gentleman and of the
delicate science of the cure, it was Madame de Tecle who appeared to
Camors the most remarkable of the three virtuosi.  The calm repose of her
features, and the gentle dignity of her attitude, contrasting with the
passionate swell of her voice, he found most attractive.

In his turn he seated himself at the piano, and played a difficult
accompaniment with real taste; and having a good tenor voice, and a
thorough knowledge of its powers, he exerted them so effectually as to
produce a profound sensation.  During the rest of the evening he kept
much in the background in order to observe the company, and was much
astonished thereby.  The tone of this little society, as much removed
from vulgar gossip as from affected pedantry, was truly elevated.  There
was nothing to remind him of a porter's lodge, as in most provincial
salons; or of the greenroom of a theatre, as in many salons of Paris; nor
yet, as he had feared, of a lecture-room.

There were five or six women--some pretty, all well bred--who, in
adopting the habit of thinking, had not lost the habit of laughing, nor
the desire to please.  But they all seemed subject to the same charm; and
that charm was sovereign.  Madame de Tecle, half hidden on her sofa, and
seemingly busied with her embroidery, animated all by a glance, softened
all by a word.  The glance was inspiring; the word always appropriate.
Her decision on all points they regarded as final--as that of a judge who
sentences, or of a woman who is beloved.

No verses were read that evening, and Camors was not bored.  In the
intervals of the music, the conversation touched on the new comedy by
Augier; the last work of Madame Sand; the latest poem of Tennyson; or the
news from America.

"My dear Mopsus," M. des Rameures said to the cure, "you were about to
read us your sermon on superstition last Thursday, when you were
interrupted by that joker who climbed the tree in order to hear you
better.  Now is the time to recompense us.  Take this seat and we will
all listen to you."

The worthy cure took the seat, unfolded his manuscript, and began his
discourse, which we shall not here report: profiting by the example of
our friend Sterne, not to mingle the sacred with the profane.

The sermon met with general approval, though some persons, M. des
Rameures among them, thought it above the comprehension of the humble
class for whom it was intended.  M. de Tecle, however, backed by
republican Durocher, insisted that the intelligence of the people was
underrated; that they were frequently debased by those who pretended to
speak only up to their level--and the passages in dispute were retained.

How they passed from the sermon on superstition to the approaching
marriage of the General, I can not say; but it was only natural after
all, for the whole country, for twenty miles around, was ringing with it.
This theme excited Camors's attention at once, especially when the sub-
prefect intimated with much reserve that the General, busied with his new
surroundings, would probably resign his office as deputy.

"But that would be embarrassing," exclaimed Des Rameures.  "Who the deuce
would replace him?  I give you warning, Monsieur Prefect, if you intend
imposing on us some Parisian with a flower in his buttonhole, I shall
pack him back to his club--him, his flower, and his buttonhole!  You may
set that down for a sure thing--"

"Dear uncle!"  said Madame de Tecle, indicating Camors with a glance.

"I understand you, Elise," laughingly rejoined M. des Rameures, "but I
must beg Monsieur de Camors to believe that I do not in any case intend
to offend him.  I shall also beg him to tolerate the monomania of an old
man, and some freedom of language with regard to the only subject which
makes him lose his sang froid."

"And what is that subject, Monsieur?"  said Camors, with his habitual
captivating grace of manner.

"That subject, Monsieur, is the arrogant supremacy assumed by Paris over
all the rest of France.  I have not put my foot in the place since 1825,
in order to testify the abhorrence with which it inspires me.  You are an
educated, sensible young man, and, I trust, a good Frenchman.  Very well!
Is it right, I ask, that Paris shall every morning send out to us our
ideas ready-made, and that all France shall become a mere humble, servile
faubourg to the capital?  Do me the favor, I pray you, Monsieur, to
answer that?"

"There is doubtless, my dear sir," replied Camors, "some excess in this
extreme centralization of France; but all civilized countries must have
their capitals, and a head is just as necessary to a nation as to an
individual."

"Taking your own image, Monsieur, I shall turn it against you.  Yes,
doubtless a head is as necessary to a nation as to an individual; if,
however, the head becomes monstrous and deformed, the seat of
intelligence will be turned into that of idiocy, and in place of a man of
intellect, you have a hydrocephalus.  Pray give heed to what Monsieur the
Sub-prefect, may say in answer to what I shall ask him.  Now, my dear
Sub-prefect, be frank.  If tomorrow, the deputation of this district
should become vacant, can you find within its broad limits, or indeed
within the district, a man likely to fill all functions, good and bad?"

"Upon my word," answered the official, "if you continue to refuse the
office, I really know of no one else fit for it."

"I shall persist all my life, Monsieur, for at my age assuredly I shall
not expose myself to the buffoonery of your Parisian jesters."

"Very well!  In that event you will be obliged to take some stranger--
perhaps, even one of those Parisian jesters."

"You have heard him, Monsieur de Camors," said M. des Rameures, with
exultation.  "This district numbers six hundred thousand souls, and yet
does not contain within it the material for one deputy.  There is no
other civilized country, I submit, in which we can find a similar
instance so scandalous.  For the people of France this shame is reserved
exclusively, and it is your Paris that has brought it upon us.  Paris,
absorbing all the blood, life, thought, and action of the country, has
left a mere geographical skeleton in place of a nation!  These are the
benefits of your centralization, since you have pronounced that word,
which is quite as barbarous as the thing itself."

"But pardon me, uncle," said Madame de Tecle, quietly plying her needle,
"I know nothing of these matters, but it seems to me that I have heard
you say this centralization was the work of the Revolution and of the
First Consul.  Why, therefore, do you call Monsieur de Camors to account
for it?  That certainly does not seem to me just."

"Nor does it seem so to me," said Camors, bowing to Madame de Tecle.

"Nor to me either," rejoined M. des Rameures, smiling.

"However, Madame," resumed Camors, "I may to some extent be held
responsible in this matter, for though, as you justly suggest, I have not
brought about this centralization, yet I confess I strongly approve the
course of those who did."

"Bravo!  So much the better, Monsieur.  I like that.  One should have his
own positive opinions, and defend them."

"Monsieur," said Camors, "I shall make an exception in your honor, for
when I dine out, and especially when I dine well, I always have the same
opinion with my host; but I respect you too highly not to dare to differ
with you.  Well, then, I think the revolutionary Assembly, and
subsequently the First Consul, were happily inspired in imposing a
vigorous centralized political administration upon France.  I believe,
indeed, that it was indispensable at the time, in order to mold and
harden our social body in its new form, to adjust it in its position, and
fix it firmly under the new laws--that is, to establish and maintain this
powerful French unity which has become our national peculiarity, our
genius and our strength."

"You speak rightly, sir," exclaimed Durocher.

"Parbleu I unquestionably you are right," warmly rejoined M. des
Rameures.  "Yes, that is quite true.  The excessive centralization of
which I complain has had its hour of utility, nay, even of necessity,
I will admit; but, Monsieur, in what human institution do you pretend to
implant the absolute, the eternal?  Feudalism, also, my dear sir, was a
benefit and a progress in its day, but that which was a benefit yesterday
may it not become an evil to-morrow--a danger?  That which is progress
to-day, may it not one hundred years hence have become mere routine, and
a downright trammel?  Is not that the history of the world?  And if you
wish to know, Monsieur, by what sign we may recognize the fact that a
social or political system has attained its end, I will tell you: it is
when it is manifest only in its inconveniences and abuses.  Then the
machine has finished its work, and should be replaced.  Indeed, I declare
that French centralization has reached its critical term, that fatal
point at which, after protecting, it oppresses; at which, after
vivifying, it paralyzes; at which, having saved France, it crushes her."

"Dear uncle, you are carried away by your subject," said Madame de Tecle.

"Yes, Elise, I am carried away, I admit, but I am right.  Everything
justifies me--the past and the present, I am sure; and so will the
future, I fear.  Did I say the past?  Be assured, Monsieur de Camors,
I am not a narrow-minded admirer of the past.  Though a Legitimist from
personal affections, I am a downright Liberal in principles.  You know
that, Durocher?  Well, then, in short, formerly between the Alps, the
Rhine, and the Pyrenees, was a great country which lived, thought, and
acted, not exclusively through its capital, but for itself.  It had a
head, assuredly; but it had also a heart, muscles, nerves, and veins with
blood in them, and yet the head lost nothing by that.  There was then a
France, Monsieur.  The province had an existence, subordinate doubtless,
but real, active, and independent.  Each government, each office, each
parliamentary centre was a living intellectual focus.  The great
provincial institutions and local liberties exercised the intellect on
all sides, tempered the character, and developed men.  And now note well,
Durocher!  If France had been centralized formerly as to-day, your dear
Revolution never would have occurred--do you understand?  Never!  because
there would have been no men to make it.  For may I not ask, whence came
that prodigious concourse of intelligences all fully armed, and with
heroic hearts, which the great social movement of '78 suddenly brought
upon the scene?  Please recall to mind the most illustrious men of that
era--lawyers, orators, soldiers.  How many were from Paris?  All came
from the provinces, the fruitful womb of France!  But to-day we have
simply need of a deputy, peaceful times; and yet, out of six hundred
thousand souls, as we have seen, we can not find one suitable man.  Why
is this the case, gentlemen?  Because upon the soil of uncentralized
France men grew, while only functionaries germinate in the soil of
centralized France."

"God bless you, Monsieur!"  said the Sub-prefect, with a smile.

"Pardon me, my dear Sub-prefect, but you, too, should understand that I
really plead your cause as well as my own, when I claim for the
provinces, and for all the functions of provincial life, more
independence, dignity, and grandeur.  In the state to which these
functions are reduced at present, the administration and the judiciary
are equally stripped of power, prestige, and patronage.  You smile,
Monsieur, but no longer, as formerly, are they the centres of life, of
emulation, and of light, civic schools and manly gymnasiums; they have
become merely simple, passive clockwork; and that is the case with the
rest, Monsieur de Camors.  Our municipal institutions are a mere farce,
our provincial assemblies only a name, our local liberties naught!
Consequently, we have not now a man for a deputy.  But why should we
complain?  Does not Paris undertake to live, to think for us?  Does she
not deign to cast to us, as of yore the Roman Senate cast to the suburban
plebeians, our food for the day-bread and vaudevilles--'panem et
circenses'.  Yes, Monsieur, let us turn from the past to the present--
to France of to-day!  A nation of forty millions of people who await each
morning from Paris the signal to know whether it is day or night, or
whether, indeed, they shall laugh or weep!  A great people, once the
noblest, the cleverest in the world, repeating the same day, at the same
hour, in all the salons, and at all the crossways in the empire, the same
imbecile gabble engendered the evening before in the mire of the
boulevards.  I tell you?  Monsieur, it is humiliating that all Europe,
once jealous of us, should now shrug her shoulders in our faces.--
Besides, it is fatal even for Paris, which, permit me to add, drunk with
prosperity in its haughty isolation and self-fetishism, not a little
resembles the Chinese Empire-a focus of warmed-over, corrupt, and
frivolous civilization!  As for the future, my dear sir, may God preserve
me from despair, since it concerns my country!  This age has already seen
great things, great marvels, in fact; for I beg you to remember I am by
no means an enemy to my time.  I approve the Revolution, liberty,
equality, the press, railways, and the telegraph; and as I often say to
Monsieur le Cure, every cause that would live must accommodate itself
cheerfully to the progress of its epoch, and study how to serve itself
by it.  Every cause that is in antagonism with its age commits suicide.
Indeed, Monsieur, I trust this century will see one more great event,
the end of this Parisian tyranny, and the resuscitation of provincial
life; for I must repeat, my dear sir, that your centralization, which was
once an excellent remedy, is a detestable regimen!  It is a horrible
instrument of oppression and tyranny, ready-made for all hands, suitable
for every despotism, and under it France stifles and wastes away.  You
must agree with me yourself, Durocher; in this sense the Revolution
overshot its mark, and placed in jeopardy even its purposes; for you, who
love liberty, and do not wish it merely for yourself alone, as some of
your friends do, but for all the world, surely you can not admire
centralization, which proscribes liberty as manifestly as night obscures
the day.  As for my part, gentlemen, there are two things which I love
equally--liberty and France.  Well, then, as I believe in God, do I
believe that both must perish in the throes of some convulsive
catastrophe if all the life of the nation shall continue to be
concentrated in the brain, and the great reform for which I call is not
made: if a vast system of local franchise, if provincial institutions,
largely independent and conformable to the modern spirit, are not soon
established to yield fresh blood for our exhausted veins, and to
fertilize our impoverished soil.  Undoubtedly the work will be difficult
and complicated; it will demand a firm resolute hand, but the hand that
may accomplish it will have achieved the most patriotic work of the
century.  Tell that to your sovereign, Monsieur Sub-prefect; say to him
that if he do that, there is one old French heart that will bless him.
Tell him, also, that he will encounter much passion, much derision, much
danger, peradventure; but that he will have a commensurate recompense
when he shall see France, like Lazarus, delivered from its swathings and
its shroud, rise again, sound and whole, to salute him!"

These last words the old gentleman had pronounced with fire, emotion, and
extraordinary dignity; and the silence and respect with which he had been
listened to were prolonged after he had ceased to speak.  This appeared
to embarrass him, but taking the arm of Camors he said, with a smile,
"'Semel insanivimus omnes.'  My dear sir, every one has his madness.  I
trust that mine has not offended you.  Well, then, prove it to me by
accompanying me on the piano in this song of the sixteenth century."

Camors complied with his usual good taste; and the song of the sixteenth
century terminated the evening's entertainment; but the young Count,
before leaving, found the means of causing Madame de Tecle the most
profound astonishment.  He asked her, in a low voice, and with peculiar
emphasis, whether she would be kind enough, at her leisure, to grant him
the honor of a moment's private conversation.

Madame de Tecle opened still wider those large eyes of hers, blushed
slightly, and replied that she would be at home the next afternoon at
four o'clock.



ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Bad to fear the opinion of people one despises
Camors refused, hesitated, made objections, and consented
Confounding progress with discord, liberty with license
Contempt for men is the beginning of wisdom
Cried out, with the blunt candor of his age
Dangers of liberty outweighed its benefits
Demanded of him imperatively--the time of day
Do not get angry.  Rarely laugh, and never weep
Every cause that is in antagonism with its age commits suicide
Every one is the best judge of his own affairs
Every road leads to Rome--and one as surely as another
God--or no principles!
He is charming, for one always feels in danger near him
Intemperance of her zeal and the acrimony of her bigotry
Man, if he will it, need not grow old: the lion must
Never can make revolutions with gloves on
Once an excellent remedy, is a detestable regimen
Pleasures of an independent code of morals
Police regulations known as religion
Principles alone, without faith in some higher sanction
Property of all who are strong enough to stand it
Semel insanivimus omnes.'  (every one has his madness)
Slip forth from the common herd, my son, think for yourself
Suspicion that he is a feeble human creature after all!
There will be no more belief in Christ than in Jupiter
Ties that become duties where we only sought pleasures
Truth is easily found.  I shall read all the newspapers
Whether in this world one must be a fanatic or nothing
Whole world of politics and religion rushed to extremes
With the habit of thinking, had not lost the habit of laughing
You can not make an omelette without first breaking the eggs





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