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Title: My Memoirs, Vol. II (of 6) - 1822 to 1825
Author: Dumas, Alexandre
Language: English
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http://www.freeliterature.org (Images generously made


MY MEMOIRS

ALEXANDRE DUMAS

TRANSLATED BY

E. M. WALLER

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY

ANDREW LANG.

VOL. II

1822 TO 1825

WITH A FRONTISPIECE

METHUEN & CO.

36 ESSEX STREET W.C.

LONDON



      CONTENTS



      BOOK I

      CHAPTER I

      An unpublished chapter from the _Diable boiteux_--History
      of Samud and the beautiful Doña Lorenza

      CHAPTER II

      The good my flouting at the hands of the two Parisians
      had done me--The young girls of Villers-Cotterets--My
      three friends-- First love affairs

      CHAPTER III

      Adolphe de Leuven--His family--Unpublished details
      concerning the death of Gustavus III.--The Count de
      Ribbing--The shoemakers of the château de Villers-Hellon

      CHAPTER IV

      Adolphe's quatrain--The water-hen and King William--Lunch
      in the wood--The irritant powder, the frogs and the
      cock--The doctor's spectre--De Leuven, Hippolyte Leroy
      and I are exiled from the drawing-room--Unfortunate
      result of a geographical error--M. Paroisse

      CHAPTER V

      Amédée de la Ponce--He teaches me what work is--M.
      Arnault and his two sons--A journey by diligence--A
      gentleman fights me with cough lozenges and I fight him
      with my fists--I learn the danger from which I escaped

      CHAPTER VI

      First dramatic impressions--The _Hamlet of Ducis_--_The
      Bourbons en 1815_--Quotations from it

      CHAPTER VII

      The events of 1814 again--Marmont, Duc de Raguse,
      Maubreuil and Roux-Laborie at M. de Talleyrand's--The
      _Journal des Débats_ and the _Journal de Paris_--Lyrics
      of the Bonapartists and enthusiasm of the Bourbons--End
      of the Maubreuil affair--Plot against the life of the
      Emperor--The Queen of Westphalia is robbed of her money
      and jewels 63

      CHAPTER VIII

      Account of the proceedings relative to the abstraction
      of the jewels of the Queen of Westphalia by the Sieur de
      Maubreuil--Chamber of the Court of Appeal--The sitting of
      17 April, 1817

      BOOK II

      CHAPTER I

      The last shot of Waterloo--Temper of the provinces in
      1817, 1818 and 1819--The _Messéniennes_--The _Vêpres
      siciliennes--Louis IX._--Appreciation of these two
      tragedies--A phrase of Terence--My claim to a similar
      sentiment--Three o'clock in the morning--The course of
      love-making--_Valeat res ludrica_

      CHAPTER II

      Return of Adolphe de Leuven--He shows me a corner of the
      artistic and literary world--The death of Holbein and the
      death of Orcagna--Entrance into the green-rooms--Bürger's
      _Lénore_ --First thoughts of my vocation

      CHAPTER III

      The Cerberus of the rue de Largny--I tame it--The
      ambush-- Madame Lebègue--A confession

      CHAPTER IV

      De Leuven makes me his collaborator--The _Major de
      Strasbourg_-- My first _couplet-Chauvin_--The _Dîner
      d'amis_--The _Abencérages_

      CHAPTER V

      Unrecorded stories concerning the assassination of the
      Duc de Berry.

      CHAPTER VI

      Carbonarism 132

      CHAPTER VII

      My hopes--Disappointment--M. Deviolaine is appointed
      forest-ranger to the Duc d'Orléans--His coldness
      towards me--Half promises--First cloud on my
      love-affairs--I go to spend three months with my
      brother-in-law at Dreux--The news waiting for
      me on my return--Muphti--Walls and hedges--The
      summer-house--Tennis--Why I gave up playing it--The
      wedding party in the wood

      CHAPTER VIII

      I leave Villers-Cotterets to be second or third
      clerk at Crespy--M. Lefèvre--His character--My
      journeys to Villers-Cotterets-- The _Pélerinage
      d'Ermenonville_--Athénaïs--New matter sent to Adolphe--An
      uncontrollable desire to pay a visit to Paris-- How
      this desire was accomplished--The journey--Hôtel des
      Vieux-Augustins--Adolphe--_Sylla_--Talma

      CHAPTER IX

      The theatre ticket--The _Café du Roi_--Auguste
      Lafarge--Théaulon--Rochefort--Ferdinand Langlé--People
      who dine and people who don't--Canaris--First sight of
      Talma--Appreciation of Mars and Rachel--Why Talma has no
      successor_--Sylla_ and the Censorship--Talma's box--A
      cab-drive after midnight-- The return to Crespy--M.
      Lefèvre explains that a machine, in order to work well,
      needs all its wheels--I hand in my resignation as his
      third clerk

      BOOK III

      CHAPTER I

      I return to my mother's--The excuse I give concerning my
      return-- The calfs lights--Pyramus and Cartouche--The
      intelligence of the fox more developed than that of the
      dog--Death of Cartouche--Pyramus's various gluttonous
      habits

      CHAPTER II

      Hope in Laffitte--A false hope--New projects--M.
      Lecomier--How and on what conditions I clothe myself
      anew--Bamps, tailor, 12 rue du Helder--Bamps at
      Villers-Cotterets--I visit our estate along with
      him--Pyramus follows a butcher lad--An Englishman who
      loved gluttonous dogs--I sell Pyramus--My first hundred
      francs--The use to which they are put--Bamps departs for
      Paris--Open credit

      CHAPTER III

      My mother is obliged to sell her land and her house--The
      residu-- The Piranèses--An architect at twelve hundred
      francs salary--I discount my first bill--Gondon--How
      I was nearly killed at his house--The fifty
      francs--Cartier--The game of billiards--How six hundred
      small glasses of absinthe equalled twelve journeys to
      Paris

      CHAPTER IV

      How I obtain a recommendation to General Foy--M. Danré
      of Vouty advises my mother to let me go to Paris--My
      good-byes--Laffitte and Perregaux--The three things
      which Maître Mennesson asks me not to forget--The Abbé
      Grégoire's advice and the discussion with him--I leave
      Villers-Cotterets

      CHAPTER V

      I find Adolphe again--The pastoral drama--First
      steps--The Duc de Bellune--General Sébastiani--His
      secretaries and his snuff-boxes--The fourth floor, small
      door to the left--The general who painted battles

      CHAPTER VI

      _Régulus_--Talma and the play--General Foy--The letter of
      recommendation and the interview--The Duc de Bellune's
      reply--I obtain a place as temporary clerk with M. le Duc
      d'Orléans--Journey to Villers-Cotterets to tell my mother
      the good news--No. 9--I gain a prize in a lottery

      CHAPTER VII

      I find lodgings--Hiraux's son--Journals and journalists
      in 1823--By being saved the expense of a dinner I am
      enabled to go to the play at the Porte-Saint-Martin--My
      entry into the pit--Sensation caused by my hair--I am
      turned out--How I am obliged to pay for three places in
      order to have one--A polite gentleman who reads Elzevirs

      CHAPTER VIII

      My neighbour--His portrait--The _Pastissier françois_--A
      course in bibliomania--Madame Méchin and the governor of
      Soissons--Cannons and Elzevirs

      CHAPTER IX

      Prologue of the _Vampire_--The style offends my
      neighbour's ear-- First act--Idealogy--The rotifer--What
      the animal is--Its conformation, its life, its death and
      its resurrection

      CHAPTER X

      Second act of the _Vampire_--Analysis--My neighbour
      again objects--He has seen a vampire--Where and
      how--A statement which records the existence of
      vampires--Nero--Why he established the race of hired
      applauders--My neighbour leaves the orchestra

      CHAPTER XI

      A parenthesis_--Hariadan Barberousse_ at
      Villers-Cotterets--I play the rôle of Don Ramire as an
      amateur--My costume--The third act of the _Vampire_--My
      friend the bibliomaniac whistles at the most critical
      moment--He is expelled from the theatre--Madame
      Allan-Dorval--Her family and her childhood--Philippe--His
      death and his funeral

      BOOK IV

      CHAPTER I

      My beginning at the office--Ernest Basset--Lassagne--M.
      Oudard--I see M. Deviolaine--M. le Chevalier de
      Broval--His portrait--Folded letters and oblong
      letters--How I acquire a splendid reputation for sealing
      letters--I learn who was my neighbour the bibliomaniac
      and whistler

      CHAPTER II

      Illustrious contemporaries--The sentence written on my
      foundation stone--My reply--I settle down in the place
      des Italiens-- M. de Leuven's table--M. Louis-Bonaparte's
      witty saying--Lassagne gives me my first lesson in
      literature and history

      CHAPTER III

      Adolphe reads a play at the Gymnase--M.
      Dormeuil--_Kenilworth Castle_--M. Warez and
      Soulié--Mademoiselle Lévesque--The Arnault family--The
      _Feuille--Marius à Minturnes_--Danton's epigram--The
      reversed passport--Three fables--_Germanicus_
      --Inscriptions and epigrams--Ramponneau--The young
      man and the tilbury_--Extra ecclesiam nulla est
      salus_--Madame Arnault

      CHAPTER IV

      Frédéric Soulié, his character, his talent--Choruses
      of the various plays, sung as prologues and
      epilogues--Transformation of the vaudeville--The Gymnase
      and M. Scribe--The _Folie de Waterloo_

      CHAPTER V

      The Duc d'Orléans--My first interview with
      him--Maria-Stella-Chiappini--Her attempts to
      gain rank--Her history--The statement of the Duc
      d'Orléans--Judgment of the Ecclesiastical Court of
      Faenza--Rectification of Maria-Stella's certificate of
      birth

      CHAPTER VI

      The "year of trials"--The case of Potier and the
      director of the theatre of the Porte-Saint-Martin--Trial
      and condemnation of Magallon--The anonymous
      journalist--Beaumarchais sent to Saint-Lazare--A few
      words on censorships in general--Trial of Benjamin
      Constant--Trial of M. de Jouy--A few words concerning
      the author of _Sylla_--Three letters extracted from the
      _Ermite de la Chaussée-d'Antin_--Louis XVIII. as author

      CHAPTER VII

      The house in the rue Chaillot--Four poets and a
      doctor--Corneille and the Censorship--Things M. Faucher
      does not know--Things the President of the Republic ought
      to know

      BOOK V

      CHAPTER I

      Chronology of the drama--Mademoiselle Georges
      Weymer--Mademoiselle Raucourt--Legouvé and his
      works--Marie-Joseph Chénier--His letter to the
      company of the Comédie-Française--Young boys
      _perfectionnés_--Ducis--His work

      CHAPTER II

      Bonaparte's attempts at discovering poets--Luce de
      Lancival--Baour-Lormian--_Lebrun-Pindare_--Lucien
      Bonaparte, the author--Début of Mademoiselle Georges--The
      Abbé Geoffroy's critique--Prince Zappia--Hermione at
      Saint-Cloud

      CHAPTER III

      Imperial literature--The _Jeunesse de Henri IV_--Mercier
      and Alexandre Duval--The _Templiers_ and their
      author--César Delrieu--Perpignan--Mademoiselle Georges'
      rupture with the Théâtre-Français--Her flight to
      Russia--The galaxy of kings--The tragédienne acts as
      ambassador

      CHAPTER IV

      The Comédie-Française at Dresden--Georges returns
      to the Théâtre-Français--The _Deux Gendres--Mahomet
      II._--_Tippo-Saëb_-- 1814--Fontainebleau--The allied
      armies enter Paris--Lilies--Return from the isle of
      Elba--Violets--Asparagus stalks--Georges returns to Paris

      CHAPTER V

      The drawbacks to theatres which have the monopoly of
      a great actor--Lafond takes the rôle of Pierre de
      Portugal upon Talma declining it--Lafond--His school--His
      sayings--Mademoiselle Duchesnois--Her failings and her
      abilities-_Pierre de Portugal_ succeeds

      CHAPTER VI

      General Riégo--His attempted insurrection--His escape
      and flight--He is betrayed by the brothers Lara--His
      trial--His execution

      CHAPTER VII

      The inn of the _Tête-Noire_--Auguste
      Ballet--Castaing--His trial--His attitude towards the
      audience and his words to the jury--His execution

      CHAPTER VIII

      Casimir Delavigne--An appreciation of the man and of the
      poet-- The origin of the hatred of the old school of
      literature for the new--Some reflections upon _Marino
      Faliero_ and the _Enfants d'Édouard_--Why Casimir
      Delavigne was more a comedy writer than a tragic
      poet--Where he found the ideas for his chief plays

      CHAPTER IX

      Talma in the _École des Vieillards_--One of his
      letters--Origin of his name and of his family--_Tamerlan_
      at the pension Verdier--Talma's début--Dugazon's
      advice--More advice from Shakespeare--Opinions of the
      critics of the day upon the débutant--Talma's passion for
      his art



THE MEMOIRS OF ALEXANDRE DUMAS



BOOK I



CHAPTER I


An unpublished chapter from the _Diable boiteux_--History of Samud and
the beautiful Doña Lorenza


About a fortnight after that wonderful night, during which I had
experienced such new and unknown emotions, I was busy in Maître
Mennesson's office,--as Niguet was absent seeing after a marriage
settlement at Pisseleu, and Ronsin had gone to collect debts at
Haramont,--sadly engrossing a copy of a deed of sale, when M. Lebègue,
a colleague of my patron, entered the office and, after gazing at
me with an amused expression on his face, went into the next room,
which was the private office, and took a seat by the side of Maître
Mennesson. The cause of my sadness shall be discovered presently.

Maître Mennesson's door, which separated the two offices, I was
generally left open, so that he could answer our questions, save when
a client closed it to discuss private matters with him; and when this
door was left open, we could hear in our office everything that was
said in M. Mennesson's room, as he could hear in his office all that
went on in ours.

This M. Lebègue, some months before, had married one of M. Deviolaine's
daughters by his first marriage: her name was Éléonore. The eldest
daughter, Léontine, had been married to a tax collector named Cornu
some time before her sister's wedding. The singularity of the name
had not prevented the marriage from coming off. The sharp-tongued
young girl feared to be jeered at in her turn, and the wittier she
became, the more she dreaded even the appearance of being ridiculous.
But Cornu was such a good-natured, honest-hearted fellow, everybody
was so used to the name, which had been borne by several families
in Villers-Cotterets, he was so used to it himself, he responded so
naïvely and triumphantly to the remarks of his _fiancée,_ that the
matter was settled.

When she was married to him she made up her mind to raise the
unfortunate name which fate had given her above even the suspicion of
any banter naturally connected with it: she was the most chaste of
wives, the tenderest of mothers I have ever known, and her husband, a
happy man himself, made her happy too.

But it was not so with her sister, Madame Lebègue, who was three
or four years younger, prettier, and far more of a flirt than she
was. Her flirtations were innocent enough, I have no doubt, but they
were as a rule looked upon maliciously by the gossips of the little
town--a matter to which Madame Lebègue in her innocence paid little
heed; concerning which, in her indifference to such calumnies, she
simply teased her husband. He was a stout, rotund fellow, pockmarked,
rather ugly, with a somewhat common-looking face, but a good fellow at
heart--although I have been told since that he ruined himself, not from
having lent at too low interest, but from an entirely opposite reason.
I am wholly ignorant as to the truth of this accusation: I take it to
be a calumny similar to the more pleasing and certainly more human
accusation levelled against the wife.

It was this man who had just come in, who sat down by M. Mennesson
and who was at that moment holding a whispered conversation with him,
interspersed with guffaws of laughter. Thanks to the extremely delicate
hearing with which I was gifted by nature, and which I had cultivated
during hunting, I thought I could distinguish my own name; but I
supposed I had not heard correctly, not flattering myself that two
such grave personages could be doing me the honour of talking about
me. Unluckily for my pride,--and I have indicated to what a pitch this
feeling was developed in me, a height that would have been absurd if
it had not been painful,--unluckily for my pride, then, I was not kept
long in doubt that the discussion was about me.

I have said that M. Mennesson was very fond of a joke and very witty;
wherever he could find a joke he would fasten upon it, no matter
whether it happened to concern a woman's virtue or a man's reputation.
When the frenzy of joking seized him he gave himself up to it
unreservedly, heart and soul. Finding nothing, probably, on this day,
better to chew, he set upon me; the pasture was poor, but it was far
better to crack my sorry bones than to chew at nothing or gulp only
the air. After several of those whispered remarks, then, and bursts
of stifled laughter, which had disturbed my equanimity, M. Mennesson
raised his voice.

"My dear friend," he said, "it is a chapter out of the _Diable boiteux_
re-discovered and still unpublished, which I mean to have printed the
next time I go to Paris, to complete Lesage's work."

"Ah! tell it me," Lebègue replied; "I will tell it to my wife, who will
pass it on to her sisters, who will tell it to everybody; then our
publication will be disposed of in advance."

M. Mennesson began:--

"There was once upon a time at Salamanca a scholar who was descended
from a race of Arabs and who was called Samud.[1] He was still so young
that if anyone had pulled his nose, milk would most certainly have come
out: this did not prevent him from being absurd enough to fancy himself
a man; perhaps also--for, to be fair, we must say all there is to
say--this ridiculous fancy would not have entered his head had not that
happened which we are about to relate."

It may be imagined that I was listening attentively. I had recognised
from the very first words that I was undoubtedly the person in
question, and I wondered uneasily where the story was going to lead
after this beginning--a beginning which, so far as I was concerned, I
found more impertinent than graphic.

M. Mennesson went on, and I listened with my ears open, my pen idle in
my hand.

"On the day of the feast of Whitsuntide in the year ... I cannot
say the exact date of the year, but, any way, it was on the day of
the feast of Whitsuntide, which is also the town's feast-time, two
beautiful senoras arrived from Madrid and put up at the house of a
worthy canon who was the uncle of one of these ladies. It chanced that
this canon was the same with whom Samud had learnt the bit of Latin he
knew, and as the two lovely Madrid ladies wanted a cavalier who would
not put their virtue to the blush, the canon cast his eyes on his
pupil, and requested him to place both his arms at the disposal of the
new arrivals, to show them the park of Salamanca, which is very wide,
very beautiful, and belongs to the Duke of Rodelnas.[2] I will not
dwell on the adventures of the first day, beyond just briefly touching
upon two events: the first was the meeting between our scholar and
an elegant senor from Madrid, who was noticed at once by the Sefiora
Lorenza, with whom our scholar was walking arm in arm, dressed, as
people of the provinces often are, about a decade behind the fashions
of the capital. This young gallant was called Audim. The second was a
most serious accident, which happened to the scholar's breeches, just
when, in order to give the fair Lorenza a proof of his agility, he had
leaped across a ditch fourteen feet wide."

It can be imagined what I suffered as I listened to this secondhand
recital of my lovelorn tribulations, which, according to his method of
procedure, would not stop short at the two misadventures of the first
day. M. Mennesson continued:--

"The beautiful Lorenza was specially impressed by the young gallant's
get-up. In complete contrast to the scholar, who was muffled up in a
Gothic costume borrowed from the wardrobe of his ancestors, Señor Audim
was dressed in the latest fashion, in tight-fitting breeches, ending
in charming little heart-shaped shoes, and a dark-coloured doublet
turned out by one of the best tailors in Madrid. The scholar had not
been unconscious of the particular notice his companion had paid to the
handsome Audim's attire, and as it began to dawn on him what influence
a coat of a certain cut or trousers of a special shade of colour might
have upon a woman, he decided during the night following the fête
to please Lorenza no matter at what price, and to have a suit made
exactly like the one worn by the young man who seemed destined by fate
to become his rival. The most vital part of the costume, and moreover
the most expensive, was in the matter of the boots. So he turned his
attention to them first of all. On the opposite side of the square
where Samud's mother lived, a square called the place de la Fontaine,
was the best boot-maker in the town: he had always shod the scholar,
but hitherto he had only made shoes for him, the lad's tender years not
having put the idea into anyone's head, not even into his own, that
he could wear any other covering for his feet than shoes or sandals
without risking a too close resemblance to Perrault's venerable Puss in
Boots. Great therefore was M. Landereau's[3] surprise when his customer
came and boldly asked the price of a pair of boots. He stared at Samud.

'A pair of boots?' he asked. 'For whom?'

'Why, for myself,' the scholar proudly replied.

'Has your mother given you leave to order boots?' 'Yes.'

"The bootmaker shook his head dubiously: he knew Samud's mother was not
well off and that it would be foolish of her to allow such extravagance
in her son.

'Boots are dear,' he said.

'That does not matter. How much are they?'

'They would cost you exactly four dollars.'

'Good.... Take my measure.'

'I have told you I can do nothing without leave from your mother.'

'I will see you have it.'

"Returning home, the scholar ventured to ask for a pair of boots.
The request struck Samud's mother as so extraordinary that she made
him repeat his inquiry twice. It was all the more strange as it was
the first time the scholar had troubled about his dress. When he was
ten they had the greatest difficulty in the world to get him to give
up a long pinafore of figured cotton, which he considered far more
comfortable than all the breeches and all the doublets on earth;
then, from the age of ten to the age of fifteen, he had worn with
indifference any garments his mother had thought good to put him in,
always preferring dirty and old ones to clean and new, because in them
he was allowed to go out in all weathers and to roll about in all kinds
of places. So the demand for a pair of boots seemed to his poor mother
altogether most unprecedented, and she was alarmed for her son's reason.

'A pair of boots!' she repeated. 'What will you wear them with?'

'A pair of tight-fitting breeches, mother.'

'A pair of tight-fitting breeches! But you must know your legs are as
spindle-shaped as a cock's.'

"'Excuse me, mother,' the schoolboy replied, with some show of logic;
'if I have good enough calves to wear short breeches, they are good
enough to wear tight-fitting breeches.'

"The mother admired her son's wit, and, half conquered by the repartee,
she said,'We might perhaps manage to find the tight-fitting trousers in
the clothes-press; but the boots ... where will you find the boots?'

'Why, at Landereau's!'

'But boots would be expensive, my child,' said the poor lady,
sighing,'and you know we are not rich.'

'Bah! mamma, Landereau will allow you credit.'

'It is all very fine taking credit, my boy; you know one has to pay
some day, and that the longer one puts off paying the more it costs.'

'Oh, mother, please do let me!'

'How much will the boots cost?'

'Four dollars, mother.'

'That is six months' school-money at the rate good Canon Gregorio
charges me.'

'You can pay for it in four months' time, mother,' the schoolboy
pleaded.

'Still ... tell me what advantage you think this pair of boots and the
tight-fitting trousers will bring you?'

'I shall be able to please Doña Lorenza, the canon's niece.' 'How is
that?'

'She raves over boots and tight-fitting trousers ... it seems they are
the very latest thing in Madrid.'

'But what does it matter to you what the niece of Don Gregorio raves or
does not rave over, I want to know?'

'It matters a great deal to me, mother.'

'Why?'

"The schoolboy looked supremely foolish.

'Because I am paying her attentions,' he said."

This dialogue was word for word what had passed between my mother and
myself after I returned from Landereau's shop, so I grew hot with anger.

"At the words _Because I am paying her attentions_," continued the
narrator, "Samud's mother was overcome with intense astonishment: her
son, whom she still pictured as running about the streets in his long
print pinafore, or renewing his baptismal vows taper in hand; her son
paying attentions to the beautiful Doña Lorenza!--why, it was one of
those absurd things she had never even imagined. And her son, seeing
she was unconvinced, drew his hand out of his breast pocket and showed
her a bracelet of hair with a mosaic clasp. But he took care to keep it
to himself that he had taken this bracelet from Doña Lorenza; she had
not given it him, and she was very much distressed at not knowing what
had become of it."

Although this account was not very creditable to my honesty, it was
dreadfully accurate. I had had that bracelet in my possession for three
days; during those three days I had, if not exactly shown it, at least
let it be seen by several people, and, among others, by my mother and
my cousins the Deviolaines, before whom I posed as a gallant youth; but
at length I had been moved by Laure's distress, as she had thought it
lost. I gave it back to her, humbly confessing my fault; she forgave
me, in consideration, no doubt, of her delight in recovering her
trinket, but she would not have let me off so easily had she known my
indiscretions.

So the perspiration which had beaded my brow at the beginning of the
story, ran down over my face in big drops; yet wishing to learn how
far M. Mennesson had been coached in the matter of my sentimental
escapades, I had the courage to stay where I was--or rather, I had not
the strength to fly. M. Mennesson went on:--

"At this juncture Samud's mother raised her hands and eyes to heaven,
and as the poor woman never could refuse her son, she said to him, with
a sigh--

'Very well, be it so; if a pair of boots will make you happy, go and
order the boots.'

"The schoolboy leapt at one bound from his house to the bootmaker's;
he arranged the price at three and a half dollars, to be paid for in
four months' time. Next they paid a visit to the clothes-press: they
extracted a pair of bright blue trousers striped with gold; they sold
the gold lace to a goldsmith for a dollar and a half, which dollar and
a half were given to the scholar for pocket-money, his mother guessing
that his budding love affairs would naturally bring extra expenses
in their train. They decided that the suit he had worn at his first
communion should be altered to a more up-to-date cut, on fashionable
lines.

"While all these preparations for courtship were going on, the
schoolboy continued, in the phrase he had used to his mother, to pay
attentions to the beautiful Doña Lorenza; but although he was brave
in words and very clever in theory behind her back, he was extremely
timid in practice and very awkward when actually before her face. While
apparently filled with impatience to be near her, he dreaded nothing
so much as being left alone with her; at such times he would lose his
wits completely, become dumb instead of talkative, and be still when
he should have been active: the most favourable opportunities were
given him, and he let them escape. In vain did the impatient lady from
Madrid give him to understand that he was wasting time, and that time
wasted is never regained; he agreed with her from the very depths of
his soul; he was furious with himself every night when he returned
home, and in going over the opportunities of the day he vowed not to
let these opportunities slip by on the morrow if they occurred again.
Then he would read a chapter of _Faublas_ to warm his blood: he would
sleep on it, and dream dreams in which he would be astonishingly bold.
When day broke, he would vow to himself to carry out his dreams of
the previous night. Then, while he was waiting for the boots and the
tight-fitting suit, which were being fashioned with a truly provincial
slowness, he returned to his short breeches, his bombazin vest, his
bottle-blue coat, and resumed his fruitless walk in the forest. He
looked with a melancholy eye on the mossy carpet under their feet, not
even venturing to suggest to his companion that they should sit down
upon it; he gazed sadly on the beautiful green heights above them,
under which she delighted to hide herself with him. He would get as far
as trembling and sighing, even to pressing her hand, but these were the
extreme limits of his boldness. Once only did he kiss the hand of Doña
Lorenza,--on the night before he was to introduce himself to her in his
suit of conquest,--but it cost him such a tremendous effort to perform
this bold act that he felt quite ill after its accomplishment.

"It was on this day that the lovely Doña Lorenza arrived at the
conclusion that she must give up all hope of seeing the boy develop
into a man, and without saying a word to her clumsy admirer, she took
a decisive step. They parted as usual after having spent the evening
playing at those innocent games which Madame de Longueville detested
so greatly. The next day, as we have said, was to be the vital one.
The tailor and the bootmaker kept their word. The young people usually
met between noon and one o'clock, and then went for a walk: Senora
Vittoria with a young bachelor, from whom I have gathered most of my
information; and the schoolboy with Senora Lorenza. Unluckily, the
tight-fitting trousers were so tight that they had to have a piece put
in at the calf of the leg: this addition took time, and Samud was not
quite ready before one o'clock. He knew he was late; he flew hurriedly
along to Canon Gregorio's house, where the daily rendezvous took place.
His new toilette produced an excellent effect as he passed through the
streets: people ran to their doors; they leant out of their windows,
and he bowed to them, saying to himself--

'Yes, it is all right, it is I! What is there wonderful in this, pray?
Did you think no one else could have boots, tight-fitting trousers and
a fashionably collared coat like M. Audim? You are much deceived if you
thought anything of the kind!'

"And he went on his way, holding his head higher and higher, persuaded
he was nearing a sensational triumph. But, as we have said, the unlucky
alteration at the calves had made him nearly an hour late, and when the
scholar reached the canon's house both the senoras had gone out! This
was but a slight misfortune: the schoolboy had been brought up in the
forest of Salamanca, as Osmin in the seraglio of Bajazet, and he knew
its every turn and twist. He was therefore just going to rush out in
pursuit of the lady of his thoughts, when the canon's sister handed him
a letter which Doña Lorenza had left for him when she went out. Samud
never doubted that this letter would enjoin upon him to hurry on with
all diligence. And it was the first he had received: he felt the honour
most keenly; he kissed the letter tenderly, broke the seal, and with
panting breath and bounding heart he read the following:--

      'MY DEAR BOY,--I have been blaming myself during the past
      fortnight for imposing upon your good-nature by letting
      you fulfil the obligation you had most injudiciously
      promised my uncle in undertaking to be my cavalier.
      In spite of your efforts to hide the boredom that an
      occupation beyond your years caused you, I have seen
      that I have much interfered with your usual habits, and
      I blame myself for it. Go back to your young playmates,
      who are waiting for you to play at prisoners' base and
      quoits. Let your mind be quite at ease on my account;
      for I have accepted M. Audim's services for the short
      time longer I remain with my uncle. Please accept my best
      thanks, my dear child, for your kindness, and believe me,
      yours very gratefully,                        LORENZA.'

"If a thunderbolt had fallen at our schoolboy's feet he could not have
been more crushed than he was on receiving this letter. On the first
reading he realised nothing beyond the shock; he re-read it two or
three times, and felt the smart. Then it dawned on him that, since he
had taken no pains to prove to the lovely Lorenza that he was not a
child, it now remained to him to prove that he was a man, by provoking
Audim to fight a Dud with him; and forthwith, upon my word, our
outraged schoolboy sent this letter to his rival:--

      "'SIR,--I need not tell you upon what provocation I wish
      to meet you in any of the forest avenues, accompanied by
      two seconds: you know as well as I do. As you may pretend
      that you have not insulted me and that it is I who have
      provoked you, I leave the choice of weapons to you.--I
      have the honour to remain,' etc.

      "'_P.S._---As you will probably not return home till
      late to-night, I will not demand my answer this evening,
      but I wish to receive it as early as possible to-morrow
      morning.'

"Next morning, on waking, he received a birch rod with Don Audim's
card. That was the weapon selected by his rival."

The reader can judge the effect the conclusion of this story had upon
me. Alas! it was an exact account of all that had happened to me. Thus
had terminated my first love affair, and so had ended my first duel! I
uttered a shriek of rage, and dashing out of the office, I ran home to
my mother, who cried out aloud when she saw the state I was in.

Ten minutes later I was lying in a well-warmed bed and Doctor Lécosse
had been sent for: he pronounced that I was in for brain fever, but
as it was taken in time it would not have any serious consequences. I
purposely prolonged my convalescence, be it known, so as not to go out
until the two Parisians had left Villers-Cotterets. I have never seen
either of them since.


[1] hardly need point out that "Samud" is the anagram of "Dumas."

[2] "Rodelnas" is the anagram of "d'Orléans," as "Samud" is the anagram
of "Dumas," and as "Audim," to be used shortly, is that of "Miaud."

[3] The narrator did not trouble to give an anagram for the name this
time.



CHAPTER II


The good my flouting at the hands of the two Parisians had done me--The
young girls of Villers-Cotterets--My three friends--First love affairs


Still, like François I. after the battle of Pavia, I had not lost
everything by my defeat. First there remained to me my boots and my
tight-fitting trousers, those two dearly coveted articles, which
became the envy and admiration of those young companions upon whom
the lovely Laure had so cruelly thrown me. Besides, in the fortnight
spent in the company of those two smart girls, I had learnt the first
lesson that only the society of women can give. This lesson had taught
me to realise the need for that care of my personal appearance which
had hitherto never presented itself to my mind as a thing to be daily
attended to. Beneath the ridiculous if vanity in changing my mode of
dress, underneath the unlucky attempt that I, a poor country lad, had
made to attain to the elegant style of a Parisian, there appeared the
first dawnings of true elegance--that is to say, of neatness.

I had rather good hands, my nails were well shaped, my teeth were large
but white, and my feet were singularly small considering my size. I had
been ignorant of all these possessions until they had been pointed out
to me by the two Parisian girls, who gave me advice as to how I could
enhance the value of my natural gifts. And I continued to follow their
advice for my own personal satisfaction, after at first following it to
please them, to such purpose that by the time they left I had really
stepped across the boundary which separated childhood from youth. The
crossing had certainly been a rough one, and I had accomplished it
with tears in my eyes, coquetry holding one of my hands and chagrin
the other. Then--as jaded travellers, when they enter a fresh country,
suck bitter fruits, which, however much they set the teeth on edge,
leave behind them an irresistible desire to suck other fruits,--when
my lips had touched the apple of Eve that men call love, I yearned to
make another attempt, even though it should be more painful than the
first, and so far as its young girls were concerned, few towns could
boast themselves as well favoured as Villers-Cotterets. Never was
there such a large park as ours, not even at Versailles; no lawns were
greener, not even those at Brighton; nor were any studded with more
exquisite flowers than the park of Villers-Cotterets, with its lawns
and flower-beds. Three very distinct classes disputed among themselves
for the crown of beauty--the aristocracy, the middle classes, and a
third class for which I cannot find a name, a pleasant intermediary
between the middle class and the people, which belongs to neither, and
to which class the dressmakers, seamstresses, and women-shopkeepers of
a town belong.

The first class was represented by the Collard family, to whom I have
already alluded in connection with my childhood. Of the three madcap
young girls who roamed the forest of Villers-Cotterets as free as the
butterflies and swallows, two had become wives: one, Caroline, had
married the Baron Capelle; the other, Hermine, had married the Baron
de Martens; Louise, the third, who was but fifteen, was the most
captivating little maiden imaginable. Their mother--whose birth and
history as the daughter of Madame de Genlis and the Duc d'Orléans I
have related--and her three children were the aristocratic centre round
which the young men and maidens of the neighbouring castles revolved;
and among the former of these were some of the best blood in the
country--the Montbretons, the Courvals, and the Mornays. None of these
families lived in Villers-Cotterets itself: they lived in the castles
around. Only on great occasions did the hives swarm and then we saw
these golden-winged bees flying about the streets of the town and down
the avenues of the park.

The second class was represented by the Deviolaine family. Two out
of the five daughters of M. Deviolaine were married, as I have
said--namely, Léontine and Éléonore; three remained, Cécile, Augustine
and Louise. Cécile was twenty years of age, Augustine sixteen; Louise
was still a mere child. Cécile had preserved her whimsical and
capricious spirits, the same mocking and animated features; her actions
were more masculine than feminine; her complexion was tanned by the
sun, as she never took the trouble to protect herself from its rays.
Augustine, on the contrary, had a skin as white as milk, large tranquil
blue eyes, dark chestnut hair, forming an admirable framework round
her face, sloping shoulders charmingly moulded, and a figure that was
not too slender; unlike her sister Cécile, she was gracefully feminine
in all her ways. Raphael would have been puzzled to choose between her
and Louise Collard for a model for his Madonna, and like the Greek
sculptor, he would have selected beautiful points from them both to
reach that perfect standard to which Art everywhere attains when it
surpasses Nature.

The other young girls of the middle class grouped themselves round the
Deviolaine family. The two Troisvallet girls, Henriette and Clementine:
Clementine, dark with beautiful black hair, strangely attractive eyes,
a Roman complexion, of the type of Velletri or Subiaco, and a head like
one of Augustine Carrachi's. Henriette was tall, fair, rosy, slender,
gracious, and as pliant in her gentle youthfulness as a rose, as a
blade of corn, as a willow tree: she had that type of face which is
half sad, half merry; the transition between angel and woman, showing
all the common needs of earth, yet full of heavenly aspirations too.
Then the two charming girls Sophie and Pélagie Perrot; Louise Moreau,
a sweet young girl, who has since become the admirable mother of a
family; Éléonore Picot, of whom I have spoken--an excellent woman,
saddened by the death of her brother Stanislas, and the shameful charge
that had weighed for a short time upon her brother Auguste. Then there
were others, too, whose names I have forgotten, but whose fresh faces
still appear in my mind's eye like the phantoms of a dream or like the
apparitions which glide out of German streams or are reflected in the
lochs of Scotland as they pursue their nocturnal rounds.

Lastly, after the middle classes, came, as I have said, the group of
young girls which I cannot class in the social hierarchy, but which
held the same place in that small world of ours shut in by the green
girdle of its beautiful forest, that lilies of the valley, Easter
daisies, cornflowers, hyacinths and pompon roses hold among flowers.
Oh! but it was a pretty sight to see them on Sunday, in their summer
dresses, with pink and blue sashes, their tiny bonnets trimmed by their
own hands and put on in a hundred varieties of coquettish ways--for
in those days not one of them dare wear a hat; it was a delight to
see them free of all constraint, ignorant of any etiquette, playing,
racing, lacing and interlacing their charming round bare arms in long
chains. What exquisite creatures they were! What delightful young
things! It is of little interest to my readers, I am well aware, to
know their names; but I knew them, I loved them, I spent my earliest
years among them, those gentle opening days in the morning of life; I
wish to tell their names, I wish to paint their portraits, I wish to
describe their different charms, and then I hope they will pardon my
indiscretions for my very indiscretions' sake.

I must mention first and foremost two charmingly romantic and
coquettish damsels--Joséphine and Manette Thierry: Joséphine dark,
rosy, with an ample figure and regular features, a perfect creature,
whose beautiful teeth completed a ravishing whole. Manette, a dessert
apple, a girl who was always singing to make herself heard, always
laughing to show off her teeth, ever running to let her feet, her
ankles, even the calves of her legs, be seen; Virgil's Galatea, whose
very name she was ignorant of, flying to be pursued, hiding so as to be
seen before she hid.

What has become of them? I have seen them since, looking very
miserable: one was at Versailles, the other in Paris--the fallen, faded
fruits of that rosary on which I spelled out the first phrases of
love. They were the daughters of an old tailor, and lived close to the
church, which was only separated from them by the town hall. Louise
Brézette lived nearly opposite them; I have already mentioned her.
She was the niece of my dancing-master; a sturdy flower of fifteen,
whom I had in my mind while I wrote my fictitious history of that
_Tulipe noire_, the masterpiece of horticulture vainly sought after,
vainly pursued, vainly expected by Dutch amateur gardeners. The hair
of beautiful Madame Ronconi, which inspired one of Théophile Gautier's
most wonderful articles, and which made coal look grey and the wings
of a crow pale, when placed side by side with it, was not more black,
more blue, more shiny than Louise Brézette's hair when it reflected
the sun's rays from its dark and sombre depths as from the heart of
polished metal. Oh! what a lovely blooming brunette she was, with her
flesh as firm and bright as a nectarine's; her pearly teeth lighting
up her face from under the faint ebony down on her coral lips! One
could feel life and love bubbling up beneath, needing only the first
passion to make everything burst forth into flame! This luxuriant young
girl was religious, and, as such an organisation as hers must love
something, she loved God.

If you took a few steps towards the square, a little farther up the
rue de Soissons, bearing to the left, there was a door and a window,
comprising the whole frontage of a tiny house. In the window hung hats,
collars, bonnets, lace, gloves, mittens, ribbons--the whole arsenal,
in short, of womanly vanity; behind the door floated certain curtains,
intended to prevent inquisitive glances from looking into the shop, but
which, whether by some strange mischance, or from the obstinacy of the
rod upon which they slid, or from the caprices of the wind, always left
on one side or the other some impertinent aperture through which the
passer-by could see into the shop and at the same time allowed those
inside the shop to see out into the street. Above this door and this
window the following inscription was painted in large letters:--

_Mesdemoiselles Rigolot, Milliners_

Truly those who stopped in front of the opening which I have indicated,
and who managed to cast a glance inside the shop, did not lose their
time nor regret their pains. What we mean by this has no sort of
connection with the two proprietors of the establishment, who were
both old maids, having long since passed their fortieth year, and, I
presume, having lost all pretension to inspire any other sentiment than
respect.

No, what we have in view concerns two of the most adorable faces you
can imagine, placed side by side as though to set one another off: one
was a blonde, and the other a brunette. The brunette was Albine Hardi;
the blonde was Adèle Dalvin. The brown head,--do you know the lovely
Marie Duplessis, that charming courtesan full of queenly grace, upon
whom my son wrote his romance _la Dame aux camélias_?--well, she was
Albine. If you do not know her, I will describe Albine to you. She was
a young girl of seventeen, with a dead brown complexion, large brown
velvety eyes, and eyebrows so black that they seemed as though they
had been drawn with a pencil, the curve was so firm and so regular.
She was a duchess, she was a queen; better still than either, if you
will, she was after the fashion of a nymph of Diana's train: slight,
slender, straight and finely built, a huntress whom it would have
been a splendid sight to see with a plumed helmet on her head, an
Amazon flying before the wind, leading a troop of clamorous pikemen,
guiding a baying hound. Upon the stage her appearance would have
been magnificent, almost supernatural. In ordinary life, people were
tempted to think her too beautiful, and for some time nobody dared to
make love to her, it seemed so likely that their love would be wasted
and that she would not make any response to it. The other, Adèle, was
fair and pink-complexioned. I have never seen prettier golden hair,
sweeter eyes, a more winning smile; she was more inclined to be gay
than melancholy, short rather than tall, plump rather than thin: she
was something like one of Murillo's cherubs who kiss the feet of his
Virgins--half veiled in clouds; she was neither a Watteau shepherdess,
nor one of Greuze's peasant girls, but something between the two. One
felt it would be a sweet and easy thing to love her, although it might
not be so easy to be loved by her. Her father and her mother were
worthy old farmer folk, thoroughly honest but vulgar, and it was all
the more surprising that so fresh and sweet-scented a flower should
have sprung from such a stock. But this is always the case when folks
are young: it is youth that lends distinction, as it is spring which
lends freshness to the rose.

Round these young people whom I have just described, smiled and pouted
a bevy of young girls, the smallest being mere infants, whom I have
since seen succeed the youthful generation in which I lived. I have
sought in vain to find in these later children the virtues I found in
those who preceded them.

Until the arrival of the two strangers in Villers-Cotterets I had not
even noticed the springtide crown of stars and flowers to which all
ranks of society contribute. When the two strangers had left, the
bandage that had sealed my eyes fell off, and I could say not merely "I
see" but "I live." I found myself placed by my years exactly between
the children who still played at prisoners' base and at quoits--as
the abba's niece had aptly put it--and youths beginning to turn into
men. Instead of returning to the former, as my beautiful Parisian had
advised me, I attached myself to the latter, and drew myself up to my
full height to prove my sixteen years. And when anyone asked my age, I
told them I was seventeen.

The three youths with whom I was most intimate were, first, Fourcade,
director of the school of self-improvement, sent from Paris to
Villers-Cotterets; he was my _vis-à-vis_ in my début as a dancing man.
He was a thoroughly well-bred, well-educated young fellow, son of a man
very honourably known in foreign affairs; his father had lived in the
East for many years and had been Consul at Salonica. His affections
were fixed upon Joséphine Thierry, and he spent with her all the time
he could spare from his teaching. My second companion was Saunier;
he had been a fellow-pupil with me under the Abbé Grégoire; he was
second clerk of M. Perrot the lawyer; his father and grandfather were
blacksmiths, and in the idle period of my early youth I spent a large
portion of my time in their forge, notching their files and making
fireworks out of iron filings. Saunier divided his leisure-time between
two passions--one, which I verily believe came before the other, was
for the clarionette; the other was for Manette Thierry. The third of
my intimate friends was called Chollet; he served as a link, in the
matter of age, between Fourcade and Saunier. He lived with one of my
cousins, called Roussy, the father of the child of whom I had been
godfather, when nine months old, along with Augustine Deviolaine. He
was studying the cultivation of forest-land. I know nothing about his
relations; they were probably wealthy, for whenever I called on him
there were five-franc pieces scattered about on the mantelpiece and
two or three gold pieces always shone out ostentatiously from the
midst of them, dazzling my eyes and impressing me profoundly with his
riches. But my admiration was entirely devoid of envy--I have never
envied either a man's money or his possessions. I know not whether this
arose from pride or from simpleness of mind. I might have taken for my
motto _Video nec invideo._ Chollet had had no education at all, but
he was not wanting in a certain natural quick-wittedness, and he was
a fine-looking young fellow, his magnificent eyes and splendid teeth
redeeming an otherwise common-looking face, pitted with smallpox. He
did his best to make Louise Brézette change her love for the Creator
into love for the creature.

These were my three most intimate friends. The upshot was, that when
it became necessary for me in my turn to make a choice, although I
had been brought up half with M. Deviolaine's family and half with M.
Collard's, it was neither in aristocratic society nor in middle-class
circles, which would have made fun of me, that I sought my initiation
in the delightful mystery of life we call falling in love, but in
that society to which my three friends almost exclusively addressed
themselves. And I had no difficulty in understanding their preference.
I do not hesitate to state fully and freely that they were very wise in
their choice. There was but one step to take to follow in their path. I
needed only someone upon whom to fasten my affections: the wish to love
was not wanting. Every one of the young girls I have mentioned had
some love affair on hand of a more or less serious character. They all
enjoyed most delightful liberty, the result no doubt of the confidence
their parents placed in their good sense; but for some reason or other
we had quite an English custom in Villers-Cotterets--a free and easy
association between young people of both sexes, which I have never seen
in any other French town; a liberty all the more surprising, since
all the parents of these maidens were perfectly respectable people
and had a profound conviction in the depths of their hearts that all
the barques launched upon the flood of the Tender Passion were decked
with white sails and crowned with orange blossoms. And what was more
singular still, it was true in the case of the majority of the ten or
twelve couples of lovers which formed our circle.

I waited patiently for one of these knots to be untied or severed.
While I waited, I went to every party and took part in all the
walks and all the dances; it was an excellent apprenticeship, which
familiarised me beforehand with that monster whom Psyche touched
without seeing and whom I, on the contrary, had seen but not touched.
Chance favoured me, after six weeks or two months of playing second
fiddle. One of these engagements was hardly made before it was broken:
a farmer's son, named Richou, wished to marry his neighbour, Adèle
Dalvin. The parents of the young man, who were better off than those
of the young girl, opposed these budding loves, and the fair one was
released.

I had learnt much during those six weeks by watching others; besides,
this time, I was not entangled with a sarcastic and exacting Parisian
girl, who knew the world so much better than I did. No, my love affair
was with a young girl more shy than myself, who mistook my pretended
courage for genuine, and who, like the frog in the fable that jumped
in the pond when a frightened hare passed by it, was good enough to
fear me and to prove to me that it was possible to come across someone
even more timid than myself. It can be seen how such a change in the
position of things gave me assurance. The rôles were now completely
reversed. This time I was the attacking party and someone else was on
the defensive, and this someone was making such an obstinate resistance
that I soon realised my attack was useless and that I should only
succeed in breaking down the serious resistance offered me after,
maybe, a long and patient wooing: the citadel was not to be stormed.
Then began for me those first days, the reflection of which has lasted
throughout the whole of my life: that delicious struggle of love, which
asks unceasingly and is not discouraged by an eternity of refusal; the
obtaining of favour after favour, each of which, when gained, fills the
soul with ecstasy; the early fleeting dawn of life which hovers above
the earth, shaking down handfuls of flowers upon the heads of mortals,
and then, under the influence of the rising sun, adds consciousness to
its joy and is soon enveloped in the ardent heat of passion.

Indeed, it was a happy time for me. In the morning, when I awoke, my
mother's smile greeted me and her lingering kisses hung on my lips;
from nine to four o'clock came my work--work, it is true, which would
have been tiresome if I had been obliged to understand what I wrote,
but which was easy and welcome, for while my hands and eyes were
copying, my mind was free to commune with my own happy thoughts; then,
from four till eight o'clock, I was with my mother; and after eight,
joy, love, life, hope, happiness!

At eight in summer evenings, at six in winter, our young friends, also
free when I was, came to join us at some convenient meeting-place;
held out their faces or their cheeks to be kissed, pressed our hands,
without taking pains, out of mistaken coquetry or hypocritical
make-belief, to conceal their delight at meeting us once more; then,
if it were summertime, and fine weather, the park invited us with its
mossy sward, its dusky avenues, the breeze trembling among the leaves,
and on moonlight nights there were wide spaces of alternate light
and darkness; at these times a solitary passer-by could have seen
five or six couples walking, at duly specified distances, to ensure
isolation without loneliness, heads inclined towards one another, hands
clasped in hands, talking in low tones, modulating their words to
sweet intonations, or preserving a dangerous silence; for during such
silences the eyes often spoke what the lips did not dare to utter. If
it were winter or bad weather, we all met at Louise Brézette's: her
mother and her aunt nearly always withdrew to the back room, giving up
to us the two front ones, which we seized upon for ourselves; then,
lit by a single lamp in the third room, near which Louise's mother
would sew while her aunt read the _Imitation of Christ_ or _The Perfect
Christian_ we chatted, squeezed against one another, generally two on
one chair, repeating the same story we had said the night before, but
finding what we had to say ever new.

At ten o'clock our _soirées_ broke up. Each boy took his particular
girl home. When they reached the house door, she granted her cavalier
another half-hour, sometimes an hour, as sweet to her as to him, as
they sat together on the bench outside the door, or stood in the garden
path which led to the maternal parlour, from the interior of which from
time to time a grumbling voice might be heard calling--a voice that
was answered ten times before being obeyed, "I am coming, mamma." On
Sundays we met at three o'clock, after vespers; and we walked, danced,
waltzed, not going home until midnight.

Then there were fêtes in the neighbouring villages, less grand,
less aristocratic, less fashionable, certainly, than those of
Villers-Cotterets, to which we went in happy bands, and from which we
returned in silent separate pairs.

It was at one of these fêtes that I met a young man a year younger than
myself. I must ask permission to speak of him fully, for he had an
immense influence over my life.



CHAPTER III


Adolphe de Leuven--His family--Unpublished details concerning the death
of Gustavus III.--The Count de Ribbing--The shoemakers of the château
de Villers-Hellon


I first met Leuven at a fête in the beautiful village of Corey, a
league's distance from Villers-Cotterets--a village buried in the
centre of great woods, like a nest among high branches. I had left my
companions for an instant in the course of the dance, and I had gone to
some distance to pay a visit to an old friend of my father, a farmer,
whose farm was nearly a quarter of a league from the village. I took a
pretty path at the foot of a hill to get there, hedged on both sides
by hawthorn in full blossom, and studded with daisies, their golden
centres fringed by pink-tipped petals.

Suddenly, at a bend in the path, I saw three people coming towards me,
in a ray of sunlight which bathed them in light; two were well known to
me, but the third was a complete stranger. The two I knew were Caroline
Collard, who, as previously related, had become Baroness Capelle. The
other was her daughter, Marie Capelle, then only three years old, who
to her misfortune was to become Madame Lafarge. The third person, the
stranger, looked at first sight like a German student; he was a youth
of between sixteen and seventeen, and was dressed in a grey jacket, an
oilskin cap, a waistcoat of chamois leather and bright blue trousers,
almost as tight-fitting as mine, but with this difference, that while
my topboots covered up my breeches, his, on the contrary, were covered
up by his trousers. This young man was tall, dark and gaunt, his black
hair cut as short as bristles; he had good eyes and a strikingly
defined nose; his teeth were as white as pearls, and he had a
carelessly aristocratic bearing; he was the Viscount Adolphe Ribbing de
Leuven, future author of _Vert-Vert_ and of _Postilion de Long-jumeau_
son of Count Adolphe-Louis Ribbing de Leuven, one of the three Swedish
noblemen who were inculpated in the murder of Gustavus III., King of
Sweden.

These Counts Ribbing de Leuven were of an old and noble family, used
to carrying on royal intrigues and to treat on equal terms with the
powerful ones of earth. It was a Ribbing who rose in 1520 against the
tyrant Christiern who had caused his two children to be murdered.
There was a sad and melancholy legend in the family, connected with
the beheading of these two children, the one aged twelve and the other
only three. The executioner had cut off the head of the eldest and had
seized hold of the second to execute him too, when the poor mite said
in childish accents, "Oh, please do not soil my collar as you have
soiled my brother Axel's, for mamma would scold me." The executioner
had two children of his own just the same ages as these. Moved by the
words, he flung down his sword and ran off, overwhelmed with remorse.
Christiern sent soldiers after him and he was killed.

Adolphe's father, with whom I have since become very friendly and
who loves me like a father, was then a man of fifty; extremely
distinguished in appearance, with a charming nature, although
perhaps a little too sarcastic, and of indomitable courage. He had
been educated at the Military School in Berlin, and had come to
France when quite young as a captain in one of Louis XVI.'s foreign
mercenary regiments--those regiments which did him far more harm than
any good their loyal services rendered him. He had been presented
to Marie-Antoinette by the Count de Fersen and, under the patronage
of that illustrious favourite, the queen gave him a most favourable
reception. He remembered poor. Marie-Antoinette with most respectful
veneration, and thirty years after her death I often heard him speak of
her with a voice full of tears. He was recalled to Sweden towards the
close of the year 1791. He was betrothed to one of his cousins, whom
he worshipped, and, intending to marry her on his return, he learnt on
his arrival at Stockholm that, by the order of King Gustave III., her
hand had been disposed of and she was the wife of the Count d'Essen.
In his first transport of despair, Count Ribbing provoked a quarrel
with her husband. A duel ensued, and the Count d'Essen fell with a
sword-wound through his chest which kept him chained for six months to
his bed.

Sweden was greatly disturbed at this period: the king insisted upon
enforcing his Diet to accept the deed of union and of security, and at
Geft the _coup d'état_ took place which invested the king with sole
power in the making of peace and war. A tremendous strife had been
waged for a long period between the regal power and the nobility.
Though the king was married in 1766 to Sophie-Madeleine of Denmark,
he had no heir to his crown even in 1776. And the Swedish nobility
attributed the queen's sterility to the same cause as that of Louise de
Vaudemont, Henri III.'s wife. As in the case of the last of the house
of Valois, Gustavus had his favourites, and their familiarity with him
led to their making the most extraordinary suggestions to their prince.
After a time, the courtiers made up their minds to remonstrate with the
king about the queen's barrenness and to tell him he ought to try to
remedy this deficiency by every means in his power. Gustavus promised
to see what could be done in the matter. Then, so folks said, a curious
thing happened. The evening of the day on which he had pledged his word
to the Swedish lords, he took his equerry Monck to the queen's chamber
and, in the presence of the confused and blushing queen, he explained
to the equerry the service he required of him; then he withdrew and
shut the door of the royal chamber upon the pair. Some time later the
queen's pregnancy was proclaimed, and she gave birth to a prince, who
after his father's death reigned under the title of Gustavus IV., until
the Swedish Parliament proclaimed his deposition in 1809. I knew his
son very well in Italy, where he travelled under the name of the Count
de Wasa.

In 1770, Gustavus III., then twenty-four years of age, came to France
as the Count de Haga. He had an interview with a kind of sorceress
who predicted future events in her hypnotic trances; she had scarcely
touched his hand before she told him to beware of the year 1792, as
he would incur danger of death from firearms during the course of it.
Gustavus was a brave man; he had often exposed himself to danger. He
several times repeated the prediction laughingly, but it never troubled
him.

Inconsequence of the Diet of 1792, by which the nobles had lost the
rest of their privileges, there arose a conspiracy. The principal
ringleaders were Ankarström, Count de Ribbing, Count de Horn, Baron
d'Erenswaerd and Colonel Lilienhorn. Ankarström and Ribbing had private
reasons for hatred against the king, besides the general grievances
which embittered the aristocracy against the sovereign. Through the
king's intervention Ankarström had lost a lawsuit which had deprived
him of half his fortune. Count de Ribbing, as we have seen, owed a
grudge against the king for a far more grievous loss than that of a
lawsuit, namely, the loss of his lady-love. In the case of the other
nobles the projected murder of Gustavus was simply an incident in the
life of a clan. They decided to perpetrate the murder at a masked ball,
which was to take place in the Opera House, on the night of 15 and 16
March 1792. On the night before, the king received an anonymous letter,
warning him of the plot and telling him that he was to be assassinated
on the following night.

"Ah yes," said Gustavus, "the very same thing was predicted twenty-two
years ago to the Count de Haga; but he put no more faith in the
prophecy than the King of Sweden does to-day;" and, shrugging his
shoulders, he crumpled the note between his hands and threw it into the
fireplace. Nevertheless, people averred that Gustavus went disguised
on the night of the 14-15 to consult the famous sibyl Arfredson,
who confirmed the French somnambulist's prediction and the warning
contained in the anonymous letter, telling him he would be murdered
before three days had gone by. Whether from actual courage or from
incredulity, Gustavus would not change any of his previously arranged
plans nor take any precaution: at eleven o'clock that night he went to
the masked ball. Lots had been drawn the night before to settle which
of the conspirators should kill the king, and Gustavus was so greatly
detested by his nobles that each one was eager to have the dangerous
honour of firing the fatal shot. The lot was drawn by Ankarström.

It is said that one of the conspirators offered to give him all the
wealth he then possessed, as well as all that which he was to inherit
at a future date, if he would change places with him; but Ankarström
refused. When the time came, Ankarström suddenly bethought him that he
might mistake one of the nobles for the king, as several of them were
dressed in similar costumes. But the Count de Horn reassured him. "Fire
boldly," said he, "at the one to whom I shall say, '_Good-day, handsome
masquerader_.' He will be the king."

At two in the morning Gustavus was strolling about, leaning on the arm
of the Count d'Essen, whom he had married to de Ribbing's _fiancée_,
when the Count de Horn approached him and said, "_Good-day, handsome
masquerader_."

The next moment a dull report was heard, and Gustavus tottered, crying
out--

"I am killed!"

Except those who were round about the king no one had perceived what
had happened. The pistol was concealed in a muff; the report had
been drowned amidst the buzz of conversation and the strains of the
orchestra, and the smoke remained buried in the muff. But at the king's
exclamation, and on seeing him fall back fainting in the arms of
d'Essen, everyone ran up; in the commotion that followed it was quite
easy for Ankarström to put himself at a distance from the king and even
to leave the hall; but in his flight he dropped one of his pistols. The
pistol was picked up, hot and still smoking. Next day every gun-seller
in Stockholm was questioned, and one of them recognised the pistol as
one he had sold to Ankarström. An hour later, Ankarström was arrested
at his own house, and a special commission was appointed to try him.
He confessed to, but gloried in, his crime. As to his accomplices, he
declined under any conditions whatever to reveal their names. The trial
dragged on slowly; it was hoped against hope that Ankarström would give
away the conspirators; finally, on 29 April 1792, forty-four days after
the murder, he was condemned. The sentence was that he was to be beaten
with rods for three days, then beheaded. In spite of the length and
the ignominy of the punishment, Ankarström remained firm to the very
end. While being taken in the cart to his execution, he looked with
perfect equanimity upon the thousands of spectators who thronged round
the scaffold. When he mounted the scaffold he asked for a few minutes
in which to make his peace with God. It was granted him. He knelt down,
prayed and then gave himself up to the executioners. He was not quite
thirty-three years of age.

Ribbing, who had been arrested at the same time as Ankarström, was but
twenty-one: it was intended to condemn him to death like Ankarström,
and the Duke of Sudermania, regent over the kingdom during the minority
of Gustavus IV., was urging forward the trial, when a mystic, a
disciple of Swedenborg, sought him out and told him that the _master_
had appeared to him, and had declared that not only was Ribbing
innocent, but that every hair which fell from his head would cost a
day of the life of the Duke of Sudermania. The duke, a Swedenborgian
himself, was terrified at this warning, and Ribbing, instead of sharing
Ankarström's fate, was condemned to perpetual exile. And as less
could not be done for the Count de Horn and for Lilienhorn than was
done in the case of Ribbing, they both obtained the same favour. The
confiscation of their property followed upon the sentence of exile.
Fortunately, in the case of the Count de Ribbing, the confiscation of
property could not be put into execution until after the death of his
mother: she enjoyed the property in her own right, during her lifetime,
and she was still quite young.

The count left for France, where the Revolution was then at its height,
and he arrived in time to witness the events of 2 and 3 September
and 21 January. His adoration for the queen made him loud in his
denunciation of the events of those dreadful days. He was arrested and,
although already a regicide, was on the point of being delivered up to
the revolutionary tribunal as too sympathetic with royal misfortunes,
when Chaumette set him free, gave him a passport and helped him to
escape from Paris. The count then went to Switzerland; he was so
young and so good-looking that he went by the name of "the beautiful
regicide." He was introduced to Madame de Staël, who took him much into
her confidence. The letters (some two or three hundred) which the Count
de Ribbing received from Madame de Staël during the lifetime of the
illustrious authoress of _Corinne_, proved that this friendship was not
of a temporary nature. Madame de Staël was surrounded by a circle of
friends, several of whom already knew the Count de Ribbing. This little
court was half political and half literary; its chief purpose at that
time was to rescue, hide and protect emigrants against the persecutions
of the magistrates in the Swiss cantons whose hands were continually
being forced by the demands of the Revolutionary Government of Paris.

After 9 thermidor, the Count de Ribbing could return to France, where
he bought three or four châteaux and two or three abbeys at a very low
price. Among these châteaux were Villers-Hellon, Brunoy and Quincy. The
count had acquired all these properties simply on the recommendations
either of friends or of his solicitor. Villers-Hellon was, among
others, quite unknown to him. One day he made up his mind to pay a
visit to the lovely estate people had praised so much. Unluckily, the
time was ill-chosen for seeing all its charms: the communal authorities
of Villers-Hellon had handed over the château to an association of
shoemakers who made shoes for the army, consequently the worthy
disciples of St. Crépin had taken possession of the domain, had set
up their workrooms in the salons and in the bedrooms and, the better
to communicate with one another, they had made openings through the
ceilings. When they had any oral communication to make, they made it
by means of these peep-holes without having to leave their seats; if
they had to come up or downstairs to see one another, they put ladders
through these holes and so saved the turns and twists of the proper
staircase. One can imagine how greatly such tenants would detract from
the appearance of the château the count had just bought. The sights,
and above all the smells, about the place so disgusted him that he
fled precipitately back to Paris. Some days later he recounted his
misadventure in his own witty way to M. Collard, then connected with
the commissariat department of the army. M. Collard was more accustomed
to the value of material goods than the noble exile, and he then and
there offered to take over his purchase. M. de Ribbing consented, and
Villers-Hellon became from that moment the property of M. Collard.
Happily, the Count de Ribbing had still two or three other châteaux
where he could reside instead of in the one he had just sold. He
chose Brunoy, which later he gave up to his friend Talma, as he had
Villers-Hellon to his friend Collard, and then he established himself
in the château of Quincy.

During the whole of Napoleon's reign the Count de Ribbing lived very
quietly, spending his winters in Paris and his summers in the country,
devoting himself to agriculture and to fishing in his ponds, in
which, once, he caught such an enormous pike that when it was put in
the scales with Adolphe at the other end, the pike was actually the
heavier. Napoleon offered M. de Ribbing military positions more than
once--offers which he I declined, on account of the Conqueror's love of
invasion, fearing he might one day be compelled to carry arms against
Sweden.

On the second return of the Bourbons to power, their revenge for past
political events pursued M. de Ribbing to his private retreat. He
was obliged to exile himself again, crossed the frontier, and under
an assumed name went to live in Brussels with his wife and son. But
the incognito of the Count de Ribbing was soon to betray him under
circumstances that will give some idea of his character. In Brussels,
the count found himself at the same table with some foreign officers
who, inflated with pride at the victory of Waterloo, abused France
and Frenchmen right and left. One colonel, who was covered with
decorations, especially distinguished himself by his exaggerated
attacks. The conversation was carried on in German, but as the Count
de Ribbing had been brought up in Berlin, German was almost like
his mother tongue; he did not therefore lose a single word of the
conversation, although he pretended he was not taking any notice.
Suddenly he rose, and, advancing with his usual coolness to the
colonel, he slapped him right and left across the face, accompanying
the blows with a statement of his name and titles, and then he quietly
returned to his seat. Cauchois-Lemaire, then only a young man, was at
the same table, so was the poet Arnault, who was already an old man;
both, at great risk to themselves, offered their services to the Count
de Ribbing as seconds. Happily these services were not required: the
colonel would not fight.

The roll of _the Thirty Eight_ enriched Brussels at the expense
of France,--Arnault, Excelmans, Regnault de Saint-Jean d'Angély,
Cambacérès, Harel, Cauchois-Lemaire were all exiled. M. de Ribbing
attached himself to them, and, with them, founded _le Nain Jaune_--a
journal that soon earned itself a European reputation.

Following upon an article published by the count in this journal, the
Prussian Government demanded that the author of it should be handed
over to them. This meant nothing less than imprisonment for life in a
castle--Prussia is still, as one knows, the land of castles, and it
has long been the land of imprisonments. However, King William left
the Count de Ribbing the choice of being delivered over to Prussia or
to France--somewhat after the fashion of the cook who gives a fowl its
choice between being boiled or roasted. M. de Ribbing chose France. He
was taken prisoner, flung into a post-chaise with his son, and driven
to the borders of Condé. There he looked about him, to discover from
which of his old friends he could ask hospitality. The nearest happened
to be M. Collard, so he took his way towards Villers-Hellon.

It need hardly be said that he was received with open arms. He had been
living but three days in that lovely place--changed so greatly since
the days of the bootmakers that it was almost beyond recognition--when
I met his son, Adolphe de Leuven, with Madame Capelle on his arm, and
holding little Marie by the hand.



CHAPTER IV


Adolphe's quatrain--The water-hen and King William--Lunch in the
wood--The irritant powder, the frogs and the cock--The doctor's
spectre--De Leuven, Hippolyte Leroy and I are exiled from the
drawing-room--Unfortunate result of a geographical error--M. Paroisse


I had not come across any members of the Collard family for a long
time. Madame Capelle I adored, as she took pity on my youthfulness
when people made fun of my peculiarities--peculiarities which I will
not hide from myself I possessed to a certain extent. She introduced
me to de Leuven as a young friend of hers and asked me to lunch with
them next day in the forest to improve our acquaintance; it was also
arranged that, following upon the lunch, I should spend two or three
days at the château of Villers-Hellon. Of course I accepted the
invitation. The fête of Corey was on the way, with its delightful
entertainments of dancing and merriment. I can think of nothing more
delightful than returning home, at ten or eleven o'clock at night,
under the dense moving vault of the tall trees: in the solemn stillness
of the night it seemed like some ancient Elysium, with mute shades
walking under in the darkness; for the shades that pace our terrestrial
Elysiums speak so low, so very low, that we swear they are dumb. I had
been obliged to return to Villers-Cotterets to take back Ad&le, and to
make her understand, without hurting her feelings, how important it was
that I should maintain friendly intercourse with the Collard family.
She was such an excellent, good-hearted, straightforward girl, that she
soon understood, and although feeling a little jealous at lending me
to that group of aristocratic and beautiful young girls, who were fine
enough to inspire jealousy in the heart of a princess, she gave me up
for three days.

I set off at nine next morning to reach the arranged meeting-place by
ten o'clock. Everybody had spent the night at Corey, at M. Leroy's
house, and I also should have done the same had I not been urgently
recalled to Villers-Cotterets by the necessity above stated. But what
was a distance like that? I had strong legs and boots which could defy
those of Tom Thumb's giant himself. In less than three-quarters of an
hour, I caught sight of the first houses in the village, and the pond
as it lay quiet and shining like a mirror at the foot of the valley.
Adolphe de Leuven was walking on its banks. I did not expect that
anyone would be up at the farm so early, and I joined Adolphe. He had
a pencil and tablets in his hand, and he who was usually so phlegmatic
was gesticulating in such a fashion that I should have trembled for his
reason, had I not imagined he was practising a fencing exercise. When
he saw me he stopped and blushed slightly.

"What are you doing there?" I asked.

"Why, I am composing poetry," he said, with some confusion. I looked
him in the face as though I could hardly believe my ears.

"Poetry!... do you really write poetry?"

"Why, yes, sometimes," he answered, laughing.

"To whom are you writing verses?"

"To Louise."

"What! Louise Collard?"

"Yes."

"Well, I never!"

The notion of composing poetry to Louise Collard, charming though she
was, had never come into my head. Louise seemed to me still the same
pretty child in short frocks with lace-trimmed drawers--nothing more.

"Ah! so you are making verses to Louise, are you: what for?" I went on.

"You know she is going to be married."

"Louise? No, I did not know that. To whom?"

"To a Russian. Therefore the marriage must be prevented." "Prevented?"

"Yes; such a delightful girl must not be allowed to leave France."

"True, true; I shall be very sorry if she leaves France. I am very fond
of her; aren't you?"

"I? I have only known her three days."

"It would be a good thing to hinder her from leaving France; but how
shall we do it?"

"I have written my verses; you write some too."

"I!"

"Yes, you. You have been brought up with her, and it will please her."

"But I do not know how to write poetry. I have never done anything but
crambo with the Abbé Grégoire and he always told me I did badly."

"Oh, nonsense! when you are in love it comes of itself."

"But I am in love and it hasn't come; so let me see your verses."

"Oh, it is just a quatrain."

"Well, let me see it."

Adolphe drew his tablets forth and read me these four lines:--

    "Pourquoi dans _la froide Ibérie_,
    Louise, ensevelir de si charmants attraits?
    Les Russes, en quittant notre belle patrie,
    Nous juraient cependant une éternelle paix!"

I stood astounded. This was real poetry--poetry after the style of
Demoustier. So a poet stood before me: I felt as though I ought to bow
down before him.

"How do you like my quatrain?" asked de Leuven.

"Heavens! it is beautiful."

"Good!"

"And you are going to give it to Louise?"

"Oh no; I dare not do that. I shall write it in her album without
saying anything to her, and when she turns over the leaves she will
come across my lines."

"Bravo!"

"Now what shall you do?"

"What about?"

"About this marriage."

"Oh, well, as I am quite unable to make a quatrain as good as yours,
I shall say to her, 'Are you really going to marry a Russian, my poor
Louise? I tell you, you are making a great mistake.'"

"I do not fancy that will have so much effect as my quatrain," said
Adolphe.

"Neither do I; but what else can I do? One can only use one's own
weapons. Now, if the Russian would meet me in a pistol Dud, I am quite
sure he would never marry Louise!"

"You are a sportsman, then?"

"Rather. How could you imagine one would not be, surrounded by such a
forest? Oh, stop! there is a water-hen!"

I pointed it out to him with my finger, flushing it with my stick as it
swam among the reeds of the pond.

"Shoo!"

"Is that a water-hen?"

"Of course it is. Where do you come from not to know a water-hen?"

"I come from Brussels."

"I thought you were a Parisian."

"I was indeed born in Paris; but in 1815 we left Paris, and we lived in
Brussels until three years ago, when my father and I were compelled to
leave."

"Who compelled you to go?"

"Why, William!"

"Who is William?"

"William? He is King of the Netherlands. Didn't you know that the King
of the Netherlands was called William?"

"Not I."

"Well, then, it oughtn't to seem so odd to you now that I do not know a
water-hen."

Indeed, as it appeared, we were both ignorant on some points; and my
ignorance was more culpable than de Leuven's.

He grew another cubit taller in my estimation. Not only was he a poet,
but he was of sufficient importance in the world for this King William
to be uneasy about him and his father, to the extent of banishing them
both from his realms.

"And now you are living at Villers-Hellon?" said I.

"Yes. M. Collard is an old friend of my father."

"How long shall you live here?"

"As long as the Bourbons will allow us to remain in France."

"Ah! then you have fallen out with the Bourbons too?"

"We have quarrelled with most kings," said Adolphe, with a laugh.

This phrase, uttered with magnificent indifference, quite finished
me off. Luckily, at that moment, our fair companions appeared on the
threshold of the farm, a bevy of pink and white damsels. Two or three
_chars-à-bancs_ were in readiness to take them to the appointed place.
The gentlemen were to go on foot. The rendezvous was barely a quarter
of a league's distance from the village. A long table of thirty covers
was laid under a leafy canopy, ten paces off a limpid, clear purling
spring called the _Fontaine-aux-Princes._ All these young folks,
maidens, mothers, children, seemed like so many woodland flowers
opening to the sweet-breathed breeze: some pale, that sought for shade
and solitude; others of brilliant hues, seeking light and stir and the
sunshine of admiration.

Oh! those glorious woods, those shady depths, the haunts of my
cherished moods of solitude, I have revisited you since; but no shade
glides now beneath your green vaults and in your dark alleys.... What
have you done with all that delightful world which vanished with my
youth? Why have not other generations come in their turn, pale or rosy,
lively or careless, noisy or silent like ours? Has that ephemeral
efflorescence disappeared for ever? Is it really wanting, or is it that
my eyes have lost the power of seeing?

We returned that night to Villers-Hellon. Everything was so beautifully
arranged in that luxurious little château that each of us had a
separate room and bed, and sometimes there were as many as thirty or
forty of us there.

I have related what nocturnal persecutions poor Hiraux was made a
victim of when he came to see us at les Fossés. It was now our turn to
undergo the like. Our rooms were prepared beforehand for the pantomime
that followed. The family doctor, Manceau, was the stage manager. He
had replaced an old doctor from Soissons named M. Paroisse. I will
explain presently why this change took place. The assistant stage
managers were Louise, Cécile and Augustine. The appointed victims were
Hippolyte Leroy, de Leuven and myself. Hippolyte Leroy was at this
period a young man of between twenty-five and twenty-six. He was a
cousin of M. Leroy de Corey. He had been one of the body-guard, and was
now Secretary to the Inspection at Villers-Cotterets. Later, he became
my cousin, by his marriage with Augustine Deviolaine. Our three rooms
communicated with one another. We retired to our rooms about half-past
twelve. De Leuven was the first to get into bed. He had scarcely lain
down before he began to complain of a most intolerable tickling: his
bed was sprinkled with the stuff charlatans sell which they call
scratching powder. Those unacquainted with this powder should recall
the famous scene in _Robert Macaire_, where the two heroes of the book
find a trunk, and in that trunk a quantity of tiny packets, containing
some unknown substance, whose property was revealed when they touched
it. In about five minutes' time Adolphe de Leuven began to scratch
himself like both Robert Macaire and Bertrand put together. We offered
de Leuven our sincere sympathy. We advised him to rub it off as best he
could, to wrap himself in his bed-curtain and to sleep on a couch. Then
we went to our own beds, quite convinced that we should find them like
Adolphe's. But we searched them in vain: they seemed perfectly free
from any preparation of the like nature. We lay down. In five minutes'
time Hippolyte Leroy uttered a sharp cry. In stretching himself, he
felt a piece of string at the foot of the bed; he pulled this thread,
and in doing so, he untied a bag full of frogs. The frogs, gaining
their liberty, hastened to disport themselves about the bed, and it was
the contact of his human flesh with their animal hide which produced
Hippolyte's yell above mentioned. He flung off the bed-clothes and
leapt out of bed. The frogs leaped out after him. He had been given
good measure; there were quite two dozen of them.

I was beginning to think I was the only one spared, when I thought I
heard a great stirring inside a cupboard against which the head of my
bed had been put. I looked at the lock. It was keyless. However, I
felt no doubt that some sort of animal was shut up in that cupboard.
Only, what sort of an animal was it? I was not kept long in suspense:
as one o'clock struck a cock crowed at the head of my bed, and renewed
his crowing every hour till day came. I did not deny Christ, like St.
Peter, but I confess I took His name in vain. We fell asleep by seven
o'clock,--de Leuven in spite of his itching powder, Hippolyte Leroy in
spite of his frogs, and I in spite of my cock,--when Manceau entered
our rooms and woke us by telling us that as he had heard in roundabout
ways we had spent a bad night, he had come to offer us his professional
services: Manceau denounced his own handiwork!

We had slept so badly, through that horrible night, that, with terrible
imprecations, we had consigned our persecutor, whoever he might be,
to the infernal regions. Manceau, as I have said, denounced himself:
expiation must follow the crime; our sworn oath must be fulfilled. At
a sign, de Leuven shut the door: I fell upon Manceau, Hippolyte gagged
him; we stripped him naked, we wrapped him in a sheet off Adolphe's
bed, we tied him up like a sausage, we took him down a disused
staircase and we deposited him in the most unfrequented part of the
park, in the very middle of the little river, at a place where he could
stand, but where, entangled as he was, he ran great risk of losing his
foothold at the first step he took. We then quietly returned to our
beds, and resumed our interrupted sleep.

We went down to the morning meal at ten o'clock. Our arrival was
eagerly expected. Everybody burst out laughing when we came within
view. The young ladies each played a part: some pretended to scratch,
others imitated in a low voice the croaking of frogs, and others
simulated the crowing of a cock. We were quite imperturbable: we merely
asked carelessly where Manceau was. Nobody had seen him. We sat down
to table. The fowl was tough, Cécile remarked; one would have said it
was an old cock which had crowed all the night. Augustine asked where
the frogs were that she had seen, she said, in the kitchen the night
before. Had they been moved?... Were the frogs lost?... The frogs
must be found again. Louise asked Adolphe if he was not attacked by a
contagious affection; for since he had offered her his arm to lead her
into the dining-room, her skin had felt fearfully irritable.

"If Manceau were here," I said to Louise, "you could ask him for a
prescription to allay it."

"But, joking apart, where is Manceau?" asked Madame Collard.

Silence again, as at the first inquiry. Matters were becoming serious,
and folks began to be uneasy about the dear doctor: it was not his
custom to absent himself at meal-times. They sent to ask the porter if
Manceau had gone out to attend some sick person in the village. The
porter had not seen Manceau.

"I believe he is drowned!" I said.... "Poor fellow!"

"Why should he be?" asked Madame Collard.

"Because yesterday evening he proposed a bathing party to us; but we
slept so well we missed meeting him in his room as arranged. As we did
not turn up, he must have gone alone to bathe."

"Oh, good gracious!" exclaimed Madame Collard, "the poor doctor! he
cannot swim."

A chorus of lamentations went up from the ladies at these words, by the
side of which the wailing of the Israelites in exile was a trifle. It
was settled that Manceau should be searched for immediately after the
meal was over.

"Good!" said de Leuven in a whisper to me,--"I will take the
opportunity while everybody is out to write my verses in Louise's
album."

"And I," I replied, "I will stand sentinel at the door to prevent your
being disturbed."

Everything happened as had been arranged. The whole beehive of the
castle swarmed into the garden. The older men--M. de Leuven the
father, M. Collard, M. Méchin--stayed in the drawing-room to read the
newspapers. Hippolyte played billiards with Maurice. De Leuven and I
went upstairs to Louise's room, which was next to M. Collard's, and
whilst I watched on the landing, he wrote his four lines in the album.

He had scarcely finished the last, when we heard loud shouts, and upon
going to look out of the window, we saw Louise and Augustine running
towards the castle. Cécile, who was braver, had remained stoutly where
she was, and had looked towards the river with more curiosity than
alarm.

"Bravo!" said I to Adolphe, "Manceau has made his appearance."

We quickly went down.

"A ghost! a ghost!" cried Louise and Augustine; "there is a ghost in
the river!"

"Oh! my God," said de Leuven--"can it be that the spirit of poor
Manceau is already borne down below?"

It was not his spirit, but his body. By dint of struggling with his
cords, Manceau had freed one arm, then both; his two arms freed, he
had taken the handkerchief off his mouth: when ungagged, he had called
out for help; unfortunately, the gardener was at the opposite end of
the garden. He had tried hard to untie the cords which bound his legs,
as he had done those binding his hands; but, to do so, he would have
to put his head under the water; and, as Madame Capelle had said,
the unlucky doctor did not know how to swim, and was restrained from
any such attempt by the fear of being suffocated. At last his cries
attracted the attention of the young girls; but at sight of the figure
wrapped in a sheet and making despairing gesticulations, fear had taken
possession of them, and not having the least notion that Manceau would
be discovered in the middle of the river, shrouded in such a garment,
they had shrieked at the apparition and had flown away. They sent to
the unhappy Manceau the gardener for whom he had called so loudly. He
clamoured vehemently for his clothes. He had been in the river from
seven in the morning until noon, and although it was towards the end of
July, the bath was infinitely too protracted, and had made him somewhat
chilly. He was put to bed with a hot bottle. From that moment Manceau
was the object of general pity, and we of universal execration. For,
God be merciful to him a sinner, Manceau had been cowardly enough to
denounce us. It was in vain for de Leuven to show his hands as red as
crabs and to offer to show the rest of his body, which was as red as
his hands; in vain did Hippolyte collect the frogs scattered about his
room and bring them into the drawing-room; in vain did I fetch the
cock, with which I had held discourse all the night, from the barnyard:
nothing moved our judges; we were banished from society, for deliberate
attempted homicide in the matter of Doctor Manceau. So we promised
ourselves to drown him out and out the first chance we got.

Banished from the society of the ladies, I took refuge in the
billiard-room, where Maurice gave me my first lesson in billiards.
We shall see that this lesson stood me in good stead, and that, four
years later, at a solemn occasion in my life, I practised the art of
cannoning, wherein I had made some progress. Our punishment lasted
throughout that evening, which the young ladies spent in Louise's room,
as it was raining. De Leuven made several attempts to get into that
chamber, but was repulsed each time. A great change had come over him
since four o'clock in the afternoon, after a conversation he had had
with his father, in which the elder man had seemed to me to sneer at
him strangely.

Adolphe grew very restless, almost gloomy, and although he was
determinedly kept out of Louise's room--where she was holding a
gathering of her girl-friends, as I have mentioned--he went back
persistently again and again. "Ah! I see," I said to myself, after a
moment's reflection, "he wants to obtain news of his quatrain and to
know how it has succeeded." And, satisfied with my reasoning, I did
not look any farther for the cause of de Leuven's insistence. But I
regretted I had not the means with which partial nature had endowed
Adolphe, to cause my shortcomings to be forgiven. I was pursued by this
regret when in Hippolyte's room, where we withdrew, questioning each
other what had become of de Leuven, who had not been seen for an hour,
when suddenly we heard a great noise in the midst of which we could
make out the words, "_Stop thief!_" echoing through the castle. As we
were still dressed, we dashed out of our room and quickly descended
the staircase. At the foot of the staircase was M. Collard in his
nightshirt, holding Adolphe by his coat collar. It was an extraordinary
sight. M. Collard looked furious and Adolphe exceedingly penitent. In
the meantime, M. de Leuven, who had not yet gone to bed, arrived on the
scene, as imperturbable as ever, his hands in his trousers pockets,
chewing a toothpick, after his usual fashion. This toothpick was an
indispensable item in M. de Leuven's life.

"Well, well! What is the matter now, Collard? What have you against my
boy?"

"What have I? what have I?" shrieked M. Collard, growing more and more
exasperated. "I have something that cannot be overlooked."

"Ah! what has he done, then?"

"What has he done?... I'll tell you what he has done!----"

"Forgive me, father," said Adolphe, trying to get in a word or two of
justification,--"forgive me, father, but M. Collard is mistaken.... He
believes----"

"Hold your tongue, you scoundrel!" yelled M. Collard, kicking him.

Then, turning to the Count de Ribbing, he said--

"Listen, my dear de Leuven, and I will tell you where I have found this
son of yours."

"But I must protest, dear M. Collard, it was solely and simply to----"

"Be quiet!" interrupted M. Collard. "Come with us: you shall clear
yourself if you can."

"Oh," said Adolphe, "that will not be difficult."

"We shall see!"

Pushing the youth before him, he signed to the count to go inside his
room, and, following himself, shut the door and double-locked it.

We withdrew in silence, Hippolyte, myself and the other spectators
of that curious scene. Adolphe returned at the end of a quarter of
an hour. He looked so crestfallen that we dared not question him
for details. We went to bed in ignorance of the cause of all the
disturbance.

But after Hippolyte had fallen asleep de Leuven came to me and told me
the whole story. This was what had happened.

As I have said above, Adolphe had written the wonderful quatrain in
Louise's album that morning. When it was finished he left the young
lady's room as fast as possible. Towards four o'clock, Adolphe, who had
not been able to contain the news, drew his father aside and repeated
his quatrain to him.

M. de Ribbing listened gravely until the last syllable of the fourth
line, and then he said--

"Say it over again, please."

Adolphe repeated it obediently:--

    "Pourquoi dans la froide Ibérie,
    Louise, ensevelir de si charmants attraits?
    Les Russes, en quittant notre belle patrie,
    Nous juraient cependant une éternelle paix!"

"There is but one slip," then said M. de Ribbing.

"What?" asked Adolphe.

"Oh, nothing much ... you have mistaken the South for the North--Spain
for Russia."

"Oh!" cried Adolphe, aghast, "upon my word, so I have! ... I have put
Ibérie for _Sibérie_."

"I understand," said the count, "it makes a better rhyme, but is less
accurate." And, shrugging his shoulders, he went off humming a little
air and chewing his toothpick.

Adolphe stood dumbfounded. He had signed his unlucky quatrain with
his full name. If the album were opened and the quatrain were read
he would be disgraced! This sword of Damocles, hung over the unlucky
poet's head, had distracted him all the evening. It was to get hold of
Louise's album that he had made the obstinate efforts to enter her room
I have detailed. But, as we have seen, his attempts had been fruitless.

When night came, Adolphe took a desperate resolve: he would go into
Louise's room when she was asleep, seize her album and destroy the
tell-tale page.

This resolution he put into execution about eleven o'clock. The door
opened without creaking too much, and Adolphe, who squeezed himself
through as softly as possible on tiptoe, with but the one end, one
hope and one desire of reaching the album, had thus invaded his young
friend's maiden chamber. All went well as far as the album. It was
on the table and Adolphe took it, put it in his vest, determined to
regain possession by hook or by crook of the four lines which had made
their author so unhappy, when suddenly he ran against a little table,
which fell and in falling awakened Louise. Louise, startled, cried out,
"Thief, thief!" At the cry of "Thief, thief!" M. Collard, whose room
adjoined his daughter's, rushed out of bed in his nightshirt, flung
himself on de Leuven on the landing, collared him, and, as we have
seen, suspecting poor innocent Adolphe of quite another crime, dragged
him into his chamber. His father followed them and closed the door
behind him. There, everything was explained, thanks to the album, which
Adolphe had been careful not to let go. M. Collard was convinced _de
visu_ of the geographical error Adolphe had committed; he thoroughly
understood the importance of that error, and, reassured in the matter
of motive, he was soon satisfied about the deed. So neither Louise's
reputation nor Adolphe's suffered any blemish from this occurrence.

As they continued to punish Hippolyte and me next day, for Manceau's
little adventure, we left Villers-Hellon without saying a word to
anyone, and took the road to Villers-Cotterets. Strange to say, I have
never re-entered Villers-Hellon since. The young girls' ostracism
lasted thirty years. Only once have I since seen Hermine, and that
was at the rehearsal of _Caligula_, when she was Madame la Baronne de
Martens. Only once have I since seen Louise, and that was at a dinner
given at the Bank, when she was Madame Garat. Only once have I since
seen Marie Capelle, a month before she became Madame Lafarge. I never
saw either Madame Collard or Madame Capelle again. Both are now dead.
But when I close my eyes, in spite of those thirty years of absence, I
can still see them all, the dead and the living.

I promised to tell the story of the old doctor who was Manceau's
predecessor, and it would be unfair to my readers to break my word. M.
Paroisse lived at Soissons. A thinly scattered practice allowed him to
dine once a week at Villers-Hellon, where he was always made heartily
welcome. This lasted for ten years. One day M. Collard received a
large manuscript signed by the worthy doctor. It was the bill for his
visits. He had charged twenty francs for each visit, and the sum total
was something alarming. M. Collard paid him, but told M. Paroisse from
henceforth not to come to Villers-Hellon unless he were specially sent
for. It was in consequence of this incident that Manceau was installed
in the castle as the regular medical attendant to the family. I forget
what became of Manceau ... I fancy the poor devil is dead. Happily,
this was not in consequence of the enforced bath we gave him.



CHAPTER V


Amédée de la Ponce--He teaches me what work is--M. Arnault and his two
sons--A journey by diligence--A gentleman fights me with cough lozenges
and I fight him with my fists--I learn the danger from which I escaped


After the unjust sentence that was passed upon us in Villers-Hellon, I
returned to Villers-Cotterets, and, disgusted with my sojourn in the
aristocratic regions whence I had just been cast forth, I returned
with delight to the world I preferred to theirs, wherein I could find
complete satisfaction for all my heart-longings and all my proud
cravings. Adèle at first received me back very coldly, and I had to
endure a fit of the sulks for some hours. At the end of that time,
little by little her pretty face cleared, and she ended by smiling upon
me with the freshness and sweetness of an opening flower. One might
have said of this lovely child that her smile itself was like a rose.
While these youthful love affairs were in progress--all of them, alas!
of the ephemeral character of love at sixteen--there were friendships
taking root in my heart that were to last the whole of my life.

I have already spoken of Adolphe de Leuven, who suddenly took a
prominent place in my life, apart from my childish friendships. Here
let me also be allowed to say a word about another friend, who was
to finish in certain other directions the work of opening out future
vistas before me that had been begun by the son of Count de Ribbing.
One day we saw a young man of twenty-six or twenty-seven go along
the streets of Villers-Cotterets, wearing the uniform of an officer
of Hussars with an unusually stately grace. No one could possibly
have been handsomer or more distinguished in appearance than this
young man. His face perhaps might have been criticised as a trifle
too feminine-looking, if it had not been for a fine sword-cut which,
without spoiling in any way the regularity of his features, began
at the left side of his forehead and ended at the right corner of
his upper lip, adding a touch of manliness and courage to his gentle
features. His name was Amédée de la Ponce. I do not know what chance
or whim or necessity led him to Villers-Cotterets. Had he come as an
idle tourist, to spend his income of five or six thousand livres in our
town? I do not know.... It is probable. He liked the country, he stayed
among us and, at the end of a year of residence, he became the husband
of a charmingly pretty young girl, Louise Moreau, a friend of my
sister. They had a beautiful fair-haired child, whom I should much like
to see to-day: we nicknamed it _Mouton_, on account of its gentleness,
the whiteness of its skin and its flaxen hair.

I lost sight of you such a long while ago, my dear de la Ponce!
Whatever part of the world you may be in, if you read these pages, you
will find therein a testimony of my ever living, sincere and lasting
friendship for you. For, my friend, you did a great deal for me. You
said to me: "Believe me, my dear boy, there are other things in life
besides pleasure and love, hunting and dancing, and the silly ambitions
of youth! There is work. Learn to work ... that is the true way to be
happy." And you were right, dear friend. Apart from the death of my
father, the death of my mother and the death of the Duc d'Orléans,
how is it I have never experienced a sorrow that I have not crushed
beneath my feet or a disappointment that I have not overcome? It is
because you introduced me to the only friend who can give comfort by
day and by night, who is ever near, who hastens to console at the first
sigh, who lends healing balm at the first tear: you made me acquainted
with _work._ O dear and most excellent Work,--thou who bearest in thy
strong arms that heavy burden of humanity which we call sorrow! Thou
divinity, with hand ever stretched open and with face ever smiling!...
Oh! dear and most excellent Work, thou hast never cast the shadow of
deception on me ... my blessings upon thee, O Work!

De la Ponce spoke Italian and German as fluently as his own language;
he offered to teach them to me in my leisure moments--and God knows I
had plenty of spare moments at that time.

We started with Italian. It was the easiest language--the honey of
which Horace speaks, the gilding that clothes the outside of the cup
of bitter drink given to a sick child. One of the books out of which
I learnt Italian was Ugo Foscolo's fine novel, which I have since
translated under the title of the _Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis._
That book gave me an idea of, an insight into and a feeling for
romantic literature of which previously I had been totally ignorant.
In two months' time I could talk Italian fairly correctly, and I
began to translate poetry. I much preferred this to my sales and my
marriage contracts and the drawing up of bonds and transfers at Maître
Mennesson's. Furthermore, a change took place in the office greatly to
the advantage of my literary education, but not to my legal education.
Niguet, that precious head clerk who had told tales to M. Mennesson
of my love-disappointments, had bought in a neighbouring village a
lawyer's practice, which I believe Lafarge had been obliged to sell
as he had not been able to find the wherewithal to take it up; and
Paillet, a friend of mine, who was six or eight years my senior, had
succeeded Niguet as head clerk over me. Paillet was well-to-do; he had
a delightful property two leagues from Villers-Cotterets; his tastes
were luxurious; consequently, he let me off more readily than Niguet
(who was an old Basochian[1] without any fun in him and entirely
wrapped up in his business) to pursue the simple luxuries I could
indulge in, namely, shooting, flirting and dancing.

So it came about that instead of encouraging me in treading the narrow
and difficult path of a provincial solicitor, Paillet allowed me to
cast my eyes abroad, instinctively understanding, doubtless, that
the work they had put me to was not what I was cut out for. It can
easily be seen that Paillet exercised material influence over my future
destiny, apart from the moral influence exercised by de la Ponce and
de Leuven. I was then perfectly happy in the love of my mother, and in
a younger and sweeter love growing up side by side with hers without
injuring it, and in the friendship of de la Ponce and of de Paillet,
when de Leuven came to complete my happiness: I lacked nothing save
that golden mean of which Horace speaks; had I had that too, I should
have had scarcely aught to wish for.

Suddenly we heard that M. Deviolaine was going to retire with
his family to his estate of Saint-Remy, and let his house at
Villers-Cotterets to the Count de Ribbing. So the house wherein I had
been brought up, the house peopled for me with a host of memories,
was to pass from the hands of a relative into the hands of a friend
The beautiful garden had taken M. de Leuven's special fancy; he hoped
to give vent in it to his hobby for gardening interrupted by the
successive sales of Brunoy and Quincy. Furthermore, the count had not
met with any more persecution, and whether it was because Louis XVIII.
did not know of his being in France, or whether the king closed his
eyes to the fact, he was left in undisturbed peacefulness.

De Leuven and his father settled, then, in Villers-Cotterets, where
Madame de Leuven joined them in a fortnight's time. As for de la
Ponce, he rented a house at the end of the rue de Largny, the first
house on the left as you come from Paris: it had a large garden and
a fine courtyard. My time was soon divided into three portions--one
was devoted to my friendships, another to love-makings, and the third
to my legal work. The reader may suggest that my mother was perhaps a
little neglected in all this. Is a mother ever forgotten? Is she not
always there, whether present or absent? Did I not go in and out of
my home ten or twenty times a day? Did I not kiss my mother each time
I went in? Every day de Leuven, de la Ponce and I managed to meet.
Generally it was at de la Ponce's house: we transformed the courtyard
which I have mentioned into a shooting range, and every day we used
up twenty or thirty balls. De Leuven had excellent German pistols
(_Kukenreiter_). These pistols were marvellously true, and we soon
were able to shoot with such precision, all three of us, that when
anyone doubted our powers, we would take it in turn to hold the piece
of cardboard which served as a target, whilst the others fired. And
we never any of us received a single graze! I remember one day after
heavy rain we found I do not know how many frogs in that gloomy, damp
courtyard. Here was novel game for us to pot at, and we exterminated
every frog with our pistols. Every little while de Leuven read us a
fable or an elegy of his own composition; but he was cured of making
geographical errors by the nocturnal misadventure at Villers-Hellon
and no longer mistook the South for the North, or Spain for Siberia.
One morning great news spread through the town. Three strangers had
just come to stay with M. de Leuven: M. Arnault and his two sons,
Telleville and Louis Arnault. M. Arnault, the author of _Germanicus_
and of _Marius à Minturnes_, was at that time a splendid-looking old
man of sixty, still full of life in spite of his curling white locks,
which were as fine as silk. He had a most superabundant flow of spirits
and excelled at repartee; he could strike as rapidly at his object
as the most accomplished fencing-master could parry a blow or deal a
right-handed stroke. The only fault one could find with this wit was
its keen, biting edge; but, like bites made by healthy teeth, the
poet's bites never left poison behind them. M. Arnault had made the
acquaintance of the Count de Ribbing at that famous _table d'hôte_
where the latter had struck the foreign colonel in the face. Since
that day, M. de Leuven, Frenchman at heart, and M. Arnault, Frenchman
in mind, had struck up a friendship which though broken by death was
continued between their children. Telleville Arnault was a handsome
young officer of a charming disposition and of tested valour. He had
fought a Dud over _Germanicus_ with Martainville which had made a great
sensation in the literary world. Louis was still a young lad of about
my own age.

I prudently kept from visiting Adolphe all the time M. Arnault and his
sons were staying with his father; but M. Deviolaine having invited
them to a rabbit shooting in the Tillet woods, I was present, and the
acquaintance which began by chance during the walks in the park was
sealed gun in hand. Telleville had a little gun made by Prélat, with
which he did wonders. This gun had a barrel not fourteen inches long,
which filled me with wonder, for I still believed in length of barrel
and hunted with siege-guns.

When M. Arnault left Villers-Cotterets, he took de Leuven with
him. It was heart-breaking to me to see Adolphe depart. I had two
memories of visits to Paris, one in 1806, the other in 1814. These two
recollections sufficed to make me passionately envious of the lot of
every favoured being who was going to Paris. I remained behind with de
la Ponce, and I redoubled my devotion to the study of Italian. I was
soon sufficiently far advanced in the language of Dante and of Ariosto
to be able to pass on to that of Schiller and of Goethe; but this was
quite a different matter. After three or four months' work, de la
Ponce put one of Auguste Lafontaine's novels in my way: the task was
too difficult, I soon had enough of it. German was dropped, and I have
never had the courage to take it up again. My first serious dramatic
impression dates from this period. Some nabob who had done business
through M. Mennesson, out of unheard-of generosity, left a hundred and
fifty francs to be divided among the lads in the office. M. Mennesson
distributed it in the following way: thirty-seven francs fifty cents
each to Ronsin and myself, seventy-five francs to Paillet. It was the
first time I had found myself possessed of so much money. I wondered
what I should do with it.

One of the four great fêtes of the year was approaching, when we should
have Sunday and Monday as holidays. Paillet proposed we should both
club our thirty-seven francs fifty cents to his seventy-five francs,
and that we should go and sink this fabulous sum of fifty crowns in
the delights that Soissons, the seat of the _sous-prefecture_, could
offer us. The suggestion was hailed with joy. Paillet was deputed
cashier, and we boldly took seats on the diligence for Paris, which
passes through Villers-Cotterets at half-past three in the morning,
and arrives at Soissons at six o'clock. Paillet and Ronsin each took
a place in the coupé, where one was already taken, and I went inside,
where there were four other passengers, three of whom got out at la
Vertefeuille, a post three leagues away from Villers-Cotterets, the
fourth continuing his journey to Soissons. From la Vertefeuille to
Soissons, therefore, I was left alone with this person, who was a man
of forty years or thereabouts, very thin of body, pale of face, with
auburn hair and well groomed. He had laid great stress on my sitting
near him, and, in order to leave me as much room as possible, squeezed
himself as closely into a corner of the coach as he could. I was much
touched by this attention, and felt sensibly drawn to the gentleman,
who had condescended to treat me with so much consideration.

I slept well and anywhere in those days. So, as soon as we got out of
the town I fell asleep, only to wake when the horses were changed,
and I should most certainly not have waked up then if the three
passengers who left us had not trodden on my toes as they got out, with
the habitual heavy-footed tread travellers indulge in at the expense
of those who remain behind. When the passenger saw I was awake, he
began to talk to me, and asked me, in a kindly, interested way, my
age, my name and my occupation. I made haste to supply him with full
particulars, and he seemed much interested therein. I told him the
object of our journey to Soissons; and, as I coughed while I related
my tale, he good-naturedly offered me two different sorts of cough
lozenges. I accepted both, and in order to get the full benefit of
them I put them both in my mouth together; then, although I found the
gentleman's conversation agreeable and his manners fascinating, there
was something even more seductive and pleasing than that conversation
and those manners, namely sleep, so I wished him a good-night, and,
with plenty of room to dispose myself in, I settled down in the corner
parallel with his, with my back upon one seat and my feet on the
other. I do not know how long I had slept when I felt myself awakened
in the oddest fashion in the world. My sleeping fellow-traveller had
apparently passed from mere interest to a more lively expression of
his sentiments, and was embracing me. I imagined he had a nightmare,
and I tried to awake him; but as I saw that the more soundly he slept,
the worse his gesticulations became, I began to strike him hard, and
as my blows had no effect, I cried aloud with all my might. Unluckily,
they were descending the hill of Vaubuin and they could not stop
the coach; the struggle therefore lasted ten minutes or more, and
without in the least knowing what danger I was combating, I was just
about to succeed in getting the better of my enemy, by turning him
over under my knee, when the door opened and the conductor came to
my rescue. Paillet and Ronsin were sleeping as I should have slept
if my travelling-companion had not waked me up by his overpowering
friendliness. I told the conductor what had happened and blamed him
for having put me along with a somnambulist or a madman, begging him
to put me in any other corner of the coach convenient to him, when,
to my intense astonishment, whilst the traveller was readjusting his
toilet, which had been considerably damaged by my struggle with him,
without uttering any sort of complaint against me, the conductor began
apostrophising him in the severest terms, made him get down out of the
coach, and told him that, as there only remained three-quarters of a
league from where we were to the _hôtel des Trois-Pucelles_, where
the coach stopped, he must have the goodness to do it on foot, unless
he would consent to mount up on the roof, where he could not disturb
anybody else. The gentleman of the auburn locks hoisted himself on
the roof, without opening his lips, and the diligence started off
again. Although I was now alone once more and consequently more at
my ease inside the coach, I was too much excited by the struggle I
had just gone through, to think of going to sleep again. I could hear
the conductor, in the cabriolet, relate my story to my two fellow
travelling-companions, and apparently he presented it to them under
a gayer light than that in which I had looked at it myself, for they
roared with laughter. I did not know what there could be to laugh at in
an interchange of fisticuffs with a somnambulist or a maniac. A quarter
of an hour after the gentleman had been installed on the imperial, and
I reinstated in the carriage, I heard by the heavy sound of the coach
wheels that we were crossing under the drawbridge. We had reached our
destination.

Five minutes after we had left the coach, Paillet and Ronsin told me
why they had laughed, and it sounded so ridiculous that I rushed off
in search of my gentleman of the cough lozenges almost before they
had finished; but I searched the imperial in vain in every corner and
cranny:--he had disappeared.

This nocturnal struggle upset me so greatly that I felt dazed the whole
of the day.


[1] Translator's note.--Member of the Society of Law Clerks.



CHAPTER VI


First dramatic impressions--The _Hamlet_ of Ducis_--The Bourbons en
1815_--Quotations from it


Among the pleasures we had promised ourselves in the second capital
of the department of Aisne we had put the theatre in the first rank.
A company of pupils from the Conservatoire, who were touring in the
provinces, were that night to give a special performance of Ducis's
_Hamlet._ I had absolutely no idea who _Hamlet_ was; I will go farther
and admit that I was completely ignorant who was Ducis. No one could
have been more ignorant than I was. My poor mother had tried to induce
me to read Corneille's and Racine's tragedies; but, I confess it to my
shame, the reading of them had bored me inexpressibly. I had no notion
at that time what was meant by style or form or structure; I was a
child of nature in the fullest acceptance of the term: what amused me I
thought good, what wearied me--bad. So I read the word _tragedy_ on the
placard with some misgivings.

But, after all, as this tragedy was the best that Soissons had to offer
us to pass away the evening, we put ourselves in the queue waiting
outside; in good time, and in spite of the great crowd, we succeeded in
getting into the pit.

Something like thirty-two years have rolled by since that night, but
such an impression did it make upon my mind that I can still remember
every little detail connected with it. The young fellow who took the
part of Hamlet was a tall, pale, sallow youth called Cudot; he had fine
eyes, and a strong voice, and he imitated Talma so closely, that when I
saw Talma act the same part, I almost thought he imitated Cudot.

As I have said, the subject of literature was completely unknown to
me. I did not even know that there had ever existed an author named
Shakespeare, and when, on my return, I was instructed by Paillet that
_Hamlet_ was only an imitation, I pronounced, before my sister, who
knew English, the name of the author of _Romeo_ and of _Macbeth_ as
I had seen it written, and it cost me one of those prolonged jokings
my sister never' spared me when occasion offered. Of course on this
occasion I delighted her. Now, as the _Hamlet_ of Ducis could not lose
in my estimation by comparison, since I had never heard Shakespeare's
spoken of, the play seemed to me, with Hamlet's grotesque entrance,
the ghost, visible only to himself, his struggle against his mother,
his urn, his monologue, the gloomy questionings concerning the fear of
death, to be a masterpiece, and produced an immense effect upon me.
So, when I returned to Villers-Cotterets, the first thing I did was to
collect together the few francs left over from the trip to Soissons and
to write to Fourcade (who had given up his place to Camusat, of whom I
spoke in connection with old Hiraux, and who had returned to Paris) to
send me the tragedy of _Hamlet._

For some reason or other Fourcade delayed sending it to me for five
or six days: so great was my impatience that I wrote him a second
letter, filled with the keenest reproaches at his negligence and want
of friendliness. Fourcade, who would never have believed anyone could
accuse a man of being a poor friend because he did not hurry over
sending _Hamlet_, sent me a charming letter the gist of which I did
not appreciate until I had studied more deeply the question of what
was good and what was bad, and was able to place Ducis's work in its
due rank. In the meantime I became demented. I asked everybody, "Do
you know _Hamlet_? do you know Ducis?" The tragedy arrived from Paris.
At the end of three days I knew the part of Hamlet by heart and, worse
still, I have such an excellent memory that I have never been able to
forget it. So it came to pass that _Hamlet_ was the first dramatic work
which produced an impression upon me--a profound impression, composed
of inexplicable sensations, aimless longings, mysterious rays of light
which only made my darkness more visible. Later, in Paris, I again
saw poor Cudot, who had played Hamlet. Alas! the grand talent that
had carried me away had not obtained him the smallest foothold, and
I believe he has long since given up hope--that daughter of pride so
hard to kill in the artist's soul--the hope of making a position on the
stage.

Now--as if the spirit of poetry, when wakened in me, had sworn never to
go to sleep again and used every means to that end, by even succeeding
in making Maître Mennesson himself his accomplice--scarcely had I
returned from Soissons, when, instead of giving me a deed of sale to
copy out or a bond to engross, or sending me out on business, Maître
Mennesson gave me a piece of poetry of which he wanted three copies
made. This piece of poetry was entitled _Les Bourbons en 1815._

M. Mennesson, as I have said, was a Republican; I found him a
Republican in 1830, and when I saw him again in 1848 he was still a
Republican. And to do him justice, he had the courage of his opinions
through all times and under all regimes; so freely did he express
his opinions that his friends were frightened by them and made their
observations thereon with bated breath. He only shrugged his shoulders.

"What the devil will they do to me?" he would exclaim. "My office is
paid for, my clientèle flourishing; I defy them to find a flaw in any
of my contracts; and that being the case, one can afford to mock at
kings and parsons."

Maître Mennesson was right, too; for, in spite of all these
demonstrations, all these accusations of imprudence made by timid
souls, his practice was the best in Villers-Cotterets and improved
daily. At this very moment he was in the seventh heaven of delight.
He had got hold of a piece of poetry, in manuscript, against the
Bourbons--I do not know how. He had read it to everybody in the town,
and then after reading it to everybody, when I came back from Soissons,
he, as I have said, ordered me to make two or three copies of it, for
those of his friends who, like himself, were anxious to possess this
poetical pamphlet. I have never seen it in print, I have never read it
since the day I copied it out three times, but such is my memory that
I can repeat it from beginning to end. But lest I alarm my readers, I
will content myself with quoting a few lines of it.

This was how it began:--

    "Où suis-je? qu'ai je vu? Les voilà donc ces princes
    Qu'un sénat insensé rendit à nos provinces;
    Qui devaient, abjurant les prejugés des rois,
    Citoyens couronnés, régner au nom des lois;
    Qui venaient, disaient-ils, désarmant la victoire,
    Consoler les Français de vingt-cinq ans de gloire!
    Ils entrent! avec eux, la vengeance de l'orgueil.
    Ont du Louvre indigné franchi l'antique seuil!
    Ce n'est plus le sénat, c'est Dieu, c'est leur naissance,
    C'est le glaive étranger qui leur soumet la France;
    Ils nous osent d'un roi reprocher l'_échafaud_:
    Ah! si ce roi, sortant de la nuit du _tombeau_,
    Armé d'un fer vengeur venait punir le crime,
    Nous les verrions pâlir aux yeux de leur victime!"

Then the author exclaims--in those days authors all
exclaimed--abandoning general considerations for the detailed drawing
of individuals, and passing the royal family in review:--

    "C'est d'Artois, des galants imbécile doyen,
    Incapable de mal, incapable de bien;
    Au pied des saints autels abjurant ses faiblesses,
    Et par des favoris remplaçant ses maîtresses;
    D'Artois, dont rien n'a pu réveiller la vertu,
    Qui fuit a Quiberon sans avoir combattu,
    Et qui, s'il était roi, monterait à la France
    Des enfants de Clovis la stupide indolence!
    C'est Berry, que l'armée appelait à grands cris,
    Et qui lui prodigua l'insulte et le mépris;
    Qui, des ces jeunes ans, puisa dans les tavernes
    Ces mœurs, ce ton grossier, qu'ignorent nos casernes.
    C'est son frère, avec art sous un masque imposteur,
    Cachant de ses projets l'ambitieuse horreur!
    Qui, nourri par son oncle aux discordes civiles,
    En rallume les feux en parcourant nos villes;
    Ce Thersite royal, qui ne sut, à propos,
    Ni combattre ni fuir, et se croit un héros!
    C'est, plus perfide encor, son épouse hautaine,
    Cette femme qui vit de vengeance et de haine,
    Qui pleure, non des siens le funeste trépas,
    Mais le sang qu'à grands flots elle ne verse pas!
    Ce sont ces courtisans, ces nobles et ces prêtres,
    Qui, tour à tour flatteurs et tyrans de leur maîtres,
    Voudraient nous ramener au temps où nos aieux
    Ne voyaient, ne pensaient, n'agissaient que par eux!"

Then the author ends off his discourse with a peroration worthy of the
subject and exclaims once more in his liberal enthusiasm:--

    "Ne balonçons done plus, levons-nous! et semblables
    Au fleuve impétueux qui rejette les sables,
    La fange et le limon qui fatiguaient sous cours,
    De notre sol sacré rejetons pour toujours
    Ces tyrans sans vertu, ces courtisans perfides,
    Ces chevaliers sans gloire et ces prêtres avides,
    Qui, jusqu'à nos exploits ne pouvant se hausser,
    Jusques à leur néant voudraient nous abaisser!"

Twelve years later the Bourbons were hounded out of France. It is
not only revolutionary bullets which overturn thrones; it is not
only the guillotine that kills kings: bullets and the guillotine are
but passive instruments in the hands of principles. It is the deadly
hatred, it is the undercurrent of rebellion, which, so long as it is
but the expression of the desires of the few, miscarries and spends
its fury; but which, the moment it becomes the expression of general
requirements, swallows up thrones and nations, kings and royal families.

It is easy to understand how the _Messéniennes_ of Casimir Delavigne,
which appeared in print the same time as these manuscript pamphlets,
seemed pale and colourless. Casimir Delavigne was one of those men who
celebrate in song revolutions that were accomplished facts, but who do
not help revolutions in the making. The Maubreuil trial was the outcome
of the piece of poetry from which I have just quoted these brief
extracts--a most mysterious and ill-omened business, in which names,
if not the most illustrious in Europe, yet at least the best known
at that time, were mixed up with acts of thievery and premeditated
assassination.

Probably I am the only person in France who now thinks of the
"affaire Maubreuil." Perhaps also I am the only person who has kept a
shorthand account of the sittings of that terrible trial, during which
the horrors of the dungeon and secret torture were employed in the
endeavour to drive a man mad whom they dare not kill outright, to whom
they could not succeed in giving the lie. I made a copy at the time
from a manuscript in a strange and unknown hand, which gave an account
of the sittings. Later, I read the account the illustrious Princess of
Wurtemberg took down in her own writing, first for her husband, Marshal
Jérôme Bonaparte, and then intended to be included in her Memoirs,
which are in the hands of her family, and are still unpublished.



CHAPTER VII


The events of 1814 again--Marmont, Duc de Raguse, Maubreuil and
Roux-Laborie at M. de Talleyrand's--The _Journal des Débats_ and the
_Journal de Paris_--Lyrics of the Bonapartists and enthusiasm of the
Bourbons--End of the Maubreuil affair--Plot against the life of the
Emperor--The Queen of Westphalia is robbed of her money and jewels


Let us now try to clear away the litter left by the events of the
year 1814. When the Almighty prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem,
He said to Ezekiel, "I will make thee eat thy bread prepared with
cow-dung" (Ezek. iv. 15). Oh! my God, my God! Thou hast served us more
hardly than Thou didst the prophet, and hast made us eat far worse than
that at times!

Napoleon was at Fontainebleau, the empress at Blois; a Provisional
Government, occult and unknown, carried on its operations on the ground
floor of a house in the rue Saint-Florentin. Is it necessary that I
should add that the house in the rue Saint-Florentin belonged to M. de
Talleyrand? On 16 March Napoleon had written from Rheims:--

      "DEAR BROTHER,--In accordance with the verbal
      instructions I gave you, and the wishes expressed in all
      my letters, you must on no account allow the Empress and
      the King of Rome to fall into the hands of the enemy. You
      will not have any news from me for several days. If the
      enemy advances upon Paris in such force that you decide
      any resistance to be useless, send away my son and the
      regent, the grand dignitaries, ministers, officers of the
      Senate, presidents of the State Council, chief officers
      of the Crown, Baron de la Bouillerie and the treasure,
      towards the Loire. Do not desert my son, and remember
      that I would rather know that he was in the Seine than
      that he had fallen into the hands of the enemies of
      France. The fate of Astyanax, prisoner of the Greeks, has
      always seemed to me the unhappiest in history.

                                                    "NAPOLEON"

This letter was addressed to Joseph. The treasure referred to by
Napoleon was, be it understood, his own private possessions. On 28
March the departure of the empress was discussed. MM. de Talleyrand,
Boulay (de la Meurthe), the Duc de Cadore and M. de Fermon were of
opinion that the empress should remain. Joseph, with the emperor's
letter in his hand, insisted upon her departure. It was decided
that she should leave on the following day, at nine o'clock in the
morning. Afterwards M. de Talleyrand was blamed for having urged that
Marie-Louise should stay in Paris. A pale and cold smile flitted over
the vast chasm which served the diplomatist for a mouth.

"I knew that the empress would defy me," he said, "and that, if I
advised her going, she would stay. I urged that she should stay to
further her departure."

O monseigneur, Bishop of Autun! you put into the mouth of Harel, in
_le Nain Jaune_, the famous epigram, "Speech was given to man to
conceal his thoughts." And, monseigneur, you were eminently capable of
exemplifying the truth of the saying yourself.

On the morning of 29 March, through the uncurtained windows of the
Tuileries, the empress's women could have been seen in the dubious
light of the growing dawn, by the still more dubious light of lamps
and dying candles, running about, pale with fatigue and fear, after a
whole night spent in preparing for the journey. The departure, as we
have said, was fixed for nine o'clock. At ten o'clock the empress had
not yet left her apartments. She was hoping to the last that a counter
order would arrive either from the emperor or from Joseph. At half-past
ten the King of Rome clung to the curtains of the palais des Tuileries
in tears; for he too, poor child, did not want to go.

Alas! at a distance of seventeen years between, three children, all
suffering through the mistakes of their fathers, clung in vain to
those same curtains: for sixty years the Tuileries was little more
than a royal hostelry wherein the fleeting dynasties put up in turn.
By a quarter to eleven, the empress, clad like an amazon in brown,
stepped into a carriage with the King of Rome, surrounded by a strong
detachment of the Imperial Guard. On the same day and at the same hour,
the emperor set off from Troyes for Paris with his flying squadrons.
It is well known that the emperor was arrested at Fromenteau, but what
follows is not known, or but imperfectly known.

When time and occasion serve--_apropos_ of the July Revolution,
probably--we shall revert to one of the men whom fate, for some unknown
reason, branded with a fatal seal. We refer to Marmont. We will show
what he was, rather than what he did: he was superb, during that
retreat, in which he left neither gun nor prisoner in the hands of
the enemy; superb when--like a lion at bay against the walls of the
customhouse at Paris, surrounded by Russians and Prussians, in the
main street of _Belleville_, his right arm still in a sling, after the
battle of Arapiles, holding his sword in his left hand, mutilated at
Leipzig, his clothes riddled with bullets, wedged in between the dead
and the wounded who fell all round him, with only forty grenadiers
behind him--he forced his way to the barrier where he abandoned,
pierced with wounds, the fifth horse that had been killed under him
since the beginning of the campaign! Alas! why did he not cross Paris
from the barrier of Belleville to the barrier of Fontainebleau? Why
did he stop at his house in the rue Paradis-Poissonnière? Why did he
not go to Napoleon, with his coat in shreds and his face blackened
with powder? How determinedly fate seemed to oppose him! How different
would have been the verdict of the future! But we, who are now a part
of that future, and well-nigh disinterested spectators of all those
great events, we who by nature are without private hatreds, and by
position have nothing to do with political animosities, it is for us to
enlighten posterity, for we are poised between the worlds aristocratic
and democratic, the one in its decadence and the other in its
adolescence: it is ours to seek for truth wherever it may be buried,
and to exalt it wherever it may be found.

And now, having defined our position, let us return to Napoleon and
Marie-Louise. Let us pass over several days and say naught of great
betrayals and shameful dishonour; even so we are not, unhappily, at
the end of these things. From 29 March to 7 April the following events
happened:--

On 30 March, Paris capitulated. On the 31st, the Allied armies entered
the capital. On I April, the Senate appointed a Provisional Government.
On the 2nd, the Senate declared Napoleon to have forfeited the throne.
On the 3rd, the Legislative Body confirmed the forfeiture. On the
4th, Napoleon abdicated in favour of his son. On the 5th, Marmont
treated with the enemy. On the 6th, the Senate drew up a scheme for
a constitution. On the 7 th, the troops of the Duc de Raguse rose in
insurrection and refused to obey his orders. Also, Napoleon made his
plans for withdrawing across the Loire.

It will be seen that the Government of the rue Saint-Florentin had been
quick about its work. The empress remained at Blois, where she learnt
in rapid succession the declaration of dethronement by the Senate, the
emperor's first abdication and the defection of the Duc de Raguse. On
the 7th, she learned in the morning of the recall of the Bourbons.

Until that moment, as a cloud hid the future from sight, the
self-seekers watching and waiting had not yet ventured to show their
hands in her presence. But at the news of the return of the Bourbons
everyone sought to make his peace with the new power. The same thing
that happened to Napoleon happened to Marie-Louise. It was a race as to
who could most openly and with the greatest speed desert her; it was a
race of ingratitude, it was a steeplechase of treason.

She had left Paris a week before, the daughter of an emperor, the wife
of an emperor, the mother of a king! Orléans had saluted her, as she
passed through, with the pealing of its bells and the firing of its
artillery. She had a court around her, a treasure in her arms; two
peoples, those of France and Italy, some forty millions of souls, were
her subjects. In a week she lost rank, power, inheritance, kingdom;
in an hour she found herself left alone with a poor deserted child,
and treasure that was speedily taken away from her. God forbid that I
should pity the lot of this woman! But those who betrayed her, those
who deserted her, those who immediately robbed her could not plead the
excuse of an unknown future still hid from them.

On the 7th, as we have said, the whole court fled. On the morning of
the 8th, the two kings, Jérôme and Joseph, also left. On the evening of
the 8th, General Schouwaloff arrived with orders from the sovereigns
to take her from Blois to Orléans and from Orléans to Rambouillet.
Finally, on the morning of the 9th, this announcement appeared in the
_Moniteur_:--

      "The Provisional Government having been informed that by
      order of the sovereign whose dethronement was solemnly
      pronounced on 3 April, considerable funds were taken away
      from Paris, during the days which preceded the occupation
      of that city by the allied troops:

      It is decreed--

      "That these funds be seized wherever they may be found,
      in whose-soever hands they may be found, and that they be
      deposited immediately in the nearest bank."

This order was elastic: it did not make any distinction between the
public treasure of the nation and the emperor's private property.
Moreover, they confided the execution of this order to a man whose
hatred for the fallen house would naturally incline him to the most
violent measures. They chose M. Dudon. I am happily too young to be
able to say who this M. Dudon was; I have therefore asked the Duc
de Rovigo, whose accuracy is well known. Here is his reply to my
questions:--

"M. Dudon was imprisoned at Vincennes, for having deserted his post,
for having left the army of Spain and, full of cowardly fears himself,
for having communicated them to whomsoever he met."

Nevertheless, M. Dudon hesitated; he looked about for an intermediary;
he did not dare to put his hand directly upon this wealth, which was so
much needed to pay for past treacheries and defections to come.

Again, what has M. le Duc de Rovigo to say? Let him be unto us the
bronze mouthpiece of truth: I write under his dictation.

"An officer of the special police corps, M. Janin de Chambéry, who is
now a general officer, was made use of. He had been charged to escort
the money. This young man, seeing the way to make his fortune, gave
himself up to M. Dudon. He collected his regiment, carried off, with
a very high hand, the coffers which contained the Emperor Napoleon's
treasure (for they had not yet been unloaded) and set off for Paris,
which he reached without striking a blow."

But even all this did not satisfy them: they had robbed the empress,
they would now kill the emperor. "Only the dead do not return," said
the man who was felicitously styled the "Anacreon of the guillotine."

So many sayings have been attributed to M. de Talleyrand that we
may well borrow one from Barère for a change. Moreover, it must be
acknowledged that the question what to do with Napoleon, on 31 March,
was a very awkward one. We must not be too angry with the people who
wished to rid themselves of him. Who were these people? Maubreuil
himself shall name them. A conference was being held in the house in
the rue Saint-Florentin.

"Yes," said the president to someone who had not yet opened his
lips,--"yes, you are right; we must rid ourselves of this man."

"We must!" cried the other members in concert.

"Well, then, that is decided: we will get rid of him."

"Only one other thing is lacking," said one of the members of the
conventicle.

"What is that?"

"The principal thing: the man who will deal the blow."

"I know the man," said a voice.

"A trustworthy man?"

"A ruined man, an ambitious man--one who has fallen from a high
position and would do anything for money and a position."

"What is his name?"

"Maubreuil."

This took place on the evening of 31 March. That same day, Marie-Armand
de Guerry, Count de Maubreuil, Marquis d'Orvault, had fastened the
cross of the Legion of Honour, which he had won bravely in Spain, to
his horse's tail, and showed himself thus in the boulevards and on the
place Louis XV. He even did better than this in the place Vendôme. He
tied a rope round the neck of the emperor's statue, and, with a dozen
other worthy men of his kidney, pulled with might and main; then,
seeing that his forces were not strong enough, he attached the rope to
his horse. Even that was not enough. They then asked for a relay of
horses from the Grand-duke Constantin, who refused, saying, "_It is no
business of mine."_

Now, who went to seek this relay? Who made himself Maubreuil's
emissary? A very great lord, upon my word, a most excellent name,
renowned in history! True, this most puissant seigneur, the bearer of
this honourable name, had to forget a slight obstacle--namely, that he
owed everything to the emperor. You ask his name. Ah! indeed, search
for it as I have done. Maubreuil had indeed fallen from a high rank, as
his patron Roux-Laborie had said. There! I see I have named his patron,
though I did not mean to name anyone. Never mind! let us continue.

Maubreuil, who was of an excellent family, had fallen indeed. His
father, who had married, for his second wife, a sister of M. de la
Roche-jaquelein, was killed in the Vendéean Wars, together with thirty
other members of his family. M. Roux-Laborie, then Secretary to the
Provisional Government, answered for Maubreuil. He did more: he said
to M. de Talleyrand, "Come, come! here I am tearing off another mask
without thinking what I am doing; upon my word, so much the worse!
Since that pale face is unmasked, let it remain!" He did much more:
he said to M. de Talleyrand, "I will bring him to you." But M. de
Talleyrand, who was always cautious, exclaimed, "What are you thinking
of, my dear sir? Bring M. de Maubreuil to me! Why so? He must be
conducted to Anglès, he must go to Anglès! You know quite well it is
Anglès who is attending to all this." "Very well, be it so; I will
take him there," replied the Secretary to the Provisional Government.
"When?" "This very evening." "My dear fellow, you are beyond price."
"Take back that word, monseigneur." And Roux-Laborie bowed, went out
and ran to Maubreuil's house. Maubreuil was not at home.

When Maubreuil was not at home, everyone knew where he was. He was
gaming. What game was it? There are so many gambling hells in Paris!

Roux-Laborie ran about all night without finding him, returned to
Maubreuil's house and, as Maubreuil had still not returned, he left
word with his servant that he would expect Maubreuil at his house the
next day, 1 April. He waited for him the whole day. Evening came and
still no Maubreuil.

It is distracting to a man of honour to fail in his word. What would M.
de Talleyrand think of a man who had promised so much and performed so
little? Twice during the day he wrote to Maubreuil: his second note was
as pressing as time was. This is what he said--

"Why have you not come? I have expected you all day. You are driving me
to desperation!"

Maubreuil returned to change his dress at six o'clock that evening. He
found the note: he ran off to Roux-Laborie.

"What is it?"

"You can make your fortune."

"I am your man, then!"

"Come with me."

They entered a carriage and went to M. Anglès'. M. Anglès was at the
house in the rue Saint-Florentin. They rushed to the house in the rue
Saint-Florentin; M. Anglès had just gone out. They asked to see the
prince.

"Impossible! the prince is very busy: he is in the act of betraying.
True, he is betraying in good company,--he is betraying along with the
Senate." The Senate was next day going to declare that the emperor had
forfeited his throne.

Be it remembered that it was this same Senate--_Sénat
conservateur_--which, on the return from the disastrous Russian
campaign, fifteen months earlier, had said to the emperor--

"Sire, the Senate is established for the purpose of preserving the
fourth dynasty; France and posterity will find it faithful to this
_sacred duty_, and every one of its members will be ever ready to
perish in defence of this _palladium_ of the national prosperity."

We must admit that it was drawn up in very bad French. It is also true
that it was drawn up by very poor specimens of Frenchmen.

The next day, Maubreuil and Roux-Laborie returned. The prince was
no more visible than on the previous evening; the prince was at the
Luxembourg. But it did not matter: they could be introduced into his
cabinet presently, which was occupied at the moment. Besides, perhaps
he might return. "We will wait," said Roux-Laborie.

And they waited a short while in the green salon,--that green salon
which became so famous, you will remember, in history,--they waited,
reading the papers. The newspapers were very amusing. The _Journal des
Débats_ and the _Journal de Paris_ above all vied with each other in
being facetious and witty.

"To-day," said the old _Journal de l'Empire_, which since the previous
evening had donned a new cassock and now called itself the _Journal des
Débats_,--"to-day _His Majesty_ passed in front of the colonne Vendôme
..."

Forgive me if I pause a moment: I am anxious that there should not be
any confusion. _His Majesty_! You would imagine that this meant the
Emperor Napoleon, to whom a week before the _Journal de l'Empire_ had
published these beautiful lines:--

    I

    "'Ciel ennemi, ciel, rends-nous la lumière!
    Disait AJAX, et combats contre nous!'
    Seul contre tous, malgré le ciel jaloux,
    De notre Ajax void la voix guerrière:
    Que les cités s'unissent aux soldats;
    Rallions-nous pour les derniers combats!
    Français, la Paix est aux champs de la gloire,
    La douce Paix, fille de la Victoire.'

    II

    Il a parlé, le monarque, le père;
    Qui serait sourd à sa puissante voix?
    Patrie, honneur! c'est pour vos saintes lois,
    Nous marchons tous sous la même bannière.
    Rallions-nous, citoyens et soldats,
    Rallions-nous pour les derniers combats!
    Français, la Paix est au champ de la gloire,
    La douce Paix, fille de Victoire.

    III

    Napoleon, roi d'un peuple fidèle,
    Tu veux borner la course de ton char;
    Tu nous montras _Alexandre_ et _César;_
    Oui, nous verrons _Trajan_ et _Marc-Aurèle_!
    Nous sommes tous _tes enfants, tes soldats_,
    Nous volons tous à ces derniers combats,
    Elle est conquise aux nobles champs de gloire,
    La douce Paix, fille de la Victoire."

For, indeed, it is very easy to call a man His Majesty five days
before his abdication and a _monarch_ and a _father_ whom one has just
addresssed as _Ajax, Alexander, Cæsar, Trajan_ and _Marcus Aurelius._
Undeceive yourselves! To-day, His Majesty is the Emperor Alexander;
as for that other emperor, the Emperor Napoleon, we shall see, or
rather we have already seen, what has become of him since his return
from the isle of Elba. After having been a _monarch,_ a _father,
Ajax, Alexander, Cæsar, Trajan_ and _Marcus Aurelius_, he has become
TEUTATÈS. Ah! what a villainous fall was there!

Let us proceed, or we shall never finish: we have had more trouble in
getting over this word _Majesty_ than Cæsar had in crossing the Rubicon.

"To-day His Majesty passed in front of the colonne de la place Vendôme,
and looking at the statue, he said to the noblemen who surrounded
him, 'Were I placed so high, I should be afraid of being giddy.' So
philosophic a remark is worthy of a Marcus Aurelius."

Pardon me, Monsieur Bertin, to which Marcus Aurelius do you refer? Is
it the one to whom you recently compared Napoleon, or some other Marcus
Aurelius with whom we are unacquainted? Ah! Monsieur Bertin, you are
like Titus: you have not wasted your day, or rather your night! We will
relate what happened during the night in which Monsieur Bertin worked
so energetically, and in the course of which the serpent changed his
tricoloured skin for a white skin and the _Journal de l'Empire_ became
the _Journal des Débats_. It has to be admitted, however, that during
the night of 20-21 March 1815 you resumed your old tricoloured skin
which you had sold Monsieur Bertin, but which you had not delivered up.

Now let us pass on to the _Journal de Paris_. "It is a good thing to
know," quoth the _Journal de Paris_, "that Bonaparte's name is not
_Napoleon_, but _Nicolas_."

Really, Mr. Editor, what an excessively sublime apotheosis you make of
yesterday's poor emperor! Instead of showing base ingratitude, like
your contemporary, you flatter outrageously. Bonaparte did no more
than presume to call himself _Napoléon_,--that is, the _lion of the
desert_,--and here you make him Nicolas, which means _Conqueror of the
peoples_. Ah! my dear Mr. Editor, if your _Journal de Paris_ had been
a literary paper, like the _Journal des Débats_, you would have known
Greek like your _confrère_--that is to say, like an inhabitant, and
you would not have made such blunders. But you did not know Greek. Let
us see if you are better acquainted with French. We will complete the
quotation.

"It is a good thing to know that Bonaparte's name is not _Napoléon_,
but _Nicolas_; not Bonaparte, but Buonaparte; he cut out the U in order
to connect himself with a distinguished family of that name."

"You know that the Balzacs of Entraigues make out that you do not
belong to their family," said someone once to M. Honoré de Balzac, the
author of _Père Goriot_ and of _les Parents pauvres._

"If I do not belong to their family," retorted M. Honoré de Balzac, "so
much the worse for them!"

We will return to the _Journal de Paris_, and let it have its say:--

"Many people have amused themselves by making different anagrams from
the name of _Buonaparte_ by taking away the U. The following seems to
us to depict that personage the best: NABOT PARÉ."[1]

What a misfortune, Mr. Editor, that in order to arrive at such a
delightful conclusion you have been obliged to sacrifice your U, like
the tyrant himself!

Now, as a sequel to the verses in the _Journal des Débats_, we must
quote some lines from the _Journal de Paris_; they only amount to a
single strophe, but it alone, in the eyes of all lovers of poetry, is
fully equal to three. Besides, these lines are of great importance: M.
de Maubreuil actually waxes prophetic in the last line.

    TESTAMENT DE BONAPARTE

    "Je lègue aux enfers mon génie,
    Mes exploits aux aventuriers,
    A mes partisans l'infamie,
    Le grand-livre à mes créanciers,
    Aux Français l'horreur de mes crimes,
    Mon exemple à tous les tyrans,
    La France à ses rois légitimes,
    _Et l'hôpital à mes parents_."

Finally, to conclude our series of quotations, we promised to return
once more to the _Journal des Débats._ There shall be no cause for
complaint: we will return to it twice. We will place a double-columned
account, with its _Doit_ and its _Avoir_, before our readers' eyes.
There was only an interval of fourteen days between the two articles,
as can be seen from the dates.


"JOURNAL DES DÉBATS                              "JOURNAL DE L'EMPIRE
 PARIS, 7 _mars_ 1815                              PARIS, 21 _mars_ 1815
 (PEAU BLANCHE)                                    (PEAU TRICOLORE)

DOIT                                             AVOIR

Buonaparte s'est evade de l'île           La famille des Bourbons est partie
d'Elbe, où l'imprudente magnanimité       cette nuit; on ignore encore en
des souverains alliés lui avait           route qu'elle a prise. Paris offre
donne une souveraineté, pour prix         l'aspect _de la sécurité et de la joie_;
de la désolation qu'il avait portée       les boulevards sont couverts d'une
dans leurs États.                         foule immense, impatiente de voir
                                          l'armée et LE HÉROS _qui lui est
Cet homme, qui, en abdiquant le           rendu._ Le petit nombre de troupes
pouvoir, n'a jamais abdiqué son           qu'on avait eu l'espoir _insensé_ de
ambition et ses fureurs, cet homme,       lui opposer s'est rallié _aux aigles_,
_tout couvert du sang des générations,_   et toute la milice française, devenue
vient, au bout d'un an, essayer de        nationale, marche sous les drapeaux
disputer, au nom de l'usurpation, la      _de la gloire et de la patrie._ SA
légitime autorité du roi de France;       MAJESTÉ L'EMPEREUR a traversé
à la tête de quelques centaines           deux cents lieues de pays avec la
d'ltaliens et de Polonais, _il ose        rapidité de l'éclair, au milieu d'une
mettre le pied sur une terre qui le       population _saisie d'admiration_ et de
repoussa pour jamais._                    respect, pleine du bonheur présent
                                          et de la certitude du bonheur à
Quelques pratiques ténébreuses,           venir.
quelques manœuvres dans l'ltalie,
excitée par son aveugle beau-frère,       _Ici, des propriétaires se félicitant
ont enflé l'orgueil du LACHE GUERRIER     de la garantie réelle que leur assure
de Fontainebleau. Il s'expose             ce retour miraculeux;_  là, des
à mourir de la mort des héros: Dieu       hommes bénissant l'evènement inespéré
permettra qu'il meure de la mort          qui fixe irrévocablement la
des traîtres. La terre de France          liberté des cultes; plus loin, de
l'a rejeté. Il y revient, la terre de     braves militaires pleurant de joie de
France le dévorera.                       revoir leur ancien général; des
                                          plébéiens, convaincus que l'honneur
Ah! toutes les classes le repoussent,     et les vertus seront redevenus le
tous les Français le repoussent           premier titre de la noblesse, et
avec horreur, et se réfugient dans le     qu'on acquerra, dans toutes les
sein d'un roi qui nous a apporté la       carrières, la splendeur et la gloire
miséricorde, l'amour et l'oubli du        pour les services rendus à la patrie.
passé.
                                          Tel est le tableau qu'offrait cette
Cet _insensé_ ne pouvait donc trouver     marche ou plutôt cette course triomphale,
en France de partisans que parmi les      dans laquelle L'EMPEREUR n'a trouvé
artisans éternels de troubles et de       d'autre ennemi que le _misérables
révolutions.                              libelles_ qu'on s'est vainement
                                          plu à répandre sur son passage,
Mais nous ne voulons ni de troubles       contraste bien étrange avec les
ni de révolutions. Ils désigneront        sentiments d'enthousiasme qui
vainement des victimes pour leur          éclataient à son approche. Ces sentiments,
TEUTATÈS; un seul cri sera le cri         justifiés par la lassitude des
de toute la France:                       onze mois qui viennent de s'écouler,
                                          ne le sont pas moins par les garanties
MORT AU TYRAN! VIVE LE ROI!               que donnent à tous les rangs les
                                          proclamations de SA MAJESTÉ, et
Cet homme, qui débarqua à Fréjus          qui sont lues avec une extrême
contre tout espoir, nous semblait         avidité. Elles respirent la modération
alors appelé de Dieu pour rétablir        qui accompagne aujourd'hui la
en France la monarchie légitime;          force, et qui est toujours inséparable
cet homme, entrant par sa _noire          de la véritable grandeur.
destinée_, et comme pour mettre le
dernier sceau à la Restauration,          _P.S._--Huit heures du soir
revient aujourd'hui pour peser
comme un rebelle sur cette même           L'empereur est arrive ce soir au
terre où il fut reçu, il y a quinze       palais des Tuileries, _au milieu des
ans, par un peuple abusé, et détrompé     plus vives acclamations._ Au moment
depuis par douze ans de                   où nous écrivons, les rues, les
tyrannie."                                places, les boulevards, les quais,
                                          sont couverts d'une foule immense,
                                          et les cris de VIVE L'EMPEREUR!
                                          retentissent de toutes parts, depuis
                                          Fontainebleau jusqu'à Paris. Toute
                                          la population des campagnes, ivre
                                          de joie, s'est portée sur la route de
                                          Sa Majesté, que cet empressement
                                          a forcée d'aller au pas."


M. de Maubreuil and Roux-Laborie had no need to feel bored with such
entertainment as the above before their eyes! Therefore, although they
were in the green salon nearly an hour, they thought they had hardly
been in it ten minutes when the door of the cabinet of the Prince de
Talleyrand opened. They entered.

Now do not fancy we are writing a romance: it is history, the record,
not of fair and pleasant events, but of sad and ugly ones. If you
doubt it, consult the report drawn up by MM. Thouret and Brière de
Valigny, deputies of the _procureur impérial_, in the month of June
1815, about this affair, and laid before one of the Chambers of the
Court of First Instance of the Seine. If Napoleon had returned but
to restore unto us this official paper, it would have been almost
sufficient to justify his return.

M. de Maubreuil was taken inside M. de Talleyrand's study. Roux-Laborie
made him sit down in the prince's own armchair, and said to him--

"You are anxious to recover your position, to retrieve your broken
fortunes; it depends upon yourself whether you obtain far more than
even that which you desire."

"What must I do?" asked Maubreuil.

"You have courage, resolution: rid us of the emperor. If he were dead,
France, the army, everything would be ours, and you would receive an
income of 200,000 livres; you would be made a duke, lieutenant-general
and governor of a province."[2]

"I do not quite see how I could accomplish it."

"Nothing easier."

"Tell me how."

"Listen."

"I am listening."

"It is not unlikely that there may be a great battle fought near here
in a couple of days. Take a hundred determined men, whom you can clothe
in the uniform of the Guards, mingle with the troops at Fontainebleau,
and it will be quite easy, either before or during or after the battle,
to render us the service I am commissioned to ask of you."

Maubreuil shook his head.

"Do you refuse?" asked Roux-Laborie quickly.

"Not so. I am only thinking that a hundred men would be difficult
to find: luckily one would not need a hundred; a dozen would be
sufficient. I shall perhaps be able to find them in the army, but I
must have power to advance them two or three ranks, and to give them
pecuniary recompense, in proportion to the service they will have to
undertake."

"You shall have whatever you want. What do ten or a dozen colonels,
more or less, matter to us?"

"That's all right."

"You therefore accept?"

"Probably ... but I ask until to-morrow to think it over."

And Maubreuil went out, followed by Roux-Laborie, who was very uneasy
because of the delay requested. However, Maubreuil reassured him,
promising to give him a definite answer next day. We can understand
Maubreuil's hesitation: he had been introduced into the prince's study,
he had sat in the prince's chair, but, after all, he had not seen the
prince. Now, when one stakes one's head at another's bidding, one
prefers to see the person who holds the cards.

Next day they returned to the house. Maubreuil accepted. Roux-Laborie
breathed again.

"But," added Maubreuil, "on one condition."

"What is that?"

"I do not look upon your word alone as sufficient authority. I want
solid security for your promises. I wish to see M. de Talleyrand
himself and to receive my commission from him."

"But, my dear Maubreuil, can't you see how difficult that would be?..."

"I can quite see that; but it must be thus or not at all."

"Then you wish to see M. de Talleyrand?"

"I wish to see M. de Talleyrand and to receive my orders _direct_ from
him."

"Oh! oh!" said the lawyer, striking his friend on the chest, "one might
think you were afraid!"

"I am not afraid, but I wish to see M. de Talleyrand."

"Very well, so be it," said Roux-Laborie: "you shall see him, and since
you demand his guarantee, you shall be satisfied. Wait a few minutes in
this salon."

And he went in to M. de Talleyrand. A moment later, he came out.

"M. de Talleyrand is going out; M. de Talleyrand will make you a sign
with his hand; M. de Talleyrand will smile upon you. Will that satisfy
you?"

"Hum!" returned Maubreuil; "never mind! we will see."

M. de Talleyrand passed out, made the prearranged gesture, and smiled
graciously upon Maubreuil.

It is Maubreuil, be it understood, who relates all this.

The gesture seduced Maubreuil, the smile carried him away; but
Maubreuil wanted something else--he wanted 200,000 francs. They
hesitated, they chaffered, they had not the money--there were so many
betrayals to pay for! But, thanks to the decree of the 9th, they made
a haul of 13 millions--the private moneys of Napoleon. They did it
conscientiously, not leaving anything to Marie-Louise, either money or
jewellery: she was reduced to the point of being obliged to borrow a
little china and silver from the bishop, with whom she stayed. So they
had 13 millions--without reckoning the 10 millions in bullion deposited
in the cellars of the Tuileries, on which they had already laid violent
hands. This made 23 millions they had already borrowed of Napoleon.
What the deuce did it matter? They were quite justified in taking two
hundred thousand francs from this sum in order to assassinate him! So
they took two hundred thousand francs, and they gave them to Maubreuil.

Maubreuil rushed off to a gambling-house and lost a hundred thousand
francs that night. Was he going to assassinate Napoleon for a hundred
thousand francs? Not he, indeed!... It was not enough. He had recourse
to M. A----. M. A---- was a man of imagination. An idea came into his
head.

"The Queen of Westphalia is following in Napoleon's wake ...?"

"Yes."

"We may suppose that the Queen of Westphalia carries the crown jewels
with her?"

"Yes."

"Well, then, seize what she has and you will have a good catch."

"Yes, but I want authority to do that."

"Authority? What do you mean?"

"A written order."

"Signed by whom?"

"Signed by you."

"Oh, if that is all, here goes!"

And M. A---- took a pen and signed the following order.

"Pardon me, you say, who is M. A----?"

Good gracious! you have but to read, the signature is at the foot of
the order:--

      "OFFICE OF THE POLICE

      "It is ordered that all officials under orders of the
      police générale of France, prefects, superintendents and
      officers, of whatsoever grade, _shall obey the commands_
      that M. de Maubreuil shall give them; _they shall carry
      out his orders and fulfil his wishes without a moments
      delay_, M. de Maubreuil _being charged with a secret
      mission of the highest importance._

                                                      "ANGLÈS"

This was not enough. Maubreuil wanted another order, a similar one,
signed by the Minister of War: he had settled with the civil power, it
remained to put himself right with the military. He went to look up
the Minister of War. He obtained a similar order to the one we have
just given. The Minister of War was General Dupont. There are some very
ill-fated signatures! On 22 July 1808 this signature was at the foot of
the capitulation treaty of Baylen. On 16 April 1814 it was at the foot
of Maubreuil's commission! The one handed over to the enemy, without
striking a blow, the liberty of fourteen thousand men; the other gave
up the life and the gold of a queen to a thief and an assassin!

In the face of such _errors_ one is proud to be able to boast that one
has never put one's name save in the forefront of a play, be it good or
bad, save at the end of a book, be it bad or good!

Besides these two orders, Maubreuil possessed himself of three others
in the same terms: one from Bourrienne, Provisional Director of the
Posting Arrangements ... de Bourrienne, do you understand?--But this
was not the Bourrienne who was the emperor's secretary?... Excuse
me, even the same ... where would have been the infamy of the thing,
had it not been so? He placed the posts at the disposition of M. de
Maubreuil: one from General Sacken, Governor of Paris; one from General
Brokenhausen. Thanks to these two last orders, Maubreuil, who had the
police already at his disposal through Anglès' order, the army through
Dupont's, the posts through Bourrienne's, got possession also of the
allied troops under command of the Russian and Prussian generals.

True, on 3 April, the day following that on which the _Journal des
Débats_ and the _Journal de Paris_ issued those clever articles with
which the reader is already acquainted, two charming verses, which we
propose to bring before your notice, were sung at the Opera, by Laïs,
to the tune of _Vive Henri IV.,_ national air though it was:--

    Vive Alexandre!
    Vive ce roi des rois!
    Sans rien prétendre,
    Sans nous dicter des lois,
    Ce prince auguste
    A le triple renom,
    De héros, de juste,
    De nous rendre un Bourbon.

    Vive Guillaume!
    Et ses guerriers vaillants!
    De ce royaume,
    Il sauva les enfants;
    Par sa victoire,
    Il nous donne la paix,
    Et compte sa gloire
    Par ses nombreux bienfaits.

Really, it gives one a certain amount of pleasure to see that these
lines are almost as poor as the prose of the _Journal des Débats_ and
of the _Journal de Paris_!

So Maubreuil had his five orders all correct, in his pocket. Armed with
these, he could act, not against Napoleon direct,--that was too risky
a business,--but against the Queen of Westphalia. And, on the whole,
was it not a good stroke of business to have made them pay the price of
assassinating Napoleon, and then not to assassinate him?

This is what Maubreuil proposed to do. First of all, he allied himself
with a person called d'Asies, who, in virtue of his plenary powers, he
appointed _Commissioner Royal._ Next, he put himself on the watch at
the corner of the rue du Mont-Blanc and the rue Saint-Lazare. The Queen
of Westphalia was lodging at Cardinal Fesch's house. Her departure
was fixed for the 18th. The orders were signed on the 16th and 17th.
Maubreuil was well informed of the Princess Catherine de Wurtemberg's
movements. On the 18th, at three o'clock in the morning, the ex-Queen
of Westphalia entered her coach and started off _en route_ for Orléans.
Princess Catherine was cousin of the Emperor of Russia, and travelled
with a passport signed by him and by the Emperor of Austria. Two great
names, were they not? Alexander and Francis! Maubreuil had gone on in
advance. He learnt from the post-master at Pithiviers (now you see
how useful was M. de Bourrienne's authorisation) that the princess
would take the road which ran by the Bourgogne. Then he hid himself at
Fossard, the posting-house a half-league from Montereau. There was not
the slightest danger that Maubreuil would make any mistake, he knew the
princess too well for that--he had been her equerry. On the 21 st, at
seven o'clock in the morning, the princess's carriage came into sight
on the road. Maubreuil rushed out, at the head of a dozen cavaliers,
stopped the carriage, obliged the ex-queen to enter a kind of stable,
into which all her luggage was removed, piecemeal. There were eleven
boxes, and cases: Maubreuil demanded the keys of them. The princess
had no means of resistance: she gave him them without appearing to
recognise him in any way, without deigning to address a word to him.
Maubreuil saw this, but took no notice: he sat down quietly to his
breakfast, with d'Asies, in a room on the ground floor of the inn,
waiting for a detachment of troops which, taking advantage of his
powers, he had requisitioned from Fontainebleau.

Let us, however, be just to Maubreuil. As the weather was bad, as it
rained, as it was very cold, he invited his past sovereign to come
into the inn; but as she would have been compelled to share the same
room with him, she preferred to remain in the courtyard. A woman who
had compassion on her fellow-woman brought her a chair, and she sat
down. Maubreuil finished his breakfast, and a lieutenant arrived from
Montereau, with a dozen men, Mamelukes and infantry. Some sort of
explanation had to be given to this officer and to these soldiers;
callous though Maubreuil was, it was not to be supposed that he would
say, "You see me for what I am--a robber."

No, it was Princess Catherine who was a thief. Princess Catherine
had been stopped by Maubreuil because she was carrying off the crown
jewels. Four sentries were posted to prevent any travellers coming
near--unless such travellers came in a carriage; in which case, willy
nilly, the carriage must be requisitioned. Some merchants came from
Sens leading a stage-waggon. The stage-waggon and the two horses
harnessed thereto were confiscated by Maubreuil. They loaded this
stage-waggon with the princess's trunks. Only then did she deign to
address a word to Maubreuil, who had been apologising to her for _his
mission._

"For shame, monsieur!" she said; "when a man has shared bread with
another, he should not undertake such a mission to their detriment....
You are doing an abominable act!"

"Madame," replied Maubreuil, "I am but the commander of the armed
force. Speak to the commissioner: I will do whatever he orders."

The commissioner, as we know, was d'Asies. It was a case of Robert
Macaire and Bertrand. But the poor princess did not know this, and took
d'Asies for a real commissioner.

"Monsieur," she said, "you are robbing me of all I possess. The king
has never given any such orders.... I swear to you, on my honour and
by my faith as a queen, I have nothing that belongs to the Crown of
France."

D'Asies drew himself up.

"Do you take us for thieves, madame?" he said. "Let me tell you that we
are acting as ordered. All those boxes must be taken."

As he said that, d'Asies caught sight of a small square box tied round
with tape. He put his hand under it. The little case was very heavy.

"So ho!" he said.

"That little chest, monsieur," said the princess, "contains my gold."

D'Asies and Maubreuil exchanged glances which said as well as words
could say, "Your gold, princess; that is exactly what we are looking
for."

They withdrew and made a pretence of deliberating. Then, after this
cogitation, they came up, and gave orders to the commander of the
Mamelukes to take this box away with the others. The princess still
disbelieved her eyes and ears.

"But," she cried, "you cannot possibly be taking my private jewels and
money! You will leave me and my suite stranded on the highway!"

Then her courage failed this noble creature, the daughter of a king,
the wife of a king, the cousin of an emperor. Tears came into her eyes:
she asked to be allowed to speak to Maubreuil. Maubreuil came to her.

"What is to become of me, monsieur?" she said. "At least give me back
this money: I need it to continue my journey."

"Madame," replied Maubreuil, "I do but carry out the orders of the
Government: I must give up your luggage in Paris intact. I can only
give you the hundred napoleons in my own purse."

Acting upon the Count de Furstenstein's advice, the princess accepted
this offer, thinking it a last token of devotion from a man who had
been in her service. Besides, she thought he would give her leave
to return to Paris, where she would regain possession of her money.
But this was not to be: they made her re-enter her carriage, and the
princess continued her journey to Villeneuve-la-Guyare, under the
escort of two soldiers, while her boxes, her gold, her jewels, piled on
the post-waggon, were sent back to Paris. Had the princess resisted,
the two infantry men were ordered to use violence in compelling her to
continue her journey. She then asked at least to be allowed to send one
of her own servants along with her boxes, as escort. But as the demand
was considered outrageous, it was refused.

So the princess's carriage went forward to Villeneuve-la-Guyare.
Maubreuil's and d'Asies' consciences were quite easy:--had not the
princess a hundred napoleons wherewith to provide her needs? At the
next post-house Maubreuil's purse was opened to pay. They found it
contained only forty-four napoleons. They left the purse and the
forty-four napoleons there and then in the hands of the justice of the
peace at Pont-sur-Yonne. When Maubreuil left Fossard, he forbade the
post-master to supply horses to anyone before three o'clock.

So far so good. Now they could give their attention to the second part
of their mission--the least important to Maubreuil--that of killing the
emperor.

It was the 21st of April. On the 19th, the emperor, deserted by
everyone, was alone save for a single valet. It was an opportune
moment: unluckily, they let it slip. They were lying in wait for the
princess in the rue Saint-Lazare; they could not be everywhere at the
same time. On the 20th, the day after, the emperor bade farewell to his
Guards. It was not in the midst of that pack of brigands that he could
be attacked. On the 21 st, as we have seen, they were busily engaged.
And it was just at that moment that the emperor left for Fontainebleau,
with the commissioners of the four Powers.

Bah! even if they had not killed the emperor, what mattered it? Since
they had robbed the Queen of Westphalia, and taken her gold and her
jewels, it was just as good. The emperor was not killed.

They returned to Paris, where they spent the night in gambling, losing
part of the princess's eighty-four thousand francs. The little chest
had contained eighty-four thousand francs in gold. Next day, Maubreuil
presented himself at M. Anglès'. He was in despair--first at having
lost part of his gold, then for having missed Napoleon. M. Anglès was
not in despair: he was furious--furious because the Emperor Alexander
knew everything, and the Emperor Alexander was furious. The Emperor
Alexander swore that he would avenge his cousin.

The _Journal de Paris_ did not know that _Nicolas_ means _Conqueror of
peoples_; but M. Anglès, Minister of the Police, knew well enough that
Alexander spells he _who grinds men down._ M. Anglès had no wish to be
ground down. He therefore advised Maubreuil to fly.

"Fly!" said Maubreuil. "What of the police?"

"Bah! Am I not responsible for them?"

This assurance did not in the least set Maubreuil's mind at ease.
He rushed off to the house of M. de Talleyrand: M. de Talleyrand
slammed the door in his face. Is it likely that M. de Talleyrand would
recognise a highway robber? Nonsense!

Maubreuil fled. He had not got three leagues before he was apprehended
(_empoigné_, as they called it under the Restoration), and thrown
into a dungeon, from which he was released on the emperor's return
and to which he returned on the accession of Louis XVIII. After two
fresh releases and two fresh arrests, Maubreuil, who never believed
they would dare to try him, appeared at length before the Royal Court
of Douai, the Chamber of the Court of Appeal. The affair created a
tremendous scandal, as can very well be imagined. M. de Talleyrand
denied, M. Anglès denied, Roux-Laborie denied; everybody denied,
except Maubreuil. Maubreuil not only confessed the whole thing, but,
from being the accused, he turned accuser. Of course the papers were
expressly forbidden to report the proceedings. But Maître Mennesson
had a friend who was present at the trial. This friend, no doubt a
shorthand writer, took down, transcribed, verified and forwarded him
his report. I made two or three copies of this account and distributed
them by order of our zealous, faithful and loyal Republican notary. And
I kept a copy of the proceedings myself. I do not know that this report
has appeared in any history. It is a curiosity, and I give it here.


[1] A dressed-up dwarf.

[2] When one writes of such matters as these, two authorities are
better than one. Besides the report of MM. Thouret and Brière de
Valigny, see Vaulabelle's _Histoire des deux Restaurations_, vol. ii.
p. 15.



CHAPTER VIII


Account of the proceedings relative to the abstraction of the jewels of
the Queen of Westphalia by the Sieur de Maubreuil--Chamber of the Court
of Appeal--The sitting of 17 April, 1817


Enter the Sieur de Maubreuil. Placed at the prisoner's bar, he looked
fixedly at M. de Vatimesnil, the king's counsel, and spoke to him as
follows:--

"_M. le procureur du roi_," he said, "you have called me an
appropriator of treasure, it is false. I have never been an
appropriator of treasure. The journalists have made use of your last
speech to spread an odious interpretation on my trial; but I am above
their reproaches."

They endeavoured to silence the Sieur de Maubreuil, but he went on with
renewed pertinacity:--

"I appeal to all Frenchmen here present, I place my honour in your safe
keeping. To-morrow I may be poisoned or assassinated."

The warders laid hands on M. de Maubreuil; but he shook himself free of
them, and went on:--

"Yes, I quite expect it. They may shoot me in my cell; the police may
carry me off and make away with me, as happened to my cousin, M. de
Brosse, who, in the month of February, presented a petition to the
Chamber in my favour; but I place my honour in the custody of the
Frenchmen who are here present. Hear what I have to say to you."

Here the prisoner raised his voice.

"I accepted the commission to murder the emperor, but I accepted it
only in order to save him and his family. Yes, my countrymen, I am not
a miserable thief, as they are trying to make out. Frenchmen! I call
you all to my aid. No, I am not a thief! No, lam not an assassin! On
the contrary, I accepted a commission to save Napoleon and his family.
It is true that, during the first outburst of my royalist enthusiasm,
I did, along with several other people, attach a rope to the neck of
Napoleon's statue, on the 31st of March, to pull it down from its
pedestal in the place Vendôme; but I here acknowledge publicly that I
served a thankless cause. Though I did insult Napoleon's statue, I have
done good to him in the flesh. No, I am not an assassin! Frenchmen, my
honour is in your hands. You will not be deaf to my entreaties."

Again they tried to stop M. de Maubreuil's mouth, but the harder they
tried to silence him the louder he spoke.

"I accepted," he continued, "a commission to save Napoleon, his son
and his family; I admit that, bribed, deluded and entangled by the
Provisional Government to do it, I was foolish enough to tie the cross
of the Legion of Honour to my horse's tail; I bitterly repent of doing
so. I have donned that cross of heroes again now: see, here it is on my
breast; I won it in Spain in fair fight."

Here the Sieur de Maubreuil succumbed to the efforts they made to drown
his voice. The whole time he had been speaking, the president and the
judges had been fruitlessly endeavouring to enforce silence. In vain
did the president shout, "Warders, take him away, take him away! Do
your duty, warders!" Maubreuil writhed, clutching hold of the bar, and,
nearly strangled by the warders, he still went on:--

"_M. le président_, my respect for you is unbounded, but your acts and
words are useless: they wished to assassinate the emperor, and I only
accepted the commission which has brought me here in order to save him."

There was a tremendous noise, an uproar and shouts among the audience.
Many Vendéens were present, relatives and friends of the prisoner, who
was related to the family of la Roche-jaquelein. Before the prisoner
was brought in, these had tried to influence public opinion in his
favour, by talking of the mystery which enshrouded his mission, and
by pointing out his unblemished devotion to the royal cause. Picture
to yourself, then, their dismay when they saw the line of defence
he adopted; their confusion when they heard their client speak so
diametrically opposite to their expectations; their astonishment
when they heard the name of Napoleon pronounced with respect by the
prisoner, at a time when the conqueror of the Pyramids and of Marengo
was only spoken of as Buonaparte; at the title of Emperor given to a
man whom King Louis XVIII., dating the beginning of his reign from
1795, declared never to have reigned!

Me. Couture, M. de Maubreuil's counsel, was then allowed to speak.
We will not report his speech, which was very long. He pleaded more
on a legal technicality than on the matter of the charge. He spoke
in the first instance of the injustice of Maubreuil being the only
one arraigned, while d'Asies, Cotteville, and others who had acted
in concert with him, were in full enjoyment of their liberty. He
added that the trunks having been deposited without verification at
M. de Vanteaux's, it could not be established who had abstracted the
eighty-four thousand francs in gold. He referred to the marvellous
manner in which some of the jewels that had been thrown by an unknown
hand into the Seine had been recovered by a man named Huet, an
ex-employé of the police, who, when fishing, had drawn up two diamond
combs caught in his hooked line. Me. Couture went on to assert that
the prisoner, to whom a mission of the gravest importance had been
entrusted, ought not to be tried by an ordinary Court, and to prove his
point, Me. Couture read the five different orders which had authorised
M. de Maubreuil to call into requisition all the officials of the
kingdom. The tenor of these orders was as follows:--

The first, signed by General Dupont, War Minister, authorised M. de
Maubreuil to make use of the army, which was to obey all his demands,
and commanded the authorities to furnish him with all the troops
he might require, as he was charged with a mission of the highest
importance. The second, signed by Anglès, Minister of Police, ordered
all the police force throughout the kingdom of France to lend
assistance to M. de Maubreuil to the same end. The third, signed by
Bourrienne, Director-General of the Posts, ordered all post-masters
to supply him with whatever horses he should require, and to consider
themselves personally responsible for the least delay they might
occasion him. The fourth, signed by General Sacken, Governor of Paris,
enjoined the Allied troops to assist M. de Maubreuil. Finally, the
fifth, which was in Russian, was addressed to those officers who did
not understand French and who could not therefore have obeyed the
preceding orders. From these documents Me. Couture argued that the
king's council alone must have had cognisance of M. de Maubreuil's
mission, and alone ought to decide the case.

After having replied to Me. Couture's pleading, the king's procurator
set forth his reasons for regarding the _tribunal correctionnel_ as
incompetent in the present case, since the charges brought against the
Sieur de Maubreuil constituted a crime, and were not those of a simple
misdemeanour; that it was a question of a robbery under arms committed
on the highway, and not merely a case of breach of confidence. For it
was vain, he said, to try to allege the unlimited power with which the
prisoner was vested; no power could authorise a citizen to run counter
to existing laws; for if such a contention could be maintained it could
be pursued to its logical conclusion and, in that case, it might be
excusable to commit a murder or burn down a village. "As a matter of
fact," continued M. de Vatimesnil, "we are advised that Maubreuil,
acting as a Government agent, was endowed on that very count with a far
graver responsibility, and the law ought to be set in force against him
with the greater severity. No mission could excuse a man for having
ill-treated a person travelling on the highways with a passport, and
his crime assumed still graver proportions when that person happened to
be an august princess, sprung from an illustrious house, allied to all
the crowned heads of Europe, and travelling under the protection of a
passport from her illustrious cousin, the Emperor of Russia, a princess
who was entitled to double respect, both from her rank and because of
the reverses of fortune she had recently experienced." "And," exclaimed
the king's counsel, "with what indignation ought we to be seized,
when we hear the accused uttering such libellous fables to avoid the
course of justice! Who are those Frenchmen he addresses, whom he
invokes to his aid? What faith could be put in such an unlikely story,
as that he had received a mission against a person travelling under
the safeguard of the most solemn treaties, signed by all the allied
sovereigns? and if he did accept such a mission, was it not doubly mean
to have accepted money for carrying it out, and then to have deceived
those whom he pretended had given it him? Should he not be regarded
henceforth as one of those hateful creatures known of all men, who,
under pressure of an accusation, hatches conspiracies, and denounces
unknown fellow-citizens, to the sole end of arresting or diverting
justice?"

The Sieur de Maubreuil had listened to all this tirade with fiery
impatience, and his solicitor had only been able to pacify him
by allowing him the pen and paper which he demanded. When M. de
Vatimesnil's speech was over, Maubreuil passed what he had just written
to the president, then rose and said:--"_M. le président_, as a man
who expects to be assassinated at any moment, I place this political
deposition in your hands. Frenchmen, it is my honour I am bequeathing
to all you who are here present. As a man on the brink of appearing
before God, I swear that it was M. de Talleyrand who, by means of M.
Laborie, sent me; that the prince forced me to sit down in his own
arm-chair; that he offered me two hundred thousand livres income and
the title of duke, if I accomplished my mission satisfactorily;[1]
furthermore, the Emperor Alexander offered me his own horses; but, I
repeat, if I accepted the mission I am blamed for, it was to save the
emperor and his family."

Here they again compelled Maubreuil to stop speaking, and the warders,
taking hold of him by his shoulders, forced him down into his seat.

Then his lawyer, Me. Couture, rose, addressed the king's counsel once
more, and begged for pity's sake that no notice should be taken of his
client's mad words.

"Alas!" he cried, "the man whom you see before you, monsieur, is no
longer M. de Maubreuil, but only the remains, the shade of M. de
Maubreuil. A detention of _three years,_ three hundred and ninety days
of which has been spent in solitary confinement without communication
with a soul, _without even seeing his own counsel_, has deranged his
reason. He is now nothing but the ruins of a man. For the love of
humanity, do not take account of a speech which can only tell against
him!" The judges, greatly embarrassed by what they had just heard,
although their business was but to decide on the simple question of the
competence or incompetence of their tribunal, deferred sentence until
the following Tuesday, 22 April.

Probably the delay was arranged, so those in court thought, in order to
receive instructions from the château, and to act in accordance with
those instructions.

THE SITTING OF 22 APRIL

Maubreuil was led in. He had scarcely entered the prisoner's dock
before he violently pushed away the guard and cried out, "You have no
right to maltreat me like this, warders; you have made me suffer quite
enough the three years I have been in prison. It is a dastardly wicked
thing! We are here before justice and not before the police! Let me
rather be shot immediately than delivered over longer to the tortures
of which I have been the victim for three years! No, never was greater
cruelty exercised in the Prussian fortresses, in the dungeons of the
Inquisition under the foundations of Venice! I am cut off from the
world; my complaints are hushed up; my lawyer is forbidden to print and
distribute my defence. I here express before all, my gratitude for his
zeal and his devotion; but I am in despair that he has not based his
defence on the information I have given him: he has not dared to do so."

Here silence was again imposed on the prisoner. The president then read
the sentence, pronouncing that the _tribunal de police correctionnelle_
declared its incompetence, and sent the prisoner to the assizes, on the
ground that if the facts which had been laid bare were proved, they
constituted a crime, and not a simple misdemeanour.

When the prisoner heard the sentence of incompetence to deal with the
case pronounced he sighed deeply, and his face, changed by a long
captivity, expressed dejection and despair. But he rallied his strength
and cried--

"The blood of twenty-nine of my relations was shed for the Bourbons in
Vendée and at Quiberon! I too am to be sacrificed to them in my turn!
They wish to destroy me, my groans are to be stifled. I am to be made
out a madman! It is a diabolical plot! No, I am not mad; no, I was
not mad when my services were required by them! Frenchmen, I repeat
to you what I told you at the last sitting: they asked me to take
the life of Napoleon! Write to Vienna, to Munich, to St. Petersburg.
Yes, yes,"--pushing away the warders, who sought to impose silence
upon him,--"yes, they demanded of me the blood of Napoleon.... _M. le
président_, they have handled me with violence! _M. le président_, they
will maltreat me! _M. le président_, they will put my feet in irons!
But, come what may, to the last moment I will proclaim it: they asked
me to take Napoleon's life! the Bourbons are assassins!..."

These last words were pronounced by the accused as he struggled with
the police, while they led him away by force.

Here the shorthand report concludes: I have not altered a word of the
statement, a certified copy of which is under my eyes.

On the 18th of the following December, Maubreuil was arraigned to
appear before the Court of Assizes at Douai, and succeeded in escaping
before the trial. On 6 May 1818, judgment was issued, condemning him
to five years' imprisonment by default and to pay five hundred francs
fine, for being a dishonest trustee.

Maubreuil, having taken refuge in England, returned on purpose to deal
M. de Talleyrand the terrible blow which struck him down, on the steps
of the church of Saint-Denis, during the funeral procession of Louis
XVIII.

"Oh! what a cuff!" exclaimed the prince, as he picked himself up.

How can people deny M. de Talleyrand's presence of mind after that! M.
Dupin could not have done better.

This obscure, strange, mysterious Maubreuil affair did the Bourbons
of the Restoration the greatest possible harm. To the Count d'Artois
and M. de Talleyrand it was what the affair of the necklace was to
Marie-Antoinette and the Cardinal de Rohan--that is to say, one of
those hidden springs from which revolutions derive power for the
future; one of those weapons the more dangerous and terrible and deadly
for being dipped so long in the poison of calumny.


[1] We see by this that, according to Maubreuil, it was M. de
Talleyrand himself with whom he had had to deal. We have not wished to
endorse the accusation blindly and, in our account, we have accepted
the intermediate agency of Roux-Laborie.



BOOK II



CHAPTER I


The last shot of Waterloo--Temper of the provinces in 1817, 1818
and 1819--The _Messéniennes_--The _Vêpres siciliennes--Louis
IX._--Appreciation of these two tragedies--A phrase of Terence--My
claim to a similar sentiment--Three o'clock in the morning--The course
of love-making--_Valeat res ludrica_


I am not sure who said--perhaps I said it myself--that the Revolution
of 1830 was the last shot of Waterloo. It is very true. Setting aside
those whose family interest, position or fortune attached them to the
Bourbon dynasty, it is impossible to conceive any idea of the ever
growing feeling of opposition which spread throughout the provinces; it
got to such a pitch that, without knowing why, in spite of every reason
that my mother and I had to curse Napoleon, we hated the Bourbons far
more, though they had never done anything to us, or had even done us
good rather than harm.

Everything tended to the unpopularity of the reigning house: the
invasion of French territory by the enemy; the disgraceful treaties
of 1815; the three years' occupation which had followed the second
restoration of the Bourbons; the reactionary movements in the South;
the assassination of Ramel at Toulouse, and the Brune assassination at
Avignon; Murat, who was always popular, in spite of his stupidity and
his treachery, shot at Pizzo: the proscriptions of 1816; defections,
disgraceful deeds, shameful bargains, came to light daily; the verses
of Émile Debraux, the songs of Béranger, the _Messéniennes_ of Casimir
Delavigne and the _tabatières à la charte_, the Voltaire-Touquets and
Rousseaus of all kinds, unpublished rhymes of the type I have quoted;
anecdotes, true or false, attributed to the Duc de Berry, in which the
ancient glories of the Empire were always sacrificed to some youthful
aristocratic ambition; all, down to the king with his black gaiters,
his blue coat with gilt buttons, his general's epaulettes and the
little tail of his wig,--all tended, I say, to depreciate the ruling
power--or rather, worse still, to make it absurd.

_Vêpres siciliennes_ was played at the Odéon on 23 November 1819
with overwhelming success. It would be difficult to explain why,
to anyone who has read the piece dispassionately. Why did a crowd
wait outside the doors of the Odéon from three o'clock? Why was that
splendid building crowded to suffocation, instead of there being, as
usual, plenty of room for everyone? Just to hear four lines thought to
contain an allusion to the political encroachments in which the king's
favourite minister was said to indulge. These are the four lines. They
seemed innocent enough on the face of them:--

    "De quel droit un ministre, avec impunity,
    Ose-t-il attenter à notre liberté?
    Se reposant sur vous des droits du diadème,
    Le roi vous a-t-il fait plus roi qu'il n'est lui-même?"

All the same, these four lines roused thunders of applause and rounds
of cheering. And then one heard on every side the concert of admiration
which all the Liberal papers sounded in praise of the patriotic young
poet. The whole party petted him, praised him, exalted him.

Some time after the _Vêpres siciliennes_ had been played at the Odéon,
the Théâtre-Français, on 5 November 1819, put _Louis IX._ on the stage.
This was the Royalist reply which the leading theatre gave to the
Nationalist tragedy at the Odéon.

At that period Ancelot and Casimir Delavigne were about equally
celebrated and, in the eyes of impartial critics, _Louis IX._ was as
good as _Vêpres siciliennes._ But all the popularity, all the applause,
all the triumph went to the Liberal poet. It was as though the nation
were breathing again, after its suspension of animation from '93
onward, as though it were urging the public spirit to take the path of
liberty.

I recollect that because of the noise these two controversial plays
made throughout the whole of the literary world, I, who was just
beginning to feel the first breath of poetry stir within me, was
anxious to read them. I wrote to de Leuven, who sent me both the
Liberal and the Royalist work. The Liberal work was the most praised,
and, with that in my hand, I ran to announce to our young friends,
Adèle, Albine and Louise, the good fortune which had befallen us
from Paris. It was decided that the same evening we should read the
masterpiece aloud, and, as I was the owner of the work, I was naturally
promoted to the office of reader.

Alas! we were but simple children, without knowledge of either side of
the case, artless young folk, who wanted to amuse ourselves by clapping
our hands and to be stirred to the heart by admiration. We were greatly
surprised at the end of the first act, more surprised still by the end
of the second, that so much fuss and noise should have been aroused
by, and so much praise bestowed upon, a work, estimable, no doubt,
in its way, but one which did not cause a single thrill of sentiment
or passion, or rouse an echoing memory. We did not yet understand
that a political passion is the most prejudiced of all passions, and
that it vibrates to the innermost feeling of a disturbed country. Our
reading was interrupted at the second act, and the tragedy of _Vêpres
siciliennes_ was never finished, at any rate as a joint reading. Our
audience had naïvely confessed that Montfort, Lorédan and Procida bored
them to death, and that they much preferred Tom Thumb, Puss in Boots
and other fairy tales of like nature. But this attempt did not satisfy
me. When I went home to my mother, I read not only the whole of _Vêpres
siciliennes_ but also _Louis IX._

Well, it is with feelings of great satisfaction that I date from
that time the impartial appreciation for contemporary works which
I possess--an appreciation borrowed far more from my feelings than
from my judgment; an appreciation which neither political opinion nor
literary hatred has ever been able to influence: my critical faculty,
when considering the work of my _confrères,_ asks not whether it be the
work of a friend or of an enemy, whether of one intimately known to
me or of a stranger. However, I need hardly say that neither _Vêpres
siciliennes_ nor _Louis IX._ belong to that order of literature which I
was to be called upon later to feel and to understand, whose beauties
I endeavoured to reproduce. I remained perfectly unmoved by these two
tragedies, although I slightly preferred _Louis IX._ I have never read
them again since, and probably I shall never re-read them; but I feel
convinced that if I were to re-read them, my opinion upon them would
be just the same to-day that' it was then. What a difference there was
between the tame and monotonous feeling I then experienced and the
glowing emotion _Hamlet_ roused in me, though it was the curtailed,
bloodless, nerveless _Hamlet_ of Ducis! I had an innate instinct for
truth and hatred of conventional standards; Terence's line has always
seemed to me one of the finest lines ever written: "I am a man, and
nothing that is human is alien unto me." And I was fast laying claim to
my share in that line. I was growing more manly every day; my mother
was the only person who continued to look upon me as though I were
still a child. She was therefore greatly astonished when one evening
I did not return at my usual time of coming home--and when at last I
did come in, towards three in the morning, my heart leaping joyfully,
I slipped into my room, which for the last three months I had obtained
leave to have to myself, apart from my mother, foreseeing what was
going to take place. I found my mother in tears, seated by my window,
where she had been watching for my return, ready to give me the lecture
such a late, or rather, early, return deserved!

After more than a year of attentions, signs, loving-making, little
favours granted, refused, snatched by force, the inexorable door which
shut me out at eleven o'clock would be softly reopened at half-past
eleven, and behind that door I found two trembling lips, two caressing
arms, a heart beating against my heart, burning sighs and lingering
tears. Adèle too had managed to get a room to herself, apart from her
mother, just as I had. This room was better than an ordinary room: it
was a tiny summer-house which projected into a long garden enclosed
only by hedges. A passage between the room occupied by her brother and
the room occupied by her mother led to the garden, and consequently
to the summer-house, which was only separated from the passage by a
staircase leading to the first storey. It was the door of this passage,
opening on one side into the street, and on the other, as I have said,
into the garden, which was reopened to me at half-past eleven at night
and was not closed behind me until three in the morning, on that night
when my mother stood anxiously waiting, all in tears, at the window of
my room, just ready to go and seek for me in the six hundred houses
of the town. But what plagued my mother still more was--as I quickly
discovered--that though she had not the least doubt as to the reason
for my misconduct, she could not guess who was the young lady at the
bottom of it. She had not seen me come back the way she had expected.
The reason for that was simple enough. The little girl who had given
her heart to me, after more than a year's struggle, was so pure, so
innocent, so modest, that although my love and pride were ready to
reveal everything, my conscience told me that honour and every fine
feeling I had demanded that the secret be kept with the utmost care.
Therefore, so that no one should see me at such an hour, either in the
neighbourhood of her house, or in the street leading to it, when at
three in the morning I came out of the blest passage that had served
me in good stead, I made my exit by a little by-street, and gained
the fields. From the fields I entered the park, leaping a ditch like
the one over which I had given proofs of my agility to Mademoiselle
Laurence, under such different circumstances, at Whitsuntide. Finally,
from the park I reached what was called with us the "_manège_," and I
re-entered the town by the rue du Château. It so happened, therefore,
that my mother, who was watching in an entirely opposite direction,
did not see me return, and, not guessing the ruse I had made use of
to foil the cruel and ready slander little towns are so prone to set
going, should matters so turn out, she puzzled her wits in despair to
know where I had come from. My mother's ignorance and the suspicions
that grew up in her mind later in connection with another girl had a
sufficiently serious influence upon my future life for me to dwell on
the subject for a moment: these details are not so trivial as they
may appear at first sight. Is it not the case that some minds regard
everything as trivial, whilst others (and I am much inclined to think
that these latter, without wishing to speak evil of the former class of
people, are the true thinkers and the true philosophers), who try to
follow the thread Providence holds in His hands, with which He guides
men from birth to death, from the unknown to the unknown, look upon
every detail as of importance, because the slightest has its part in
the great mass of details which we call life? Well, I was well scolded
by my mother, who did not scold me long,

I however, for I kissed her the whole time she scolded me; besides,
her uneasiness was somewhat allayed, and with the eye of a mother
and perhaps even more with the insight of a woman, which sees to the
very heart of things, she saw I was profoundly happy. Joy is as much
a mystery as sorrow; excessive joy approaches so nearly the border of
pain, that, like suffering, it too has its measure of tears. My mother
left me to go to bed, not because she was tired out, poor mother! but
because she felt I wanted to be alone with myself, with my recent
memories, which I clasped as closely to my throbbing heart as one holds
to one's breast a young nestling which is trying to fly away.

Oh! but Maître Mennesson's office was deserted that day! How beautiful
the park looked to me! The tall trees with their whispering leaves,
the birds singing above my head, and the frightened roebuck on the
skyline--all seemed to make a frame which could scarce contain my
smiling thoughts, my thoughts which danced like a joyous nymph!
Love--first love--the welling-up of the sap, opens out life to us!
It flows through the most secret recesses of our being; it gives life
to the most remote of our senses; it is a vast realm wherein every man
imprisoned in this world imprisons in turn the whole world in himself.



CHAPTER II


Return of Adolphe de Leuven--He shows me a corner of the artistic and
literary world--The death of Holbein and the death of Orcagna--Entrance
into the green-rooms--Bürger's _Lénore_--First thoughts of my vocation


In the meantime, de Leuven returned to Villers-Cotterets, after five
or six months' absence. His return was to open out new fields for my
ambitions--ambitions, however, which I believed were capable of being
fulfilled. If you throw a stone into a lake, however large the lake may
be, the first circle it will make round it, after its fall, will go on
growing and multiplying itself, even as do our days and our desires,
until the last one touches the bank--that is to say, eternity.

Adolphe returned and brought Lafarge back with him. Poor Lafarge! Do
you remember the brilliant head clerk, who returned to his native
place in an elegant carriage, drawn by a mettlesome steed? Well, he
had bought a practice, but there the progress of his rising fortune
had stopped. By some inconceivable fatality, although he was young,
good-looking, clever, perhaps even because he possessed all these
gifts, which are perfectly useless to a lawyer, he had not found a wife
to pay for the practice, so he had been obliged to sell it again, and,
disgusted with the law, he had taken to literature. De Leuven, who had
taken notice of him in Villers-Cotterets, found him out in Paris and
returned with him. Some of his ancient splendour still stuck to the
poor fellow, but you might seek in vain for any real stability at the
base of his fresh plans for the future; those fleeting clouds hardly
got beyond the stage of hopes. During his stay in Paris a great change
had come over Adolphe's character--a change which was to react on me.

At M. Arnault's house, in which he had been a guest, Adolphe had
had a closer view of the literary world than he had previously
caught glimpses of in the house of Talma. He had there made the
acquaintance of Scribe, who was already at the zenith of his fame. He
met Mademoiselle Duchesnois there, who at that time was Telleville's
mistress, and who recited _Marie Stuart._ There he became acquainted
with M. de Jouy, who had finished his _Sylla;_ Lucien Arnault, who had
begun his _Régulus_; Pichat, who, while composing his _Brennus_ and
thinking out his _Léonidas_ and _William Tell_, was facing a future in
which, his first wreath on his head and his first palm in his hand,
Death lurked, waiting for him. He had then dropped from these lofty
heights in the regions of art to inferior places, where he became
acquainted with Soulié, who was publishing poems in the _Mercure_; with
Rousseau, that Pylades of Romieu whom Orestes had left one day at the
turning of the road which led to his sub-prefecture; with Ferdinand
Langlé, the fickle lover of poor little Fleuriet, upon whom, it is
said, a notorious poisoner tried the deadly powder with which he was
later to kill his friend; with Théaulon, that delightful person and
indefatigable worker, who worked only in the hope that some day he
would be able to be idle, but who never had time to be idle, who was
cradled for a brief time in the arms of Love, but who was never really
to rest until he lay on the bosom of Death. This poor Epicurean, who by
dint of imagination saw his life in rosy garb, although for him it was
clothed in black, wrote these four lines on the door of his study: they
express at once his easy carelessness and his gentle philosophy--

    Loin du sot, du fat et du traître,
    Ici ma constance attendra:
    Et l'amour qui viendra peut-être,
    Et la mort qui du moins viendra!

Death came, poor Théaulon! Came all too soon, for thee as for Pichat,
for Soulié, for Balzac; for there are two Deaths charged by Providence
with the task of hurling men into eternity: the one inexorable, icy,
impassive, obeying the sad laws of destruction; the Death of Holbein,
the Death in the cemetery of Bâle, the Death which is ever intermingled
with life, hiding its skeleton face under the most capricious of masks,
veiling its bony body beneath the king's mantle, in the gilded dress
of the courtesan, under the filthy rags of the beggar, walking side
by side with us; an invisible but ever present spectre; a lugubrious
guest, a sepulchral comrade, the supreme friend who receives us in
its arms when we fall over the edge of life, and who gently lays us
to rest for ever under the cold damp stones of the tomb;--the other,
sister of the above, daughter too of Erebus and of Night, unexpected,
spiteful, lies in ambush at a turning-point of happiness or prosperity,
ready like a vulture or a panther to pounce or spring out upon its
prey; this is the Death of Orcagna, the Death of the Campo-Santo in
Pisa; Death in life, envious, with cadaverous hue, hair flying wildly
in the wind, eyes flashing like those of a lynx, the Death which took
Petrarch in the midst of his triumph, Raphael in the midst of his love
affairs; before whom all joy and glory and riches pale; that power
which, passing rapidly, heedlessly and inexorably over the unfortunate
victims who appeal to it, strikes down in the midst of their flowers,
their wine and their perfumes, the handsome youth crowned with myrtle,
the lovely maiden rose-crowned, the laurel-wreathed poet, and drags
them brutally to the grave, their eyes open, their hearts yet beating,
their arms stretched out towards the light, the day and the sunshine!
Orcagna! Orcagna, great sculptor, great painter and, above all, great
poet! how many times have I trembled as I touched the hand of a beloved
child, or kissed the face of a mistress who had made me happy! for I
had an inward vision of that Death of the Campo-Santo at Pisa, passing
in the distance, dark, threatening like a sailing cloud; then, the next
day, I heard the words, "He is dead!" or "She is dead!" and it was
almost always a young genius whose light had gone out, a young soul
that had gone to its Maker.

This then, was the world de Leuven had seen during his stay in Paris,
and he brought a reflection of its unknown brilliance to me, the poor
provincial lad, buried in the depths of a little town. De Leuven had
done more than look into it: he had entered the tabernacle, he had
touched the ark! He had been permitted the honour of having some of his
work read before M. Poirson, the high priest of the Gymnase, and before
his sacristan, M. Dormeuil. Of course the work was declined after it
had been read; but--like the pebble which lies near the rose and shares
the scent of the queen of flowers--there remained to de Leuven, from
his declined work, an entry into the green-rooms. Oh! that entree to
the green-rooms, what a weariness it is to those who have attained it,
whilst by those who have not attained it, it is regarded as the most
coveted thing on earth! Adolphe, however, had been in it for such a
short time that _ennui_ had not yet had time to spring up, and so the
dazzling glow of the honour still remained with him. It was the spirit
of this enchantment which he transferred to me. At that time, Perlet
was at his best, Fleuriet in the heyday of her beauty, Léontine Fay at
the height of her popularity. The latter, poor child, at the age of
eight or nine, had been forced to learn a craft in which a grown-up
woman might have succumbed; but what did that matter? They had consoled
themselves in advance for everything, even for her death; for they had
already made so much money out of her, that, in the event of her death,
they could afford to go to her burial in fine style.

Adolphe's return, then, was a great event to me; like Don Cléophas,
I hung on the cloak of my fine _diable boiteux_, and he, telling me
what he had seen in the theatres, made me see also. What long walks we
took together! How many times did I stop him, as he passed from one
artiste to another, saying, after he had exhausted all the celebrities
of the Gymnase, "And Talma? And Mademoiselle Mars and Mademoiselle
Duchesnois?" And he good-naturedly held forth upon the genius and
talent and good-fellowship of those eminent artistes, playing upon the
unknown notes of the keyboard of my imagination, causing ambitious and
sonorous chords to vibrate within me that had hitherto lain dormant,
the possession of which astonished me greatly when I began to realise
their existence. Then poor Adolphe little by little conceived a
singular idea, which was to make me share, on my own behalf, the hopes
he had indulged in for himself; to rouse in me the ambition to become,
if not a Scribe, an Alexandre Duval, an Ancelot, a Jouy, an Arnault or
a Casimir Delavigne, at least a Fulgence, a Mazère or a Vulpian. And
it must be admitted the notion was ambitious indeed; for, I repeat, I
had never received any proper education, I knew nothing, and it was not
until very much later, in 1833 or 1834, on the publication of the first
edition of my _Impressions de Voyage_, that people began to perceive I
had genius. In 1820 I must confess I had not a shadow of it.

A week before Adolphe's return had brought to me the first vivifying
gleam of light from the outside world 3 the hemmed-in and restricted
life of a provincial town had seemed to me the limit of my ambition, a
salary of say fifteen or eighteen hundred francs 3 for I never dreamt
of becoming a solicitor: first because I had no vocation for it; for
although I had spent three years in copying deeds of sale, bonds and
marriage contracts, at Maître Mennesson's, I was no more learned in
the law than I was in music, after three years of solfeggio with old
Hiraux. It was evident, therefore, that the law was no more my vocation
than music, and that I should never expound the Code any better than I
played on the violin. This distressed my mother dreadfully, and all her
kind friends said to her--

"My dear, just listen to what I say: your son is a born idler, who will
never do anything."

And my mother would heave a sigh, and say, as she kissed me, "Is it
true, my dear boy, what they tell me?"

And I would answer naïvely, "I don't know, mother!"

What else could I reply? I could see nothing beyond the last houses in
my natal town, and even though I might find something that responded
to my heart inside the city boundary, I searched in vain therein for
anything that could satisfy my mind and imagination.

De Leuven made a gap in the wall which closed me in, and through that
gap I began to perceive something to aim at as yet undefined on the
infinite horizon beyond.

De la Ponce also influenced me at this period. As before related,
I had translated with him the beautiful Italian romance--or rather
diatribe--of _Ugo Foscolo_, that imitation of Goethe's _Werther_
which the author of the poem called _Sépulcres_ contrived, by dint
of patriotic feeling and talent, to develop into a national epic.
Moreover, de la Ponce, who wished to make me regret that I had
abandoned the study of the German language, translated for my benefit
Bürger's beautiful ballad _Lénore._ The reading of this work, which
belonged to a type of literature of which I was completely ignorant,
produced a deep impression on my mind; it was like one of those
landscapes one sees in dreams, in which one dares not enter, so
different is it from everyday surroundings. The terrible refrain which
the sinister horseman repeats over and over again to the trembling
betrothed whom he carries off on his spectre-steed,

    "Hourra!--fantôme, les morts vont vite!"

bears so little resemblance to the conceits of Demoustier, to Parny's
amorous rhymes or to the elegies of the Chevalier Bertin, that the
reading of the tragic German ballad made a complete revolution in my
soul. That very night, I tried to put it into verse; but, as may well
be understood, the task was beyond my powers. I broke the wings of my
poor fledgeling Muse, and I began my literary career as I had begun my
first love-making, by a defeat none the less terrible because it was a
secret one, but quite as incontestable in my own estimation.

What mattered it? These were indubitably my first steps towards the
future God had destined, untried totterings like the steps of a child
just learning to walk, who stumbles and falls as soon as he tears
himself away from his nurse's leading-strings, but who picks himself up
again and, aching after every fall, continues to advance, urged forward
by hope, which whispers in his ear, "Walk, child, walk! it is by means
of suffering that you become a man, by perseverance that you become
great!"



CHAPTER III


The Cerberus of the rue de Largny--I tame it--The ambush--Madame
Lebègue--A confession


Six months passed by between my first love-makings and my first
attempts at work. Besides our meetings at Louise Brézette's every
night, Adèle and I used to see each other two or three times a week, in
the summer-house, which, to our great delight, her mother had allowed
her to have as her new chamber. It was necessary for Adèle to open the
door of the passage-way for me, and for me to pass in front of her
mother's bedroom door: these two courses were fraught with so many
dangers that I had for a long time been contemplating some other means
of access to my lady-love. After much pondering, I settled upon a way.
I carefully examined the topography of the surrounding district and
discovered, three doors off Adèle's house, a door, which led through a
kind of passage into a small garden. One wall and two hedges separated
this garden from Adèle's. I carefully studied the position all round,
from Adèle's garden, to which I had free entree during the daytime,
and I saw that all difficulties would be overcome if I could open the
street door, cross the passage, enter the garden, scale the wall and
stride over the two hedges. Then I had only to knock on the outside
shutter, Adèle would open to me, and the thing would be done. But, as I
had noticed, the door had to be opened and the passage crossed.

The door was locked, and the passage was guarded at night by a dog
who was less a match from his size and from the fight he might make,
than from the noise he could set up. It took me a week to make my
investigations. One night I ascertained, Muphti (that was the dog's
name) barking loudly all the time, that the lock only turned once, and
that I could open the door with my knife-blade; the remaining seven
nights I cultivated Muphti's acquaintance, seducing him little by
little, by poking bits of bread and chicken bones under the door. The
last two or three nights, Muphti, grown used to the windfalls I brought
him, impatient for my arrival, expecting me long before I appeared,
heard me come when I was twenty paces off, and, at my approach,
scratched with both paws at the door and whined gently at the obstacle
that separated us. On the eighth day, or rather the eighth night,
feeling sure that Muphti was now no longer an enemy but an ally, I
opened the door, and, according to my expectations, Muphti leapt upon
me in the greatest friendliness, delighted to find himself in direct
communication with a man who brought him such dainty scraps: I had only
one fault to find with his greeting, namely, that it was expressed in
rather too noisy a fashion. However, as all enthusiasm calms down in
time, Muphti's enthusiasm died down, and, passing into expressions of a
gentler affection, allowed me to venture farther. I chose, for my first
attempt at housebreaking, a dark, moonless autumn night: I stepped
very lightly, with my ears on the alert; I advanced without making a
single grain of sand crunch beneath my feet. I thought I heard a door
open behind me; I hastened my steps; I reached a large patch of beans
growing up on sticks, into which I flung myself as did Gulliver in his
wheat-field, with Muphti hidden between my legs, his neck held between
both my hands, ready to be able to intercept the slightest sound he
might wish to make--and there I waited. It was indeed one of the
inhabitants to whom the passage belonged: he had heard the noise. In
order to find out what caused it, he took a turn in the garden, passed
within a couple of steps of me, without seeing me, coughed as though
he were beginning with a cold, and went indoors again. I let Muphti
go; I made for the palings; I leapt to the other side of the wall; I
straddled over the two hedges, and I ran to the shutters. But I did not
need to knock. Before I reached them, I heard someone breathing, I saw
a shadow, I felt two trembling arms stretch out to enfold me and drag
me inside the summer-house, and the door shut behind us.

Oh! had I only been a poet in those days, what ravishing lines I could
have made in honour of those first flowers which flourished in the
garden of our love! But, alas! I was not a poet then, and I had to be
satisfied with repeating to Adèle Parny's and Bertin's elegies, which I
believe only bored her. I have already remarked, _apropos_ of _Vêpres
siciliennes_ what good taste this little girl possessed.

I left her, as usual, towards two or three in the morning. As usual,
also, I returned by the park, and reached home by a roundabout way. I
have explained the way I took, and how I had to leap a wide ditch so as
to reach the park from the open country. In order to avoid making the
same jump three or four times a week, which was a very perilous feat
on dark nights, I made a very big heap of stones in one corner of the
ditch, so that I had only to make for this particular corner and then
make my jump in two leaps.

On this particular night, as I leapt into the ditch, I noticed a
shadow four paces off me, that looked slightly less caressing than
that which had awaited me in the garden, and drawn me inside the
summer-house. This shadow held an actual, stout stick--not the shade
of one--in all its knotty reality. Directly I attained to manhood's
estate, and whenever danger faced me, whether by night or by day, I may
proudly record that I always marched straight on towards that danger.
I walked right up to the man with the stick. The stick rose, and I
clutched it in my hand. Then followed, in that dark ditch, one of the
severest tussles I have ever had in my life. I was indeed the person
he was lying in wait for, the person he wished to meet. The man who
was waiting for me had blackened his face; consequently I could not
recognise him; but without recognising him I guessed who he was. He was
a young man of twenty-four or twenty-five; I was scarcely eighteen,
but I was well broken in to all physical exercises, especially to
wrestling. I succeeded in taking hold of him round the body and
twisting him under me. His head struck on a stone with a heavy sound.
No word passed on either side; but he must have been hurt. I felt him
fumbling in his pocket, and I knew he was hunting for his knife. I
seized his hand above the wrist, and managed to twist him so that his
fingers opened, and the knife dropped. Then, by a quick move, I got
hold of the knife. For one second a terrible temptation assailed me, to
do what was indeed my right, namely, to open the knife and to plunge it
into my antagonist's breast. That moment a man's life hung by a thread:
had my anger broken that thread, the man would have been killed! I had
sufficient control over myself to get up. I still held the knife in
one hand, I took the stick by the other, and, fortified by these two
weapons, I allowed my adversary to rise too. He took a step backwards,
and stooped to pick up the stone against which he had hurt his head;
but just as he was lifting himself up, I hit him with the end of the
stick on the chest and he fell back ten paces. This time he seemed to
lose consciousness completely, for he did not get up again. I climbed
the embankment from the ditch and got away from the place as fast as I
could: this unexpected attack had revealed such a spirit of hatred that
I feared treachery might follow. No one else put in an appearance, and
I reached home very much upset, I must confess, by this incident. I
had certainly escaped from one of the most serious dangers I had ever
incurred in my life.

This event brought very serious consequences to a person who had had
nothing to do with the affair, and led me to commit the only evil
action I have to reproach myself with during the course of my life.
The blame attaching to this evil deed is all the greater as it was
committed against a woman. I can only say that it was committed without
any premeditation. I reached home, as I have said, very glad to have
escaped with nothing worse than a few bruises, and very proud at the
end of the fray to have overthrown my enemy.

Next morning I went to de la Ponce. As such an attack might be renewed
under more disadvantageous circumstances than those from which I had
just escaped, I wanted to borrow from him the pocket-pistols I had seen
in his rooms. It was difficult to borrow them from him without telling
him why I wanted them. I told him. But as it would have revealed, or
almost revealed, the house I came away from, if I had told him the
true locality of the struggle, I indicated another place altogether.
I selected, hap-hazard, a spot near the _manège_, in a little narrow
street, where three houses had their entrances. The first of these
three houses was inhabited by Hippolyte Leroy, the ex-body-guardsman of
whom I have already spoken in connection with our misadventures at M.
Collard's, and who was soon to become my cousin by marrying Augustine;
the second by the de Leuven family; and the third by the lawyer to whom
Maître Mennesson had related the misadventures of my early love-making
and who, as I have already mentioned, had married Éléonore, the second
daughter of M. Deviolaine by his first marriage. I have related also,
when speaking of M. Lebègue, how the charming nature and sociable
spirit of his wife had roused suspicion and dislike in a little town,
where superiority of any kind is a reason for jealousy. Now I had told
others besides de la Ponce of the nocturnal attack of which I had very
nearly been a victim; and to others also, as well as to de la Ponce, in
order to divert suspicions, I had mentioned the same locality by the
_manège_ of which I have just spoken. Where could I have been coming
from, at two in the morning, when I was attacked near the _manage!_
It could not have been from Hippolyte Leroy's; it could not have been
from Adolphe de Leuven's. It must then have been from M. Lebègue's--or
rather, from Madame Lebègue's. This wicked suggestion, entirely
incorrect as it was, could only be supported by some semblance of a
foundation.

I was a very easy prey to being teased, perhaps because I laid myself
open to it by my defenceless condition, and neither Madame Lebègue nor
her sisters spared me. Madame Lebègue was pretty, witty and a flirt:
she waved the most charming and gracious gestures imaginable to her
friends at a distance; whilst at closer quarters she allowed them
to look at, admire and even kiss her hand, with that aristocratic
indifference assumed by women who are the possessors of pretty hands.
It was her only sin, poor woman. The crime was great, but the hand was
pretty. I was exceedingly fond of Madame Lebègue; I liked her, I can
confess to-day, with a feeling that might even have got beyond the
bounds of friendly affection, if she had consented to more; but she had
never given me the least encouragement, and whenever I was near her,
her superior wit, her woman-of-the-world manners, her fine-lady airs,
would send me into the deepest depths of that shyness of which I had
given such glaring proofs during my earliest love-makings.

One day, without knowing whence this rumour had sprung, without
suspecting the cause that had given rise to it, I heard it whispered
that I was Madame Lebègue's lover. I ought at once to have quenched
this rumour with indignant denials; I ought to have treated the
calumny with the justice it deserved. I was wicked enough to refute it
half-heartedly, and in such a fashion that my vain denial bore every
appearance of a confession. And of course the ill-natured rumour served
my own purposes to perfection. Poor silly fool that I was! I had a
momentary delight, an hour's pride, in this rumour, which ought to
have made me blush with shame, for I had allowed an untrue statement
to be believed. I soon suffered for my mean action. First of all, the
rumour set me at variance with the person herself whom it concerned:
Madame Lebègue thought me more guilty than I was; she accused me of
having started the scandal. She was mistaken there: I had allowed it
to live, allowed it to grow, that was all. True, that was bad enough.
She forbade me her house, the house my mother and I both loved, and
it became hostile to us both ever after. Madame Lebègue never forgave
me. On two or three occasions during my life I have felt the prick of
the needle of the vengeance she vowed against me. I never attempted
to return the injuries received; I felt, in my heart of hearts, I had
deserved them. Whenever since I have met Madame Lebègue, I have turned
away my head and lowered my eyes before her glance. The guilty one
tacitly confessed his crime. To-day he openly avows it. But now the
confession has been made, I can boldly face the rest of the world of
men or women and say, "You may look me in the face and try to make me
blush, if you can!"

The day after my struggle I had the curiosity to visit the scene of
battle. I had not been mistaken: the stone on which my enemy's head had
crashed was stained with blood at its sharpest end, and the colour of
a few hairs, stuck to the bloody stone, confirmed my suspicions--which
now became a definite certainty when furnished with this last proof.
That night I saw Adèle: she was still ignorant of what had happened to
me. I told her everything; I told her whom I suspected: she refused to
believe it.

Just at that moment, a surgeon, named Raynal, went past; I had seen
him that morning come from the direction which led to the house of my
wounded enemy. I went up to him.

"What is the matter?" I asked him. "Why have you been sent for this
morning?"

"What is the matter, boy?" he replied in his Provençal accent.

"Yes."

"Why, he cannot have seen plainly last night, and, hurrying home, he
gave himself a knock in the chest against a carriage pole. It was such
a violent blow that he fell on his back and split his head open in
falling."

"When shall you pay him a second visit?"

"To-morrow, at the same time as to-day."

"Very well, doctor; tell him from me that, last night, passing by the
same place where he fell, after him, I found his knife, and I send it
back to him. Tell him, doctor, that it is a good weapon, but that,
nevertheless, a man who has no other arms but this with him is unwise
to attack a man who possesses two such pistols as these...."

I fancy the doctor understood.

"Oh yes; very good," he said. "I'll tell him, never fear."

I presume that the man who owned the knife also understood, for I never
heard the matter spoken of again, although, fifteen days later, I
danced _vis-à-vis_ with him at the park ball.



CHAPTER IV


De Leuven makes me his collaborator--The _Major de Strasbourg_--My
first _couplet-Chauvin_--The _Dîner d'amis_--The _Abencérages_


I had naïvely told de Leuven of my failure to translate Bürger's
beautiful ballad; but as he had made up his mind to make me a dramatic
author, he consoled me by telling me it was his father's opinion that
some German works were absolutely untranslatable, and that the ballad
of _Lénore_ was first among these. Seeing that de Leuven did not lose
hope, I gradually regained mine. I may even venture to say that, a few
days after this, I achieved a success.

Lafarge had laughed hugely at de Leuven's idea of making me his
collaborator. For, indeed, what notice would the Parisian stage take
of an uneducated child; a poor provincial lad, buried away in a
small town in the Ile-de-France; ignorant both of French and foreign
literatures; hardly acquainted with the names of the great; feeling
only a tepid sympathy with their most highly praised masterpieces, his
lack of artistic education having veiled their style from him; setting
to work without knowing the theory of constructing a plot, an action,
a catastrophe, a _dénoûment_; having never read to the end of _Gil
Blas_, or _Don Quixote_, or _le Diable boiteux_--books which are held
by all teachers to be worthy of universal admiration, and in which, I
confess to my shame, the man who has succeeded to the child does not
even to-day feel a very lively interest; reading, instead, all that
is bad in Voltaire, who was then regarded as the very antithesis of
politics and religion; having never opened a volume of Walter Scott
or of Cooper, those two great romance-writers, one of whom understood
men thoroughly, the other of whom divined God's workings marvellously;
whilst, on the contrary, he had devoured all the naughty books of
Pigault-Lebrun, raving over them, _le Citateur_ in particular; ignorant
of the name of Goethe, or Schiller, or Uhland, or André Chénier;
having heard Shakespeare mentioned, but only as a barbarian from whose
dunghill Ducis had collected those pearls called _Othello_, _Hamlet_
and _Romeo and Juliet_, but knowing by heart his Bertin, his Parny, his
Legouvé, his Demoustier.

Lafarge was unquestionably in the right, and Adolphe must have had
plenty of time to waste to undertake such a task, the hopelessness
of which alone could take away from its ridiculousness. But Adolphe,
with that Anglo-German stolidness of his, manfully persevered in the
work undertaken, and we sketched out a scheme of a comedy in one act,
entitled the _Major de Strasbourg_: it was neither good nor bad.
Why the Major of Strasbourg, any more than the Major of Rochelle or
of Perpignan? I am sure I cannot tell. And I have also completely
forgotten the plot or development of that embryonic dramatic work.

But there was one incident I have not forgotten, for it procured me
the first gratification my _amour-propre_ received. It was the epoch
of patriotic pieces; a great internal reaction had set in against our
reverses of 1814 and our defeat of 1815. The national couplet and
Chauvinism were all the rage: provided you made _Français_ rhyme with
_succès_ at the end of a couplet, and _lauriers_ with _guerriers,_
you were sure of applause. So, of course, de Leuven and I were quite
content not to strike out any fresh line, but to follow and worship
in the footsteps of MM. Francis and Dumersan. Therefore our _Major de
Strasbourg_ was of the family of those worthy retreating officers whose
patriotism continued to fight the enemy in couplets consecrated to the
supreme glory of France, and to the avenging of Leipzig and Waterloo on
the battlefields of the Gymnase and the Varies. Now, our major, having
become a common labourer, was discovered by a father and son, who
arrived on the scene, I know not why, at the moment when, instead of
digging his furrows, he was deserting his plough, in order to devote
himself to the reading of a book which gradually absorbed him to such
an extent that he did not see the entrance of this father and son--a
most fortunate circumstance, since the brave officer's preoccupation
procured the public the following couplet:--

    JULIEN (apercevant le major)

    N'approchez pas, demeurez où vous etes:
    Il lit ...

    LE COMTE

    Sans doute un récit de combats,
    Ce livre?

    JULIEN (regardant par-dessus l'épaule du major, et revenant à son père)

    C'est _Victoires et Conquêtes._

    LE COMTE

    Tu vois, enfant, je ne me trompais pas:
    Son cœur revole aux champs de l'Allemagne!
    Il croit encor voir les Français vainqueurs....

    JULIEN

    Mon père, il lit la dernière campagne,
    Car de ses yeux je vois couler des pleurs.

When my part of the work was done, I handed it over to de Leuven, who,
I ought to mention, was very indulgent to me; but this time, when he
came to the couplet I am about to quote, his indulgence ascended into
enthusiasm: he sang the couplet out loud--


    "Dis-moi, soldat, dis-moi, t'en souviens-tu?"


He sang it over twice, four times, ten times, interrupting himself to
say--

"Oh! oh! that couplet will be done to death if the Censorship lets it
pass."

For, from that time, the honourable institution called the Censorship
was in full vigour, and it has gone on increasing and prospering ever
since.

I confess I was very proud of myself; I did not think such a
masterpiece was in me. Adolphe ran off to sing the couplet to his
father, who, as he chewed his toothpick, asked--

"Did you make it?"

"No, father; Dumas did."

"Hum! So you are writing a comic opera with Dumas?"

"Yes."

"Why not make room in it for your _froide Ibérie_? It would be just the
place for it."

Adolphe turned on his heels and went off to sing my couplet to Lafarge.

Lafarge listened to it, winking his eyes.

"Ah! ah! ah!" he cried, "did Dumas compose that?"

"Yes, he made it."

"Are you sure he did not crib it from somewhere?"

Then, with touching confidence, Adolphe replied--

"I am quite certain of it: I know every patriotic couplet that has been
sung in every theatre in Paris, and I tell you this one has never yet
been sung."

"Then it is a fluke, and he will soon be undeceived."

De la Ponce read the couplet too; it tickled his soldierly taste,
remainding him of 1814, and he took an early opportunity to compliment
me on it.

Alas! poor couplet, but indifferently good though thou wert, accept
nevertheless thy due meed of praise, at any rate from me. Whether gold
or copper, thou wert, at all events, the first piece of literary coin
I threw into the dramatic world! Thou wert the lucky coin one puts
in a bag to breed more treasure therein! To-day the sack is full to
overflowing: I wonder if the treasure that came and covered thee up was
much better than thyself? The future alone will decide--that future
which to poets assumes the superb form of a goddess and the proud name
of Posterity!

The reader knows what an amount of vanity I possessed. My pride did not
need to be encouraged to come out of the vase in which it was enclosed
and swell like the giant in the _Arabian Nights:_ I began to believe
I had written a masterpiece. From that day I thought of nothing else
but dramatic literature, and, as Adolphe was some day to return to
Paris, we set ourselves to work, so that he could carry away with him
a regular cargo of works of the style of the _Major de Strasbourg._ We
never doubted that such distinguished works would meet with the success
they deserved, from the enlightened public of Paris, and open out to
me in the capital of European genius a path strewn with crowns and
pieces of gold. What would the well-disposed people say then, who had
declared to my mother that I was an idle lad and that I should never do
anything? Go spin, you future Schiller! Spin, you future Walter Scott!
spin!... From this time a great force awoke in my heart, which held its
place against all comers: determination--a great virtue, which although
certainly not genius, is a good substitute for it--and perseverance.

Unluckily, Adolphe was not a very sure guide; he, like myself, was
groping blindly. Our choice of subjects revealed that truth. Our second
opera was borrowed from the venerable M. Bouilly's _Contes à ma fille._
It was entitled le _Dîner d'amis._ Our first drama was borrowed from
Florian's _Gonzalve de Cordoue_: it was entitled _les Abencérages._

O dear Abencérages! O treacherous Zégris! with what crimes of like
nature you have to reproach yourselves! O Gonzalve de Cordoue! what
young poets you have led astray into the path upon which we entered so
full of hope, from which we returned shattered and broken.

Poor lisa Mercœur! I saw her die hugging to her heart that Oriental
chimera; only she stuck fast to it, like a drowning man to a floating
plank; while we, feeling how little it was to be relied on, had the
courage to abandon it and to let it float where it would on that dark
ocean where she encountered it and stuck to it.

But then we did not know what might be the future of these children,
wandering on the highways, whom we sought to seduce from their lawful
parents, and whom we saw die of inanition, one after the other, in our
arms.

These labours took up a whole year, from 1820 to 1821. During that year
two great events came about, which passed unnoticed by us, so bent on
our work were we, and so preoccupied by it: the assassination of the
Duc de Berry, 13 February 1820; the death of Napoleon, 5 May 1821.



CHAPTER V


Unrecorded stories concerning the assassination of the Duc de Berry


The assassination of the Duc de Berry hastened the down-fall of M.
Decazes. A singular anecdote was circulated at the time. I took it down
in writing at the house of my lawyer, who was a collector of historical
documents. As well as I can remember, it was as follows. Three days
before the Duc de Berry's assassination, King Louis XVIII. received a
letter couched in these words:--

      "SIRE,--Will your Majesty condescend to receive a person
      at eight o'clock to-morrow night, who has important
      revelations to make specially affecting your Majesty's
      family?

      "If your Majesty deigns to receive this person, let a
      messenger be sent at once to find a chip of Oriental
      alabaster, which rests on the tomb of Cardinal Caprara,
      at Ste. Geneviève.

      "In addition to this, your Majesty must obtain, by
      means of some other agent, a loose sheet of paper, out
      of a volume of the works of St. Augustine [here the
      exact designation was given], the use of which will be
      indicated later by the writer of this letter.

      "Under penalty of not obtaining any result from the
      promised revelations, you must not begin by sending to
      the Library, nor by sending at the same time to the
      Library and to Ste. Geneviève. The safety of the person
      who desires to offer good advice to His Majesty depends
      upon the execution of the two prescribed acts in their
      given order."

The letter was unsigned. The mysterious bearing of this letter
attracted the attention of Louis XVIII., and he sent for M. Decazes
at seven o'clock on the following morning. Please be careful to note
that I am not relating a historical fact, but an anecdote from memory,
which I copied something like thirty years ago. Only later and in quite
different circumstances of my life, it recurred to my mind as does
effaced writing under the application of a chemical preparation.

So, as indicated above, Louis XVIII. sent next morning for M. Decazes.

"Monsieur," he said, as soon as he saw him, "you must go to the church
of Ste. Geneviève; you must descend to the crypt, where you will find
the tomb of Cardinal Caprara, and you must bring away the thing, no
matter what it is, that you will find on the tomb."

M. Decazes went, and when he reached Ste. Geneviève, he went down to
the crypt. There, to his great surprise, he found nothing on the tomb
of Cardinal Caprara but a fragment of Oriental alabaster. However, his
orders were precise: we might rather say they were positive. After a
moment's hesitation, he picked up the bit of alabaster and took it back
to the Tuileries. He expected the king to jeer at the servile obedience
that brought him only an object so worthless, but quite the reverse was
the case, for at the sight of the bit of alabaster the king trembled.
Then, taking it in his hand and examining it minutely, he placed it on
his desk.

"Now," said Louis XVIII., "send a trusted messenger to the Royal
Library; he must ask for the works of St. Augustine, the 1669 edition,
and in volume 7, between pages 404 and 405, he will find a sheet of
paper."

"But, sire," asked M. Decazes, "why should not I myself go rather than
entrust this commission to another?"

"Out of the question, _mon enfant_!" "_Mon enfant_" was the pet name by
which the king called his favourite minister.

A trusted messenger was sent to the Royal Library: he opened St.
Augustine at the given pages and found the paper described. It was
a simple matter to take it away. The paper was a very thin, blank
folio sheet oddly snipped here and there. While Louis XVIII. was
searching for the mysterious revelations hidden in the jagged paper
the secretary brought him a missive containing a leaf of the same
size as that from the St. Augustine, but inscribed with apparently
unintelligible letters. At the corner of the envelope in which
this leaf came were written the two words: "Most urgent." The king
understood that there was a connection between the two events and a
likeness between the two leaves. He placed the cut sheet of paper over
the written sheet and saw that the letters shown up through the holes
in the upper leaf made sense. He dismissed the secretary and intimated
to M. Decazes to leave him alone, and when both had gone, he made out
the following lines:--

      "King, thou art betrayed! Betrayed by thy minister and by
      the P.P. of thy S----.

      "King, I alone can save thee.                    MARIANI."

The reader will understand that I do not hold myself responsible for
this note any more than for the rest of the anecdote. The king did not
mention this note to anyone; but, that evening, the Minister of the
Police,[1] who was dismissed next day, issued orders to find a man
named Mariani.

The following day, which was Sunday the 13th of February, the king on
opening his prayer-book at mass found this note inside:--

"They have found out what I wrote; they are hunting for me. Do your
utmost to see me, if you would avoid great misfortunes for your house.
I shall know if you will receive me, by means of three wafers which you
should stick inside the panes of your bedroom windows."

Although the king was greatly interested by this last letter of
advice, he did not think it sufficiently urgent to attend to it as
directed. He waited and hesitated, and then left matters till the
morrow. That evening there was a special performance at the Opera,
when _Le Rossignol_, _les Noces de Gamache_, and _le Carnaval de
Venise_ were played. The Duc and Duchesse de Berry were present. About
eleven o'clock, at the close of the second act of the ballet, the
duchess, feeling tired, told her husband that she wished to leave.
The prince would not allow her to go alone, but himself conducted her
out of the Opera House. When he reached their carriage, which stood
in the rue Rameau, just as he was helping the princess up the step,
and saying to her, "Wait for me, I will rejoin you in a moment," a man
darted forward rapidly, passed like a flash of lightning between the
sentinel on guard at the door of exit and M. de Clermont-Lodève, the
gentleman-in-waiting, seized the prince by the left shoulder, leant
heavily against his breast and plunged a thin, sharp small-sword,
with a boxwood hilt, in his right breast. The man left the weapon
in the wound, knocked three or four curious bystanders spinning and
disappeared immediately round the corner of the rue de Richelieu and
under the Colbert Arcade. For the moment nobody noticed that the prince
was wounded; he himself had hardly felt any pain beyond the blow of a
fist.

"Take care where you are going, you clumsy fellow!" M. de Choiseul, the
prince's aide-de-camp, had exclaimed, pushing the assassin to one side,
thinking he was simply an unduly inquisitive bystander. Suddenly the
prince lost his breath, grew pale and tottered, crying out, as he put
his hand to his breast--

"I have been assassinated!"

"Impossible!" exclaimed those about him.

"See," replied the prince, "here is the dagger." And giving effect
to his words, he drew out and held up the bloodstained sword from
his breast. The carriage door had not yet been shut. The duchess
sprang out, trying to catch her husband in her arms; but the prince
was already past standing, even with this support. He fell gently
back into the arms of those surrounding him, and was carried into the
drawing-room belonging to the king's box. There he received immediate
attention.

By the mere appearance of the wound, the shape of the dagger and
the length of its blade, the doctors recognised the serious nature
of the case, and declared that the prince must not be taken to the
Tuileries. They therefore carried him to the suite of rooms occupied
by M. de Grandsire, the Secretary to the Opera Company, who lived at
the theatre. By a singular coincidence, the bed on which the dying
prince was laid was the same on which he had slept the first night of
his joyful re-entry into France. M. de Grandsire was at that time at
Cherbourg and he had lent this very bed to put in the Duc de Berry's
room. Here the prince learnt the arrest of his murderer. He asked his
name. They told him it was Louis-Pierre Louvel. He seemed to search
his memory and then, as if speaking to himself, he said, "I cannot
recollect ever having injured this man."

No, prince, no, you did nothing to him; but you bear on your forehead
the fatal seal which carries the Bourbons to the grave or into exile.
No, prince, you have not injured the man, but you are heir to the
throne and that is sufficient in this country for the hand of God to
be laid heavily upon you. Look back, prince, on what has happened to
those who, for the last sixty years, have handled the fatal crown to
which they aspired. Louis XVI. died on the scaffold. Napoleon died at
St. Helena. The Duc de Reichstadt died at Schoenbrünn. Charles X. died
at Frohsdorf. Louis-Philippe died at Claremont. And who knows, prince,
where your son, the Count de Chambord, will die? Where your cousin the
Count de Paris? I ask the question of you who are about to know the
secret of that eternal life which hides away from us all the mysteries
of life and of death. And we would further point out to you, prince,
that not one of your race will die in the Tuileries, or will rest as
kings in the tombs of their fathers.

But it was a good and noble heart that was about to cease to beat
amidst all the distracting events of that period. And when Louis
XVIII., who had been informed of the assassination, came at six in the
morning, to receive his nephew's last wishes, the first words of the
wounded prince were--

"Sire, pardon the man!"

Louis XVIII. neither promised nor refused to pardon.

"My dear nephew, you will survive this cruel act, I trust," he replied,
"and we will then discuss the matter again. It is of grave import,
moreover," he added, "and it must be looked into most carefully at some
future time."

These words had scarcely been uttered by the king when the prince began
to fight for his breath; he stretched out his arms and asked to be
turned on his left side.

"I am dying!" he said, as they hastened to carry out his last wish.

And, indeed, they had hardly moved him when, at the stroke of half-past
six, he died.

The grief of the duchess was inexpressible. She seized scissors from
the mantelpiece, let down her beautiful fair hair, cut it off to the
roots and threw the locks on the dead body of her husband.

The sorrow of King Louis was twofold: not knowing that the Duchesse de
Berry was pregnant, he deplored even more than the death of a murdered
nephew the extinction of a race.

When he withdrew to the Tuileries, he remembered the events of the
two preceding days--the letter received on the very morning of the
assassination, the warning of some great calamity threatening the royal
family. Then, although there was nothing more to be expected from the
mysterious stranger, the legend that we have given goes on to say that
Louis XVIII. dragged his aching limbs to the window and stuck the three
wafers on its panes as a signal of welcome to the unknown writer of the
letters. Two hours later, the king received a letter wrapped in three
coverings:--

"It is too late! Let a confidential person come and meet me on the pont
des Arts, where I will be at eleven o'clock to-night.

"I rely on the honour of the king."

At a quarter-past eleven the mysterious stranger was introduced into
the Tuileries and conducted to the king's private chamber. He remained
with Louis till one o'clock in the morning. No one ever knew what
passed in that interview. The next day, M. Clausel de Coussergues
proposed, in the Upper House, to impeach M. Decazes as an accomplice in
the assassination of the Duc de Berry.

Thus, at the same time that the Napoleonic and Liberal party were
disseminating the skits against the Bourbons which we have quoted, and
distributing copies of the proceedings of the Maubreuil trial, the
Extreme Right was attacking by similar means the Duc d'Orléans and M.
Decazes; each in turn undermining and destroying one another, to the
advantage of a fourth party, which was soon to make its appearance
under the cloak of Carbonarism--we mean that Republican element which
Napoleon, when he was dying in the island of St. Helena, prophesied
would dominate the future.

But before tackling this question, one word more about Louvel. God
forbid that we should glorify the assassin, no matter to what party he
belonged! We would only indicate, from the historical point of view,
the difference that may exist between one murderer and another. We have
related how Louvel disappeared, first round the corner of the rue de
Richelieu and then under the Colbert Arcade. He was just on the point
of escaping when a carriage barred his course and compelled him to
slacken his pace. During this moment of hesitation, the sentinel, who
had thrown down his gun to pursue him and who had lost sight of him,
had a glimpse of him again and redoubled his speed, caught up with him
and seized him round the waist, a waiter from a neighbouring café; at
the same time seizing hold of him by his collar. When he was captured,
the assassin did not attempt any fresh effort. One would have thought
that from motives of self-preservation he would have struggled to
escape, but his one attempt at flight seemed to satisfy him, and had
they let go their hold, he would not have taken his chance to regain
liberty. Louvel was taken to the guard-house below the vestibule of the
Opera.

"Wretch!" exclaimed M. de Clermont-Lodève, "what can have induced you
to commit such a crime?"

"The desire to deliver France from one of its cruellest enemies."

"Who paid you to carry out the deed?"

"Paid me!" cried Louvel, tossing his head,--"paid me!" Then with a
scornful smile he added, "Do you think one would do such a thing for
money?"

Louvel's trial was carried to the Upper Chamber. On 5 June he appeared
before the High Court. On the following day he was condemned to death.
Four months had been spent in trying to find his accomplices, but not
one had been discovered. He was taken back to the Conciergerie, an hour
after his sentence had been pronounced, and one of his warders came to
him.

"You would like," said the man to the prisoner, who throughout
his trial had preserved the utmost calm and even the greatest
decorum,--"you would like to send for a priest?" "What for?" asked
Louvel.

"Why, to ease your conscience."

"Oh, my conscience is at ease: it tells me I did my duty."

"Your conscience deceives you. Listen to what I say and make your peace
with God: that is my advice."

"And if I confess, do you suppose that will send me to Paradise?"

"May be: the mercy of God is infinite."

"Do you think the Prince de Condé, who has just died, will be in
Paradise?"

"He should be, he was an upright prince."

"In that case, I would like to join him there; it would amuse me vastly
to plague the old _émigré._"

The conversation was here interrupted by M. de Sémonville, who came to
try and extract information from the prisoner. Finding he could not get
anything from him, he said to Louvel--

"Is there anything you want?"

"Monsieur le comte," replied the condemned man, "I have had to sleep
between such coarse sheets in prison, I would like some finer ones for
my last night."

The request was granted. Louvel had his fine sheets and slept soundly
between them from nine at night till six o'clock the next morning. On
6 June, at six in the evening, he was taken from the Conciergerie: it
was the time of the famous troubles of which we shall speak presently.
The streets were blocked, and there were spectators even on the roofs.
He wore a round red cap and grey trousers, and a blue coat was fastened
round his shoulders. The papers next day announced that his features
were changed and his gait enfeebled.

Nothing of the kind: Louvel belonged to the family of assassins to
which Ravaillac and Alibaud were akin--that is to say, he was a man of
stout courage. He mounted the scaffold without bombast and also without
any trace of weakness, and he died as men do who have sacrificed their
lives to an idea.

His cell was the last in the Conciergerie, to the right, at the bottom
of the corridor; it was the same in which Alibaud, Fieschi and Meunier
had been kept.


[1] M. Decazes, Ministre de l'Intérieur, had charge of the police.



CHAPTER VI


Carbonarism


I will now (1821) give some details of the Carbonari movement--a
subject on which Dermoncourt and I had held long conversations.
Dermoncourt was an old aide-decamp of my father, whose name I have
often mentioned in the earlier chapters of these Memoirs--he was one of
the principal leaders in the conspiracy of Béfort.

You will recollect the troubles of June; the death of young Lallemand,
who was killed whilst trying to escape and was accused after his
death of having disarmed a soldier of the Royal Guard. It was thought
that the dead could be accused with impunity. But his father defended
him. The Censorship--sometimes a most infamous thing--prevented the
poor father's letter from appearing in the papers. M. Lafitte had to
take his letter to the Chambers and to read it there before he could
make its contents known to the public. I give it in the form in which
Lallemand sent it to the newspapers, when they refused to publish it:--

      "SIR,--Yesterday my son was beaten to death by a soldier
      of the Royal Guard; to-day he is defamed by the _Drapeau
      blanc_, the _Quotidienne_ and the _Journal des Débats._
      I owe it to his memory to deny the fact cited by those
      papers. The statement is false! My son did not attempt
      to disarm one of the Royal Guard; he was walking past
      unarmed when he received from behind the blow that killed
      him.                                         LALLEMAND"

The military conspiracy of 19 August was the outcome of the troubles
of June. The chief members of the lodge _Des Amis de la Verité_ were
involved in that conspiracy. They afterwards separated. Two of the
affiliated members, MM. Joubert and Dugier, set out for Italy. They
reached Naples in the midst of the Revolution of 1821--a Revolution
during which patriots were shamefully betrayed by their leader,
François. The two named above threw themselves into the Revolution and
were affiliated to the Italian Carbonari, while Dugier returned to
Paris, a member of a higher grade in the Society. This institution, as
yet unknown in France, had greatly appealed to Dugier, and he hoped
to be able to establish it in France. He set forth the principles and
aims of the Society to the executive council of the lodge _des Amis
de la Vérité_ on whom they produced a profound impression. Dugier had
brought back with him the rules of the Italian Society and he was
authorised to translate them. This task he accomplished; but the type
of religious mysticism which formed the basis of these rules was not
in the least congenial to French minds. They adopted the institution,
minus the details which, at that epoch, would have made it unpopular;
and M. Buchez--the same who on 15 May had tried to make Boissy-Anglas
forgotten--and MM. Bazard and Flottard were deputed to establish the
French Carbonari upon a basis better suited to French conditions of
mind and thought. On 1 May 1821, three young men, then unknown, none
of them thirty years old, met for the first time in the depths of
one of the poorest quarters of the capital, in a room which was very
far removed from representing, even to its owner, the golden mean
spoken of by Horace. They sat at a round table, and with grave and
even gloomy faces--for they were not ignorant of the terrible work to
which they were going to devote their lives--they defined the first
tenets of that Society of Carbonari which changed the France of 1821
and 1822 into one vast volcanic disturbance whose flames' burst out
at the most opposite and unexpected quarters, at Effort, la Rochelle,
Nantes and Grenoble. What was still more remarkable, the work which
these three revolutionary chemists were preparing had only one object
in view, namely, to draw up a code for future conspirators, leaving
everyone perfectly free to agitate against anything he individually
chose, provided he conformed to the main rules of the association.
The following is a résumé of these rules: "Since might is not right,
and the Bourbons have been brought back by foreigners, the Carbonari
band together to secure for the French nation free exercise of their
rights--namely, the right to choose what form of government may be most
suited to the country's needs."

It will be seen that nothing was clearly defined; but in reality a
Republican form of government was being shadowed forth. This, however,
was not to be proclaimed until thirty-seven years later, and only then
to be struck dead from its birth, by the very hand to which it owed its
being. It need hardly be said that the hand was the hand of Napoleon:
it is a family tradition of the Napoleons to strangle liberty as soon
as it has produced a first consul or a president; even as in the case
of those beautiful aloes which only flower once in fifty years and
perish when they have brought forth their brilliant but ill-fated
blossoms, which are but barren and deadly flowers.

The division of the Carbonari into higher, central and private lodges
is well known. None of these lodges was allowed to contain more than
twenty members--thus avoiding the penal law directed against societies
which comprised over twenty members. The Higher Lodge was composed
of the seven founders of the Carbonari. These seven founders were
Bazard, Dugier, Flottard, Buchez, Carriol, Joubert and Limperani. Each
Carbonaro was expected to keep a pistol and fifty cartridges in his
house, and he had to hold himself in readiness to obey orders sent him
by his commanders from the Higher Lodge, whether by day or night.

While the Society of Carbonari was being organised with its upper
lodge of seven members above named, something of the same kind of
thing was being established in the Chamber--only less active, vital
and determined in character. It was called the _Comité directeur_, and
its title sufficiently indicates its purpose. This _Comité directeur_
was composed of General la Fayette, his son Georges de la Fayette,
of Manuel, Dupont (de l'Eure), de Corcelles senior, Voyer-d'Argenson,
Jacques Koechlin, General Thiars and of MM. Mérilhou and Chevalier.
For military questions the committee added Generals Corbineau and
Tarayre. The _Comité directeur_ and the _Higher Lodge_ were in close
communication with one another. At first their meetings were only
intended for general discussions; for the young Carbonari treated the
old Liberals with contempt, and the latter reciprocated the feeling.
The Carbonari charged the Liberals with feebleness and vacillation;
the Liberals, in their turn, accused the Carbonari of impertinence and
frivolity. They might as well have accused one another of youth and
age. Furthermore, the Carbonari had organised the whole plot of Béfort
without saying a single word to the _Comité directeur._

However, Bazard was in league with la Fayette, and well aware of the
general's burning desire after popularity. Now, popular feeling in
1821 was on the side of the party in opposition. The farther they
advanced, the more popular they became. Bazard wrote to the general
asking him to authorise the use of his name as of one in co-operation
with them, and the request was granted. La Fayette possessed this
admirable characteristic: he yielded at the first pressure, without
having taken the initiative personally, and he went farther and
more to the point than most people. The secrets of the Upper Lodge
were revealed to him and he was asked to join it. He accepted the
invitation, was received into their number and became one of the most
active conspirators of Béfort. In this he risked his head, just as much
as did the humblest of the confederates. The boldest members of the
Chamber followed him and enlisted with him in the same cause. These
were Voyer-d'Argenson, Dupont (de l'Eure), Manuel, Jacques Koechlin and
de Corcelles senior. They did not have long to wait for a recognition
of their self-sacrificing devotion. When the Revolution was set afoot
they adopted the groundwork of the constitution of the year III. Five
directors were appointed, and these five were la Fayette, Jacques
Koechlin, de Corcelles senior, Voyer-d'Argenson and Dupont (de l'Eure).

Carbonarism had its military side; indeed it was more military than
civil in character. They relied strongly and with good reason upon the
army in all their movements. The army was abandoned by the king, abused
by the princes, sacrificed to privileged parties and three parts given
over to the Opposition. Lodges were established in most regiments,
and everything was so well arranged that even the very movements of
the regiments served as a means of propaganda. In leaving the town
where the president of the military lodge had been quartered for three
months, six months or a year, as the case might be, he received half
a piece of money, the other half being sent on in advance to the town
where his regiment was going--either to a member of the Higher or
Central Lodge. The two halves of the coin were fitted together, and the
conspirators were thus put into communication. By this means soldiers
became commercial travellers, as it were, charged with the spread of
revolution throughout France. Thus we shall find that all insurrections
which broke out were as much military as civil.

Towards the middle of 1821 all plans were laid for a rising in Bordeaux
as well as at Béfort, at Neuf-Brisach as well as at Rochelle, at Nantes
and Grenoble, at Colmar and at Toulouse. France was covered with an
immense network of affiliated societies, so that the revolutionary
influence had expanded, unnoticed but active, into the very heart of
social life, from east to west, from north to south. From Paris--that
is, from the Higher Lodge--all orders were issued for the animation
and support of the propaganda; as the pulsations of the heart send
the life-giving blood to all parts of the human body. Everything
was in readiness. Information had been received that, thanks to the
influence of four young men who had been previously compromised in the
rebellion of 19 August, the 29th infantry, a regiment consisting of
three battalions, severally stationed at Béfort, Neuf-Brisach and at
Huningue, had been won over to the Carbonari. These four young men were
a guardsman called Lacombe, Lieutenant Desbordes and Second-Lieutenants
Bruc and Pegulu, to whom were joined a lawyer named Petit Jean and a
half-pay officer called Roussillon. Furthermore, there was Dermoncourt,
who had been placed on half-pay and who lived in the market town of
Widensollen, a mile away from Neuf-Brisach; he was engaged in the
coming insurrection to lead the light cavalry which was stationed in
barracks at Colmar. So much for the military operations.

The civil side of the conspiracy was also in motion and conducted by
MM. Voyer-d'Argenson and Jacques Koechlin, who possessed factories,
near Mulhouse and Béfort, and who exercised great influence over their
workpeople, almost all of whom were discontented with the Government
that had given back to the nobles their ancient privileges, and to
the priests their old influence. These malcontents were eager to take
part in any rising into which a leader might be ready to urge them.
So, towards the close of 1821, the Higher Lodge in Paris received the
following news:--

At Huningue, Neuf-Brisach and at Béfort the 29th infantry was
stationed, commanded by Lieutenants Carrel, de Gromely and Levasseur;
at Colmar was the light cavalry headed by Dermoncourt; at Strasbourg
they had a stand-by in the two regiments of artillery and in the
battalion of _pontoniers_ at Metz in a regiment of engineers, and
better still the military school: finally, at Spinal they had a
regiment of cuirassiers, MM. Koechlin and Voyer-d'Argenson could be
relied upon not only for a rising at Mulhouse, but also all along the
course of the Rhine where private lodges were stationed; making a total
of more than 10,000 associates amongst the retired officers, citizens,
customs officers and foresters: all were men of determined character
and ready to sacrifice their lives.

About this time, my poor mother, on reckoning up her income, found we
were so poor that she bethought her of our friend Dermoncourt, in hopes
that he might perhaps have still some relations with the Government.
So she decided to write and beg him to make inquiries with respect to
that unpaid pension of 28,500 francs owing to my father for the years
VII and VIII of the Republic. The letter reached Dermoncourt about 20
or 22 December--eight days before the outbreak of insurrection. He
replied by return of post, and on 28 December we received the following
letter:--

      "MY GOOD MADAME DUMAS,--What the devil possesses you
      to imagine that I could have maintained relations with
      that rabble of scoundrels who manage our affairs at
      the present moment? Nay, thank heaven, I have retired,
      I have nothing at all to do either by means of pen or
      sword with what is going on. Therefore, my dear lady, do
      not count on a poor devil like me for anything beyond
      my own miserable pittance of 1000 francs per annum; but
      look to God, who, if He does watch what goes on here
      below, should be very angry at the way things are done.
      There are two alternatives: either there is no good God,
      or things would not go on as they are; but I know you
      believe in the good God--so put your trust in Him. One of
      these days things will be altered. Ask your son, who must
      be a tall lad by now, and he will tell you that there is
      a saying by a Latin author called Horace to the effect
      that after rain comes fine weather. Keep your umbrella
      open, then, a little longer and, if fine weather comes,
      put it down and count on me.

      "Be hopeful; without hope, which lingers at the bottom of
      every man's heart, there would be nothing left to decent
      folk but to blow out their brains.

                                             "BARON DERMONCOURT"

This letter said very little and yet it said a good deal: my mother
gathered that something lay behind it and that Dermoncourt was in the
secret.

On the day following the receipt of our letter this is what was
happening at Béfort: carrying out the plan of the conspirators, the
signal was sent to Neuf-Brisach and Béfort at the same moment; and at
the identical hour and day, or rather the same night, these two places
took up arms and raised the tricolour standard. The insurrection took
place on the night of 29-30 December. A Provisional Government was
proclaimed at Béfort and then at Colmar. This Government, as we have
already mentioned, consisted of Jacques Koechlin, General la Fayette
and Voyer-d'Argenson. Twenty-five or thirty Carbonari had received
orders to set out to Béfort. They started without a moment's delay, and
arrived on the 28th in the daytime. On the 28th, just as Joubert, who
had preceded them to Béfort, was preparing to leave the town in order
to lead them in, he met M. Jacques Koechlin. M. Koechlin was looking
for him to tell him a singular piece of news. M. Voyer-d'Argenson,
who with himself and General la Fayette formed the revolutionary
triumvirate, had indeed come, but had shut himself up in his factories
in the valleys behind Massevaux, stating that he did not wish to
receive anyone there, but that the instructions brought were to be kept
for him.

"All very well, but what are we to do?" asked Joubert.

"Listen," said M. Koechlin: "I will go myself to Massevaux; I will look
after d'Argenson and draw him out, willy nilly, whilst you must try by
what means you can to hurry up the arrival of la Fayette."

Whereupon the two conspirators left, the one, M. Koechlin, post haste,
as he said, to Massevaux, a little village off the main road, perhaps
seven miles from Béfort and equidistant from Colmar; the other,
Joubert, posted off to Lure, a small town on the road to Paris, twenty
leagues from Béfort. There a carriage stopped, and he recognised two
friendly faces inside, those of two brothers, great painters and true
patriots, Henri and Ary Scheffer; with them was M. de Corcelles junior.
Joubert very soon made them acquainted with what was happening. Ary
Scheffer, the intimate friend of General la Fayette, retraced his steps
to go and look for him at his castle of La Grange. The others returned
with Joubert to Béfort to announce that the movement was delayed. Thus
the 29th and 30th passed in useless waiting. On the night between those
two days General Dermoncourt, becoming impatient, sent to Mulhouse an
under-foreman called Rusconi, belonging to M. Koechlin. This man had
been once an officer in the Italian army and had followed Napoleon to
Elba. He was sent to inquire whether anything had been learnt by M.
Koechlin. Rusconi set off at ten o'clock a.m., covered nine stiff
leagues of country in driving rain, and reached M. Koechlin's house at
ten o'clock that night: he found him entertaining ten of his friends,
and he took him aside to inquire whether he had news of the conspiracy.
M. d'Argenson would not budge; there was no news yet from la Fayette;
it was supposed he was being detained by Manuel. In the meantime
General Dermoncourt was to be patient, and he should be informed when
it was time to act.

"But," demanded the messenger, "for whom is he to act?"

"Ah! there lies the difficulty," replied M. Koechlin: "the generals
want Napoleon II.; the others, with Manuel at their head, want
Louis--Philippe; General la Fayette wants a Republic ... but let us
first overthrow the Bourbons and then all will come clear."

Rusconi left, hired a carriage, journeyed all that night, reached
Colmar at ten o'clock next day, and from Colmar he went on foot to
Widensollen, where he found the general ready for action. Nothing had
been done during his absence. This is what had happened. Ary Scheffer
had found la Fayette at La Grange. The general, who belonged to the
Chamber and whose absence would have been remarked if he stayed away
longer, did not wish to reach Béfort until the decisive moment. He
promised to set out that night on one condition--that M. Ary Scheffer
should make all speed to Paris to persuade Manuel and Dupont (de
l'Eure), the last two members of the Provisional Government, to come
and take part in the rebellion; he must also bring back Colonel
Fabvier, a man of judgment and courage, to take command of the
insurgent battalions. Ary Scheffer started for Paris, met Manuel,
Dupont and Fabvier, and got Manuel and Dupont to promise to set out
that same night. He took Colonel Fabvier in his carriage and again set
out after la Fayette, followed by Manuel and Dupont.

Whilst this string of carriages was bearing the revolution at full
speed along the road from Paris, whilst M. Jacques Koechlin, preceded
by Joubert and Carrel, was nearing Béfort, and whilst Colonel Pailhès,
unaware of the arrival of Fabvier, was preparing to take command of
the troops, and Dermoncourt, with horse ready saddled, awaited the
signal, Second-Lieutenant Manoury, one of the chief associates, was
changing guard with one of his comrades and installing himself at
the main gate of the town, at the same time that the other initiated
members were warning their friends that the moment had come and that
in all probability the rising would take place during the night of 1
January 1822. Now the evening of 1 January had come. Only a few hours
more and all would burst forth. In the meanwhile night approached. At
eight o'clock the roll was called. After roll-call the non-commissioned
adjutant, Tellier, went the round of all the sergeant-majors, ordering
them to their rooms, where each company put flints to the muskets,
packed knapsacks and prepared to march. The sergeant-majors returned
to supper with Manoury. Twenty paces from the place where Manoury and
his sergeant-majors supped, Colonel Pailhès went to the _Hôtel de la
Poste_ to dine with a score of the insurgents, and as the host of a
posting-inn is generally one of the principal ringleaders, no one was
anxious, and the dining-room was decorated with tricoloured flags and
cockades and eagles. And, indeed, what had they to fear? No officer
occupied the barracks, and at midnight the insurrection broke out.

Alas! none knew what an accumulation of unlooked-for misfortunes was to
escape out of the Pandora's box which men call fate!...

A sergeant whose six months' furlough had expired that evening and
who in consequence of his long absence knew nothing of what was going
forward, reached Béfort on the evening of 1 January just in time
to answer to the roll-call and to assist in the preparations. When
these preparations were accomplished, he wished to show proof of his
promptness and zeal to his captain by going to tell him the regiment
was ready.

"Ready for what?" asked the captain.

"To march."

"To march where?"

"To the place which has been appointed."

The captain gazed at the sergeant.

"What is it you say?" he asked again.

"I say that the knapsacks are packed, captain, and the flints are in
the muskets."

"You are either drunk or mad," cried the captain; "take yourself off to
bed."

The sergeant was just about to withdraw, in fact, when another officer
stopped him and questioned him more minutely, gathering by the accuracy
of his replies that it was really the truth.

"How could such an order be given unless the two captains had known of
it?"

"Who gave the order?... Doubtless it must have been the
lieutenant-colonel?"

"No doubt," the sergeant replied mechanically.

Both the captains rose and went to find the lieutenant-colonel. He was
equally astonished and as much in the dark as they were.

The order must have come from M. Toustain, deputy-governor and
commander-at-arms of the fortress of Béfort. They all three went to M.
Toustain. He had not heard anything of the rumour they brought him; but
suddenly an idea struck him. It was a plot. The two captains at once
rushed back to the barracks to order the knapsacks to be unstrapped,
the flints to be taken out of the muskets and the soldiers to be
confined to the barracks.

In the meantime the deputy-governor visited the posts. The two officers
rushed to the barracks and M. Toustain began his inspection. One of the
first posts he came to was that guarded by Manoury. As he came nearer
he saw by the light of his lantern a group of four people. This group
struck him as looking suspicious and he accosted them. They were four
young men dressed like citizens. The king's lieutenant interrogated
them.

"Who are you, gentlemen?" he asked.

"We are citizens of this neighbourhood, commandant."

"What are your names?"

Whether from carelessness or from surprise, or whether they did not
want to lie, these four youths gave their names--

"Desbordes, Bruc, Pegulu and Lacombe."

The reader will recollect that they had all four been in the
insurrection of 19 August, and their names had been blazoned in the
papers, so they were perfectly familiar to the deputy-governor; he
called to the head of the guard, Manoury, and ordered him to arrest
the four young men, to put them under a guard, and then to give him
five men to go out and clear the entrance to the suburbs. Scarcely
had the deputy-governor gone a hundred steps, when he perceived what
looked to be twenty-five or thirty persons taking flight: some of them
were in uniform; amongst them he recognised an officer of the 29th. M.
Toustain sprang on him and stretched out his hand to seize him by the
collar; but the officer freed himself, and presenting a pistol at close
quarters, fired full at M. Toustain's chest, the bullet hitting the
cross of St. Louis, which it broke and flattened. The shock was quite
enough, however, to knock down the commandant. But he soon got to his
feet, and as he saw that his five men were no match against thirty, he
returned to the town and stopped at the guard-house to take up Bruc,
Lacombe, Desbordes and Pegulu. All four had disappeared: Manoury, one
of the officers, had set them free and had disappeared with them. The
deputy-governor marched straight to the barracks and put himself at
the head of the battalion. This he led to the market-place, sending
his company of grenadiers to guard the gate of France and to arrest
whoever should attempt to go out. But he was already too late--for all
the insurgents were outside the town. After leaving his two chiefs,
the non-commissioned officer who had let out everything met Adjutant
Tellier, he who had given the order to pack up knapsacks and put flints
to the guns. He told him what had happened and the measures that had
been taken. Tellier realised that all was lost: he ran to the _Hôtel de
la Poste_, and opening the door, shouted out in the midst of the supper
party the terrible words--

"All is discovered!"

Two officers, Peugnet and Bonnillon, still misbelieved and offered to
go to the barracks; indeed, they went. Ten minutes later they ran
back: the news was but too true, and there was only just time for
flight. And they fled.

That was how the deputy-governor encountered Peugnet and his friends
outside the gate of France, for it was Peugnet whom he tried to arrest
and who fired the pistol-shot which flattened the cross of St. Louis.

Pailhès and his supper companions had scarcely left the hotel when
Carrel and Joubert arrived upon the scene. They had come to announce,
in their turn, the discovery of the conspiracy. They only found in
the dining-room Guinard and Henri Scheffer, who were just leaving it
themselves. But not being natives of that country, they did not know
where to fly! Guinard, Henri Scheffer and Joubert mounted a carriage
and took the road to Mulhouse. M. de Corcelles junior and Bazard set
out to meet la Fayette in order to turn him back. When near Mulhouse,
Carrel quitted his three companions, took to horse and returned to
Neuf-Brisach, where his battalion was stationed. At the gate of Colmar
he met Rusconi on the road, the same fellow who, the evening before,
had been at Mulhouse.

General Dermoncourt still waited, placing Rusconi as sentinel to bring
news to him. Rusconi knew Carrel and learnt from him that all had been
discovered and that the conspirators were fleeing.

"But where will you go?" asked Rusconi.

"_Ma foi_, I shall go to Neuf-Brisach to resume my duties."

"That does not seem to me a prudent course."

"I shall keep a look-out and at the first alarm I shall decamp.... Have
you any money?"

"I have a hundred louis belonging to the conspiracy, take fifty of
them."

"Give them to me, and then take my horse and go and warn the general."

The exchange was made, and Carrel continued his journey on foot, while
Rusconi reached the general's country house at a gallop. The general
was just rising. Rusconi acquainted him with the failure of the
enterprise at Béfort, but Dermoncourt refused up to the last to believe
it.

"Ah, well," he said, "the failure of Béfort must mean success at
Neuf-Brisach."

"But, general," said Rusconi, "perhaps the news has already got abroad
and measures have been taken to frustrate everything?"

"Then go to Colmar to make inquiries, and I will go to Neuf-Brisach:
return here in two hours' time."

Each went his way. When Rusconi reached Colmar he entered the _Café
Blondeau_ for news. All was known.

Whilst making his inquiries, a magistrate who was a friend of General
Dermoncourt found means to warn him that two orders of arrest had been
issued, one against himself and the other against the general. Rusconi
did not wait to learn more, but set off immediately for Widensollen. He
arrived at midnight, and found the general was sleeping peacefully: he
had been to Neuf-Brisach and had satisfied himself that all attempts
at rising were now impossible after what had occurred at Béfort.
At Rusconi's fresh news and at his wife's urgent entreaty, General
Dermoncourt decided to leave Widensollen for Heiteren. There he sought
refuge with a cousin, an old army-teacher. Two hours after their
departure the soldiers and a magistrate appeared at Widensollen.

Baroness Dermoncourt sent the general word of this by their gardener,
urging him to fly without a moment's loss of time. They discussed the
possibility of crossing the Rhine, and decided that on the following
day they would pretend to go on a hunting excursion among the islands
which lay opposite Geiswasser. Geiswasser is a small hamlet situated on
this side of the Rhine, inhabited by fishers and customs officers.

The pretext was all the more plausible as the islands were teeming
with game and General Dermoncourt had, together with M. Koechlin of
Mulhouse, rented several of them for shooting. At dawn they set out
with dogs and guns. They had hired the boatmen overnight and found them
ready. About nine o'clock, in a mist which prevented seeing ten paces
ahead, they embarked and told the boatmen to make for mid-stream. They
landed at one of the islands. Rusconi and Dermoncourt alone remained in
the boat, whilst those who had nothing to be afraid of pretended to go
and shoot.

"Now, my men, I have business on the other side the Rhine," the general
said to the boatmen. "You must have the goodness to take me across."

The boatmen looked at each other and smiled.

"Willingly, general," they replied. A quarter of an hour later Rusconi
and Dermoncourt were in Breisgau.

When he had put foot on the Grand Duke of Baden's territory, he drew a
handful of sovereigns from his pocket and gave them to the boatmen.

"Thanks, general," they replied; "but there was really no need for
that. We are true Frenchmen and we would not like to see a brave man
like yourself shot."

These boatmen knew about Béfort and were perfectly aware that they were
conducting fugitives and not a hunting party.

The general retreated to Freiburg and from there he went to Bâle. On 5
and 6 January we read the full details of the conspiracy in the papers.

The name of Dermoncourt took such a prominent part in the proceedings
that we were quite sure if he were arrested his arrears of half-pay
would never be settled.

These particulars explained his letter, and we were able to understand
what sort of fine weather to expect after the rain. Instead of the
barometer rising to "Set fair," it had dropped to "Stormy."

My poor mother was obliged to keep her umbrella open, as Dermoncourt
had advised. Only the umbrella was such a dilapidated one that it no
longer served to ward off showers.

In other words--to abandon our metaphor--we had come to the end of our
resources.

But hope was still left me.

You ask from what quarter?

I will tell you.



CHAPTER VII


My hopes--Disappointment--M. Deviolaine is appointed forest-ranger to
the Duc d'Orléans--His coldness towards me--Half promises--First cloud
on my love-affairs--I go to spend three months with my brother-in-law
at Dreux--The news waiting for me on my return--Muphti--Walls and
hedges--The summer-house--Tennis--Why I gave up playing it--The wedding
party in the wood


I hoped that de Leuven would be able to get our comedies and melodramas
put upon the stage.

M. de Leuven, his father, finding that no stir was made about his
presence in France, made up his mind to risk returning to Paris.
Adolphe naturally followed his father. His departure, which under any
other circumstances would have filled me with despair, now overwhelmed
me with delight, our ideas being what they were. De Leuven took away
our _chefs-d'œuvre_: we never doubted that the directors of the
various theatres for which they were destined would receive them with
enthusiasm!

Thanks to our two vaudevilles and our drama, we would turn aside a
tributary of that Pactolus which, since 1822, had watered M. Scribe's
dominions. I would set sail on that tributary, with my mother, and
rejoin de Leuven in Paris. There a career would open before me, strewn
with roses and bank-notes. It can be imagined how anxiously I waited
Adolphe's first letters. These first letters were slow in coming.
I began to feel uneasy. At last one morning the postman (or rather
post-woman, an old dame, whom we called "Mother Colombe") turned her
steps in the direction of our house. She held a letter in her hand;
this letter was in Adolphe's handwriting and bore the Paris postmark.

The directors--for reasons Adolphe could not fathom--did not put
themselves out to make that fuss over our _chefs-d'œuvre_ he thought
he had the right to expect of them. However, Adolphe did not despair
of getting them a hearing. If he could not succeed in this, he would
have to submit the manuscripts to the critics, which would be most
humiliating! In spite of the gleams of hope which still shone through
the epistle, the general tone of the letter was doleful. In conclusion,
Adolphe promised to keep me well posted concerning his doings.

I awaited a second letter. The second letter was more than a month
in coming. And then, alas! practically all hope had fled. The _Dîner
d'amis_, borrowed from M. Bouilly, had not sufficient plot; the _Major
de Strasbourg_ was too much like the _Soldat Laboureur_, which had just
been played at the Variétés with such great success.

And as for the _Abencérages_, every boulevard theatre had received a
play on that subject for the last ten, fifteen, or twenty years.

Even supposing, therefore, that ours were received, it did not carry us
far.

Still, we had not yet lost all hope in the matter of the _Dîner d'amis_
and the _Major de Strasbourg._

After vain attempts to gain access at the Gymnase and the Varietés, we
tried the Porte-Saint-Martin, the Ambigue-Comique and the Gaieté.

As for the unlucky _Abencérages_, its fate was sealed.

I shed as bitter a tear over it as Boabdil shed over Grenada, and I
awaited Adolphe's third letter with very gloomy forebodings.

Our cup of humiliation was full to the brim: we were refused
everywhere. But Adolphe had several plays on the way with Théaulon,
with Soulié and with Rousseau. He was going to try to get them played,
and when played, he would use the influence gained by his success to
demand the acceptance of one of our efforts. This was but poor comfort
and uncertain expectancy. I was greatly cast down.

In the meantime an event had taken place which would have filled
me with high spirits under any other circumstances. M. Deviolaine
was appointed keeper of the forests of the Duc d'Orléans; he left
Villers-Cotterets and went to Paris to take over the management of the
forestry department. Two ways of helping me lay open to him: he could
take me into his office, or he could give me open air work. Unluckily,
since my affair with Madame Lebègue, the family had given me the cold
shoulder. This did not discourage my mother, who saw an opening for me
in one or other of these two careers, from approaching M. Deviolaine.

It will be remembered that M. Deviolaine, although he was not an old
soldier, could never disguise the truth. He replied to my mother--

"Why, certainly, if your rascal of an Alexandre were not an idle lad, I
could find a berth for him; but I confess I have no confidence in him.
Besides, after the goings on there have been, not necessarily his, but
in which at all events he has not denied a share, everybody here would
make a dead set against me."

Still my mother urged her case. She saw her last hope fading.

"Very well, then," said M. Deviolaine; "give me some time to think over
things, and later we will see what can be done."

I awaited my mother's return with the same impatience with which I had
awaited Adolphe's letters. The result was not more satisfactory.

Two days before, we had received a letter from my brother-in-law, who
was a receiver at Dreux: he invited me to spend a month or two with
him. We had become so poor, alas! that the economy my absence would
produce would go a long way towards compensating my mother for her loss
at my departure. It was, moreover, my first absence: my mother and I
had never been parted except during that wonderful visit to Béthisy,
when the Abbé Fortier had given me my first lessons in hunting. There
was also another person in the town from whom it was a cruel wrench to
tear myself. It can be guessed to whom I refer.

Although our _liaison_ had lasted more than three years, counting
more than a year of preliminary attentions, I still loved Adèle very
dearly, and the azure of our sky had hardly had so much as a light
cloud upon it during that period--an almost unique experience in the
annals of a courtship. Yet the poor girl had been feeling sad for some
time. While I was but nineteen, she was already twenty years old; and
our love-making, though delightful child's play, not only promised
nothing for her future, but rather compromised it. As no one thought
ill of our relations with each other, Adèle had received two or three
offers of marriage, all of which she declined, either because they did
not quite meet her views or because she would not sacrifice our love to
them. Was she not in danger of suffering from the same disappointment
which a certain hero of our acquaintance, almost a fellow-countryman,
experienced? After having despised perch, carp and eel, would she not
be compelled to sup with frogs? The prospect was not alluring, hence
her melancholy. Poor Adèle! I perceived that my departure was as
necessary for her welfare as for my own. We wept abundantly, she more
than I, and it was quite natural she should shed the most tears, seeing
she was to be consoled the soonest.

My going away was settled. We had now reached the month of July 1822.
Only another week--eight days and eight nights!--a last week of
happiness, remained to me; for some presentiment warned me that this
week would be the last. The moment of parting came. We vowed fervently
never to forget one another for one single hour; we promised to write
to each other at least twice a week. Alas! we were not rich enough
to afford the luxury of a letter a day. At last we said our final
farewell. It was a cruel farewell--a separation of hearts even more
than a corporeal separation.

I cannot explain how I got from Villers-Cotterets to Dreux--although
I can recollect the most trivial details of my youth, almost of my
babyhood. It is evident I must have gone through Paris, since that
is the direct route; but how could I forget having passed through
Paris? I cannot tell whether I stopped there or not. I have not the
faintest recollection whether I saw Adolphe or not. I know I left
Villers-Cotterets, and I found myself at Dreux! If anything could have
distracted my attention, it would have been that stay with my sister
and my brother-in-law. Victor, as I have already mentioned, was a
delightful fellow, full of wit, of repartee, of resource. But, alas!
there were too empty places in my heart which were difficult to fill.

I stayed two months at Dreux. I was there at the beginning of the
shooting season. They told me a story of a three-legged hare, a sort
of enchanted creature seen by all sportsmen, known by all sportsmen,
shot at by all sportsmen; but after each shot the queer beast shook
its ears and only ran the faster. This hare was all the better known,
I might say all the more popular, because it was nearly the only one
in the countryside. We had not gone a quarter of a league from the
house, on the 1st of September, before a hare rose up near me. I gave
chase, I fired and it rolled over. My dog brought it to me: it was the
three-pawed hare! The sportsmen of Dreux united in giving me a grand
dinner. The death of this strange hare, and certain shots that brought
down two partridges at the same time, gave me a reputation in the
department of Eure-et-Loir which has lasted until to-day. But none of
these honours showered upon me, however exalted they were, could make
me stay beyond the 15th of September.

Adèle's letters had become less and less frequent. Finally they ceased
altogether.

I left on the 15th of September. I do not remember any more than about
my going, whether I went back through Paris or not. I found myself back
at Villers-Cotterets, and the news that met me on my arrival was--

"Do you know that Adèle Dalvin is going to be married?"

"No, I had not heard it, but it is quite likely," I replied.

Oh! what were the elegies of Parny on Éléonore's faithlessness, or
Bertin's lamentations on the infidelity of Eucharis; oh, my God, how
bloodless they seemed, when I tried to re-read them, with my own heart
wounded!

Alas! poor Adèle! she was not making a love match: she was going to
marry a man double her own age; he had lived for years in Spain, and he
had brought home a small fortune. Adèle was making a prudent marriage.

I determined to see her the very night I returned. You remember how I
paid my visits to Adèle. I entered the usual way, by slipping back the
bolt of the lock, I opened the door, I met Muphti again, and he gave me
such a greeting that he almost betrayed me by his demonstrations; then,
with my heart thumping as it had never yet beaten, I scaled the wall
and leapt over the two hedges. I felt quite ill when I was once more in
the garden; I leant against a tree to get my breath. Then I went to the
pavilion; but the nearer I drew, and the better I could see things in
the darkness, the more I felt my heart tighten. The shutters were quite
wide open, instead of being closed; the window, instead of being shut,
was half open. I leant on the window-sill: everything was dark inside.
I pushed the two flaps, I knelt on the sill. The room was empty: I felt
the bedside with my hands; the bed was unoccupied. It was evident that
Adèle had guessed I would come, that she had deserted the room, leaving
it easy for me to gain an entrance therein, in order to show me her
intentions. Ah yes! I guessed ... I understood everything. What good
could it do to meet, since all was over between us? I sat down on the
bed and I gave thanks to God for the gift of tears, since He had willed
us to endure sorrow.

The marriage was fixed for fifteen days hence. During those fifteen
days I kept almost entirely to the house. I went to the park on Sunday,
but only to play tennis. I was very fond of that game, as of all games
of skill; I was rather good at it; for I had very strong muscles and I
could hold out through the longest game and sometimes even longer; this
strength of mine was a terror to other players. On this particular day,
when I wanted to overcome my mental feelings by great physical fatigue,
I gave myself up to the game with a kind of frenzy. One ball, which I
sent as high as a man, hit one of the players and knocked him down;
he was the son of a _brigadier de gendarmerie_, called Savard. We ran
up to him, and found that the ball had luckily hit him on the top of
his shoulder, a little above the biceps, just where the shirt-sleeve
gatherings come. Had it gone six inches higher I should have killed him
on the spot, for it would have reached his temple. I threw down my
racquet and I gave up the game: I have never played it since. I went
home, and I tried to find distraction in working. But I could not set
myself to my task: one works with heart and mind combined. Adolphe had
possession of my thoughts; Adèle was in the act of breaking my heart.

The wedding-day drew near; I could not stay in Villers-Cotterets on
that day. I arranged a bird-snaring party with an old comrade of mine,
a playmate of my younger days, who had been somewhat neglected since de
la Ponce and Adolphe had not only taken hold of my affections but were
influencing my life. He was a harness-maker called Arpin.

In the evening we went to prepare our tree: it was in a lovely copse,
a quarter of a league or so from the pretty village of Haramont, which
I have since attempted to make famous in _Ange Pitou_ and _Conscience
l'innocent._ At the foot of this tree, all whose branches we cut off,
to make way for our lime twigs, we built a hut of branches and covered
it with fern fronds, Next day, we were at our post before daybreak;
when the sun rose and shone on our stiff tree, we found the sport
had begun. It was a strange thing that, although when younger I had
taken such pleasure in this sport that I often lay sleepless the night
before, this present snaring had no power to distract my heart from the
anguish weighing upon it.

O Sorrow, thou sublime mystery by which a man's spirit is raised and
his soul expanded! Sorrow, without which there would be no poetry, for
poetry is nearly always made up of joy and hope in equal parts, with an
equivalent amount of sorrow!

Sorrow, which leaves its trace for life; a furrow moistened by tears,
whence Prayer springs, the mother of those three heavenly, noble
daughters, whose names are Faith, Hope and Charity! The benediction of
a poet is ever thine, O Sorrow!

We had taken bread and wine with us; we had breakfasted and had dinner;
the catch was plentiful, and would have been entirely satisfactory
at any other time. We had reached the day's end, the hour when the
blackbird whistles or the robin sings, when the first shadows creep
silently to the heart of the wood;--suddenly I was startled from my
reverie (if one can so call a formless chaos of thoughts through which
no light had shone) by the sharp sound of a violin and by happy shouts
of laughter. Violin and laughter came nearer, and I soon began to see
through the trees that a player and a wedding party were coming from
Haramont and going towards Villers-Cotterets; they were taking a narrow
side-path, and would pass within twenty paces of me--young girls in
white dresses, youths in blue or black clothes, with large bouquets and
streaming ribbons.

I put my head out of our hut and uttered a cry. This wedding party
was Adèle's! The young girl with the white veil and the bouquet of
orange blossom who walked in front, and gave her arm to her husband,
was Adèle! Her aunt lived at Haramont. After mass they had been to the
wedding breakfast with the aunt; they had gone by the high road in the
morning; they were returning at night by the shorter way. This short
cut, as I have said, ran within twenty paces of our hut. What I had
fled from had come to find me! Adèle did not see me; she did not know
that she was passing near me: she was leaning against the shoulder of
the man to whom she now belonged in the eyes of man and of God, while
he had his arm round her waist and held her closely to him.

I gazed for a long time on that file of white dresses which, in the
growing darkness, looked like a procession of ghosts. I heaved a sigh
when it had disappeared. My first dream had just vanished, my first
illusion been shattered!



CHAPTER VIII


I leave Villers-Cotterets to be second or third clerk at Crespy--M.
Lefèvre--His character--My journeys to Villers-Cotterets--The
_Pélerinage à Ermenonville_--Athénaïs--New matter sent to
Adolphe--An uncontrollable desire to pay a visit to Paris--How
this desire was accomplished--The journey--Hôtel des
Vieux-Augustins--Adolphe-_Sylla_--Talma


During my absence a place had been offered me as second or third clerk,
I do not know exactly which, with M. Lefèvre, a lawyer at Crespy. It
was a very desirable place, because the clerks were lodged and boarded.
My keep had become such a burden on my poor mother, that she consented
for the second time to part with me in order to save my food. She made
up my little bit of packing--not much bigger than a Savoyard's on
leaving his mountains--and off I set. It was three and a half leagues
from Villers-Cotterets to Crespy: I did the journey on foot one fine
evening, and I duly arrived at M. Lefèvre's.

M. Lefèvre was, at that period, a fairly good-looking man of
thirty-four or thirty-five, with dark brown hair, a very pale
complexion, and a well-worn appearance physically. You could recognise
he was a man who had lived a long while in Paris, who had taken many
permissible pleasures, and still more forbidden ones. Although M.
Lefèvre was confined to a little provincial town, he might be styled
a lawyer of the old school: he had ceremonious ways with his clients,
ceremonious manners with us, lofty domineering airs with the world at
large. M. Lefèvre seemed to say to all those who had business with him,
"Pray appreciate the honour I am bestowing upon you and your town, in
condescending to be a lawyer in the capital of a canton when I might
have been in practice in Paris."

There was one thing that specially called forth from me feelings of
admiration for M. Lefèvre, and it was this: he went to the capital, as
they call it in Crespy, some eight or ten times a year, and he never
lowered himself to take the diligence: when he wanted a conveyance he
would call the gardener. "Pierre," he would say, "I am going to-morrow,
or this evening, to Paris; see that the post-horses are ready in the
chaise at such and such an hour."

Pierre would go: at the appointed hour the horses would arrive, rousing
the whole district with their bells; the postillion, who still wore
a powdered wig and a blue jacket with red lapels and silver buttons,
would fling himself clumsily, heavily-booted, into the saddle, M.
Lefèvre would stretch himself nonchalantly in the carriage, wrapped in
a big cloak, take a pinch of snuff from a gold box, and say with an air
of careless indifference, "Go on!" and at the word the whip cracked,
the bells jingled and the carriage disappeared round the corner of the
street for three or four days. M. Lefèvre never told us the day or hour
of his return: he would return unawares, for he delighted in taking his
world by surprise.

But M. Lefèvre was not a bad sort of man. Although cold and exacting,
he was just; he rarely refused holidays when they were asked for, but,
as we shall see, he never pardoned holidays taken without leave.

My brother-in-law's mother lived at Crespy, so I had a ready entree
into the society of that little town. Alas! alas! what a different
world it was from our three-tiered society of Villers-Cotterets of
which I have spoken, and above all from our own charming little circle
of friends! All the good family of Millet, with whom we had taken
shelter during the first invasion, had disappeared: the mother, the two
brothers, the two sisters, had all left Crespy and lived in Paris. I
have since come across the mother and the eldest sister: they were both
in want. I was dreadfully bored in the heart of that ancient capital
of Valois! so sick of it that I very often returned home to sleep at
my mother's at Villers-Cotterets, when Saturday evening came, taking
my gun for a shoot on the way; then I would shoulder my gun at six
on Monday morning, and, shooting all the time, I returned to Maître
Lefèvre's before the office opened.

Thus things went on for three months. I had a pretty room looking into
a garden full of flowers; the evening sun shone into the room; I had
paper, ink and pens in abundance on my table; the food was good, I
looked well enough, and yet I felt I could not possibly continue to
live thus.

During one of my Sunday excursions I turned in the direction of
Ermenonville. Ermenonville is about six leagues from Crespy, but what
were six leagues to such legs as mine! I visited the historic places
of M. de Girardin, the desert, the poplar island, the tomb of the
Unknown. The poetic side to this pilgrimage revived my poor drooping
Muse a little, like a wan, sickly butterfly coming out of its chrysalis
in January instead of May. I set to work. I wrote partly in prose,
partly in verse, and under the inspiration of a charming young society
damsel named Athénaïs--who knew nothing about it-a bad imitation of
the _Lettres d'Émilie_ by Demoustier, and of the _Voyages du chevalier
Berlin_. I sent the work to Adolphe when it was finished. Since I
could not achieve success by the stage, I might perhaps attain it by
publishing. I gave it the essentially novel title of _Pélerinage à
Ermenonville._ Adolphe, naturally enough, could not do anything with
it; he lost it, never found it again, and so much the better. I cannot
recollect a single word of it.

As a matter of fact, Adolphe was not succeeding any better than I was.
All his hopes fell to the ground, one after another, and he wrote me
that we should never do anything unless we were together. But, to be
together, it would be necessary to leave Crespy for Paris, and how was
this to be done, in the state of my purse, which even on those happy
days when my mother sent me some money never contained more than eight
or ten francs.

So it was a material impossibility. But infinite are the mysteries of
Providence. One Saturday in the month of November, M. Lefèvre announced
to us in his usual fashion--by ordering Pierre to have the horses ready
by seven next morning--that he was going to pay one of his monthly
visits to Paris. Almost simultaneously with his giving this order, at
the conclusion of dinner (another of his habits), the cook came and
told me a friend wanted to see me. I went out. It was Paillet, my old
head clerk; like myself, he had left Maître Mennesson. He was living
temporarily on his farm at Vez, where he lodged in the top of a tower,
compared with which the tower of Madame Marlborough, however vaunted
it may be, is a mere trifle. The tower of Vez was really wonderful,
the only remains left standing of a stout castle of the twelfth
century--the ancient nest of vultures now peopled by rooks. Paillet had
come over on horseback, to learn the price of corn, I believe. He was
from time to time head clerk in the provinces or second clerk in Paris;
but his real business, his actual life, was that of a property-owner.
We took a turn round the ramparts. I was in full tide of pouring out
my grievances to this good friend, who loved me so devotedly, and who
sympathised with me to the utmost, when, all of a sudden, I struck my
forehead and burst out with--

"Oh, my dear fellow, I have an idea ...!"

"What is it?"

"Let us go and spend three days in Paris."

"And what about the office?"

"M. Lefèvre goes to Paris himself to-morrow; he usually stays away two
or three days; we shall have returned in two or three days' time."

Paillet felt in his pockets and drew out twenty-eight francs.

"There, that is all I possess," he said. "And you?"

"I? I have seven francs."

"Twenty-eight and seven make thirty-five! How the deuce do you think we
can go to Paris on that? We need thirty francs, to begin with, simply
for a carriage to get there and back."

"Wait a bit: I know a way...."

"Well?"

"You have your horse?"

"Yes."

"We will put our things into a portmanteau, we will go in our
hunting-clothes, with our guns, and we will shoot along the route; we
can live on the game, and so it will cost us nothing."

"How do you make that out?"

"It is simple enough: from here to Dammartin, surely we can kill a
hare, two partridges and a quail?"

"I hope we can kill more than that."

"So do I, hard enough, but I am putting it at the lowest. When we reach
Dammartin we can roast the hinder portion of our hare, we can jug the
front half, and we can drink and eat."

"And then?"

"Then?... We will pay for our wine, our bread and our seasoning with
the two partridges, and we will give the quail to the waiter as a
tip.... There will only remain your horse to trouble about! Come, come,
for three francs a day we shall see wonders."

"But what the dickens will people take us for?"

"What does that matter?--for scholars on a holiday."

"But we only have one gun."

"That will be all we shall need: one of us will shoot, the other will
follow on horseback; in this way, as it is only sixteen leagues from
here to Paris, it will only mean eight for each of us."

"And the keepers?"

"Ah! that is our worst difficulty. Whichever of us is on horseback must
keep watch; he will warn the one who is poaching. The cavalier must
dismount from his horse, the sportsman will get up, spur with both
heels and clear out of the place at a gallop. The keeper will then come
up to the cavalier, and finding him walking along with his hands in his
pockets, will say, 'What are you doing here, sir?' 'I?... You can see
quite well for yourself.' 'Never mind, tell me.' 'I am walking.' 'Just
a minute ago, you were on horseback.' 'Yes.' 'And now you are on foot?'
'Yes.... Is it against the law for a man first to ride and then to
walk?' 'No, but you were not alone.' 'Quite possible.' 'Your companion
was shooting.' 'Do you think so?' 'Good heavens! why, there he is on
horseback carrying his gun.' 'My dear sir, if he is there with his gun
on horseback, run after him and try to stop him.' 'But I can't run
after him and stop him, because he is on horseback and I am on foot.'
'In that case you will be wise, my friend, to go to the nearest village
and drink a bottle of wine to our health.' And at this, one of us will
hold out a twenty-sous piece to the honest fellow, which we will reckon
in among our profit and loss; the gamekeeper will bow to us, go and
drink our health, and we shall pursue our journey."

"Well, I never! that is not badly conceived," cried Paillet. "... They
tell me you are writing things."

I heaved a sigh. "It is exactly for the purpose of going to ask de
Leuven for news of the plays I have written that I want to go to
Paris.... And then, once in Paris----"

"Oh!" interrupted Paillet, "once in Paris, I know a little hotel, rue
des Vieux-Augustins, where I usually put up, and where I am known; once
in Paris, I shall not be anxious."

"Then it is settled?"

"Why, yes!... it will be a joke."

"We will start for Paris?"

"We will."

"Very well, then, better still, let us start to-night, instead of
to-morrow! We can sleep at Ermenonville, and to-morrow evening, leaving
Ermenonville early, we shall be in Paris."

"Let us leave to-night."

We went our way, Paillet to his inn, to have his horse saddled; I to
Maître Lefèvre's, to get my gun and to put on my shooting-clothes. A
shirt, a coat, a pair of trousers and a pair of boots were sent off by
the third clerk to Paillet, who stuffed them into a portmanteau; these
things accomplished, I shouldered my gun and awaited Paillet outside
the town. Paillet soon appeared. It was too late for shooting: our only
thoughts were to gain the country. I jumped up behind. Two hours later,
we were at Ermenonville.

It was the second or third time I had visited the _Hôtel de la Croix_:
so far as I can remember, I was not a profitable customer; but my
antecedents were by no means bad, rather the reverse. We were well
received. An omelette, a bottle of wine and as much bread as we wanted,
constituted our supper. Next day, our account, including the horse's
stabling, came to six francs--leaving twenty-nine. Paillet and I looked
at one another, as much as to say, "Dear me! how money does fly!"
And after two or three sage noddings of the head, we continued our
journey, going across country to Dammartin, where we meant to lunch.
Lunch did not trouble us: it lay in the barrel of our gun, and we set
forth to find it. The country round Ermenonville is full of game and
well guarded; so we had hardly gone a quarter of a league before I had
killed two hares and three partridges with six shots of my gun. I ought
to confess with due humility that these two hares and three partridges
belonged to M. de Girardin-Brégy.

Now, when my dog was retrieving the third partridge, Paillet gave
the prearranged signal. The figure of a gamekeeper appeared on the
skyline, boldly defined against the white fleecy sky, like one of those
shepherds or country rustics in huge leggings that Decamps or Jadin put
in their landscapes, as a contrast to a lonely and twisted elm-tree.

The manœuvre had already been discussed. In an instant I was on
horseback, spurring the horse with both heels, and carrying off with
me the incriminating plunder. The dialogue between Paillet and the
gamekeeper was lengthy and animated; but it ended as I had predicted.
Paillet majestically drew a twenty-sous piece from the common purse,
and our total expenditure had reached the sum of seven francs. That was
our loss; but on the profit side of our account we had two hares and
three partridges. Paillet joined me again; I remained on horseback and
he took his turn at hunting. So we alternated. By ten o'clock in the
morning we were at Dammartin, with three hares and eight partridges.
Of the two gamekeepers we ran across since our last, one had loftily
refused the twenty sous, the other had basely accepted. Our funds were
now reduced to twenty-seven francs. But we were more than half-way
there; and we had three hares and eight partridges to the good! As I
had foreseen, we paid our way, and generously, with a hare and three
partridges. We could have paid our way in larks.

By eleven o'clock, we were off again, and we made straight tracks for
Paris, which we reached at half-past ten that night, I on foot and
Paillet on horseback, with four hares, a dozen partridges and two
quails. We had a marketable value of thirty francs of game with us.

When we reached the _Hôtel des Vieux-Augustins_, Paillet made himself
known and imposed his conditions. He told our host we had made a big
bet with some Englishmen. We had wagered that we could go to Paris
and back without spending a halfpenny, so we wished to gain the bet
by selling our game to him. He engaged to board and put us up, horse
and dog included, for two days and two nights, in exchange for our
twelve partridges, four hares and two quails. Besides this, when we
left he put us up a pasty and bottle of wine. On these conditions, our
host declared he would make a good thing out of us, and offered us a
certificate to certify that, at least while with him, we had not spent
a son. We thanked him and told him our Englishmen would take our word
for it.

Paillet and I took our bearings and went to get a bath. With all
economy possible, we had had to deduct the sum of three francs fifty
from our remaining balance; we were thus left with twenty-three francs
fifty. We had spent rather less than a third of our wealth; but we had
arrived, and bed and board were assured us for _forty-eight hours_.

In spite of the fatigue of the journey, I slept but ill: I was in
Paris! I envied my dog, who, laid down at the foot of my bed, free from
imagination, tired out in body, and indifferent to his resting-place,
was taking a nap. Next day I woke up at seven o'clock. In a twinkling I
was dressed.

De Leuven lived in the rue Pigale, No. 14. It was nearly a league from
the rue des Vieux-Augustins, but, good gracious! what did that matter?
I had covered ten or a dozen leagues the day before, without reckoning
the ins and outs, and I could surely manage one to-day. I set out.
Paillet had business of his own to attend to; I had mine. We should
probably meet at dinner-time, or perhaps not until night. I left the
rue des' Vieux-Augustins by the rue Croix-des-Petits-Champs and walked
straight ahead. I saw a passage where a crowd of people were going in
and coming out. I went down seven or eight steps until I thought I
was lost. I wanted to ascend again, but I felt ashamed. I continued
on my way and alighted on the rue Valois. I had made acquaintance,
first go off, with the ugliest passage in Paris, the passage of the
rue Neuve-des-Bons-Enfants. I went down another passage which opened
out before me, and I found myself in the Palais-Royal. I went all
round it: half the shops weren't opened. I stopped in front of the
Théâtre-Français and I saw on the poster--


       "To-morrow, Monday, _Sylla_, a Tragedy in verse, in five
                         acts, by M. de Jouy."


I vowed fervently that somehow or other I would get access to the
common purse and I would see _Sylla._ All the more because I read in
large letters on the same poster--


                "M. TALMA will take the part of Sylla"


However, since it would be much better to go with the help' of Adolphe,
I immediately inquired my way to the rue Pigale, and started off for
it. After many turnings and twistings, I reached my destination at
about nine in the morning. Adolphe was not yet up; but his father was
walking in the garden. I went up to him. He stopped, let me approach,
held out his hand to me, and said--

"So you have come to Paris, then?"

"Yes, Monsieur de Leuven."

"For some stay?"

"For two days."

"What have you come for?"

"I have come to see two people--Adolphe and Talma."

"Ah! is that so? You have become a millionaire, then, or you would not
commit such extravagances."

I told M. de Leuven how Paillet and I had accomplished the journey. He
looked at me for a minute, then he said--

"You will get on, you have will-power. Go and wake Adolphe; he will
take you to see Talma, who will give you tickets; then come back and
lunch together here."

That was the very thing I wanted. I took stock of the interior
topography of the house, and rushed off. I only opened two wrong doors
before I found Adolphe's: one was Gabriel Arnault's door; the other,
Louis Arnault's. I lost my way on the first landing: Louis put me
right. I reached Adolphe's room at last. Adolphe slept like the Seven
Sleepers. But had I had to deal with Epimenides I would have wakened
him. Adolphe rubbed his eyes, and could not recognise me.

"Come, come," I said, "it is really I; wake up and get dressed. I want
to go to Talma."

"To Talma! What for? You don't mean to say you have a tragedy to read
to him?"

"No, but I want to ask him for some tickets."

"What is he playing in now?"

I fell from my state of exaltation. Adolphe, living in Paris, did
not know what Talma was acting! What was the idiot thinking of? No
wonder he had not yet got my _Pélerinage d'Ermenonville_ placed, or
any of our plays acted. Adolphe got out of bed and dressed himself. At
eleven o'clock we were ringing the bell of a house in the rue de la
Tour-des-Dames. Mademoiselle Mars, Mademoiselle Duchesnois and Talma
all lived side by side. Talma was dressing, but Adolphe was an habitué
of the house: they let him in. I followed Adolphe, as Hernani followed
Charles-Quint; I, naturally, behind Adolphe.

Talma was extremely short-sighted: I do not know whether he saw me
or not. He was washing his chest: his head was almost shaved--this
astonished me greatly, for I had heard it said, many times, that in
_Hamlet_, when the father's ghost appears, Talma's hairs could be
seen standing on end. I must confess that Talma's appearance, under
the above conditions, was far from being artistic. But when he turned
round, with his neck bare, the lower part of his body wrapped in a
large sort of white linen wrapper, and he took one of the corners of
this mantle and drew it over his shoulder, half veiling his breast,
there was something so regal in the action that it made me tremble.

De Leuven laid bare our request. Talma took up a kind of antique
stiletto, at the end of which was a pen, and signed an order for two
seats for us. It was a member's order. Besides the actors' order which
were received on days when they were acting, members had the right to
give two free tickets every day.

Then Adolphe explained who I was. In those days I was just the son
of General Alexandre Dumas: but that was something. Besides, Talma
remembered having met my father at Saint-Georges's. He held out his
hand to me, and I longed to kiss it. Full of theatrical ambitions as I
was, Talma was like a god to me--an unknown god, it is true, as unknown
as Jupiter was to Semele; but a god who appeared to me in the morning,
and who would reveal himself to me at night. Our hands clasped. Oh,
Talma! if only you had been twenty years younger or I twenty years
older! But at that time the whole honour was mine.

Talma! I knew the past: you could not guess the future. If anyone had
told you, Talma, that the hand you had just held was to write sixty to
eighty dramas, in each of which you--who were looking out for rôles
all your life--would have found one which you would have acted to
perfection, you would not have allowed the poor youth to go away thus,
blushing at having seen you, proud at having shaken hands with you! But
how could you see anything in me, Talma, since I had not discovered it
myself?



CHAPTER IX


The theatre ticket--The _Café du Roi_--Auguste
Lafarge--Théaulon--Rochefort--Ferdinand Langlé--People who dine
and people who don't--Canaris--First sight of Talma--Appreciation
of Mars and Rachel--Why Talma has no successor--_Sylla_ and the
Censorship--Talma's box--A cab-drive after midnight--The return to
Crespy--M. Lefèvre explains that a machine, in order to work well,
needs all its wheels--I hand in my resignation as his third clerk


I went back to de Leuven's house hugging the order in my pocket. With
the possibility of procuring another by the means of it, I would not
have parted with it for five hundred francs! I was filled with pride
at the thought of going to the Théâtre-Français, with an order signed
"_Talma_." We lunched.

De Leuven raised great difficulties about going to the play: he had an
engagement with Scribe, a meeting with Théaulon, an appointment with I
don't know how many other celebrities besides, that night. His father
shrugged his shoulders, and de Leuven raised no more objections. It
was arranged that we were to go to the Français together; but, as I
wanted to see the Musée, the Jardin des Plantes and the Luxembourg,
he arranged to meet me at the _Café du Roi_ at seven o'clock. The
_Café du Roi_ formed the corner of the rue de Richelieu and the rue
Saint-Honoré. We shall have more to say about it later.

After luncheon, I set out by myself and went to the Musée. At six
o'clock, I had tramped the tourists' round--that is to say, having
entered the Tuileries by the gate of the rue de la Paix, I had passed
under the Arch, visited the Musée, gone along the Quays, examined
Nôtre-Dame inside and out, made Martin climb up his tree and, under
cover of being a stranger--a title which only a blind man or an
evilly disposed person could dispute--I had forced my way through the
gates of the Luxembourg.

I returned at six o'clock to the hotel, where I found Paillet. Upon
my word, we dined well! Our host was a conscientious man, and he gave
us soup, a _filet_ with olives, roast beef and potatoes _à la maître
d'hôtel_, the worth of two hares and four partridges, which we absorbed
under other guises. I urged Paillet in vain to come to the Français
with us: Paillet was formerly a second clerk in Paris; he had friends,
or perhaps it would be more truthful to say girl-friends, of other
days, to see again; he refused the offer, pressing though it was, and
I set off for the _Café du Roi_, not comprehending how there could
be anything more vitally important than to see Talma, or, if one had
already seen him, than to see him again. I reached our rendezvous some
minutes before Adolphe. Paillet had foreseen that I should probably
have some indispensable expenses: he had generously drawn three francs
from the common purse and given them to me. After this, a total of
twenty francs fifty centimes remained to us.

I went into the _Café du Roi_ and sat down at a table; I calculated
what would cost me the least; I concluded that a small glass of brandy
would give me the right to wait, and at least to look as though I
was a habitué of the establishment; so I ordered one. Now, I had
never managed to swallow one drop of that abominable liquor; however,
although obliged to order it, I was not obliged to drink it. I had
scarcely taken my seat when I saw one of the regular customers (I
judged he was a regular attender, because I saw that he had nothing at
all on the table before him) get up and come towards me. I uttered a
cry of surprise and joy: it was Lafarge. Lafarge had gone a step lower
towards poverty: he wore a coat shiny at the elbows, trousers shiny at
the knees.

"Why, surely I am not mistaken, it is really you?" he said.

"It is really I. Sit down here."

"With pleasure. Ask for another glass."

"For you?"

"Yes."

"Take mine, my dear fellow. I never touch brandy."

"Then why did you ask for it?"

"Because I did not like to wait till Adolphe came in without asking for
something."

"Is Adolphe coming here?"

"Yes. We are going to see _Sylla_ together."

"What! you are going to see that filth?"

"Filth, _Sylla_? Why, it is an enormous success!"

"Yes, the success of a wig."

"The success of a wig?" I echoed, not understanding. "Certainly! Take
away from Sylla his Napoleonic locks, and the piece would never be
played through."

"But surely M. de Jouy is a great poet?"

"In the provinces he may be thought great, my dear boy; but here we are
in Paris, and we see things differently."

"If he is not a great poet, he is at least a man of infinite resource."
"Well, perhaps he might have been thought clever under the Empire; but
you see, my boy, the wit of 1809 is not the wit of 1822."

"Still, I thought that _l'Ermite de la Chaussée-d'Antin_ was written
under the Restoration."

"Why, certainly; but do you think _l'Ermite de la Chaussée-d'Antin_ was
by M. de Jouy?"

"Most certainly, since it appears under his name."

"Oh, what sweet simplicity!"

"Then who wrote it?"

"Why, Merle."

"Who is Merle?"

"Hush! he is that gentleman you see over there in a big coat and a
wide-brimmed hat. He has ten times more wit than M. de Jouy."

"But if he has ten times M. de Jouy's wit, how is it he has not a
quarter of his reputation?"

"Oh, because, you see, my boy, reputations, as you will find later, are
not made either by wit or talents, but by coteries.... Just ask for
the sugar; brandy makes me ill if I drink it neat. Waiter! some sugar."

"But if brandy upsets you, why drink it?"

"What else can one do?" said Lafarge; "if one passes one's life in
cafés, one must drink something."

"So you spend all your time in cafés?"

"Nearly all: I can work best so."

"In the midst of all the noise and talking?"

"I am used to that: Théaulon works thus, Francis works thus, Rochefort
works thus, we all work thus. Don't we, Théaulon?"

A man of thirty to thirty-five, who had been writing rapidly, on quarto
paper, something that looked like dialogue, at this interpellation
lifted up his pale face--red about the cheek bones--and looked at us
kindly.

"Yes," he said; "what is it? Ah! it is you, Lafarge? Good-evening." And
he resumed his work.

"Is that Théaulon?" I asked.

"Yes; there's a man of ready wit for you! only he squanders and abuses
his ready wit. Do you know what he is doing now?" "No."

"He is writing a comedy, in five acts, in verse."

"What! he can write poetry here, in a café?"

"In the first place, dear boy, this is not a café: it is a kind
of literary club; everybody you see here is either an author or a
journalist."

"Well," I said to Lafarge, "I have never seen a café where they
consumed so little and wrote so much."

"The deuce, you are framing already. You almost made a witticism just
then, do you know?"

"Well, then, in return for the witticism I have almost perpetrated,
tell me who some of these gentlemen are."

"My dear fellow, it would be useless: you need to be a Parisian to be
acquainted with reputations which are wholly Parisian."

"But I assure you, my dear Auguste, I am not so provincial in such
matters as you think I am."

"Have you heard of Rochefort?"

"Yes. Has he not composed some very pretty songs and two or three
successful vaudevilles?"

"Exactly so. Very well! he is that tall thin man, who is playing
dominoes."

"Both players are of equal thinness."

"Ah! quite true!... He is the one whose face always plays and never
wins." A way Rochefort had, gave rise to this joke on the part of his
friend Lafarge. I say gave rise to, and not _excused._

"And who is his partner?"

"That is Ferdinand Langlé."

"Ah! little Fleuriet's lover?"

"Little Fleuriet's lover!... Hang it, you talk like a Parisian.... Who
has primed you so well?"

"Hang it all! Adolphe ... he does not appear to hurry himself."

"You are in a hurry, then?"

"Of course I am, and naturally enough: I have never seen Talma."

"Ah, well, dear boy, hurry up and see him."

"Why do you say that?"

"Because he is _wearing out_ horribly."

"What do you mean by _wearing out_?"

"I mean he is getting old and growing rusty."

"I see! But the papers say he has never been fresher in talent or more
beautiful in facial expression."

"Do you believe what the papers say?"

"Oh!"

"You may be a journalist yourself one day, my boy."

"Well, if I am?"

"Why, then, when you are, you will see how things come about."

"And ...?"

"And you will not believe what the papers say--that is all!" At this
moment the door opened, and Adolphe poked his head in.

"Be quick," he said; "if we do not hurry, we shall find the curtain
raised."

"Oh! it is you at last!"

I darted towards Adolphe.

"You have forgotten to pay," said Lafarge.

"Oh! so I have.... Waiter, how much?"

"One small glass, four sous; six sous of sugar, ten."

I drew ten sous from my pocket and flung them on the table, and then,
the lighter by fifty centimes, I rushed out of the café.

"You were with Lafarge?" said Adolphe.

"Yes.... What is wrong with him?"

"What do you mean by what is wrong with him?"

"He told me that M. de Jouy was an idiot, and Talma a Cassandra."

"Poor Lafarge!" said Adolphe; "perhaps he had not dined."

"Not dined! Is he reduced so low as that?"

"Pretty nearly."

"Ah!" I said, "that explains many things!... MM. de Jouy and Talma dine
every day, and poor Lafarge cannot forgive them for it."

Alas! I have since seen critics, besides Lafarge, who could not forgive
those who dined.

I had dined so well that I had quite as much of the spirit of
indulgence in my stomach as curiosity in my mind.

We went into the theatre. The hall was crowded, although it was about
the eighth performance of the play. We had terrible difficulty in
obtaining seats: our places were unreserved. Adolphe generously gave
forty sous to the woman who showed people to their seats, and she
wriggled a way in so well for us that she found us a corner in the
centre of the orchestra, into which we slipped like a couple of wedges,
which we must have resembled in shape and appearance. We were only
just in time, as Adolphe had said. Scarcely were we seated before the
curtain went up.

It is odd, is it not, that I should be talking of _Sylla_ to the public
of 1851? "What was _Sylla_?" a whole generation will exclaim. O Hugo!
how true are your lines upon Canaris! They come back to me now, and, in
spite of my will, flow from my pen:--

    "Canaris! Canaris! nous t'avons oublie!
    Lorsque sur un héros le temps c'est replie,
    Quand ce sublime acteur a fait pleurer ou lire,
    Et qu'il a dit le mot que Dieu lui donne à dire;
    Quand, venus au hasard des revolutions,
    Les grands hommes out fait leurs grandes actions,
    Qu'ils ont jeté leur lustre étincelant ou sombre,
    Et qu'ils sont, pas à pas, redescendus dans l'ombre;
    Leur nom s'éteint aussi! Tout est vain, tout est vain!
    Et jusqu'à ce qu'un jour le poëte divin,
    Qui peut créer un monde avec une parole,
    Les prenne et leur rallume au front une auréole,
    Nul ne se souvient d'eux, et la foule aux cent voix,
    Qui, rien qu'en les voyant, hurlait d'aise autrefois,
    Hélas! si par hasard devant elle on les nomme,
    Interroge et s'étonne, et dit:'Quel est cet homme?'"

No! it is true M. de Jouy was not a hero, although he had fought
bravely in India, nor a great man, although he had composed _l'Ermite
de la Chaussée-d'Antin_ and _Sylla_; but M. de Jouy was a man of parts,
or rather he possessed talent.

This was my conviction then. Thirty years have rolled by since the
evening on which I first saw Talma appear on the stage. I have just
re-read _Sylla_ and it is my opinion to-day. No doubt M. de Jouy
had cleverly turned to account both the historical and the physical
likeness. The abdication of _Sylla_ called to mind the emperor's
abdication; Talma's head the cast of Napoleon's. No doubt this was the
reason why the work met with such an enthusiastic reception, and ran
for a hundred times. But there was something else besides the actor's
looks and the allusions in the tragedy; there were fine lines, good
situations, a _dénoûment_ daring in its simplicity. I am well aware
that very often the fine lines of one period are not the fine lines of
another,--at least so people hold,--but the four lines which the poet
puts into the mouth of Roscius are fine lines for all time: Roscius,
the Talma of those last days of Rome, who had witnessed the fall of
the Roman Republic, as Talma had witnessed the fall of the French
Republic:--

    "Ah! puisse la nature épargner aux Romains
    Ces sublimes esprits au-dessus des humains!
    Trop de maux, trop de pleurs attestent le passage
    De ces astres brûlants nés du sein de l'orage!"

Then, again, very fine are the lines that the proscriber, who arrests
with his powerful hand the proscription, which was going to include
Cæsar, addresses to Ophelia when Ophelia says to him:--

    "Oserais-je, à mon tour, demander à Sylla
    Quel pouvoir inconnu, quelle ombre protectrice,
    Peut dérober César à sa lente justice?

    _Sylla._ J'ai pesé comme vous ses vices, ses vertus,
    Et mon œil dans César voit plus d'un Marius!
    Je sais de quel espoir son jeune orgueil s'énivre;
    Mais Pompée est vivant, César aussi doit vivre.
    Parmi tous ces Romains à mon pouvoir soumis,
    Je n'ai plus de rivaux, j'ai besoin d'ennemis,
    D'ennemis fibres, fiers, dont la seule presence
    Atteste mon génie ainsi que ma puissance;
    L'histoire à Marius pourrait m'associer,
    César aura vécu pour me justifier!"

When I saw Talma come on to the stage I uttered a cry of astonishment.
Oh yes I it was indeed the impassive mask of the man I had seen pass in
his carriage, his head bent low on his breast, eight days before Ligny,
whom I saw return the day following Waterloo. Many have tried since,
with the aid of the green uniform, the grey overcoat and the little
hat, to reproduce that antique medallion, that bronze, half Greek,
half Roman; but not one of them, O Talma I possessed your lightning
glance, with the calm and imperturbable countenance upon which neither
the loss of a throne nor the death of thirty thousand men could imprint
one single line of regret or trace of remorse. Those who have never
seen Talma cannot imagine what he was: in him was the combination of
three supreme qualities which I have never found elsewhere combined
in one man--simplicity, power and poetry; it was impossible to be
more magnificent, with the perfect grace of an actor; I mean that
magnificence which has in it nothing personal attaching to the man,
but which changes according to the characters of the heroes he is
called upon to represent. It is impossible, I say, to find any actor
so endowed with this type of magnificence as was Talma. Melancholy in
_Orestes_, terrible in _Néro_, hideous in _Gloucester_, he could adapt
his voice, his looks, his gestures to each character. Mademoiselle
Mars was but the perfection of the graceful; Mademoiselle Rachel was
but the imperfection of the beautiful; Talma was the ideally great.
Actors lament that nothing of theirs survives themselves. O Talma!
I was a child when on that solemn evening I saw you for the first
time, as you came upon the stage and your gestures began, before that
row of senators, your clients; well, of that first scene, not one of
your actions is effaced from my memory, not one of your intonations
is lost.... O Talma! I can see you still, when these four lines are
uttered by Catiline:--

    "Sur d'obscurs criminels qu'pargne ta clémence,
    Je me tais; mais mon zèle eclaire ma prudence;
    Le nom de Clodius sur la liste est omis,
    C'est le plus dangereux de tous tes ennemis!"

I can see you still, Talma!--may your great spirit hear me and thrill
with pleasure at not being forgotten!--I can see you still as with
scornful smile upon your lips you slowly diminish the distance that
separates you from your accuser; I can see and hear you still as you
place your hand upon his shoulder, and, draped like one of the finest
statues in Herculaneum or Pompeii, you utter these words to him, in
the vibrating voice which could penetrate to the very depths of one's
being:--

    "Je n'examine pas si ta haine enhardie
    Poursuit dans Clodius l'époux de Valérie;
    Et si Catiline, par cet avis fatal,
    Pretend servir ma cause ou punir un rival."

O Talma! your incisive and sonorous intonation took root in the hearts
of all who heard you. It was indeed a fearfully ungrateful and barren
soil which at that unpoetical period of the Empire was left you to
cultivate, for, had you been disheartened by its sterility, there would
have been nothing great, or fine, or wide-spreading, during all those
thirty years in which you wore the Roman sandal or the Greek. Is it
that the spirit of genius, with all its absorbing power, is mortal like
that of the upas tree or the manchineel?

I should like to continue speaking of Sylla to the end of the play in
order to render tribute to the prodigious talent Talma possessed, and
to follow him in the twofold development of his creation of the rôle of
Sylla and the details of that rôle. But what would be the good? Who is
interested in these things nowadays? Who amuses himself by recalling
thirty years after its extinction the intonation of an actor as he
declaimed line or hemistich or word? What does it matter to M. Guizard,
to M. Léon Faucher, to the President of the Republic, in what manner
Talma replied to Lænas, when he was sent by the Roman populace to learn
from Sylla the number of the condemned, and asked him--

    "Combien en proscris-tu, Sylla?"

What matters it to those gentlemen to know how Talma uttered his

    "Je ne sais pas!"

At the most, they can only remember the cadence of voice with which
General Cavaignac pronounced those four words when he was asked how
many people he had transported untried out of France. And let us
remember that it is now but two years since the Dictator of 1848
uttered these four words, which richly deserve to hold a place in
the annals of history beside those of Sylla. But though Talma was by
turns simple, great, magnificent, it was in the abdication scene that
he rose to actual sublimity. It is true that the abdication of Sylla
recalled that at Fontainebleau, and, we repeat, we have no doubt that
the resemblance between the modern and the ancient Dictator produced
an immense impression upon the vulgar public. This opinion was held by
the Censorship of 1821, which cut out these lines because they were
supposed to refer in turn to Bonaparte, first consul, and Napoleon, the
emperor.

These to Bonaparte:--

      ... C'était trop pour moi des lauriers de la guerre;
    Je voulais une gloire et plus rare et plus chère.
    Rome, en proie aux fureurs des partis triomphants,
    Mourante sous les coups de ses propres enfants,
    Invoquait à la fois mon bras et mon génie:
    Je me fis dictateur, je sauvai la patrie!"

These to Napoleon:--

    "J'ai gouverné le monde à mes ordres soumis,
    Et j'impose silence à tous mes ennemis!
    Leur haine ne saurait atteindre ma mémoire,
    J'ai mis entre eux et moi l'abîme de ma gloire."

When one re-reads at the end of ten, twenty, or thirty years either
the lines which the Censorship forbade, or the plays it suppressed,
one is completely amazed at the stupidity of Governments. As soon
as a revolution has cut off the seven heads of a literary hydra,
governments make all speed to collect them again and to stick them
back on the trunk that feigned death whilst taking care not to lose
its hold on life. As though the Censorship had ever annihilated any
of the works that have been forbidden to be played! As though the
Censorship had strangled _Tartuffe, Mahomet, le Mariage de Figaro,
Charles IX., Pinto, Marion Delorme_ and _Antony_! No, when one of these
virile pieces is hounded from the theatre where it has made its mark,
it waits, calm and erect, until those who have proscribed it fall or
pass away, and, when they are fallen or dead, when its persecutors
are hurled from their thrones, or entering their tombs, the calm and
immortal daughter of Genius, omnipotent and great, enters the enclosure
that the mannikins have closed against her, from whence they have
disappeared, and their forgotten crowns being too small for her brow
become the sport of her feet.

The curtain fell in the midst of immense applause. I was stunned,
dazzled, fascinated. Adolphe proposed we should go to Talma's
dressing-room to thank him. I followed him through that inextricable
labyrinth of corridors which wind about the back regions of the
Théâtre-Français, and which to-day unfortunately are no longer unknown
regions to me. No client who ever knocked at the door of the original
Sylla felt his heart beat so fast and so furiously as did mine at the
door of the actor who had just personated him. De Leuven pushed open
the door. The great actor's dressing-room lay before us: it was full of
men whom I did not know, who were all famous or about to become famous.
There was Casimir Delavigne, who had just written the last scenes of
_l'École des Vieillards;_ there was Lucien Arnault, who had just had
his _Régulus_ performed; there was Soumet, still very proud of his
twofold success of _Saül_ and of _Clytemnestre_; there was Népomucène
Lemercier, that paralysed sulky brute, whose talents were as crooked as
his body, who in his healthy moments had composed _Agamemnon, Pinto,_
and _Fridegonde,_ and in his unhealthy hours _Christophe Colomb, la
Panhypocrisiade,_ and _Cahin-Caha;_ there was Delrieu, who had been at
work upon the revised version of his _Artaxerch,_ since 1809; there
was Viennet, whose tragedies made a sensation for fifteen or twenty
years on paper, to live and agonise and die within a week, like him
whose reign lasted two hours and whose torture three days; there was,
finally, the hero of the hour, M. de Jouy, with his tall figure, his
fine white head, his intellectual and kindly eyes, and in the centre
of them all--Talma in his simple white robe, just despoiled of its
purple, his head from which he had just removed the crown and his two
graceful white hands with which he had just broken the Dictator's palm.
I stayed at the door, blushing vividly, and very humble.

"Talma," said Adolphe, "we have come to thank you." Talma looked round
out of his eye-corners. He perceived me at the door.

"Ah! ah!" he said; "come in."

I took two steps towards him.

"Well, Mr. Poet," said he, "were you satisfied?"

"I am more than that, monsieur ... I am wonder-struck." "Very well, you
must come and see me again, and ask for more seats."

"Alas! Monsieur Talma, I leave Paris to-morrow or the day after at
latest."

"That is a pity! you might have seen me in _Régulus._ ... You know I
have put _Régulus_ on the bill for the day after to-morrow, Lucien?"

"Yes," Lucien replied.

"And cannot you stop till the evening of the day after to-morrow?"

"Impossible: I have to return to the provinces."

"What do you do in the provinces?"

"I dare not tell you: lama lawyer's clerk ..."

And I heaved a deep sigh.

"Bah!" said Talma, "you must not give way to despair on that account!
Corneille was clerk to a procurator!... Gentlemen, allow me to
introduce you to a future Corneille."

I blushed to the eyes.

"Lay your hand on my forehead: it will bring me good luck," I said to
Talma.

Talma laid his hand on my head.

"There--so be it," he said. "Alexandre Dumas, I baptize thee poet in
the name of Shakespeare, of Corneille and of Schiller!... Go back
to the provinces, go back to your office, and if you really have a
vocation, the angel of Poetry will know how to find you all right
wherever you be, will carry you off by the hair of your head like the
prophet Habakkuk and will take you where fate determines."

I took Talma's hand and tried to kiss it.

"Why, see!" he said, "the lad has enthusiasm and will make something of
himself;" and he shook me cordially by the hand.

I had nothing more to wait for there. A longer stay in that
dressing-room crowded with celebrities would have been both
embarrassing and ridiculous: I made a sign to Adolphe, and we took our
leave. I wanted to fling my arms round Adolphe's neck in the corridor.

"Yes, indeed," I said to him, "be sure I shall return to Paris. You may
depend upon that!"

We went down by the little twisting staircase, which has since been
condemned; we left by the black corridor; we went along the gallery
then called the galerie de Nemours, and called to-day I know not what,
and we came out on the place du Palais-Royal.

"There, you know your way," said Adolphe,--"the rue Croix-des-Petits
Champs, the rue Coquillière, the rue des Vieux-Augustins. Good-night; I
must leave you: it is late, and it is a long way from here to the rue
Pigale.... By the way, remember we lunch at ten and we dine at five."

And Adolphe turned round the corner of the rue Richelieu and
disappeared. It was indeed late; all lights were out, and only a few
belated people were passing across the place du Palais-Royal. Although
Adolphe had told it me, I did not in the least know my way, and I was
extremely scared when I found myself alone. It must be confessed I
felt very uneasy at being out in the streets of Paris at such a late
hour; for I had heard heaps of stories of night attacks, robberies and
assassinations, and, with my fifty sous in my pocket, I trembled at
the thought of being plundered. A struggle went on in my mind between
courage and fear. Fear won the day. I hailed a cab. The cab came up to
me and I opened the door.

"Monsieur knows it is past midnight?" said the driver.

"Of course I know it," I replied; and I added to myself, "That is the
very reason I am taking a cab."

"Where is the country squire going?"

"Rue des Vieux-Augustins, _Hôtel des Vieux-Augustins."_

"What?" said the driver.

I repeated it.

"Is monsieur quite sure he wants to go there?"

"The deuce I do!"

"In that case, off we go!"

And lashing his horses, at the same time clicking with his tongue as do
all drivers, he urged them into a canter.

Twenty seconds later, he pulled up, got down from his seat, and opened
the door.

"Well ...?" I asked.

"Well, my country lad, we are at your destination, rue des
Vieux-Augustins, _Hôtel des Vieux-Augustins"_

I raised my head, and there, beyond doubt, was the house. I then
understood the driver's astonishment at seeing a great bumpkin of
twenty, who seemed in no way unsound of limb, wanting to take a cab
from the place du Palais-Royal to go to the rue des Vieux-Augustins.
But as it would have been too absurd to avow that I did not know the
distance between the two places, I said in a stout voice--

"All right--what is the fare?"

"Oh, you know the fare well enough, young fellow."

"If I knew it, I should not ask you."

"It is fifty sous, then."

"Fifty sous?" I exclaimed, horrified at having incurred such useless
expense.

"Certainly, young chap, that is the tariff."

"Fifty sous to come from the Palais-Royal here!"

"I warned monsieur it was past midnight."

"There you are," I said; "take your fifty sous."

"Aren't you going to give me a _pourboire_, young fellow?"

I made a movement to strangle the wretch; but he was strong and
vigorous. I reflected that perhaps he would strangle me, so I stayed
my hand. I rang the bell, the door was opened, and I went inside. I
felt dreadfully stricken with remorse for having squandered my money,
especially when I considered that even had Paillet spent nothing on his
side, we only had twenty francs fifty centimes left. Paillet had been
to the Opera, and had spent eight francs ten sous. Only a dozen francs
were left us.

We looked at each other with some anxiety.

"Listen," he said: "you have seen Talma, I have heard _la Lampe
mervilleuse_; this was all you wanted to see, all I wanted to hear: if
you agree, let us leave to-morrow, instead of the next day."

"That is exactly what I was going to suggest to you."

"All right; do not let us lose any time. It is now one o'clock; let
us get to bed as quickly as possible and sleep until six; then let us
start at seven, and sleep, if we can manage it, at Manteuil."

"Good-night"

"Good-night...."

A quarter of an hour later, we were rivalling one another who could go
to sleep the soundest.

Next day, or rather the same day, at eight o'clock, we had passed
Villette; at three o'clock, we were dining at Dammartin, under the same
conditions as we had lunched there; at seven, we were having our supper
at Manteuil; and on Wednesday at one o'clock, loaded with two hares
and six partridges,--the result of the economy we had exercised by our
hunting of the previous night and day,--we entered Crespy, giving our
last twenty sous to a poor beggar. Paillet and I parted at the entry
to the large square. I went to Maître Lefèvre's by the little passage,
and up to my room to change my things. I called Pierre, through the
window, and asked him for news of M. Lefèvre. M. Lefèvre had returned
in the night. I gave my game to the cook, went into the office and
slipped into my place. My three office companions were all in their
places. Nobody asked me a question. They thought I had just returned
from one of my usual excursions, only one that had lasted rather longer
than usual. I enquired if M. Lefèvre had asked any questions about me.
M. Lefèvre had wanted to know where I was; they had replied that they
did not know, and the matter had ended there. I drew my papers from my
desk and set to work. A few minutes later, M. Lefèvre appeared. He went
to the head clerk, gave him some instructions, and then returned to
his room, without even having seemed to notice my presence, which led
me to think he had taken particular notice of my absence. Dinner-time
arrived. We sat down; all went on as usual; save that, after dinner,
when I was rising to go, M. Lefèvre said to me--

"Monsieur Dumas, I want a few words with you."

I knew the storm was about to burst, and I resolved to keep myself well
in hand.

"Certainly, monsieur," I replied.

The head clerk and the office boy, who shared the master's table with
me, discreetly withdrew. M. Lefèvre pointed to a chair opposite his
own, on the other side of the fireplace. I sat down. Then M. Lefèvre
lifted his head as a horse does under the martingale, a gesture which
was customary with him, crossed his right leg over his left leg, held
up one leg till the slipper fell, took his gold snuff-box, inhaled a
pinch of snuff, drew a dignified breath, and then, in a voice all the
more threatening because of its dulcet tones, he said, scratching his
right foot with his left hand, his most cherished habit--

"Monsieur Dumas, have you any knowledge of mechanics?"

"Not in theory, monsieur, only in practice."

"Well, then, you will know enough to understand my illustration."

"I am listening, monsieur."

"Monsieur Dumas, in order that a machine may work properly, none of its
wheels must stop."

"Of course not, monsieur."

"Very well, Monsieur Dumas; I need not say more. I am the engineer, you
are one of the wheels in the machine; for two days you have stopped,
and consequently for two days the general action of the machine has
lacked the co-operation of your individual movement."

I rose to my feet.

"Quite so, monsieur," I said.

"You will understand," added M. Lefèvre in a less dogmatic tone, "that
this warning is merely provisional?"

"You are very good, monsieur, but I take it as definitive."

"Oh, then, that is better still," said M. Lefèvre. "It is now seven in
the evening, night is coming on, and the weather is bad; but you may
leave when you like, my dear Dumas. From the moment you cease to be
third clerk here you can remain as a friend, and in that capacity the
longer you stay the better I shall be pleased."

I bowed a graceful acknowledgment to M. Lefèvre and withdrew to my
room. I had taken a great step, and an important career was now closed
to me; henceforth my future was in Paris, and I made up my mind to move
heaven and earth to leave the provinces. I spent half the night in
thinking, and before I fell asleep all my plans were made.



BOOK III



CHAPTER I


I return to my mother's--The excuse I give concerning my return--The
calf's lights--Pyramus and Cartouche--The intelligence of the fox more
developed than that of the dog--Death of Cartouche--Pyramus's various
gluttonous habits


I packed up my things next day and went. I was not without uneasiness
with regard to the way my mother might receive me--my poor mother!
her first expression at seeing me was always one of delight, but my
leaving Maître Lefèvre's would trouble her. So the nearer I drew to
Villers-Cotterets, the slower did my steps become. It generally took
me two hours to walk the three and a half leagues between Crespy and
Villers-Cotterets, for I used to run the last league; but now the
reverse was the case, for the last league took me the longest of all to
cover. I returned in shooting costume after my usual fashion. And my
dog was hardly three hundred yards away before he smelt home, stopped
an instant, lifted up his nose, and set off like an arrow. Five seconds
after he had disappeared down the road, I saw my mother appear on the
threshold. My courier had preceded me and announced my return. She met
me with her usual smile; the whole tenderness of her heart welled up at
my approach and shone in her face. I flung myself in her arms.

Oh! what a love is a mother's!--a love always good, always devoted,
always faithful; a true diamond lost amongst all the false stones with
which youth decks its happiness; a pure and limpid carbuncle, which
shines in joy as in sorrow, by night as by day! My mother's first
thoughts were nought but joyful ones at seeing me again; then, at last,
she asked me how it was I had returned home on Thursday instead of on
Saturday, to spend Sunday with her, going back on Monday as usual.

I dared not tell her of the misfortune that had befallen me. I told her
that, as business was slack at the office, I had obtained a holiday for
several days, which I meant to spend with her.

"But," my mother observed, "I see you are wearing your hunting-coat and
breeches."

"Yes, why not?"

"How is it you have nothing in your game-bag?"

It was not indeed customary for me to return with the game-bag empty.

"I was so anxious to see you, dear mother, that instead of shooting, I
came the shortest way, by the high road."

I lied. Had I spoken the truth, I should have said, "Alas! dear mother,
I was so much taken up with thinking what effect my news would have
upon you that I never thought of shooting, though at other times I have
forgotten everything for that passion." But had I told her that, I
should have had to tell her the news, and I wanted to delay it as long
as possible.

An incident freed me from embarrassment and diverted my mother's
thoughts for the moment. I heard my dog howl.

I ran to the door. The next house to ours was that of a butcher,
called Mauprivez. In the front of the butcher's slab there was a long
cross-bar of painted wood, in which at different intervals iron hooks
were fixed to hold various specimens of meat. In jumping up at a calfs
lights, Pyramus had got hooked like a carp on a fish-hook, and hung
suspended. That was why he howled, and, as will readily be imagined,
not without cause. I seized hold of him by the body, unhooked him,
and he rushed into the stable, his jaws bleeding. If I ever write the
history of the dogs that have belonged to me, Pyramus shall have a
prominent place by the side of Milord. I may therefore be allowed to
leave in suspense the interest my return naturally created, to talk
a bit about Pyramus, who, in spite of his name, which indicated that
all sorts of love misfortunes were before him, had never had, to my
knowledge, any misadventures except gastronomic ones. Pyramus was a
large chestnut-coloured dog, of very good French pedigree, who had been
given me when quite a puppy, with a fox-cub of the same age, which
the keeper who gave him me (it was poor Choron of la Maison-Neuve)
had had suckled by the same mother. I often amused myself by watching
the different instincts of these two animals develop, as they were
placed opposite one another in the yard in two parallel recesses. For
the first three or four months an almost brotherly intimacy reigned
between Cartouche and Pyramus. I need not mention that Cartouche
was the fox and Pyramus the dog. Nor need I mention that the name
of Cartouche was given to the fox in allusion to his instincts of
stealing and depredation. It was Cartouche who began to declare war
on Pyramus, although he was the weaker looking; this declaration of
war took place over some bones which were within Cartouche's boundary,
but which Pyramus had surreptitiously tried to annex. The first time
Pyramus attempted this piracy, Cartouche snarled; the second time, he
showed his teeth; the third time, he bit. Cartouche was the more to
be excused because he was always on the chain, while Pyramus had his
hours of liberty. Cartouche, restrained to a very circumscribed walk,
could not therefore, at full length of his chain, do unto Pyramus the
evil deeds which Pyramus, abusing his liberty, was guilty of on his
side. On account of this captivity, I was able to notice the superior
intelligence of the fox over that of the dog. Both were gourmands in
the highest degree, with this difference, that Pyramus was more of a
glutton and Cartouche more of an epicure. When they both stretched to
the full length of their chains, they could reach a distance of nearly
four feet, from the opening of their recesses. Add ten inches for the
length of Pyramus's head, four inches for Cartouche's pointed nose, and
you will arrive at this result, that whilst Pyramus, at the length of
his chain, could reach a bone at four feet ten inches from his recess,
Cartouche could only perpetrate the same deed four feet four inches
from his. Very well, if I placed a bone six feet off,--that is to
say, out of the reach of both,--Pyramus had to content himself with
stretching his chain with the whole strength of his sturdy shoulders,
but not being able to break it, he would stand with fixed bloodshot
eyes, his jaws slobbering and open, attempting from time to time,
with plaintive whines, to exorcise the distance, or, by desperate
efforts, to break his chain. If the bone were not either taken away
or given him, he would have gone mad; but he had never succeeded, by
any ingenious contrivance, to snatch the prey beyond his reach. It was
another matter with Cartouche. His preliminary tactics were the same as
those of Pyramus, and consequently equally fruitless. But soon he began
to reflect, rubbing a paw on his nose; then, all at once, as though a
sudden illumination had come into his mind, he turned himself round,
adding the length of his body to the length of his chain, dragged the
bone into the circle of his kingdom, by the help of one of his hind
paws, turned round again, seized hold of the bone, and entered into
his kennel, from which it was not rejected until it was as clean and
polished as ivory. Pyramus saw Cartouche perform this trick ten times;
he would howl with jealousy as he listened to his comrade's teeth
grinding on the bone which he was gnawing; but, I repeat, he never had
the intelligence to do the same thing himself, and to use his hind
paw as a hook to draw the tit-bit within his reach. Cartouche was of
superior intelligence to Pyramus in a thousand other instances such
as this, although his tractability was always inferior. But it is
common knowledge that with animals as with human beings, the capacity
for being trained is not always, nay is scarcely ever, combined with
intelligence.

The reader may ask why the injustice was perpetrated of keeping
Cartouche always fastened, while Pyramus was allowed his liberty at
times. This is why: Pyramus was only a glutton by need, while Cartouche
was destructive by instinct. One day he broke his chain, and went from
our yard into the farmyard belonging to our neighbour Mauprivez. In
less than ten minutes he had strangled seventeen fowls and two cocks.
Nineteen cases of homicide: it was impossible to plead extenuating
circumstances: he was condemned to death and executed. So Pyramus
reigned sole master of the place, which, to his shame be it said, he
appreciated greatly. His appetite seemed to increase when he was left
alone. This appetite was a defect at home; but, out shooting, it was
a vice. Nearly always, the first game I killed under his nose, were
it small game, such as partridge, young pheasant or quail, would be
lost to me. His big jaws would open, and, with a rapid gulp, the piece
of game disappeared down his throat. Very rarely did I arrive in time
to perceive, by opening his jaws, the last feathers of the bird's
tail disappearing in the depths of his gullet. Then a lash with my
horse-whip, vigorously applied on the loins of the guilty sinner, would
cure him for the remainder of the chase, and it was seldom he repeated
the same fault; but, between one shoot and another, he generally
had time to forget the previous punishment, and more expenditure of
whipcord was needed. On two other occasions, however, the gluttony of
Pyramus turned out badly for him.

One day de Leuven and I were shooting over the marshes of Pondron. It
was a place where two harvests were gathered during the year. The first
harvest was that of a small thicket of alderwood. The owner of the
land, after having cut his branches, stripped the twigs off, sawed it
and tied it in bundles. Then he became busy over his second harvest,
which was that of hay. They were just reaping this crop. But, as it was
luncheon-time, the reapers had rested their scythes, here and there,
and were feeding by a small river wherein they could moisten their
hard bread. One of them had placed his scythe against one of the heaps
of cut wood, about two feet and a half high, placed in cubic metres
or half-mètres. I put up a snipe; I fired and killed it, and it fell
behind this pile of wood against which the scythe was propped. It was
the first thing I had killed that day, consequently it happened to be
the perquisite Pyramus was in the habit of appropriating. So, putting
two and two together, he had scarcely seen the snipe, stopped in its
flight, fall vertically behind the wood pile, before he darted over
the stack so as to fall on the spot as soon as it did, without loss of
time. As I knew beforehand that it was a head of game lost, I did not
hurry myself to see the tail feathers of my snipe in the depths of
Pyramus's throat, but, to my great surprise, I saw no more of Pyramus
than if he had tumbled down an invisible chasm, hewn out behind the
pile of wood. When I had re-loaded my gun, I decided to fathom this
mystery. Pyramus had fallen on the far side of the heap of wood, his
neck on the point of the scythe; this point had penetrated to the right
of the pharynx, behind the neck, and stuck out four inches in front.
Poor Pyramus could not stir, and was bleeding' to death: the snipe,
intact, was within six inches of his nose. Adolphe and I raised him
up, so as to cause him the least possible hurt; we carried him to the
river, and we bathed him in deep water; then I made him a compress with
my handkerchief, folded in sixteen, which we bound round his neck with
Adolphe's silk one. Then, seeing a peasant from Haramont passing, with
a donkey carrying two baskets, we put Pyramus in one of the paniers
and we had him carried to Haramont, whence next day I took him away in
a small conveyance. Pyramus was a week between life and death. For a
month he carried his head on one side, like Prince Tuffiakin. Finally,
at the end of six weeks, he had regained his elasticity of movement,
and appeared to have completely forgotten the terrible catastrophe. But
whenever he saw a scythe, he made an immense detour to avoid coming
in contact with it. Another day, he returned home, his body as full
of holes as a sieve. He had been wandering about the forest alone,
watching his opportunity, and he had leapt at the throat of a hare; the
hare screamed out: a keeper, who was about a couple of hundred steps
away, ran up; but before the keeper could clear the two hundred paces,
the hare was half devoured. Now Pyramus, on seeing the approach of
the keeper and on hearing his execrations, understood that something
alarming would occur between himself and the man in blue clothes. He
took to his heels and set off full tear. But, as Friday, of Robinson
Crusoe memory remarked, "Small shot ran after me faster than you did!"
the keeper's small shot travelled faster than Pyramus, and Pyramus
returned home riddled in eight places.

I have already related what happened to him ten minutes after my
return. A week later, he came in with a calf's lights in his mouth. A
knife was quivering in his side. Behind him came one of the Mauprivez'
sons.

"Ah!" he said, "isn't it enough that your beastly Pyramus carries away
the contents of our shop, joint by joint, but he must needs carry away
my knife too?"

Seeing Pyramus carry off the calfs lights, Mauprivez' boy had hurled
at him the knife butchers generally wear at their girdles; but, as
the knife went three or four inches into Pyramus's hide, Pyramus had
carried off both meat and knife. Mauprivez recovered his implement; but
the calfs lights were already devoured. Just when Pyramus's various
misdeeds had incurred not merely our individual reprobation, but public
reprobation still more, an advantageous occasion offered to get rid
of him. But as that occasion was invested in my eyes with all the
semblance of a miracle, I must be permitted to relate that miracle in
its proper time and place, and not to anticipate it here.

Let us, for the moment, occupy ourselves over the unexpected return of
the prodigal son to the maternal roof--a return from which Pyramus and
Cartouche have incidentally diverted our attention.



CHAPTER II


Hope in Laffitte--A false hope--New projects--M. Lecornier--How and
on what conditions I clothe myself anew--Bamps, tailor, 12 rue du
Helder--Bamps at Villers-Cotterets--I visit our estate along with
him--Pyramus follows a butcher lad--An Englishman who loved gluttonous
dogs--I sell Pyramus--My first hundred francs--The use to which they
are put--Bamps departs for Paris--Open credit


Although I had told my mother that my return was only a provisional
one, to use M. Lefèvre's expression, she had very little doubt at heart
that it was really final. Her doubt turned to certainty when she saw
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday pass by without my speaking of returning to
Crespy; but, poor mother! she never said a word to me concerning this
catastrophe: it had cost her so much to part with me, that, since God
had sent me back to her, she opened her maternal heart, arms and door
to me. I had some hope left me: Adolphe had promised to make overtures
to M. Laffitte, the banker, on my behalf; if M. Laffitte made me an
opening in his office, where they worked from ten to four, there would
be the whole of the evening and early morning to oneself for other
work. Besides, it was time I should earn something. The most important
thing was to get to Paris, to light our poor candles at that universal,
vast and dazzling fireside, which was a light to the whole world.
A fortnight after my return from Crespy, I received a letter from
Adolphe. His request had come to nothing, for M. Laffitte's offices
were over full of clerks as it was: they were talking of clearing
some out. So I decided to put in action at the first opportunity a
plan I had settled upon during the last sleepless night I had spent
at M. Lefèvre's. This project was perfectly simple and, by its very
simplicity, seemed likely to succeed.

I would select, from my father's desk, a dozen letters from Marshal
Jourdan, Marshal Victor, Marshal Sébastiani, from all the marshals
still living, in fact, with whom my father had had dealings. I would
collect a small sum of money and I would start for Paris. I would
approach these old friends of my father; they would do what they
could, and it would be a strange thing if four or five marshals of
France, one of whom was Minister for War, could not by their combined
influence find a situation at 1200 francs for the son of their old
comrade-in-arms. But although this plan looked as simple and artless,
at the first glance, as a pastoral by Florian, it was very difficult to
put in execution. Small though the sum was, it was not an easy thing
to raise it; moreover, an expenditure I had foolishly made at Crespy
complicated matters.

I had become connected at Crespy with a young man who had lived in
Paris: his name was Lecornier. He was brother of that gracious person
to whom I gave a name in one of my preceding chapters--you will
recollect it, although it was only mentioned once--the charming name
of Athénaïs, or, in other words, Athena, Minerva, Pallas, although the
bearer of it was quite unaware of this fact. Well, ashamed of moving
in the aristocratic world of Crespy in my old-fashioned clothes of
Villers-Cotterets, I had asked Lecornier, as my build was exactly his,
to write to his tailor to make me a coat, a waistcoat and a pair of
trousers. Lecornier wrote: I sent my twenty francs as a remittance on
account, and, fifteen days later, the tailor forwarded me the goods,
enclosing a bill for a hundred and fifty-five francs, from which he had
deducted the twenty francs I had sent him on account. It was arranged
that the rest of the bill should be liquidated at the rate of twenty
francs a month. The tailor's name was Bamps, and he lived in the rue du
Helder, No. 12. It will be seen, from his charges, that although Bamps
lived in a fashionable quarter, he was neither a Chevreuil nor a Staub;
no, he was a journeyman who charged fancy prices, who had drifted from
the Latin quarter, where he should always have remained. But for the
very reason that his business was small, Bamps had all the more need of
the profits it produced.

Although I exercised the greatest economy possible, I had not been able
to put aside the promised twenty francs when the next month's payment
became due. Not having them, of course I could not send them. This
first infraction of our treaty made Bamps very uneasy. Nevertheless,
Bamps knew that Lecornier belonged to a family well to do, although
not wealthy; Lecornier kept his engagements with him with scrupulous
punctuality; so he decided to wait, before giving signs of his anxiety.
The second month came. With it came the same impossibility on my
part, and, consequently, redoubled uneasiness on the part of Bamps.
Meanwhile, I had left Crespy--under the circumstances related--and I
had returned to Villers-Cotterets. Five or six days after my departure,
Bamps, becoming more and more uncomfortable, had written to Lecornier.
Lecornier had replied, giving him my fresh address. It therefore came
about that one day--about the beginning of the third month after
receiving the clothes--as I was lounging on our threshold, the town
clock struck one, the diligence from Paris drew up in the square, and
a traveller got down from it who asked the conductor two or three
questions, took his bearings and came straight to me. I guessed half
the truth. Bamps was walking with his knees out like Duguesclin, and
nobody but a soldier or a tailor could walk thus. I was not mistaken:
the stranger came straight to me and introduced himself; it was Bamps.
It was necessary to play something like the scene between Don Juan
and M. Dimanche; this was all the more difficult as I had never read
_Don Juan._ However, instinct made up for ignorance. I gave Bamps
a most cordial reception; I introduced him to my mother, to whom,
fortunately, I had said a few words about this my first debt; I offered
him refreshment, and I asked him to sit down, or, if he preferred so to
do, to visit our estate. Under the circumstances, Bamps' choice was a
foregone conclusion: he preferred to visit _our estate._

Now, what was this property of which the reader has already heard me
speak, but which he will assuredly have forgotten? Our estate was the
house of M. Harlay on which my mother had been paying a life-annuity
for something like forty years; M. Harlay had died during my stay with
Maître Lefèvre; but, just as though he had made a wager, he died on
the anniversary of his birth, triumphantly terminating his ninetieth
year!... Unfortunately, his death had not been much advantage to us.
My mother had borrowed, on house and garden, almost as much as house
and garden were worth; so that we were neither richer nor poorer by
this inheritance; though, as there were certain duties to pay, I may
venture to state we were poorer rather than richer. But Bamps knew
none of these details. I therefore offered, as I have said, to take
him over our estate. He accepted. I unchained Pryamus, and we set off.
After going fifty yards, Pyramus left us to follow a butcher boy who
went by with a piece of mutton on his shoulder. I give this detail,
although, at first glance, it may appear very trivial; for it was not
without influence upon my future. For what would have happened to me
and to Bamps if this butcher boy, whose name was Valtat, had not passed
by, and if Pyramus had not followed him? We went on our way, without
thinking of Pyramus. Man jostles up against great events, every moment
of his life, without seeing them and without being conscious of them.

We soon arrived. M. Harlay's house, now our own, was situated in the
place de la Fontaine, perhaps a couple of hundred steps from the house
we lived in. I had taken the keys: I opened the doors, and we began
by looking over the interior of the house. It was not so clean as to
inspire great confidence: everything had grown old along with the
worthy man who had just died in it, and who had taken great care not
to undertake a single repair in it; "for," said he, "it will last as
long as I shall." It had lasted as long as he had, true; but, all the
same, it was time he died. If he had lingered on merely another year
or two with the same intention in his head, he would have out-lasted
the house. The inside of our poor property, then, afforded the most
melancholy sight of complete neglect and dilapidation. The floors were
broken through, the wall-papers torn off, the bricks broken. Bamps
shook his head, and said, in his half Alsacian and half French dialect,
"Ach! My vord! my vord! it is in a fery pad stade."

Most surely would I have offered Bamps the house, in exchange for his
bill, if he would have taken it. When the house had been surveyed, I
said to Bamps--

"Now let us go and see the garden."

"Is de garten in zo pad a stade as de house?" he asked. "Well ... it
has been rather neglected, but now it belongs to us...."

"It vill take much money to restore dis old tumbledown place," Bamps
discreetly observed.

"Bah! we shall find it," I replied: "if it is not in our own pockets,
it will be in someone else's."

"Goot! if you can vind it, zo much de better."

We crossed the yard and entered the garden. It was at the beginning of
April; we had had two or three lovely days--days one knows so well,
on which the year, like a faithful servant, seems to fold up Winter's
white garment, and unfold the green robe of Spring.

Now, although the garden was as neglected as the house, it was
pursuing its work of life, in opposition to the work of death going
on in the house. The house grew older year by year; year by year the
garden renewed its youth. It looked as though the trees had powdered
themselves for a forest ball: apples and pears in white, and peaches
and almonds in pink. You could not imagine anything younger, fresher
or more full of life, than was this garden of death. Everything was
waking up with Nature, as she herself woke up: the birds had begun to
sing, and three or four butterflies, deceived by the flowers and by the
first rays of sunshine, were flying about still somewhat benumbed; poor
ephemera, born in the morning, but to die by night!

"Well," I asked Bamps, "what do you say to the garden?" "Oh! dat is
fery bretty: it is a bity it is not in de rue de Rifoli."

"There will be more than a hundred crowns' worth of fruit in this
garden, you take my word for it."

"Yess, if no pad frosts come."

O Bamps! you Jew, my friend, you tailor, my creditor, you have probably
not read those fine lines of Hugo, which, by the way, were not then
written:--

    "Il faut que l'eau s'épuise à courir les valines;
    Il faut que l'éclair brille, et brille peu d'instants;
    Il faut qu'avril jaloux brûle de ses gelées
    Le beau pommier trop fier de ses fleurs etoilées,
    Neige odorante du printemps."

We walked round the garden; then, when I fancied satisfaction carried
the day against dissatisfaction, I took Bamps back home. Dinner
was waiting for us. I believe the dinner caused Bamps to go from
satisfaction back to dissatisfaction.

"Ah, veil," he said to me, when he had taken his cup of coffee and his
cognac, "we must now have a liddle talk about business."

"Why not, my dear Bamps? Willingly."

My mother heaved a sigh.

"Veil, then," continued Bamps, "the bill is for a huntred and
vifty-vive francs."

"Towards which I have given you twenty."

"Towards vhich you haf gifen me tventy: so dere is a palance of a
huntred and thirdy-vive. Towards dese huntred and thirdy-vive, you said
you would gif me tventy per month. Two months haf gone py: so dat makes
forty you owe me."

"Exactly forty, my dear sir--you reckon like Barême."

"Veil, I can reckon all right."

The situation was growing embarrassing. Had we opened my poor mother's
banking account and scratched together every farthing, we should
certainly not have been able to find the forty francs demanded. Just at
that moment the door opened.

"Is M. Dumas in?" asked a hoarse, raucous voice.

"Yes, M. Dumas is here," I replied in a bad temper. "What do you want
with him?"

"I don't want him."

"Who does, then?"

"An Englishman at M. Cartier's."

"An Englishman?" I repeated.

"Yes, an Englishman, who is very anxious to see you."

That was my own state of mind too! The Englishman could not be more
anxious to see me than I was to get away from Bamps.

"My dear Bamps," I said to him, "wait for me; I will come back. We will
settle up our account on my return."

"Be qvick back; I must depard dis efening."

"Set your mind at rest about that: I shall be back in an instant."

I took up my cap and followed the stable lad, who had told my mother,
to her great surprise, that he had orders not to go back without me.

Cartier, at whose house was the Englishman who demanded to see me,
was an old friend of our family, the proprietor of the _Boule d'or,_
a hotel situated at the extreme east of the town, on the road to
Soissons. The diligences stopped at his house. There was therefore
nothing surprising that the Englishman who was asking for me should be
staying there: what did astonish me was that this Englishman should
want me. When I appeared in the kitchen, old Cartier, who was warming
himself, according to his usual habit, in the chimney corner, came up
to me.

"Look sharp," he said: "I believe I am going to pull off a good thing
for you."

"Come now, that would be very welcome," I replied; "I was never in
greater need of a lucky windfall."

"Well, follow me."

And Cartier, walking in front of me, led me to a little parlour where
travellers dined. Just as we opened the door, we heard a voice saying,
with a strong English accent--

"Take care, mine host: the dog does not know me, and will run out."

"Never fear, milord," replied Cartier: "I am bringing his master."

Every innkeeper considers an Englishman has the right to the title of
milord; so they use the title unsparingly: true, it usually pays them
to do so.

"Ah! come in, sir," said the Englishman, trying to rise, by leaning
both his elbows on the arms of his chair. He could not succeed. Seeing
this, I hastened to say to him--

"Pray do not disturb yourself, monsieur."

"Oh, I will not disturb myself," said the Englishman, falling back in
his arm-chair with a sigh. The time he took in getting up and falling
back in his chair, with the rising and falling movement suggestive
of an omelette soufflée which has fallen flat, was occupied by me in
quickly glancing at him and his surroundings. He was a man of between
forty and forty-five years of age, of sandy complexion, with his hair
clipped short and his whiskers cut _en collier_; he wore a blue coat
with metal buttons, a chamois leather waistcoat, breeches of grey
woollen material with gaiters to match, after the fashion of grooms. He
was seated before the table where he had just dined. The table bore the
debris of a meal sufficient for six people. He must have weighed from
three hundred to three hundred and fifty pounds. Pyramus was seated on
the parquetry floor, looking very melancholy; round Pyramus were placed
ten or twelve shiny plates, licked clean with that thoroughness I knew
he was capable of in the matter of dirty plates. On the last plate,
however, were some scraps still unconsumed. These unconsumed scraps
were the cause of Pyramus's depressed spirits.

"Please come and speak to me, monsieur," said the Englishman.

I drew near him. Pyramus recognised me, yawned to notify the fact,
stretched himself full length on his stomach so as to get as near to me
as possible, his paws stretched out on the floor, his nose laid on his
paws.

"Yes, monsieur," I said to the Englishman.

"Now!" said he. Then, after a pause, he added--

"That dog of yours has taken my fancy."

"He is greatly honoured, monsieur."

"And they have told me you might perhaps agree to sell him to me, if I
were to pay you a good price for him."

"I shall not need very much persuasion, monsieur; I have been trying to
get rid of him, and since he pleases you ..."

"Oh yes, he pleases me."

"Well, then, take him."

"Oh, I do not want to take the dog without paying for him." Cartier
nudged my elbow.

"Monsieur," I said, "I am not a dealer in dogs: he was given to me, I
will give him to you."

"Well, but he has cost you his keep."

"Oh, the keep of a dog does not come to much."

"Never mind; if is but fair I should pay for his food.... How long have
you had him?"

"Nearly two years."

"Then I owe you for his food for two years."

Cartier continued to nudge my elbow. And it occurred to me that the
dog's keep would help admirably to pay for the master's clothes.

"Very well," said I, "we will settle it so: you shall pay me for his
keep."

"Reckon it up."

"What do you think of fifty francs per year?"

"Oh! oh!"

"Is it too much?" I asked.

"On the contrary, I do not think it is enough: the dog eats a lot."

"Yes, true, monsieur; I was intending to warn you of that." "Oh, I have
witnessed it; but I like animals and people who eat a lot: it shows
they have a good digestion, and a good digestion tends to good humour."

"Very well, then, you shall fix your own charge."

"You said, I think, that it was to be ten napoleons?"

"No, monsieur; I said five napoleons."

Cartier nudged my elbow harder and harder.

"Ah! five napoleons?... You will not take ten?"

"No, monsieur, and only that because I happen at this moment to be in
great need of five napoleons."

"Won't you take fifteen napoleons? I am sure the dog is worth fifteen
napoleons."

"No, no, no, no; give me five napoleons, and he is yours."

"What do you call him?"

"Pyramus."

"Pyramus!" exclaimed the Englishman.

Pyramus did not budge.

"Oh," continued the Englishman, "what did you say you called him?"

"I said Pyramus."

"He did not stir when I called him."

"That is because he is not yet accustomed to your pronunciation."

"Oh, he will soon get used to it."

"There is no doubt of it."

"You think so?"

"I am sure of it."

"Good! I thank you, monsieur: here are the five napoleons."

I hesitated to take them; but in the English accent with which he
pronounced the last words there was an intonation which so cruelly
reminded me of the German accent of Bamps that I decided.

"I am much obliged to you, monsieur," I said.

"On the contrary, it is I who ought to thank you," the Englishman
replied, trying to raise himself afresh--an attempt which was as
abortive as the first.

I made him a sign with my hand, as I bowed; he sank back into his
arm-chair, and I went out.

"Well, now, how did it come about that Pyramus fell into the hands of
such a master?" I asked old Cartier.

"That scamp of a dog was born with a lucky spoon in his mouth!"

"It was the simplest thing in the world. Valtat brought me a piece of
lamb; Pyramus scented the fresh meat; he followed Valtat. Valtat came
here; Pyramus came here. The Englishman got out of the carriage; he
saw your dog. He had been recommended to take shooting exercise: he
asked me if the dog was a good one; I told him it was. He asked me who
owned the dog; I told him it belonged to you. He asked me if you would
consent to sell it; I told him I would send and fetch you, and then
he could ask you himself. I sent for you ... you came ... there's the
whole story.... Pyramus is sold and you are not ill pleased?"

"Why, certainly not! The rascal is such a thief that I should have been
obliged to give him away or to break his neck.... He was ruining us!"

Cartier shrugged his shoulders, as much as to say, "That would not be a
difficult task!" Then, passing to another train of ideas, he said--

"So you have returned home?"

"That is so."

"You were sick of Crespy?"

"I am sick of every place."

"What do you want to do now?"

"Why, I want to go to Paris."

"And when do you start?"

"May be sooner than you think."

"Do not go without giving me an opportunity to pay you out."

"Never fear!"

Before I went to Crespy, I had thoroughly beaten Cartier at billiards.

"Besides," I went on, "if I go, as I shall not leave in any carriage
but one of yours, you can stop me on the step."

"Done!... But this time it must be a struggle to death." "To death!"

"Your five napoleons must be staked."

"You know I never play for money, and as for my five napoleons, they
already have their vocation."

"Well, well, well, adieu."

"_Au revoir._"

And I left Cartier, with this engagement booked. We shall see where it
led me.

When I re-entered the house, I found Bamps, who was beginning to grow
impatient. The first coach for Paris passed through Villers-Cotterets
at eight o'clock in the evening: it was now seven.

"Ah! goot!" he said, "there you are!... I did not regon I should zee
you again."

"What!" I said, imitating his jargon, "you did not regon you should zee
me again?"

Wondrous power of money! I was mocking Bamps, who, an hour before, had
made me tremble with fear. Bamps knit his eyebrows.

"We zay, den?" he said.

"We say that I owe you twenty francs per month--that two months have
gone by without payment--and that, consequently, I owe you forty
francs."

"You owe me vorty vrancs."

"All right, my dear Bamps--here you are!"

And I threw two napoleons on the table, taking care to let the three
others in the palm of my hand be visible. My poor mother looked at me
with the most profound amazement. I reassured her with a sign. The
sign allayed her fears, but not her surprise. Bamps examined the two
napoleons, rubbed them to make sure they were not false, and rolled
them, one after the other, into his pocket.

"You do not vant any more dings?" he asked.

"No, thank you, my dear Monsieur. Besides, I am expecting to leave here
for Paris in a short time."

"You will bear in mind that I have the first claim on your custom?"

"All right, my dear Bamps, for good and all! But if you mean to start
at eight o'clock ...?"

"If I mean to stard--! I should just tink so!"

"Well, then, there is no time to lose."

"The Tevil!"

"You know where the coach stops?"

"Yess."

"Very well, _bon voyage_."

"Atieu! Monsir Toumas! Atieu, Matame Toumas!... Atieu! atieu!"

And Bamps, delighted, not only at having secured forty francs, but
still further at being somewhat reassured about the rest of his
account, set off, wafting us his parting benedictions, with all the
speed his little legs could make.

My mother just waited till she had closed both doors, then she said--

"But where did you get that money, you young rogue?"

"I sold Pyramus, mother."

"For how much?"

"A hundred francs."

"So that there are sixty francs left?"

"At your service, dear mother."

"I am afraid I must take them. I have two hundred francs to pay
to-morrow to the warehouseman, and I only have a hundred and fifty
towards it."

"Here they are ... but on one condition."

"What is it?"

"That you let me have them back again as soon as I set off for Paris."

"With whom are you going?"

"That must be my business."

"Well, so be it.... I really begin to feel as though God were with you."

At this, we both went to bed, with that settled faith that has never
deserted me. And I doubt even whether my mother's faith, at any rate at
that moment, was as strong as mine.



CHAPTER III


My mother is obliged to sell her land and her house--The residue--The
Piranèses--An architect at twelve hundred francs salary--I discount my
first bill--Gondon--How I was nearly killed at his house--The fifty
francs--Cartier--The game of billiards--How six hundred small glasses
of absinthe equalled twelve journeys to Paris


The time had now come when my poor mother was obliged to take a
definite step. She had borrowed so much and so often upon our thirty
or forty acres let to M. Gilbert of Soucy, and upon the house which M.
Harlay had at last left for us, that the value of both acres and house
was nearly absorbed by mortgages. So it was decided to sell everything.
The land was sold by auction, and fetched thirty-three thousand
francs. The house was sold, by private contract, for twelve thousand
francs to the M. Picot who had given me my first lessons in fencing.
We realised forty-five thousand francs. When our debts were settled
and all expenses paid, my mother had two hundred and fifty-three
francs left. Lest some optimistic readers should think that this was
our annual income, I hasten to say that it was capital. Need anyone
ask if my poor mother was distressed at such a result? We had never
really been so close to destitution. My mother fell into the depths
of discouragement. Since my father's death we had been unceasingly
drawing nearer and nearer to the end of all our resources. It had
been a long struggle--from 1806 to 1823! It had lasted for seventeen
years; but we were beaten at last. Nevertheless, I never felt gayer
or more confident. I do not know why I deserve it, whether for deeds
done in this world, or in other worlds where I may have had previous
existences, but God seems to have me under His special care, and
however grave my situation He comes openly to my succour. So, my God!
I proudly and yet very humbly confess Thy name before believers and
before infidels, and not even from the merit of faith do I say this,
but simply because it is the truth. For, hadst Thou appeared to me when
I invoked Thee, O my God! and hadst Thou asked me, "Child, say boldly
what it is you want," I should never have dared to ask for half the
favours Thou hast granted me out of Thy infinite bounty.

Well, my mother told me that, when all our debts were paid, we only had
two hundred and fifty-three francs left.

"Very well," I said to my mother; "you must give me the fifty-three
francs: I will set out for Paris, and, this time, I promise to return
only with good news."

"Are you aware, my dear boy," said my mother, "that you are asking me
for a fifth of our capital?"

"You remember that you owe me sixty francs?"

"Yes, but recollect that when I said,'For what purpose shall I return
you the sixty francs?' you replied, 'That is my business.'"

"Very well, so indeed it is my business.... Will you give me the
Piranèses which are upstairs in the big portfolio?"

"What do you call the Piranèses?"

"Those large black engravings that my father brought back from Italy."

"What will you do with them?"

"I will find a home for them."

My mother shrugged her shoulders dubiously.

"Do as you like about them," she said.

There was an architect, named Oudet, amongst the staff at the
workhouse, who very much wanted our Piranèses. I had always refused him
them, telling him that one day I would bring him them myself. The day
had come. But it was an unlucky day: Oudet had no money. This was quite
conceivable. Oudet, as architect to the Castle, received only a hundred
francs per month. True, I was not very exorbitant in the matter of my
Piranèses, which were well worth five or six hundred francs; I only
asked fifty francs. Oudet offered to pay me these fifty francs in three
months' time.

In three months!... How could I wait for three months?

I left Oudet in despair. I ought to say, in justice to Oudet,
that he was probably in even lower straits than I was. In leaving
Oudet, I ran up against another of my friends, whose name was
Gondon. He was a shooting comrade. He had a property three leagues
from Villers-Cotterets,--at Cœuvre, the country of the beautiful
Gabrielle,--and we had very often spent whole weeks together there,
shooting by day and poaching by night. It was at his place that I
nearly lost my life one evening, in the most ridiculous fashion
imaginable. It was the evening before the opening of the shooting
season. Five or six of us shooters had come from Villers-Cotterets,
and we were putting up at Gondon's, in order to be up early for a
start at daybreak. Now, as we had neither rooms nor beds enough for
everybody, the sitting-room had been transformed into a dormitory,
in the four corners of which four beds were set up--that is to say,
four mattresses were laid down. When the candles were extinguished, my
three companions took it into their heads to start a bolster fight. As,
for some reason or another, I did not feel inclined for the sport, I
announced my intention of remaining neutral. The result of this compact
was that after a quarter of an hour's fight between Austrians, Russians
and Prussians, the Austrians, Russians and Prussians became allies
and united to fall upon me, who represented France. So they hurled
themselves on my bed, and began to belabour me with the afore-mentioned
bolsters, as threshers beat out corn with their flails in a barn. I
drew up my sheet over my head, and waited patiently till the storm
should have passed over, which could not be long first, at the rate
they were beating. And as I anticipated, the storm calmed down. One
thrasher retired, then another. But the third, who was my cousin, Félix
Deviolaine, upheld no doubt by the tie of kinship, continued striking
in spite of the retreat of the others. Suddenly he stopped, and I heard
him get silently into his bed. One might have thought some accident
had overtaken him, which he was anxious to conceal from his comrades.
In fact, the opposite end of the bolster to that which he had held in
his hands, had burst by the violence of the blows, and all the feathers
had escaped. This down made a mountain, just where the sheet which
protected my head joined the bolster. I was totally unaware of the
fact. As I did not feel any more blows, and having heard my last enemy
retire to his bed, I gently put out my head and, as for the past ten
minutes I had become more or less stifled, according as I tightened or
loosened the sheet, I drew a full breath. I swallowed a big armful of
feathers. Suffocation was instantaneous, almost complete. I uttered
an inarticulate cry, and feeling myself literally being strangled, I
began to roll about the room. My companions at first thought I had
now taken it into my head to pirouette like a ballet dancer, just as
they had fancied a fight; but they realised at last that the strangled
sounds I gave forth expressed acute agony. Gondon was the first to
realise that something very serious had happened to me, from some
unknown cause, and that I was _in extremis_. Félix, who alone could
have explained my gyrations and my wheezings, lay still, and pretended
to be asleep. Gondon rushed into the kitchen, returned with a candle,
and threw light on the scene. I must have been a very funny spectacle,
and I confess, there was a general burst of laughter. But though I
had been pretty gluttonous, I had not swallowed all the feathers and
all the down: some stuck to my curly head, giving me a false air of
resemblance to Polichinelle. This false air soon began to look like
reality from the flush of redness that strangulation had sent into
my face. They thought water was the best thing to give me. One of my
companions, named Labarre, ran in his shirt to the pump and filled a
pot with water, which he laughingly brought me. Such hilarity, when my
torture had reached its height, drove me wild. I seized the pot by the
handle, and chucked the contents down Labarre's back. The water was icy
cold. Its temperature was little in harmony with the natural warmth of
his blood, and it produced such gambols and such contortions on the
part of the anointed, that, in spite of my various woes, the desire
to laugh was now on my side. I made a different effort from any I had
tried hitherto, and I expectorated some of the feathers and down which
had blocked my throat. From that moment I was safe. Nevertheless, I
continued to spit feathers for a week, and I coughed for a month.

I beg my reader's pardon for this digression; but, as I had neglected
to put down this important episode in my life in its chronological
order, it will not be deemed extraordinary if I seize the first
opportunity that presents itself to repair this omission.

Well, I met Gondon coming out of Oudet's house. He had a hundred francs
in his hand.

"Oh, my dear fellow," I said, "if you are so wealthy, you can surely
lend Oudet fifty francs."

"What to do?"

"To buy my Piranèses from me."

"Your Piranèses?"

"Yes, I want to go to Paris. Oudet offered to buy my Piranèses for
fifty francs, and now...."

"And now he does not wish to have them?"

"On the contrary, he is dying to possess them; but he hasn't a son, and
cannot pay me for three months."

"And you want fifty francs?"

"Indeed I do."

"You would like to have them?"

"Rather."

"Wait: perhaps we can arrange matters."

"Oh, do try, my good fellow."

"There is a very simple way: I cannot give you the fifty francs,
because I have promised my tailor a hundred francs to-day; but Oudet
can make a cheque out to me for fifty francs at three months, I will
endorse the cheque, and I will give it to the tailor as ready money."

We went to Oudet's. Oudet made out the cheque, and I carried off the
money, thanking Gondon, and above all God, who out of His infinite
loving kindness had provided me the means to advance a step farther on
my way. I accompanied Gondon as far as his tailor's. At the tailor's
door I ran up against old Cartier.

"Well, my boy," he said, "isn't there a bit left of your dog's money to
pay for a small glass of wine for your old friend?"

"Certainly, if he wins it of me at billiards;" and I jingled my fifty
francs.

I turned to Gondon.

"Come and see what happens," I said to him.

"You go on; I will rejoin you.... At Camberlin's, is it not?"

"At Camberlin's."

Camberlin was the traditional coffee-house; since the discovery of
coffee and the invention of billiards, the Camberlins had sold coffee
and kept a billiard-table, from father to son.

It was to Camberlin's my grandfather used to go every evening to take
a hand at dominoes or piquet, until his little bitch Charmante came
scratching at the door, with two lanterns held in her jaws. It was
at Camberlin's my father and M. Deviolaine came to challenge each
other's skill at play, as, on another green carpet, they challenged
each other's skill at the chase. It was at Camberlin's, finally, that,
thanks to my antecedents, I had been able, almost gratis, when I lost,
to begin my education as an elder Philibert under three different
masters, who had ended by seeing me a better player than they were.
These three masters were--Cartier, against whom I was going to wipe
out an old score; Camusat, Hiraux's nephew, who reclothed his uncle at
la Râpée, when they turned him out of Villers-Cotterets in drawers and
shirt; and a delightful youth, called Gaillard, who was a first-class
player in all sorts of games, and who had, to my great satisfaction,
replaced M. Miaud, my old rival, at the work-house. So I had become
a much better player than Cartier; but, as he would never admit it,
he invariably declined the six points I as invariably offered him
before we began the match. Just as we were trying our cues on the
billiard-table, Gondon entered.

"What will you take, Gondon?" Cartier asked. "Dumas is paying."

"I will take absinthe; I want to enjoy my dinner well to-day."

"Well, so will I," said Cartier. "And you?"

"I? You know I have made a vow never to take either liqueur or coffee."

To what saint and on what occasion I made this vow I cannot at all say;
but I know I kept it religiously.

"Then we will say two small absinthes?" replied Cartier, continuing to
joke. "That will be six sous, waiter, in exchange for your receipt."
In the provinces, at any rate at Villers-Cotterets, a small glass of
absinthe costs three sous.

"My dear Gondon," I said, "I cannot offer you a better prayer than my
uncle's, the curé at Béthisy: 'My God, side neither with one nor with
the other, and you will see a rascal receive a jolly good whacking!'
Will you have your six points, father Cartier?"

"Go along with you!" Cartier exclaimed disdainfully, putting my ball on
the yellow.

We played Russian fashion, a game with five balls, and thirty-six
points. I made the yellow six times--three times into the right pocket
and three times into the left.

"Six times six; thirty-six; first round. Your two small glasses are not
worth more than their three sous, father Cartier." "Four sous, you mean
to say."

"Not unless I let you win the second round."

"Come on, then!"

"Will you have the six points?"

"I will give them to you, if you like."

"Done! Mark my six points, Gondon; I have my designs on father Cartier.
I mean him to contribute to my visit to Paris: the diligences start
from his hotel."

At the second round, Cartier got up to twelve.

At thirty points, I had a run and made sixteen more; that made
forty-six points, instead of thirty-six. Deducting the six points
restored to Cartier, there still remained four I could offer him in
return. He refused them with his usual dignity. But Cartier was beside
himself when he had lost the first game, and the wilder he was the more
obstinate he became: once set going, he would have played away his
land, his hotel, his saucepans, to the very chickens that were turning
on his spit.

Worthy old Cartier! He is alive yet; although he is eighty-six or
eighty-seven, he is still remarkably hale, and lives with his two
children. I never go to Villers-Cotterets without calling on him. Last
time I saw him, about a year ago, I paid him a compliment on his health.

"My goodness, my dear Cartier," I said to him, "you are like our oak
trees, which, if they do not grow very tall, go deep into the soil and
gain in roots what they miss in the way of leaves. You will live to the
Last Judgment."

"Oh, my boy," he said, "I have been very ill,--did you not know it?"

"No--when?"

"Three and a half years ago."

"What was the matter with you?"

"I had toothache."

"That was your own fault. What business have you with' teeth at your
age?"

Well, on that day, poor old Cartier! (I am referring to the day of our
game),--on that day, to use a gaming term, I took a fine tooth out of
his head. We played for five hours on end, always doubling; I won _six
hundred small glasses of absinthe_ from him. We should have played
longer, and you may judge what an ocean of absinthe Cartier would have
owed me, if Auguste had not come to look for him.

Auguste was one of Cartier's sons: his father stood in great awe of
him; he put his finger to his lips to ask me to keep mum. I was as
generous as was Alexander in the matter of the family of Porus.

I let Cartier go, without demanding my winnings from him. And Gondon
and I reckoned up the account. Reduced to money, the six hundred small
glasses of absinthe would have produced a total of eighteen hundred
sous--that is to say, ninety francs. I could have paid the journey to
Paris a dozen times over. My mother had good cause to say, "My boy, God
is on your side."

My mother was very uneasy when I returned home; she knew what folly
I was capable of, when I had got an idea into my head, and it was
therefore with some anxiety that she asked me where I had been.
Generally, when I had been to Camberlin's, I took a roundabout way
in telling her of it. My poor mother, foreseeing what passions would
one day surge in me, was afraid that gaming might be one of them.
In several of her surmises she was correct; but at any rate she was
completely mistaken in this one. So I told her what had just happened.
How the Piranèses had brought us in fifty francs, and how M. Cartier
was going to pay my fare to Paris. But these blessings from heaven
brought sadness with them, for they meant our separation. I did my best
to comfort her by telling her that the separation would be only for a
little while, and that as soon as I had obtained a berth at fifteen
hundred francs, she should leave Villers-Cotterets also and come and
join me; but my mother knew that a berth at fifteen hundred francs was
an Eldorado, difficult to discover.



CHAPTER IV


How I obtain a recommendation to General Foy--M. Danré of Vouty
advises my mother to let me go to Paris--My good-byes--Laffitte and
Perregaux--The three things which Maître Mennesson asks me not to
forget--The Abbé Grégoire's advice and the discussion with him--I leave
Villers-Cotterets


One morning, I said to my mother--

"Have you anything to say to M. Danré? I am going to Vouty."

"What do you want of M. Danré?"

"To ask him for a letter to General Foy."

My mother raised her eyes to heaven; she questioned whence came all
these ideas to me, that converged all to one end.

M. Danré was my father's old friend, who, having had his left hand
mutilated when out shooting, had been brought into our house. There,
the reader will remember, Doctor Lécosse had skilfully amputated his
thumb, and as my mother had nursed him with the greatest care through
the whole of the illness the accident brought on, he had a warm feeling
in his heart towards my mother, my sister and myself. It always,
therefore, gave him great pleasure to see me, whether I arrived with a
message from Me. Mennesson, his lawyer, when I was with Me. Mennesson,
or whether on my own account. This time it was on my own affairs. I
told him the object of my visit.

When General Foy was put on the lists for election, the electors would
not appoint him; but M. Danré had supported his candidature, and,
thanks to M. Danré's influence in the department, General Foy had
been elected. We know what a foremost place the illustrious patriot
took in the Chamber. General Foy was not an eloquent orator; he was
far better than that: he possessed a warm heart, ready to act at the
inspiration of every noble passion. Not a single great question came
under his notice during all the time he was in the Chamber, that was
not supported by him if it was a worthy object, or that was not opposed
by him if it was unworthy; his words fell from the tribune, terrible as
the return thrusts in a duel--piercing thrusts, nearly always deadly to
his adversaries. But, like all men of feeling, he wore himself out in
the struggle, the most constant and most maddening struggle of all: it
killed him while rendering his name immortal.

In 1823, General Foy was at the height of his popularity, and from the
pinnacle to which he had attained, he reminded M. Danré from time to
time of his existence, which proved to the humble farmer, who, like
Philoctètes, had made sovereigns, but had no desire to be one, that he
was still his affectionate and grateful friend. Therefore M. Danré did
not feel in any way averse to give me the letter I asked of him, and
it was couched in the most favourable terms. Then, when M. Danré had
written, signed and sealed the letter, he asked me about my pecuniary
resources. I told him everything, even to the ingenious methods by the
aid of which I had obtained what I had.

"Upon my word," he exclaimed, "I had half a mind to offer you my purse;
but, really, it would smirch your record. People do not do that sort of
thing to end in failure: you should succeed with that fifty francs of
yours, and I do not wish to take away the credit of owing it entirely
to yourself. Take courage, then, and go in peace! If you are absolutely
in need of my services, write to me from Paris."

"So you feel hopeful?" I said to M. Danré.

"Very."

"Are you coming to Villers-Cotterets on Thursday?"

Thursday was market day.

"Yes; why do you ask?"

"Because if you are, I would beg you to call and tell my mother you are
hopeful: she has great confidence in you, and as everybody seems bent
on telling her I shall never do anything...."

"The fact is you have not done very much up to now!"

"Because they were determined to push me into a vocation I was not
fitted for, dear Monsieur Danré; but you will see, directly they leave
me alone to do what I am cut out for, I shall become a hard worker."

"Mind you do! I will reassure your mother, relying on your word."

"You may, and I will fulfil it."

The day but one after my visit, M. Danré came to Villers-Cotterets,
as he had promised, and saw my mother. I was watching for his coming;
I let him start the conversation and then I came in. My mother was
crying, but seemed to have made up her mind. When she saw me, she held
out her hand.

"You are bent on leaving me, then?" she said.

"I must, mother. But do not be uneasy; if we separate, this time it
will not be for long."

"Yes, because you will fail, and return to Villers-Cotterets once more."

"No, no, mother; on the contrary, because I shall succeed, and bring
you to Paris."

"And when do you mean to go?"

"Listen, mother dear: when a great resolution is taken, the sooner it
is put into execution the better.... Ask M. Danré."

"Yes, ask Lazarille. I do not know what you did to M. Danré, but the
fact is...."

"M. Danré is fair-minded, mother; he knows that everything must move
in its own appointed surroundings if it is to become of any worth. I
should make a bad lawyer, a bad solicitor, a bad sheriffs officer; I
should make a shocking bad teacher I You know quite well that it took
three schoolmasters to get me through the multiplication table and it
was not a brilliant success. Very well! I believe I can do something
better."

"What, you scamp?"

"Mother, I swear I know nothing about what I shall do, but you
remember what the fortune-teller whom you questioned on my behalf
predicted?"

My mother sighed.

"What did she predict?" asked M. Danré.

"She said," I replied, "'I cannot tell you what your son will become,
madame; I can only see him, through clouds and flashes of lightning,
like a traveller who is crossing high mountains, reaching a height
to which few men attain. I do not say he will command people, but I
foresee he will speak to them; although I cannot indicate the precise
lines of his destiny, your son belongs to that class of men whom we
style RULERS.' 'My son is to become a king, then?' my mother laughingly
retorted. 'No, no, but something similar, something perhaps more
desirable: every king has not a crown on his head and a sceptre in his
hand.' 'So much the better,' said my mother; 'I never envied the lot of
Madame Bonaparte.' I was five years old, Monsieur Danré, I was present
when my horoscope was made; well--I will prove the gipsy to be in the
right. You know that prophecies are not always fulfilled because they
must be fulfilled, but because they put a fixed idea into the minds of
those about whom they are made which influences events, which modifies
circumstances, which finally brings them to the end aimed at; because
this end was revealed to them in advance, whilst, had it not been for
the revelation, they would have passed by the end without noticing it."

"I should like to know where he got all these notions from!" my mother
exclaimed.

"Oh, why, from his own thoughts," said M. Danré.

"Then is it your judgment, too, that he ought to go?"

"I advise it."

"But you know the poor lad's resources!"

"Fifty francs and his carriage fare paid."

"Well?"

"That will be enough, if he is to succeed, or if his destiny urges him
on as he says. If he had a million, he would not obtain what he wishes
to obtain so long as he had no vocation for it."

"Well, well, he had better go, if he is so set on it."

"When shall I go, mother?"

"When you like. Only, you must let us have a day together first."

"Listen, mother mine. I will stay all to-day, to-morrow and Saturday
with you. On Saturday night I will leave by the ten o'clock coach: I
shall reach Paris by five.... I shall have time to get to Adolphe's
house before he goes out."

"Ah!" said my mother, as she heaved a sigh, "he is the one who has led
you astray!"

I did not much heed the sigh, because I felt sure the engagement made
would be fulfilled. I began to make my round of farewells.

I had not seen Adèle since her marriage. I would not write to her: the
letter might be opened by her husband, and compromise her. I applied
to Louise Brézette, our friend in common. Alas! I found the poor child
in tears. Chollet, whose education in forestry was finished, had
been obliged to return to his parents, and he had carried off with
him all the young girl's first dreams of love: she was forlorn and
inconsolable; she mourned the whole of her life for her lover, and bore
the marks of her love-sickness. I quoted the example of Ariadne to her,
advising her to follow it, and I believe ... I believe she followed it,
and that I contributed, in some measure, towards inducing her to follow
it....

Poor beloved children! true and affectionate friends of my youth! my
life is now so much taken up, the hours that belong to me are so few,
I am common property to such an extent, that when, by chance, I go
home, or you come here, I cannot give you all the time that the claims
of love and of memory demand. But when I shall have won a few of those
hours of repose in search of which Théaulon spent his life, and which
he never found, oh! I promise you those hours shall be given to you
unquestionably, unshared by others. You have ample claims to demand the
leisure of my old age, and you will make my latter days to flourish as
in my springtime. For there are closed tombs there which draw me as
much, more even, than open houses; dead friends who talk to me more
clearly than do the living.

When I left Louise, I went to Maître Mennesson; I had always kept on
pretty good terms with him. But, since our separation, he had married.
I think his marriage made him more sceptical than ever.

"Ah!" he said, when he caught sight of me, "so there you are!"

"Yes; I have come to bid you good-bye."

"You have decided to go, then?"

"On Saturday night."

"And how much do you take with you?"

"Fifty francs."

"My dear lad, there are people who started on less than that--M.
Laffitte, for example."

"Yes, exactly so. I mean to pay him a call, and to ask him for a post
in his office."

"Well, then, if you find a pin on his carpet, do not fail to pick it up
and to put it on his mantelpiece."

"Why?"

"Because when M. Laffitte arrived in Paris, much poorer even than
you, he went to see M. Perregaux, just as you are going to call on M.
Laffitte; he went to ask for a place in his office, as you are going
to ask for one in his. M. Perregaux had no vacancy; he dismissed M.
Laffitte, who was going away, his eyes looking down sadly on the floor
as father Aubry's were inclined towards the grave, when he perceived a
pin, not on the earth but on the carpet. M. Laffitte was a tidy man:
he picked up the pin and put it on the mantelpiece, saying, 'Pardon
me, monsieur.' But M. Perregaux, be it known, was a person who noticed
every little thing: he reflected that a young man who would pick up a
pin from the ground must be an orderly person, and, as M. Laffitte was
going away, he said to him, 'I have been thinking, monsieur, stay.'
'But you told me you had no opening in your office.' 'If there is not
one, we will make one for you.' M. Perregaux did as a matter of fact
make room for him--as his partner."

"That is a very delightful story, dear Monsieur Mennesson, and I thank
you for your great kindness in relating it to me; but I am afraid it is
no good to me; for, unluckily, I am no picker up of pins."

"Ah! that is precisely your great fault."

"Or my strongest point ... we shall see. Therefore, if you have any
good advice to give me...?"

"Beware of priests, hate the Bourbons, and remember that the only state
worthy of a great nation is a Republic."

"My dear Monsieur Mennesson, reversing the order of your advice, I
would say: Yes, I am of your opinion as to the government which is most
suited to a great nation, and on the supposition that if I am anything
I am a Republican like yourself. As for the Bourbons, I neither love
them nor hate them. I have heard it said that their race produced a
holy king, a good one and a great one: Saint Louis, Henri IV. and
Louis XIV. Only, the last reigning sovereign returned to France riding
behind a Cossack; that, I believe, damaged the Bourbon cause in the
eyes of France; so it comes about that if some day my voice is needed
to hasten their going away, and my gun to assist their departure, those
who are driving them out will find one voice and one gun the more. As
to distrusting priests, I have only known but one, the Abbé Grégoire,
and as he seemed to me the model of all Christian virtues, until I
encounter a bad one, let me believe that all are good."

"Well, well, you will change all that."

"It is possible. Meanwhile, give me your hand: I am going to ask for
his blessing."

"Go, then, and much good may it do you!"

"I believe it will."

I went to the abbé.

"Well, well," he said, "so you are going to leave us?"

It will be seen that the rumour of my departure had already spread all
over the place.

"Yes, M. l'abbé, and I have come to ask you to remember me in your
prayers."

"Oh! my prayers? I thought that was the thing you cared least about."

"M. l'abbé, do you remember the day I made my first communion?"

"Yes, I know, it produced a profound impression on you, but you let it
stay at that, and you have never been seen at church since."

"Do you suppose the sacrament would have the same effect on me at the
tenth time as on the first?"

"Ah! my God, no, certainly not. Unhappily, one gets accustomed to
everything in this world."

"Very well, M. l'abbé, my other impressions would have effaced that.
One must not get too used to sacred things, M. l'abbé; frequent use of
them not only takes away their grandeur, but still more their efficacy.
Who told you once that I should only need the consolation of the Church
in great trouble, as one only requires bleeding in serious illness?"
"You have a curious way of putting things...."

"Well, M. l'abbé, you said it yourself, more than once: we must
treat men less according to their maladies than according to their
temperaments. I am impressionability personified. I have an impulsive
character, you yourself told me so. I shall commit all kinds of
mistakes, all kinds of follies--never a wicked or disgraceful action.
Not, indeed, because I am better than anyone else; but because bad and
dishonourable actions are the result of reflection and of calculation,
and when I act, it is on the spur of the moment; and this impulse is so
quick, that the action springing from it is done before I have had time
to consider the consequences or to calculate the results."--

"There is some truth in what you say: but come, what is the use of
giving any advice to a character of your calibre?"

"Well, I did not come to ask for your advice, dear abbé; I came to beg
your prayers."

"Prayers?.... You do not believe in them."

"Ah! pardon, that is another matter.... No, true, I have not always had
faith in them; but do not be troubled: on the day when I shall have
need to believe in them, I shall believe in them. Listen: when I took
my communion, had I not read in Voltaire that it was a curious sort
of God that needed to be digested? and, in Pigault-Lebrun, that the
Host was nothing more than a wafer double the thickness of an ordinary
wafer? Well, did that prevent me feeling a trembling that shook my
whole body, when the Host touched my lips? Did it prevent the tears
springing into my eyes, tears of humility, tears of thankfulness,
above all, tears of love towards God? Do you not believe that God
prefers a generous heart which abandons itself utterly to Him when it
is too full, to a niggardly heart which only yields itself drop by
drop? Should not prayer come from the depths of the soul, rather than
consist of the words of one's lips? Do you believe God will be angry
if I forget Him during ordinary daily life, as one forgets the beating
of one's heart, so long as I return to Him at every time of trouble or
of joy? No M. l'abbé, no; on the contrary, I believe God loves me, and
that is why I forget Him, just as one forgets a good father whom one is
always sure of."

"Well," replied the abbé, "it matters little to me if you forget God;
but I do not want you to doubt His existence."

"Oh! be at rest on that point: it is not the hunter who ever doubts the
existence of God--no man does who has spent whole nights in the moonlit
woods, who has studied Nature, from the elephant down to the mite, who
has watched the setting and the rising of the sun, who has heard the
songs of the birds, their evening laments and their morning hymns of
praise!"

"Then all will be well.... Now, you know, there is a text in the
Gospels which is short and easy to remember; make it the foundation
of your actions and you need not fear failure; this text, which ought
to be engraved in letters of gold over the entry to every town, over
the entry to every house, over the entry to every heart, is:'_Do not
do unto others that ye would not have them do to you._' And when
philosophers, cavillers, libertines, say to you, 'Confucius has a maxim
better than that, as follows: Do unto others what you would have them
do to you,' reply, 'No, it is not better!--for it is false in its
application; one cannot always do what one would like others to do to
oneself, whilst one can always abstain from doing what one would not
like them to do to oneself.' Come, kiss me and let us leave matters
here.... We could not say anything better than that."

And, with these words, we embraced warmly, and I left him.

The next day but one, after having made my last visit to the
cemetery,--a pious pilgrimage which my mother made almost every day,
and in which, this time, I accompanied her,--we wended our way towards
the _Hôtel de la Boule d'or_ where the passing coach was to pick me
up and take me away to Paris. At half-past nine we heard the sound of
the wheels; my mother and I had still another half-hour together. We
retired into a room where we were alone, and we wept together; but our
tears were from different causes. My mother wept in doubt, I wept in
hope. We could neither of us see the hand of God; but very certainly
God was present and His grace was with us.



CHAPTER V


I find Adolphe again--The pastoral drama--First steps--The Duc de
Bellune--General Sébastiani--His secretaries and his snuff-boxes--The
fourth floor, small door to the left--The general who painted battles


I got down at No. 9 rue du Bouloy, at five in the morning. This time,
I did not make the same mistake that I did when I left the Théâtre
Français. I took my bearings, and, by certain landmarks, I thought I
recognised the vicinity of the rue des Vieux-Augustins. I questioned
the conductor, who confirmed my convictions, and handed me my small
luggage. I disputed over it victoriously with several porters, and I
reached the _Hôtel des Vieux-Augustins_ towards half-past five. There
I felt at home. The waiter recognised me as the traveller with the
hares and the partridges, and, in the absence of the landlord, who was
still asleep, he took me to the room I had occupied on my last visit.
My first desire was for sleep. Owing to the emotions of parting, and
owing to wakeful dreams I had had in the diligence, I arrived tired
out. I told the boy to wake me at nine, if I had not given any signs
of life before. I knew Adolphe's habits by now, and I knew I need not
hurry over going to his house. But when the landlord himself came into
my room at nine o'clock, he found me up: sleep would have none of
me. It was Sunday morning. Under the Bourbons Paris was very dreary
on Sundays. Strict orders forbade the opening of shops, and it was
considered not only a breach of religious order, but still worse, a
crime of _lèse majesty_ to disobey these ordinances. I risked being
arrested in Paris at nine in the morning nearly as much as I had risked
it by being in the streets after midnight. I did not feel uneasy.
Thanks to my sportsman's instincts, I found the rue du Mont-Blanc;
then the rue Pigale; then, finally, No. 14 in the rue Pigale.

M. de Leuven was, as usual, walking in his garden. It was early in May:
he was amusing himself by giving a bit of sugar to a rose. He turned
round and said--

"Ah! it is you. Why have you been so long without coming to see us?"

"Why, because I returned to Villers-Cotterets."

"And you have now come back?"

"As you see. I have come to try my fortune for the last time.... This
time, I must stop in Paris, whatever happens."

"Well, as to that, you will always be welcome here, my dear boy. We
have a kind of Platonic republic here, save in the matter of the
community of women and the presence of poets: one mouth more or less
makes no difference to our republic. There is even an empty attic to
spare upstairs; you can dispute possession of it with the rats; but I
believe you are capable of defending yourself. Go and arrange it all
with Adolphe."

M. de Leuven wrote on foreign politics at that time, for the _Courrier
français._ Brought up on the knees of the kings and queens of the
North, speaking all the Northern languages, knowing everything it is
permitted man to know, the politics of foreign courts were almost
his mother tongue. He rose at five o'clock every morning, received
the papers by six, and by seven or eight his work for the _Courrier
français_ was finished.

Generally, by the time his father finished his day's work, Adolphe had
not begun his. He was still in bed--which I forgave him after he had
assured me that he had worked at a little drama in two acts, called the
_Pauvre Fille_, until two in the morning.

The reader will recollect Soumet's charming elegy:--

    "J'ai fui le pénible sommeil,
    Qu'aucun songe heureux n'accompagne;
    J'ai devancé sur la montagne
    Les premiers rayons du soleil.
    S'éveillant avec la nature,
    Le jeune oiseau chantait sur l'aubépine en fleurs;
    Sa mère lui portait la douce nourriture;
    Mes yeux se sont mouillés de pleurs.
    Oh! pourquoi n'ai-je plus de mère?
    Pourquoi ne suis-je pas semblable au jeune oiseau
    Dont le nid se balance aux branches de l'ormeau,
    Moi, malheureux enfant trouve sur une pierre,
    Devant l'église du hameau?"

Short lines were much in vogue at that period. M. Guiraud had just
made with his _Petits Savoyards_ a reputation almost equal to that M.
Dennery has since made with his _Grâce de Dieu_, the only difference
being that M. Guiraud's Savoyard only asked for a son, while M.
Dennery's Savoyard asked for five. True, M. Dennery is a Jew. The first
of Hugo's _Odes_ had made their appearance; Lamartine's _Méditations_
were out; but these were too strong and too substantial meat for the
stomachs of 1823, which had been nourished on the refuse of Parny, of
Bertin and of Millevoye.

Adolphe was writing his _Pauvre Fille_ in collaboration with Ferdinand
Langlé, and it was to be ready for a reading in a week's time.

"Ah me! when shall I have reached that stage?" I thought to myself.
While I waited, I questioned Adolphe as to the composition of the
Ministry. You ask why I wanted to know about the composition of the
Ministry, and what I had to do with ministers? Why, I wanted to
know what the Duc de Bellune was. As ministers are but mortals, and
quickly forgotten when they are dead, it gives me pleasure to draw
this minister from his grave, and to acquaint the reader with the
constitution of the Ministry of 1823 at the date of my arrival in Paris.

Keeper of the Seals, Comte de Peyronnet. Foreign Minister, Vicomte de
Montmorency. Minister for the Interior, Comte de Cubières. Minister
for War, _le Maréchal Duc de Bellune_. Minister for the Navy, Marquis
de Clermont-Tonnerre. Minister for Finance, Comte de Villèle. King's
Chamberlain, M. de Lauriston.

The Duc de Bellune was still War Minister. That was all I wanted to
know.

I have mentioned that I was interested in the Duc de Bellune, no
matter what office he held. I had a letter of his in my possession,
wherein he had thanked my father for a service he had rendered in
Italy; he placed himself at my father's disposition, in case he should
ever be able to do anything for him. The occasion offered on behalf
of the son instead of the father. But as, at that period, the law of
inheritance had not yet been abolished, as there was not even talk of
abolishing it, I did not doubt that as I had succeeded in the direct
line to Napoleon's hatred, I should succeed in direct line also to the
gratitude of the Duc de Bellune. I begged a pen and ink from de Leuven;
I trimmed the quill with the care the case demanded, and, in my very
best handwriting, I drew up a petition asking for an interview with
the Minister of War. I particularised all my claims to his favour; I
emphasised them in the name of my father, which the marshal could not
have forgotten; I recalled the old friendship which had united them,
while leaving unmentioned the service my father had rendered him, of
which the marshal's letter (he was then a major or a colonel) gave
proof. Then, easy about my future, I returned to literature.

Adolphe sensibly pointed out to me that, sure though I felt of the
protection of Marshal Victor, it might still be as well to throw out my
line in other directions, in the unlikely, but still possible, case of
my being deceived.

I told Adolphe that, if Marshal Victor failed me, there still remained
Marshal Jourdan and Marshal Sébastiani.

It was quite out of the question that these would not move heaven
and earth for me. I had three or four letters from Jourdan to my
father, which gave token of a friendship equal to that of Damon and
Pythias. I had only one letter from Marshal Sébastiani; but this letter
proved that when at loggerheads with Bonaparte during the Egyptian
campaign, it was through the intercession of my father, who was then
on excellent terms with the general-in-chief, that he had obtained a
commission in the expedition. Surely such services as these would
never be forgotten! At that time, as can be seen, I was very simple,
very provincial, very confiding. I am wrong in saying "at that time";
alas! I am just the same now, perhaps more so. Nevertheless, Adolphe's
suspicions disturbed me. I decided not to wait for the Duc de Bellune's
answer before seeing my other patrons, and I told Adolphe I meant to
buy the _Almanach des 25,000 adresses_ in order to find out where they
lived.

"Do not put yourself to that expense," said Adolphe. "I believe my
father has it: I will lend it you."

The tone in which Adolphe said "Do not put yourself to that expense"
annoyed me. It was as clear as day that he believed I should be making
a useless expenditure in buying the Directory in question. I was angry
with Adolphe for having such a low opinion of men.

To give him the lie, I went next morning to Marshal Jourdan. I
announced myself as Alexandre Dumas. My success was surprising. The
marshal no doubt imagined that the news he had received fifteen years
ago was not true, and that my father was still alive. But when he saw
me, his face changed completely: he remembered perfectly that a General
Alexandre Dumas had existed in times gone by, with whom he had come in
contact, but he had never heard of the existence of a son. In spite
of all I could urge to establish my identity, he dismissed me, after
ten minutes' interview, still a disbeliever in my existence. This good
marshal was stronger than St. Thomas: he saw and did not believe.

It was a sad beginning. I recalled the way in which, advising me not
to buy an _Almanach des 25,000 adresses,_ Adolphe had said to me,
"Do not put yourself to that expense." Was it possible, perchance,
that Adolphe's scepticism might prove correct? These depressing
cogitations passed through my mind while I was walking from the
faubourg Saint-Germain to the faubourg Saint-Honoré--that is to say,
from Marshal Jourdan's to Marshal Sébastiani's. I announced myself,
as I had at Marshal Jourdan's; at my name the door opened. I thought,
for a moment, that I had inherited Ali Baba's famous "Open, sesame!"
The _general_ was in his study. I italicise _general,_ as I was in
error previously in calling the famous minister of foreign affairs
to Louis-Philippe _marshal_:--Comte Sébastiani was only a general
when I paid my visit to him. So the general was in his study: in the
four comers of this study, as at the four corners of a map are the
four cardinal points or four winds, were four secretaries. These
four secretaries were writing at his dictation. They were three less
in number than Cæsar's, but two more than Napoleon's. Each of these
secretaries had on his desk, besides his pen, his paper and his
penknife, a gold snuff-box which he opened and offered to the general,
every time the latter had occasion, when walking round the room, to
stop in front of the desk. The general would daintily insert the first
finger and thumb of a hand whose whiteness and delicacy had been the
envy of his grand-cousin Napoleon, take a voluptuous sniff of the
Spanish powder and, like _le Malade imaginaire,_ proceed to measure the
length and the breadth of the room..

My visit was short. Whatever consideration I might have for the
general, I did not feel inclined to become his snuff-box boy. I
returned to my hotel in the rue des Vieux-Augustins, somewhat cast
down. The first two men I had turned to had blown upon my golden
dreams, and tarnished them. Besides, although a whole day had gone by,
although I had given my address as accurately as possible, I had not
yet received any answer from the Duc de Bellune.

I picked up my _Almanack des 25,000 adresses,_ and began to
congratulate myself on not having wasted five francs in its
acquisition. I was quickly disillusioned, as will be seen; my cheerful
confidence had gone; I felt that sinking of heart which ever increases
in proportion as golden dreams give place to reality. I then turned
over the leaves of the book purely and simply at hap-hazard, looking
at it mechanically, reading without taking it in, when, all at once, I
saw a name that I had often heard my mother pronounce, and, each time,
in such eulogistic terms that all my spirits revived. That name was
General Verdier's, who had served in Egypt, under my father.

"Come, come," I said; "the number three is a favourite with the gods;
perhaps my third unknown and providential protector will do more for me
than the other two--which would be no great tax, seeing the others have
not done anything at all."

General Verdier lived in the faubourg Montmartre, No. 6. Ten minutes
later, I was holding the following terse dialogue with the concierge of
his house:--

"Does General Verdier live here, please?"

"Fourth floor, small door on the left."

I made the concierge repeat it: I believed I must have misunderstood
him.

Marshal Jourdan and General Sébastiani lived in sumptuous mansions, in
the faubourg Saint-Germain and the faubourg Saint-Honoré; entrance was
gained to these mansions by gates like those of Gaza. Why, then, should
General Verdier live in the rue du faubourg Montmartre, on the fourth
floor, and why did one gain access to him through a small doorway?

The concierge repeated his words: I had not misunderstood.

"Good gracious!" I said, as I climbed the staircase; "this does not
look like Marshal Jourdan's lackeys, nor Marshal Sébastiani's Swiss
guards. _General Verdier, fourth floor, small door on the left,_ surely
this is a man likely to remember my father!"

I reached the fourth floor; I discovered the small door; at this door
hung a humble, modest, green string. I rang with an uncontrollable
fluttering at my heart. This third trial was to decide my opinion of
men. Steps approached, the door was opened. A man of about sixty opened
the door; he wore a cap edged with astrakan, and was clothed in a green
braided jacket and trousers of white calf-skin. He held in his hand a
palette full of paints, and under his thumb, which held his palette,
was a paint-brush. I looked at the other doors.

"I beg your pardon, monsieur," I said; "I am afraid I have made some
mistake...."

"What is your pleasure, monsieur?" asked the man with the palette.

"To present my compliments to General Verdier."

"In that case, step in: here you are."

I went in, and, when we had crossed a tiny square hall which served as
an ante-chamber, I found myself in a studio.

"You will allow me to go on with my work, monsieur?" said the painter,
placing himself in front of a battlepiece in the construction of which
I had interrupted him.

"Certainly: but will you have the goodness, monsieur, to inform me
where I shall find the general?"

The painter turned round.

"The general? What general?"

"General Verdier."

"Why, I am he."

"You?"

I stared with such rude surprise at him that he began to laugh.

"It astonishes you to see me handle the brush so badly," said he,
"after having heard, maybe, that I handled a sword passably? What
would you have me do? I have an active hand and I must keep it always
occupied somehow.... But come, as evidently, after the question you put
to me just now, you have nothing to say to the painter, what do you
want with the general?"

"I am the son of your old comrade-at-arms in Egypt, General Dumas."

He turned round quickly towards me, and looked at me earnestly; then,
after a moment's silence, he said--

"By the powers, so you are! You are the very image of him." Tears
immediately came into his eyes, and, throwing down his brush, he held
out his hand to me, which I longed to kiss rather than to shake.

"Ah! You remember him, then?"

"Remember him! I should think I do: the handsomest and the bravest man
in the army! You are the very spit of him, my lad: what a model he
would have made any painter!"

"Yes, you are right; I remember him perfectly."

"And what brings you to Paris, my dear boy? for, if my memory serves
me, you lived with your mother, in some village or other."

"True, General; but my mother is getting on in years, and we are poor."

"We are both in the same boat," he said.

"So," I went on, "I have come to Paris, in the hope of obtaining a
small situation, now that it is my turn to provide for her as hitherto
she has provided for me."

"That is well thought of! But, my poor lad, a place is not so easy to
get in these times, no matter how small, especially for the son of a
Republican general. Ah! if you were the son of an _émigré_ or of a
Chouan,--if only your poor father had served in the Russian or Austrian
army,--I daresay you might have had a chance."

"The deuce, General, you frighten me! And I had been counting on your
protection."

"What?" he exclaimed.

I repeated my sentence word for word, but with a little less assurance.

"My protection!" He shook his head and smiled sadly.

"My poor boy," he said, "if you wish to take lessons in painting, my
protection may be sufficient to provide you with them, and, even so,
you will never be a great artist if you do not surpass your master. My
protection! Well, well! I am grateful to you for that expression,'pon
my word! for you are, most likely, the only person in the world who
would ask me for such a thing to-day. You flatterer!"

"Excuse me, General, I do not rightly understand."

"Why, those rascals pensioned me off for some imaginary conspiracy with
Dermoncourt! So, you see, here I am, painting pictures; and if you
want to do the same, here are a palette, some brushes and a thirty-six
canvas."

"Thanks, General; I have never got beyond the first stages; so you see
my apprenticeship would be too long, and neither my mother nor I could
wait----'

"Ah! what can I say, my lad? You know the proverb: 'The prettiest girl
in the world....' Ah I pardon, pardon; I find I am mistaken. I have
still half my purse; I had forgotten that: it is true it is hardly
worth troubling about." He opened the drawer of a small chest in which,
I remember, there were two gold coins and forty francs in silver.

"There," he said, "this is the remainder of my quarter's pay."

"Thank you, General; but I am nearly as wealthy as you." It was my turn
to have tears in my eyes. "Thank you, but perhaps you can advise me
what further steps I can take."

"You have already taken some steps, then?"

"Yes, I set about them this morning."

"Ah! ah! And who have you seen?"

"I saw Marshal Jourdan and General Sébastiani."

"Pooh!... Well?"

"Well, General, pooh!..."

"And after that...."

"And after that, I wrote yesterday to the Minister of War."

"To Bellune?"

"Yes."

"And has he answered you?"

"Not yet, but I hope he will reply to me."

The general, while he filled in the face of a Cossack, made a grimace
which might be summed up in the words: "If you are counting only on
that...."

"I have still," I added, in response to his thought, "a letter of
introduction to General Foy, deputy of my own department."

"Very well, my dear boy, as I believe that even if you have time to
lose, you have no money to spare, I advise you not to wait for the
minister's answer. To-morrow is Tuesday; there is a sitting of the
Chamber: but present yourself early at General Foy's,--you will find
him at work, for he is a hard worker, like myself; only, he does better
work. Don't worry; he will receive you kindly."

"You think so?"

"I am sure of it."

"I hope so, for I have a letter."

"Yes, he will give you a kindly reception, I have no doubt, because of
your letter; but above all he will receive you well for your father's
sake, although he did not know him personally. Now, will you dine with
me? We will talk of Egypt. It was hot there!"

"Willingly, General. At what hour do you dine?"

"At six o'clock.... Now go and take a turn on the boulevards, whilst I
finish my Cossack, and return at six."

I took leave of General Verdier, and descended from the fourth floor, I
must confess, with a lighter heart than I had ascended to it.



CHAPTER VI


_Régulus_--Talma and the play--General Foy--The letter of
recommendation and the interview--The Duc de Bellune's reply--I
obtain a place as temporary clerk with M. le Duc d'Orléans--Journey
to Villers-Cotterets to tell my mother the good news--No. 9--I gain a
prize in a lottery


Men and things began to appear to me in their true light, and the
world, which until now had been hidden from me in the mists of
illusion, began to show itself as it really is, as God and the Devil
have made it, interspersed with good and evil, spotted with dirt. I
related to Adolphe everything that had occurred.

"Go on," he said; "if your story finishes as it has begun, you will
accomplish much more than the writing of a comic opera: you will write
a comedy."

But Adolphe's thoughts were in reality busy on my behalf. _Régulus_ was
to be played at the Théâtre-Français that night: he had asked for two
orchestra stalls from Lucien Arnault, and had kept them for me; only,
on that evening, he would be too busy to come with me: the _Pauvre
Fille_ claimed every minute of his time.

I was almost glad of this inability: I could thus take General Verdier
to the play in return for his dinner. I found him waiting for me at his
house at six o'clock; I showed him my two tickets, and laid my proposal
before him.

"Well, well, well!" he said, "I cannot refuse this: I do not often
allow myself the luxury of going to the play, and especially as it is
Talma...."

"You know some dramatists, then?"

"Yes, I know M. Arnault."

"Very good!... And now I must confess, General, that I want to stay in
Paris really to go in for literature."

"Ah! not really?"

"Really, General."

"Listen: you came to ask my advice ...?"

"Certainly I did."

"Very well, don't count too much on literature for a living; you look
as though you had a good appetite; now, literature will necessitate
your going hungry many a time.... However, on those days, you must look
me up: the painter always shares his crusts with the poet. _Ut pictura
poesis!_ I do not need to interpret that, for I presume you know Latin."

"A little, General."

"That is much more than I do. Come, let us go and dine."

"Do we not dine at your rooms?"

"Do you imagine I am rich enough, on my half-pay, to keep up a kitchen
and a household? No, no, no, indeed! I dine at the Palais-Royal for
forty sous; to-day we will have an _extra_, and I can get it for six
francs. You see you are not going to cost me much, so need not be
anxious."

We betook ourselves to the Palais-Royal, where indeed we dined
excellently for our six francs, or rather for General Verdier's
six francs. Then we went to take our places for _Régulus._ My mind
was still full of _Sylla_; I saw the gloomy Dictator enter with
his flattened locks, his crowned head, his forehead furrowed with
anxieties: his speech was deliberate, almost solemn; his glance--that
of a lynx and a hyena--shot from under his drooping eyelids like that
of a nocturnal animal which sees in the darkness.

Thus I awaited Talma.

He entered, at a rapid pace, with haughty head and terse speech, as
befitted the general of a free people and a conquering nation; he
entered, in short, as _Régulus_ would have entered. No longer, the
toga, no longer the purple, no longer the crown: a simple tunic, bound
by an iron girdle, without any other cloak than that of the soldier.
Here was where Talma was admirable in his personality--always that of
the hero he was called upon to represent--he reconstructed a world, he
refashioned an epoch.

Yes, in _Sylla_ he was the man of the falling republic; he was the
man who, in putting aside the purple, and in restoring to Rome that
temporary independence which she was soon no longer to know, said, to
those who assisted at this great act of his public life:--

    "J'achève un grand destin; j'achève un grand ouvrage;
    Sur ce monde étonné, j'ai marqué mon passage.
    Ne m'accusez jamais dans la postérité,
    Romains, de vous avoir rendu la liberté!"

It was Sylla who, in Marius and with Marius, witnessed the expiration
of the last breath of republican virility; it was he who saw the rise
of Cæsar--that Cæsar who later spoke thus to Brutus:--

    "O le pauvre insensé! qui vient, du couchant sombre,
    Demander la lumière, et qui marche vers l'ombre!
    Et qui se croit, rêvant les antiques vertus,
    Au siècle des Camille et des Cincinnatus!
    Oui, leur siècle était grand, peut-être regrettable;
    Oui, la simplicity des habits, de la table;
    Cette orge qui bouillait sur le plat des Toscans;
    Ce peu qu'on avait d'or, qui reluisant aux camps;
    Annibal, sous nos murs plantant sa javeline;
    Et nos guerriers debout sur la porte Colline;
    Voilà qui défendait au vice d'approcher!...
    Mais le Nil dans le Tibre est venu s'épancher,
    Et l'or asiatique, aux mains sacerdotales,
    A remplacé l'argile étrusque des vestales;
    Et le luxe, fondant sur nous comme un vautour,
    Venge les nations et nous dompte à son tour.
    La Rome des consuls et de la république
    A brisé dès longtemps sa ceinture italique.
    Rome a conquis la Grèce, et Carthage, et le Pont;
    Rome a conquis l'Espagne et la Gaule.--Répond,
    Toi, qui ne veux pas voir, comme une mer de lave,
    Monter incessamment vers nous le monde esclave:
    Cette ville aux sept monts, qu'un dieu même créa,
    Est-ce toujours la fille et l'Albe et de Rhéa,
    La matrone sévère ou bien la courtisane?...
    Ville de Mithridate et d'Ariobarzane,
    Ville de Ptolémée, et ville de Juba.
    Rome est un compost de tout ce qui tomba!
    Rome, c'est l'univers! et sa débauche accuse
    Marseille, Alexandrie, Athènes, Syracuse,
    Et Rhode et Sybaris, fécondes en douleurs,
    Et Tarente lascive, au front chargé de fleurs!..."

Well, it was in this first epoch, spoken of by Cæsar, when "l'orge
bouillait sur le plat des Toscans," that Regulus flourished. Therefore,
from his very entry, Talma appeared as the stern republican, the man
vowed to great causes. Yes, yes, Talma, you were indeed, this time,
the Punic warrior, the colleague of Duillius--that conqueror to whom
his contemporaries, still in ignorance of the titles and the honours
with which defenders of their country should be rewarded, were giving
a flute player to follow him wherever he went, and a rostral column
to set up in front of his house; yes, you were indeed the consul who,
when he landed on African shores, had to beat down monsters before
he could beat down men, and who tested the implements of war, which
were destined to break down the walls of Carthage, by crushing a
boa-constrictor a hundred cubits in length. You were indeed that man
whose two victories spelt two hundred towns, and who refused Carthage
peace: Carthage, the Queen of the Mediterranean, the Sovereign of
the Ocean, who had coasted down Africa as far as the Equator, who
had spread North as far as the Cassiterides, and who possessed armed
ships. O Carthaginians, merchants, lawyers and senators! you were lost
at last. The race of traders had to give way to the race of warriors,
speculators to soldiers, Hannons to Barcas; you would have consented
to all the demands of Regulus, if there had not been found in Carthage
a Lacedemonian, a mercenary, a Xantippe, who declared that Carthage
still possessed the means for resisting, and demanded the chief
command of the armies. The command was given him. He was a Greek. He
lured the Romans into the plain, charged into them with his cavalry and
crushed them beneath his elephants. It was at this stage of affairs, O
Regulus--Talma that you made your entry into Carthage, but conquered,
and a prisoner!

Lucien Arnault had certainly not extracted all the dramatic force out
of this splendid republican subject that it was capable of showing:
he had certainly not shown us Rome, patient and indefatigable as the
ploughing oxen; he had certainly not depicted commercial Carthage, with
its armies of condottieri recruited from the sturdy Ligurians, that
Strabo shows us, in the mountains of Genes, breaking down the rocks and
carrying enormous burdens; from those clever slingers who came from the
Balearic Isles, who could stop a stag in its flight, an eagle on the
wing, with their stone-throwing; from the sturdy and strong Iberians,
who seemed insensible to hunger and to fatigue, when they were marching
to battle with their red cloaks and their two-edged-swords; finally,
from the Numidians whom we fight even to-day at Constantine and at
Djidjelli, terrible cavaliers, centaurs thin and fiery like their
chargers. No,--although the epoch was not remote,--the piece lacked
poetry; you, my dear Lucien, simply extracted from this mass of
material the devotion of a single man, and did not choose to depict a
people.

Talma was superb when he was urging the Roman Senate to refuse peace,
thereby condemning himself to death; Talma was magnificent in that last
cry which hung for two centuries after, like a menace, over the city of
Dido: "To Carthage! to Carthage!"

I returned to my quarters, this second time even more filled with
admiration than on the first occasion; only, as I knew my way, I
dispensed with the expense of a cab. Besides, my way was nearly the
same as General Verdier's to the faubourg Montmartre; he left me at the
corner of the rue Coquillière, shaking my hand and wishing me good luck.

Next day, at ten, I presented myself at General Foy's. He lived at No.
64 rue du Mont-Blanc. I was shown into his study, and found him engaged
upon his _Histoire de la Péninsule._ As I entered he was writing,
standing against a table which could be lowered or raised as required.
Round him, on chairs, on arm-chairs, on the floor, were scattered, in
apparent confusion, speeches, proofs, maps and open books. When the
general heard the door of his sanctum open he turned round. General
Foy was, at that time, a man of about forty-eight or fifty years of
age, thin, short rather than tall, with scanty grey hair, a projecting
forehead, an aquiline nose and a bilious complexion. He carried his
head high, his manner was short and his gestures commanding. I was
announced.

"M. Alexandre Dumas!" he repeated after the servant; "let him come in."

I appeared before him, trembling all over.

"Are you M. Alexandre Dumas?" he asked.

"Yes, General."

"Are you the son of General Dumas who commanded the Army of the Alps?"

"Yes, General."

"I have been told that Bonaparte treated him very unjustly and that
this injustice was extended to his widow."

"He left us in poverty."

"Can I do anything for you?"

"I confess, General, that you are nearly my sole hope."

"How is that?"

"Will you first make yourself acquainted with this letter from M.
Danré."

"Ah! worthy Danré!... You know him?"

"He was an intimate friend of my father."

"Yes, he lived a league from Villers-Cotterets, where General Dumas
died.... And what is the good fellow doing?"

"He is happy and proud to have been of some use to you in your
election, General."

"Of some use? Say rather he did everything!" said he, breaking open
the letter. "Do you know," he continued, as he held the letter open
without reading it,--"do you know that he made himself answerable on
my account to the electors--body and soul, body and soul?... They did
not want to appoint me! I hope his rash zeal did not cost him too much.
Let me see what he says."

He began to read.

"Oh! oh! he commends you to me most pressingly; he is very fond of you,
then?"

"Almost as fond as he is of his own son, General."

"I must first find out what you are fit for."

"Oh! not good for much."

"Bah! you surely know some mathematics?"

"No, General."

"You have at least some notion of algebra, of geometry, of physics?"

He stopped between each word, and at each word I blushed afresh, and
the perspiration ran down my forehead in faster and faster drops.
It was the first time I had been thus actually confronted with my
ignorance.

"No, General," I replied, stammering; "I do not know anything of those
things."

"You have perhaps studied law?"

"No, General."

"You know Latin, Greek?"

"A little Latin, no Greek."

"Can you speak any modern language?"

"Italian."

"You understand book-keeping?"

"Not the least in the world."

I was in agony, and he himself was visibly sorry for me.

"Oh, General!" I burst out in tones that seemed to impress him greatly,
"my education is utterly defective and I am ashamed to say that I never
realised it until this moment.... Oh! but I will mend matters, I give
you my word; and soon, very soon, I shall be able to reply 'Yes' to all
the questions to which I have just now said 'No.'"

"But have you anything to live upon in the meantime, my young friend?"

"Nothing, absolutely nothing, General!" I replied, crushed by the
feeling of my powerlessness.

The general looked at me in profound pity.

"Nevertheless," he said, "I do not want to abandon you ..."

"No, General, for you will not be abandoning me only! True, I am
ignorant and good for nothing; but my mother counts upon me; I have
promised her I will find a place, and she ought not to be punished for
my ignorance and my laziness."

"Give me your address," said the general. "I will consider what can be
done for you.... Write, there, at that desk."

He held the pen out to me which he had just been using. I took it; I
looked at it, still wet; then, shaking my head, I gave it back to him.

"What is the matter?"

"No, General," I said; "I cannot write with your pen: it would be a
profanation."

He smiled. "What a child you are!" he said. "Look, here is a new one."

"Thanks." I wrote. The general looked on.

I had scarcely written my name before he clapped his hands together.

"We are saved!" he said.

"How is that?"

"You write a beautiful hand."

My head fell on my breast; my shame was insupportable. The only thing
I possessed was a good handwriting. This diploma of incapacity well
became me! A beautiful handwriting! So some day I might become a
copying-clerk. That was my future! I would rather cut off my right
arm. General Foy went on without paying much heed to what was passing
through my mind.

"Listen," he said: "I am dining to-day at the Palais-Royal; I will
mention you to the Duc d'Orléans; I will tell him he ought to take the
son of a Republican general into his offices. Sit down there...."

He pointed to an empty desk.

"Draw up a petition, and write your very best."

I obeyed. When I had finished, General Foy took my petition, read
it and traced a few lines in the margin. His handwriting compared
unfavourably with mine and humiliated me most cruelly. Then he folded
up the petition, put it in his pocket and, holding out his hand to bid
me good-bye, he invited me to return and lunch with him next day. I
returned to my hotel in the rue des Vieux-Augustins, and there I found
a letter franked by the Minister of War. Good and evil fortune had,
up to this time, treated me pretty impartially. The letter that I was
about to break open should turn the scale definitely. The minister
replied that, as he had no time for a personal interview, he invited
me to lay before him anything I had to say in writing. Decidedly,
the balance of the scale was towards ill-fortune. I replied that the
audience I asked of him was but to hand him the original of a letter
of thanks he had once written to my father, his general-in-chief; but
that, as I might not have the honour of seeing him, I would content
myself with sending him a copy of it. Poor marshal! I have seen him
since: he was then as affectionate to me as he had been indifferent
under the circumstances I have just related; and, nowadays, his son and
his grandson are my good friends.

I went early, next morning, as I had been advised, to General Foy's,
who was now my only hope. The general was at his work, as on the
previous day. He received me with a smiling face, which looked very
promising.

"Well," he said, "our business is settled."

I looked at him, astounded.

"How is that?" I asked.

"Yes, you are to enter the secretarial staff of the Duc d'Orléans as
supernumerary, at twelve hundred francs. It is nothing very great; but
mow is your chance to work."

"It is a fortune!... And when am I to begin?"

"Next Monday, if you like."

"Next Monday?"

"Yes, it is arranged with the chief clerk in the office."

"What is his name?"

"M. Oudard.... You will introduce yourself to him in my name."

"Oh, General, I can hardly believe my good fortune."

The general looked at me with an indescribably kindly expression. This
reminded me that I had not even thanked him. I threw my arms round his
neck and kissed him. He began to laugh.

"There is good stuff in you," he said; "but remember what you have
promised me: study!"

"Oh yes, General; I am now going to live by my handwriting: but I
promise you that one day I shall live by my pen."

"We shall see; take your pen and write to your mother."

"No, General, no; I wish to tell her this good news with my own lips.
To-day is Tuesday; I will start to-night: I will spend Wednesday,
Thursday, Friday and Saturday with her; I will come back here on the
night of Sunday--and on Monday I will go to my office."

"But you will ruin yourself in carriages!"

"No; I have a free pass from the diligence proprietor."

And I related to him how old Cartier owed me a dozen fares. "Now," I
asked of the general, "what message shall I take from you to M. Danré?"

"Well, tell him we had lunch together and that I am very well."

A small round table ready laid was carried in at this juncture.

"A second cover," ordered the general.

"Really, General, you make me ashamed...."

"Have you lunched?"

"No, but----"

"To table, to table!... I have to be at the Chamber by noon."

We lunched _tête-à-tête._ The general talked to me of my future plans;
I confided all my literary plans to him. He looked at me; he listened
to me with the benevolent smile of a large-hearted man; he seemed
to say, "Golden dreams! foolish hopes! purple but fugitive clouds,
which sail over the heaven of youth, may they not vanish into the
azure firmament too quickly for my poor protégé!" Beloved and kindly
general! loyal soul! noble heart! you are now, alas! dead, before
those dreams were realised; you died without knowing they were to be
realised one day,--you are dead, and gratitude and grief have inspired
me, on the borders of that tomb into which you descended before your
time, to write I will not say the first good lines I made,--that would
perhaps be too ambitious,--but the first of my lines which are worth
the trouble of being quoted. Here are those I recall; the rest I have
completely forgotten:--

        "Ainsi de notre vieille gloire
        Chaque jour emporte un débris!
        Chaque jour enrichit l'histoire
        Des grands noms qui nous sont repris!
    Et, chaque jour, pleurant sur la nouvelle tombe
    D'un héros généreux dans sa course arrêté,
        Chacun de nous se dit épouvante:
        'Encore une pierre qui tombe
        Du temple de la Liberté!'..."

With one bound I covered the distance between the rue du Mont-Blanc
and the rue Pigale. I longed to tell Adolphe the realisation of all my
hopes. I was now, at last, sure of remaining in Paris. A most ambitious
career opened out before me, limitless and vast. God, on His side, had
done all that was necessary: He had left me with Aladdin's lamp in
the enchanted garden. The rest depended on myself. No man had ever,
I believe, seen his wishes more completely satisfied, his hopes more
entirely crowned. Napoleon could not have been prouder and happier
than I on the day when, having espoused Marie-Louise, he repeated
three times before nightfall, "My poor uncle Louis XVI.!" Adolphe
entered very heartily into my delight. M. de Leuven, to be still
characteristic, quietly ridiculed my raptures. Madame de Leuven, the
most perfect of women, rejoiced in advance over the joy my mother would
shortly experience. All three wanted to keep me to dinner with them;
but I remembered that a diligence left at half-past four o'clock, and
that by it I should be able to reach home by one in the morning. It
was odd I should be as eager to return to Villers-Cotterets as I had
been to come to Paris. True, I was not returning for long. I reached
Villers-Cotterets at one o'clock. One thing marred my joy: everybody
was asleep; no one was in the dark streets; I could not cry out from
the door of the diligence, "Here I am! but only for three days; I am
going back to Paris for good." Oh! what an incontestable reality had
the fable of King Midas become to me! When I reached Cartier's house,
I leapt from the coach to the ground without thinking of making use of
the step. When on mother-earth I rushed off, shouting to Auguste--

"It is I, it is I, Auguste! Put my fare down to your father's account."

In five minutes I was at home. I had a special way of my own of opening
the door, after my nocturnal escapades; I turned it to account, and I
entered my mother's room, who had hardly been an hour in bed, crying--

"Victory, dear mother, victory!"

My poor mother sat up in bed in great agitation: such an early return
and one so completely successful had never entered her head. She was
obliged to believe my word when, after kissing her, she saw me dance
round the room still shouting "Victory!" I told her the whole story:
Jourdan and his lackeys, Sébastiani and his secretaries, Verdier and
his pictures, the Duc de Bellune refusing to receive me and General
Foy receiving me twice. And my mother made me repeat it over and over
again; unable to believe that I, her poor child, had in three days,
without support, without acquaintances, without influence, by my
persistence and determination, myself changed the course of my destiny
for ever.

At last I got to the end of my tale and sleep had a hearing. I went
to the bed that was scarcely cold since I had last used it, and,
when I woke up, I wondered if I could really have been absent from
Villers-Cotterets during those three days, and if it had not all been
a dream. I leapt out of my bed, I dressed myself, I kissed my mother
and I ran off along the road to Vouty. M. Danré ought to be the first
to hear of my good fortune. This was but fair, since he had brought it
about.

M. Danré learnt the news with feelings of personal pride. There is
something very comforting to poor human nature when a man counts on
a friend for a good action, and this friend accomplishes the deed,
without ostentation, in fulfilment of his promise.

M. Danré would have liked me to have stayed there all day; but I was
as slippery as an eel. I was not merely in haste that everybody should
know of my happiness, but I wanted to increase this happiness twofold,
by telling it myself. Dear M. Danré understood this, like the good soul
he was. We lunched, and then he set me free. Without, I am thankful to
say, representing the same mythological idea as Mercury, my heels, like
his, were endowed with wings: in twenty or twenty-five minutes, I was
back in Villers-Cotterets; but the news had spread in my absence, in
spite of my celerity. Everybody already knew, on my return, that I was
a supernumerary in the secretariat of the Duc d'Orléans, and everybody
was waiting for me at their doors to congratulate me on my good
fortune. They followed me in procession to the door of Abbé Grégoire's
house. What recollections of my own have I not put in the story of my
poor fellow-countrywoman Ange Pitou! I found our house full of gossips
when I returned. Besides our friend Madame Darcourt, our neighbours
Mesdames Lafarge, Dupré, Dupuis were holding a confabulation. I was
welcomed with open arms, fêted by everybody. They had never doubted my
powers; they had always said that I should become somebody; they were
delighted to have prophesied an event to my poor mother which was now
realised. These ladies, with the exception of Madame Darcourt, let it
be noted, were those who had predicted to my mother that her darling
son would always be a good-for-nothing. But Fate is the most powerful,
the most inexorable of kings; it is not, then, to be wondered at that
it has its courtiers. We were never left alone together the whole of
the day. I took advantage of the numbers in the house to go and pay a
special farewell visit to my good Louise, who would fain have comforted
me after Adèle's marriage, if I had been consolable, and whom I would
assuredly have comforted after Chollet had gone, had not I myself left.

In the evening my mother and I at last found ourselves alone together
for a little while. We took the opportunity to talk over our private
affairs. I wanted my mother to sell everything that we did not need
and come as soon as possible to settle with me in Paris. Twenty years
of misfortunes had sown distrust in my mother's heart. In her opinion,
it was far too hasty to act like this. Then, the twelve hundred francs
that I looked upon as a fortune was a very small amount to live upon in
Paris. Besides, I had not got the salary yet. A supernumerary is but a
probationer: if at the end of one month, or two months, they thought
that I was not suitable for the post, and if M. Oudard, the head of my
office, should make me take a seat as Augustus had made Cinna, as M.
Lefèvre had made me, and ask me, as M. Lefèvre had asked me, "Monsieur,
do you understand mechanics?" we were lost; for my mother would not
even have her tobacco-shop to fall back upon, which she would have left
and which she could not sell merely temporarily. My mother, therefore,
decided on a common-sense course, which was as follows--

I was to return to Paris, where my bed, my bedding, my sheets, my table
linen, four chairs, a table, a chest of drawers and two sets of plate
would be forwarded; I would hire a small room, the cheapest possible; I
would stay there until my position was established; and when my place
was secure, I would write to my mother. Then my mother would hesitate
no longer: she would sell everything and come to join me.

The next day was a Thursday. I utilised my being at Villers-Cotterets
to draw for the conscription; my years would have called me to the
service of my country, had I not been the son of a widow. I took No. 9,
which was no inconvenience to myself, and did not deprive another of a
good number I might have taken. I met Boudoux, my old friend of the
_marette_ and the _pipée._

"Ah! Monsieur Dumas," he said, "as you have obtained such an excellent
situation, you can surely give me a four-pound loaf."

I took him off to the baker; and instead of a four-pound loaf I paid
for one of eight pounds for him.

I held my conscription ticket in my hand.

"What is that?" asked Boudoux.

"That? It is my number."

"You have taken No. 9?"

"As you see."

"Well, now, I have an idea: in return for your eight-pound loaf,
Monsieur Dumas, if I were you, I would go to my aunt Chapuis, and I
would put a thirty-sous piece on No. 9. Thirty sous wont ruin you, and
if No. 9 turns up, it will bring you in seventy-three francs."

"Here are thirty sous, Boudoux; go and put them on in my name, and
bring me back the ticket."

Boudoux went off, breaking off, with his right hand, huge chunks of the
bread which he carried under his left arm. His aunt Chapuis kept both
the post-office and the lottery-office.

Ten minutes later, Boudoux returned with the ticket. There was only a
fragment of crust left of the eight-pound loaf, and that he finished
before my eyes. It was the final day of the lottery. I should know,
therefore, by Saturday morning whether I had won my seventy-three
francs or lost my thirty sous.

Friday was taken up with making preparations for my Parisian
housekeeping. My mother would have liked me to carry off everything
in the house; but I realised that, with my twelve hundred francs per
annum, the smaller the room the more economical it would be, and I
stuck to the bed, the four chairs, and the chest of drawers.

One slight inconvenience remained to me. General Foy had told me that
I was a supernumerary at twelve hundred francs; but these hundred
francs per month which the munificence of Monseigneur the Duc d'Orléans
conceded me would not be paid me until the end of the month. I had not
Boudoux's appetite, but I could certainly eat and eat very heartily:
General Verdier had not been out in his surmise.

I had thirty-five francs left out of my fifty. My mother decided to
part with another hundred francs: it was half of what she had left. It
went to my heart very bitterly to take my poor mother's hundred francs,
and I was just thinking of having recourse to the purse of M. Danré,
when, in the midst of our discussion, which took place on Saturday
morning, I heard Boudoux's voice shouting out--

"Ah! M. Dumas, now this is well worth a second eight-pound loaf."

"What is worth an eight-pound loaf?"

"No. 9 came up! If you go to aunt Chapuis's office, she will count you
out your seventy-three francs."

My mother and I looked at each other. Then we looked at Boudoux.

"Are you telling me the truth, Boudoux?"

"Before God, I am, M. Dumas; that rascally No. 9 turned up: you can go
and see for yourself on the list; it is the third."

There was nothing astonishing about this: had we not struck a vein of
good fortune?

My mother and I went to Madame Chapuis. We were even better off than we
supposed. Boudoux had calculated upon the number coming out along with
others; I had put my thirty sous on the single item: the result of this
difference was that my thirty sous brought me in a hundred and fifty
francs, instead of seventy-three.

I have never rightly understood the reason why Madame Chapuis doubled
the amount, which was paid me, I remember, in crowns of six livres,
plus the necessary smaller change; but when I saw the crowns, when I
was allowed to carry them off, I did not ask for further explanation. I
was the possessor of the sum of a hundred and eighty-five francs! I had
never had so much money in my pocket. Therefore, as all these six-livre
crowns made a great chinking and took up a lot of room, my mother
changed them for me into gold.

Oh! what a fine thing gold is, however much decried, when it is the
realisation of the dearest hopes in life! Those nine gold coins were
little enough; but nevertheless, at that moment, they were of more
value in my eyes than the thousands of similar pieces which have passed
through my hands since; and which, after the fashion of Jupiter, I have
showered upon that most costly of all mistresses men call _Fancy._ So I
cost my mother nothing, not even for the carriage of my furniture, for
which I paid the carrier in advance, bargaining with him for the sum
of twenty francs to bring them to Paris, to the door of the hôtel des
Vieux-Augustins, to be removed from there when I should have chosen my
lodgings. They were to be delivered on the Monday night.

At last the hour of parting came. The whole town assisted at my
departure. It was for all the world as though one of the navigators
of the Middle Ages were leaving to discover an unknown land, and the
wishes and the cheering of his compatriots were giving him a send-off
across the seas.

In truth, those dear good friends realised, with their simple and
kindly instinct, that I was embarking on an ocean quite as stormy and
uncertain as that which, according to the blind soothsayer, surrounded
the shield of Achilles.



CHAPTER VII


I find lodgings--Hiraux's son--Journals and journalists in 1823--By
being saved the expense of a dinner I am enabled to go to the play at
the Porte-Saint-Martin--My entry into the pit--Sensation caused by my
hair--I am turned out--How I am obliged to pay for three places in
order to have one--A polite gentleman who reads Elzevirs


The reader will have observed that my balance increased each journey
I made to Paris. It was but four months since the firm of Paillet and
Company had entered the city with thirty-five francs apiece; only a
week ago I had reached the barrier with fifty francs in my pocket; now,
finally, I alighted at the door of the _Hôtel des Vieux Augustins_ with
one hundred and eighty-five francs.

I began to search for lodgings the same day. When I had climbed and
descended a good many staircases, I stopped at a little room on a
fourth floor. This room, which contained the luxury of an alcove,
belonged to that immense mass of houses called the Italian quarter,
and formed part of No. 1. It was papered with a yellow paper at twelve
sous the piece, and looked out on the yard. It was let to me for the
sum of a hundred and twenty francs per annum. It suited me in every
respect, so I did not haggle. I told the porter I would take it, and
I advised him that my furniture would come in on the following night.
The porter asked me for the _denier à Dieu._ I was a complete stranger
to Parisian habits and I did not know what the _denier à Dieu_ meant.
I thought it must be a commission on letting the room: I majestically
took a napoleon out of my pocket, and I dropped it into the hand of the
porter, who bowed down to the ground.

In his eyes I evidently passed for a prince travelling incognito.
To give twenty francs as _denier à Dieu_ for a room at a hundred and
twenty!... Such a thing had never been heard of. Twenty francs! it was
a sixth of the rent!... So his wife instantly asked for the honour
of looking after me. I granted her this favour for five francs per
month--always with the same regal air.

From there, I ran to General Verdier's to get up my appetite, and I
told him the good news. I had left Paris at such short notice, on the
previous Monday, that I had not had time to ascend his four flights of
stairs. I mounted them, this time, fruitlessly: the general had taken
advantage of its being Sunday and had gone out. I followed his example:
I strolled about the boulevards,--the only place where I ran no risk
of being lost,--and I reached the _Café de la Porte-Saint-Honoré_
at the end of my strolling. Suddenly, through the windows, I saw
someone I knew: it was Hiraux, the son of good old Hiraux, who had so
unsuccessfully endeavoured to make a musician of me. I entered the
café. Hiraux had recently bought it: he was the proprietor of it....
I was in his house!... Although he was slightly older than myself, we
had been very good chums in our childhood. He kept me to dinner. While
waiting for dinner, he put all the journals of the establishment before
me. Some of those papers have since disappeared. The chief of them at
that time were: the _Journal des Débats_, always under the direction of
the brothers Bertin, and a supporter of the Government. It reflected
the views of Louis XVIII. and of M. de Villèle--namely, a moderate
and conciliatory Royalism, a policy of optimism and vacillation; the
system, in fact, by which, in the midst of the plots of the Carbonari
and the intrigues of the Extreme Party, Louis XVIII. managed to die
almost in tranquillity: if not on the throne, at any rate close by it.

The old _Constitutionnel_--of Saint-Albin, Jay, Tissot and Évariste
Dumoulin--was suppressed one day for an article which the Censorship
placed on the Index, an article which somehow had managed to get
inserted without any trace of the claws and teeth of the censors. Then,
with a rapidity of decision which indicated the extreme devotion the
_Constitutionnel_ of every epoch has always exhibited in its own cause,
it bought for a mere song the _Journal du Commerce_, which had four
hundred subscribers; and, under the title of the _Journal du Commerce_
appeared next morning: it need hardly be said that the good old rogue
was recognised under this transparent disguise, and just about the
time when I arrived in Paris, it had resumed, or was about to resume,
its old title, so dear to the citizens of Paris. The _Constitutionnel_
was very timid: it represented the Liberal opinion, and never really
breathed out thunder and lightning except against the Jesuits, towards
whom it had vowed the same cruel and magnificent hatred that nowadays
it fulminates against _demagogues_.

The _Drapeau blanc_ was edited by Martainville, a man of infinite
resource, but one who could hate and was hated in return. Charged with
the defence of the bridge of Pecq, as commandant of the National Guard
of Saint-Germain, he was reproached with having, in 1814, delivered
up this bridge to the Prussians; and he replied to the reproach, not
merely by an avowal, but with bravado: not being able to deny it, he
boasted about it. But as all treachery torments the heart of the man
who has committed it, irrespective of what he said, so it preyed on
his vital forces. M. Arnault had infuriated him by deriving his name
from _Martin_ on his father's, and _Vil_ (vile) on his mother's side.
He was courageous enough, and, ever ready to tackle an adversary, he
did battle with Telleville Arnault over his _Germanicus._ The bullet of
the poet's son merely grazed the thigh of the critic, leaving nothing
worse than a slight bruise behind it. "Bah!" said Arnault's father, "he
has not even felt it: a blow from a stick would have produced the same
effect."

The _Foudre_ was the admitted journal of the Marsan Party, the
outspoken expression of the ultra-Royalists, who, through all the
reactions that followed, leant for support on the Comte d'Artois, and
who waited impatiently for that decomposition of the elements, which,
at the rate things were going, could not fail to be accomplished under
Louis XVIII.

The editors of the _Foudre_ were Bérard, the two brothers Dartois (who
were also comic-opera writers), Théaulon and Ferdinand Langlé, Brisset
and de Rancé.

At the opposite pole of Liberal opinion to the _Foudre_ was the
_Miroir_, a newspaper hussar, a delightful skirmisher, overflowing with
wit and _humour_; it was controlled by all the men who were noted for
their spirit of opposition to the times, and who, we hasten to say,
were really opposed to it. These men were MM. de Jouy, Arnault, Jal,
Coste, Castel, Moreau, etc. So the unfortunate _Miroir_ was the object
of relentless persecution at the hands of the Government, in whose eyes
it was for ever flashing a broken ray of sunlight from the days of the
Empire. Suppressed as the _Miroir_, it reappeared as the _Pandore;_
suppressed as _Pandore_, it became the _Opinion;_ suppressed finally as
_Opinion_, it rose again under the title of the _Reunion;_ but this was
the last of its metamorphoses: Proteus was run to earth, and died in
chains.

Do not let us forget the _Courrier français_, the sentinel of advanced
opinion, almost Republican, at a time when no one dared even to
pronounce the word republic. It was for the _Courrier français,_ edited
by Châtelain, one of the most honest and most enlightened patriots of
that period, that, as I have already mentioned, M. de Leuven worked.

But I had really nothing to do with any of these political journals:
I only read the literary news. As I had found a dinner which cost me
nothing, I decided to spend the price of my dinner on a theatre ticket,
a ticket for a play: I hunted through the theatre advertisements in all
the newspapers, and, guided by Hiraux in the choice of the literature
on which I proposed to spend my evening, I decided to go to the
Porte-Saint-Martin.

The play was the _Vampire._ It was only the third or fourth
representation of the revival of this piece. Hiraux advised me to make
haste; the piece had caught on and was drawing crowds. It was played
by the two actors who were popular at the Porte-Saint-Martin: Philippe
and Madame Dorval. I followed Hiraux's advice; but, in spite of all the
haste I made, it is a long way from the _Café de la Porte-Saint-Honoré_
to the theatre of the Porte-Saint-Martin: I found the approaches to it
blocked.

I was quite fresh to Paris. I did not know all the various theatre
customs. I went along by the side of an enormous queue enclosed in
barriers, not daring even to ask where the entrance-money was taken.
One of the _habitués_ in the queue no doubt perceived my confusion, for
he called out to me--

"Monsieur! monsieur!"

I turned round, wondering if he were addressing me.

"Yes ... you, monsieur," continued the habitué, "you with the frizzy
locks ... do you want a place?"

"Do I want a place?" I repeated.

"Yes. If you put yourself at the bottom of this queue, you will never
get in to-night. Five hundred people will be turned away."

This was Hebrew to me. Of his language I only gathered that five
hundred folk would be turned away and that I should be one of the
number.

"Come, would you really like my place?" continued the habitué.

"Have you got a place, then?"

"Can't you see for yourself?"

I could see nothing at all.

"Taken in advance, then?" I asked.

"Taken since noon."

"And a good one ...?"

"What do you mean by good?"

Now it was the habitué who did not understand.

"Well," I went on, "shall I have a good place?"

"You can sit where you like."

"What! I can sit where I like?"

"Of course."

"How much did your place cost?"

"Twenty sous."

I reflected within myself that twenty sous to sit where I liked was not
dear. I drew twenty sous from my pocket and gave them to the _habitué_,
who immediately, with an agility that proved he was well accustomed
to this exercise, climbed up the rails of the barrier, got over it and
alighted by my side.

"Well," I said, "now where is your place?"

"Take it, ... but look sharp; for, if they push up, you will lose it."

At the same moment light broke in on my mind: "Those people, inside
that barrier, have no doubt taken and paid for their places in advance,
and it is in order to keep them they are penned in like that."

"Ah! good, I see!" I replied; and I strode over the barrier in my turn,
the reverse way; so that, contrary to the action of my place-seller,
who had come without from within, I went from the outside within. I did
not understand matters at all. After a second, there was a movement
forward. They were just opening the offices. I was carried forward
with the crowd, and ten minutes later, I found myself in front of the
grating.

"Well, monsieur, aren't you going to take your ticket?" asked my
neighbour.

"My ticket? What do you mean?"

"Of course, your ticket!" answered someone just behind me. "If you
aren't going to take your ticket, at least allow us to take ours."

And a light thrust showed the desire of those behind me to have their
turn.

"But," I said, "surely I have bought my place ...?"

"Your place ...?"

"Yes, I gave twenty sous for it, as you saw.... Why, I gave twenty sous
to that man who sold me his place!"

"Oh, his place in the queue!" exclaimed my neighbours; "but his place
in the queue is not his place inside the theatre."

"He told me that, with his place, I could go where I liked."

"Of course you can go where you like; take a stage-box. You can do
what you like, and you can go where you like. But tickets for the
stage-boxes are at the other office."

"Forward! forward! hurry up!" exclaimed those near me.

"Gentlemen, clear the gangway, if you please," cried a voice.

"It is this gentleman, who will not take his ticket, and who prevents
us from getting ours!" cried a chorus of my neighbours.

"Come, come, make up your mind."

The murmurs grew, and with them ringing in my ears, by degrees it
dawned upon me what had been pretty clearly dinned into me--namely,
that I had bought my place in the queue, and not my place in the
theatre.

So, as people were beginning to hustle me in a threatening fashion,
I drew a six-francs piece from my pocket and asked for a pit ticket.
They gave me four francs six sous, and a ticket which had been white.
It was time! I was immediately carried away by a wave of the crowd.
I presented my once white ticket to the check-taker: they gave me in
exchange a ticket that had been red. I went down a corridor to the
left; I found a door on my left with the word PARTERRE written over it,
and I entered. And now I understood the truth of what the _habitué_ who
had sold me his place for twenty sous had said. Although I had scarcely
fifteen or twenty people in front of me in the queue, the pit was
nearly full. A most compact nucleus had formed beneath the lights, and
I realised then that those must be the best places.

I immediately resolved to mix with this group, which did not look to me
to be too closely packed, for a good place therein. I climbed over the
benches, as I had seen several other people do, and balancing myself,
on the tops of their curved backs, I hastened to reach the centre.

I was becoming, or rather, it must be admitted, I was, a very
ridiculous object. I wore my hair very long, and, as it was frizzy, it
formed a grotesque aureole round my head. Moreover, at a period when
people wore short frock-coats, hardly reaching to the knee, I wore a
coat which came down to my ankles. A revolution had taken place in
Paris, which had not yet had time to reach as far as Villers-Cotterets.
I was in 1 the latest fashion of Villers-Cotterets, but I was in the
last but one Parisian mode. Now, as nothing generally is more opposed
to the latest fashion than the last mode but one, I looked excessively
absurd, as I have already had the modesty to admit. Of course, I
appeared so in the eyes of those towards whom I advanced; for they
greeted me with shouts of laughter, which I thought in very bad taste.

I have always been exceedingly polite; but at this period, coupled
with the politeness I had acquired from my maternal education, there
woke in me a restless, suspicious hastiness of temper which I probably
inherited from my father. This hastiness made my nerves an easy prey
to irritation. I took my hat in my hand--an action which revealed
the utter oddity of my way of wearing my hair--and the general
hilarity among the group in the rows to which I desired to gain access
redoubled. "Pardon me, gentlemen," I said in the politest of tones,
"but I should like to know the cause of your laughter, so that I may
be able to laugh with you. They say the piece we have come to see is
extremely sad, and I should not be sorry to make merry before I have to
weep."

My speech was listened to in the most religious silence; then, from the
depths of this silence, a voice suddenly exclaimed--

"Oh! that 'ead of 'is!"

The apostrophe seemed to be exceedingly funny, for it had hardly been
uttered before the bursts of laughter were redoubled; but the hilarity
had scarcely begun afresh before it was accompanied by the sound of a
stinging smack in the face which I gave to the wag. "Monsieur," I said,
as I slapped him, "my name is Alexandre Dumas. Until after to-morrow,
you will find me at the _Hôtel des Vieux-Augustins_, in the road of the
same name, and after to-morrow at No. 1 place des Italiens."

It would seem that I spoke a language quite unknown to these gentlemen;
for, instead of replying to me, twenty fists were flourished
threateningly, and everybody shouted--

"Put him out! put him out!"

"What!" I cried, "put me to the door? That would be a nice thing, upon
my word, seeing that I have already paid for my place twice over--once
in the queue, and then again at the box-office."

"Put him out! put him out!" cried the voices afresh, with redoubled
fury.

"Gentlemen, I have had the honour to give you my address."

"Put him out! put him out!" cried the people, in strident, raucous
tones.

All the people present had risen from their seats, were leaning over
the gallery, and were almost half out of the boxes. I seemed to be at
the end of an immense funnel with everybody gazing at me from all sides.

"Put him out! put him out!" cried those who did not even know what the
commotion was about, but who calculated that one person less would mean
room for one more.

I was debating what course to take, from the depths of my funnel, when
a well-dressed man broke through the crowd, which deferentially opened
a way for him, and he asked me to go out.

"Why am I to go out?" I asked in great surprise.

"Because you are disturbing the performance."

"What! I am disturbing the play?... The play has not begun yet."

"Well, you are disturbing the audience."

"Really, monsieur!"

"Follow me."

I remembered the affair that my father, at about my age, had had with a
musketeer at la Montansier, and although I knew that the constabulary
was dissolved, I expected I was in for something of the same sort. So
I followed without making any resistance, in the midst of the cheers
of the audience, who testified their satisfaction at the justice that
was being dealt out to me. My guide led me into the corridor, from the
corridor to the office, and from the office into the street. When in
the street he said, "There! don't do it again." And he returned to the
theatre.

I saw that I had got off very cheaply, since my father had kept his
warder attached to him for a whole week, whilst I had only been in
custody for five minutes. I stood for a moment on the pavement,
whilst I made this judicious reflection, and seeing that my guide had
re-entered, I too decided to do the same.

"Your ticket?" said the ticket collector.

"My ticket? You took it from me just now, and, as a proof, it was a
white one, for which you gave me in exchange a red ticket."

"Then what have you done with your red ticket?"

"I gave it to a woman who asked me for it."

"So that you have neither ticket nor check?"

"Why, no, I have neither ticket nor check."

"Then you cannot go in."

"Do you mean to say I cannot enter, after having paid for my ticket
twice over?"

"Twice?"

"Yes, twice."

"How did you do that?"

"Once in the queue, and again at the box-office."

"You humbug!" said the ticket collector.

"What did you say?"

"I said you cannot go in, that is what I said."

"But I mean to get in, nevertheless."

"Then take a ticket at the office."

"That will be the second."

"Well, what does that matter to me?"

"What does it matter to you?"

"If you have sold your ticket at the door, it is no affair of mine."

"Ah! so you take me for a dealer in checks?"

"I take you for a brawler who has just been turned out for disturbing
the peace, and if you go on doing it, you'll not be led out into the
road the next time, but into the police station."

There could be no mistaking the threat. I began to understand that,
without intending it, I had infringed the law--or rather custom, which
is far more jealous of contravention than the law.

"Ah, is this so?" I said.

"That is about it," said the collector.

"Well, well, you are the stronger of the two," I said.

And I went out.

When outside the door, I considered how stupid it was to have come to
see a play, to have paid for two places to see it-a place in the queue
and a place at the office--to have seen only a curtain representing
hangings of green velvet, and to come away without seeing anything
else. I went on to reflect that, since I had already paid for two
tickets, I might as well incur the expense of a third, and as people
were still going in and a double queue circled the theatre so that
the door formed as it were the clasp to the girdle, I placed myself
at the end of the queue which looked to me to be the shortest. It was
the opposite queue to the one I had gone in by before; it was not so
dense, as it led to the orchestra, the front galleries, the stage-boxes
and the first and second rows of stalls. This was what I was informed
by the clerk at the box-office when I asked for a ticket for the pit.
I looked up, and, as he had indicated, I saw upon the white plan the
designation of the places to be obtained at that particular office. The
cheapest places were those in the orchestra and second row of stalls.
Seats in the orchestra and in the second row of stalls cost two francs
fifty; centimes. I took two francs fifty centimes from my pocket, and
asked for an orchestra seat. The orchestra ticket was handed to me, and
my play-going cost me five francs all told.

No matter: it was no good crying over spilt milk! My dinner had not
cost me anything, and to-morrow I was to enter the Duc d'Orléans'
secretarial offices; I could well afford to allow myself this trivial
orgy. I reappeared triumphant before the check barrier, holding my
orchestra ticket in my hand. The collector smiled graciously upon
me, and said, "On the right, monsieur." I noticed this was quite a
different direction from the first time. The first time I had tacked
myself on to the right-hand queue and gone in at the left; the second
time, I followed the left queue and they told me to enter on the right.
I augured from this that since I had this time reversed the order of my
proceedings, the manner of my reception would also be reversed, and,
consequently, that I should be welcomed instead of rejected.

I was not mistaken. I found quite a different stamp of people in the
orchestra from those I had found in the pit, and, as the girl who
showed me to my seat pointed out to me a vacant place towards the
centre of a row, I set to work to reach it. Everyone rose politely
to allow me to pass. I gained my seat, and sat down by the side of a
gentleman, wearing grey trousers, a buff waistcoat and black tie. He
was a man of about forty or forty-two. His hat was placed on the seat
I came to fill. He was interrupted in the perusal of a charming little
book,--which I learnt later was an Elzevir,--apologised as he took up
his hat, bowed to me and went on reading. "Upon my word!" I said to
myself, "here is a gentleman who seems to me better brought up than
those I have just encountered." And, promising to enter into friendly
relations with my neighbour I sat down in the empty stall.



CHAPTER VIII


My neighbour--His portrait--The _Pastissier françois_--A course in
bibliomania--Madame Méchin and the governor of Soissons--Cannons and
Elzevirs


At this period of my life, being made up entirely of ignorance,
optimism and faith, I did not know in the least what an Elzevir, or
rather Elzevier, was. I learnt that evening, as we shall see; but
I did not understand thoroughly until much later, after I had made
the acquaintance of my learned friend, _la bibliophile_ Jacob. So it
is a little previous to say that the polite gentleman was reading
an Elzevir; I ought to say simply that he was reading a book. I
have related how I had taken the seat next his, and how, having
been distracted from his reading by having to lift his hat off my
seat, he had immediately plunged back again into his reading, more
absorbedly than ever. I have ever admired men who are capable of doing
anything whole-heartedly _(passionnément_);--please do not confound
_passionnément_ with _passionnellement_; this latter adverb was not
invented in 1823, or, if it were, Fourier had not yet exploited it.

It was not surprising that, interested as I was in literature, I should
endeavour to find out what the book was which could inspire such a
powerful influence over my neighbour, who was so deeply absorbed in
his reading that, metaphorically speaking, he gave himself up, bound
hand and foot, into my power. I had more than a quarter of an hour in
which to make this investigation before the curtain rose, therefore I
conducted it at my leisure. First of all, I tried to see the title of
the book; but the binding was carefully hidden by a paper cover, so
it was impossible to read the title on the back of the book. I rose;
in that position I could look down on the reader. Then, thanks to the
excellent sight I have the good fortune to possess, I was able to
read the following curious title on the opposite side to the engraved
frontispiece:--

                        LE PASTISSIER FRANÇOIS
           Où est enseignée la manière de faire toute sorte
                            de pastisserie
               Très-utile à toutes sortes de personnes;
             Ensemble le moyen d'apprester toutes sortes;
                d'œufs pour les jours maigres et autres
                      En plus de soixante façons.

                               AMSTERDAM

                     CHEZ LOUIS ET DANIEL ELZÉVIER

                                 1655

"Ah! ah!" I said to myself, "now I have it! This well-mannered
gentleman is surely a gourmand of the first order,--M. Grimod de la
Reyniere perhaps, whom I have so often heard described as a rival of
Cambacérès and of d'Aigrefeuille;--but stay, this gentleman has hands
and M. Grimod de la Reyniere has only stumps." At that moment, the
polite gentleman let his hand and the book he held fall on his knees;
then, casting his eyes upward, he appeared to be lost in profound
reflection. He was, as I have said, a man of forty or forty-two years
of age, with an essentially gentle face, kindly and sympathetic; he had
black hair, blue-grey eyes, a nose slightly bent to the left through an
excrescence, a finely cut, clever-looking, witty mouth--the mouth of a
born story-teller.

I was yearning to get up a conversation with him--I, a hobbledehoy of a
country bumpkin, ignorant of everything, but _anxious to learn_ as they
put it in M. Lhomond's elementary lessons. His benevolent countenance
encouraged me. I took advantage of the moment when he stopped reading
to address a word or two to him.

"Monsieur," said I, "pray forgive me if my question seems impertinent,
but are you extremely fond of eggs?"

My neighbour shook his head, came gradually out of his reverie,
and, looking at me with a distraught expression, he said, in a very
pronounced Eastern French accent--

"Pardon me, monsieur, but I believe you did me the honour of addressing
me ...?"

I repeated my sentence.

"Why do you suppose that?" he said.

"The little book you are reading so attentively, monsieur,--excuse
my rudeness, but my eyes fell involuntarily on the title,--contains
recipes, does it not? for cooking eggs in more than sixty different
ways?"

"Oh yes, true...." he said.

"Monsieur, that book would have been of great use to an uncle of
mine, a curé, who was, or rather still is, a great eater, and a fine
sportsman: one day he made a bet with one of his _confrères_ that he
would eat a hundred eggs at his dinner; he was only able to discover
eighteen or twenty ways of serving them ... yes, twenty ways, for he
ate them by fives at a time. You see, if he had known sixty ways of
cooking them, instead of a hundred, he could have eaten two hundred."

My neighbour looked at me with a certain attention which seemed to
imply that he was asking himself, "Am I by any chance seated next to a
young lunatic?"

"Well?" he said.

"Well, if I could procure such a book for my dear uncle, I am sure he
would be most grateful to me."

"Monsieur," said my neighbour, "I doubt if, in spite of the sentiments
which do a nephew's heart the greatest credit, you could procure this
book."

"Why not?"

"Because it is exceedingly rare."

"That little old book exceedingly rare?"

"Do you not know that it is an Elzevir, monsieur?"

"No."

"Do you not know what an Elzevir is?" exclaimed my neighbour,
overwhelmed with astonishment.

"No, monsieur, no; but do not be alarmed at such a trifle: since I came
to Paris not quite a week ago, I have discovered that I am ignorant of
nearly everything. Tell me what it is, please: I am not well enough off
to afford myself masters, I am too old to go back to college and I have
made up my mind to take _the whole world_ as my teacher--a teacher whom
report says is even more learned than Voltaire."

"Ah! ah! quite right, monsieur," said my neighbour, looking at me with
some interest; "and if you profit by the lessons that teacher will give
you, you will become a great philosopher, as well as a great savant.
Well, what is an Elzevir?... First of all, and in particular, this
little volume that you see is one; or, in general, every book that
came from the establishment of Louis Elzevir and of his successors,
booksellers of Amsterdam. But do you know what a bibliomaniac is?"

"I do not know Greek, monsieur."

"You know your ignorance and that is something. The bibliomaniac--root,
βιβλιο, book; μανια, madness--is a variety of the species
man--_species bipes et genus homo._"

"I understand."

"This animal has two legs and is featherless, wanders usually up and
down the quays and the boulevards, stopping at all the old bookstalls,
turning over every book on them; he is habitually clad in a coat that
is too long for him and trousers that are too short; he always wears on
his feet shoes that are down at the heel, a dirty hat on his head, and,
under his coat, and over his trousers, a waistcoat fastened together
with string. One of the signs by which he can be recognised is that he
never washes his hands."

"But you are describing a perfectly disgusting animal. I hope the race
does not consist entirely of specimens like that, and that there are
exceptions."

"Yes, but these exceptions are rare. Well, what this creature is in
particular quest after, among the old shopkeepers and on the old
bookstalls,--for you know that all animals hunt for something or
other,--is for Elzevirs."

"Are they hard to find?"

"Yes, more and more difficult every day."

"And how can Elzevirs be recognised?... Pray remember, monsieur, that
you are not risking anything by instructing me; I do not ever expect to
become a bibliomaniac, and my questions are solely out of curiosity."

"How can they be recognised? I will tell you. In the first place,
monsieur, the first volume in which one finds the name of Elzevir or
Elzevier is one entitled _Eutropii histories romanæ_, _lib. X. Lugduni
Batavorum, apud Ludovicum Elzevierum_, 1592, in 8°, 2 leaves, 169
pages. The design on the frontispiece,--remember this carefully, it is
the key to the whole mystery,--the design on the frontispiece is that
of an angel holding a book in one hand and a scythe in the other."

"Yes, I understand: 1592, in 8°, 2 leaves, 169 pages, an angel holding
a book in one hand and a scythe in the other."

"Bravo!... Isaac Elzevir--whom some declare to be the son and others
the nephew of Louis Elzevir: I maintain that he is the son; Bérard
maintains that he is the nephew, and, although he has Techener on his
side, I still think I am right--Isaac Elzevir substituted for this
design an elm tree, encircled by a vine laden with grapes, with this
device: _Non solus._ Do you follow me?"

"The Latin, yes."

"Well, then, Daniel Elzevir, in his turn, adopted Minerva and the olive
tree as his mark, with the device: _Ne extra oleas_. You still follow
me?"

"Perfectly: Isaac, a vine laden with grapes; Daniel, Minerva and the
olive tree."

"Better and better. But, besides these recognised editions, there
are anonymous and pseudonymous editions, and there is where the
inexperienced bibliomaniacs get confused. Ah!"

"Will you be my Ariadne?"

"Well, these editions are usually designated by a sphere."

"Then that is a guide."

"Yes, but you will see! These brothers, cousins or nephews Elzevir were
a very capricious lot of fellows. Thus, for example, one finds, since
1629, a buffalo head forming part of the headpieces in their books, at
the beginning of prefaces, dedicatory epistles and text."

"Well, thanks to the buffalo's head, it seems...."

"Wait a bit ... this lasted for five years. Since the _Sallust_ of 1634
and even perhaps earlier, they adopted another sign which resembled a
siren. Also in this edition...."

"The _Sallust_ of 1634?"

"Exactly! They adopted also, for the first time, on page 216, a
tail-piece of a head of Medusa."

"So, when once this principle is fixed and one knows that on page 216
of the _Sallust_ of 1634 there is a figure representing ...."

"Yes, yes, upon my word, that would be delightful, if it could be laid
down as a positive rule; but, bah! Daniel did not remain constant to
his designs. For example, in the 1661 _Terence_, he substitutes a
garland of hollyhocks for the buffalo head and the siren, and this
garland is to be found in a great many of his editions. But, in the
_Persius_ of 1664 he does not even put that."

"Oh, gracious! and what does he adopt in the _Persius_ of 1664?"

"He adopts a large ornament, in the centre of which are two swords
crossed over a crown."

"As though to indicate that the Elzevirs are the kings of the
book-selling world."

"You have hit it exactly, monsieur: a sovereignty no one disputes with
them."

"And the one you have there, monsieur,--which treats of French
confectionery and the sixty ways of cooking eggs,--is it the angel with
the book and the scythe? Is it the vine cluster? Is it the Minerva and
the olive tree? Is it the buffalo head? Is it the siren? Is it the head
of Medusa? Is it the garland of hollyhocks? Or is it the crown and two
swords?"

"This one, monsieur, is the rarest of all. I found it, this evening,
as I was coming here. Just think how I have argued with that idiot of
a Bérard over this Elzevir, for three years; he thinks himself a great
savant, and is not even half instructed."

"And, without seeming too inquisitive, monsieur, may I ask what was the
object of the discussion?"

"He would have it that _le Pastissier françois_ was printed in 1654,
and contained only four preliminary leaves; whilst I maintained, and
with reason, as you see, that it was printed in 1655 and that it had
five preliminary leaves and a frontispiece. Now here is the very
date, 1655; here are the five preliminary leaves; here is the very
frontispiece."

"Upon my word, so it is."

"Ah! ah! how sheepish, how utterly foolish my friend Bérard will look
now!"

"But, monsieur," I suggested timidly, "did you not tell me that you had
argued over this little volume for the past three years?"

"Yes, indeed, for more than three years."

"Well, it seems to me that if the discussion no longer amused you, you
had a very simple remedy at hand to stop it."

"What?"

"Does not one of the ancient philosophers prove the incontestability of
movement to another philosopher who denies movement, by walking before
him?"

"Well?"

"Well, then, you must prove to M. Bérard the superiority of your
knowledge over his, by showing him the Elzevir you have there, and
unless he is more incredulous than St. Thomas...."

"But, to show it, monsieur, it was necessary to possess it, and I had
it not."

"This little volume is, then, very rare?"

"It is the rarest of the lot! There are probably only ten examples of
it left in Europe."

"And why is this particular volume rarer than the others? Were there
fewer copies printed?"

"On the contrary, Techener declares that there were five thousand five
hundred copies issued, and I maintain that there were more than ten
thousand printed."

"The deuce! was the edition burnt, then, with the library of
Alexandria?"

"No; but it was lost, spoilt, torn up in kitchens. You can quite
understand that chefs and cookmaids are indifferent bibliomaniacs:
they served the _Pastissier françois_ as they served _Carême_ or the
_Cuisinier royal_; hence the rarity of the book."

"So rare that, as you say, you have not found one before to-night?"

"Oh, I knew of it six weeks ago. I told Frank to keep it for me, as I
was not well enough off to buy it."

"What! You were not rich enough to buy it, not rich enough to buy that
little old book?"

The bibliomaniac smiled disdainfully.

"Do you know, monsieur," he said to me, "what a copy of the _Pastissier
françois_ is worth?"

"Why, I should judge it worth about a crown."

"A copy of the _Pastissier françois,_ monsieur, is worth from two
hundred to four hundred francs."

"From two to four hundred francs ...?"

"Yes, indeed.... Only a week ago, old Brunet, the author of _Manuel des
libraires_, an enthusiastic Elzeviriomaniac, inserted a notice in the
papers that he was willing to pay three hundred francs for a copy such
as this. Luckily, Frank did not see the notice."

"Pardon me, monsieur! but I warned you what an ignoramus lam ... you
said a book like that was worth from two hundred to four hundred
francs."

"Yes, from two hundred to four hundred francs."

"Why is there such a difference in the price?"

"Because of the margins."

"Ah! the margins?"

"All the value of an Elzevir consists in the width of its margins; the
wider they are, the dearer the Elzevir. An Elzevir without a margin is
worth next to nothing; they measure the margins with compasses, and,
according as they have twelve, fifteen or eighteen lines, the Elzevir
is worth two hundred, three hundred, four hundred and even six hundred
francs."

"Six hundred francs!... I am of Madame Méchin's way of thinking."

"And what was Madame Méchin's way of thinking?"

"Madame Méchin is a very witty woman."

"Yes, I am aware of that."

"Her husband was prefect of the department of Aisne."

"I know that too."

"Well, one day when she was visiting Soissons with her husband, the
governor of the place, to do her honour, showed her the guns upon the
ramparts, one after the other. When she had seen all the kinds, of
every date and every shape, and had exhausted her repertory of _Ohs!_
and _Reallys!_ and _Is it possibles! _ Madame Méchin, who did not know
what to say next to the governor, asked him, 'How much does a pair of
cannon cost, M. le gouverneur?' 'A twelve, twenty-four or thirty-six
pounder, madame la comtesse?' 'Oh, let us say thirty-six?' 'A pair
of thirty-six cannon, madame,' replied the governor,--'a pair of
thirty-six cannon might cost from eight to ten thousand francs. 'Well,
then,' replied Madame Méchin, 'I am not going to put my money on them.'"

My neighbour looked at me, doubtful whether I had told the story
innocently or jokingly. He was possibly going to question me on that
head, when we heard the call bell; the overture began, and there were
cries for silence. Upon this, I prepared myself to listen, whilst
my neighbour plunged more deeply than ever into the reading of his
precious Elzevir.

The curtain rose.



CHAPTER IX

Prologue of the _Vampire_--The style offends my neighbour's ear--First
act--Idealogy--The rotifer--What the animal is--Its conformation, its
life, its death and its resurrection


The overture was intended to represent a storm. The scene opened in the
cave of Staffa. Malvina slept on a tomb. Oscar sat on another. A third
enclosed Lord Ruthven, who was to come out of it at a given moment.
The part of Malvina was taken by Madame Dorval; Oscar, or the angel of
marriage, by Moessard; Lord Ruthven, or the Vampire, by Philippe.

Alas! who could have known at that moment, when I was looking eagerly
beyond the curtain, taking in the whole scene, decorations and
characters combined, that I should be present at Philippe's funeral,
watch by Madame Dorval's death-bed, and see Moessard crowned?

In the prologue, there was another angel, called Ithuriel, the angel
of the moon, talking with the angel of marriage. This was Mademoiselle
Denotte. I do not know whether she is now living or dead.... The
narrative was carried on between the angel of marriage and the angel of
the moon, two angels who, as they wore the same armour, might have been
taken to belong to the same family.

Malvina had lost herself in hunting; the storm terrifying her, she had
taken shelter in the cave of Staffa. There, unable to keep awake, she
had fallen asleep on a tomb. The angel of marriage was watching over
her. The angel of the moon, who had slid down on a ray of the pale
goddess, through the cracks of the basaltic roof, asked why the angel
of marriage sat there, and, above all, how it came about that there
was a young girl in the grotto of Staffa.

The angel of marriage replied that, as Malvina, sister of Lord
Aubrey, was to espouse Lord Marsden next day, he had been summoned
by the importance of the occasion, and that his looks, when Ithuriel
interrupted him in the act of silently gazing upon the beautiful
betrothed girl, and the sadness depicted upon his face, sprang from
knowledge of the misfortunes in store for the young maiden, who was
about to fall from the arms of Love into those of Death. Then Ithuriel
began to understand.

"Explain thyself," said Ithuriel, "is it true that horrible phantoms
_come (viennent)_ sometimes ...?"

My neighbour trembled, as though an asp had bitten him in his sleep.

"_Vinssent!_" he cried,--"_vinssent!_3"

Cries of "Silence!" burst forth all over the theatre, and I too
clamoured loudly for silence, for I was enthralled by this opening.

The angel of the moon, interrupted in the middle of her sentence, threw
an angry look across the orchestra, and went on:

"Is it true that horrible phantoms come _(viennent)_ under the cloak
of the rights of marriage, to suck blood from the throat of a timid
maiden?"

"_Vinssent! vinssent! vinssent!_" murmured my neighbour.

Fresh cries of "_Hush!_" drowned his exclamation, which it must be
confessed was less bold and less startling this time than the first.

Oscar replied: "Yes! and these monsters are called vampires. A Power
whose inscrutable decrees we are not permitted to call in question,
has permitted certain miserable beings, who are tormented by the
punishments which their crimes have drawn down upon them on this earth,
to enjoy a frightful power, which they exercise by preference over the
nuptial couch and over the cradle; sometimes their formidable shapes
appear clothed in the hideous guise death has bestowed upon them;
others, more highly favoured, because their career is more brief and
their future more fearful, obtain permission to reclothe themselves
with the fleshy vesture lost in the tomb, and reappear before the
living in the bodily shapes they formerly possessed."

"And when do these monsters appear?" asked Ithuriel.

"The first hour of the morning wakes them in their sepulchre," replied
Oscar. "When the sound of its sonorous stroke has died away among the
echoes of the mountains, they fall back motionless in their everlasting
tombs. But there is one among them over whom my power is more limited
... what am I saying?... Fate herself can never go back on her
decisions! ... After having carried desolation into twenty different
countries, always conquered, ever continuing, the blood which sustains
its horrible existence ever renewing its vitality ... in thirty-six
hours, at one o'clock in the morning, it has at length to submit to
annihilation, the lawful punishment of an infinite succession of
crimes, if it cannot, at that time, add yet another crime, and count
one more victim."

"My God! think of writing a play like that!" murmured my neighbour.

It seemed to me that he was too critical; for I thought this
dialogue was couched in the finest style imaginable. The prologue
continued. Several persons who had heard my neighbour gave vent to
various whispered comments on the presumption of this indefatigable
interrupter; but, as he buried himself in his _Pastissier françois,_
the murmurs ceased.

It is unnecessary to point out that the young betrothed asleep on the
tomb was the innocent heroine who was destined to be the bride of the
Vampire, and had the public been in any doubt, all their doubts would
have been dispersed after the last scene of the prologue.

"What do I hear?" said Ithuriel; "thy conversation has kept me long
while in these caves."

As the angel of the moon asks this question, the silvery chime of a
distant clock is heard striking one, and the reverberation is repeated
in echoes again and again.

_Oscar._ "Stay and see."

All the tombs open as the hour sounds; pale shades rise half out of
their graves and then fall back under their monumental stones as the
sound of the echoes dies away.

A SPECTRE, clad in a shroud, escapes from the most conspicuous of these
tombs: his face is exposed; he glides to the place where Miss Aubrey
sleeps, exclaiming--

"Malvina!"

_Oscar._ "Withdraw."

_Spectre._ "She belongs to me!"

Oscar puts his arms round the sleeping girl. "She belongs to God, and
thou wilt soon belong to the regions of nothingness."

The Spectre retires, but repeats threateningly, "To nothingness."

Ithuriel crosses the stage in a cloud.

The scene changes and represents an apartment in the house of Sir
Aubrey.

"Absurd! absurd!" exclaimed my neighbour. And he resumed his reading of
_le Pastissier françois._

I did not at all agree with him: I thought the staging magnificent; I
had nothing to say about Malvina, for she had not spoken; but Philippe
seemed to me exceedingly fine, notwithstanding his paleness, and
Moessard very good. Moreover, crude as it was, it was an attempt at
Romanticism--a movement almost entirely unknown at that time. This
intervention of immaterial and superior beings in human destiny had
a fanciful side to it which pleased my imagination, and maybe that
evening was responsible for the germ in me from which sprang the _Don
Juan de Marana_ of eleven years later. The play began.

_Sir_ Aubrey (the reader will see presently why I underline the word
_Sir)--Sir_ Aubrey met Lord Ruthven, a rich English traveller, at
Athens, and they became friends. During their wanderings about the
Parthenon and their day-dreams by the seashore, they planned means
for tying the bonds of their friendship more firmly, and, subject to
Malvina's consent, they decided upon a union between the young girl,
who was at home in the castle of Staffa, and the noble traveller,
who had become her brother's closest friend. Unfortunately, during
an excursion which Aubrey and Ruthven made to the suburbs of Athens,
to attend the wedding of a young maiden endowed privately by Lord
Ruthven, the two companions were attacked by brigands: a sharp defence
put the assassins to flight; but Lord Ruthven was struck down mortally
wounded. His last words were a request that his friend would place him
on a hillock bathed by the moon's rays. Aubrey carried out this last
request, and laid the dying man on the place indicated; then, as his
friend's eyes closed and his breathing ceased, Aubrey began to search
for his scattered servitors; but when he returned with them, an hour
later, the body had disappeared. Aubrey fancied that the assassins must
have taken the body away to remove all traces of their crime.

When he returned to Scotland, he broke the news of Lord Ruthven's death
to his brother, Lord Marsden, and told him of the close relationship
that had united them during their travels. Then Marsden claimed
succession to his brother's rights, and proposed to marry Malvina, if
Malvina would consent to this substitution. Malvina, who did not know
either the one or the other, made no objection to Lord Marsden's claim
or to her brother's wishes.

Lord Marsden is announced. Malvina feels that slight embarrassment
which, like an early morning mist, always comes over the hearts of
young maidens at the approach of their betrothed. Aubrey, overjoyed,
rushes to greet him; but when he sees him he utters a cry of surprise.
It is not Lord Marsden--that is to say, a person hitherto unknown--who
stands before him; it is his friend Lord Ruthven!

Aubrey's astonishment is intense; but all is explained. Ruthven did not
die; he only fainted: the coolness of the night air brought him back
to consciousness. Aubrey's departure and his return to Scotland had
been too prompt for Ruthven to send him word; but when he was well he
returned to Ireland, to find his brother dead; he inherited his name
and his fortune, and, under that name, with twice the fortune he had
before, he offered to espouse Malvina, and rejoiced in anticipation at
the joy he would cause his beloved Aubrey, by his reappearance before
him. Ruthven is charming: his friend has not overrated him. He and
Malvina were both so favourably impressed with one another that, under
the pretext of very urgent business, he asked to be allowed to marry
her within twenty-four hours. Malvina makes a proper show of resistance
before yielding. They return to Marsden's castle. The curtain falls.

Now I had been watching my neighbour almost as much as the play, and,
to my great satisfaction, I had seen him close his Elzevir and listen
to the final scenes. When the curtain fell, he uttered an exclamation
of disdain accompanied by a deep-drawn sigh.

"Pooh!" he said.

I took advantage of this moment to renew our conversation.

"Excuse me, monsieur," I said, "but at the conclusion of the prologue
you said,'How absurd!'"

"Yes," said my neighbour, "I suppose I did say so; or, if I did not say
it, I certainly thought it."

"Do you then condemn the use of supernatural beings in the drama?"

"Not at all; on the contrary, I admire it extremely. All the great
masters have made potent use of it: Shakespeare in _Hamlet_, in
_Macbeth_ and in _Julius Cæsar_; Molière in _le Festin de pierre_,
which he ought rather to have called _le Convive de pierre_, for
his title to be really significant; Voltaire in _Sémiramis_; Goethe
in _Faust._ No, on the contrary, I highly approve of the use of the
supernatural, because I believe in it."

"What! you have faith in the supernatural?"

"Most certainly."

"In everyday life?"

"Certainly. We elbow every moment against beings who are unknown to us
because they are invisible to us: the air, fire, the earth, are all
inhabited. Sylphs, gnomes, water-sprites, hobgoblins, bogies, angels,
demons, fly, float, crawl and leap around us. What are those shooting
stars of the night, meteors which astronomers in vain try to explain to
us, and of which they can discover neither cause nor end, if they are
not angels carrying God's orders from one world to another? Some day we
shall see it all."

"Did you say, we shall see?"

"Yes, by heaven! we shall see. Do you not think that we see these
miracles?"

"You said 'we'; do you think we personally shall see them?"

"Well, I did not exactly say that ... not I, for I am already old;
perhaps you, who are still young; but certainly our descendants."

"And why, for heaven's sake, will our descendants see anything that we
cannot see?"

"In the same way that we see things which our ancestors never did."

"What things do we see which they did not?"

"Why, steam, piston guns, air-balloons, electricity, printing,
gunpowder! Do you suppose the world progresses only to stop half-way?
Do you imagine that after having conquered successively the earth,
water and fire, man, for instance, will not make himself master of the
air? It would be ridiculous to hold that belief. If perchance you doubt
it, young man, so much the worse for you."

"I confess one thing, monsieur, and that is, I neither doubt nor
believe. My mind has never dwelt on such theories. I have been wrong, I
see, since they can be interesting, and I should take to them if I had
the pleasure of talking for long with you. So you believe, monsieur,
that we shall gradually attain to a knowledge of all Nature's secrets?"

"I am convinced of it."

"But we should then be as powerful as the Almighty."

"Not quite.... As knowing, perhaps; as powerful, no."

"Do you think, then, that there is such a great distinction between
knowledge and power?"

"There is an abyss between those two words! God has given you authority
to make use of all created things. None of these things is useless
or idle: all at the right moment are capable of contributing to the
well-being of man, to the happiness of humanity; but, in order to be
able to apply these things to the good of the race and to the welfare
of the individual, man must know precisely the cause and the end of
everything. He will utilise all, and when he has utilised the earth,
water, fire and air, neither space nor distance will any longer exist
for him: he will see the world as it is, not merely in its visible
forms, but also in its invisible forms; he will penetrate into the
bowels of the earth, as do gnomes; he will inhabit water, like nymphs
and tritons; he will play in fire, as do hobgoblins and salamanders;
he will fly through the air, like angels and sylphs; he will ascend,
almost to God, by the chain of being and by the ladder of perfection;
he will see the supreme Ruler of all things, as I see you; and if,
instead of learning humility through knowledge, he should gain pride;
if, instead of worshipping, he be puffed up; if because of his
knowledge of creation, he thinks himself equal to the Creator, God will
say to him, 'Make Me a star or a _rotifer_!'"

I thought I had not heard him correctly, and I repeated--

"A star or a...?"

"Or a rotifer:--it is an animal I have discovered. Columbus discovered
a world and I an ephemera. Do you imagine that Columbus weighed
heavier, for all that, before the eyes of God, than I?"

I remained in thought for a moment. Was this man out of his mind?
Whether or no, his madness was a fine frenzy.

"Well," he went on, "one day people will discover water-sprites,
gnomes, sylphs, nymphs, angels, just as I discovered my animalcule.
All that is needed is to find a microscope capable of perceiving
the infinitely transparent, just as we have discovered one for the
infinitely little. Before the invention of the solar microscope,
creation, to man's eyes, stopped short at the acarus, the seison; he
little thought there were snakes in his water, crocodiles in his
vinegar, blue dolphins ... in other things. The solar microscope was
invented and he saw them all."

I sat dumbfounded. I had never heard anyone speak of such extraordinary
things. "Good gracious! monsieur," I said to him, "you open out to me a
whole world of whose existence I knew nothing. What! are there serpents
in water?"

"Hydras."

"Crocodiles in our vinegar?"

"Ichthyosauri."

"And blue dolphins in ...? But it is impossible!"

"Ah! that is the usual formula--'It is impossible!' ... You said just
now,'It is impossible!' in reference to things we do not see. And now
you say 'It is impossible' of things that everybody else but yourself
has seen. All 'impossibility' is relative: what is impossible to the
oyster is not impossible to the fish; what is impossible to the fish
is not impossible to the serpent; what is impossible to the serpent is
not impossible to the quadruped; what is impossible to the quadruped
is not impossible to man; what is impossible to man is not impossible
with God. When Fulton offered to demonstrate the existence of steam to
Napoleon, Napoleon said, as you, 'It is impossible!' and had he lived
two or three years longer he would have seen pass by, from the top of
his rocky island, their funnels smoking, the machines that might still
have kept him emperor, had he not scorned them as the creatures of a
dream, utopian and impossible! Even Job prophesied steamships...."

"Job prophesied steamships?"

"Yes, most certainly.... What else do you think his description of
leviathan meant, whom he calls the king of the seas?--'I will not
forget the leviathan, his strength and the marvellous structure of
his body. By his neesings a light doth shine, and his eyes are like
the eyelids of the morning. Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out
of a seething pot or caldron. His breath kindleth coals: his heart is
as firm as a stone, yea, as hard as a piece of the nether millstone.
He maketh the deep to boil as a pot; he maketh the sea like a pot of
ointment. He maketh a path to shine after him: one would think the
deep to be hoary. Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without
fear.' Leviathan is, of course, the modern steamship!"

"Indeed, monsieur," I said to my neighbour, "you make my head reel. You
know so much and you talk so well, I feel carried away by all you tell
me, like a leaf by a whirlwind. You spoke of a tiny animal that you
discovered--an ephemera: do you call that a rotifer?"

"Yes."

"Did you discover it in water, in wine or in vinegar?"

"In wet sand."

"How did it come about?"

"Oh! why, in a very simple way. I had begun making microscopic
experiments upon infinitely small things, long before Raspail. One day,
when I had examined under the microscope water, wine, vinegar, cheese,
bread, all the ingredients in fact that experiments are usually made
upon, I took a little wet sand out of my rain gutter,--I then lodged on
a sixth floor,--I put it on the slide of my microscope and applied my
eye to the lens. Then I saw a strange animal move about, in shape like
a velocipede, furnished with two wheels, which it moved very rapidly.
If it had a river to cross, these wheels served the same purpose as
those of a steamboat; had it dry land to go over, the wheels acted the
same as those of a tilbury. I watched it, I studied its every detail, I
drew it. Then I suddenly remembered that my rotifer,--I had christened
it by that name, although I have since called it a _tarentatello_>--I
suddenly remembered that my rotifer had made me forget an engagement. I
was in a great hurry; I had an appointment with one of the animalculæ
which do not like being kept waiting--an ephemera whom mortals call a
woman.... I left my microscope, my rotifer and the pinch of sand which
was his world. I had other work to do where I went, protracted and
engaging work, which kept me all the night. I did not get back until
the next morning: I went straight to my microscope. Alas! the sand had
dried up during the night, and my poor rotifer, which needed moisture,
no doubt, to live, had died. Its almost imperceptible body was
stretched on its left side, its wheels were motionless, the steamboat
puffed no longer, the velocipede had stopped."

"Ah! poor rotifer!" I exclaimed.

"Wait, wait!"

"Ah! was it like Lord Ruthven, then? He was not dead? Was he, like Lord
Ruthven, a vampire?"

"You will see! Quite dead though he was, the animal was still a curious
variety of ephemera, and his body was as worth preserving as that of a
mammoth or a mastodon. Only, you understand, quite other precautions
have to be taken to handle an animal a hundred times smaller than a
seison, than to change the situation of an animal ten times greater
than an elephant! I selected a little cardboard box, from among all
my boxes; I destined it to be my rotifer's tomb, and by the help of
the feather end of a pen I transported my pinch of sand from the slide
of my microscope to my box. I meant to show this corpse to Geoffroy
Saint-Hilaire or to Cuvier; but I did not get the opportunity. I never
met these gentlemen, or, if I did meet them, they declined to mount my
six flights of stairs; so for three or maybe six months or a year I
forgot the body of the poor rotifer. One day, by chance, the box fell
into my hand; and I desired to see what change a year had wrought on
the body of an ephemera. The weather was cloudy, there had been a great
fall of stormy rain. In order to see better, I placed my microscope
close to the window, and I emptied the contents of the little box on
to the slide. The body of the poor rotifer still lay motionless on the
sand; but the weather, which remembers the colossal so ruthlessly,
seemed to have forgotten the tiny atom. I was looking at my ephemera
with an easily understood feeling of curiosity, when suddenly the wind
drove a drop of rain on to the microscope slide and wet my pinch of
sand."

"Well?" I asked.

"Well, then the miracle took place. My rotifer seemed to revive at
the touch of that refreshing coolness: it began to move one antenna,
then another; then one of its wheels began to turn round, then both
its wheels: it regained its centre of gravity, its movements became
regular; in short, it lived!"

"Nonsense!"

"Monsieur, the miracle of the resurrection, in which perhaps you
believe, although Voltaire had no faith in it, was accomplished, not
at the end of three days ... three days, a fine miracle!... but at the
end of a year.... I renewed the same test ten times: ten times the sand
dried, ten times the rotifer died! ten times the sand was wetted, and
ten times the rotifer came to life again! I had discovered an immortal,
not a rotifer, monsieur! My rotifer had probably lived before the
Deluge and would survive to the Judgment Day."

"And you still possess this marvellous animal?"

"Ah, monsieur," my neighbour replied, with a deep sigh, "I have not
that happiness. One day when, for the twentieth time, perhaps, I was
preparing to repeat my experiment, a puff of wind carried away the dry
sand, and, with the dry sand, my deathless phenomenon. Alas! I have
taken many a pinch of wet sand from my gutters since, and even from
elsewhere, but always in vain; I have never found again the equivalent
of what I lost. My rotifer was not only immortal but even unique....
Will you allow me to pass, monsieur? The second act is about to begin,
and I think this melodrama so poor that I much prefer to go away."

"Oh, monsieur," I said, "I beg of you not to go; I have many more
things to ask of you, and you seem to me to be very learned!... You
need not listen if you don't want to; you can read _le Pastissier
françois,_ and in the intervals we can talk of Elzevirs and
rotifers.... I will listen to the play, which, I assure you, interests
me greatly."

"You are very good," said my neighbour; and he bowed.

Then came the three raps and, with the charming suavity I had already
noticed in him, he resumed his reading.

The curtain rose, revealing the entrance to a farm, a chain of snowy
mountains, and a window. The farm represented on the stage was that
belonging to Marsden Castle.



CHAPTER X


Second act of the _Vampire_--Analysis--My neighbour again objects--He
has seen a vampire--Where and how--A statement which records the
existence of vampires--Nero--Why he established the race of hired
applauders--My neighbour leaves the orchestra


While Ruthven's preparations for marrying Malvina were in progress,
Edgard, one of his vassals, married Lovette. Lovette made the
prettiest, the sweetest and the most graceful betrothed imaginable: she
was Jenny Vertpré, at twenty.

Lord Ruthven, who really loved Malvina, would much rather have sucked
the blood of another man's wife than that of his own; so, at the
request of Edgard, his servant, he willingly acceded to be present at
his nuptials. The marriage takes place. Lord Ruthven is seen sitting
down: the ballet is just about to begin, when an ancient bard comes
forward with his harp; he was a guest at every castle, the poet invited
to every marriage. He recognised Ruthven, who did not recognise him,
being otherwise employed in ogling poor Lovette.

The bard tunes his harp and sings:--

    "O jeune vierge de Staffa
    Brûlant de la première flamme,
    Dont le cœur palpite déjà
    Aux doux noms d'amante et de femme!
    Au moment d'unir votre sort
    A l'amant de votre pensée,
    Gardez-vous, jeune fiancée,
    De l'amour qui donne la mort!"

This first couplet rouses Lord Ruthven's anger, who sees in it a
warning addressed to Lovette, and who consequently fears to see his
victim snatched away from him. So he turns his bewitching glance
from the young girl to glare furiously on the bard, who continues
unconcernedly:--

    "Quand le soleil de ces déserts
    Des monts ne dore plus la cime,
    Alors, les anges des enfers
    Viennent caresser leurs victimes....
    Si leur douce voix vous endort,
    Reculez, leur main est glacée!
    Gardez-vous, jeune fiancée,
    De l'amour qui donne la mort!"

A third stanza and Lovette will escape from the Vampire. The bard, who
is the angel of marriage in disguise, must not therefore be allowed to
sing his third stanza. Lord Ruthven complains that the song brings back
unhappy memories, and sends the old man away.

Then, as night draws on, as there is no time to lose, since, unless
he can suck the blood of a maiden before one o'clock in the morning,
he must die, he seeks an interview with Lovette. Lovette would fain
decline; but Edgard is afraid of displeasing his lord and master, who,
left alone with Lovette, endeavours to seduce her, swears to her that
he loves her, and places a purse full of gold in her hand. Just at that
moment the bard's harp is heard and the refrain of the song:--

    "Gardez-vous, jeune fiancée,
    De l'amour qui donne la mort!"

Then everybody comes on, and the ballet begins. Towards the middle of
the ballet, Lovette withdraws, tired; Ruthven, who has not let her go
out of sight, follows her. Edgard soon perceives that neither Lovette
nor his lord are present. He goes out in his turn. Cries are heard from
the wing; Lovette runs on, terrified; a pistol-shot is heard: Lord
Ruthven falls mortally wounded on the stage.

"He tried to dishonour my betrothed!" cries Edgard, who appears, his
pistol still smoking in his hand.

Aubrey dashes towards the wounded man. Lord Ruthven still breathes; he
asks to be left alone with his friend. Everybody goes off.

"One last promise, Aubrey," says Lord Ruthven.

"Oh, ask it, take my life!... it will be unbearable to me without
thee," replies Aubrey.

"My friend, I only ask thee for profound secrecy for twelve hours."

"For twelve hours?"

"Promise me that Malvina shall not know anything of what has
happened--that you will not do anything to avenge my death before the
hour of one in the morning has struck.... Swear secrecy by my dying
breath!..."

"I swear it!" says Aubrey, stretching forth his hands. The moon comes
out from behind clouds and shines brilliantly during Ruthven's last
words.

"Aubrey," says Ruthven, "the queen of night casts light upon me for the
last time.... Let me see her and pay my final vows to heaven!"

Ruthven's head falls back at these words. Then Aubrey, helped by
Lovette's father, carries the dead man to the rocks in the distance,
kisses his hand for the last time, and retires, led away by the old
man. At that moment the moonlight completely floods Ruthven's body with
its rays and lights up the frozen mountains....

The curtain falls, and the whole house applauds enthusiastically,
save my neighbour, who still growls under his breath. Such inveterate
animosity against a play which appeared to me to be full of interest
astonished me, coming from a person who seemed so well disposed as he.
He had not merely contented himself with noisy exclamations, as I have
indicated, but, still worse, during the whole of the last scene he had
played in a disturbing fashion with a key which he several times put to
his lips.

"Really, monsieur," I said, "I think you are very hard on this piece."

My neighbour shrugged his shoulders.

"Yes, monsieur, I know it, and the more so because the author considers
himself a man of genius, a man of talent, the possessor of a good
style; but he deceives himself. I saw the piece when it was played
three years ago, and now I have seen it again. Well, what I said then,
I repeat: the piece is dull, unimaginative, improbable. Yes, see how he
makes vampires act! And then _Sir_ Aubrey! People don't talk of _Sir_
Aubrey. Aubrey is a family name, and the title of _Sir_ is only used
before the baptismal name. Ah! the author was wise to preserve his
anonymity; he showed his sense in doing that."

I took advantage of a moment when my neighbour stopped to take breath,
and I said--

"Monsieur, you said just now, 'Yes, see how he makes vampires act!' Did
you not say so? I was not mistaken, was I?"

"No."

"Well, by employing such language you gave me the impression that you
believe they really exist?"

"Of course they exist."

"Have you ever seen any, by chance?"

"Certainly I have seen them."

"Through a solar microscope?" I laughingly suggested. "No, with my own
eyes, as Orgon and Tartuffe."

"Whereabouts?"

"In Illyria."

"In Illyria? Ah! Have you been in Illyria?"

"Three years."

"And you saw vampires there?"

"Illyria, you must know, is the historic ground of vampires like
Hungary, Servia and Poland."

"No, I did not know.... I do not know anything. Where were the vampires
you saw?"

"At Spalatro. I was lodging with a good man of sixty-two. He died.
Three days after his burial, he appeared to his son, in the night, and
asked for something to eat: the son gave him all he wanted; he ate it,
and then vanished. The next day the son told me what had happened,
telling me he felt certain his father would not return once only, and
asking me to place myself, the following night, at a window to see
him enter and go out. I was very anxious to see a vampire. I stood
at the window, but that night he did not come. The son then told me,
fearing lest I should be discouraged, that he would probably come on
the following night. On the following night I placed myself again at my
window, and sure enough, towards midnight, the old man appeared, and I
recognised him perfectly. He came from the direction of the cemetery;
he walked at a brisk pace, but his steps made no sound. When he reached
the door, he knocked; I counted three raps: the knocks sounded hard on
the oak, as though it were struck with a bone and not with a finger.
The son opened the door and the old man entered...."

I listened to this story with the greatest attention, and I began to
prefer the intervals to the melodrama.

"My curiosity was too highly excited for me to leave my window,"
continued my neighbour; "there I stayed. Half an hour later, the old
man came out; he returned whence he had come--that is to say, in the
direction of the cemetery. He disappeared round the corner of a wall.
At the same moment, almost, my door opened. I turned round quickly and
saw the son. He was very pale. 'Well,' I said,'so your father came?'
'Yes ... did you see him enter?' 'Enter and come out.... What did
he do to-day?' 'He asked me for food and drink, as he did the other
day.' 'And did he eat and drink?' 'He ate and drank.... But that is
not all ... this is what troubles me. He said to me ...' 'Ah!' he said
something else than a mere request for food and drink?' 'Yes, he said
to me, "This is the second time I have come and eaten with thee. It
is now thy turn to come and eat with me."' 'The devil!...' 'I am to
expect him the same hour the day after to-morrow.' 'The deuce you are!'
'Yes, yes, that is just what worries me.' The day but one after, he was
found dead in his bed! The same day two or three other people in the
same village who had also seen the old man, and to whom he had spoken,
fell ill and died too. It was then recognised that the old man was a
vampire. I was questioned; I told all I had seen and heard. Justice
demanded an examination of the graveyard. They opened the tombs of all
those who had died during the previous six weeks: every corpse was in
a state of decomposition. But when they came to Kisilowa's tomb--that
was the old man's name--they found him with his eyes open, his lips
red, his lungs breathing properly, although he was as rigid as if in
death. They drove a stake through his heart; he uttered a loud cry and
blood gushed out from his mouth: then they laid him on a stack of wood,
reduced him to ashes and scattered the ashes to the four winds.... I
left the country soon after. I never heard if his son turned into a
vampire too."

"Why should he have become a vampire too?" I asked.

"Ah! because it is the custom of those who die from a vampire's bite to
become vampires."

"Really, you say this as though it were a known fact."

"But indeed it is a known, registered and well established fact! Do you
doubt it?... Read Don Calmet's _Traité des apparitions_, vol ii. pp.
41 _et sqq_.; you will find a record signed by the hadnagi Barriavar
and the ancient heïduques; further by Battiw, first lieutenant of the
regiment of Alexander of Wurtemberg; by Clercktinger, surgeon-major of
the Fürstenberg regiment; by three other surgeons of the company and by
Goltchitz, captain at Slottats, stating that in the year 1730, a month
after the death of a certain heïduque, who lived in Medreiga, named
Arnold-Paul, who had been crushed by the fall of a hay waggon, four
people died suddenly, and, from the nature of their death, according
to the traditions of the country, it was evident that they had been
the victims of vampirism; they then called to mind that, during his
life, this Arnold-Paul had often related how, in the neighbourhood
of Cossova, on the Turko-Servian frontier, he had been worried by a
Turkish vampire,--for they too hold the belief that those who have
been passive vampires during their lives become active vampires after
their death,--but that he had found a cure in the eating of earth
from the vampire's grave, and in rubbing himself with its blood--
precautions which did not prevent him from becoming a vampire after
his death; for, four persons having died, they thought the deed was
due to him, and they exhumed his body forty days after his burial:
he was quite recognisable, and his body bore the colour of life; his
hair, his nails and his beard had grown; his veins were filled with a
bloody fluid, which exuded from all parts of his body upon the shroud
in which he was wrapped round: the hadnagi, or bailiff of the place,
in the presence of those who performed the act of exhumation, and who
was a man experienced in cases of vampirism, caused a very sharp stake
to be driven through the heart of the said Arnold-Paul, after the
usual custom, piercing his body through and through, a frightful cry
escaping from his lips, as though he were alive; this act accomplished,
they cut off his head, burned him to ashes, and did the same with the
corpses of the four or five other victims of vampirism, lest they,
in their turn, should cause the deaths of others; but none of these
precautions prevented the same wonders from being renewed, five years
later, about the year 1735, when seventeen people, belonging to the
same village, died from vampirism, some without any previous illness,
others after having languished two or three days; among others a young
person, named Stranoska, daughter of the heïduque Jeronitzo, went to
bed in perfect health, waked up in the middle of the night, trembling
all over, uttering fearful shrieks, and saying that the son of the
heïduque Millo, who had died nine weeks before, had tried to strangle
her during her sleep; she languished from that instant, and died in
three days' time: since what she had said of the son of Millo led them
to suspect him of being a vampire, they exhumed him, and found him in
a state which left no doubt of the fact of vampirism; they discovered,
in short, after prolonged investigation, that the defunct Arnold-Paul
had not only killed the four persons already referred to, but also
many animals, of which fresh vampires, and particularly Millo's son,
had eaten; on this evidence, they decided to disinter all who had died
since a certain date, and among about forty corpses they discovered
seventeen which bore evident signs of vampirism; so they pierced their
hearts, cut off their heads, then burnt them and threw their bodies
into the river."

"Does the book which contains this evidence cost as much as an Elzevir,
monsieur?"

"Oh dear no! You will pick it up anywhere, two volumes, in 18mo, of 480
pages each. Techener, Guillemot or Frank will have a copy. It will cost
you from forty sous to three francs."

"Thanks, I shall give myself the pleasure of buying a copy."

"Now will you allow me to depart?... Three years ago I thought the
third act pretty bad; it will seem worse to me to-day."

"If you really must, monsieur ..."

"Yes, really you must let me go."

"But first may I ask your advice?"

"With the greatest pleasure.... Speak."

"Before I came into the orchestra, I entered the pit, and there I had a
slight breeze."

"Ah! It was you, was it?"

"It was I."

"You ...?"

"Yes."

"Smacked ...?"

"Yes."

"What occasioned you to allow yourself that diversion?"

I told him my adventure, and asked him if I ought to forewarn my
witnesses overnight, or if it would be time enough next morning.

He shook his head.

"Oh, neither to-night nor to-morrow morning," he said.

"What! neither to-night nor to-morrow?"

"No; it would be useless trouble."

"Why so?"

"Because you fell into a nest of hired applauders."

"A nest of hired applauders!... What are they?" I asked.

"Oh! young man," exclaimed my neighbour in paternal accents, "do your
utmost to preserve your holy innocence!"

"But suppose I beg you to put an end to it ...?"

"Have you ever heard that in former times there were emperors of Rome?"

"Certainly."

"Do you remember the name of the fifth of those emperors?" "I think it
was Nero."

"Right.... Well, Nero, who poisoned his cousin Britannicus,
disembowelled his mother Agrippina, strangled his wife Octavia,
killed his wife Poppæa with a kick in the stomach, had a tenor voice,
after the style of Ponchard; only his style was less cultivated, and
occasionally he sang false! That did not matter whilst Nero sang before
his roystering companions or before his courtesans at the Palatine
or Maison-Dorée; neither was it of much consequence when Nero sang
as he watched Rome burn: the Romans were too much occupied with the
fire to pay any attention to a semi-tone too high or a flat too low.
But when he took it into his head to sing in a public theatre, it was
a different matter: every time the illustrious tenor deviated in the
slightest degree from musical correctness, some spectator allowed
himself--what I shall permit myself to do immediately, if you insist on
my remaining to the end of this silly melodrama--to whistle. Of course
the spectator was arrested and promptly flung to the lions; but as he
passed before Nero, instead of saying simply, according to custom,
'Augustus, he who is about to die salutes thee!' he said,'Augustus,
I am to die because you sang false; but when I am dead, you will not
sing the more correctly.' This final salutation, taken up and added
to by other culprits, annoyed Nero: he had the whistlers strangled in
the corridors, and no one whistled any more. But it was not enough for
Nero,--that _hankerer after the impossible,_ as Tacitus called him,--it
was not enough that no one whistled any more, he wanted everybody to
applaud him. Now, he could indeed strangle those who whistled, but he
could not exactly strangle those who did not applaud; he would have
had to strangle the whole audience, and that would have been no light
job: Roman theatres held twenty, thirty, forty thousand spectators!...
As they were so strong in numbers, they could easily have prevented
themselves from being strangled. Nero went one better: he instituted a
body composed of Roman nobles--a kind of confraternity consisting of
some three thousand members. These three thousand chevaliers were not
the emperor's pretorians, they were the artist's body-guard; wherever
he went, they followed him; whenever he sang, they applauded him. Did
a surly spectator raise a murmur, a sensitive ear allow its owner
to utter a slight whistle, that murmur or whistle was immediately
drowned by applause. Nero ruled triumphant in the theatre. Had not
Sylla, Cæsar and Pompey exhausted all other kinds of triumph? Well,
my dear sir, that race of chevaliers has been perpetuated under the
name of _claqueurs_. The Opéra has them, the Théâtre-Français has
them, the Odéon has them--and is fortunate in having them!--finally,
the Porte-Saint-Martin has them; nowadays their mission is not only
to support poor actors--it consists even more, as you have just seen,
in preventing bad plays from collapsing. They are called _romains_,
from their origin; but our _romains_ are not recruited from among the
nobility. No, managers are not so hard to please in their choice, and
it is not necessary to show a gold ring on the first finger; provided
they can show a couple of big hands, and bring these large hands
rapidly and noisily together, that is the only quartering of nobility
required of them. So, you see, I am quite right to warn you not to
upset two of your friends for one of those rapscallions.... Now that I
have enlightened you, will you allow me to leave?"

I knew it would be impertinent to retain my neighbour any longer.
Though his conversation, which had covered a wide range of subjects
in a short time, was agreeable and highly edifying to myself, it was
evident he could not say the same of mine. I could not teach him
anything, save that I was ignorant of everything he knew. So I effaced
myself with a sigh, not daring to ask him who he was, and allowing him
to pass by with his _Pastissier françois_ hugged with both hands to
his breast, fearing, no doubt, lest one of the chevaliers of whom he
had just spoken, curious in the matter of rare books, should relieve
him of it.

I watched him withdraw with regret: a vague presentiment told me that,
after having done me so much service, this man would become one of my
closest friends. In the meanwhile, he had made the intervals far more
interesting than the play.

Happily the bell was ringing for the third act, and so the intervals
were at an end.



CHAPTER XI


A parenthesis_--Hariadan Barberousse_ at Villers-Cotterets--I play the
rôle of Don Ramire as an amateur--My costume--The third act of the
_Vampire_--My friend the bibliomaniac whistles at the most critical
moment--He is expelled from the theatre--Madame Allan-Dorval--Her
family and her childhood--Philippe--His death and his funeral


The only definite feeling I was conscious of, when my neighbour had
gone, was one of utter loneliness in that vast building. So I gave
my whole attention to the play. Could I judge clearly? No, certainly
not as yet: the _Vampire_ was one of the first melodramas I had come
across. The first was _Hariadan Barberousse._ I have forgotten to tell
at the proper time and place how I became acquainted with the work of
MM. Saint-Victor and Corse.

A troop of poverty-stricken actors came to Villers-Cotterets
(you will understand they must have been poor indeed to come to
Villers-Cotterets), and there they pretty nearly died of starvation.
They consisted of but one family named Robba. These poor devils were
possessed with the idea of giving a benefit for themselves, and they
thought of begging two or three young ladies and young gentlemen of the
town to play with them and for them. Naturally I was applied to. Nature
had already implanted in my heart that fountain of goodwill through
which everything that I had, that I have, that I shall have, passed,
passes, and always will pass. I agreed to undertake the rôle of Don
Ramire. All the other mothers refused to allow their boys and girls
to act. Were their children going to mount the boards and play with
ordinary actors? No indeed! My mother alone kept her promised word, and
I was the only artiste on this special occasion whose name, printed in
big letters on the bills, was utilised in the philanthropic mission of
obtaining a good audience for them.

I had to concoct a costume. It was a lengthy business to bring such an
operation to a conclusion. Happily, no one was very exacting at that
period, above all at Villers-Cotterets. Even Talma, who was a great
renovator, played _Hamlet_ in white satin breeches, _bottes à cœur_
and a polonaise. But of this wardrobe I only had the _bottes à cœur:_
I could not play Don Ramire with the aid only of the boots. We made
a tunic,--everybody played in tunics at that epoch,--and a splendid
tunic it was, indeed, for it was made out of two red cashmere shawls,
ornamented with a great gold-flowered pattern; my father had brought
the shawls from Egypt, and I believe I have already referred to them.
We contented ourselves with sewing them together, leaving an opening
on each side for my arms, a sword-belt at the waist serving as a
girdle; out of each arm-hole appeared a satin sleeve, and Don Ramire
was, if not exactly sufficiently, at least sumptuously and modestly,
clad from the shoulders to half-way down his thighs. A turned-down
collar and a satin toque to match the tunic in colour completed the
upper part of the costume. But the question of the lower half was more
serious. Tights were rare in Villers-Cotterets; I might even say that
they were unknown; so it was of no use wishing to procure tights: it
would have been time wasted, a vision, a dream. The longest pair of
silk stockings that could be found, sewed into a pair of drawers, did
the business. Then came the laced boots. Ah! these laced boots, they
were an invention of my own. A second pair of silk stockings were dyed
red; soles were sewed to them; they were put over the first pair,
then turned back, rolled up to within three inches of the ankle; the
roll was tied fast to make a pad; we imitated the lacing of a laced
boot with green ribbon; and then this footgear formed the base of a
presentable-looking Don Ramire, who, atop, indulged in the luxury
of a satin toque with an ostrich plume. Finally came the sword. My
father's sword, the sword of a Republican, with its cap of Liberty,
looked somewhat odd when compared with the rest of Don Ramire's attire.
The mayor, M. Mussart, lent me a silver-mounted Louis XV. sword: the
chain which had fastened it was detached; but, though the guard had
disappeared, the hilt and the sheath were left, and this was sufficient
to satisfy the most exacting.

The announcement of this important entertainment made a great
sensation: people came from all the towns and all the villages round,
even from Soissons. I looked perfectly absurd, having never seen any
play but _Paul et Virginie_ at the age of three, and the _Jeunesse de
Henri V._ when I was eleven. But the Robbas took eight hundred francs
at the doors--a fortune to them; and a mother, a father, children and
grandchildren had wherewithal to keep themselves in food for two-thirds
of a year.

Poor Robbas! I recollect that the whole of their _répertoire_ only
consisted of _Adolphe et Clara_ and the _Déserteur._ God alone knows
what became of the poor things! That was how I came to know _Hariadan
Barberousse_, which, with the _Vampire_, whose last act I was about to
see, completed the sum total of my melodramatic equipment.

The third act was but a repetition of what had passed in the first.
Ruthven, whom his friend Aubrey believed dead at

Marsden's farm, comes to life again, a sepulchral Endymion, under the
kisses of the moon. He returns to the castle before Malvina's brother
and urges forward his marriage; then Aubrey comes back and finds the
bride adorned and the chapel prepared. He approaches his sister to tell
her the terrible news of the death of her betrothed, and, seeing him
pale and distressed, Malvina exclaims--

"Dear brother, you are in trouble!... For heaven's sake, tell me all!"

"Rally your courage, then," says Aubrey.

"You terrify me!" exclaims Malvina.

Then, turning towards the door--

"Milord is long a-coming," she says.

"Since I must rend your heart, know that all my plans are broken. A
fearful, an unlooked-for event has deprived us, me of a friend, you of
a husband!... The unfortunate Ruthven."

At this juncture Ruthven comes forward, seizes Aubrey by the arm and
says to him in a grim voice--

"Think of thy oath!"

At these words, and just as the whole audience burst into applause,
a loud whistle sounded from one of the boxes. I turned round, and
everybody in the orchestra and the pit did likewise. The hired
applauders rose in a body and, climbing on the forms, shouted, "Put
him out!" This formidable mountain could be seen rising up in the
centre of the theatre, like the enormous counterfeit Parnassus of M.
Titon-Dutillet at the Bibliothèque. But the whistler continued to
whistle, hidden in his box, sheltered behind the railing as behind an
impregnable rampart. I do not know why, but I came to the conclusion
that it was my neighbour who was at last gratifying to his heart's
content his desire to deride the piece which had disgusted him
throughout the night. The play was totally stopped: Philippe, Madame
Dorval and Thérigny stood on the stage without being able to utter
a syllable; shouts of "Put him out!" increased and a police officer
was sent for. By dint of gazing hard into the box I could see through
the bars, and there I discerned, in the dusky interior, the untoward
whistler. It was indeed my neighbour the bibliomaniac. The police
officer arrived. In spite of all his protestations, the whistler was
expelled from the theatre, and the piece went on in the midst of
stampings and bravoes.

The play was drawing to its close. Aubrey, seized by Lord Ruthven's
attendants, is carried away from Malvina's side, and she remains
unprotected. Ruthven bears her off; a door opens--it is that of the
chapel, illuminated for the nocturnal marriage. Malvina hesitates
to contract the marriage without the presence of her brother; but
Ruthven becomes more and more urgent; for unless the blood of a young
damsel gives him renewed life within a very few minutes, he _will
be annihilated,_ as the angel of marriage had predicted! Suddenly,
Aubrey, who has escaped from his guardians, appears in the chapel; he
stops his sister; he implores her not to go on any farther with the
proceedings. Ruthven again recalls Aubrey to his oath.

"Yes," says Aubrey, "but the hour is just about to strike when I may
reveal everything."

"Wretch!" cries Ruthven, drawing a dagger, "if you utter one word...."

"You shall only take her bathed in my blood!" cries Aubrey, redoubling
his resistance.

"Well, then, you shall both perish!" says Ruthven.

He is about to strike Aubrey. One o'clock sounds; Malvina falls
fainting in the arms of Bridget; thunder rumbles.

"Annihilation! annihilation!" shrieks Ruthven.

He lets his dagger fall and tries to flee. Shades come up out of the
ground and carry him off; the destroying angel appears in a cloud;
lightning flashes, and Ruthven is engulfed amidst the shades.

"_PLUIE DE FEU_"

It will be gathered that we are copying from the manuscript itself.

Philippe was recalled. But Madame Dorval's part was so execrable
that no one dreamt of recalling her; she was only engaged at the
Porte-Saint-Martin to play the worst parts; the favourite artiste,
Mademoiselle Lévesque, took the good ones.

Allow me a few words concerning that poor dear creature, whom I then
saw for the first time, and who died in my arms twenty-six years
later.[1]

A large portion of these Memoirs will be devoted to remarks concerning
the influence of eminent artistes, great comedians or famous poets; for
my pages are intended to deal with the development of art in France
during one half of the nineteenth century.

Political events will also no doubt have their share of attention,
but only their due share. It is time things were relegated to their
proper positions, and, as our century is first and foremost one of
appreciation, it is desirable that men and things should be appreciated
at their proper value.

Mademoiselle Mars and Talma, those two great artistic glories of the
Empire and the Restoration, will still survive in the thoughts of the
twentieth and the twenty-first centuries, when the very names of those
political actors whom men call ministers will long have been forgotten,
the men who disdainfully flung to these glorious mendicants the grant
annually allowed by the Chamber as though it were an alms.

Who was minister in England the year Shakespeare wrote _Othello_? Who
was gonfalonier in Florence when Dante wrote his _Inferno_? Who was
minister to King Hiero when the author of _Prometheus_ came to beg
protection from him? Who was archon of Athens when the divine Homer
died on one of the Sporades, towards the middle of the tenth century
B.C.?

To answer such queries one must needs be my neighbour,--my neighbour
who knew so many things, who could recognise Elzevirs, who knew where
vampires were to be found, who knew the origin of hired applauders
and who had been put out of the theatre for whistling at the prose
of MM.... for no name was ever printed on the _Vampire_ pamphlet,
published by Barba, who ostentatiously put below his name: _Publisher
of the Works of Pigault-Lebrun._

Let us return to Madame Allan-Dorval, as she was called at that period.
As I advance with these Memoirs there are many men and women, literary
or political comedians whom we shall meet with, who made a name for
themselves in their day, and I shall do for these personages what I am
just about to do for poor Marie Dorval. When she died I undertook to
raise a monument over her grave--a literary monument in my writings,
a sepulchral monument in stone. The stones were to be paid for by my
literary labours, and it pleased me to think of being the architect of
both monuments.

Unluckily, I began the erection of my literary monument in the
_Constitutionnel._ At the second article, I referred to _Antony_ and
the old _Constitutionnel._ M. Véron's susceptibility took fright:
the literary monument was arrested at its first attempt. And as the
sepulchral monument depended on the literary monument, the sepulchral
monument was never begun.

Some day we will take up this matter again, among many others we have
been compelled to drop, and with God's help, and in spite of the
ill-will of men, we will finish them.

The age of artistes is ever a problem that is never solved until after
their death. I never learned Dorval's age until she died. She was born
on Twelfth Night in the year 1798; so in 1823, when I was twenty, she
was twenty-five. She did not call herself Marie Dorval then: those two
names, so easy to pronounce that they seem always to have belonged to
her, were not then linked to each other by the golden chain of genius.
Her real name was Thomase-Amélie Delaunay: she was born close to the
théâtre de Lorient and her earliest steps were patters across its
boards. Her mother was an actress who took the part of leading singer.
_Camille ou le Souterrain_ was then the comic opera in vogue. The
little maiden was rocked on the stage to these lines, which her mother
could hardly sing save with tears in her eyes:--

    "Oh! non, non, il n'est pas possible
    D'avoir un plus aimable enfant!"

Directly she could talk, her lips stammered out the prose of Panard and
Collé, Sedaine and Favart; at seven, she passed into what was called
the _emploi des Betsy._ Her most popular air was in _Sylvani_--

    "Je ne sais pas si mon cœur aime."

An artist at Lorient painted her portrait at that time--that is to
say, in 1808. In 1839, Madame Dorval returned to Lorient, her native
town. The day following a striking success, an old white-haired man
came to call upon her to pay her his tribute. His offering was this
painting of her as a child: a third of a century had passed by and the
woman could not be recognised in it. To-day both painter and Madame
Dorval are dead, but the portrait still continues to smile. It hung in
Madame Dorval's bedroom. I saw it, for the first time, when I helped
to close her eyes. It was a melancholy contrast, I need hardly say, to
see the face of the rosy child in the picture confronting the livid
face on the death-bed opposite. How many joys, hopes, disappointments
and sorrows had passed between that childish smile and the death-agony!
At twelve years of age little Delaunay left Lorient with the whole
company. That was in 1810, when diligences did not traverse France in
every direction: in those days railways had not yet carved their way
through the valleys or tunnelled the mountains; if you wanted to go to
Strassbourg--that is to say, to cross France from west to east--you had
to club together and buy a large wicker carriage, and it took six weeks
to go from the Ocean, to the Rhine.

The comedy company passed through Paris and stopped four days in the
capital. It was the zenith of Talma's reputation: how could anyone pass
through Paris without seeing Talma? For three days, the mother and
daughter economised in their breakfasts and in their dinners, and on
the fourth day they took two tickets for the second gallery. Talma was
playing _Hamlet_.

Those of you who knew Madame Dorval will understand what it meant to a
nature such as hers to see the famous actor play; what it meant to that
heart which was so loyally filial in its early days and so motherly
in later years, to listen to the gloomy ravings of the Danish prince,
as he speaks of his father in a voice full of tears, in the way Talma
represented him. And at these three lines--

    "On remplace un ami, son épouse, une amante;
    Mais un vertueux père est un bien précieux
    Qu'on ne tient qu'une fois de la bonté des cieux!"--

the young actress, who, with the intuition of genius in her,
comprehended the greatness of art displayed, as well as realised, the
depth of the pathos, leant backwards, sobbed and fainted away. They
carried her into an adjoining room; but the play continued in vain, so
far as she was concerned: she would not see any more of it. She did not
see Talma again until ten years later.

The company continued its journey and reached Strassbourg. And then
Mademoiselle Delaunay gradually became famous. She changed her line
of character and played _les Dugazon._ She made a fascinating young
girl, overflowing with mischievousness and good humour, declaiming M.
Étienne's prose excellently, but singing M. Nicholo's music out of
tune. Now it is a great defect for a _Dugazon_ to sing falsely, while
speaking correctly. Happily, Perrier, who was acting at Strassbourg,
advised Madame Delaunay to let her daughter give up comic opera, and
turn her attention to comedy. In deference to this advice, _la Dugazon_
became a young lover. Panard was given up for Molière and the actress
and the public profited by the change.

From that time dated Madame Dorval's first successes. Alas! from that
time dated also her first sorrows. Her mother fell ill of a long and
painful disease. The engagements which Madame Delaunay found as first
singer became fewer as her voice grew weaker. Then the young girl
redoubled her labours; she knew that talent was not only a question
of art, but still more one of necessity. Thanks to her efforts, her
engagements brought in eighty francs to a hundred francs; and those of
her' mother diminished, at the same time, from three hundred francs to
one hundred and fifty francs, and from one hundred and fifty francs
they fell to nothing. From that time began the young girl's life of
devotion which continued on into womanhood.

For a year Amélie Delaunay did everything for her mother: she was
servant, nurse, comforter; then, at the end of a year, the mother died,
and all those nights of watching and weeping, all her careful tendings,
were lost, except in the sight of God.

When her mother died the young girl was left alone in the world. She
could never afterwards remember what she did during the two years after
her mother's death: memory was drowned in grief! The company moved
on from Lorient to Strassbourg, from Strassbourg to Bayonne, always
travelling in the same wicker carriage with the same horses, which
belonged to the company. However, one great event came about:

Amélie Delaunay married a poor boy of fifteen, out of loneliness.
She had no love for him: he was one of her fellow-actors, who played
the rôle of _les Martins;_ his name was Allan-Dorval. He died at St.
Petersburg. Where he lived nobody ever knew. This marriage had no other
influence on the actress's life beyond giving her the name by which
she became known; her other name, that of Marie, was given her by us.
Antony was her godfather and Adèle d'Hervey her godmother.

Their journeyings were continued and, as they were _en route_ for
Bayonne, they came close to Paris. I do not know in what village,
upon what road, at what inn, Potier, the great actor whom Talma
admired, met Madame Allan-Dorval, in what theatre he saw her play or
what part she was taking, when she uttered one of those heartfelt
phrases, one of those outbursts of fraternal affection by which great
artistes recognise each other's talents. I know nothing of all this,
for poor Marie forgot it herself; but, in a trice he described to her
Paris--that is to say, splendour, fame, suffering!

The young wife came to Paris with a letter of introduction from Potier
to M. de Saint-Romain, manager of the Porte-Saint-Martin. M. de
Saint-Romain engaged Madame Allan-Dorval on this recommendation, and
from that day her name became part of the recollections of Parisians,
her life became interwoven with the literary life of Paris. This was in
1818.

What had this poor talented young woman played ere Potier's
encouragement had made a path for her genius? She had acted in the
_Cabane du Montagnard,_ the _Catacombes_, the _Pandoursy_ and, finally,
in the _Vampire_, at which my neighbour had hooted so shamelessly. Poor
Marie! only she herself could relate the sufferings of those early
days. There was, I remember, one special costume on which she had to
sew some lace trimming every evening before the performance, and it had
to be unsewn every evening after the play.--O Frétillon! Frétillon! thy
cotillion never saw half what that dress did!

She whom I now saw for the first time was the Eve from whose womb a
new dramatic world was to spring. As for Philippe, who eclipsed her at
that time, with the dignity and majesty of his steps and gestures, his
was the acting of the pure old-fashioned melodrama of Pixérécourt and
Caignez. No one could wear yellow top boots, a buff tunic embroidered
in black, a plumed toque and a cross-handled sword like Philippe. This
attire, at that period, went by the name of the costume of a cavalier.
Lafont carried it off perfectly in _Tancrède_ and in _Adélaïde
Duguesclin._

Philippe died the first. His death made almost as much stir as his
life. As I shall not have occasion to speak of him again, and as, had
he lived, he would not have had anything to do with contemporary art,
we will finish his story here. Philippe died on 16 October 1824--that
is to say, one month, to the day, after the death of Louis XVIII. On
the 18th, they brought his body to the church of Saint-Laurent, his own
parish church; but the clergy refused to take it in. The same thing
happened with regard to Mademoiselle Raucourt. But Philippe's comrades
and all his public admirers decided to go forward with stout hearts, to
proceed without uproar, or violent acts, or rebellious deeds. They drew
the shell from the hearse: six actors from the different Paris theatres
bore it on their shoulders, and, followed by over three thousand
people, they took it to the Tuileries. They meant to deposit the coffin
in the Castle courtyard, to demand justice, and not to withdraw until
they had received it. The resolution was all the more impressive as it
was accomplished with composure and solemnity. The cortège was moving
along the boulevards, and had reached the top of the rue Montmartre,
when a squadron of police rushed out at full gallop, swords in hand,
and barred the entire width of the boulevard. Then a council of
deliberation was held over the bier, and, still with the same calmness
and the same composure, a deputation of five was elected to go to the
Tuileries and to ask for the prayers of the Church and a Christian
burial for the body of poor Philippe. These five deputies were: MM.
Étienne, Jourdan, Colombeau, Ménessier and Crosnier. Charles X. refused
to receive them, and sent them back to M. de Corbières, the Minister
for the Interior. M. de Corbières, very brutal by nature, replied
roughly that the clergy had their laws, that it was not his business
to transgress them, although he was in charge of the police of the
realm. The five deputies brought back this reply to the three thousand
Parisians camped in the boulevard, round the coffin that was craving
burial. The bearers then took the body up again on their shoulders and
pursued their course with it along the road to Père-Lachaise. Victory
remained on the side of authority, as the saying is; only, it is by
such kinds of victories that authority cuts its own throat. "Another
victory like that," said Pyrrhus, after the battle of Heracles, "and we
shall be lost!"

From that moment the generous promises made by Charles x. on his
accession to the throne were valued at their true worth: and who shall
say that one of the clouds that caused the storm of 27 July 1830, was
not whirled into being on 18 October 1824?


[1] See _les Morts vont vite_, vol. ii. pp. 241 ff.



BOOK IV



CHAPTER I


My beginning at the office--Ernest Basset--Lassagne--M. Oudard--I see
M. Deviolaine--M. le Chevalier de Broval--His portrait--Folded letters
and oblong letters--How I acquire a splendid reputation for sealing
letters--I learn who was my neighbour the bibliomaniac and whistler


The next day I waited from eight o'clock in the morning until ten
o'clock; but, as my neighbour in the orchestra had predicted, nobody
came to demand satisfaction for the blow I had dealt on the previous
evening. However, I had now arrived at two convictions--namely, that
there must be something extravagant about my appearance and about
some portion of my clothing. For fear of falling out egregiously with
everybody I met abroad, I ought to cut my locks and to shorten the
length of my coat. My hair was fully two inches too long; my coat
certainly a foot beyond regulation length. I called in a barber and a
tailor. The barber asked me for ten minutes; the tailor for a day. I
gave up my coat to the tailor and my head to the barber. I intended to
go to the office in a morning coat: it should be understood that my
first visit to the office was almost in the nature of a call upon my
chiefs. A morning coat would not be out of place.

My face was completely changed by the cropping of my hair: when it
was too long, I looked like one of the sellers of "Lion Pomade," who
make their own heads their principal prospectuses; when my hair was
too short, I looked like a seal. Of course the barber cut my hair
too short; unfortunately, there was then no remedy left me but to
wait until it grew again. When I had breakfasted fairly well at my
hotel, and given notice that I should settle my account and leave the
establishment that evening, I made my way towards the office.

As a quarter-past ten struck, I made inquiries of the porter in the
hall and he told me which staircase led to M. Oudard's offices,
otherwise the Secretariat. They were situated at the right angle of
the second court of the Palais-Royal, looking upon the square from
the side of the garden. I went towards this staircase and I furnished
myself with fresh instructions from a second porter: the offices were
on the third floor, so I climbed up. My heart was beating violently: I
was entering upon another life--one which I had desired and chosen for
myself this time. This staircase was leading me to my future office.
Where would my future office lead me?... No one had arrived. I waited
with the office-boys. The first employé who appeared was a fine big
fair youth; he came singing up the stairs, and took down the office
door key from a nail. I rose.

"Monsieur Ernest," said one of the office-boys, the eldest of them, a
lad called Raulot, "this young man wants to speak to M. Oudard."

The person addressed as Ernest looked at me for a moment with his keen,
clear blue eyes.

"Monsieur," I said to him, "I am one of the supernumeraries, of whom
you may perhaps have heard."

"Ah yes! M. Alexandre Dumas," he exclaimed; "the son of General
Alexandre Dumas, recommended by General Foy?"

I saw he knew all about me.

"I am the same," I said.

"Come in," he said, going in before me and opening the door of a small
room, with one window in it and three desks. "See," he continued, "you
are expected; here is your seat. Everything is ready--paper, pens, ink;
you have but to sit down and to draw up your chair to your desk."

"Have I the pleasure of talking to one of those with whom I am destined
to spend my days?" I asked.

"Yes.... I have just been promoted as ordinary clerk at eighteen
hundred francs; I am giving up my place as copying-clerk, and that
place will be yours, after a longer or shorter probationary period."

"And who is our third companion?"

"He is our deputy head clerk, Lassagne."

The door opened.

"Hullo! who is talking about Lassagne?" asked a young man of
twenty-eight to thirty, as he came in.

Ernest turned round.

"Ah! it is you," he replied. "I was just saying to M. Dumas,"--he
pointed to me, I bowed,--"I was just telling M. Dumas that this was
your place, that his, and the other mine."

"Are you our new colleague?" Lassagne asked me.

"Yes, monsieur."

"You are welcome." And he held out his hand to me.

I took it. It was one of those warm and trembling hands that it is a
pleasure to shake from the first touch--a loyal hand, revealing the
nature of him to whom it belonged.

"Good!" I said to myself: "this man will be friendly to me, I am sure."

"Listen," he said: "a word of advice. It is rumoured that you have come
here with the idea of entering upon a literary career: do not talk too
loudly of such a project; it will only do you harm.... Hush! that is
Oudard entering his room."

And I heard in the neighbouring room the self-possessed, measured tread
of a man accustomed to rule an office. A moment later, the door of our
office opened and Raulot appeared.

"M. Oudard wants M. Alexandre Dumas," he said.

I rose and cast a glance at Lassagne: he understood what I felt like.

"Go along," he said; "he is a capital fellow, but you have to become
acquainted with him: however, you will soon do that."

This was not altogether reassuring; so it was with my heart beating
very rapidly that I proceeded along the corridor and entered M.
Oudard's office.

I found him standing before the fireplace. He was a man of five feet
six inches high, with a brown complexion, black hair and an impassive
face, gentle although firm. His black eyes had that direct look to be
found in men who have risen from a lower class to a high position; its
expression was almost stonily hard when it was fixed on you; you would
have said he had ridden rough-shod over everything and everybody that
had come in his way, as so many obstacles on the road towards that
goal, known only to himself, which he had made up his mind to reach.
He had fine teeth; but, contrary to the habit of those who possess
this advantage, he rarely smiled: one could see that nothing--not even
the most insignificant event--was indifferent to him; a pebble under
the foot of an ambitious man will raise him higher by the size of that
pebble. Oudard was very ambitious; but as he was also essentially
honest, I doubt whether his ambition had ever, I will not say inspired
him with an evil thought--what man is master of his thoughts?--but
caused him to commit a mean action. Later, it will be seen that he was
hard on me, almost pitiless. He was, I am sure, well intentioned in
being so; he did not think of the future I wanted to carve for myself,
and he feared I should only lose the position I had made--the position
which he had helped me to make. Oudard, unlike other upstarts (and let
us admit, he was really more a man who had achieved success than a mere
parvenu), talked a great deal of the village where he was born, of the
home in which he had been brought up, of his old mother, who came to
see him, dressed in her peasant's costume, with whom he would walk out
in the Palais-Royal or whom he would take to the play, just as she was:
perhaps all this talk was only another form of pride, but it is a pride
I like. He was devoted to his mother--a sentiment sufficiently rare
in ambitious men to be noted here as out of the common. Oudard must
have been thirty-two at that period; he was head of the Secretarial
Department, and private secretary to the Duchesse d'Orléans. These two
posts combined must have been worth about twelve thousand francs a year
to him, perquisites included. He was clad in black trousers, a white
piqué waistcoat and a black coat and cravat. He wore very fine cotton
stockings and slippers. Such was the get-up of a man who was not merely
chief clerk of an office, but one who might be called into the presence
of a prince or princess at any moment.

"Come in, Monsieur Dumas," he said.

I went up to him and bowed.

"You have been very especially commended to me by two persons, one of
whom I greatly respect and the other of whom I love dearly."

"Is not General Foy one of these, monsieur?"

"Yes, he is the man I respect. But how is it you do not guess the name
of the other?"

"I confess, monsieur, I should be puzzled to name anyone else in whom I
can have inspired sufficient interest to cause him to take the trouble
to recommend me to you."

"It was M. Deviolaine."

"M. Deviolaine?" I repeated, in considerable surprise.

"Yes, M. Deviolaine.... Is he not related to you?"

"Certainly, monsieur; but when my mother begged M. Deviolaine to have
the goodness to recommend me to Monseigneur le Duc d'Orléans, M.
Deviolaine met the request so coldly...."

"Oh, you know, brusqueness is almost the leading trait in the character
of our worthy Conservator.... You must not pay any heed to that."

"I fear, monsieur, that if my good cousin spoke much of me to you, in
recommending me to you, he has not flattered me."

"That would not be bad for you, since it would but give you a chance to
surprise me agreeably."

"He has probably told you I was idle?"

"He told me you had never done much work; but you are young, and you
can make up for lost time."

"He told you I cared for nothing but shooting?"

"He confessed you were something of a poacher."

"He told you I was wayward and changeable in my ideas and fancies?"

"He said you had been under all the solicitors in Villers-Cotterets
and Crespy and had not been able to stop with any of them."

"He exaggerated somewhat.... But if I did not remain with either
of the two solicitors under whom I worked, it was on account of my
unalterable, intense desire to come to Paris."

"Very well, here you are, and your desire is fulfilled."

"Was that all M. Deviolaine told you about me?"

"Well, no; ... he said, too, that you were a good son, and that,
although you constantly made your mother miserable, you adored her;
that you had never really wished to learn anything, but more from
over-quickness, than from want of intelligence; he told me, besides,
that you had certainly a poor head, but that he also believed you were
good-hearted.... Go and thank him, go and thank him."

"Where shall I find him?"

"One of the office-boys will take you to him."

He rang.

"Take M. Dumas to M. Deviolaine's rooms," he said.

Then, addressing me--

"You have already met Lassagne?" he said.

"Yes, I have just had five minutes' talk with him."

"He is a very good fellow with but one failing: he will be too weak
with you; luckily I shall be at hand. Lassagne and Ernest Basset will
tell you what your work will be."

"And M. de Broval?" I asked.

M. de Broval was the general manager.

"M. de Broval will be told you have come, and will probably ask for
you. You know that your whole future depends on him?"

"And on you, monsieur, yes."

"I hope, so far as I am concerned, that that will not cause you much
uneasiness.... But go and thank M. Deviolaine; go! You have already
delayed too long."

I bowed to M. Oudard and I went out. Five minutes afterwards, I was at
M. Deviolaine's. He worked in a large room by himself, and at a desk
which stood alone in the middle of the room. As I was preceded by an
office-boy, and as it was presumed that I had been sent by M. Oudard,
they let me enter unannounced. M. Deviolaine heard the door open and he
waited an instant for someone to speak; then, as I also was waiting, he
looked up and asked--

"Who is there?"

"It is I, M. Deviolaine."

"Who, you? (_toi_)"

"I see you recognise me, by the way you speak."

"Yes, I recognise you.... So there you are! Well, you are a fine lad!"

"Why, if you please?"

"Well! you have been to Paris three times without paying me a single
call."

"I did not know you would care to see me."

"It was not for you to question whether it would please me or not; it
was your duty to come."

"Well, here I am; better late than never."

"What have you come for now?"

"I have come to thank you."

"What for?"

"For what you said about me to M. Oudard."

"You are not difficult to please, then."

"Why?"

"Do you know what I did say?"

"Certainly: you told him I was an idle lad; that I was no good except
for copying deeds; that I had tired out the patience of every solicitor
in Villers-Cotterets and in Crespy."

"Well, is there much thanks due to me for all that?"

"No, it was not for that I came to thank you; it was for what you
added."

"I did not add anything."

"But you did!... you went on to say...."

"I tell you I added nothing; but I will add something now you are here:
that is, that if you are so ill-advised as to write filthy plays and
trashy verses here, as you did in Villers-Cotterets, I will report you,
I will carry you off with me, I will confine you in one of my offices
and I will lead you a dog's life ... see if I don't!"

"Let me say, cousin...."

"What?"

"While I am here...."

"Well?"

"Even if you do not let me go back."

"Well?"

"Because that,--_A cause que_, a grammatical error, I know quite well;
but Corneille and Bossuet made use of it,--because that I have only
come to Paris to write filthy plays and trashy verses, whether I am
in the Secretarial Department or here, I must still continue to write
them."

"Ah, is that so? Do you seriously imagine you can become a Corneille, a
Racine or a Voltaire after an education of three francs a month?"

"If I were to become such a man as any one of those three, I should be
only what another man has been, and that would not be worth while."

"You mean, then, that you would do better than they?"

"I would do something different."

"Come a little nearer me, so that I can give you a good kick, you
conceited lad."

I went nearer to him.

"Here I am!"

"I believe the impudent boy has actually come closer!"

"Yes.... My mother told me to give you her love."

"Is your poor mother quite well?"

"I hope she is."

"She is a good creature! How the devil did you happen to come into the
world by such a mother? Come, shake hands and be off with you!"

"Good-bye, cousin."

He kept hold of my hand.

"Do you want any money, you rogue?"

"Thanks.... I have some."

"Where did you get it?"

"I will tell you that some other time; it would take too long now."

"You are right; I have no time to lose. Be off with you!"

"Good-bye, cousin."

"Come and dine with me when you like."

"Oh! thanks, yes, for your people to look down on me." "To look down on
you! I would like to see them do that. My wife dined often enough with
your grandfather and your grandmother to justify you in coming to dine
with me as often as you like.... But now be off, cub! you are making me
waste all my time."

M. Deviolaine's office-boy came in. His name was Féresse. We shall see
more of him later.

"M. Deviolaine," he said, "M. de Broval wishes to know if the report on
the management of the forest of Villers-Cotterets is finished?"

"No, not yet ... in a quarter of an hour."

Then, turning to me--

"You see?... you see?"

"I will make myself scarce, M. Deviolaine."

And off I went, while M. Deviolaine buried his nose in the report,
growling as usual.

I returned to our common office, and I sat down at my desk. My desk
was next to Lassagne's, so we were only separated from one another by
the width of our tables and by the little black set of pigeon-holes in
which the current work was usually put. Ernest had gone out, I know not
why. I asked Lassagne to tell me what to do. Lassagne got up, leant
over my desk and told me. I always took a great interest in studying
people around me, and especially the man whose position in the office
was that of my immediate superior; for, although Ernest was now a
full-fledged clerk and I only destined to be a simple copying-clerk, he
was more my comrade than my superior.

Lassagne, as I think I have already said, was at that time a man
of twenty-eight or thirty, with an attractive face, enshrined in
beautiful black hair, animated by black eyes full of intelligence and
cleverness, and lighted up (if the phrase may be permitted) by teeth so
white and so regular that the vainest of women might have envied them.
The only defect in his face was his aquiline nose, which was a little
more inclined to one side than the other; but this very irregularity
gave an original touch to his face that it would not have had without
it. Add to these things a sympathetic voice which seemed gently to
vibrate in one's ear, and at the sound of which it was impossible not
to turn round and smile. In short, a delightful person whose like I
have rarely met; well informed; a brilliant song-writer; the intimate
friend of Désaugiers, Théaulon, Armand Gouffé, Brazier, Rougemont and
all the opera-writers of the time; so that he refreshed himself after
his official work, which he loathed, by entering into the literary
world, which he adored, and his daily labour alternated with desultory
work, consisting partly of articles for the _Drapeau blanc_ and the
_Foudre_ and partly of contributions to some of the most delightful
plays of the operatic theatres. It will be admitted that here was the
very superior I needed, and I could not have asked Providence for
anything that would have seemed to me better for me.

Well, during the five years that we spent in the same office there was
never a cloud, or a quarrel, or a feeling of cross purposes between
Lassagne and me. He made me like the hour at which I began my daily
work, because I knew he would come in immediately after me; he made me
love the time I spent at my desk, because he was always ready there to
help me with an explanation, to teach me something fresh about life,
which had as yet, for me, scarcely opened, about the world of which I
was totally ignorant, and finally about foreign or national literature,
of which in 1823 I knew practically nothing, either of the one or of
the other.

Lassagne arranged my daily work; it was entirely mechanical, and
consisted in copying out, in the finest handwriting possible, the
largest possible number of letters: these, according to their
importance, had to be signed by M. Oudard, M. de Broval, or even by the
Duc d'Orléans. In the midst of this correspondence, which concerned
the whole range of administration and which often, when addressed
to princes or foreign kings, passed from matters of administration
to politics, there occurred reports connected with the contentious
affairs of M. le Duc d'Orléans; for the Duc d'Orléans himself prepared
his litigious business for his counsel, doing himself the work that
solicitors do for barristers--that is to say, preparing the briefs.
These were nearly always entirely in the handwriting of the Duc
d'Orléans, or at all events corrected and annotated in his large thick
writing, in which every letter was fastened to its neighbouring letter
by a solid stroke, after the fashion of the arguments of a logical
dialectician, bound together, entwined, succeeding each other.

I was attacking my first letter, and, by the advice of Lassagne, who
had laid great stress on this point, I was despatching it in my very
best handwriting, when I heard the door of communication between
Oudard's office and ours open. I pretended, with the hypocrisy of an
old hand, to be so deeply absorbed in my work that no noise could
distract my attention, when I heard the creak of steps advancing
towards my desk and then they stopped by me.

"Dumas!" called out Lassagne to me.

I raised my head and I saw, standing close to me on my left, a person
who was totally unknown to me.

"M. le Chevalier de Broval," added Lassagne, adding information to his
exclamation.

I rose from my seat.

"Do not disturb yourself," he said. And he took the letter I was
copying, which was nearly finished, and read it.

I took advantage of this respite to examine him.

M. le Chevalier de Broval, as everyone knows, had been one of the
faithful followers of M. le Duc d'Orléans. He had never left him during
the last portion of his exile, serving him sometimes as secretary,
at other times as diplomatist; in this latter capacity he had been
mixed up in all the lengthy discussions over the marriage of the
Duc d'Orléans with Princess Marie-Amélie, daughter of Ferdinand and
Caroline, King and Queen of Naples; and in connection with this
marriage he had gained the Order of Saint-Janvier, which he wore on
a braided coat on high festivals, next to the cross of the Legion of
Honour. He was a little old man of about sixty years of age, with short
stubbly hair; he was slightly lame, walked crookedly on his left side,
had a big red nose, which told its own tale, and small grey eyes, that
expressed nothing; he looked a typical courtier, polite, obsequious,
fawning to his master, kind by fits and starts, but generally
capricious with his subordinates; he thought a great deal of trifles,
attaching supreme importance to the manner in which a letter was folded
or a seal was fastened; he really imbibed these notions from the Duc
d'Orléans himself, who was even more particular over little details
than perhaps was M. de Broval.

M. de Broval read the letter, took my pen, added an apostrophe or a
comma here and there; then, replacing it in front of me: "Finish it,"
he said.

I finished it.

He waited behind me, literally pressing on my shoulders.

Every fresh face I saw in turn had its effect on me. I finished with a
very shaky hand.

"There it is, M. le chevalier," I said.

"Good!" he exclaimed.

He took a pen, signed, threw sand over my writing and over his; then,
giving me back the epistle, which was for a simple inspector,--as, at
first, they did not risk confiding more than that to my inexperienced
hand,--he said--

"Do you know how to fold a letter?"

I looked at him with astonishment.

"I ask you if you know how to fold a letter. Answer me!"

"Yes, yes ... at least, I believe so," I replied, astonished at the
fixed stare his little grey eyes had assumed.

"You believe? Is that all? You are not sure?"

"Monsieur, I am not yet sure about anything, as you see, not even about
the folding of a letter."

"And there you are right, for there are ten ways of folding a letter,
according to the rank of the person to whom it is addressed. Fold this
one."

I began to fold the letter in four.

"Oh! what are you about?" he said.

I stopped short. "Pardon, monsieur," I said, "but you _ordered_ me to
fold the letter, and I am folding it."

M. de Broval bit his lip. I had laid emphasis on the word "ordered" in
the spoken phrase as I have just underlined it in the written phrase.

"Yes," he said; "but you are folding it square--that is all right for
high functionaries. If you give square-folded letters to inspectors and
sub-inspectors, what will you do for ministers, princes and kings?"

"Quite so, M. le chevalier," I replied; "will you tell me what is the
correct way for inspectors and sub-inspectors?"

"Oblong, monsieur, oblong."

"You will pardon my ignorance, monsieur; I know what an oblong is in
theory, but I do not yet know what it is in practice."

"See...."

And M. de Broval condescended willingly to give me the lesson in things
oblong I had asked of him.

"There!" he said, when the letter was folded.

"Thank you, monsieur," I replied.

"Now, monsieur, the envelope?" he said.

I had never made envelopes, except for the rare petitions I had written
for my mother, and once on my own account in General Foy's office, so
I was still more ignorant about the making of envelopes than about
the folding. I took a half-sheet of paper in my left hand, a pair of
scissors in my right hand, and I began to cut the sheet.

M. le Chevalier de Broval uttered a mingled cry of surprise and terror.

"Oh! good Lord!" he said, "what are you going to do?"

"Why, M. le chevalier, I am going to make the envelope you asked me to
make."

"With scissors?"

"Yes."

"First learn this, monsieur: paper should not be cut, it should be
torn."

I listened with all attention.

"Oh!" I exclaimed.

"It should be torn," repeated M. de Broval; "and then in this case
there is no need even to tear the paper, which perhaps you do not
realise either?"

"No, monsieur, I do not."

"You will learn.... It only wants an English envelope."

"Ah! an English envelope?"

"You do not know how to make an English envelope?"

"I do not even know what it is, M. le chevalier."

"I will show you. As a general rule, monsieur, square letters and
square envelopes are for ministers, for princes and for kings."

"Right, M. le chevalier; I will remember."

"You are sure?"

"Yes."

"Good.... And for heads of departments, chief assistants, inspectors
and sub-inspectors, oblong letters and English envelopes."

I repeated, "Oblong letters and English envelopes."

"Yes, yes, of course.... There, that is what we call an English
envelope."

"Thank you, monsieur."

"Now the seal.... Ernest, will you light me a taper?" Ernest hastened
to bring us the lighted taper; and now, I confess to my shame, my
confusion increased: I had never hitherto sealed my letters except with
wafers--that is to say, when I had sealed them.

I took the wax in so awkward a fashion, I heated it in such a queer
way, I blew it out so quickly, for fear of burning the paper, that
this time I excited pity rather than impatience in the breast of M. de
Broval.

"Oh! my friend," he said, "have you really never even sealed a letter?"

"Never, monsieur," I replied. "Who was there for me to write to, buried
away as I have been in a little country town?"

This humble confession touched M. de Broval.

"See," he said, heating the wax, "this is how one seals a letter."

And, believe me, he sealed the letter at arm's length, with as steady
a hand as though he had been twenty-five years of age. Then, taking
a large silver seal, he pressed it on the lake of burning wax, and
did not withdraw it until the impress was clearly defined and I could
see the escutcheon with the three heraldic fleurs-de-lis of Orléans,
surmounted by the ducal coronet.

I was disheartened, I must confess.

"Write the address," M. le Chevalier de Broval said imperiously.

I wrote the address with a trembling hand.

"Good, good!" said M. le Chevalier de Broval; "don't be discouraged, my
boy.... It is all right; now countersign it."

I stopped, completely ignorant of what a countersign was.

M. de Broval began to realise, as General Foy had done, how ignorant I
was. He pointed with a finger to the corner of the letter.

"There," he said, "write there _Duc d'Orléans._ That is to frank the
letter. You hear?"

I heard well enough; but I was so profoundly upset that I hardly
understood what was said.

"There!" said M. de Broval, taking up the letter and looking at it
with a satisfied air, "that is all right; but you must learn all
these things.... Ernest,"--Ernest was M. de Broval's favourite, and
in his genial moments the old courtier called him by his Christian
name,--"Ernest, teach M. Dumas to fold letters, to make envelopes and
to seal packets." And at these words he took himself off.

The door had scarcely shut before I was begging my comrade Ernest to
begin his lessons, and he gave himself up to the task at once with
hearty goodwill. Ernest was a first-rate hand at folding, making
envelopes and sealing; but I put my whole will into it, and it was not
long before I equalled and surpassed my master's skill.

When I gave in my resignation, in 1831, to the Duc d'Orléans, who had
become Louis-Philippe I., I had attained to such perfection in the
third accomplishment, especially, that the only regret he expressed was
this--

"The devil! that is a pity! You are the best sealer of letters I have
ever seen."

While I was taking my lesson in folding and sealing under Ernest,
Lassagne was reading the papers.

"Oh!" he suddenly exclaimed, "I well recollect that!"

"What is it?" I asked.

Instead of answering me, Lassagne read aloud:--"A scene which recalls
that of la Fontaine at the first representation of _Florentin_ took
place, yesterday evening, at the third performance of the revival of
the _Vampire._ Our learned bibliophile, Charles Nodier, was expelled
from Porte-Saint-Martin theatre for disturbing the play by whistling.
Charles Nodier is one of the anonymous authors of the _Vampire_."

"So!" I cried, "my neighbour of the orchestra was Charles Nodier!"

"Did you have any talk with him?" asked Lassagne.

"I did nothing else during the intervals."

"You were fortunate," continued Lassagne: "had I been in your place, I
should have greatly preferred the intervals to the play."

I knew Charles Nodier by name, but I was in complete ignorance as to
what he had done.

As I left the office, I entered a bookshop and asked for a novel by
Nodier. They gave me _Jean Sbogar._

The reading of that book began to shake my faith in Pigault-Lebrun.



CHAPTER II


Illustrious contemporaries--The sentence written on my foundation
stone--My reply--I settle down in the place des Italiens--M. de
Leuven's table--M. Louis-Bonaparte's witty saying--Lassagne gives me my
first lesson in literature and history


When I came up to Paris, the men who held illustrious rank in
literature, among whom I sought a place, were--MM. de Chateaubriand,
Jouy, Lemercier, Arnault, Étienne, Baour-Lormian, de Béranger, Ch.
Nodier, Viennet, Scribe, Théaulon, Soumet, Casimir Delavigne, Lucien
Arnault, Ancelot, Lamartine, Victor Hugo, Désaugiers and Alfred de
Vigny. It will, of course, be understood that I do not rank them in the
order I have written down their names. Then follow men whose interests
were half literary half political, such as--MM. Cousin, Salvandy,
Villemain, Thiers, Augustin Thierry, Michelet, Mignet, Vitet, Cavé,
Mérimée and Guizot. Then, finally, those who were not yet famous, but
were gradually coming forward, such as Balzac, Soulié, de Musset,
Sainte-Beuve, Auguste Barbier, Alphonse Karr, Théophile Gautier.

The three women of the day were all poets--Mesdames Desbordes-Valmore,
Amable Tastu, Delphine Gay. Madame Sand was still unknown, and did not
reveal her powers until the production of _Indiana_, in 1828 or 1829, I
believe.

I knew the whole of this _pléiade_, who entertained the world with
their wit and poetry for over half a century--some as friends and
supporters, others as enemies and adversaries. Neither the benefits
I have received from the former, nor the harm the latter sought to
do me, shall influence in the slightest degree the judgments I shall
pass on them. The first, in supporting me, have not caused me to climb
higher by one step; the second, in trying to hinder me, have not kept
me back one step. Through all the friendships, hatreds, jealousies of
a life that has been harassed in its minor details, but ever calm and
serene in its progress, I reached the position God had assigned me;
I attained it without the aid of intrigues or cliques, and advanced
only by my own endeavours. I have reached the summit which every man
mounts half-way through life, and I ask for nothing, I desire nothing,
I covet nothing. I have many friendships, I have not a single enmity.
If, at the starting-point of my life, God had said to me, "Young
man, what do you desire?" I should not have dared to demand from His
infinite greatness that which He has condescended to grant me out of
His fatherly goodness. So I will say all I have to say of the men I
have named, according as they have appeared to me on my path through
life: if I conceal anything, it will be the evil I know about them.
Why should I be unjust to them? Not one among them possessed a single
honour or good fortune in exchange for which I ever had any desire to
barter my reputation or my purse.

Yesterday I read the following words, written by an unknown hand on the
foundation stone of a house which I had caused to be built for me, and
which, until I or someone else can inhabit it, as yet shelters only
sparrows and swallows:--

"O Dumas! tu n'as pas su jouir, et pourtant tu regretteras! E. L."

I wrote underneath:--

"Niais!... si tu es un homme. Menteuse!... si tu es une femme. A. D."

But I took good care to obliterate the sentence.

Let us return to my contemporaries, and add to the list of famous names
that led me to these reflections.

Among musical composers, Rossini, Meyerbeer, Auber, Donizetti,
Bellini, Liszt, Thalberg. Among dramatic artists, Talma, Lafont, Mars,
Duchesnois, Georges, Leverd, Frédérick (Lemaître), Dorval, Potier,
Monrose père, Déjazet, Smithson, Lablache, Macready, Karatikin, Miss
Faucit, Schroeder-Devrient, la Malibran, la Hungher.

I have had the honour to know several kings and princes,--they will
have their place,--but my kings in the realms of art come before all,
my princes in imagination have first place. To each sovereign his due
honour.

When I came out of my office, or rather from the bookshop where I had
bought _Jean Sbogar_, I made haste to the place des Italiens. My waggon
load of furniture was waiting at the door; it took but an hour to
settle my household arrangements, and at the end of that time all was
finished.

Of a poet's usual equipment I now had the attic; of the possessions of
the happy man, I now had a loft under the tiles. Better than all these
things, I was only twenty! I cleared the distance between the place des
Italiens and the rue Pigale in no time. I was longing to tell Adolphe
that I was installed at the Duc d'Orléans'; that I possessed a desk,
paper, pens, ink, sealing-wax, in the Palais-Royal; four chairs, a
table, a bed and a room papered yellow in the place des Italiens.

Adolphe very sincerely shared my delight. M. de Leuven, chewing his
tooth-pick, gently ridiculed my enthusiasm. Madame de Leuven, the most
perfect of women, rejoiced in the joy my mother would feel.

I was invited to fix a regular day on which I should dine at M. de
Leuven's. On that day my place should always be laid: it should be an
institution in perpetuity. In perpetuity! What a great word!--one so
often uttered in life, but one which really exists only in death!

"You are condemned to perpetual imprisonment, monseigneur," said my
dear and good friend Nogent Saint-Laurent to Prince Louis-Bonaparte.

"How long does perpetuity last in France, Monsieur Saint-Laurent?"
asked the prince.

His perpetuity, as a matter of fact, lasted at Ham for five years--two
years less than the perpetuity of M. de Peyronnet and M. de Polignac.

My perpetuity at M. de Leuven's table lasted exactly as long as that
of Prince Louis at Ham. I will tell how it came to cease, and I might
as well admit at once that the fault was not M. de Leuven's, nor Madame
de Leuven's, nor Adolphe's. It was arranged that I should dine there on
the following day to make the acquaintance of the Arnault family: this
was to be an extra dinner.

It can be realised how preoccupied I was, throughout the twenty-two
hours that had to elapse before we sat down to the table, with the
thought of dining with the author of _Marius à Minturnes_, the man who
had written _Régulus._

I announced the great news to Ernest and to Lassagne. Ernest seemed
quite unmoved by it, and Lassagne was only indifferently interested. I
badgered Lassagne to know why he was so cold in matters concerning such
celebrities.

He answered simply, "I am not of the same political views as those
gentlemen, and I do not think much of their literary value either."

I stood astounded.

"But," I asked, "have you not read _Germanicus_?"

"Yes; but it is very bad!"

"Have you not read _Régulus_?"

"Yes; but it is very poor!"

I lowered my head, more astonished than ever.

Then, finally, I struggled to rise from under the weight of the
anathema.

"But why are these plays so successful?"

"Talma acts in them ..."

"The reputation of these men ..."

"They bring that about themselves through their newspapers!... When
M. de Jouy, M. Arnault or M. Lemercier produces a play in which Talma
takes no part, you will see it will only run ten nights."

Again I hung down my head.

"Listen, my dear boy," Lassagne went on, with that wonderful sweetness
of his in eyes and voice, and above all with that almost fatherly
kindliness that I still noticed in him, when I met him by chance
twenty-five years later and had the happiness to greet him,--"listen:
you want to become a literary man?"

"Oh yes!" I exclaimed.

"Not so loud!" he said, laughing; "you know I told you not to talk so
loud about that ... here, at any rate. Well, when you do write, do not
take the literature of the Empire as your model: that is my advice."

"But what shall I take?"

"Well, upon my word, I should be much puzzled to tell you. Our young
dramatic authors, Soumet, Guiraud, Casimir Delavigne, Ancelot,
certainly possess talent; Lamartine and Hugo are poets--I therefore
leave them out of the question; they have not done theatrical work, and
I do not know if they are likely to, though if they ever do, I doubt
whether they would succeed...."

"Why not?"

"Because the one is too much of a visionary, and the other too much of
a thinker. Neither the one nor the other lives in the actual world, and
the theatre, you see, my lad, is humanity. I say, then, that our young
dramatic authors--Soumet, Guiraud, Casimir Delavigne, Ancelot--have
talent; but take particular notice of what I am telling you: they
belong purely and solely to a period of transition; they are links
which connect the chain of the past to the chain of the future, bridges
which lead from what has been to what shall be."

"And what is that which shall be ...?"

"Ah! there, my young friend, you ask me more than I can tell you. The
public has not made up its mind; it knows already what it does not want
any longer, but it does not yet know what it wants."

"In poetry, in drama or in fiction?"

"In drama and in fiction ... there, nothing is settled; in poetry we
need not look farther than to Lamartine and Hugo, who represent the
spirit of the age quite sufficiently."

"But Casimir Delavigne ...?"

"Ah! he is different. Casimir Delavigne is the poet of the people: we
must leave him his circle; he does not enter into competition."

"Well, in comedy, tragedy, drama, whom ought one to follow?"

"In the first place, you should never imitate anybody; you should
study: the man who follows a guide is obliged to walk behind. Will you
be content to walk behind?"

"No."

"Then you must study. Do not attempt to produce either comedy, or
tragedy, or drama; take passions, events, characters, smelt them
all down in the furnace of your imagination, and raise statues of
Corinthian bronze."

"What is Corinthian bronze?"

"Don't you know?"

"I know nothing."

"What a happy state to be in!"

"Why?"

"Because then you can find things out for yourself: you need only
measure things by the standard of your own intelligence: you need no
other rule than that of your own capacity. Corinthian bronze?... have
you heard that once upon a time Mummius burnt Corinth?"

"Yes; I think I translated that once somewhere, in the _De Viris._"

"Then you will remember that the heat of the fire melted the gold,
silver and brass, which ran down the streets in streams. Now, the
mingling of these three, the most valuable of all metals, made one
single metal; and they gave to this metal the name of Corinthian
bronze. Well, then, the man who will be endowed with the genius to do
for comedy, tragedy and the drama that which Mummius, in his ignorance,
in his vandalism, in his barbarity, did for gold, silver and brass, who
will smelt by aid of the fire of inspiration, and who will melt into
one single mould Æschylus, Shakespeare and Molière, he, my dear friend,
will have discovered a bronze as precious as the bronze of Corinth."

I pondered for a moment over what Lassagne had said to me. "What you
say sounds very beautiful, monsieur," I replied; "and, because it is
beautiful, it ought to be true."

"Are you acquainted with Æschylus?"

"No."

"Do you know Shakespeare?"

"No."

"Have you read Molière?"

"Hardly at all."

"Well, read all that those three men have written. When you have read
them, re-read them; when you have re-read them, learn them by heart."

"And next?"

"Oh! next?... You will pass from them to those who preceded them--from
Æschylus to Sophocles, from Sophocles to Euripides, from Euripides
to Seneca, from Seneca to Racine, from Racine to Voltaire, and from
Voltaire to Chénier, in the realms of tragedy. Thus you will understand
the transformation that altered a race of eagles into a race of
parroquets."

"And from Shakespeare to whom shall I turn?"

"From Shakespeare to Schiller."

"And from Schiller?"

"To no one."

"But Ducis?"

"Oh, don't confound Schiller with Ducis. Schiller is inspired, Ducis
imitates; Schiller remains original, Ducis became a copyist, and a poor
copyist."

"And what about Molière?"

"As to Molière, if you want to study something that is worth taking
trouble over, you must ascend, not descend."

"From Molière to whom?"

"From Molière to Terence, from Terence to Plautus, from Plautus to
Aristophanes."

"But it seems to me you are forgetting Corneille?"

"I am not forgetting him: I have put him on one side." "Why?"

"Because he is neither an ancient Greek nor an old Roman."

"What is Corneille, then?"

"He is a Cordouan, like Lucan; you will see, when you compare
them, that his verse has striking resemblance to the metre of the
_Pharsalia_."

"May I write down all you have told me?"

"What for?"

"To act as a guide to my studies."

"You need not trouble, seeing you have me at hand."

"But perhaps I shall not always have you."

"If you have not me, you will have someone else."

"But he might not perhaps know what you do?"

Lassagne shrugged his shoulders.

"My dear lad," he said, "I only know what all the world knows; I only
tell you what the first person you met might tell you."

"Then I must be ignorant indeed!" I murmured, letting my head fall into
my hands.

"The fact is, you have much to learn; but you are young, you will
learn."

"Tell me what needs to be done in fiction?"

"Everything, just as in the drama."

"But I thought we had some excellent novels."

"What have you read in the way of novels?"

"Those of Lesage, Madame Cottin and Pigault-Lebrun."

"What effect did they have on you?"

"Lesage's novels amused me; Madame Cottin's made me cry;
Pigault-Lebrun's made me laugh."

"Then you have not read either Goethe, or Walter Scott, or Cooper?"

"I have not read either Goethe, or Walter Scott, or Cooper."

"Well, read them."

"And when I have read them, what shall I do?"

"Make Corinthian bronze all the time; only, try to put in a slight
ingredient they all lack."

"What is that?"

"Passion.... Goethe gives us poetry; Walter Scott character studies;
Cooper the mysterious grandeur of prairies, forests and oceans; but you
will look in vain for passion among them."

"So, a man who could be a poet like Goethe, an observer like Walter
Scott, clever at description like Cooper, with the addition of a touch
of passion ...?"

"Ah! such a man would be almost perfect."

"Which are the first three works I ought to read of those three
masters?"

"Goethe's _Wilhelm Meister_, Walter Scott's _Ivanhoe_ and Cooper's
_Spy."_

"I read _Jean Sbogar_ through last night."

"Oh, that is another story altogether."

"What kind is it?"

"It belongs to the _genre_ style of novel. But France is not waiting
for that."

"What is she waiting for?"

"She is waiting for the historical novel."

"But the history of France is so dull!"

Lassagne raised his head and looked at me.

"What!" he exclaimed.

"The history of France is so dull!" I repeated.

"How do you know that?"

I blushed.

"People have told me it is."

"Poor boy! People have told you!... Read for yourself and then you will
have an opinion."

"What must I read?"

"Why, there is a whole world of it: Joinville, Froissart, Monstrelet,
Châtelain, Juvénal des Ursins, Montluc, Saulx-Tavannes, l'Estoile,
Cardinal de Retz, Saint-Simon, Villars, Madame de la Fayette, Richelieu
... and so I could go on."

"How many volumes do those make?"

"Probably between two and three hundred."

"And you have read them?"

"Certainly."

"And I must read them?"

"If you wish to write novels, you must not only read them, you must get
them off by heart."

"Why, you frighten me! I should not be able to write a word for two or
three years!"

"Oh! longer than that, or you will write ignorantly."

"Oh, my God! what a lot of time I have lost!"

"You must retrieve it."

"You will aid me, will you not?"

"What about the office?"

"Oh! I will read and study at night; I will work at the office, and we
can have a chat from time to time...."

"Yes, like to-day's; but we have talked too much."

"One word more. You have told me what I ought to study in the drama?"

"Yes."

"In romance?"

"Yes."

"In history?"

"Yes."

"Well, now, in poetry, what ought I to study?"

"First, what have you read?"

"Voltaire, Parny, Bertin, Demoustier, Legouvé, Colardeau."

"Good! forget the lot."

"Really?"

"Read Homer as representative of antiquity; Virgil among the Latin
poets; Dante in the Middle Ages. I am giving you giants' marrow to feed
on."

"And among the moderns?"

"Ronsard, Mathurin, Régnier, Milton, Goethe, Uhland, Byron, Lamartine,
Victor Hugo, and especially a little volume which has just been
published by Latouche."

"What is the name of it?"

"_André Chénier_."

"I have read it...."

"You have read Marie-Joseph.... Do not confuse Marie-Joseph with André."

"But how am I to read foreign authors when I do not know either Greek
or English or German?"

"The deuce! Why, that is simple enough: you must learn those languages."

"How?"

"I do not know; but remember this: one can always learn what one wants
to learn. And now I think it is time we gave our attention to business.
One more piece of advice."

"What is it?"

"If you mean to follow the instructions I give you...."

"Indeed I do!"

"You must not say a word to M. Arnault of this little scheme of study."

"Why?"

"Because you would not be a friend of his for long."

"You think not?"

"I am certain of it."

"Thanks.... I will keep my mouth shut."

"You will do well. Now, a second word of advice."

"I am listening."

"You must not repeat a word of our conversation either to Oudard or to
M. de Broval."

"Why?"

"Because they would not leave us long in the same office."

"The devil! I want to stay in it dreadfully."

"Then it depends on yourself."

"Oh, if it depends on me, we shall be together for many years."

"So be it."

At this point M. Oudard entered, and I set to my task with an avidity
that won me many compliments from him at the end of the day.

I made a splendid discovery--which was that I could copy without
thinking of what I was copying, and consequently I was able to think of
other things whilst copying.

By the second day I had advanced as far as others who had been at work
for four or five years.

As will be seen, I was making rapid progress.



CHAPTER III


Adolphe reads a play at the Gymnase--M. Dormeuil--_Kenilworth
Castle_--M. Warez and Soulié--Mademoiselle Lévesque--The Arnault
family--The _Feuille--Marius à Minturnes_--Danton's epigram--The
reversed passport--Three fables--_Germanicus_--Inscriptions and
epigrams--Ramponneau--The young man and the tilbury-_Extra ecclesiam
nulla est salus_--Madame Arnault


It was well I could copy without taking in what I was doing; for
Lassagne's conversation, as may be imagined, gave me much to think
about. Every day showed me my deplorable ignorance more and more, and,
like a traveller lost in a marshy, unstable bog, I did not know whereon
to place my feet in order to find that solid ground which would lead me
to the end I was trying to reach.

How was it Adolphe had never spoken to me of all these matters? So far
reaching were the vistas that opened before me every moment, that I
was bewildered. Did Adolphe think all this of little use in connection
with the art and practice of literature? Or was it that the kind
of literature he wanted me to produce could dispense with all such
knowledge? I had often noticed his father shrug his shoulders at our
theatrical schemes; was it not perchance that his father, who knew so
many things, laughed in his sleeve at me for being so ignorant? And M.
Deviolaine, who instinctively (for, except as a valuer and in questions
of forestry, he hardly knew more than I did) called my attempts filth
and my efforts at poetry mere rubbish, could he by chance be right?

Of course, one could read, work and study, but how was it possible to
keep all the things I had heard about since the previous evening in my
mind without revealing them? I resolved to have an open talk about it
all with Adolphe.

At half-past five I reached M. de Leuven's house, but Adolphe had not
yet returned: he was reading at the Gymnase a play he had written
in collaboration with Frédéric Soulié. He put in an appearance at
a quarter to six, looking more melancholy and more thoughtful than
Hippolytus on the road to Mycenæ.

"Well, my poor friend," said I, "refused again?"

"No," he replied; "but only accepted subject to correction."

"Then all hope is not lost?"

"True. Dormeuil made us go into his office, after the reading, and as
he thought there were tedious passages in the piece, he said to us,'My
dear fellows, my dear fellows, it must be cut down to the quick.'
At these words Soulié snatched the play out of his hands, crying,
'Monsieur Dormeuil, not a hand must be laid on it.' So, you will
understand, Dormeuil is furious."

"Who is Dormeuil?"

"One of the managers of the Gymnase."

"And that means...."

"And that means that Soulié has vowed the piece shall be played as it
is or not at all."

"The deuce! Then Soulié doesn't mind if his things get played or not?"

"You do not know that fellow's obstinacy; there is no way of turning
him. Did you hear what he said to Warez?"

"Who is Warez?"

"Warez is manager to Madame Oudinot, proprietor of the Ambigu."

"Well, what did he say to Warez?"

"We took him a melodrama to read, called _Kenilworth Castle;_ Warez
read it. He was not very much struck with the work. When we went,
yesterday, for his answer, 'Gentlemen,' he said to us, 'will you
allow me to read your play to M. Picard?' 'Ah!' replies Soulié, 'in
order that he can steal the idea from us. 'What! Monsieur Soulié,'
exclaims Warez, 'steal your play from you--an Academician!' 'Well,'
says Soulié, 'three-fourths of the Academicians certainly steal their
places, why should they stick at stealing other people's work?' I need
not tell you, my dear friend, that that meant another closed door! I
had some sort of an idea of going to Mademoiselle Lévesque, who is all
powerful at the theatre, to offer her the part of Marie Stuart, which
is magnificent...."

"Well?"

"You know what happened to Casimir Delavigne, at the reading of the
_Vêpres siciliennes_, at the Théâtre-Français?"

"Yes, the piece was refused."

"Not merely was the piece refused, but, as every voter is obliged to
give a reason for his refusal, one of the ladies refused 'because the
work was badly _written_.'"

"And Mademoiselle Lévesque refused yours for the same reason?"

"No; but she said that, at the _present_ moment, she had so many new
parts, she could not possibly undertake _ours."_

"The devil take it! It would seem that actresses do not need to study
so hard as authors.... Ah! my dear friend, why did you not tell me of
my ignorance and that I have everything to learn?"

"Don't put yourself out about that, dear fellow; you will soon learn
all you need.... Stay, my mother is beckoning to us to come. Let us go
in to dinner."

We went in, and I was introduced to Madame Arnault,--I was already
acquainted with Lucien, Telleville and Louis.

I had seen M. Arnault at the famous shooting expedition in Tillet
Wood, but I had not had the honour of speaking to him. He had asked
to be given a good position in the wood; and he had been put where,
as M. Deviolaine had said, the deer could not fail to pass by. M.
Arnault, who could not see two gun-lengths off, had wiped the glasses
of his spectacles, sat down, produced a memorandum-book and a pencil,
and began to write a fable that had been running in his head since
the previous day. In a quarter of an hour, he heard a noise in the
underwood: he laid down his pocket-book and pencil, took up his gun
and pointed it ready for action as soon as the animal should pass by.

"Oh, monsieur," a woman cried out, "don't shoot! You will kill my cow!"

"Are you quite sure it is your cow, and not a roebuck?" M. Arnault then
asked her.

"Oh, monsieur, you will see...."

And the woman, running up to the cow, hung on the animal's tail, which
she pulled so hard that the poor beast began to moo.

"You are right," said M. Arnault; "I think I am mistaken." And he
sat down again, laid his gun on the ground, took up his pencil and
note-book and resumed his fable, which he composedly finished.

M. Arnault's family consisted of Lucien and Telleville, his two sons by
a first marriage; of Louis and Gabrielle, his two children by a second
marriage. M. Arnault's second wife was a young lady from Bonneuil. Let
me say a few words about this excellent family. We will begin, like the
Gospels, with the meek and mild members.

Gabrielle was a pretty child of fourteen or fifteen, with a dazzlingly
white complexion; she was of no more account in the household as yet
than a bud in a bouquet. Louis was about my own age, namely, twenty
or twenty-one. He was a good-looking lad, fair, fresh-coloured,
rosy-cheeked, a trifle spruce, ever laughing, on the most friendly
terms with his sister, full of respect for his mother and admiration
for his father. Telleville was a handsome captain; very brave, very
loyal, very daring, a Bonapartist like the rest of the family, thrown
into the midst of the artistic world, without ever having written a
verse of poetry, but possessing a delightful wit, and being full of
spirit and originality. Lucien, the author of _Régulus_, and, later, of
_Pierre de Portugal_ and of _Tibère,_ had too cold and calculating a
mind to be really poetical; yet there was a certain boldness of style
in his lines and a certain melancholy about his ideas, that appealed
both to the imagination and to the heart. There is one of the truest
and most charming lines I know, in _Pierre de Portugal_, a line such
as Racine wrote in his best days, universally known because it belongs
to that school:--

    "Les chagrins du départ sont pour celui qui reste."

The year before my arrival in Paris, _Régulus_ had achieved enormous
popularity. I will quote a few lines of it, to give some idea of the
author, who appears to have given up literary work.

Regulus is about to leave Rome, to which he was devotedly attached, and
he says to Licinius:--

    "Je meurs pour la sauver, c'est mourir digne d'elle!
    Mais, toi, Licinius, parjure à l'amitié,
    Disciple de ma gloire, as-tu donc oublié
    Ces jours où j'opposais, dans les champs du carnage,
    Ma vieille expérience à ton jeune courage?
    Aimant un vrai soldat dans un vrai citoyen,
    Ne le souvient-il plus que, par un doux lien,
    Ma tendresse voulait vous unir l'un à l'autre?
    Le hasard a trahi mon espoir et le vôtre;
    Mais, des bords du tombeau, je puis enfin bénir
    Les nœuds qui pour jamais doivent vous réunir.
    Si tu l'aimes, viens, jure au dieu de la victoire
    De servir, aujourd'hui, la patrie et la gloire;
    D'éclairer les Romains par toi seul égarés;
    De rétablir la paix dans ces remparts sacrés;
    Jure! dis-je. A l'instant, je te donne ma fille,
    Je te lègue mon nom, mon honneur, ma famille;
    Et les dieux ne m'auront opprimé qu'à demi,
    Si, dans un vrai Romain, je retrouve un ami!"

Lucien was about thirty or thirty-two at this period. Until the
downfall of Napoleon his career had been administrative: he had been
made auditor to the State Council and a prefect at twenty-five. In
spite of much physical suffering which saddened his life, he was indeed
one of the best-hearted and most benevolent persons I ever knew. For
five years I saw Lucien two or three times a week; I do not think
that, during the long period of intimacy, I ever heard him jibe at
his _confrères_, or complain or whine; he was one of those gentle,
melancholy and tranquil spirits one sees in dreams. I do not know what
became of him; after 1829 I lost sight of him completely. Twenty-two
years of absence and of separation will certainly have driven me from
his remembrance; those twenty-two years have engraved him the more
deeply on mine.

M. Arnault was quite different. I never knew a more subtle, mordant,
satirical nature than this brilliant person owned. In military parlance
he would have been described as a damned good shot. Neither Bertrand
nor Lozes ever returned a straight thrust more rapidly and more surely
than did M. Arnault, on every occasion, by a word or an epigram or
a flash of wit. He was but an indifferent dramatic author, but he
excelled in fables and satire. Once, in a fit of despondency, he let
fall what was probably the only tear he shed, like that of Aramis upon
the death of Porthos: he dipped his pen in the salt drops, and wrote
the following lines--a gem that André Chénier, or Millevoye, Lamartine
or Victor Hugo might have wished to write:--


    LA FEUILLE

    "De ta tige détachée,
    Pauvre feuille desséchée,
    Où vas-tu?--Je n'en sais rien.
    L'orage a brisé le chêne
    Qui seul était mon soutien;
    De son inconstante haleine
    Le zéphir ou l'aquilon,
    Depuis ce jour me promène
    De la forêt à la plaine,
    De la montagne au vallon.
    Je vais où le vent me mène
    Sans me plaindre ou m'effrayer;
    Je vais où va toute chose,
    Où vont la feuille de rose
    Et la feuille de laurier!"

I do not know what the famous poets of my day would have given to
have written those fifteen lines; I know I would have given any of
my plays the fates might have chosen. M. Arnault's great ambition
was, unluckily, to write for the stage. He had begun by _Marius à
Minturnes_, at the time when he was with Monsieur. The tragedy was
produced in 1790, and in spite of the prediction of the Comte de
Provence, who had asserted that a tragedy without a woman must be
a failure, it was a great success. Saint-Phal played young Marius,
Vanhove Marius, and Saint-Prix le Cimbre. That was the happy period
when men of the talent of Saint-Prix accepted parts in which they came
on only in one scene, and in that single scene uttered a few lines,
_e.g._:--

    "Quelle voix, quel regard, et quel aspect terrible!
    Quel bras oppose au mien un obstacle invincible?...
    L'effroi s'est emparè de mes sens éperdus ...
    Je ne pourrais jamais égorger Marius!"

The play was dedicated to Monsieur. I have heard M. Arnault relate, in
his extremely fascinating way, that success made him very vain, very
peremptory and very scornful. One day, in 1792, he was in the balcony
of the Théâtre-Français, talking loudly, in his customary fashion,
making a great noise with his cane and hindering people from hearing;
this went on from the raising of the curtain till the end of the first
act, when a gentleman, who was behind M. Arnault and only separated
from him by one row, bent forward, and touching his shoulder with the
tips of his gloved hand, said, "Monsieur Arnault, pray allow us to
listen, even though they are playing _Marius à Minturnes_."

This polite and, I might even add, witty gentleman was Danton. A
month later, this same polite and witty gentleman had instituted the
September massacres. M. Arnault was so alarmed by these massacres
that he fled on foot. On reaching the barricade, he found it guarded
by a sans-culotte in name and in reality; this sans-culotte was
engaged in preventing a poor woman from passing, under the pretext
that her passport for Bercy had not been _vised_ at the section des
Enfants-Trouvés. Now, while he noted the persistence of this honourable
sentinel, an idea occurred to M. Arnault--that this terrible Cerberus
could not read. Joking is a bad disease, of which one is rarely cured.
M. Arnault, who suffered much from this malady, boldly walked up to the
sans-culotte and presented his passport upside down to the man, saying--

"_Viséd_ at the Enfants-Trouvés: there is the stamp."

M. Arnault guessed rightly.

"Pass," said the sans-culotte.

And M. Arnault passed.

In the interval that had elapsed between _Marius_ and the 3rd of
September, the date at which we have arrived, M. Arnault had produced
his tragedy of _Lucrèce._ The play falling flat, the author laid its
want of success at Mademoiselle Raucourt's door.... It is known that
this famous actress's aversion to men was not entirely imputed to
virtuous causes. However that may be, later, we shall have to speak
of Mademoiselle Raucourt in connection with her pupil, Mademoiselle
Georges.

M. Arnault had followed Bonaparte to Egypt. He has related in a very
amusing manner, in his memoirs entitled _Souvenirs d'un sexagénaire_,
the part he took in that expedition. On his return, he wrote an
Ossianic tragedy, called _Oscar_, which was very successful, and which
he dedicated to Bonaparte; then _les Vénitiens,_ the catastrophe of
which was regarded as so outrageously bold that scrupulous people
would not support it, and the author was obliged to please these good
people by changing the action, thanks to which, after the style of
Ducis's _Othello_, his piece now finished off by a death or a marriage,
according to the choice of the spectators. _Les Vénitiens_ was a
tremendous success.

While M. Arnault was a chief clerk in the University during the Empire,
under M. de Fontanes, who was the principal, he took Béranger into
his offices as copying-clerk at twelve hundred francs a year. And it
was there that Béranger wrote his first chanson, the _Roi d'Yvetot._
Upon the second return of the Bourbons, M. Arnault was proscribed, and
retired to Brussels. We have already told how he became acquainted
with M. de Leuven, in exile, over a slap in the face the latter gave
a foreign officer. It was during his exile that M. Arnault composed
nearly all his fables, a charming collection but little known, as
very few people read fables nowadays. For this very reason I am going
to make my readers acquainted with three of them. Be reassured! these
three fables are really by M. Arnault, and not by M. Viennet. Besides,
I am answerable for them, and my word can be depended upon in the case
of all three. Let us further hasten to add that the fables we are about
to read are fables only in title: they are really epigrams.

    LE COLIMAÇON

    "Sans amis comme sans famille,
    Ici-bas, vivre en étranger;
    Se retirer dans sa coquille,
    Au signal du moindre danger;
    S'aimer d'une amitié sans bornes,
    De soi seul emplir sa maison;
    En sortir, selon la saison,
    Pour faire à son prochain les cornes
    Signaler ses pas destructeurs
    Par les traces les plus impures;
    Outrager les plus belles fleurs
    Par ses baisers ou ses morsures;
    Enfin, chez soi, comme en prison,
    Vieillir, de jour en jour plus triste;
    C'est l'histoire de l'égoiste
    Ou celle du colimaçon."


    LE DROIT DE CHACUN

      "Un jour, le roi des animaux
      Défendit, par une ordonnance,
      A ses sujets, à ses vassaux,
      De courir sans une licence
    Sur quelque bête que ce soit;
    Promettant, il est vrai, de conserver le droit
    A quiconque en usait pour motif honnête.
    Tigres, loups et renards, de présenter requête
    A Sa Majesté: loups, pour courir le mouton,
      Renards, pour courir le chapon,
      Tigres, pour courir toute bête.
    Parmi les députés, qui criaient à tue-tête,
    Un chien s'égosillait à force d'aboyer.
    'Plaise à Sa Majesté, disait-il, m'octroyer
    Droit de donner la chasse, en toute circonstance,
    A tous les animaux vivant de ma substance.
    --Gentilshommes, à vous permis de giboyer,
    Dit, s'adressant au tigre, au loup, au renard même
      Des forêts le maître suprême
    Aux chasseurs tels que vous permis de déployer,
    Même chez leurs voisins, leurs efforts, leurs astuces;
      Mais néant au placet du chien!'
    Que réclamait, pourtant, ce roturier-ta?--Rien,
      Que le droit de tuer ses puces."


    LES DEUX BAMBOUS

    "L'an passé--c'était l'an quarante,--
    L'an passé, le Grand Turc disait au grand vizir:
    'Quand, pour régner sous moi, je daignai te choisir,
    Roustan, je te croyais d'humeur bien différente.
      Roustan met son plus grand plaisir.
    A me contrarier; quelque ordre que je donne,
      Au lieu d'obéir, il raisonne;
      Toujours des _si,_ toujours des _mais_;
      Il défend ce que je permets:
      Ce que je défends, il l'ordonne.
    A rien ne tient qu'ici je ne te fasse voir
    A quel point je suis las de ces façons de faire!
    Va-t'en! Qu'on fasse entrer mon grand eunuque noir
    C'est celui-là qui connaît son affaire,
      C'est lui qui, toujours complaisant,
    Sans jamais m'étourdir de droit ni de justice,
      N'ayant de loi que mon caprice,
      Sait me servir en m'amusant.
    Jamais ce ton grondeur, jamais cet air sinistre!
    Ainsi que tout désir, m'épargnant tout travail,
    Il conduirait l'empire aussi bien qu'un sérail.
    J'en veux faire un premier ministre.
    --En fait de politique et de gouvernement,
    Sultan, dit le vizir, chacun a son système:
    Te plaire est le meilleur; le mien, conséquemment,
    Est mauvais.... Toutefois, ne pourrais-je humblement,
      Te soumettre un petit problème?
      --Parle.--Ce n'est pas d'aujourd'hui.
      Que péniblement je me traîne,
    Vieux et cassé, sultan, dans ma marche incertaine,
      Ma faiblesse a besoin d'appui.
      Or, j'ai deux roseaux de la Chine:
    Plus ferme qu'un bâton, l'un ne sait pas plier,
    L'autre, élégant, léger, droit comme un peuplier,
      Est plus souple qu'une badine.
    Lequel choisir?--Lequel?... Roustan, je ne crois pas
    Qu'un flexible bambou puisse assurer nos pas.
      --Tu le crois! lorsque tu m'arraches
      Ton sceptre affermi par mes mains,
      Pour le livrer à des faquins
      Sans caractere et sans moustaches.'

    Rois, vos ministres sont, pour vous,
    Ce qu'est, pour nous, le jonc dont l'appui nous assiste,
    Je le dis des vizirs ainsi que des bambous,
    On ne peut s'appuyer que sur ce qui résiste."

If you read, one after the other, M. Arnault's one hundred and fifty
fables, you will find throughout, the same ease, the same touch, the
same carping spirit. When you have read them, you will certainly not
say of the author, "He is a delightful person," but you will assuredly
say, "He is an honest man."

In 1815 M. Arnault was exiled. Why? For so slight a reason that no one
bothered even to think of it; his name was on the list, and that was
all! But who signed that list? Louis XVIII., formerly Monsieur--that is
to say, the very same Comte de Provence under whose protection the poet
had begun his career, and to whom he had dedicated his _Marius._

Now, although there was no reason for M. Arnault's exile, party spirit
invented one and said that he was proscribed as a regicide. There were,
however, two sufficient reasons why this could not be: first, because
M. Arnault did not belong to the Convention; secondly, because in 1792
and 1793 he was abroad. Nevertheless, the rumour was tacitly accepted,
and soon nobody doubted that M. Arnault was exiled on that ground.

M. Arnault sent _Germanicus_ from Brussels: it was played on the
22nd of March 1817, and forbidden the following day. During the
representation the tragedy shifted from the stage to the pit, where a
terrible fight took place, in which several people were hurt and one
even killed. The battle was waged between the Life Guards and the
partisans of the late Government. The weapon that was generally made
use of in this skirmish was that kind of bamboo upon which Roustan,
the Grand Turk's first vizir, whose grievances we have just heard, was
wont to lean. One can understand that the thicker and less pliable they
were, the better they served for defence and for attack. From the date
of that fray these canes were dubbed "_Germanicus"_ Angry feelings
waxed strong at this period. The day but one after the representation,
Martainville published a scurrilous article attacking M. Arnault's
private honour. This article, which was the result of a blow given the
critic by Telleville, led to a duel in which, as we said above, the
journalist had his thigh bruised by a bullet.

_Germanicus_ was revived later. We were present at the revival;
but, divorced from the passions of the moment, the play was not a
success. His unlooked-for and outrageously unjust proscription added
a bitterness to M. Arnault's nature--a bitterness which cropped out
on the least excuse, and which was not expelled from his blood by
the legacy Napoleon bequeathed him in his will of a hundred thousand
francs. The legacy was useful in aiding him to build a beautiful house
in the rue de la Bruyère: as is usually the case, however, the builder
sank twice the amount he had intended to spend thereon, so M. Arnault
found himself a hundred thousand francs poorer after his legacy than
before he had inherited that sum.

M. Arnault loved poetry for its own sake: he made lines on every
occasion. He wrote them on his portrait, on his garden door, on the
Abbé Geoffroy, on his dog's tricks, on a poet in uniform whose portrait
had been exhibited in the last Salon.

Here are the lines above referred to, which show not only the author's
wit, but also his very nature:--

    VERS SUR LE PORTRAIT DE L'AUTEUR

      "Sur plus d'un ton je sais régler ma voix;
    Ami des champs, des arts, des combats et des fêtes,
      En vers dignes d'eux, quelquefois,
    J'ai fait parler les dieux, les héros et les bêtes."

    POUR LA PORTE DE MON JARDIN

    "Bons amis dont ce siècle abonde,
    Je suis votre humble serviteur;
    Mais passez: ma porte et mon cœur
    Ne s'ouvrent plus à tout le monde."


    SUR UN BON HOMME QUI N'A PAS LE VIN BON[1]

    "Il est altéré de vin;
    Il est altéré de gloire;
    Il ne prend jamais en vain
    Sa pinte ou son écritoire.
    Des flots qu'il en fait couler,
    Abreuvant plus d'un délire.
    Il écrit pour se soûler,
    Il se soûle pour écrire."


    POUR LA NICHE DE MON CHIEN

    "Je n'attaque jamais en traître,
    Je caresse sans intérêt,
    Je mords parfois, mais à regret:
    Bon chien se forme sur son maître."


    POUR LE PORTRAIT D'UN POÈTE EN UNIFORME

    "Au Parnasse ou sur le terrain,
    En triompher est peu possible:
    L'épée en main il est terrible,
    Terrible il est la plume en main;
    Et pour se battre et pour écrire,
    Nul ne saurait lui ressembler;
    Car, s'il ne se bat pas pour rire,
    Il écrit à faire trembler."

No matter what were his troubles, M. Arnault had always worshipped
dogs. Out of fifty of his fables, more than twenty have these
interesting quadrupeds for their heroes. When I was honoured by an
introduction into the private life of his family, the gate was guarded
by a horrible beast, half pug, half poodle, called Ramponneau. M.
Arnault never stirred without this dog: he had him in his study while
he worked, in his garden when he took his walks there. Only the king's
highway was denied him by M. Arnault, for fear of poisoned meat. M.
Arnault himself superintended his dog's education, and on one point
he was inexorable. Ramponneau would persist in committing ill manners
in his study. Directly the sight and the odour revealed the crime
committed, Ramponneau was seized by his flanks and the skin of his
neck, conducted to the spot where the indiscretion had been committed
and soundly thrashed. After this, Ramponneau's nose was rubbed in the
subject-matter of his crime, according to an old custom, the origin
of which is lost in the deeps of time--an operation to which he
submitted with visible repugnance. These daily faults and the ensuing
chastenings went on for nearly two months, and M. Arnault began to
fear that Ramponneau was uneducatible on this point, although he
learnt a crowd of pleasing tricks, such as feigning death, standing to
attention, smoking a pipe, leaping to honour the Emperor. I ask pardon
for the word "uneducatible." I could not find the word I wanted, so I
made one up. M. Arnault, I repeat, began to fear that Ramponneau was
uneducatible on this one point, when, one day, Ramponneau, who had
just committed his usual crime, seeing his master was far too much
absorbed in his tragedy of _Guillaume de Nassau_ to perceive what
had just happened, went and pulled at the hem of his dressing-gown.
M. Arnault turned round: Ramponneau jumped up two or three times to
attract his attention; then, when he was quite sure he had arrested it,
he went straight to the spot which we have termed the subject-matter of
his crime, and rubbed his nose in, purely of his own accord, without
any compulsion, certainly with evident repugnance, but with touching
resignation. The poor beast was deceived. He had thought that the
whippings and punishment which followed the crime had had no other end
than to teach him to rub his nose in the object in question of his own
accord. Ramponneau's education was completely at fault, and he kept
this defect all his life, the muzzle he was provided with making very
little difference to his habit.

I have already referred to M. Arnault's remarkable gift of swift and
witty repartee. I will give two instances of it now, and others in
their due place and season later, as we come across them.

One day I was walking down the rue de la Tour-des-Dames with him. A
young swell who was driving a tilbury, and who had lost control of
his horse going down that steep decline, just missed running over M.
Arnault, who was not a patient man.

"You blackguard!" he said; "can't you look where you are going?"

"What did you say,--blackguard?" exclaimed the young man.

"Yes, blackguard!" repeated M. Arnault.

"Monsieur, you shall render an account for that insult!... Here is my
address!"

"Your address?" replied M. Arnault. "Keep it to drive your horse to."

Another day, on the Champs-Élysées, he passed by a priest without
saluting him. We have said that M. Arnault was very short-sighted;
besides, he was not very fond of black men, as they were called at that
time. The priest, whom he had almost jostled against, turned round.

"There goes a Jacobin," he said, "he jostles against me and does not
salute me."[2]

"Monsieur," replied M. Arnault, "do not be more exacting than the
Gospel: _Extra ecclesiam nulla est salus."_[3]

I see I have forgotten among all these matters to speak of Madame
Arnault. She was about forty when I was first introduced to her and she
was still a charming little woman at that age, dark, pretty, plump,
full of airs and graces. Madame Arnault was cordially good to me for
five years, then things changed. Perhaps it was my own fault: the
reader shall judge when the time comes.


[1] The Abbé Geoffrey.

[2] Et qui ne me salue pas.

[3] Hors de l'Église, pas de salut!



CHAPTER IV


Frédéric Soulié, his character, his talent--Choruses of the various
plays, sung as prologues and epilogues--Transformation of the
vaudeville--The Gymnase and M. Scribe--The _Folle de Waterloo_


Adolphe took me to Frédéric Soulié's house that evening. Frédéric
Soulié had a gathering of friends to celebrate his refusal at the
Gymnase; for he looked upon the acceptance on condition of alteration
as a refusal.

I shall often return to, and speak much of Soulié: he was one of the
most powerful literary influences of the day, and his personality was
one of the most marked I have known. He died young. He died, not only
in the full tide of his talent, but even before he had produced the
perfect and finished work he would certainly have created, some day
or other, had not death hastened its footsteps. Soulié's brain was a
little confused and obscure; his thoughts were only lighted up on one
side, after the fashion of this planet; the reverse side to the one
illuminated by the sun was pitifully dark. Soulié did not know how to
begin either a novel or a drama. The opening explanation of his work
was done hap-hazard: sometimes in the first act, sometimes in the
last, if it were a play; if it were a novel, sometimes in the first,
sometimes in the last volume. His introduction, timidly begun, nearly
always was laboriously unravelled. It seemed as though, like those
night birds which need the darkness to develop all their faculties,
Soulié was not at ease save in twilight.

I was for ever quarrelling with him on this point. As he was gifted
with unrivalled imagination and power, when he was on the warpath,
I used to beseech him continually to let in the utmost possible
daylight at the beginning of his action. "Be clear to the verge of
transparency," I continually said to him. "God's greatness consists in
His making of light; without light, we should not have known how to
appreciate the sublime grandeur of creation."

Soulié was twenty-six when I first knew him. He was a lusty young
man, of medium height, but capitally proportioned; he had a prominent
forehead; dark hair, eyebrows and beard; a well-shaped nose and full
eyes; thick lips and white teeth. He laughed readily, although it was
never a fresh young laugh. It sounded ironical and strident, which gave
it the quality of age. Being naturally of a bantering disposition,
irony was a weapon he could wield admirably.

He had tried his hand at most things, and he retained some slight
knowledge of everything he had done. After having received an excellent
education in the provinces, I believe he studied law at Rheims, to
which we owe the admirable description of student's life in his book
entitled _Confession générale._ He passed his legal examinations and
was called to the Bar; but he did not take kindly to the profession.
Rather than follow that very liberal avocation, he preferred a
mercantile calling. This aversion led to his developing the notion of a
big steam sawmill in 1824 or 1825.

In the meantime, Soulié (who then signed himself Soulié de Lavelanet)
lived upon a small allowance his father made him a hundred louis, as
far as I am able to remember. He lived in the rue de Provence, on the
first floor, in a bewitching room that seemed a palace to us. There
was, above all else, a most unwonted luxury in this room, a piano on
which Soulié could play two or three tunes. He was both very radical
and very aristocratic, two qualities which often went together at that
period: see, for example, Carrel, whom we have already seen in the
Béfort affair, and who will reappear on the scene presently, after the
amnesty to be accorded by Charles X. on his accession to the throne.

Soulié was brave, without being quarrelsome; but he had the
sensitiveness both of the student and of the Southerner. He was
passably skilful as a swordsman and a first-rate shot.

Soulié at first thought me a worthless lad, of no importance; and it
was quite natural he should. He was astonished and almost overwhelmed
by my early successes. By that time I knew Soulié as he was; jealous
almost to envy, but, by reason of the strong kindliness of his good and
upright heart, able to keep all the evil tendencies of his character
under control. A constant struggle was waged within him between good
and bad principles, and yet not once perhaps did the evil principle get
the better of him. He very often tried to hate me, but never managed to
succeed: very often, when he set out to run me down in conversation,
he would end by praising me. And, as a matter of fact, I was the man
who hampered his career more than any other: in the theatre, in the
newspapers, in the matter of books, I was everywhere in his path, doing
him involuntary but actual damage everywhere; and, in spite of this,
I was so certain of Soulié, and so sure of his supreme justice and
goodness of heart, that, if I had needed any act of service, I should
have gone to Soulié to ask it of him, rather than of any other--and he
would have rendered me this service, more readily than any other person
would.

At first Soulié turned his attention towards poetry. It was in the
domain of poetry, I believe, that he looked to make his conquests. His
first stage-play was an imitation of Shakespeare's _Romeo and Juliet._
I never experienced greater emotion than that which I felt at the first
representation of this play.

We were often months or a year without seeing each other; but when
fate turned us face to face, no matter how far off we might be, we
each walked straight to the other's heart and open arms. Perhaps,
before catching sight of me, Soulié had not particularly cared to meet
me; perhaps, had someone told him, "Dumas is over there," he would
have made a detour; but, directly he caught sight of me, the electric
current dominated his will and he was mine, body and soul, as though
never a single jealous thought had crossed his mind. It was different
with regard to Hugo or Lamartine: he did not like them, and he rarely
spoke impartially of their talent. I feel convinced that it was Hugo's
_Odes et Ballades_ and Lamartine's _M&ditations_ which led Frédéric
Soulié to write in prose. Rest in peace, friend of my youth, companion
of my first serious efforts, I will depict thee as thou wert; I will
design a statue of thee, not a bust; I will isolate thee; I will place
thee on the pedestal of thy works, so that all those who never knew
thee may take the measure of thy impressive figure; for thou art one
of those who can be studied from all aspects, and who, living or dead,
have no need to be afraid of being placed in a full light.

At the time of which I am writing, Soulié was linked in literary
friendship with Jules Lefèvre and Latouche,--Latouche, with whom he
quarrelled so fiercely later over _Christine._ In private life, his
chief friend was a tall, stout fellow called David, who was at that
time, and may still be, a stockbroker. I do not know whether Soulié was
his only friend; but I believe that on the Exchange he made not a few
enemies.

When we went to see Soulié, he was entertaining a dozen of his friends
to tea, cake and sandwiches. Such luxuries quite dazzled me. Soulié was
conscious of his own powers, and this rendered him extremely scornful
towards second-rate literature. In his efforts to poach upon other
writers' preserves, until the time came when he could do better than
they, he treated certain contemporary celebrities, whose positions I
envied greatly, with lofty off-handedness. He proposed, he said, to
publish an Almanac for the coming year, 1824, entitled the _Parfait
Vaudevilliste_, which should consist of ready-made verses from old
soldiers and young colonels. Among these verses from old soldiers were
some of the first order, and the following may be taken as a model: it
is one which Gontier sang in _Michel et Christine_, and for which he
was enthusiastically applauded nightly:--

        "Sans murmurer,
    Votre douleur amère,
    Frapp'rait mes yeux, plutôt tout endurer!
    Moi, j'y suis fait, c'est mon sort ordinaire;
    Un vieux soldat sait souffrir et se taire,
        Sans murmurer!"

There were also, at that time, in the plays in course of
representation, a certain number of choruses applicable to current
events, and these found a fitting place in the _Parfait Vaudevilliste._
Unfortunately, I did not copy any of them at Soulié's at that period.
Three or four months before his death, I begged him to send me his
collection: he had lost it. Instead, he sent me five or six of the
choruses he remembered; only he could not tell me exactly to what
period they belonged; he could only affirm that they were not bastard
waifs and strays, as might readily be believed, but acknowledged and
legitimate offspring; and, by way of proof, he sent along with them the
names of their begetters.

These choruses were, of course, the author's exclusive property. He
placed them in identical situations: some of them had already done duty
ten, twenty, thirty times, and only waited the opportunity to be used
a thirty-first time. We will begin with a chorus from the _Barbier
châtelain_, by Théaulon: to every man his due.

        "Bonne nuit!
        Bonne nuit!
        Ça soulage,
        En voyage.
        Bonne nuit!
        Bonne nuit!
    Retirons-nous sans bruit."

This became proverbial: directly the scene began, everyone commenced to
hum in advance the chorus which came at the end of it. Another chorus,
of Brazier and Courcy, in the _Parisien à Londres,_ was also not devoid
of merit. Unluckily, the scene it belonged to was so peculiar that it
was only used once. Nevertheless, it remained in the memories of a fair
number of connoisseurs. It was about a Frenchman who was surprised
during a criminal amour and who, when led before his judges, excited a
lively curiosity among the audience.

So the audience sang:--

    "Nous allons voir juger
           Cet étranger,
       Qui fut bien léger!...
           A l'audience,
       On défend l'innocence,
       Et l'on sait la venger."

The stranger was condemned to marriage, and the audience, satisfied,
left, singing the same chorus, with this slight variation:--

    "Nous _avons vu_ juger
           Cet étranger,
       Qui fut bien léger!...
           A l'audience,
       On défend l'innocence,
       Et l'on sait la venger."

But as breakfasts, dinners and suppers are more frequent at theatres
than foreigners condemned to espouse Englishwomen, there was a chorus
of Dumanoir which, always sung when people were sitting down to the
table, gave the public some notion of the drunkenness of the partakers.

They sang this:--

       "Quel repas
       Plein d'appas,
     Où, gai convive,
     L'Amour arrive!...
       Quel repas
       Plein d'appas!
     On n'en fait pas
    De pareils ici-bas!"

In spite of the holy laws of propriety, more respected, one knows,
among dramatic authors than in any other class of society, Adolphe
one day allowed himself the liberty of using this couplet and had the
audacity to put it in one of his plays, without troubling to change
it one single iota. There is quite a long story about this: Adolphe,
threatened with a lawsuit by Dumanoir, was only able to settle matters
by offering a chorus for dancers in exchange for the drinking chorus.

This is de Leuven's chorus: it will be seen that if Dumanoir did not
gain much through this, he did not lose much by it:--

          "A la danse,
           A la danse,
    Allons, amis, que l'on séance!
        Entendez-vous du bal
    Les gais accords, le doux signal?..."

Dumanoir faithfully adhered to the agreement, but only used the chorus
once; then he returned it to Adolphe, who, on regaining possession,
continued to use his chorus, to the great satisfaction of the audience.

All these choruses, however, pale before that of _Jean de Calais_. This
was by Émile Vanderburch, one of the authors of the _Gamin de Paris_,
and it concluded the play. It runs thus:--

    "Chantons les hauts faits
    De Jean de Calais!
    On dira, dans l'histoire,
      Qu'il a mérité
        Sa gloire
      Et sa félicité!..."

Indeed, a great revolution was taking place at this time in comic
opera; and this revolution was brought about by a man who has since
proscribed others as revolutionists. We refer to Scribe, who, in the
literary revolution of 1820 to 1828, played pretty nearly the rôle the
Girondists played in the political revolution of 1792 and 1793.

Before Scribe, comic operas (with the exception of the delightful
sketches of Désaugiers) were hardly more than bare skeletons, left for
the actors to clothe as they liked. Nowadays the great thing is to
create rôles for M. Arnal, M. Bouffé, or Mademoiselle Rose Chéri, but
at that time no one thought of creating a rôle for M. Potier, M. Brunet
or M. Perrin. M. Perrin, M. Brunet or M. Potier found their rôles
outlined for them at the first rehearsal, and made them what they were
at the first representation.

Scribe was the first author to make plays instead of outline sketches.
Plots developed in his clever hands, and so, in three or four years,
the Théâtre du Gymnase attained its full growth. It was not modelled on
any other company, but created what might well be called M. Scribe's
company: it was composed almost exclusively of colonels, young widows,
old soldiers and faithful servants. Never had such widows been seen,
never such colonels; never had old soldiers spoken thus; never had
such devoted servants been met with. But the company of the Gymnase,
as M. Scribe created it, became the fashion, and the direct patronage
of Madame la Duchesse de Berry contributed not a little towards the
fortune made by the manager, and to the author's reputation. The form
of verse itself was changed. The old airs of our fathers, who had been
satisfied with the gay repetition of _lon, lon, la, larira dondaine,_
and the _gai, gai, larira dondé,_ were abandoned for the more
artificially mannered comic opera, pointed epigrams and long-drawn-out,
elegantly turned verses. When the situation became touching, eight or
ten lines would express the feelings of the character, borrowing charm
from the music, and sighing declarations of love, for which prose had
ceased to suffice. In short, a charming little bastard sprang into
being, of which, to use a village expression, M. Scribe was both father
and godfather, and which was neither the old vaudeville, nor comic
opera, nor comedy.

The models of the new style were the _Somnambule, Michel et Christine_,
the _Héritière_, the _Mariage de raison, Philippe_ and _Marraine._
Later, some vaudevilles went a degree farther; for example, the
_Chevalier de Saint-Georges, un Duel sous Richelieu,_ the _Vie de
bohème._ These bordered on comedy, and could at a pinch be played
without lines. Other changes will be pointed out, so far as they
affected the arts. Let us briefly state here that we had entered into
the age of transition. In 1818, Scribe began by the vaudeville; from
1818 to 1820 Hugo and Lamartine appeared in the literary world, the
former with his _Odes et Ballades_, the latter with his _Méditations,_
the first attempts of the new poetry; from 1820 to 1824 Nodier
published novels of a kind which introduced a fresh type--namely, the
picturesque; from 1824 to 1828 it was the turn of painting to attempt
fresh styles; finally, from 1828 to 1835, the revolution spread to the
dramatic world, and followed almost immediately on the footsteps of the
historical and imaginative novel. Thus the nineteenth century, freed
from parental restraint, assumed its true colour and originality. Of
course it will be understood that, as I was so closely associated with
all the great artists and all the great sculptors of the time, each
of them will come into these Memoirs in turn; they will constitute a
gigantic gallery wherein every illustrious name shall have its living
monument.

Let us return to Soulié. We had reached the date when his first
piece of poetry had the honour of print: it was called the _Folk de
Waterloo_, and had been written at the request of Vatout, for the work
he produced on the Gallery of the Palais-Royal. I need hardly say that
Soulié read it to us. Here it is: we give it in order to indicate the
point of departure of all our great poets. When we take note of the end
to which they have attained, we can measure the distance traversed.
Probably some contemporary grumblers will tell us it matters very
little where they started or where they ended: to such we would reply
that we are not merely writing for the year 1851 or the year 1852, but
for the sacred future which seizes chisel, brush, and pen as they drop
from the hands of the illustrious dead.


    LA FOLLE DE WATERLOO

    "Un jour, livrant mon âme à la mélancolie,
    J'avais porté mes pas errants
    Dans ces prisons où la folie
    Est offerte en spectacle aux yeux indifférents.
    C'était à l'heure qui dégage
    Quelques infortunés des fers et des verrous;
    Et mon cœur s'étonnait d'écouter leur langage,
    Où se mêlaient les pleurs, le rire et le courroux.

    Tandis que leur gardien les menace ou les raille,
    Une femme paraît pâle et le front penché;
    Sa main tient l'ornement qui, les jours de bataille.
    Brille au cou des guerriers sur l'épaule attaché,
    Et de ses blonds cheveux s'échappe un brin de paille
    A sa couche arrache

    En voyant sa jeunesse et le morne délire,
    Qui doit, par la prison, la conduire au tombeau,
    Je me sends pleurer.... Elle se prit à rire,
    Et cria lentement:'Waterloo! Waterloo!'

    'Quel malheur t'a donc fait ce malheur de la France?'
    Lui dis-je.... Et son regard craintif
    Ou, sans voir la raison, je revis l'espérance,
    S'unit pour m'appeler à son geste furtif.

    'Français, parle plus has, dit-elle. Oh! tu m'alarmes!
    Peut-être ces Anglais vont étouffer ta voix;
    Car c'est à Waterloo que, la première fois,
    Adolphe m'écouta sans répondre à mes larmes.

    'Lorsque, dans ton pays, la guerre s'allumait,
    Il me quitta pour elle, en disant qu'il m'aimait;
    C'est là le seul adieu dont mon cœur se souvienne ...
    La gloire l'appelait, il a suivi sa loi;
    Et, comme son amour n'était pas tout pour moi,
    Il servit sa patrie, et j'oubliai la mienne!

    'Et, quand je voulus le chercher,
    Pour le voir, dans le sang il me fallut marcher;
    J'entendais de longs cris de douleur et d'alarmes;
    La lune se leva sur ce morne tableau;
    J'aperçus sur le sol des guerriers et des armes,
    Et des Anglais criaient: "Waterloo! Waterloo!"

    'Et moi, fille de l'Angleterre,
    Indifférente aux miens qui dormaient sur la terre,
    J'appelais un Français, et pleurais sans remords ...
    Tout à coup, une voix mourante et solitaire
    S'éleva de ce champ des morts:

    "Adolphe?" me dit-on. "Des héros de la garde
    Il était le plus brave et marchait avec nous;
    Nous combattions ici.... Va, baisse-toi, regarde,
    Tu l'y retrouveras, car nous y sommes tous!"

    'Je tremblais de le voir et je le vis lui-même....
    Dis-moi quel est ce mal qu'on ne peut exprimer?
    Ses yeux, sous mes baisers, n'ont pu se ranimer....
    Oh! comme j'ai souffert à cette heure suprême;
        Car il semblait ne plus m'aimer!

    Et puis ... je ne sais plus!... Connaît-il ma demeure?
    Jadis, quand il venait, il venait tous les jours!
    Et sa mère, en pleurant, accusait nos amours....
    Hélas! il ne vient plus, et pourtant elle pleure!

    La folle vers la porte adresse alors ses pas,
    Attache à ses verrous un regard immobile,
    M'appelle à ses côtés, et, d'une voix débile:
    'Pauvre Adolphe, dit-elle, en soupirant tout bas;
    Comme il souffre!... il m'attend, puisqu'il ne revient pas!'

    Elle dit, dans les airs la cloche balancée
    Apprit à la douleur que l'heure était passée
    D'espérer que ses maux, un jour, pourraient finir.
    La folle se cachait; mais, dans le sombre asile
    Où, jeune, elle portait un si long avenir,
    A la voix des gardiens d'où la pitié s'exile,
        Seule, il lui fallut revenir.

    'Adieu! je ne crains pas qu'un Français me refuse,
        Dit-elle, en me tendant la main;
    Si tu le vois, là-bas, qui vient sur le chemin;
    D'un aussi long retard si son amour s'accuse,
    Dis-lui que je le plains, dis-lui que je l'excuse,
        Dis-lui que je l'attends demain!'"



CHAPTER V


The Duc d'Orléans--My first interview with him--Maria-Stella-Chiappini
--Her attempts to gain rank--Herhistory--The statement of the Duc
d'Orléans--Judgment of the Ecclesiastical Court of Faenza
--Rectification of Maria-Stella'scertificate of birth


I had been installed nearly a month at the office, to the great
satisfaction of Oudard and of M. de Broval (who, thanks to my beautiful
handwriting, thought that M. Deviolaine had been too hard on me),
when the former sent word by Raulot that he wanted me in his office.
I hastened to respond to the invitation. Oudard looked very solemn.
"My dear Dumas," he said, "M. le Duc d'Orléans has just asked me for
someone to copy quickly and neatly a piece of work he has prepared
for his counsel. Although there is nothing secret about it, you must
understand that it will not do to have the papers left about in the
office while being copied. I thought of you, because you write rapidly
and correctly: it will be the means of bringing you before the duke. I
am going to take you into his room."

I must confess I felt greatly excited on learning that I was about to
find myself face to face with a man whose influence might be of much
importance in the shaping of my destiny.

Oudard noticed the effect this news produced on me, and tried to
reassure me by telling me of the perfect kindness of the duke. This did
not at all prevent me from feeling very nervous as I approached His
Royal Highness's room. I had a moment's respite, for His Royal Highness
was at breakfast; but I soon heard a step that I guessed was his,
and fear seized me once more. The door opened, and the Duc d'Orléans
appeared. I had seen him already, once or twice, at Villers-Cotterets,
when he came to the sale of the woods. I believe I said that he stayed
then with M. Collard, from whom he was the recipient of the most lavish
hospitality imaginable, although, so far as he himself was concerned,
the Duc d'Orléans always tried to restrain hospitality offered him
within the limits of a simple family visit.

M. le Duc d'Orléans had, as a matter of fact, the good feeling to
recognise almost publicly his illegitimate relations: he had his two
natural uncles--the two abbés Saint-Phar and Saint-Albin--living with
him at the Palais-Royal, and he did not make any distinction between
them and the other members of his family.

The prince would be fifty years old the following October: he was
still a very good-looking man, though his figure was marred by his
stoutness, which had increased during the past ten years; his face was
frank, his eyes bright and intelligent, without depth or steadfastness;
he was fluently affable, but nevertheless his words never lost their
aristocratic savour unless his sole interest were to conciliate a vain
citizen; he had a pleasant voice, which in his good-humoured moments
was usually kind in tone; and, when he was in the mood, he could be
heard, even a long way off, singing the mass in a voice almost as
out of tune as that of Louis XV. I have since heard him sing the
_Marseillaise_ as falsely as he sang the mass. To make a long story
short, I was presented to him: not much ceremony was observed in my
case.

"Monseigneur, this is M. Dumas, of whom I have spoken to you, the
protégé of General Foy."

"Oh, good!" replied the duke. "I was delighted to do something to
please General Foy, who recommended you very warmly to me, monsieur.
You are the son of a brave man, whom Bonaparte is said to have left
almost to die of starvation."

I bowed in token of affirmation.

"You write a very good hand, you make and seal envelopes excellently;
work, and M. Oudard will look after you."

"In the meantime," Oudard interposed, "Monseigneur wishes to entrust
you with an important piece of work: His Highness desires it to be done
promptly and correctly."

"I will not leave it until it is finished," I replied, "and I will do
my utmost to be as accurate as His Highness requires."

The duke made a sign to Oudard, as much as to say, "Not bad for a
country lad."

Then, going before me, he said--

"Come into this room and sit down at that table."

And with these words he pointed out a desk to me.

"Here you will be undisturbed."

He then opened a bundle in which about fifty pages were arranged in
order, covered on both sides with his big handwriting and numbered at
the front of each page.

"See," he said, "copy from here to there: if you finish before I come
back, you must wait for me; I have several corrections to make in
certain passages, and I will make them as I dictate them to you."

I sat down and set to work at my task. The work with which I was
entrusted was concerned with an event which had recently made a great
stir, and which could not fail to take up the attention of Paris. This
was the claim made by Maria-Stella-Petronilla Chiappini, Baroness of
Sternberg, to the rank and fortune of the Duc d'Orléans, which she
contended belonged to her.

Here is the fable upon which her pretension was founded. We give it
from Maria-Stella's point of view, without, be it well understood,
believing for a single instant in the justice of her claim.

Madame la Duchesse d'Orléans, who was married in 1768, had,
to the beginning of January 1772, only presented her husband,
Louis-Philippe-Joseph d'Orléans, with a still-born daughter. The
absence of male issue troubled the Duc d'Orléans greatly, as his
fortune, derived chiefly from portions granted him as a younger son,
would, in default of male issue, revert to the Crown. It was with this
in his mind and in the hope that travel might perhaps lead to the
Duchesse d'Orléans being again pregnant, that Louis-Philippe and his
wife set out for Italy, in the early part of the year 1772, under the
name of the Comte and Comtesse de Joinville.

I repeat for the last time, that throughout this narrative it is not I
who am speaking, but the claimant, Maria-Stella-Petronilla.

Well, the august travellers had scarcely reached the top of the
Apennines before symptoms of a fresh pregnancy declared themselves,
which caused the Duchesse d'Orléans to stay at Modigliana.

In the village of Modigliana there was a prison, and a gaoler to watch
over the prison. The gaoler was called Chiappini. M. le Duc d'Orléans,
faithful to his traditions of familiarity with the people, became on
still more easy terms with the gaoler as the intimacy took place under
cover of his incognito. There was, besides, a reason for the intimacy.
Chiappini's wife was expecting her confinement just at the same time
as Madame la Duchesse d'Orléans. A treaty was accordingly entered into
between the illustrious travellers and the humble gaoler, to the effect
that should Madame la Comtesse de Joinville by chance give birth to
a girl, and the wife of Chiappini to a boy, the two mothers should
exchange their two children.

Fate ordained matters as the parents had foreseen: the gaoler's wife
gave birth to a boy, the prince's wife gave birth to a girl; and the
agreed exchange was made, the prince handing over a considerable sum to
the gaoler as well.

The child destined to play the part of prince was then transported
to Paris, and although he was born as far back as 17 April 1773, the
fact was kept secret till 6 October, on which date it was declared,
and the child was baptized by the almoner of the Palais-Royal, in the
presence of the parish priest and of two valets. In the meantime, the
duchess's daughter, left in Italy, was brought up there under the name
of Maria-Stella-Petronilla. The rest of the story can be guessed.
Nevertheless, we will give it in detail. Maria-Stella did not know
the story of her birth until after the death of the gaoler Chiappini.
She had a melancholy childhood. The gaoler's wife, who regretted her
son and who was for ever reproaching her husband for the agreement
made, rendered the child's life very miserable. The young girl was, it
seems, extremely beautiful, and at the age of seventeen she made such a
deep impression upon Lord Newborough, one of the wealthiest noblemen
of England, who was passing through Modigliana, that he married her
almost in spite of herself, and took her away to London. She was left
a widow very young, with several children,--one of whom is now a peer
of England,--but she soon married the Baron de Sternberg, who took her
away to St. Petersburg, where she presented him with a son.

One day, the Baroness de Sternberg, who was almost separated from her
husband, received a letter with an Italian postmark; she opened it
and read the following lines, written by the hand of the man whom she
believed to be her father:--

      "MILADY,--I have at last reached the close of my life,
      without having revealed to anyone a secret which closely
      concerns you and me. This secret is as follows:--

      "The day on which you were born, of a lady whose name
      I cannot divulge, and who has already departed this
      life, I also had a child born to me, a boy. I was asked
      to make an exchange, and taking into consideration
      the impoverished state of my fortune at that time, I
      consented to the urgent and advantageous proposals made
      to me. It was then I adopted you as my daughter, and
      at the same time the other person adopted my son. I
      perceive that Heaven has made up for my wrongdoing, since
      you are placed in a higher station in life than your
      father--though he was in almost the same rank--and it is
      this reflection which allows me to die with some degree
      of tranquillity. Keep this before your mind, so that you
      may not hold me wholly responsible. Although I ask your
      forgiveness for my error, I earnestly beseech you to
      keep the fact secret, in order that the world may not be
      able to talk about a matter now past remedy. This letter
      will not even be sent you until after my death. LAURENT
      CHIAPPINI"

Upon receipt of this letter, Maria-Stella at once prepared to travel
to Italy. She did not agree with the gaoler Chiappini in thinking the
matter irremediable: she wished to know who was her true father. She
gathered information wherever she could find it, and at length she
learned that in 1772--in other words, a year before her birth--two
French travellers arrived at Modigliana, and remained there until the
month of April 1773. These two travellers called themselves the Comte
and Comtesse de Joinville. Upon this slight clue, the Baroness de
Sternberg set off to France, and began by visiting the little town of
Joinville, whose name her father bore. Here she learnt that Joinville
had once been an inheritance belonging to the Orléans family, and that
Duc Louis-Philippe-Joseph, who had been travelling in Italy in 1772,
had died upon the scaffold in 1793.

Only his son, the Duc d'Orléans, was left (the two younger brothers
having died, the Duc de Montpensier in England and the Duc de
Beaujolais at Malta), the inheritor of the whole of his father's
wealth. He lived in Paris, and he was the only prince of the blood of
the house of Orléans.

Maria-Stella left immediately for Paris, made useless efforts to gain
access to the duke himself, gave herself into the hands of intriguing
persons who exploited her cause, to business men who cheated her, and
ended by writing to the papers, stating that the Baroness de Sternberg,
who was the bearer of a communication of the greatest importance to
the heirs of the Comte de Joinville, had arrived in Paris, and desired
to acquaint them with this communication at the earliest possible
opportunity.

The Duc d'Orléans did not wish to receive this communication direct;
neither did he desire to have recourse to the agency of a business man:
he commissioned his uncle, the old Abbé of Saint-Phar, to call on the
baroness.[1] Then everything was laid bare, and the duke discovered
the whole plot that was being weaved about him. Learning that, whether
from honest belief or from cupidity, Maria-Stella seriously meant to
pursue her cause, and that she was going to return to Italy to furnish
herself with documents wherewith to establish her identity, he hastened
to take the precaution of preparing a memoir, intended for his counsel,
to refute the fabrication by the aid of which Maria-Stella intended to
take away his rank and his fortune, or at all events to make him pay
for the right to keep them. In the meantime, she was appealing to the
Duchesse d'Angoulême as the likeliest person to harbour the liveliest
feelings of resentment against the Orléans family.

It was this memoir that I was called upon to copy. I must own that I
did not transcribe it without reading it, although my total ignorance
of history left many points obscure to me in the prince's refutation.
Not only was this paper based upon fact, but it was written with that
customary power of reasoning which the Duc d'Orléans was noted for
exercising, even in minor matters of diplomacy. He employed counsel for
form's sake only, for he himself drew up not merely notes on the case
he wished to prove, but lengthy statements, which roused the admiration
of the celebrated barrister Me. Dupin, to whom they were always sent.

I came to the end of the portion the duke had told me to write, after a
couple of hours' work; so I put down my work and waited. When the duke
returned, he came to the table at which I was writing, picked up my
copy, made a gesture indicative of his approval of my handwriting, but
almost immediately afterwards said--

"Oh! oh! you have a punctuation of your own, I see;" and taking a pen,
he sat down at a corner of the table and began to punctuate my copy
according to the rules of grammar.

The duke flattered me highly by saying I had a punctuation of my
own. I knew no more about punctuation than about anything else: I
punctuated according to my fancy, or rather, I did not punctuate at
all. To this day, I only punctuate on my proofs: I believe you could
take up any of my manuscripts hap-hazard and run through a whole volume
without finding a single exclamation mark, or an acute accent or a
grave accent. After the duke had read the statement and corrected my
punctuation, he got up and, walking up and down, dictated to me the
part he wanted to correct. I wrote almost as quickly as he dictated,
which seemed to please him extremely. I reached this sentence: "And if
there were nothing else but the _striking resemblance which exists
between the Duc d'Orléans and his illustrious grandfather Louis
XIV._, would not that likeness alone be sufficient to demonstrate the
falseness of this adventuress's pretensions?"

Although, as I have previously stated, I was not very well read in
history, yet in this matter I knew quite enough (as they say in
duelling of a man who has had three months' training in a fencing
school) to make a fool of myself--that is to say, I knew that M. le Duc
d'Orléans was descended from Monsieur, that Monsieur was the son of
Louis XIII. and brother of Louis XIV., and that, consequently, Louis
XIV., being Monsieur's brother, could not be the grandfather of the Duc
d'Orléans, who was honouring me by dictating to me a memorandum against
Maria-Stella's claim. So, when he came to these words, "And if there
were nothing else but the _striking resemblance which exists between
the Duc d'Orléans and his illustrious grandfather Louis XIV."_ I looked
up. It was most impertinent of me! A prince is never mistaken, and in
this instance the prince did not allow himself to be taken in.

So, the Duc d'Orléans stopped in front of me and said to me, "Dumas,
you should know this: when a person is descended from Louis XIV. even
if only through bastards, it is a sufficiently great honour to boast
about!... Proceed."

And he resumed: "Would not that likeness alone be sufficient to
demonstrate the falseness of this adventuress's pretensions?..."

I wrote this time without raising an eye, and I never looked up again
throughout the remainder of the sitting.

At four o'clock the Duc d'Orléans set me free, asking me if I could
come to work in the evening.

I replied that I was at His Highness's disposition. I picked up my hat,
I bowed, I went out, I took the stairs four at a time and I ran to find
Lassagne. He chanced to be still at his desk.

"How can Louis XIV. be the grandfather of the Duc d'Orléans?" I asked
as soon as I got in, without any preliminary explanation.

"Good gracious!" he said, "it is plain enough: because the regent
married Mademoiselle de Blois, who was Louis XIV.'s natural daughter by
Madame de Montespan--a marriage that procured him a sound smack in the
face when it was announced by him to the Princess Palatine, Monsieur's
second wife, who thus expressed her feelings at the _mésalliance._ ...
You will find all this in the memoirs of the Princess Palatine and in
Saint-Simon."

I felt extinguished by the ready and accurate answer given me.

"Oh!" I said, with downcast head, "I shall never be as learned as that!"

I finished the copy of the statement by eleven o'clock that same
evening. It was sent next day to M. Dupin, who should have it still,
written in my handwriting.

We will now finish the story of Maria-Stella.

When she had threatened the Duc d'Orléans, she returned to Italy, to
hunt up evidence that would establish the authenticity of her birth,
and the substitution of the daughter of the Comtesse de Joinville for
the son of the gaoler Chiappini.

She did, in fact, obtain the following decree from the Ecclesiastical
Court of Faenza, on 29 May 1824: we will give it for what it is worth,
or rather for what it was worth. This decree is followed by the
official rectification of the birth certificate:--

      JUDGMENT OF THE ECCLESIASTICAL COURT OF FAENZA

      "Having invoked the very sacred name of God, we,
      sitting in our tribunal, and looking only to God and
      His justice, pronouncing judgment in the suit pleaded
      or to be pleaded before us, before the inferior or any
      other more competent court: between Her Excellency Maria
      Newborough, Baroness of Sternberg, domiciled at Ravenna,
      petitioner, of the one part; and M. le Comte Charles
      Bandini, as trustee judicially delegated by M. le Comte
      Louis and Madame la Comtesse N. de Joinville or any other
      person not present having or claiming an interest in
      the case, defendants arraigned before the law, as also
      the most excellent Dr. Thomas Chiappini, domiciled at
      Florence, defendant also cited, but not arraigned before
      the law;--whereas the petitioner, appearing before this
      episcopal curé, as a competent tribunal, by reason of
      the ecclesiastical acta hereinafter set forth subject to
      its jurisdiction, has demanded that an order be made to
      have her certificate of baptism, etc., corrected by the
      insertion therein of suitable annotations; and whereas
      the trustee of the defendants cited has demanded that the
      claim of the petitioner be set aside, with costs; and
      whereas the other defendant cited, Dr. Chiappini, has not
      appeared before us, although twice summoned so to do by
      an archiepiscopal usher of Florence acting on our behalf,
      according to the custom of this curé, and whereas the
      effect of this contumacy has been duly considered in its
      bearing on the case;

      "In virtue of the acta, etc.;--having heard the
      respective defendants, etc.;--Considering that Laurent
      Chiappini, being near the term of his mortal life, did,
      by a letter which was handed to the petitioner after
      the decease of the said Chiappini, reveal to the said
      petitioner the secret of her birth, showing clearly to
      her that she was not his daughter, but the daughter of
      a person whose name he stated he was bound to withhold;
      that it has been clearly proved by experts that this
      letter is in the handwriting of Laurent Chiappini; that
      the word of a dying man is proof positive, since it is
      not in his interest any longer to lie, and since he is,
      presumably, thinking only of his eternal salvation; that
      such a confession must be regarded, in the light of a
      solemn oath, and as a deposition made for the benefit of
      his soul and for righteousness' sake; that the trustee
      would essay in vain to impair the validity of the
      evidence of the said letter on the plea that no mention
      is made therein as to who were the real father and mother
      of the petitioner, seeing that--though such mention is
      in effect wanting--recourse has nevertheless been had,
      on behalf of the same petitioner, to testimonial proof,
      to presumption and to conjecture; that, when there is
      written proof, as in the present case, testimonial
      proof or any other argument may be adduced, even when
      it is a question of personal identity; that if, in a
      case of identity, following on the principle of written
      proof, proof by witness is also admissible, so much
      the more should it hold good in this case, where the
      demand is confined to a document to be used hereafter,
      in the question of identity;--considering that it
      clearly results from the sworn and legal depositions of
      the witnesses, Marie and Dominique-Marie, the sisters
      Bandini, that there was an agreement between M. le Comte
      and Signior Chiappini to exchange their respective
      children in case the countess gave birth to a daughter
      and Chiappini's wife to a son; that such an exchange in
      effect took place, and, the event foreseen having come
      to pass, that the daughter was baptized in the church of
      the priory of Modigliana, in the name of _Maria-Stella_,
      her parents being falsely declared to be the couple
      Chiappini; that they are in entire agreement as to the
      date of the exchange, which coincides with that of the
      birth of the petitioner, and that they allege reasons
      in support of their cognisance, etc.;--considering that
      it is in vain for the trustee to attack the likelihood
      of this evidence, since not only is there nothing
      impossible in their statements, but they are, on the
      contrary, supported and corroborated by a very large
      number of other presumptions and conjectures; that
      one very strong conjecture is based on public rumour
      and on gossip that was rife at the time in connection
      with the exchange, such public rumour, when allied to
      past events, having the value of truth and of full
      cognisance; that this public rumour is proved, not only
      by the depositions of the aforesaid sisters Bandini,
      but also by the attestation of Monsieur Dominique
      de la Valle and by those of the other witnesses of
      Bringhella and of witnesses from Ravenna, all of which
      were legally and judicially examined in their places of
      origin and before their respective tribunals; that the
      vicissitudes experienced by M. le comte are convincing
      testimony to the reality of the exchange; that there is
      documentary evidence to prove that, in consequence of
      the rumour current at Modigliana on the subject of the
      said exchange, the Comte de Joinville was compelled to
      take flight and to seek refuge in the convent of St.
      Bernard of Brisighella, and that while out walking he
      was arrested, and then, after having been detained some
      time in the public hall at Brisighella, he was taken
      by the Swiss Guards of Ravenna before His Eminence, M.
      le Cardinal Legate, who set him at liberty, etc.; that
      M. le Comte Biancoli Borghi attests, in his judicial
      examination, that, while sorting some old papers of
      the Borghi family, he came upon a letter written from
      Turin to M. le Comte Pompée Borghi, the date of which he
      does not recollect, signed 'Louis, Comte de Joinville,'
      which stated that the changeling had died, and that any
      scruple on its account was now removed;--considering
      that the said Comte Biancoli Borghi alleges cognisance
      in his depositions; that the fact of the exchange is
      further proved by the subsequently improved fortunes
      of Chiappini, etc.; that the latter spoke of the
      exchange to a certain Don Bandini de Variozo, etc.;
      that the petitioner received an education suitable to
      her distinguished rank, and not such as would have
      been given to the daughter of a gaoler, etc.; that it
      results clearly from all the counts so far pleaded,
      and from several others contained in the pleadings,
      that Maria-Stella was falsely declared, in the act of
      birth, to be the daughter of Chiappini and his wife,
      and that she owes her birth to M. le Comte and Madame
      la Comtesse de Joinville; that it is, in consequence,
      a matter of simple justice to permit the correction of
      the certificate of birth as now demanded by the said
      Maria-Stella; lastly, that Dr. Thomas Chiappini, instead
      of opposing her demand, has committed contumacy;

      "Having repeated the very Holy Name of God, we
      declare, hold, and definitely pronounce judgment as
      follows:--that the objections raised by the trustee, the
      aforesaid defendant, be and they are hereby set aside;
      and therefore we also declare, hold, and definitely
      adjudicate that the certificate of birth of 17 April
      1773, inscribed in the baptismal register of the priory
      church of St. Stephen, Pope and Martyr, at Modigliana,
      in the diocese of Faenza, in which it is declared that
      Maria-Stella is the daughter of Laurent Chiappini and
      of Vincenzia Diligenti, be rectified and amended, and
      that in lieu thereof she be declared to be the daughter
      of M. le Comte Louis and Madame la Comtesse N. de
      Joinville, of French nationality, to which effect we also
      order that the rectification in question be forthwith
      executed by the clerk of our court, with faculty also,
      by authority of the Prior of the church of St. Stephen,
      Pope and Martyr, at Modigliana, in the diocese of Faenza,
      to furnish a copy of the certificate so amended and
      rectified to all who may demand it, etc.;

      "Preambles pronounced by me:--domestic canon

      "_(Signed)_ VALERIO BORCHI, Pro-Vicar General

      "The present judgment has been pronounced, given, and by
      these writings, promulgated by the very illustrious and
      very reverend Monsignor the Pro-Vicar General, sitting
      in public audience, and it has been read and published
      by me, the undersigned prothonotary, in the year of our
      Lord Jesus Christ 1824,'indiction XII; on this day, 29
      May, in the reign of our lord, Leo XII., Pope P.O.M., in
      the first year of his pontificate, there being present,
      amongst several others; Monsieur Jean Ricci, notary, Dr.
      Thomas Beneditti, both attorneys of Faenza, witnesses.

                        (_Signed_) ANGE MORIGNY

                           "Episcopal Prothonotary General

      "Correction of the Certificate of Birth:--

      "This day, 24 June 1824, under the protection of the
      holiness of our pope Leo XII., lord sovereign pontiff,
      happily reigning, in the 1st year of his pontificate,
      indiction XII, at Faenza;--the delay of ten days, the
      time used for lodging an appeal, having expired since the
      day of the notification of the decision pronounced by the
      Ecclesiastical Tribunal of Faenza, on 29 May last,--in
      the case of Her Excellency Maria Newborough, Baroness de
      Sternberg, against M. le Comte Charles Bandini of that
      town, as trustee legally appointed to M. le Comte Louis
      and Madame la Comtesse N. de Joinville and to all others
      absent who did not put in an appearance, who may have,
      or might lay claim to have an interest in the case, as
      well as to Dr. Thomas Chiappini, living at Florence, in
      the States of Tuscany, without anyone having entered
      an appeal; I, the undersigned, in virtue of the powers
      given me by the above announced judgment, have proceeded
      to put the same judgment into execution--namely, the
      rectification of the certification of birth produced in
      the pleadings of the trial, as follows:--

      "In the name of God, _Amen_, I the undersigned canon
      chaplain, curé of the priory and collegiate church of
      Saint-Étienne, Pope and Martyr, in the territory of
      Modigliana, in the Tuscan States, and in the diocese
      of Faenza, do certify having found, in the fourth
      book of the birth register, the following notice:
      '_Maria-Stella-Petronilla, born yesterday of the
      married couple Lorenzo, son of Ferdinand Chiappini,
      public sheriff officer to this district, and Vincenzia
      Diligenti, daughter of the deceased N. of this parish,
      was baptized, on_ 17 _April_ 1773, _by me, Canon
      François Signari, one of the chaplains; the godfather
      and godmother being François Bandelloni, tipstaff, and
      Stella Ciabatti_.--Witnessed at Modigliana, 16 April
      1824; (_signed_) Gaëtan Violani, canon, etc.' I have, I
      say, proceeded to put the above-mentioned decision into
      execution, by means of the below-mentioned correction,
      which shall definitely take effect in the form and terms
      following: 'Maria-Stella-Petronilla, born yesterday
      of the married pair, M. le Comte Louis and Madame la
      Comtesse N. de Joinville, natives of France,--then
      dwelling in the district of Modigliana,--was baptized on
      April 17, 1773, by me, Canon François Signari, one of the
      chaplains; the godfather and godmother being: François
      Bandelloni, tipstaff, and Stella Ciabatti.'

                         "_(Signed)_ ANGE MORIGNY

              "Episcopal Prothonotary of the Tribunal of Faenza"[2]

Furnished with these documents, the Baroness de Sternberg returned
to Paris towards the close of the year 1824; but, it seems, neither
these documents nor the personages who had set her going inspired
great confidence; for, neither from Louis XVIII.,--who was not very
fond of his cousin, since, under no pretext, would he ever allow him
to be styled Royal Highness, while he reigned, saying that he would be
always quite close enough to the throne,--nor from Charles X., could
she obtain any support in aid of the restitution of her name and of her
estates.

When Charles X. fell and the Duc d'Orléans became king, matters were
even worse for her. There was no means of appealing from Philip asleep
to Philip awake. Intimidation had no effect; the most determined
enemies of the new king did not wish to soil their hands with
this claim, which they regarded in the light of a conspiracy, and
Maria-Stella remained in Paris, without so much as the notoriety of the
persecution she expected to receive. She lived at the top of the rue
de Rivoli, near the rue Saint-Florentin, on the fifth floor; and in
the absence of two-footed, featherless courtiers, she held a court of
two-clawed feathered creatures which waked the whole rue de Rivoli at
five o'clock in the morning with their chatter. Those of my readers who
live in Paris may perhaps recollect to have seen flocks of impudent
sparrows swooping down, whirling by thousands about the balconied
windows: these three windows were those of Maria-Stella-Petronilla
Newborough, Baroness of Sternberg, who, in order not to give the lie to
herself, to the end of her life signed herself "Née Joinville."

She died in 1845, the day after the opening of the Chambers. Her last
words were--

"Hand me the paper, that I may read the speech of that villain!"

She had not been outside her door for five years, for fear, she said,
of being arrested by the king. The poor creature had become almost
mad....

About three weeks after I had made the copy of the memorandum
concerning her, M. Oudard called me into his office and informed me
that I had been _placed on the regular staff._ In other words, I was
given a berth at a salary of twelve hundred francs, in reward for my
good handwriting and my cleverness in the matter of making envelopes
and sealing. I had no reason to complain: Béranger had exactly the same
on his entry into the University.

I sent my mother this good news the same day, begging her to get
ready to come to me as soon as I had received the first payment of my
increased salary.


[1] I do not know whether the Abbé de Saint-Phar saw or did not see
Maria-Stella. I merely transcribe the memoirs of that lady.

[2] The translator is obliged to a legal friend for the version of the
above documents.



CHAPTER VI


The "year of trials"--The case of Potier and the director of
the theatre of the Porte-Saint-Martin--Trial and condemnation
of Magallon--The anonymous journalist--Beaumarchais sent to
Saint-Lazare--A few words on censorships in general--Trial of
Benjamin Constant--Trial of M. de Jouy--A few words concerning the
author of _Sylla_--Three letters extracted from the _Ermite de la
Chaussée-d'Antin_--Louis XVIII. as author


My anxiety to bring my readers along, without interruption, to the
moment when my lot and that of my mother was settled, by my being
placed on the staff as a copying-clerk at twelve hundred francs, has
caused me to pass over a host of events of far greater interest, no
doubt, to strangers, than those I have related, but which--if egotism
may be permitted me--in my own eyes, and to my mind, should take a
secondary place.

The year 1823, which we might style the "year of trials," opened by the
trial of Potier on 7 January. Those who never saw Potier can form no
conception of the influence this great comedian, who was much admired
by Talma, had on the public; yet the damages and compensation that M.
Serres, the manager of the Porte-Sainte-Martin, demanded from him, may
give some idea of the value that was put upon him. One morning Potier,
faithful, as M. Étienne would have said, to his _first loves_, took it
into his head to return to the Variétés, a project which he carried
out, it appears, forgetting to ask M. Serres to cancel his engagement
before he left. Now Potier had been acting the part of old Sournois
in _Petites Dandaïdes_, with such success both in the way of applause
and in packed houses, that M. Serres not only refused to sanction this
desertion, but reckoning up the losses which he considered Potier had
caused him by his departure, and would cause him in the future, because
of this same departure, decided, after sending through the sheriffs
officer his account to the famous comedian, to send a duplicate copy
of it to the first Chamber of the Royal Court. The odd thing about the
account was that the manager of the theatre of Porte-Sainte-Martin
claimed absolutely nothing but what was due to him under the terms of
his contract. These are the particulars of his claim:--

    1. For each day's delay, reckoning at the
    highest receipts taken in the theatre,
    from 1 March 1822 to 1 April in
    the same year, being at a rate
    of three thousand six hundred and
    eleven francs ...                                    144,408 fr.
    2. Restitution of money..                             30,000  "
    3. Amount paid in advance, forfeited.                 20,000  "
    4. Damage and compensation..                          60,000  "
    5. For one hundred and twenty-two days
       which have expired since the first claim....      440,542  "
    6. For the seven years and ten months
       which remain to run before the end of the
       engagement..                                   10,322,840  "
    7. Finally, as damages and compensation
       in respect of this period of seven years....      200,000  "
                                              Total.  11,217,790  "

If the manager of the Porte-Sainte-Martin had had the misfortune to win
his case, he would have been obliged to pay Potier, in order to notify
the sentence, a registration fee of three to four hundred thousand
francs.

The Court condemned Potier to resume his engagement within a week's
time: as to damages and compensation, it condemned him, _par corps_,
to pay them according to the estimated scale. Three days later, it
was known that the matter had been settled, less a discount of eleven
million two hundred and seven thousand seven hundred and ninety francs
made by the manager.

On 8 February it was the turn of Magallon, the chief editor of the
_Album._ Magallon appeared before the seventh Chamber of the Police
Correctional Court, accused of having hidden political articles under
the cloak of literature, with intent to incite hatred and contempt
towards the Government. The Court condemned Magallon to thirteen
months' imprisonment and to pay a fine of two thousand francs.

It was a monstrous sentence, and it created great uproar; but a far
greater scandal still, or rather, what converted a matter of scandal
into an outrage, was that for this slight literary offence, and on the
pretext that the sentence exceeded one year, Magallon was taken to the
central prison of Poissy, on foot, with his hands bound, tied to a
filthy criminal condemned afresh to penal servitude, who, dead-drunk,
kept yelling unceasingly the whole way, "Long live galley slaves!
honour to, all galley slaves!"

When they reached Poissy, Magallon was put into prison clothes. From
that evening he had to live on skilly and learn to pick oakum.... We
content ourselves with relating the bare facts; although we cannot
resist adding that they happened under the reign of a prince who
pretended to be a man of letters, since he had ordered a quatrain from
Lemierre and a comedy from Merville....

We have already related that M. Arnault, whose _Marius à Minturnes_ had
succeeded, in spite of Monsieur's prediction, paid, in all probability,
for this want of respect for the opinion of His Royal Highness by four
years of exile, on the return of the Bourbons.

And this was not Louis XVIII.'s first attempt on his _confrères_,
the men of letters. Without mentioning M. de Chateaubriand, whom he
hounded out of the ministry as though he were a lackey,--an act which
caused that worthy gentleman to remark, on receiving his dismissal,
"It is strange, for I have not stolen the king's watch!"--without
counting Magallon, whom he sent to Poissy chained to a scurvy convict;
without counting M. Arnault, whom he banished from the country; there
was, besides, a little story of the same kind in connection with
Beaumarchais.

More than once has M. Arnault related in my hearing the curious and too
little known history of Beaumarchais' imprisonment. These are the facts.

There is always a public Censorship, except during the first two or
three months following the accession of princes to the throne, and the
two or three months after they are deposed; but when these three months
have elapsed, the Censorship reappears on the waters after its plunge,
and proceeds to discover some minister, preferably of Liberal or even
Republican tendencies, and to lay a snare for him.

When the _Mariage de Figaro_ was running its course, M. Suard was
censor, and he was also a journalist. He was one of those who had most
bitterly opposed the representation of Beaumarchais' work, and he
was largely responsible for the fifty-nine journeys--_du marais à la
police_--that the illustrious author made without being able to obtain
leave for his play to be performed.

At length, thanks to the intervention of the queen and the Comte
d'Artois, the _Folle Journée_, recovered intact out of the claws of
these gentlemen, was played on 27 April 1784. M. Suard was vindictive
both in his capacity as censor and as a journalist; so that if he
could not exercise the Censorship by the use of scissors, he had
recourse to his pen. M. Suard was on very familiar terms with the
Comte de Provence, and he served the Comte de Provence as a screen
when His Royal Highness wished to give vent, incognito, to some petty
literary spite. M. le Comte de Provence detested Beaumarchais almost
as much as did M. Suard himself; the result was that the Comte de
Provence hastened to unburden himself, by means of M. Suard, in the
_Journal de Paris_, against the unfortunate _Mariage de Figaro_, which
continued its successful run, in spite of M. Suard's signed articles
or the anonymous articles of His Royal Highness. In the meantime,
Beaumarchais handed over the sum of about thirty or forty thousand
francs which he received as author's rights in the _Mariage de Figaro_
to the _association for helping poor foster-mothers._

Monsieur, who had not got a child (a less polite chronicler than myself
would say who was incapable of begetting one), and who consequently,
owing to his failing in this respect, had not much sympathy with
_foster-mothers_, indulged himself, always under the cloak of
anonymity, in attacking the man, after having attacked the play, and
wrote a letter against him in the _Journal de Paris_, overflowing with
venomous spleen. Beaumarchais, who thought he recognised this onslaught
as from the hand of M. Suard, proceeded to lash the pedant soundly.
As ill-luck would have it, it was His Royal Highness who received the
tanning intended for the censor's hide. Monsieur, smarting under the
stripes, went with the story of his grievances to Louis XVI., giving
him to understand that Beaumarchais was perfectly well aware that he
was not replying to the royal censor, but to the brother of the king.
Louis XVI.; offended on behalf of Monsieur, commanded the citizen who
dared to take the liberty of chastising a royal personage, regardless
of his rank, to be arrested and taken to a house of correction--not
to the Bastille, that prison being considered too good for such a
worthless scamp; and as His Majesty was playing loo when he made this
decision, it was on the back of a seven of spades that the order was
written for Beaumarchais' arrest and his committal to Saint-Lazare.

Thus we see that, when Louis XVIII. had Magallon taken to Poissy, he
remained faithful to Monsieur's traditions.

... Apropos of the Censorship, a good story of the present censor is
going the rounds this 6th of June, 1851. We will inquire into it and,
if it be true, we will relate it in the next chapter.

This excellent institution furnishes so many other instances of a like
nature that its facts and achievements have to be registered regardless
of chronological order, where and when one can, lest one run the risk
of forgetting them, and that I would indeed be a sad pity!...

_Revenons à nos moutons!_ our poor _moutons_ shorn to the quick, like
Sterne's lamb.

I have remarked that the year 1823 was the "year of trials"; let us see
how it earned that name.

During the week that elapsed between the Magallon affair and the
sentence passed on him, Benjamin Constant appeared before the Royal
Court, on account of two letters: one addressed to M. Mangin,
procurator-general at the Court of Poitiers, and the other to M.
Carrère, sub-prefect of Saumur. As it was a foregone conclusion that
Benjamin Constant was to be condemned, the Court sentenced him to pay a
fine of a thousand francs and costs.

On 29 January--a week before this happened--the Correctional Police
sentenced M. de Jouy to a month's imprisonment, a fine of a hundred
and fifty francs and the costs of the trial, for an article in the
_Biographie des contemporains_ which had been recognised as his. This
article was the biography of the brothers Faucher. The sentence created
a tremendous sensation. M. de Jouy was then at the height of his fame:
the _Ermite de la Chaussée-d'Antin_ had made him popular, the hundred
representations of _Sylla_ had made him famous.

I knew M. de Jouy well: he was a remarkably loyal man, with a
delightful mind and an easy pen. I believe he had been a sailor,
serving in India, where he knew Tippo-Sahib, upon whom he founded a
tragedy, commissioned, or very nearly so, by Napoleon, which was acted
on 27 January 1813. The work was indifferent and did not meet with much
success.

On the return of the Bourbons, the Court was half-heartedly willing
to encourage men of letters, M. de Jouy in particular, who held one
of the highest positions among them. It was the more easily managed
since M. de Jouy was an old Royalist, and I believe a soldier of
Condi's army; it was not a case of making a convert but retaining an
old partisan. His articles in the _Gazette_, signed "l'Ermite de la
Chaussée-d'Antin," had an enormous success. I heard it said at the
time that M. de Jouy was called up before M. de Vitrolles and asked to
mention what it was he wanted. What he wanted was the due recognition
of his services, namely, the Cross of Saint-Louis,--for, as a rule,
straightforward men only desire things they are entitled to;--desiring
the Cross, and having deserved it, he asked for it. But they wished to
force conditions upon him: they desired that he should not merely be
satisfied with refraining from pointing fun at the absurdities of the
Restoration; they wanted him to emphasise the glories of the Empire.
They wanted him to do a base action before he, a loyal soldier, a
clean-handed man, a poet of considerable repute among his _confrères_,
could obtain the Cross. What happened? The noted poet, the loyal
soldier, the honest man, said that the Cross should go to Hades first,
and he showed the person who came to propose these conditions to the
door. It was the right way to treat the minister, but it was unlucky
for the Cross, which would not have honoured M. de Jouy, but which M.
de Jouy would have honoured! And behold M. de Jouy in the Opposition,
behold M. de Jouy writing articles in the _Biographie_ which cost him a
month's imprisonment, and which increased his popularity twofold. What
fools Governments are to refuse a man the Cross he asks, and to grant
him the persecution he does not desire, the persecution which will be
far more benefit to him, in honour and in worldly goods, than the bit
of ribbon which nobody would have noticed! Moreover, M. de Jouy did not
write anything so very reprehensible. No; on the contrary, M. de Jouy
was distinguished for the suavity of his criticism, the urbanity of his
opposition, the courtesy of his anger. The manner adopted by this good
Ermite has long since been forgotten; and the generation which followed
ours has not even read his works. Heigho! if the said generation reads
me, it will read him; for I am about to open his works and to quote
some pages from them at hap-hazard. They go back to the first months
of the second return of the Bourbons, to the period when all the world
lived out in the squares, to the time when everybody seemed eager after
I know not what: after a Revolution, one has need to hate men; but
after a Restoration, one can do nothing but despise them!

M. B. de L---- is overwhelmed with requests for positions and writes
to the Ermite de la Chaussée-d'Antin to beg him to insert the following
letters in his paper:--

      "MONSIEUR,--We have neither of us time to spare, so I
      will explain to you the object of my letter in a very few
      words. I formerly had the honour to be attached to one
      of the princes of the house of Bourbon; I may even have
      been so fortunate as to show some proofs of my devotion
      to that august family at a time when, if not meritorious,
      it was at least dangerous to allow one's zeal to leak
      out; but I endeavour not to forget that the Mornays,
      the Sullys, the Crillons would modestly style this the
      fulfilment of one's duty. I am unaware upon what grounds
      people in my province credit me with what I do not enjoy,
      and to which I am indebted for the hosts of solicitations
      I receive, without being able to be of service to those
      who apply to me. I have only discovered one method of
      escaping from this novel form of persecution--that is, to
      publish a letter of one of my relatives and the answer I
      thought fit to make to it. The first is in some measure
      a résumé of three or four hundred letters that I have
      received on the same topic. I am the less reluctant to
      make it public since I reserve to myself the right of
      holding back the writer's name, and besides, this letter
      reflects as much credit on the heart of the writer as it
      displays the good sense of the mind that dictated it.

                                                 "B. DE L----"

This is the relative's letter:--

      "How glad I am, my friend, that events have brought back
      our illustrious princes to the throne! What good fortune
      it is! You have no notion what reputation these events
      and your stay in Paris give me here. The prefect is
      afraid of me, and his wife, who never used to bow to me,
      has invited me twice to dinner. But there is no time to
      be lost, and we rely on you. Would you believe that my
      husband has not yet taken any steps whatever to regain
      his position, pretending that it exists no longer, and
      that the commission was made up to him in assignats?
      There isn't a more apathetic man in the whole of France.

      "My brother-in-law has laid claim to the Cross of
      Saint-Louis: he had been waiting for it for nine years
      when the Revolution broke out. It would be unjust of
      them not to compensate him for the twenty years of
      his services, the troubles and the misfortunes he has
      undergone on his estates; he is counting on you to hasten
      the prompt despatch of his patent.

      "I append a memorandum to my letter, from my oldest son,
      the marquis; he had the right to his uncle's reversion,
      and it will be easy for you to obtain it for him. I am
      anxious that his brother, the chevalier, shall be placed
      in the navy, but in a rank worthy of his name and the
      past services of his family. And as my grandson, Auguste
      de G----, is quite old enough I to become a page, you
      have only to speak a word on his behalf.

      "We are coming to Paris early next month. I shall bring
      my daughter with me, as I wish to present her at Court.
      They will not refuse you this favour if you solicit it
      with sufficient perseverance and willingness.

      "Think of poor F----. He failed us, it is true, at the
      time of the Revolution; but he has made ample amends
      during the past month: you know he is penniless, and
      is ready to sacrifice everything for our rulers. His
      devotion goes even so far as to be willing to take a post
      as prefect, and he is well fitted for it. Do you not
      remember the pretty song he made about me?

      "M. de B----, son of the late intendant of the province,
      is coming to see you; try and be useful to him; he
      is a friend of the family. If they are not going to
      re-establish intendancies, he will be satisfied with a
      post as receiver-general; it is the least they can do for
      a man devoted to his sovereign, one who was imprisoned
      for six months during the Terror.

      "I must not forget to recommend M---- to your notice. He
      has been blamed for having served all parties, because
      he has been employed in every Government in France for
      the last twenty years; but he is a good fellow--you can
      take my word for it: he was the first to don the white
      cockade; besides, all he asks is to be allowed to keep
      his place as superintendent of the posting service. Be
      sure and write to me under cover of his frank.

      "I append my father-in-law's papers: a sum of forty-five
      thousand francs is still owing to him from the estates
      of Languedoc; I hope they will not keep you waiting for
      its reimbursement, and that you will not hesitate to
      make use of the money if you are under any temporary
      embarrassment, though this is very unlikely in your
      present situation. Adieu, my dear cousin. With greetings
      in which the whole family unite, and expecting the
      pleasure of seeing you soon in Paris.

                                            "J. DE P----"

_[Answer]_

      "PARIS, 15 _June_ 1814

      "MY DEAR COUSIN,--You can hardly conceive with what
      interest I have read the letter you have done me the
      honour to send me, or with what zeal I have tried to
      further the just and reasonable demands of all the
      persons you recommend to my notice. You will, not be
      more astonished than I have been myself at the obstacles
      placed in my way, which you would deem insurmountable if
      you knew as well as I the people with whom we have to
      deal.

      "When I spoke of your son, who has long been desirous
      of service, and asked for a berth as major in his
      father's old regiment, they urged, as a not unreasonable
      objection, that peace was concluded, and that before
      thinking of a position for the Marquis de V----, they
      must consider the lot of 25,000 officers, some of whom
      (would you believe it?) press for the recognition of
      their campaigns, their wounds, and even go so far
      as to urge the number of battles in which they were
      engaged; whilst others more directly associated with the
      misfortunes of the royal family had returned to France
      without any fortune beyond the goodwill and complaisance
      of the king. I then asked, with a touch of sarcasm, what
      they meant to do for your son and for the multitude of
      brave Royalists who have suffered so much through the
      misfortunes of the realm, and whose secret prayers for
      the recall of the royal family to the throne of its
      ancestors had been unceasing. They replied that they
      rejoiced to see the end of all our afflictions and the
      fulfilment of our prayers.

      "Your husband is a very extraordinary man. I can well
      understand, my dear cousin, all you must be suffering
      on account of his incredible apathy. To be reduced at
      the age of sixty-five, or sixty-six at the outside, to
      a fortune of 40,000 livres income, to bury himself in
      the depth of a château, and to renounce all chance of an
      ambitious career, as though a father had no duty towards
      his children, as though a gentleman ought not to die
      fighting!

      "I am sorry your brother-in-law should have laid claim
      to the Cross of Saint-Louis before it had been granted
      to him; for it may happen that the king will not readily
      part with the right to confer this decoration himself,
      and that he will not approve of the honour certain
      persons are anxious to have conferred upon them. You will
      realise that it would be less awkward not to have had the
      Cross of Saint-Louis than to find oneself obliged to give
      it up.

      "I did not forget to put forward the claims of your
      son, the chevalier, and I do not despair of getting him
      entered for the examination of officers for the Royal
      Marines. We will then do our utmost to get him passed
      into the staff of one hundred officers, who are far too
      conscious of their worth, of the names they bear and of
      the devotion they profess to have shown at Quiberon.

      "Your grandson Auguste is entered for a page; I cannot
      tell you exactly when he will be taken into the palace,
      my dear cousin, as your request followed upon three
      thousand seven hundred and seventy-five other requests,
      made on behalf of the sons of noblemen or officers slain
      on the field of battle, though they cannot show the
      slightest claim on account of services rendered to the
      State or to the princes.

      "You are well advised in wishing to place your daughter
      at Court, and it will not be difficult when you have
      found a husband for her whose rank and fortune will
      entitle her to a position there. If this is not arranged,
      I do not quite see what she would do there, or what
      suitable post she could occupy there, however able she
      may be: maids of honour are not yet reinstated.

      "I have presented a petition in favour of F, to which I
      annexed the pretty song he composed for you; but they
      have become so exacting that such claims no longer
      suffice to obtain a post as prefect. I will even go so
      far as to tell you that they do not think much of your
      protégé's conversion and of the sacrifices he is prepared
      to make; his enemies persist in saying that he is not a
      man who can be relied upon.

      "I witnessed his powers of work in former times, and I am
      convinced that if he would serve the good cause nowadays
      with half the zeal he formerly exerted on behalf of the
      bad cause, they would be able very usefully to employ
      him. But will this ever be put to the test?

      "I have not learnt whether intendances are to be
      re-established, but they seem to think that public
      receiverships will be diminished, if only in the number
      of those which exist in departments beyond our bounds.
      This makes me fear that M. de B---- will have to be
      satisfied with the enormous fortune his father made
      in the old revenue days, which he found means to hide
      during the Revolutionary storms: he must learn to be
      philosophical.

      "Do not be in the least uneasy over the lot of M----. I
      know him: he has considerable elasticity of character
      and of principle--for twenty years he has slipped in and
      out among all parties, without having offended any. He
      is a marvellously clever fellow, who will serve himself
      better than anyone else ever will be served: he is no
      longer superintendent of the posting bureau, having just
      obtained a more lucrative post in another department of
      the Government. Do you always take such great interest in
      his affairs?

      "I return you your father-in-law's papers, dear cousin,
      relative to the debt on the Languedoc estates. From
      what I can gather, the liquidation does not seem likely
      to take place yet a while, in spite of the justice of
      your claim. They have decided that arrears of pay due
      to troops, the public debt, military pensions and a
      crowd of other objects of this nature shall be taken
      into consideration--this measure is evidently the fruit
      of some intrigue. You should tell F---- to draw up a
      pamphlet upon the most urgent needs of the State and to
      endeavour to refer to this debt in the first line of his
      pamphlet. You have no idea how much the Government is
      influenced by the multitude of little pamphlets which are
      produced every day by ill-feeling, anger and hunger with
      such commendable zeal.

      "You will see, my dear cousin, that, at the rate things
      are going, you must possess your soul in patience. I
      would even add that the journey you propose to take
      to Paris will not advance your affairs. According to
      the police reckoning, there are at this present moment
      a hundred and twenty-three thousand people from the
      provinces, of all ranks, of all sexes, of all ages, who
      are here to make claims, furnished with almost as good
      credentials as yours, and who will have the advantage
      over you in obtaining a refusal of being first in the
      field to put forward their cases. Finally, as I know you
      are acquainted with philosophy and the best things in
      literature, I beg you to read over again a chapter in
      the English _Spectator_, on the just claims of these who
      ask for posts: it is in the thirty-second section of the
      seventh volume in the duodecimo edition: history repeats
      itself.

      "Accept, my dear cousin, an expression of my most
      affectionate greetings, coupled with my sincere regrets.

                                                 "B. DE L----"

In 1830, after the Revolution of July, Auguste Barbier produced a poem
on the same subject, entitled the _Curée._ When one re-reads those
terrible verses and compares them with work by M. de Jouy, the writings
of the latter seem a model of that Attic wit which was characteristic
of the old school, and Barbier an example of the brutal, fiery,
unpremeditated writing I so typical of his Muse.

Meanwhile, at about the period we have reached, whilst Louis XVIII. was
hunting down men of letters with that ruthlessness of which we have
just cited a few examples, he was laying claim to a place in their
midst. Through the foolish advice of his sycophants, the regal author
published a little work entitled _Voyage de Paris à Bruxelles._ I do
not know whether it would be possible to-day to procure a single copy
of the royal brochure, wherein were to be found not only such errors
in French grammar as "J'étais déjà un peu gros, à cette époque, pour
_monter et descendre de cabriolet_," but, worse still, revelations of
ingratitude and heartlessness.

A poor widow risks her head to take in fugitives, and sacrifices her
last louis to give them a dinner; Monsieur relates this act of devotion
as though it were no more than the fugitives' due, and ends the chapter
by saying, "The dinner was execrable!"

It was written in kitchen French, as Colonel Morisel observed to M.
Arnault.

"That is easily explained," replied the author of _Germanicus_, "since
the work was by a _restaurateur"_.

The _Miroir_, ordered to review the _Voyage de Paris à Bruxelles_,
contented itself by saying, "If the work is by the august personage to
whom it is attributed, it is above the region of criticism; if it is
not by him, it is beneath criticism."

Let us revert to Colonel Morisel, one of the most interesting
characters of the time. They could not get up the same kind of trial
against the author of the _Messéniennes_, of the _Vêpres siciliennes_,
of the _Comédiens_ and of _Paria_, as they did against M. de Jouy and
Magallon; they could not imprison him in Sainte-Pélagie or send him to
Poissy, bound hand to hand and side by side with a filthy convict; but
they could reduce him to poverty, and that is what they did.

On 15 April we read in the Liberal papers: "We hear that M. Ancelot,
author of _Louis IX._ and of _Maire du Palais_, has just received
letters patent of nobility, and that M. Casimir Delavigne, author
of _Vêpres siciliennes_, of _Paria_ and of the _Messéniennes_, has
just lost his post in the Library of the Minister of Justice." It was
quite true: M. Ancelot had been made a baron, and M. Casimir Delavigne
was turned out into the street! It was at this juncture that, on the
recommendation of Vatout, who had just published the _Histoire de la
Fille d'un Roi_, the Duc d'Orléans appointed Casimir Delavigne to the
post of assistant librarian at the Palais-Royal, where, six years
later, I became his colleague.

Vatout was an excellent fellow, a trifle conceited; but even his vanity
was useful as a spur which, put in motion by the example of others,
goaded him to do the work he would otherwise not have attempted. One
of his conceits was to pretend he was a natural son of a prince of the
House of Orléans--a very innocent conceit, as it did not harm anyone,
and nobody considered it a crime; for he used the influence he acquired
by his post at the Palais-Royal in rendering help to his friends, and
sometimes even to his enemies.... Just at this moment the information
I have been seeking concerning the last act of the Censorship has been
brought me.

Ah! my dear Victor Hugo, you who are busy trying to wrest from the
jury, before whom you are defending your son, the entire abolition
of the death penalty; make an exception in favour of the censor, and
stipulate that he shall be executed twice over at the next Revolution,
since once is not nearly enough.

I wish here to swear on my honour that what I am about to state is
actual truth.



CHAPTER VII


The house in the rue Chaillot--Four poets and a doctor--Corneille and
the Censorship--Things M. Faucher does not know--Things the President
of the Republic ought to know


In the year III of the Second French Republic, on the evening of 2
June, M. Louis Bonaparte being president, M. Léon Faucher minister, M.
Guizard director of the Fine Arts, the following incident occurred,
in a salon decorated with Persian draperies, on the ground floor of a
house in the rue de Chaillot.

Five or six persons were discussing art--a surprising fact at a time
when the sole topics of conversation were dissolution, revision and
prorogation. True, of these five persons four were poets, and one a
doctor who was almost a poet and entirely a man of culture. These four
poets were: first, Madame Émile de Girardin, mistress of the house in
the rue de Chaillot where the gathering took place; second, Victor
Hugo; third, Théophile Gautier; fourth, Arsène Houssaye. The doctor's
name was Cabarus.

The gentleman indicated under number four held several offices: perhaps
he was rather less of a poet than were the other three, but he was far
more of a business man, thus equalizing the balance; he was manager of
the Théâtre-Français, the resignation of which post he had already sent
in three times, and each time it had been refused.

You may perhaps ask why M. Arsène Houssaye was so ready to send in his
resignation.

There is a very simple answer: the members of the Théâtre-Français
company made his life so unendurable that the poet was ever ready
to send to the right about his demi-gods, his heroes, his kings,
his princes, his dukes, his marquises, his counts and his barons of
the rue de Richelieu, in order to re-engage his barons, his counts,
his marquises, his dukes, his princes, his kings, his heroes and
his demi-gods of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, whom he
knew and whose strings he could pull as though he were the Comte de
Saint-Germain, who was their familiar friend.

Now why should the members of the Théâtre-Français company make their
manager's life so hard? Because he made money, and nothing irritates a
member of the Théâtre-Français company so much as to see his theatre
_make money._ This may seem inexplicable to sensible folk: it is indeed
a mystery; but I have not set myself to explain the fact; I state it,
that is all.

Now, in his capacity as manager of the Théâtre-Français, M. Arsène
Houssaye thought of something which had not occurred to anyone else.
This was that as the day in question was 2 June 1851, in four days'
time--that is to say, on 6 June--it would be the two hundred and
forty-fourth anniversary of the birth of Corneille.

He translated his thought into words, and turning to Théophile Gautier,
he said, "Come now! my dear Théo, you must write for me some sixty
lines, for the occasion, upon the Father of Tragedy: it will be much
better than what is usually given us on such anniversaries, and the
public will not grumble."

Théophile Gautier pretended not to hear.

Arsène Houssaye repeated his request.

"Good gracious! no," said Gautier.

"Why not?"

"Because I do not know anything more tiresome to write than an official
panegyric, were it on the greatest poet in the world. Besides, the
greater the poet, the more difficult is it to praise him."

"You are mistaken, Théophile," said Hugo; "and if I were in a position
at this moment to do what Arsène asks, I would undertake it."

"Would you think of passing in review Corneille's twenty or thirty
plays? Would you have the courage to speak of _Mélite_, of _Clitandre_,
of the _Galerie du Palais_, of _Pertharite_, of _Œdipe_, of _Attila_,
of _Agésilas_?"

"No, I should not mention any one of them."

"Then you would not be extolling Corneille: when a poet is praised, you
must praise his bad work loudest of all; when one does not praise, it
savours of criticism."

"No," said Hugo, "I do not mean anything like that: I would not
undertake a vulgar eulogy. I would describe the agèd Corneille,
wandering through the streets of old Paris, on foot, with a shabby
cloak on his shoulders, neglected by Louis XIV., who was less generous
towards him than his persecutor Richelieu; getting his leaky shoes
mended at a poor cobbler's, whilst Louis XIV., reigning at Versailles,
was promenading with Madame de Montespan, Mademoiselle de la Vallière
and Madame Henriette, in the galleries of Le Brun or in the gardens of
Le Nôtre; then I would pay compensation to the poet's shade by showing
how posterity puts each one in his proper place and, as days are added
unto days, months to months and years to years, increases the poet's
fame and decreases the power of the king...."

"What are you looking for, Théophile?" asked Madame de Girardin of
Gautier, who had got up hastily.

"I am looking for my hat," said Gautier.

"Girardin is asleep on it," replied Cabarus drily.

"Oh, don't wake him," said Madame de Girardin. "It will make an
article!"

"Nevertheless, I cannot go without my hat," said Gautier.

"Where are you off to?" asked Arsène Houssaye.

"I am going to write you your lines, of course; you shall have them
to-morrow."

They pulled Théophile's hat from under Girardin's shoulders. It had
suffered by reason of its position; but what cared Théophile for the
condition of his hat?

He returned home and set to work. The next day, as he had promised,
Arsène Houssaye had the verses.

But both poet and manager had reckoned without the Censorship.

These are Théophile Gautier's lines on the great Corneille,--they were
forbidden by the dramatic censor, as I have said, in the year III
of the Second Republic, M. Louis Bonaparte being president, M. Léon
Faucher minister and M. Guizard director of the Fine Arts:--

    "Par une rue étroite, au cœur du vieux Paris,
    Au milieu des passants, du tumulte et des cris,
    La tête dans le ciel et le pied dans la fange,
    Cheminait à pas lents une figure étrange.
    C'était un grand vieillard sévèrement drapé,
    Noble et sainte misère, en son manteau râpé!
    Son œil d'aigle, son front, argenté vers les tempes
    Rappelaient les fiertés des plus mâles estampes;
    Et l'on eut dit, à voir ce masque souverain,
    Une médaille antique à frapper en airain.
    Chaque pli de sa joue, austèrement creusée,
    Semblait continuer un sillon de pensée,
    Et, dans son regard noir, qu'éteint un sombre ennui,
    On sentait que l'éclair autrefois avait lui.
    Le vieillard s'arrêta dans une pauvre échoppe.

    Le roi-soleil, alors, illuminait l'Europe,
    Et les peuples baissaient leurs regards éblouis
    Devant cet Apollon qui s'appelait Louis.
    A le chanter, Boileau passait ses doctes veilles;
    Pour le loger, Mansard entassait ses merveilles;
    Cependant, en un bouge, auprès d'un savetier,
    Pied nu, le grand Corneille attendait son soulier!
    Sur la poussière d'or de sa terre bénie,
    Homère, sans chaussure, aux chemins d'Ionie,
    Pouvait marcher jadis avec l'antiquité,
    Beau comme un marbre grec par Phidias sculpté;
    Mais Homère, à Paris, sans crainte du scandale,
    Un jour de pluie, eut fait recoudre sa sandale.
    Ainsi faisait l'auteur d_'Horace_ et de _Cinna_,
    Celui que de ses mains la muse couronna,
    Le fier dessinateur, Michel-Ange du drame,
    Qui peignit les Romains si grands, d'après son âme.
    O pauvreté sublime! ô sacré dénûment!
    Par ce cœur héroique accepté simplement!

    Louis, ce vil détail que le bon goût dédaigne,
    Ce soulier recousu me gâte tout ton règne.
    A ton siècle en perruque et de luxe amoureux,
    Je ne pardonne pas Corneille malheureux.
    Ton dais fleurdelisé cache mal cette échoppe;
    De la pourpre où ton faste à grands plis s'enveloppe,
    Je voudrais prendre un pan pour Corneille vieilli,
    S'éteignant, pauvre et seul, dans l'ombre et dans l'oubli.
    Sur le rayonnement de toute ton histoire,
    Sur l'or de ton soleil c'est une tache noire,
    O roi! d'avoir laissé, toi qu'ils ont peint si beau,
    Corneille sans souliers, Molière sans tombeau!
    Mais pourquoi s'indigner! Que viennent les années,
    L'équilibre se fait entre les destinées;
    A sa place chacun est remis par la mort:
    Le roi rentre dans l'ombre, et le poëte en sort!
    Pour courtisans, Versaille a gardé ses statues;
    Les adulations et les eaux se sont tues;
    Versaille est la Palmyre où dort la royauté.
    Qui des deux survivra, génie ou majesté?
    L'aube monte pour l'un, le soir descend sur l'autre;
    Le spectre de Louis, au jardin de Le Notre,
    Erre seul, et Corneille, éternel comme un Dieu,
    Toujours sur son autel voit reluire le feu,
    Que font briller plus vif en ses fêtes natales
    Les générations, immortelles vestales.
    Quand en poudre est tombé le diadème d'or,
    Son vivace laurier pousse et verdit encor;
    Dans la postérité, perspective inconnue,
    Le poëte grandit et le roi diminue!"

Now let us have a few words on this matter, Monsieur Guizard, for you
did not reckon things would end here; you did not hope to escape at
the cost of a few words written with a double meaning, inserted in a
newspaper printed yesterday, published to-day and forgotten on the
morrow.

No, when such outrages are perpetrated upon art, it is meet that the
culprit should be deprived of his natural judges and taken to a higher
court, as your models carried Trélat and Cavaignac to the House of
Peers, as your friends carried Raspail, Hubert and Sobrier to the Court
of Bourges. And I call upon you to appear, Monsieur Guizard, you who
took the place of my friend Cavé, as superintendent of the department
of Fine Arts.

Look you, now that things are being cut down all round, has not
a letter been economised in the description of your office? and
instead of being responsible for the _department_, are you not really
responsible for the _departure_ of the Fine Arts? Moreover, I have
something to relate that passed between us, three months ago. Do you
remember I had the honour of paying you a visit, three months ago? I
came to give you notice, on behalf of the manager of the Cirque, that
while we were waiting for the _Barrière de Clichy_ we were going to put
the _Chevalier de Maison-Rouge_ in rehearsal.

"The _Chevalier de Maison-Rouge_!" you exclaimed.

"Yes."

"But is not the _Chevalier de Maison-Rouge_ a drama written by
yourself?"

"Yes."

"Is it not in the _Chevalier de Maison-Rouge_ that the famous chorus
occurs--

    'Mourir pour la patrie'?"

"Yes."

"Well, then, we will not allow the _Chevalier de Maison-Rouge_ to be
played."

"You will not allow the _Chevalier de Maison-Rouge_ to be played?"

"No, no, no, no, no!"

"But why not?"

Then you looked me in the face and you said to me--

"Do you mean to tell me you do not know that the _Chevalier de
Maison-Rouge_ contributed to the establishment of the Republic?"

You said that to me, Monsieur Guizard! You made that extraordinary
avowal to me, in the year III of the Republic! M. Léon Faucher being
minister of the Republic! you, Monsieur Guizard, being director of the
Fine Arts of the Republic!

I was so astounded at the reply that I could find nothing else to say
than "How the devil does it come about that I, who lost nearly 200,000
francs by the coming of the Republic, am a Republican, whilst you, who
gained thereby a post bringing you in 12,000, are a Reactionary?"

True, you did not condescend to explain this anomaly: I left your
office without discovering a reason, and now, as I write these lines, I
am still at a loss for one!

Now, in the hope that someone more clever than I at guessing riddles
might be found, I decided to print what happened to me, three months
ago, side by side with what happened to Gautier to-day!

What can one expect? Every man makes use of the tool or of the
instrument he has in his hand: some have scissors, and they cut; others
have an engraver's tool, and they etch.

What I write, I warn you, M. Guizard, is translated into eight or nine
different languages. So we shall have the assistance of learned men in
many lands to help us in our researches, and the archæologists of three
generations; for, suppose my works live no longer than the time it
will take for rats to devour them, it will take those creatures quite
a hundred years to eat my thousand volumes. You may tell me that the
order to stop M. Théophile Gautier's verses came from a higher source,
from the minister. To that I have nothing to say: if the order came
from the minister, you were obliged to obey that order. And I must in
that case wend my way to M. Léon Faucher. So be it!

O Faucher! is it really credible that you, who are so halfhearted a
Republican, you who were so ill-advised, according to my opinion, as to
pay a subsidy to the Théâtre-Français to have the dead exhumed and, the
living buried,--is it really credible, I repeat, that so indifferent
a Republican as yourself, did not wish it said, on the stage that
Corneille created, that genius is higher than royalty, and that
Corneille was greater as a poet than Louis XIV. was as a monarch?

But, M. Faucher, you know quite as well as I that Louis XIV. was only a
great king because he possessed great ministers and great poets.

Perhaps you will tell me that great ministers and poets are created by
great kings?

No, M. Faucher, you will not say that; for I shall retort, "Napoleon,
who was a great emperor, had no Corneille, and Louis XIII., who was a
pitiable king, could boast a Richelieu."

No, M. le ministre, Louis XIV., believe me, was only great as a king
because (and Michelet, one of the greatest historians who ever lived,
will tell you exactly the same) Richelieu was his precursor, whilst
Corneille's precursor was ... who? Jodelle.

Corneille did not need either Condé, or Turenne, or Villars, or de
Catinat, or Vauban, or Mazarin, or Colbert, or Louvois, or Boileau,
or Racine, or Benserade, or Le Brun, or Le Nôtre, or even M. de
Saint-Aignan to help him to become a great poet.

No; Corneille took up a pen, ink and paper; he only had to lean his
head upon his hand and his poetry came.

Had you but read Théophile Gautier's lines, M. le ministre,--but I am
sure you have not read them,--you must have seen that these verses are
not merely the finest Théophile Gautier ever penned, but the finest
ever written since verses came to be written. You must have seen that
their composition was excellent and their ideas above reproach. A
certain emperor I knew--one whom apparently you did not know--would
have sent the officer's Cross of the Legion of Honour and a pension to
a man who had written those verses.

You, M. le ministre, sent orders that Théophile Gautier's lines were
not to be read on the stage of the Théâtre-Français!

But perhaps this order came from higher authority still? Perhaps it
came from the President of the Republic?

If it came from the President of the Republic, it is another matter
... and it is with the President of the Republic that I must settle my
grievance.

I shall not take long in dealing with the President of the Republic.

"Ah! M. le président de la République," I shall say to him, "you
who have forgotten so many things in the overwhelming rush of state
affairs, have you, by any chance, forgotten what Monsieur your uncle
said of the author of the _Cid_, 'If Corneille had lived in my time, I
would have made him a prince.'"

Now that I have said to the President of the Republic, to M. le
Ministre de l'Intérieur, and to M. le Chef de Division Chargé du
Département des Beaux-Arts, what I had it in my mind to say, let us
return to the year 1823, which also possessed its Censorship, but one
that was much less severe than that of 1851.



BOOK V



CHAPTER I


Chronology of the drama--Mademoiselle Georges Weymer--Mademoiselle
Raucourt--Legouvé and his works--Marie-Joseph Chénier--His letter
to the company of the Comédie-Française--Young boys _perfectionnés_
--Ducis--His work


Now the Royalist reaction of which we were speaking--before we
interrupted ourselves to address the high public functionaries who had
the honour of appearing before our readers in the last chapter--did
not only strike at literary men, but it hit out cruelly, bitterly and
mortally at public men. It began by the expulsion of Manuel from the
Chamber; it closed with the execution of Riégo. But I must confess I
was not so much occupied at that time with the quarrels of the Chamber,
or the Spanish War, or the fête that Madame de Cayla (who was very
kind to me later) gave to Saint-Ouen to celebrate the return of Louis
XVIII., or the death of Pope Pius VII.; there were two events which
were quite as important to my thinking: the first production of Lucien
Arnault's _Pierre de Portugal_, and that of the _École des Vieillards_,
by Casimir Delavigne. Although the dramatic statistics for the year
1823 showed a total production of 209 new plays and of 161 authors
acted, the best theatres, especially during the first nine months of
the year, presented but a sorry show, and were very far removed from
reaching the level of the preceding year.

Thus, on 26 April, 1822, the Odéon had produced _Attila_ by M.
Hippolyte Bis. On 5 June the Théâtre-Français played Lucien Arnault's
_Régulus._ On 14 June the Odéon played the _Macchabées_ by M. Guiraud:
Frédérick Lemaître, who belonged to the Cirque, played one of the
brothers Macchabées. On 7 November the Théâtre-Français produced M.
Soumet's _Clytemnestre_, in which Talma gave a realistic representation
of the tragic and unhappy fate of Orestes. On 9 November the Odéon put
on its boards the same author's _Saül,_ in which Joanny first began
to make his reputation. Finally, on 21 December, the Théâtre-Français
produced _Valérie_, by MM. Scribe and Mélesville. As against all these
new plays, the year 1823 only offered us the comedy of l'_Éducation
ou les Deux Cousines_ by M. Casimir Bonjour, and _Comte Julien_ by M.
Guiraud.

_L'Éducation ou les Deux Cousines_ is M. Casimir Bonjour's best comedy;
but M. Casimir Bonjour's best comedy had the option of being a feeble
production, and it exercised that option.

While _Comte Julien_ was honest, careful work, as were all the
author's plays, its principal attraction was that the company acting
it contained Mademoiselle Georges, who made her reappearance in Paris
after an absence of four or five years. Mademoiselle Georges was
extremely beautiful at that period, and still had _all her diamonds._
Those who knew Harel and the fantastic posters he invented know
the part which Mademoiselle Georges' diamonds played in the rôles
Mademoiselle Georges acted.

I have told my readers that as celebrated characters appear in these
Memoirs I will describe them all as clearly as I can, in the light of
contemporary knowledge; some of them only shone for a very short time
and their light is now extinguished for ever. But what I have to say
about them will be all the more interesting on that account, for what
follows describes my first impressions of them, when they were in the
zenith of their popularity.

We have remarked that the age of any living actress is not to be
known; but reckoning from the year when Mademoiselle Georges made
her début--that is to say, from 29 November 1802--she must have been
thirty-eight in 1823. Just a word to explain how Mademoiselle Georges
gained access to the theatre and how she managed to remain on the
boards. Loved by Bonaparte, and retained in his favour when he became
Napoleon, Mademoiselle Georges, who begged to be allowed to accompany
Napoleon to Saint-Helena, is almost a historical personage.

Towards the close of the year 1800 and the beginning of 1801
Mademoiselle Raucourt, who was leading lady in tragedy at the
Théâtre-Français, went on tour in the provinces. This was at a time
when although Government had plenty to do, it was not ashamed to
concern itself with the arts in its spare moments. Mademoiselle
Raucourt had therefore received orders from the Government to look out
for any pupil during her tour whom she might think worth instruction,
and to bring her back to Paris. This young lady was to be considered
the pupil of the Government, and would receive a grant of 1200 francs.

Mademoiselle Raucourt stopped at Amiens. There she discovered a
beautiful young girl of fifteen years of age who looked to be eighteen;
you might have thought that the Venus of Milo had descended from her
pedestal. Mademoiselle Raucourt, who was almost as classic in her
tastes as the Lesbian Sappho, admired statuesque beauty immensely. When
she saw the way this young girl walked--her gait that of the goddess,
to use Virgil's phrase--the actress made inquiries and found that her
name was Georges Weymer; that she was the daughter of a German musician
named Georges Weymer, manager of the theatre, and of Mademoiselle
Verteuil the actress who played the chambermaid parts.

This young lady was destined for tragedy. Mademoiselle Raucourt
made her play Élise, with her, in _Didon_, and Aricie in _Phèdre._
The experiment succeeded, and the very night of the performance of
_Phèdre,_ Mademoiselle Raucourt asked the young tragédienne's parents'
leave to take her.

The prospect of being a Government pupil, and, better still, the pupil
of Mademoiselle Raucourt, was, with the exception of some slight
drawbacks in the way of regulations to which the young girl had
perforce to agree, too tempting an offer in the eyes of her parents to
be refused. The request was granted, and Mademoiselle Georges departed,
followed by her mother. The lessons lasted eighteen months. During
these eighteen months the young pupil lived in a poor hotel in the rue
Croix-des-Petits-Champs, which, probably ironically, was named the
_hôtel du Pérou._

Mademoiselle Raucourt lived at the end of the allée des Veuves, in a
magnificent house which had belonged to Madame Tallien and which, no
doubt also ironically, was called _The Cottage (la Chaumière)._ We have
called Mademoiselle Georges' residence "a magnificent house": we should
also have said "a small house," for it was a perfect specimen of a
bijou villa in the style of Louis XV.

Towards the end of the eighteenth century--that strange epoch when
people called things by their right names--Sapho-Raucourt enjoyed a
reputation the originality of which she took not the least pains to
hide.

Mademoiselle Raucourt's attitude towards men was more than
indifference, it was hatred. The writer of these lines has in his
possession a memorandum signed by this famous actress which is a
regular war-cry against the masculine sex, and in which the modern
Queen of the Amazons calls upon every lovely warrior enrolled under her
orders to open rupture with men.

Nothing could be more odd than the form and, above all, the
subject-matter of this manifesto. And yet, strange to relate, in
spite of this contempt towards us, Mademoiselle Raucourt, whenever
the costume of her sex was not indispensable to her, adopted that of
our sex. Thus, very often, in the morning, Mademoiselle Raucourt gave
lessons to her beautiful pupil in trousers, with a dressing-gown over
them,--just as M. Molé or M. Fleury would have done,--a pretty woman by
her side who addressed her as "dear fellow," and a charming child who
called her "papa."

We did not know Mademoiselle Raucourt,--she died in 1814, and her
funeral created a great sensation,--but we knew her mother, who died
in 1832 or 1833; and we still know the _childy_ who is to-day a man of
fifty-five.

We were acquainted with an actor whose whole career was blighted by
Mademoiselle Raucourt on account of some jealousy he had the misfortune
to arouse in the terrible Lesbian. Mademoiselle Raucourt appealed to
the Committee of the Théâtre-Français, reminded them of her rights of
possession and of priority in respect of the girl whom the impertinent
comedian wished to seduce from her, and, the priority and the
possession being recognised, the impudent comedian, who is still living
and is one of the most straightforward men imaginable, was hounded
out of the theatre, the members of the company believing that, as in
the case of Achilles, Mademoiselle Raucourt, because of this modern
Briseis, would retire in sulks.

Let us return to the young girl, whose mother never left her a
single instant during the visits she paid to her teacher: three
times a week had she to traverse the long distance between the rue
Croix-des-Petits-Champs and the allée des Veuves in order to take
her lessons. Her first appearances were fixed to take place at the
end of November. They were to be in _Clytemnestre_, in _Émilie,_ in
_Aménaïde_, in _Idamé_, in _Didon_ and in _Sémiramis._

A début at the Théâtre-Français in 1802 was a great affair both for
the artiste and for the public; it was a still greater matter to be
received into the company; for if one joined the troupe, it meant,
in the case of a man, becoming a colleague of Monvel, of Saint-Prix,
of Baptiste senior, of Talma, of Lafond, of Saint-Phal, of Molé, of
Fleury, of Armand, of Michot, of Grandménil, of Dugazon, of Dazincourt,
of Baptiste junior, of la Rochelle; in the case of a woman, one became
the companion of Mademoiselle Raucourt, of Mlle. Contat, of Mlle.
Devienne, Mlle. Talma, of Mlle. Fleury, of Mlle. Duchesnois, of Mlle.
Mézeray, of Mlle. Mars.

The authors of this period were: Legouvé, Lemercier, Arnault, Alexandre
Duval, Picard, Chénier and Ducis. Of these seven men I knew four:
Arnault, whose portrait I have attempted to draw; Lemercier and
Alexandre Duval, whose splenetic likenesses I shall try to describe in
due season; then came Picard, who was called the friend of youth, but
who detested young people. Legouvé, Chénier and Ducis were dead when I
came to Paris.

Legouvé was very influential at the Théâtre-Français. He it was who,
when Mademoiselle Georges made her first appearance, was directing the
débuts of Mademoiselle Duchesnois with an almost fatherly affection;
he had produced the _Mort d'Abel_ in 1793, a patriarchal tragedy which
owed its success, first to the talent of the author, secondly and more
especially, to its opposition to current events. It was played between
the execution of Louis XVI. and that of Marie-Antoinette, between the
September Massacres and the execution of the Girondists; it distracted
people's minds for the moment from the sight of the blood which flowed
down the gutters. When they had witnessed all day long bodies hanging
from the lamp-posts and heads carried on the ends of pikes, they were
not sorry to spend their evening with shepherds and shepherdesses. Nero
crowned himself with roses and sang Ionic verses after watching Rome
burn.

In 1794 Legouvé had produced _Épicharis._ The last act contained a very
fine monologue, which he certainly had not created himself, but which
he had borrowed from a page of Mercier. This final act made the success
of the play. I heard Talma declaim the monologue in his pompous style.

Finally, in 1799, Legouvé had produced _Étéocle. Étéocle_ was a
failure, or nearly so; and, seeing this, instead of providing a fresh
tragedy for the Théâtre-Français, Legouvé introduced a new tragic
actress. Mademoiselle Duchesnois had just completed her exceedingly
successful début when Mademoiselle Georges made her first appearance.

As I have promised to speak in due course of Lemercier, Alexandre Duval
and Picard, I will now finish what I have to say about Chénier and
Ducis, of whom I shall probably not have occasion to speak again.

Marie-Joseph Chénier possessed singular conceit. I have a dozen of his
letters before me, written about _Charles IX._; I will pick out one
which is a model of naïvete: it will show from what standpoint men whom
certain critics have the audacity to call masters, and who probably
are masters in their eyes, look upon historic tragedy.

The letter was addressed to French comedians: it was intended to
make them again take up _Charles IX.,_ which those gentlemen refused
absolutely to play. Why did not French comedians want to play _Charles
IX.,_ since _Charles IX._ made money? Ah! I must whisper the reason in
your ear, or rather, say it out loud: it was because Talma's part in it
was such an enormous success. Here is the letter:--

      "Pressed on all sides, gentlemen, by the friends
      of liberty, several of whom are of the number
      of confederated deputies, to give at once a few
      representations of _Charles IX.,_ I ask you to announce
      the thirty-fourth appearance of this tragedy on your
      play-bills, for one day next week, independently of
      another work that I have composed to celebrate the
      anniversary of the Federation.

      You may like to know that I intend to add _several lines
      applicable to this interesting event,_ in the part of the
      Chancellor of the Hospital, for I am always anxious to
      pay my tribute as a citizen; and you, gentlemen, could
      not show your patriotism on this occasion in a better
      way than by playing the only _truly national_ tragedy
      which still exists in France, a tragedy philosophical in
      subject, and worthy of the stage, even in the opinion of
      M. de Voltaire, who, you will admit, knew what he was
      talking about. In this tragedy I have made a point of
      _sounding the praises of the citizen king_ who governs us
      to-day.--Accept my sincere regards," etc.

Can you imagine the Chancellor of the Hospital lauding the Fete of the
Federation, and Charles IX. singing the praises of Louis XVI.?

Ah well!...

Chénier had made his début in _Charles IX.,_ which he wanted to have
reproduced, and its reproduction caused Danton and Camille Desmoulins
to be taken before the police magistrate, accused of having got up
conspiracies in the pit. _Henri VIII._ followed _Charles IX._ with
similar success. Two years after _Henri VIII., Calas_ was produced.
Finally, on 9 January 1793, at the height of Louis XVI.'s trial, and
some days before that poor king's death, Chénier produced _Fénélon,_,
a rose-water tragedy, of the same type as the _Mort d'Abel_, which had
that kind of success one's friends term a triumph, and one's enemies a
failure.

Chénier counted on reviving his success by _Timoléon_. But Robespierre,
who had heard the work talked of, read it and stopped it. Listen, you
wielders of the Censorship! Robespierre trod in your footsteps; he
stopped _Timoléon_ as your confrères, before him, had stopped _Tartufe_
to no purpose; _Mahomet_, to no purpose; _Mariage de Figaro_, to no
purpose; and so we come at last to you, who have stopped _Pinto_ to no
purpose, _Marion Delorme_ to no purpose, and _Antony_ to no purpose.

Robespierre, we repeat, stopped _Timoléon_, declaring that, as long as
he was alive, the piece should never be played. Yes, but Robespierre
proved himself ignorant of the temper of the age in which he and his
contemporaries lived; he counted without 9 Thermidor.... Robespierre
followed Danton to the scaffold, and _Timoléon_ was played.

Unfortunately, two days before Robespierre, death claimed the
sweet-voiced swan whom men called André Chénier, a poet even as his
brother, though of a different make, and no writer of tragedies.

How was it that Marie-Joseph Chénier found time to look after the
rehearsals of his tragedy, so soon after Thermidor, and immediately
upon the death of his brother?

Ah! André was only his brother, and _Timoléon_ was his child.

But many-headed Nemesis was watching over the forgotten poet and
preparing a terrible vengeance. _Timoléon_ killed his brother, and
Chénier was accused of not having saved his.

Cries were raised for the name of the author.

"No need!" cried a voice from the pit. "The author's name is _Cain_!"

From that day Chénier renounced the theatre, although there were
rumours of two plays lying waiting to come forth some day from his
portfolio, called _Tibère_ and _Philippe II._

Ducis succeeded Chénier.

After the death of Beaumarchais--who had written two charming comedies
of intrigue and three poor dramas--Ducis became the patriarch of
literature.

There was in Rome, under all the popes down to the days of Gregory
XVI., who had them removed, a sign over certain surgeon's doors with
the inscription--

"Ici on _perfectionne_ les petits garçons."

The reader will understand what that means: parents who desired that
their boys should remain beardless, and possess pretty voices, took
their children to these establishments, and by a twist of the hand they
were ... _perfectionnés_.

Ducis did to Sophocles and to Shakespeare pretty much what Roman
surgeons did to small boys. Those who like smooth chins and sweet
voices may prefer the _Œdipe-roi, Œdipe à Colone, Hamlet, Macbeth,
Roméo and Juliet_ and _Othello_ of Ducis, to the _Œdipus_ of
Sophocles and the _Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet_ and _Othello_
of Shakespeare; but we must confess that we like Nature in all her
virility, that we think the stronger a man is, the more beautiful he
is and that we prefer entire dramas to castrated ones: this being
so, whether in the case of small boys or of tragedies, we hold all
_perfectionnement_ to be sacrilege. But let us give Ducis his due. He
led the way to Sophocles by a poor road, to Shakespeare by a narrow
path; but, at all events, he left those guide-posts by the way,
which Voltaire had taken such pains to remove. When Voltaire made a
veil for Zaire out of Desdemona's handkerchief, he was very careful
to obliterate the mark on the linen he stole. This was more than
imitation--it was theft.

In the period that elapsed between 1769 and 1795, Ducis produced
_Hamlet, Œdipe chez Admète, King Lear, Macbeth, Othello_ and _Abufar._
This was the condition of the Théâtre-Français, this was the state of
French literature, in the year of grace 1802, when Napoleon Bonaparte
was First Consul, and Cambacérès and Lebrun were assistant consuls.



CHAPTER II


Bonaparte's attempts at discovering poets--Luce de Lancival
--Baour-Lormian--_Lebrun-Pindare_--Lucien Bonaparte, the author--Début
of Mademoiselle Georges--The Abbé Geoffroy's critique--Prince
Zappia--Hermione at Saint-Cloud


Let us here insert a word or two about Bonaparte's little Court. We are
writing memoirs now, and not novels; we must therefore replace fiction
by truth, plot by digressions and intrigue by desultory pages.

Oh! if only some man had left us information about the sixteenth,
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, such as I have attempted to leave
about the nineteenth, how I should have blessed him, and what hard work
he would have spared me!

A few words, therefore, as I have hinted, about Bonaparte and his
little Court.

The début of Mademoiselle Georges had made a great sensation at Paris
and at la Malmaison. Formerly, one would have said at Paris and at
Versailles,--but Versailles was no more in 1802.

The First Consul and his family were greatly interested in literature
at that time. Bonaparte's favourite poets were at the two extremes of
art, Corneille and Ossian: Corneille as representative of the powers of
the intellect, Ossian in the realms of imagination. So Corneille and
Ossian took the most prominent place among the poets who figured in the
catalogue of his Egyptian library. This partiality for the Scottish
bard was so well known that Bourrienne, when he organised the library,
guessed who was meant, though Bonaparte had written the word "_Océan_."

It was not Bonaparte's fault if poets failed him, although he had
proscribed three of the greatest of his time: Chateaubriand, Madame
de Staël and Lemercier. Bonaparte demanded poets from the Chancellor
of the University, just as he demanded soldiers from his Minister for
War. Unhappily, it was easier for M. le Duc de Feltre to find 300,000
conscripts than for M. de Fontanes to find a dozen poets. So Napoleon
was obliged to hang on to all he could find, to Lebrun, to Luce de
Lancival, to Baour-Lormian: they all had posts and incomes as though
they were true poets--in addition to compliments.

"You have written a fine tragedy," Napoleon once said to Luce de
Lancival, about his _Hector_: "I will have it played in one of my
camps." And on the night of the representation he authorised a pension
of six thousand francs to be granted Luce de Lancival, with the
message, "seeing that poets are always in need of money," he should be
paid a year in advance. Read _Hector_ and you will see that it was not
worth the first payment of six thousand francs. Napoleon also placed
Luce de Lancival's nephew, Harel, under Cambacérès, and made him a
sub-prefect in 1815.

Baour-Lormian also received a pension of six thousand livres; but
according to the witty complaint he laid before the Bourbons concerning
the persecutions of the usurper, despotism had been pushed "to the
extreme of punishing him with a pension of two thousand crowns," which,
he adds, admitting his weakness, he had not dared to decline.

One day--during the rumours of war that were spread abroad in the year
1809--an ode fell into Napoleon's hands which began with this strophe:--

    "Suspends ici ton vol.... D'où viens-tu, Renommée?
    Qu'annoncent tes cent voix à l'Europe alarmée?...
    --Guerre!--Et quels, ennemis veulent être vaincus?
    --Russe, Allemand, Suédois déjà lèvent la lance;
                Ils menacent la France!
    --Reprends ton vol, déesse, et dis qu'ils ne sont plus!"

This beginning struck him, and he asked--

"Whose verses are these?"

"M. Lebrun's, sire."

"Has he a pension already?"

"Yes, sire."

"Add a second pension of one hundred louis to that which he already
has."

And they added one hundred louis to the pension already drawn by
Lebrun, who went by the name of _Lebrun-Pindare_, because he turned out
ten thousand lines of this kind of thing:--

    "La colline qui vers le pôle
    Domine d'antiques marais,[1]
    Occupe les enfants d'Éole[2]
    A broyer les dons de Cérès;[3]
    Vanvres, qu'habite Galatée,[4]
    Du nectar d'Io, d'Amalthée,
    Epaissit les flots écumeux;
    Et Sèvres, de sa pure argile,
    Nous pétrit l'albâtre fragile
    Où Moka nous verse ses feux."[5]

But something happened that no one had foreseen: there lived another
poet called Pierre Lebrun--not Lebrun-Pindare. The ode was written
by Pierre Lebrun, not by Lebrun-Pindare. So it came to pass that
Lebrun-Pindare enjoyed for a long time the pension earned by Pierre
Lebrun. Thus we see that Napoleon did his utmost to discover poets, and
that it was not his fault if they were not found.

When Casimir Delavigne published his first work in 1811, a dithyrambic
to the King of Rome, it began with this line:--

    "Destin, qui m'as promis l'empire de la terre!"

Napoleon scented a poet, and, although the lines smacked of the
schoolboy, he bestowed the academic prize and a post in the excise on
the author.

Talma was poetry personified. So, since 1792, Napoleon had allied
himself with Talma. Where did he spend his evenings? In the wings
of the Théâtre-Français; and more than once, pointing out the man
who, twenty years later, was to send from Moscow his famous decree
concerning comedians, the porter asked Talma--

"Who is that young officer?"

"Napoleon Bonaparte."

"His name is not down on the free list."

"Never mind; he is one of my friends: he comes with me." "Oh, if he is
with you, that is another matter."

Later, Talma had, in his turn, the run of the Tuileries, and more than
one ambassador, more than one prince, more than one king asked the
emperor--

"Sire, who is that man?"

And Napoleon would reply--

"He is Talma, one of my friends."

Once, when noticing the ease with which Talma draped himself in his
toga, Napoleon said, "That man will be able to teach me one day how to
wear the imperial mantle."

It was not all joy to have a First Consul who liked Corneille and
Ossian; this First Consul had brothers who tried to become poets.
They did not succeed; but, at all events, they made the attempt. We
must give credit to good intentions. Lucien wrote poetry. The fierce
Republican--who refused kingships, and who ended by allowing himself
to be made a Roman prince: a prince of what? I ask you! Prince de
Petit-Chien (_Canino_),--wrote poetry. A poem of his, entitled
_Charlemagne_, remains to remind us of him, or rather, it does not
remain, for it is dead enough. Louis took up another line: he wrote
blank verse, finding it easier than to compose rhymed verse. He
travestied Molière's _l'Avare_ in this fashion. Joséphine, the creole
coquette, with her nonchalant grace and her adaptable mind, welcomed
everyone, letting the world spin as it liked around her, like Hamlet
and, like Hamlet, praising everybody.

Talma was a privileged guest in the little bourgeois Court. He talked
of the débutante, Mademoiselle Georges; he spoke of her beauty and
promising talent. Lucien became excited over her, and for all the
world like John the Baptist in the rôle of a precursor, he managed to
have a peep at the subject of the talk of the day, through a keyhole
somewhere, or mayhap through a wide open door, and he returned to
Malmaison, with a rather suspicious enthusiasm, to report that the
débutante's physical beauty was certainly below the praises sung
concerning it.

The great day arrived--Monday, 8th Frimaire, year XI (29 November
1802). There had been a crowd waiting outside the Théâtre de la
République since eleven o'clock in the morning.

Here, with the reader's permission, we will introduce Geoffroy's
account. Geoffroy was a worthless, shallow, unconscientious critic, who
had won his reputation at the time of the Terror, and who handed on his
pen to a wretch of his own kidney, to whom justice had several times
been dealt by the police courts;-a way of dealing with things which
seems to me to be a great improvement on the times of our forefathers.
We cannot possibly have degenerated in everything!

Geoffroy did not spoil débutants, male or female, especially if they
were not wealthy. Hear what this sometime prince of critics had to say
about Mademoiselle Georges.

There has always been a man called the prince of critics in France.
It is not the rank that is called in question, but the dignity of the
particular holder of it.

                       THÉÂTRE DE LA RÉPUBLIQUE
                         _Iphigénie en Aulide_
             Pour le début de Mademoiselle Georges Weymer
                    élève de Mademoiselle Raucourt

          "Sufficient measures were not taken to control the
          extraordinary crowd which so famous a début attracted.
          All the police were busily engaged at the box offices
          during the sale of tickets, while the entrance doors
          were almost unprotected and sustained a terrific siege.
          Assaults were attempted of which I could render a tragic
          account, for I was both a spectator and an involuntary
          actor therein. Chance threw me into the melee before I
          was acquainted with the danger.

                  ... Quæque ipse miserrima vidi,
                Et quorum pars magna fui!'

          "The assailants were inspired with the desire to see
          the new actress, and filled with the enthusiasm which a
          celebrated beauty always rouses. In such cases curiosity
          is nothing short of an insane and savage passion. Such
          scenes are orgies of ferocity and barbarism. Women,
          suffocating, uttered piercing shrieks, while men forgot
          all manners and gallantry in a savage silence, intent
          only on opening a passage at the expense of all who
          surrounded them. Nothing can be more indecorous than
          such struggles, taking place in an enlightened and
          philosophical nation; nothing can be more shameful among
          a free and an unselfish people. We may perhaps have
          better plays and better actors than the Athenians,--that
          is not yet sufficiently established,--but it is certain
          that the Athenians displayed greater dignity and nobility
          at their public entertainments. I view the rapid progress
          of the passion for theatre-going, the blind furore for
          frivolous amusement, with ever increasing pain, since
          history teaches me that it is an infallible sign of
          intellectual decadence and a decline in manners. It is
          also a calamity for true connoisseurs, for it lends
          countenance to the theory that the plays most run after
          must necessarily be the best...."

Would my readers have suspected that the famous Geoffroy could write in
such a style?--No?--Well, neither would I.

Let us proceed. As we advance, its dulness ceases: it becomes almost
fanciful.

      "When King Priam's councillors saw Helen pass by, they
      exclaimed, 'Such a beautiful princess is indeed worth
      fighting for; but, however marvellous her beauty, peace
      is more to be desired.'

      "And when I saw Mademoiselle Georges I said, 'Is it to be
      wondered at that people submit to be suffocated in order
      to see such superb womanly beauty? But were it possible
      for her to be more beautiful than she is, it would still
      be better not to be stifled, even in her own interest;
      for spectators will be more severely critical in their
      estimate of a débutante if it cost them so much to gain a
      sight of her.

      "Mademoiselle Georges Weymer's beauty was greatly
      extolled before her appearance on the stage, and it does
      not fall below expectation. Her features combine the
      regularity and dignity of Greek form with French grace;
      her figure is that of the sister of Apollo, when she
      walks on the shores of Eurotas, surrounded by her nymphs,
      her head uplifted above theirs; she would make a perfect
      model for Guérin's chisel...."

Ah, Geoffroy, I do not know whether the critics of the time of Pericles
were better than those of the age of Bonaparte, first of that name;
but I do know that at least one or two of ours can write in a better
style....

You think not?

Well, then, here is a portrait of the same person, written by a critic
in 1835. Notice the progress in style made in the thirty-three years
between Geoffroy's time and that of Théophile Gautier.

      "If I mistake not, Mademoiselle Georges is like a
      medallion from Syracuse or an Isis from an Æginæan
      bas-relief. The arch of her eyebrows, traced with
      incomparable fineness and purity, extends over dark eyes
      which are full of fire and flashes of tragic lightning.
      Her nose is thin and straight, with obliquely cut
      nostrils which dilate when she is passionately moved; her
      whole profile is grand in its simple uniformity of line.
      The mouth is strong, superbly haughty and sharp at its
      corners, like the lips of an avenging Nemesis, who awaits
      the hour to let loose her iron-clawed lion; yet over her
      lips flickers a charming smile, full of regal grace; and
      it would be impossible to believe, when she chooses to
      express the tender passions, that she has hurled forth,
      but a short while before, a classic imprecation or a
      modern anathema. Her chin is full of character and of
      determination; it is firmly set, and its majestic curves
      relieve a profile that belongs rather to a goddess than
      to a mortal. Mademoiselle Georges possesses, in common
      with all the beautiful women of pagan ages, a broad
      forehead, full at the temples, but not high, very like
      that of the Venus de Milo, a wilful, voluptuous, powerful
      forehead. There is a remarkable peculiarity about her
      neck: instead of rounding off inwardly from the nape, it
      forms a full and unbroken curve and unites the shoulders
      to the base of her head without the slightest flaw. The
      set of her arms is somewhat formidable by reason of the
      strength of the muscles and the firmness of contour; one
      of her shoulder-straps would make a girdle for the waist
      of a medium-sized woman; but they are very white, very
      clear, and they end in a wrist of childlike fragility
      and tiny dimpled hands--hands which are truly regal,
      fashioned to hold the sceptre and to clasp the dagger's
      hilt in the plays of Æschylus and Euripides."

Thank you, my dear Théophile, for allowing me to quote that splendid
passage, and pardon me for placing you in such bad company. Faugh!

I now return to Geoffroy. He continues:--

      "Talent responded to beauty. The theatre was packed
      throughout and thoroughly excited; the First Consul
      and all his family were in the box to the right of the
      proscenium; he clapped his hands several times, but this
      did not prevent some signs of opposition breaking out at
      the line--

    'Vous savez, et Calchas mille fois vous l'a dit.' ..."

Excuse me! I must again interrupt myself, or rather, I must interrupt
Geoffroy.

The reader knows that it was the custom for the audience to look
forward to the way in which debutantes delivered this line.

Why so? the reader may inquire.

Ah! truly, one does not know these things unless one is compelled to
know them.

I will explain.

Because that line is too simple, and unworthy of tragedy.

You may not, perhaps, have been aware of that, monsieur? Perhaps it
is news to madame, who does me the honour to listen to me? But your
servant Geoffroy, who is obliged to read everything, knew it.

Now, listen carefully; for we have not reached the end. This line
being, from its simplicity, unworthy of tragedy, the audience wanted to
see how the actress, correcting the poet, would treat it.

Mademoiselle Georges did not pretend to possess greater genius than
Racine: she delivered the line simply, and with the most natural
intonation imaginable, since it was written with the simplicity of
passion. The audience dissented; she repeated it with the same accent;
again they demurred.

Fortunately, Raucourt was present, in spite of an accident she had met
with; she had had herself carried to the theatre, and encouraged her
pupil from a little box, concealed behind a harlequin's cloak.

"Be bold, Georgine! Stick to it!" she cried.

And Georgine--it will appear odd to you, I imagine, that Mademoiselle
Georges should ever have been called _Georgine_ repeated the line for
the third time in the same simple and natural accent. The audience
applauded. From that moment her success was assured, as they say in
theatrical parlance.

"The only thing that marred the play (said Geoffroy) was _Talma's lack
of intelligence, proportion and nobility in the part of Achilles._"

I begin to think we must have been deceived in the matter of worthy M.
Geoffroy's impartiality and that he had received before the play a very
significant message from one of the members of the Bonaparte family who
was in the box of the First Consul.

Mademoiselle Georges played the part of Clytemnestra three times
running. It was an immense success. Then she went on to the part of
Aménaïde,--_that maiden attacked with hysterical vapours_, as Geoffroy
said later,--and her popularity went on increasing. Then, after the
rôle of Aménaïde, she took the part of Idamé in _l'Orphelin de la
Chine._

If men wondered how debutantes in the part of Clytemnestra would
deliver the famous line so unworthy of Racine--

    "Vous savez, et Calchas mille fois vous l'a dit...."

women waited just as impatiently for the appearance of debutantes in
the part of Idamé to see how they would dress their hair.

Mademoiselle Georges' hair was arranged very simply _à la
chinoise_--that is to say, with her locks arranged on the top of
her head and tied with a golden ribbon. This arrangement suited her
admirably, so I was told, not by Lucien but by his brother King Jérôme,
a keen appreciator of beauty in all its forms, who, like Raucourt, kept
the habit of calling Georges, _Georgine._

The night that the _Orphelin de la Chine_ was to be played, whilst
Georgine, about whom, at that hour, the whole of Paris was talking,
was partaking of a lentil supper at the _hôtel du Pérou_,--not
because, like Esau, she was fond of this fare, but because there was
nothing else in the house,--Prince Zappia was announced. Who might
Prince Zappia be? Was he, too, a prince among critics? Not so: he was
a real prince, one of those art-loving princes whose line died out
with the Prince de Ligne, a Prince Hénin, one of those princes who
frequented the lounge of the Comédie-Française, as Prince Pignatelli
did the lounge of the Opéra. The lounge of the Comédie-Française was,
apparently, a wonderful place in those days--I only saw the remains of
it.

After each great representation--and every time such actors as Talma,
Raucourt, Contat, Monvel or Molé played was a great occasion--all the
noted people in the artistic, diplomatic or aristocratic circles went
to have a few minutes' chat in the box of the hero or of the heroine of
the evening; then they returned to the lounge and joined the general
company there.

Bonaparte's budding Court, which made such efforts to establish
itself as a Court, was rarely as brilliant as the lounge of the
Théâtre-Français.

We were privileged to witness the fading light of those brilliant days
when it shone on the box of Mademoiselle Mars.

All came to these assemblies in full dress. There were scarcely
any who had not their own footstools, chairs and lounges. These
were very formal occasions and, indeed, to be called a "_dame de la
Comédie-Française_" meant a great deal; people still remember the
occasion of the first attack upon this crusted etiquette.

It was Mademoiselle Bourgoin who broke through it, by asking for some
cakes and a glass of Alicante. The old members of the company raised
their hands to Heaven in that day and cried out at such an abomination
of desolation. And their dismay was quite logical: a breach, if not
repaired, is ever apt to grow larger, especially in a theatre. And that
very infraction is responsible for the beer and fried eggs of to-day.

Well, as Georgine was eating her lentils, Prince Zappia was announced
to her. What did Prince Zappia want at such an hour? He came to offer
the key of a suite of rooms in the rue des Colonnes, which he had
furnished since the previous evening at a cost of over fifty thousand
francs. He assured the fair Georgine, as he handed her this key, that
it was the one and only key that existed.

An oath was needed to induce the débutante to leave the _hôtel du
Pérou._ This oath Prince Zappia took. On what did he swear? We don't
know. We inquired of Mademoiselle Georges herself; but she replied to
us, with the magnificent naïvete of a Lucrezia Borgia--

"Why do you wish to know that, my dear fellow? Many people have sworn
oaths to me which they have not kept."

Lucien was not at all pleased at this change of residence. Lucien was
not a prince at that time; Lucien was not wealthy; Lucien made love to
her as a scholar; Lucien laid claim to the position of lover, which is
always a rather difficult matter when one's apartments are dingy and
cupboards bare: he was present one evening, I repeat, when Hermione's
chambermaid came into her apartment, thoroughly scared, and told her
that the First Consul's valet de chambre had come.

The First Consul's valet de chambre? he who had dressed him on the
morning of 18 Brumaire? No! quite another person than Prince Zappia!
They showed the First Consul's valet de chambre in with as much
deference as they would have shown in 1750 to M. Lebel when he visited
Madame Dumesnil.

The First Consul awaited Hermione at Saint-Cloud. Hermione was to come
as she was: she could change her clothes there. The invitation was
curt, but quite characteristic of the First Consul's manners.

Antony, it will be remembered, bade Cleopatra join him in Cilicia.
Bonaparte might well beg Hermione to join him at Saint-Cloud. The
Grecian princess was not prouder than the Queen of Egypt; Hermione
was not less beautiful than Cleopatra, and ought to have been taken
down the Seine in a gilded galley, just as the Queen of Egypt ascended
the Cydnus. But that would have taken too long: the First Consul was
impatient to pay his addresses and, admitting the weakness artistes
have for flattery, the débutante was probably in no less hurry to
receive them.

Hermione reached Saint-Cloud half an hour after midnight, and left
it at six in the morning. She came out victorious as Cleopatra: like
Cleopatra, she had had the conqueror of the world at her feet. But the
conqueror of the world, who thought it astonishing that a débutante,
whom his brother had told him lived in the _hôtel du Pérou_, drank
water and lived on lentils, should possess an English veil worth a
hundred louis and a cashmere shawl worth a thousand crowns, tore in
pieces, in a fit of jealousy, both the cashmere shawl and the English
veil.

I have often argued with Georges that this was not done out of
jealousy, but simply for the fun of the thing. She always persisted it
was done out of jealousy, and I had not the desire to contradict her.

Some days after Georgine's little nocturnal journey, the rumour of her
triumph leaked out; she was playing the part of Émilie, and when she
declaimed, in accents of true Roman pride, the line--

"Si j'ai séduit Cinna, j'en séduirai bien d'autres...." the whole
audience turned towards the First Consul's box and burst into applause.

From that night there sprang up two dramatic, and almost political,
factions in the Théâtre-Français: the partisans of Mademoiselle
Georges, and the partisans of Mademoiselle Duchesnois--the _Georgians_,
and the _Carcassians._ The word _Carcassians_ was doubtless substituted
for _Circassians_ as being more expressive. But what is the meaning of
the word? Upon my word, I dare not say: I leave it to the investigation
of savants and the research of etymologists. Lucien Bonaparte, Madame
Bacciochi and Madame Lætitia were at the head of the _Georgians_;
Joséphine flung herself headlong into the _Carcassian_ party;
Cambacérès remained neutral.


[1] Montmartre.

[2] Le vent.

[3] Le blé.

[4] Galatée ayant été nymphe, _Vauvres, qu'habite Galatée_, signifie:
Vauvres où il y a des bergers.

[5] Façon poétique de dire qu'il y a une manufacture de porcelaines à
Sèvres.



CHAPTER III


Imperial literature--The _Jeunesse de Henri IV_.--Mercier
and Alexandre Duval--The _Templiers_ and their author--César
Delrieu--Perpignan--Mademoiselle Georges' rupture with the
Théâtre-Français--Her flight to Russia--The galaxy of kings--The
tragédienne acts as ambassador


In this same year, 1802, Georges was engaged at the Théâtre-Français
under Bonaparte's protection, and Duchesnois under Joséphine's, at
a salary of four thousand francs each. Six months later they were
practically members of the company. This was the very highest favour
that could be bestowed on them; and it was owing to the influence of
Bonaparte on the one side, and that of Joséphine on the other, that
this double result was attained.

"How was it that Napoleon came to desert you?" I asked Georges one day.

"He left me to become an emperor," she replied.

Indeed, the events which set France agog after the débuts of Georges
and of Duchesnois as tragedy princesses, was the début of Napoleon as
emperor.

This last début was certainly not free from intrigues: kings mocked;
but the great actor who provided the world with the spectacle of his
usurpation silenced them at Austerlitz, and from that time until
the retreat from Russia it must be acknowledged that he carried his
audience with him.

Meanwhile, the literature of the Empire held on in its own course.

In 1803, Hoffmann's _Roman d'une heure_ was played. In 1804,
_Shakespeare amoureux_ by Alexandre Duval, _Molière avec ses amis_
by Andrieux, and the _Jeune Femme colère_ of Étienne were played.
In 1805, the _Tyran domestique_ and the _Menuisier de Livonie_ of
Alexandre Duval were played; Charon's _Tartufe de mœurs_, Bouilly's
_Madame de Sévigné_ and the _Filles à marier_ of Picard; and in 1806
appeared Picard's _Marionnettes_, Alexandre Duval's _Jeunesse de Henri
V._ _Omasis_ or _Joseph en Égypte_ by Baour-Lormian and the _Templiers_
by Raynouard.

The two greatest successes of this last period were the _Templiers_
and the _Jeunesse de Henri V._ The _Jeunesse de Henri V._ was borrowed
from an extremely light comedy. This comedy, which was printed and
published but not played, was called _Charles II, dans un certain
lieu._ One phrase only of Mercier disturbed Alexandre Duval. Mercier
had quarrelled with the Comédie-Française, and it had sworn, in its
offended dignity, that never should a play by Mercier be acted in the
theatre of the rue de Richelieu.

On the night of the representation of the _Jeunesse de Henri V_.,
Alexandre Duval strutted up and down the lounge. Mercier came up to
him and, touching him on the shoulder, said, "And so, Duval, the
Comédie-Français declared they would never play anything more of mine,
the idiots!"

Alexandre Duval scratched his ear, went home, had the jaundice and
wrote nothing for two years.

But the real success of the year, the literary success, was the
_Templiers._ This tragedy was indeed the most remarkable dramatic
work of the whole period of the Empire; it had, besides, an enormous
success, produced piles of money, and, I believe, carried its author at
one bound into the Academy.

The part of the queen was the second rôle Mademoiselle Georges had
created since her first appearance at the Français four years before.
At that time tragic creations were, as will have been observed, rare.
Her first rôle had been as Calypso in the tragedy of _Télémaque._ Who
ever, the reader will ask, could make a tragedy out of _Télémaque_?

A certain M. Lebrun. But, upon my word, I am like Napoleon and in
danger of deluding myself. Was it _Lebrun-Pindare_? Was it Lebrun the
ex-Consul? Was it Lebrun the future Academician, peer of France,
director of the imperial printing-house? I really do not know. But I
do know that the crime was perpetrated. Peace be to the culprit, and
whether dead or alive, may he sleep a sleep as calm and as profound
as his tragedy, wherein Mademoiselle Duchesnois played the rôle of
Télémaque to Georges' Calypso, and which, in spite of the combined
talent of these two great actresses, failed as completely as did the
_Cid d'Andalousie,_ twenty years later, in spite of the combined
efforts of Talma and of Mademoiselle Mars.

As we were present at the first representation of the _Cid
d'Andalousie_, we know who its author was. His name was Pierre Lebrun.
Napoleon was delighted with the immense success of the _Templiers._ He
continued each year to demand his three hundred thousand conscripts
from the Minister for War and his poet from the Chancellor of the
University.

He fancied he had found his poet in M. Raynouard. Unluckily, M.
Raynouard was so busy all the week that he could only become a poet on
Sunday. His occupation, therefore, prevented him from producing more
than three tragedies: the _Templiers_, of which we have spoken; the
_États de Blois_, which was not so good as the _Templiers_; and _Caton
d'Utique_, which was not so good as the _États de Blois_. Napoleon
was desperate. He went on clamouring for his three hundred thousand
conscripts and his poet.

In 1808, after four years' reign, he possessed M. Raynouard and
M. Baour-Lormian, the author of the _Templiers_ and the author of
_Omasis_. This was only at the rate of half a poet a year. A reign of
fourteen years should have produced him a Pleiad.

We are not speaking of the poets of the Republic, of the Chéniers, the
Ducis, the Arnaults, the Jouys, the Lemerciers: they were not poets
of Napoleon's creation. And Napoleon was rather like Louis XIV., who
counted only the dukes of his own creation.

It was about this time that the scouts despatched by M. de Fontanes
began to make a great row about a new poet whom they had just
discovered, and who was putting the finishing touches to a tragedy.
This poet's name was Luce de Lancival. We have already spoken of him,
when relating what he did and what Napoleon said to him. This worthy
M. Luce de Lancival had already committed two youthful indiscretions
called _Mucius Scævola_ and ... and ... upon my word! I have forgotten
the other title; but these indiscretions were so small, and their fall
had been so great, that no questions arose concerning them.

Unfortunately, Luce de Lancival laid great store by _Hector._ He was
appointed professor in belles-lettres and he intended to "profess."
This was the third poet who came to nothing in Napoleon's hands.

A great event had taken place at the Théâtre-Français during the
preceding year, in connection with the production of the tragedy of
_Artaxercès._ There was a certain individual in Paris who, each time
Napoleon asked for a poet, touched his hat and said, "Here am I!"
This was César Delrieu, author of the aforesaid tragedy. We knew him
thoroughly. Heaven could not possibly have gifted anyone with less
talent, or more ingenuous self-conceit and evident pride. The sayings
of Delrieu form a repertory which hardly has its equal, unless in the
archives of the family of Calprenède. We also knew a young lad called
Perpignan, who met with every kind of misadventure, and who ended
by becoming the censor. His task was to attend the final rehearsals
of plays in order to see that there was nothing in the dress of the
actors that might offend morality, nothing in their acting which
might bring the Government into contempt and lead to the upheaval of
the established order of things. Once in his lifetime he had a piece
performed at the Gymnase which failed egregiously, and in connection
with which Poirson never ceased to reproach him, on account of the
expense to which he had been put over a stuffed parroquet. The play
was called the _Oncle d'Amérique_, and by inscribing Perpignan upon
the roll of men of letters, it made him, nolens volens, hail-fellow
with such men as M. de Chateaubriand and M. Viennet. Let us hasten to
add, to the credit of Perpignan, that he did not take advantage of this
privilege as a rule, except to make a jest of himself. Still, he did
take advantage of it.

One night he met Delrieu, as he was ascending the magnificent staircase
that led to the lounge of the Odéon.

"Good-evening, confrère," he said.

"Simpleton!" replied the annoyed Delrieu.

"That is exactly the light in which I view it myself," responded
Perpignan, in the most gracious manner imaginable.

When _Artaxercès_ was again put on the stage, at the time when we saw
it, and after Delrieu had clamoured for its revival for twenty years,
the play, notwithstanding its being cracked up by its author, was what
is called in theatrical parlance _a dead failure (un four complet)._

A fortnight later he was met by one of his friends, who said to him--

"So you have made it up with the Comédiens français?"

"With them? Never!"

"What have they done to you now?"

"What have they done to me? Think of it, the scoundrels! ... You know
my _Artaxercès_, a chef-d'œuvre?"

"Yes."

"Well, they played it on just those days when the house is at its
emptiest!"

And he never forgave the bad turn played him by the gentlemen of the
Comédie-Française.

But Delrieu's sayings would lead us too far astray. Let us go back from
the revival of _Artaxercès_ to its first performance, which will bring
us to 30 April 1808.

Mademoiselle Georges had created the rôle of Mandane, and had played
it four times; but on the day of the fifth performance an ominous
rumour spread through the theatre, and from the theatre out into the
town. Mandane had disappeared. A satrap more powerful than Arbaces had
carried her off--His Majesty the Emperor of All the Russias.

The Russians have never had any other aristocratic literature than
ours: Russians do not usually speak Russian; instead of this, they talk
much better French than we do.

The Théâtre-Français was rich in crowned heads at this period.
In tragedy queens alone it could boast Mademoiselle Raucourt,
Mademoiselle Duchesnois and Mademoiselle Georges.

The Emperor Alexander naturally considered that the rich should
lend to the poor. Besides, the Russians had just lost Austerlitz
and Eylau, and they felt quite entitled to some compensation. The
business was arranged through the intermediary of the exalted Russian
diplomatic corps. M. de Nariskin, who fulfilled the functions of Grand
Chamberlain, commissioned M. de Beckendorf, on behalf of the emperor,
to arrange the flight. It was conducted with the utmost secrecy.
Nevertheless, the telegraph wires along the route to the North were
busily at work within twenty-four hours after the disappearance of
Mademoiselle Georges.

But, as everyone knows, actresses who escape from the Théâtre-Français
fly on faster wings than those of the telegraph, and not one has ever
been overtaken. So Mademoiselle Georges entered Kehl just as the
news of her flight reached Strassbourg. This was the first defection
the Emperor Napoleon had experienced; that Hermione, the ungrateful
Hermione, should go over to the enemy! Mademoiselle Georges did not
stop until she reached Vienna and the salon of Princess Bagration;
but, as we were at peace with Austria, the French Ambassador bestirred
himself, and laid claim to Mademoiselle Georges; this was equivalent,
in diplomatic terms, to a _casus belli_, and Mademoiselle Georges
received an invitation to continue her journey.

If the reader does not know what a _casus belli_ is, he can learn it
from M. Thiers. During the lifetime of two or three ministries M.
Thiers presented two or three _casus belli_ to the Powers, to which the
Powers paid not the slightest attention. Consequently they came back to
him, quite fresh and unused.

Four days later, the fugitive stopped at the house of the governor of
Vilna, where she made her second halt, to the accompaniment of applause
from all the Polish princesses, not only in Poland, but throughout
the world. It is a well-known fact that no persons are so abundantly
scattered abroad over the face of the earth as Polish princesses,
unless it be Russian princes. Ten days later, Mademoiselle Georges was
in St. Petersburg.

When she had appeared at Peterhof before the Emperor Alexander, before
his brothers Constantine, Nicolas and Michel, before the reigning
empress and the dowager empress, Mademoiselle Georges, preceded
by the reputation of her great fame, appeared at the theatre in
St. Petersburg. It goes without saying that at the theatre of St.
Petersburg the orthodox style of drama was in vogue. Alexander might
carry off Napoleon's actors; but, alas! he could not carry away his
poets: poets were too rare in France for Napoleon not to keep an eye on
those he possessed. Chateaubriand and Madame de Staël, the two great
poets of the time, travelled abroad much; but they were not dramatic
poets.

So _Mérope, Sémiramis, Phèdre, Iphigénie_ and _Andromaque_ were played
in St. Petersburg, with more pertinacity even than they were in Paris.
Nevertheless, if literature lagged behind, politics, at all events,
kept to the front.

Napoleon conquered Prussia in a score of days: he dated his decree
concerning the Continental blockade from Berlin, and made his brother
Jérôme, King of Westphalia, his brother Joseph, King of Spain, his
brother Louis, King of Holland, his brother-in-law Murat, King of
Naples, his son-in-law Eugène, Viceroy of Italy. In exchange, he
deposed an empress. Joséphine, relegated to Malmaison, had yielded
her position to Marie-Louise. The great conqueror, the wonderful
strategist, the superb politician, had not realised that, whenever
a King of France joined hands with Austria, misfortune dogged his
footsteps. Be that as it may, the terrible future was still hidden
behind the golden clouds of hope. On 20 March 1811, Marie-Louise gave
birth, in the presence of twenty-three persons, to a child upon whose
fair head his father placed the crown which, nineteen centuries before,
Antony had offered to Cæsar.

Europe at this period had, after the fashion of the Northern oceans, a
few days of calm between two gigantic storms, on which it could think
of poetry. During one of these days of calm the Emperor Napoleon gave
a reception at Erfürt to all the crowned heads of Europe. His old
and faithful friend, the King of Saxony, lent his kingdom for this
sumptuous entertainment.

Napoleon invited the kings and queens of art as well as the kings
and queens of this world. Princes crowned with golden or bay crowns,
princesses crowned with diamonds or with roses, flocked to the
rendezvous.

On 28 September 1808, _Cinna_ was performed before the Emperor
Napoleon, the Emperor Alexander and the King of Saxony. On the
following day, the 29th, _Britannicus_ was played. In that interval of
twenty-four hours, the august assembly was increased by Prince William
of Prussia, Duke William of Bavaria and Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg,
who, later, was to lose three crowns at one fell blow, through the
death of his wife, the Princess Royal of England, and the child which,
mother-like, she took away to the grave with her: with them, he lost
that famous trident of Neptune which Lemierre called _the sceptre of
the world._

On 2 October, Goethe arrived upon the scene. He had the right to
present himself: of all the names of princes we have just mentioned
(without wishing to hurt the feelings of the gentlemen of the rue de
Grenelle) the name of the author of _Faust_ is perhaps the only one
which will survive.

On the 3rd, _Philoctète_ was played. It was during this performance
that Alexander held out his hand to Napoleon at the line--

    "L'amitié d'un grand homme est un bienfait des dieux!"

--the hand that, three years later, he was to withdraw, and for want
of which Napoleon floundered in snow and bloodshed from Moscow to
Waterloo. During the second act of _Philoctète_ the King of Wurtemberg
arrived, but no one troubled to make way for him. He took his place on
one of the seats reserved for kings.

On 4 October, _Iphigénie en Aulide_ was played. The King and the Queen
of Westphalia arrived during the piece.

Next day, _Phèdre_ was performed. The King of Bavaria and the
Prince-Primate arrived during the matinée.

On the 6th, the _Mort de César_ was represented. The crowned audience
was in full swing. There were present two emperors, three kings, one
queen, twenty princes and six grand dukes.

After the play, the emperor said to Talma--

"I have kept the promise at Erfürt that I gave you in Paris, Talma; I
have made you play before an audience of kings."

On 14 October, the anniversary of the battle of Jena, Napoleon left
Erfürt, after having given the cross of the Legion of Honour to Goethe.

Four years later, almost to the day, Napoleon entered the capital of
the Russian empire in the guise of its conqueror. He dictated a decree
from the Kremlin, written by the flickering light of the burning city,
regulating the interests of the company of the rue de Richelieu.
Henceforth it was war to the death between the two men who had met at
Tilsit on the same raft; who had sat side by side at Erfürt; who were
called by the names of Charlemagne and Constantine; who divided the
world into two parts, appropriating to themselves respectively the East
and the West, both of whom were to die in a tragic fashion within five
years of each other, the one in the midst of the Atlantic Ocean, the
other on the shores of the Sea of Azov.

The actors of the Comédie-Française learnt at St. Petersburg the news
of the emperor's entry into Moscow. They could not stay in an enemy's
capital; they obtained leave to go, and set out for Stockholm, which
they reached after a three weeks' journey in sledges.

A Frenchman reigned in Sweden, or rather held the crown above the
head of the old Duke of Sudermania, who was king for the time
being. Bernadotte received the fugitives, as they had received his
fellow-countryman Henri IV. The actors made a halt of three months in
Sweden, our ancient ally, which, under a French king, became our enemy.
They then left for Stralsund, where they made a sojourn of a fortnight.
On the night before their departure, M. de Camps, Bernadotte's orderly
staff officer, sought out Mademoiselle Georges. Hermione was to be
utilised as ambassador's courier. M. de Camps brought a letter from
Bernadotte; it was addressed to Jérôme-Napoleon, King of Westphalia.
This letter was of the very highest importance; they did not know
how best to conceal it. Women are never at a loss in hiding letters.
Hermione hid the letter among the busks of her corset. The busk of a
woman's corset is the sheath of her sword.

M. de Camps retired only half satisfied; swords were so easily drawn
from their sheaths in those days. The ambassador in petticoats left
in a carriage that had been presented to her by the crown prince. She
held a jewel-case on her lap which contained upwards of three hundred
thousand francs worth of diamonds. One does not spurn three crowns
without getting some windfall or other. The diamonds in the casket,
and the letter among the busks, arrived safely at a destination within
two days' journey from Cassel, the capital of the new kingdom of
Westphalia. They travelled night and day. The letter was urgent, the
diamonds were such a source of fear!

Suddenly, in the dead of night, the clatter of horses' hoofs was heard,
and the gleam of a forest of lances appeared. A terrific shouting
arose: they had fallen into the midst of a swarm of Cossacks. A crowd
of hands were already stretched towards the carriage door, when a young
Russian officer appeared. Not even Hippolytus looked more beautiful
in the eyes of Phedra. Georges introduced herself. Do you recollect
the story of Ariosto, the picture which shows the bandits on their
knees? Genuflexion before a young actress was far more natural than
before a poet forty years old. The band of enemies became a friendly
escort, which did not leave the beautiful traveller until she reached
the French outposts. When once she was under the protection of these,
Georges and the letter and the diamonds were safe. They reached Cassel.
King Jérôme was at Brunswick. They set out for Brunswick.

King Jérôme was a very gallant king, very handsome, very young; he was
hardly twenty-eight years of age; he did not seem to be in any great
haste to receive the letter from the Crown Prince of Sweden. I do not
know whether he received the letter or whether he took it. I do know
that the lady-courier spent a day and a night in Brunswick. It will be
readily admitted that she required at least twenty-four hours to rest
after such an adventurous journey.



CHAPTER IV


The Comédie-Française at Dresden--Georges returns to
the Théâtre-Français--The _Deux Gendres_--_Mahomet
II._--_Tippo-Saëb_--1814--Fontainebleau--The allied armies enter
Paris--Lilies--Return from the isle of Elba--Violets--Asparagus
stalks--Georges returns to Paris


Mademoiselle Georges left for Dresden the day after her arrival
at Brunswick. The giant who had been confounded at Beresina had,
Anteus-like, recovered his strength as he neared Paris. Napoleon left
Saint-Cloud on 15 April 1813. He stopped on the 16th at Mayence, left
it on the 24th, and reached Erfürt the same day.

Napoleon was still in command of forty-three millions of men at this
time, and had as his allies against Russia all the kings who had been
present at the theatrical entertainments recently mentioned by us. But
Napoleon had lost his prestige. The first bloom of his glory had been
smirched; the invincible one had been proved vulnerable. The snowy
campaign of 1812 had chilled all the friendships professed towards him.
Prussia set the example of defection.

On 3 May--that is to say, eighteen days after his departure from
Paris--Napoleon despatched couriers to Constantinople, Vienna and Paris
from the battlefield of Lutzen, where slept twenty thousand Russians
and Prussians, to announce a fresh victory. Saxony had been won back in
a single battle. On 10 May, the emperor installed himself at Dresden,
in the Marcolini Palace. On the 12th, the King of Saxony, who had taken
refuge on the frontiers of Bohemia, returned to his capital. On the
18th, Napoleon proposed an armistice.

As it was ignored, he fought and won the battles of Bautzen and of
Lutzen on the 20th and 21st. On 10 June, the emperor returned to
Dresden, still in hopes of the desired armistice.

On 16 June, MM. de Beausset and de Turenne were appointed to look after
the Comédie-Française. M. de Beausset's work was to see to the stage
management of the theatre, to obtain lodgings for the actors and to
arrange the repertory. M. de Turenne took upon him the invitations and
all matters connected with court etiquette. On 19 June, the company of
the Comédie-Française arrived. It consisted of the following actors and
actresses: MM. Fleury, Saint-Phal,

Baptiste junior, Armand, Thénard, Vigny, Michot, Bartier; and Mesdames
Thénard, Émilie Contat, Mézeray, Mars and Bourgoin. We have followed
the observances of etiquette _à la_ M. de Turenne, and placed these
gentlemen and ladies in the order of their seniority.

All was ready to receive them by 15 June. Lodgings, carriages and
servants had all been hired in advance. An hour after their arrival,
the thirteen artistes were duly installed. At midnight, on the
following day, Mademoiselle Georges also arrived in Dresden. By one
o'clock the Duc de Vicence had taken up his residence with her. The
next day, at seven o'clock in the morning, she was received by the
emperor. That very day, a courier was sent off to command Talma
and Saint-Prix to set out for Dresden instantly, no matter in what
part of France they might be when the order reached them. The order
reached Saint-Prix in Paris, and found Talma in the provinces. Twelve
days after, Talma and Saint-Prix arrived, and the company of the
Comédie-Française was complete.

A theatre had been arranged for comedy in the orangery belonging to the
palace occupied by the emperor.

Tragedies, which require far more staging and much more scenery, were
to be performed in the town theatre. The first representation of comedy
took place on 22 June; it consisted of the _Gageure imprévue_ and
the _Suites d'un bal masqué._. The first representation of tragedy
was _Phèdre_, played on the 24th. But these entertainments were very
different from those at Erfürt! A veil of sadness had crept over the
past; a cloud of fear hung over the future. People remembered Beresina;
they foresaw Leipzig. Talma looked in vain among the audience for the
kings who had applauded him at Erfürt. There was only the old and
faithful King of Saxony, the last of those crowned heads who remained
true to Napoleon.

The performances lasted from 22 June until 10 August. The emperor
invited either Talma or Mademoiselle Mars or Mademoiselle Georges to
lunch with him most mornings. They talked of art. Art had always filled
an important place in Napoleon's mind. He was in this respect not
only the successor, but also the heir to Louis XIV. It was on these
occasions that he gave expression to those incisive appreciations
peculiar to himself, and to his opinions on men and on their works.
It must have been fine indeed to listen to Napoleon's appreciation of
Corneille and his criticism of Racine. And it should be remembered
that, to be able to speak of Corneille or of Racine, his powerful mind
had to put aside for the moment all thought of the material world
which was beginning to press heavily upon him. It is true that he was
continually being deluded by hopes of peace; but on the evening of 11
August all hopes of that nature were dispelled.

On the 12 th, at three o'clock in the morning, M. de Beausset received
the following letter from Alexandre Berthier, Prince of Neuchâtel:--

      "MY DEAR BEAUSSET,--The emperor commands me to tell you
      that the French actors who are here must leave either
      to-day or to-morrow morning at the latest, to return to
      Paris. Have the goodness to inform them of this.--Yours,
      etc.,

                                                  "ALEXANDRE"

The actors left, and then the battle of Leipzig took place. The
Empire's dying struggle had begun. The actors meanwhile returned
to Paris. Mademoiselle Georges resumed her ascendency at the
Comédie-Française, after an absence of five years. Raucourt, though
still alive, had practically abandoned her career. For a long time
past the theatrical life had weighed upon her; she only acted when
obliged, and remained almost all the year round in the country. When
Mademoiselle Georges was reinstalled, it was arranged that she should
become a full member of the company, and her absence was reckoned
as though she were present. She reappeared as Clytemnestre when she
was still only twenty-eight years of age. Her success was immense.
There had not been many changes during those last five years at the
Théâtre-Français. The important pieces played during the absence of
Mademoiselle Georges were, _Hector_ and _Christophe Colombo_ to which
we have referred; the _Deux Gendres,_ by M. Étienne; _Mahomet II_., by
M. Baour-Lormian; and _Tippo-Saëb,_ by M. de Jouy.

The success of the _Deux Gendres_ was not contested, and it could not
be contested. But since people must always contest some point or other
in the case of an author of any merit, the paternity of M. Étienne's
comedy was contested.

A worm-eaten manuscript written by a forgotten Jesuit was dragged out
of some bookcase or other, and it was said that M. Étienne had robbed
this unlucky Jesuit. It should be stated that the plot of the _Deux
Gendres_ was the same that Shakespeare had utilised two centuries
before, in _King Lear_, and that M. de Balzac made use of twenty-five
years later, in _Père Goriot._ All these polemical discussions greatly
annoyed M. Étienne, and probably hindered him from writing a sequel to
the _Deux Gendres. Mahomet II._ met with but indifferent success: the
play was lifeless and dull.

Nevertheless, M. Baour-Lormian was a meritorious writer: he left, or
rather he will leave, a few poems charged with melancholy feeling, all
the more striking as such a sentiment was entirely unknown during the
Empire, which can offer us, in this respect, nothing save the _Chute
des Feuilles_ by Millevoie, and the _Feuille de Rose_ by M. Arnault.
Besides, the _Chute des Feuilles_ was written before, and the _Feuille
de Rose_ after, the Empire.

Let me quote a few of M. Baour-Lormian's pleasant lines:--

    "Ainsi qu'une jeune beauté
    Silencieuse et solitaire,
    Du sein du nuage argente
    La lune sort avec mystere....
    Fille aimable du ciel, à pas lents et sans bruit,
    Tu glisses dans les airs où brille ta couronne;
    Et ton passage s'environne
    Du cortège pompeux des soleils de la nuit....
    Que fais-tu loin de nous, quand l'aube blanchissante
    Efface, à nos yeux attristés,
    Ton sourire charmant et tes molles clartés?
    Vas-tu, comme Ossian, plaintive et gémissante,
       Dans l'asile de la douleur
    Ensevelir ta beauté languissante?
    Fille aimable du ciel, connais-tu le malheur?"

We must now return to Mademoiselle Georges.

Mademoiselle Georges, as we have remarked, found, it seems, the
Théâtre-Français pretty much as she had left it. She resumed her old
repertory. Is it not curious that during the nine years she was at the
Théâtre-Français Mademoiselle Georges, who has created so many rôles
since, only created those of Calypso and of Mandane there?...

All this time, the horizon in the North was growing darker and darker:
Prussia had betrayed us; Sweden had deserted us; Saxony had been
involved in the rout at Leipzig; Austria was recruiting her forces
against us. On 6 January 1814, Joachim Murat, King of Naples, signed
an armistice with England, the expiration of which had to be notified
three months in advance. On the 11th, he promised the Emperor of
Austria to go to war against France with thirty thousand men; in
exchange for which the Austrian monarch guaranteed the throne of Naples
to him and his heirs.

Napoleon then began the marvellous campaign of 1814, that titanic
struggle in which a single man and one nation faced two emperors, four
kings and six nations of the first rank, including Russia, England,
Prussia and Spain.

If we turn over the pages of the repertory of the Théâtre-Français
for the whole of the year 1814, the only new play we shall find is the
_Hôtel garni_, a comedy in one act, and in verse, by Désaugiers.

Meanwhile, at each fresh victory, Napoleon lost a province. Driven-to
bay at Fontainebleau, he abdicated. Three days later, the allied forces
marched into Paris, and Napoleon left for the isle of Elba. There were
still two factions at the Comédie-Française, as there had been during
the time of the Revolution. Talma, Mars and Georges remained loyally
faithful to the emperor. Raucourt, Mademoiselle Levert, Madame Volnais
espoused the Royalist cause. Raucourt was the first to tear down the
eagle which decorated the imperial box. Poor soul! she little knew that
those whom she helped to recall would refuse her Christian burial, one
year later!

The same kings who had been present at the Erfürt representations,
as Napoleon's guests and friends, came as enemies and conquerors to
see the same plays in Paris. Everybody knows the terrible reaction
that took place at first against the Empire. The actors who remained
faithful to the emperor were not persecuted, but they were made to
exclaim as they came on the stage, "Vive le roi!"

One day Mademoiselle Levert and Madame Volnais outdid even the
exacting demands of the public: they came on the stage, in the _Vieux
Célibataire_, with huge bouquets of lilies in their hands.

So things went on until 6 March 1815. On that day a strange,
incredible, unheard-of rumour spread through Paris, and, from Paris, to
all the four quarters of the earth. Napoleon had landed. Many hearts
trembled at the news; but few were more agitated than those of the
faithful actors who had not forgotten that once, when he was master of
the world and emperor he had conversed upon art and poetry with them.

Nevertheless, nobody dared express his joy: hope was faint, the truth
of the rumour uncertain.

According to the official newspapers, Napoleon was wandering, hunted
and beaten, among the mountains, where he could not avoid being
captured before long. Truth, like everything that is real, makes
itself seen in the end. A persistent rumour came from Gap, from
Sisteron, from Grenoble; the fugitive of the _Journal des Débats_ was
a conqueror round whom the people rallied in intoxicated delight.
Labédoyère and his regiment, Ney and his army corps rallied round him.
Lyons had opened its gates to him, and from the heights of Fourvières
the imperial eagle had started on the flight which, from tower to
tower, was to bring it at last to the towers of Nôtre Dame.

On 19 March, the Tuileries was evacuated: a courier was sent to carry
this news to Napoleon, who was at Fontainebleau. People expected him
all day long on the 20th; they felt confident that he would make a
triumphal entry along the boulevards. Mars and Georges had taken a
window at Frascati's. They wore hats of white straw, with enormous
bunches of violets in them. They attracted much notice, for it was
known that they had been persecuted for a year at the Comédie-Française
on account of their attachment to the emperor.

The bouquets of violets symbolised the month of March: the King of
Rome's birthday was in the month of March, and also the return of
Napoleon. From that day violets became a badge. People wore violets in
all sorts of fashions--in hats, hanging by their sides, as trimmings
to dresses. Some, more fanatic than others, wore a gold violet in
their buttonholes, as an order of chivalry. There was quite as great a
reaction against the Bourbons as there had been in their favour a year
before.

When Talma, Mars and Georges appeared, they were overwhelmed with
applause. Georges saw the emperor again at the Tuileries. By dint of
his powerful character, Napoleon seemed to have put everything behind
him. One might have said he had not left the château of Catherine de
Médicis save, as had been his custom, to bring back news of a fresh
victory. The only thing that distressed him was that they had taken
away some of his favourite pieces of furniture.

He missed greatly a little boudoir, hung with tapestry that had been
worked by Marie-Louise and the ladies of the Court.

"Would you believe it, my dear," he said to Georges, "I found asparagus
stalks on the arm-chairs!" This was the worst with which he reproached
Louis XVIII.

The return of the god was of as short duration as the apparition of a
ghost. Waterloo succeeded Leipzig; Saint-Helena, the isle of Elba. It
was a more terrible, a more melancholy counterpart! Leipzig was but a
wound, Waterloo was death; the isle of Elba was but exile, Saint-Helena
was the tomb!

One might almost say that he carried everything away with him. We again
turn over the leaves of the repertory of the Théâtre-Français and we do
not find any play of importance produced throughout the year 1815. The
lilies reappeared and the poor violets were exiled;--with the violets,
Georges exiled herself. She went to the provinces, where she remained
for several years; she reappeared in 1823, more beautiful than she had
ever been. She was then thirty-eight.

I will find an opportunity to pass in review the men of letters and
the literary works of the Empire, to which, on account of my callow
youth, I have scarcely referred, during the period in which these men
and their works flourished. Indeed, when Georges made her début, the
two men who were to add to her reputation by means of _Christine,
Bérengère_ and _Marguerite de Bourgogne, Marie Tudor_ and _Lucrèce
Borgia_, were still wailing at their mothers' breasts. Taken all round,
whatever people may say, these five rôles were Georges' greatest
successes. Meanwhile, on 12 April 1823, the great actress played in
_Comte Julien_ at the Odéon.



CHAPTER V


The drawbacks to theatres which have the monopoly of a great
actor--Lafond takes the rôle of Pierre de Portugal upon Talma declining
it--Lafond--His school--His sayings--Mademoiselle Duchesnois--Her
failings and her abilities--_Pierre de Portugal_ succeeds


The great day for the representation of _Pierre de Portugal_ came at
last. Talma, preoccupied with his creation of the part of Danville in
the _École des Vieillards_, had declined to take the rôle of Pierre de
Portugal. Lafond had accepted it, and he and Mademoiselle Duchesnois
had to bear the brunt of the whole play. Herein lay the indisputable
test pointed out by Lassagne: could the play possibly succeed without
Talma? The great inconvenience of that _rara avis_, as Juvenal puts
it, or, in theatre parlance, the actor who brings in the receipts, is
that on days when he does not play the theatre loses heavily; plays in
which he does not figure are judged beforehand to be unworthy of public
notice, since they have not been honoured by the actor's concurrence.

At the time to which we are referring the Théâtre-Français was better
off than it is now. One day it made money by Talma's tragic acting; the
next, it made money by Mademoiselle Mars in comedy. Casimir Delavigne
began its downfall by making the two eminent artistes appear together
in the same play and on the same day. As for Lafond and Mademoiselle
Duchesnois, neither apart nor together did they bring in sufficient
receipts.

Lafond would be about forty then: he came out first in 1800, at the
Théâtre-Français, in the part of Achilles. Later, when supported by
Geoffroy, in _Tancrède_, in _Adélaïde Duguesclin_ and in _Zaire_, he
became as successful as Talma. The scurvy race of sheep which we
have always with us, which takes its nutriment in the pastures of
poetry and which is too feeble to form its own opinion based on its
own mental capacity, adopts a judgment ready made wherever it can. It
bleated concerning Lafond, "Lafond is inimitable in the rôle of French
cavalier."

There was always, at this period of the drama, a part called the
French cavalier. This part was invariably played by a person decorated
with a plumed toque, clad in a yellow tunic braided with black,
ornamented with representations of the sun, or of golden palms when
the cavalier was a prince, and wearing buff-leather boots. It was not
imperative that the hero should be French, or wear golden spurs, to
be a French cavalier: the rôle was designed on well defined lines,
and belonged to a particular school. Zamore was a French cavalier,
Orosmane was a French cavalier, Philoctètes was a French cavalier.
The only distinctions between them were as follows: Zamore played in
a cap decorated with peacock feathers, and in a cloak of parrot's
feathers, with a girdle of ostrich plumes. Orosmane played in a long
robe of white taffeta dropping with spangles and trimmed with minever,
in a turban opening out wide like a blunderbuss and decorated with a
crescent of Rhine stones, in red foulard trousers and yellow slippers.
Philoctètes played in a loose coat of red horse-hair, a cuirass of
velvet embroidered with gold, and was furnished with a warlike sword.

Vanhove, in order to play Agamemnon, had a cuirass which cost him a
small fortune, two hundred louis, I believe; it was ornamented by two
trophies, hand-worked--a magnificent bit of work, representing cannons
and drums.

I once said to Lafond--

"M. Lafond, why do you play Zamore in such a shabby girdle? Your
feathers look like fish-bones; they are positively indecent!"

"Young man," replied Lafond, "Zamore is not rich; Zamore is a slave;
Zamore could not afford to buy himself a new girdle every day; I am
true to history."

What was perhaps less true to history was the expansive Stomach which
the girdle enclosed.

Lafond's triumphs in these cavalier parts made Talma nearly die of
envy. One day Geoffroy's articles exasperated him to such a degree
that, on meeting the critic in the wings, he flew at him and bit
him--at the risk of poisoning himself. But as the law of universal
stability decrees that every bullet shall find its billet, the
populace, by degrees, grew tired of Lafond's redundant declamation and
emphatic gestures, which, at the time of which we are speaking, being
used only by a few old-fashioned members of the school of Larive, drew
receipts no longer, even when they played the parts of _chevaliers
français._

Lafond was an odd fellow in other ways besides. Thanks to his Gascon
accent and to his way of saying things, one never knew whether he were
talking nonsense or saying something witty.

He once came into the lounge of the Théâtre-Français when Colson (an
indifferent actor who was often hissed) was blurting out his caricature
of Lafond's trick of over-acting. Colson pulled himself up; but it was
too late: Lafond had heard his voice in the corridor. He made straight
for Colson.

"Eh! Colson, my friend," he said, in that Bordelais accent of which
none but those who have heard and followed it could form any idea,
"they tell me you have been taking me off?"

"Oh! M. Lafond," Colson replied, trying to recover himself, "take you
off?... No, I swear I...."

"All right! all right! that was what I was told.... Come, Colson, do me
a favour."

"What is it, M. Lafond?"

"Act my part before me."

"Oh, M. Lafond...."

"I beg you to do it; I shall really be extremely obliged to you."

"The deuce!" said Colson. "If you really wish it...."

"Yes, I do wish it."

Colson yielded, and began Orosmane's tirade--

    "Vertueuse Zaire, avant que l'hyménée...."

and declaimed it from the first line to the last, with such fidelity
of imitation that one might have thought Lafond himself were declaiming.

Lafond listened to the end with the deepest attention, nodding his head
up and down and expressing his approbation by frequent and obvious
signs.

Then, when Colson had finished, he said, "Well! why ever don't you act
like that, my dear fellow? The public would not hiss you if you did!"

In the interval between the first and second acts of _Pierre de
Portugal_, Lucien Arnault was in the wings; during the second act,
Pierre de Portugal, disguised as a soldier of his army, insinuates
himself unrecognised into the house of Inès de Castro, who takes him
for a common soldier.

Lucien saw Lafond advance in a costume resplendent with gold and jewels.

He ran up to him. "Ah! my dear Lafond," he said, "your costume is all
wrong!"

"Have you anything to say against my costume?"

"Rather, I should just think so."

"But it is blatantly new."

"That is precisely what I take exception to: you have put on the garb
of a prince, not that of a common soldier."

"Lucien," replied Lafond, "listen to this: I would rather arouse envy
than pity." Then, turning haughtily on his heels, no doubt in order
to show the back of his costume to Lucien, since he had shown him the
front, he said, "They can ring: Pierre de Portugal is ready."

When, five years later, I read _Christine_ before the Théâtre-Français,
whether or not Lafond was a member of the committee, or whether he
did not care to trouble himself to listen to the work of a beginner,
I had the misfortune to read it in his absence. Although, as we shall
see in its proper place, the play was rejected, the reading excited
some interest, and it was thought that a drama might be made out of it
sooner or later.

One day I saw the door of my humble office open and M. Lafond was
announced. I raised my head, greatly surprised, unable to imagine
why I should be favoured by a visit from the viceroy of the tragic
stage: it was indeed he! I offered him a chair; but he refused it
with a nod of the head, and stopping close to the door, with his
right foot forward and his left hand resting on his hips, he said,
"Monsieur Dumas, do you happen to have, by any chance, in your play,
a well-set-up gallant who would say to that queer queen Christine,
'Madame, your majesty has no right to kill that poor devil of a
Monaldeschi, for this, that, or any other reason'?"

"No, monsieur, no! I have no such gallant in my play."

"You are quite sure you haven't?"

"Yes."

"In that case I have nothing to say to you.... Good-day, M. Dumas."
And, turning on his heel, he went out as he had entered. He had come
to ask me for the part of this well-set-up gallant, as he called it.
Unfortunately, as I had been compelled to acknowledge, I had no such
part in my play.

In the heyday of his popularity M. Lafond never spoke of Talma, or of
M. Talma: he said, _the other person_.

The Comte de Lauraguais, who had been Sophie Arnould's lover, and who,
like the Marquis de Zimènes, was one of the most constant visitors to
the actors' green-room, said one day to M. Lafond, "M. Lafond, I think
you are too often _the one_ and not often enough _the other?_"

Mademoiselle Duchesnois was quite different from Lafond: she was really
kind-hearted, and her great successes never made her vain. She was
born in 1777, one year before Mademoiselle Mars, at Saint-Saulve, near
Valenciennes, and she changed her name, after her début in _Phèdre_,
in 1802, from Joséphine Ruffin to Duchesnois. We have said that she
was Mile. Georges' rival in everything: her rival on the stage, her
rival in love. Harel was the handsome Paris who was the object of this
rivalry. Harel, who was in turn manager of the theatre de l'Odéon and
of the théâtre de la Porte-Saint-Martin, will play a great part in
these Memoirs--the part that a clever man, be it known, has the right
to play everywhere.

Mademoiselle Duchesnois had had to struggle all her life against
her plain looks: she was like one of those china lions one sees
on balustrades; she had a particularly big nose which she blew
stentoriously, as befitted its size. Lassagne did not dare to go
into the orchestra on days when she acted; he was afraid of being
blown away. On the other hand, she had a marvellous figure, and her
body could have rivalled that of the Venus de Milo. She doted on the
part of Alzire, which allowed her and Lafond to appear almost naked.
She possessed a certain simplicity of mind which her detractors
called stupidity. One day--in 1824--people were busy talking about
the inundation of St. Petersburg, and of the various more or less
picturesque accidents that had occurred through this inundation.

I was in the wings, behind Talma and Mademoiselle Duchesnois, to whom
an actress, who had just arrived from the first, or rather from the
second, capital of the Russian Empire, was relating how one of her
friends, overtaken by the flood, had only had time to climb up on a
crane.

"What! on a crane?" said Mademoiselle Duchesnois, in great
astonishment. "Is it possible, Talma?"

"Oh! my dear," replied the actor questioned so oddly, "no one ought to
know better than yourself that it is done every day."

But, in spite of her ugliness, in spite of her simplicity, in spite of
her hiccough, in spite of her nose-blowing, Mademoiselle Duchesnois
possessed the most profoundly tender inflections in her voice, and
could express such pathetic sorrow, that most of those who saw her in
_Marie Stuart_ prefer her to-day to Mademoiselle Rachel. Especially did
her qualities shine when she played with Talma. Talma was too great an
artiste, too superb an actor to fear being outbidden. Talma gave her
excellent advice, which her fine artistic nature utilised, if not with
remarkable intelligence, at least with easy assimilation.

The poor creature retired from the stage in 1830, after having
struggled as long as she could against the pitiless indifference of the
public, and the cruel hints from other actors which generally embitter
the later years of dramatic artistes. She reappeared once again before
her death in 1835, in _Athalie_ at the Opera, I believe.

It was very sad to see her: it inevitably brought to mind the line from
_Pierre de Portugal_--

    "Inès, vivante ou non, tu seras couronnée!"

Alas! poor Duchesnois was crowned when she was more than half dead. She
had a son, a good honest lad. After the Revolution of July, Bixio and I
got him a sub-lieutenancy; but he was killed, I believe, in Algeria.

The tragedy of _Pierre de Portugal_ was a success; it was even a great
success; but it only ran fifteen or eighteen nights, and did not bring
in any money.

Lassagne was right.



CHAPTER VI


General Riégo--His attempted insurrection--His escape and flight--He is
betrayed by the brothers Lara--His trial--His execution


We have mentioned that the _École des Vieillards_ ought to have come
after _Pierre de Portugal_, but between the comedy and tragedy two
terrible dramas took place in Madrid and Paris. In Madrid they made a
martyr; in Paris they executed a criminal. The martyr's name was Riégo:
the guilty criminal's Castaing.

Riégo was born, in 1783, in the Asturias, so he would be about forty:
he was of a noble but poor family and, since the invasion of 1808, he
had enlisted as a volunteer. He became an officer in the same regiment
in which he had enlisted; he was taken prisoner and led away to France.
Sent back to Spain, when peace was declared, he attained the rank of
lieutenant-colonel in the same regiment, and, leading this regiment
into insurrection, seduced by him, it proclaimed the constitution of
1812 at las Cabesas-de-San-Juan. It will be seen later that it was
desired that his head should be exposed, in order that his mute lips
and the eyes closed by death might bear witness to the fact that
royalty can be cruel for more than a day's span, and common people
ungrateful. On 27 September he was arrested at Cadiz. Let us say a few
words concerning his arrest and death,--the latter especially, for,
alas I it belongs almost to French history. After his last defeat,
General Riégo wandered in the mountains with a score of his comrades,
all of whom belonged, like himself, to the Liberal party. Fifteen of
these fugitives were officers. They were all exhausted by fatigue and
hunger, and did not know either where to look for shelter or from whom
to beg food, when they caught sight of two men. They made straight for
them. These two men were the hermit of the district of Pédrogil and a
native of Valez named Lopez Lara. The general took them aside.

"My friends," he said to them, "you have a chance to win a fortune for
yourselves and your families."

"What must we do to gain it?" the two men asked.

"Conduct me safe and sound to Carolina, to Carboneras and to Novas de
Tolosa."

"And there...?"

"There I shall find friends who will take me on to Estremadura, where I
have business to transact."

Whether the journey appeared to them too long, or whether they fancied
they had to deal with outlaws, the hermit and his companion declined.
So Riégo arrested them, put them on a couple of mules, and told them
that, whether willingly or under compulsion, they would have to act as
guides to his band. The party waited until nightfall and then set forth.

During the march in the darkness, Riégo talked with his comrades
concerning various events that had recently occurred, from which the
hermit and Lopez Lara soon guessed that they were in the company of
the notorious Riégo. From that moment Lopez Lara's whole thoughts were
filled with the idea of handing Riégo over to the Royalist authorities.
When daytime came, they had to stop. They were near the farm of
Baquevisones: Riégo announced that he meant to ask for shelter there,
so he ordered Lara to knock at the door. Lara obeyed. By chance, his
own brother Matéo opened it. Lara perceived that chance had brought him
the assistance he needed. Riégo, realising that too large an escort
might betray him, would only allow three of his comrades to go in with
him. One of these companions was an Englishman, even more daring than
Riégo. He at once locked the door of the farm behind him and put the
key in his pocket. When they had given the horses fodder, they rested
in the stable, each with his naked sword by his side. Three slept,
while the fourth mounted guard. When Riégo awaked, he discovered
that his horse was unshod. He ordered Lopez Lara to shoe the horse
immediately.

"All right," replied he; "but I must take him to Arguillos to get him
shod."

"No," returned Riégo; "you shall stay here and Matéo shall have him
shod. But the farrier shall come here; the horse shall not go to him."

Lopez appeared to conform with indifference to this order; but, as he
transmitted it to his brother, he managed to say--

"The man who owns the horse is General Riégo."

"So ho!" said Matéo; "arrange for him to be at breakfast by the time I
return; do not leave the place where they are or let them out of your
sight."

Matéo returned, and made a sign to his brother that the commission was
executed. Then to Riégo he said--

"Señor, as the farrier will be here in five minutes, you had better
breakfast, if you wish to proceed on your journey directly your horse
is shod."

Riégo went to breakfast without making any objection. But not so the
Englishman.

The Englishman searched the high road with his field-glasses from a
window as far as he could see. Suddenly a score of armed men came into
sight, headed by an _alcade_ (magistrate).

"General," he exclaimed, "we have been betrayed! There are soldiers
coming."

"To arms!" cried Riégo, rising. He had time to utter this cry, but not
to accomplish its fulfilment. Lopez and Matéo seized their guns and
covered the outlaws with them.

"The first man who moves is dead!" cried Lopez.

"All right," said Riégo, "I surrender; but warn the soldiers who are
coming not to harm us, since we are your prisoners."

The soldiers entered, led by the alcade.

"Shake hands, brother, and do us no harm," said Riégo to the alcade.

After some objection, the alcade greeted Riégo. But, in spite of this,
he told him he must bind his hands. Whereupon, Riégo took out of his
pocket all the money he had with him and distributed it among the
soldiers, asking them to treat him mercifully. The alcade, however,
forbade the soldiers to accept anything. A quarter of an hour later,
the civil commandant arrived from Arguillos with a guard, and they took
the prisoners to Andujar.

When the captives entered that town, the people wanted to tear them
limb from limb. Riégo was accompanied by a French officer. When he
arrived in front of the same balcony from which, a year ago, he had
harangued the people, he pointed to the crowd which surrounded him
howling and shaking their fists and knives at him, and in a tone of
profound sadness he said to the officer, "These people whom you see
so relentless towards me, these people who if I had not been under
the protection of your escort would have butchered me long since,
these people carried me here in triumph only last year; the town was
illuminated the whole night through, and the very same individuals whom
I recognise surrounding me here, who then deafened me with cries of
'Vive Riégo!' now shout 'Death to Riégo!'"

He was taken to the seminary of nobles; his trial lasted over a month.
A decree dated 1 October, the very day on which he was freed from
prison and reached the port of Sainte-Marie, degraded the general of
all his honours; consequently, he was tried by a civil court. The King
of Spain gained a twofold advantage by depriving the general of a
military court martial.

First he knew that the civil court would condemn Riégo to death.
Second, if the sentence were pronounced by a civil court, the death
would be ignominious. Vengeance is such a sweet mouthful that it must
not be permitted to lose any of its flavour.

On 4 November they led Riégo from the seminary of nobles to the
prison of la Tour. The court had not obtained all it demanded. The
attorney-general requisitioned that Riégo should be condemned to
the gallows; that his estate should be confiscated and given to the
Commune; that his head should be exposed at las Cabesas de San-Juan;
that his body should be quartered and one quarter sent to Seville,
another to the isle of Leon, the third to Malaga and the fourth
exposed in Madrid, in the usual places for such exhibitions,--"these
towns being," the attorney-general added, "the principal places where
the traitor Riégo scattered the sparks of revolt."

The alcades decided that the mode of death should be by hanging and
that the goods should be confiscated; but they refused the request
concerning the four quarters.

Once, towards the end of the fifteenth century, the inhabitants of
Imola, a small town in the Romagna, found, on waking up, the four
quarters of a man hanging each by a hook at the four corners of
the square. They recognised the man cut into four quarters for a
Florentine, and wrote to the worshipful Republic to advise them of
the unforeseen accident that had overtaken one of its citizens. The
Republic learnt of this by means of Machiavelli, its ambassador to
the Legations. Machiavelli's only reply was as follows: "Noble lords,
I have but one thing to say to you apropos of the corpse of Ramiro
d'Orco, which was found cut up into four quarters in the square of
Imola, and it is this: the illustrious Cæsar Borgia is the prince who
best knows how to deal with men according to their deserts."

It riled the King of Spain not to be able to deal with Riégo as Borgia
had dealt with Ramiro d'Orco; but he had to content himself with the
prisoner being borne to the gibbet on hurdles and with the confiscation
of his property. Even that would be quite a pretty spectacle.

On 5 November at noon Riégo's sentence was read to him: he listened
to it very calmly. This calmness disturbed the judges for it would
set a bad example if Riégo died bravely. They took him to the chapel,
and under pretence that fasting induced penitence sooner than
anything else, they gave him nothing to eat from that time. Two monks
accompanied him to his cell and never left him. At the prison door,
in the street, he could see a table with a crucifix thereon, and
passers-by placed their alms on the table. These alms were destined to
pay the expenses of his mass and funeral.

On the 7th, at nine in the morning, the prison was besieged by over
thirty thousand curious spectators; a much greater number than that
lined the whole of the route, and formed a double line from the prison
square to the square where the execution was to take place.

Riégo had asked that only Spanish troops should be present during his
last moments. This favour was granted him, because France did not wish
to dip one corner of its white flag in the blood of the unlucky Riégo.

At half-past twelve, after fifty hours of fasting, the general was
led forth to the prison door. He was pale and weak. They had stripped
him of his uniform and they had clothed him in a dressing-gown with
a girdle fastened round his waist; his hands and feet were likewise
bound. He was laid on a hurdle, with a pillow under his head. Monks
walked on both sides of this hurdle to administer spiritual consolation
to him. An ass drew the hurdle, led by the executioner. The victim was
preceded and followed by a corps of cavalry.

It was difficult to get a good sight of the general, so great was the
curiosity of the crowd: his head fell forward on his breast, and he had
only sufficient strength to raise it two or three times to reply to the
exhortations of the priests.

The cortège took nearly an hour to get from the prison to the place of
execution. When the foot of the gallows was reached, the general was
raised from the hurdle, covered with dust, and placed on the first step
of the scaffold. There he made his last confession. Then they dragged
him up the ladder; for, his feet being bound, he could not mount it
himself. All the while a priest kept beseeching God to forgive him his
sins, as he forgave those who had trespassed against him. When they
had hauled him a certain height, those who raised the condemned man
stopped. The act of faith was begun and, at the last word, the general
was hurled from the top of the ladder. At the very instant that the
priest pronounced the word _Jésus-Christ_, which was the signal, the
executioner leapt on the shoulders of the martyr, while two men hung
from his legs, completing the hideous group. Twice the shout of "Vive
le roi!" went up, first from the rows of spectators near by; the
second time from a few individuals alone. Then a man leapt from out the
crowd, stepped towards the scaffold, and struck Riégo's body a blow
with his stick. That night they carried the corpse into the nearest
church, and it was interred in the Campo-Santo by the Brothers of
Charity.

Nothing is known of Riégo's last moments, as no one was allowed to come
near him; the monks, his bitterest enemies, being desirous of throwing
all possible odium on his dying moments.

"The last of the Gracchi," according to Mirabeau, "in the act of death,
threw dust steeped in his own blood into the air. Thence was born
Marius."

Riégo left a song; from that song was born a revolution, and from that
revolution the Republic.



CHAPTER VII


The inn of the _Tête-Noire_--Auguste Ballet--Castaing--His trial--His
attitude towards the audience and his words to the jury--His execution


The second drama which happened in Paris, and which was to have its
denouement on the place de Grève, on the same day that the _École des
Vieillards_ was played, was the poisoning of Auguste Ballet.

We have spoken of the death of poor little Fleuriet, who was as
pretty, fresh and flower-like as her name, and who was carried off in
twenty-four hours without any apparent reason for her death. May I be
forgiven the accusation implied in this statement, for it may be a
calumny; but when the facts cited below are considered, the cause of
her death may be guessed.

On 29 May, two young people arrived in what at that period was
called "une petite voiture," and drew up at the _Tête-Noire_ inn, at
Saint-Cloud. They had set off without leaving word where they were
going. Towards nine o'clock in the evening they were installed in a
double-bedded chamber. One of the couple paid a deposit of five francs.
The two friends walked about together the whole of the next day,
Friday, the 30th; they only appeared at the hotel at dinner-time, and
went out again immediately after their repast for another walk. It was
nine o'clock at night before they returned for the second time. When
going upstairs, one of them asked for a half-bottle of mulled wine,
adding that it need not be sugared, as they had brought sugar with
them. The wine was taken up a few minutes after nine, sugared with
the sugar that they had brought, and made tasty with lemons bought in
Saint-Cloud. The same young man who made the five francs deposit for
the room, who ordered the dinner, and forbade the sugar to be brought
upstairs, mixed the sugar and lemon juice in the bowl of warmed wine.

One of the two seemed to be a doctor; for, having heard that one of
the servants of the house was ill, he went upstairs to see him, before
tasting the prepared wine, and felt his pulse. However, he did not
prescribe anything for him, and returned to his friend's room after an
absence of a quarter of an hour. The said friend had found the wine
very nasty, and had only drunk about a tablespoonful of it. He had
stopped short because of the bitter flavour of the beverage. In the
midst of all this, the chambermaid entered. "I must have put too much
lemon in this wine," said the young man, holding the bowl towards her:
"it is so bitter I cannot drink it." The servant tasted it; but she
spat it out as soon as she had had a mouthful of it, exclaiming, "Oh
yes!... rather, you have made it bitter!" Upon which she left the room.
The two friends went to bed.

Throughout the night the young man who had tasted the wine was seized
with violent spasms of nervous shivering, which did not give him a
moment's rest; he complained to his companion several times that he
could not keep himself still. Towards two o'clock, he had fits of
colic and, at daybreak, about half-past three in the morning, he
said he did not think he would be able to get up, that his feet were
on fire and that he could not possibly put on his boots. The other
young man said he would take a turn in the park, and recommended his
friend to try and sleep in the meantime. But, instead of going for a
walk in the park, the young man whose visit to the sick servant led
people to suppose him a doctor, took a carriage, returned to Paris,
bought twelve grains of acetate of morphine from M. Robin, rue de la
Feuillade, and one drachm from M. Chevalier, another chemist, obtaining
them readily in the capacity of a medical man. He returned to the inn
of the _Tête-Noire_ at eight o'clock, after four hours' absence, and
asked for some cold milk for his friend. The sick man felt no better;
he drank the cup of milk prepared by the young doctor, and almost
immediately he was taken with fits of vomiting which rapidly succeeded
each other. Soon he was seized by colic. Strange to say, in spite of
the attack becoming worse, the doctor again left the patient alone,
without leaving any instructions and without appearing to be uneasy
at a condition of things which was arousing the anxiety of strangers.
While he was absent, the hostess of the hotel and the chambermaid went
up to the sick man and did what they could for him. He was in great
agony. The young doctor returned in about half an hour's time. He found
the patient in an alarming condition; he was asking for a doctor,
insisting that one should be fetched from Saint-Cloud, and he opposed
his friend's suggestion that one should be fetched from Paris. He felt
so ill, he said, that he could not wait.

So they ran for the nearest available; but nevertheless it was not
until eleven o'clock in the morning that the doctor whom they went to
seek arrived. His name was M. Pigache.

The sick man was a little easier by that time. M. Pigache asked to
see the evacuations, but he was told that they had been thrown away.
He ordered emollients, but the emollients were not applied. He came
back an hour later and prescribed a soothing draught. The young doctor
administered it himself to the invalid; but the effect it produced
was prompt and terrible: five minutes after, the patient was seized
by frightful convulsions. In the midst of these convulsions he lost
consciousness, and from that moment never regained it.

Towards eleven o'clock at night, the young doctor, weeping bitterly,
informed a servant that his friend could not survive the night. The
servant ran for M. Pigache, who decided, in spite of the short time he
had attended him, to pay the dying man one more visit. He found the
unhappy youth lying on his back, his neck rigidly strained, his head
uncovered, hardly able to breathe; he could neither hear nor feel;
his pulse was slow, his skin burning; his limbs were stiff and rigid,
his mouth clenched; his whole body was running with a cold sweat and
marked with bluish spots. M. Pigache decided he must at once bleed
the patient freely, and he bled him twice--with leeches and with the
lancet. It made the sick man a little easier. M. Pigache pointed this
out to his young confrère, saying that the condition of the dying
man was desperate and that, as the good effect produced by the two
bleedings was so noticeable, he did not hesitate to propose a third.
But this the young doctor opposed, saying that the responsibility was
too great, and that, if the third bleeding ended badly, the whole of
the responsibility for the ending would rest on M. Pigache. Upon this,
the latter peremptorily demanded that a doctor should be sent for from
Paris.

This course would have been quite easy, for, during that very day,
as the result of a letter despatched by the young doctor couched in
the following terms, "M. Ballet being ill at Saint-Cloud, Jean must
come to him at once, in the gig, with the grey horse; neither he nor
mother Buvet must speak a word of this to a single soul; if anybody
makes inquiry, they must say he is going into the country by order of
M. Ballet," Jean, who was a negro servant, arrived with the grey horse
and the gig. In spite of this facility of communication, the young
doctor made out that it was too late to send for a doctor from Paris.
They waited, therefore, until three o'clock, and at three o'clock Jean
started off with two letters from M. Pigache to two of his medical
friends.

M. Pigache left the house, and as the young doctor accompanied him,
he said, "Monsieur, I think no time should be lost in sending for
the priest of Saint-Cloud; your friend is a Catholic and I think so
badly of his condition that you ought to have the last sacraments
administered to him without delay."

The young man recognised the urgency of the advice, and, going himself
to the house of the curé, he brought him back with the sacristan.

The priest found the dying man in the same unconscious condition. "What
is the matter with your unfortunate friend, monsieur?" asked the priest.

"Brain fever," replied the young man.

Then, as the curé was preparing to administer extreme unction, the
young doctor knelt down, and remained in that position, with clasped
hands, praying to God with such fervour that the sacristan could not
refrain from remarking when they had both left, "What a very pious
young man that was!" The young doctor went out after the priest, and
remained away for nearly two hours.

Towards three o'clock, one of the two doctors that had been sent for
arrived from Paris. It was Doctor Pelletan junior. M. Pigache, informed
of his arrival, came and joined his confrère at the bedside of the sick
man. But, after a rapid examination, both concluded that the patient
was beyond human aid.

Nevertheless, they tried various remedies, but without success. All
this time the young doctor appeared to be overcome with the most
poignant grief--a grief that expressed itself in tears and sobs. These
demonstrations of despair impressed M. Pigache all the more because, in
course of conversation, the young doctor had said to him, "I am all the
more unhappy as I am my unfortunate friend's legatee."

Thereupon M. Pelletan, addressing the weeping young man, said to him,
"Have you reflected, monsieur, on the peril of your position?"

"What do you mean, monsieur?"

"Well, listen! You come, with your friend, for a couple of days to
Saint-Cloud; you are a doctor; you are, anyway, his legatee...."

"Yes, monsieur, I am his residuary legatee."

"Very well: the man who has bequeathed you his entire fortune is dying;
the symptoms of his illness are extremely peculiar and, if he dies, as
is probable, you will find yourself in a very awkward position...."

"What!" exclaimed the young man. "You think I shall be suspected?"

"I think that, at any rate," replied M. Pelletan, "all imaginable
precautions will be taken to ascertain the cause of death. As far as M.
Pigache and myself are concerned, we have decided that there ought to
be a post-mortem examination."

"Oh! monsieur," cried the young man, "you could not do me a greater
service; insist upon it, demand a post-mortem examination, and you will
play the part of a father to me if you do."

"Very well, monsieur," replied Doctor Pelletan, seeing him so much
excited; "do not be troubled. Not only shall the matter be carried
through, but it shall be carried through as delicately as possible, and
we will pay our utmost attention to it."

Between noon and one o'clock--that is to say, within thirty or forty
minutes of this conversation--the dying man expired.

The reader will already have recognised the two principal actors in
this drama by the designation of the place where it happened, and by
the details of the victim's agony.

The dead man was Claude-Auguste Ballet, lawyer, aged twenty-five, son
of a rich Paris solicitor. His friend was Edme-Samuel Castaing, who in
a few days' time would be twenty-seven, doctor of medicine, born at
Alençon, living in Paris, No. 31 rue d'Enfer. His father, an honourable
and universally respected man, was Inspector-General of Forests, and
Chevalier of the _Légion d'honneur._

One hour after the death of Auguste Ballet, M. Martignon, his
brother-in-law, warned by a letter from Castaing that Auguste Ballet
could not live through the day, hurried to Saint-Cloud, where he found
the sick man already dead.

While they were proceeding to search every object in the inn that might
possibly throw some light on the cause of death, Castaing, still at
large, absented himself for nearly two hours. No one knew what he did
in his second absence. He pretended he wanted fresh air, and stated
that he was going for a walk in the bois de Boulogne.

M. Pelletan returned at ten o'clock next morning to make the
post-mortem examination.

He had left Castaing in full possession of his liberty, but when he
returned he found him under the surveillance of two policemen. Castaing
appeared very uneasy at the results to which a post-mortem examination
might lead; but he seemed to feel sure that if the body did not present
any trace of poison, he would be set at liberty immediately.

The examination took place and an extremely circumstantial official
report was drawn up; but nowhere, either in tongue, or in stomach or in
intestines, could they detect the presence of any poisonous substance.
As a matter of fact, acetate of morphine, like brucine and strychnine,
leaves no more trace than is left by congestion of the brain or a bad
seizure of apoplexy. It was because of this, a fact which Castaing
knew well, that when the priest had asked him from what his friend was
suffering, he had replied, "He has brain fever."

When the post-mortem was finished, without having revealed any material
proof against the suspected person, M. Pelletan asked the _procureur du
roi_ if he had any objection to Castaing being informed of the result.

"No," replied _the procureur du roi_; "simply communicate the result to
him in general terms, without making him think it is going to be either
in his favour or to his detriment."

M. Pelletan found Castaing waiting for him upon the staircase.

"Well," he asked the doctor eagerly, "have you concluded and come to
release me?"

"I am unaware," replied M. Pelletan, "whether they mean to release you
or to detain you; but the truth is we can find no trace of violent
death in the body of Auguste Ballet."

In spite of the temporary absence of material proof, Castaing was kept
a prisoner. The preliminary investigation began: it lasted from the
month of June to the end of September.

On 10 November, Castaing appeared at the prisoner's bar. The affair
had created a great sensation even before it was made public; and the
Assize Court presented the appearance usual when an important case is
on--that is to say, so many lovely women and fashionably dressed men
put in an appearance that one might have thought it the first night
of a new play which had been announced with great pomp. The accused
was brought in. An indefinable movement of interest agitated the
spectators: they bent forward and oscillated with curiosity, looking
like a field of corn tossed about by the wind. He was a handsome young
man, well set up, with a pleasant face, although there was something
rather odd in his expression as he looked at you. Without being
elegantly attired, he was dressed with care.

Alas! the preliminary investigation had revealed terrible facts.
Auguste Ballet's death had caused judicial attention to be bestowed
upon this unlucky family, and it was discovered that, since Castaing
had known the family, the father, the mother, the uncle had all
disappeared, struck down mortally within five months of each other,
leaving the two brothers Hippolyte and Auguste a very considerable
fortune; and, finally, Hippolyte died in his turn in Castaing's arms,
without either his brother Auguste or his sister Madame Martignon being
able to get to him. All these deaths had successively concentrated
pretty nearly the whole of the family fortune on the head of Auguste
Ballet.

On 1 December 1822, Auguste Ballet, aged twenty-four, in health of
mind and body at the time, made a will, constituting Castaing, without
any motive, his residuary legatee, with no reservations beyond a few
small bequests to two friends and three servants. Auguste Ballet died
in his turn on 1 June, seven months after his brother. Now this is
what the proceedings had elicited concerning the two points which in
similar cases are specially investigated by those in charge of the
case--namely, Castaing's intellectual and his physical life. With
regard to his intellectual life, Castaing was a hard worker, urged
on by ambition, burning with the desire to become rich; his mother
revealed horrible things concerning him, if a letter that was seized
at her house was to be believed; his father reproached him with his
licentious life and the sorrow with which he overwhelmed both his
parents. In the midst of all this, he worked on perseveringly: he
passed his examinations; he became a doctor.

Anatomy, botany and chemistry were the subjects to which he devoted
most time. Especially chemistry. His note-books were produced, full
of observations, extracts, erasures. They attested the determination
shown in his researches and the profound study he had made of poisons,
of their various kinds, of their effects, of the palpable traces some
leave on different bodily organs, whilst some, quite as deadly and more
insidious, kill without leaving any vestiges perceptible to the eyes of
the most learned and experienced anatomist.

These poisons are all vegetable poisons: brucine, derived from false
angostura; strychnine from Saint-Ignatius nut; morphine from pure
opium, which is extracted from the Indian poppy. Now, it was a strange
and terrible coincidence that on 18 September 1822, seventeen days
before the death of Hippolyte Ballet, Castaing bought ten grains of
acetate of morphine. Twelve days later, Hippolyte, suffering from a
serious pulmonary disease, but not yet in danger, was seized with a
deadly attack and died, as we have said, far from his sister and his
brother, after five days' illness! He died in Castaing's arms.

Then Castaing's fortunes changed: he who had been very hard up
heretofore lent his mother thirty thousand francs and invested under
assumed names or in bearer stock the sum of seventy thousand francs.
The matter was further complicated by matters arising out of the will
of Hippolyte Ballet, questions which will never be properly cleared up,
even in the law courts, and which seemed to imply that Auguste Ballet
became Castaing's accomplice. Hence Auguste's weakness for Castaing;
hence that will in his favour; hence the intimacy between these two
men, who never separated from one another; all these things were
explained, from the moment when, instead of the ordinary bond of pure
and simple friendship, the link between them was supposed to be the
indestructible chain of mutual complicity.

For--and this is the time to return to his outward life, that we have
put to one side in order to speak of the intellectual life--Castaing
was not wealthy: he lived on a moderate income allowed him by his
mother; his own efforts barely produced him five or six hundred francs
per annum; he had a mistress, also very poor, a widow with three
children; he had two other children by her, so the young doctor had to
keep a family of six persons whilst as yet he had no practice. It seems
that he adored his family, especially his children. Letters were found
showing warm fatherly affection in a heart that was consumed, even
more on behalf of others than on his own account, with that thirst of
ambition and that craving for riches which brought him to the scaffold.

We have seen that Castaing's finances suddenly became easier, that he
lent his mother thirty thousand francs and that he invested seventy
thousand francs in assumed names or in bearer bonds.

Then, next, we saw that on 29 May he arrived at Saint-Cloud with
Auguste Ballet, and that, on 1 June, Auguste Ballet died, leaving him
residuary legatee. Castaing was in Paris on the evening he was absent
under pretence of taking a walk: he bought twelve grains from one
chemist and one drachm from a second, of acetate of morphine, or, in
other words, of that vegetable poison which leaves no traces and of
which he had already bought ten grains, seventeen days before the death
of Hippolyte Ballet.

The above is a résumé of the accumulated evidence brought against
Castaing, who had to face the jury under the weight of fifteen charges
relative to the poisoning of Hippolyte Ballet, of thirty-four connected
with the business of the will and of seventy-six relative to the
poisoning of Auguste Ballet. People will remember the different phases
gone through during that long and terrible trial; the steady denials of
the prisoner, and his bearing on receipt of the sentence condemning him
to death; a sentence decided by the turn of only one vote--that is to
say, by seven against five.

The criminal stood, with bared head, and listened with frigid
resignation to the sentence, his hands clasped together, silent, his
eyes and hands raised to Heaven.

"Have you anything to say why sentence should not be carried out?"
asked the judge.

Castaing sadly shook his head, the head so soon to feel the chilly grip
of death.

"No, monsieur," he said in a deep but gentle voice,--"no, I have
nothing to say against the carrying out of the sentence decreed against
me. I shall know how to die, although it is a great misfortune to die,
hurried to the grave by such a dire fate as has overtaken me. I am
accused of having basely murdered my two friends, and I am innocent....
Oh! indeed, I repeat it, I am innocent! But there is a Providence: that
which is immortal in me will go forth to find you, Auguste, Hippolyte.
Oh yes, my friends" (and here the condemned man stretched out both his
arms to heaven most impressively),--"oh yes, my friends, yes, I shall
meet you again, and to me it will be a happy fate to rejoin you. After
the accusation brought against me, nothing human can affect me. Now I
look no longer for human pity, I look only for Heaven's mercy; I shall
mount the scaffold courageously, cheered by the thought of seeing you
again! Oh! my friends, this thought will rejoice my soul even when I
feel.... Alas!" continued the accused, passing his hand across his
neck, "alas! it is easier to understand what I feel than to express
what I dare not utter...." Then, in a lower tone, "You have decided
on my death, messieurs; behold, I am ready to die." Then, turning
to his counsel, Maître Roussel, he said, "Look, look, Roussel, turn
round, come here and look at me.... You believed in my innocence, and
you defended me believing in that innocence; well, it is even so, I
am innocent; take my farewell greetings to my father, my brothers, my
mother, my daughter!" Then, without any pause, he went on, addressing
the amazed spectators: "And you, young people, you who have been
present at my trial; you, my contemporaries, will be present also at my
execution; you will see me there animated with the same courage as now,
and if the shedding of my blood be deemed necessary to society, well, I
shall not regret that it has to flow!"

Why have I related the details of this terrible trial in such fulness?
Is it in order to awake gloomy memories of the past in the hearts of
the members of those two unhappy families who may still be alive?
No! It was because, by reason of the reports connecting poor Fleuriet
with Castaing, I was present at the final tragedy; I begged a day's
holiday from M. Oudard in order to see the end; I was present among the
number of those young people whom the condemned man, in a moment of
exaltation, of delirium, perhaps, invited to his execution; and when
I saw that man so exuberantly young, so full of life, so eager after
knowledge, condemned to death, bidding farewell to his father, his
mother, his brothers, his children, society, creation, light, in those
poignant tones and miserable accents, I said to myself in inexpressible
anguish of heart, "O my God! my God! suppose this man should be another
Lesurques, another Labarre, another Calas!... O my God! my God! suppose
this man be not guilty!"

And, then and there, before the tribunal which had just condemned a man
to death, I vowed that, no matter to what position I might attain, I
would never look upon it as justifiable to punish a sentient, suffering
human being like myself by the deprivation of life.

No, I was not present at the execution; for, I must admit, I could not
possibly have borne such a spectacle; and now twenty-eight years have
flown by between Castaing's execution and Lafourcade's, and they have
been full of such cases, in spite of the penalty of death, which is
meant to be a deterrent and does not deter! Alas! how many wretched
criminals have passed along the route that led from the Conciergerie to
the place de Grève, and now leads from la Roquette to the barrière de
Saint-Jacques, during those twenty-eight years!

On 6 December, at half-past seven in the morning, Castaing was led from
Bicêtre to la Conciergerie. A moment later, the gaoler entered his cell
and told him of the rejection of his petition. Behind the gaoler came
the abbé Montes.

Castaing then turned his attention to his prayers, praying long and
earnestly. He did not utter a single word during the whole of the
time he spent in the vestibule of the Conciergerie, while they were
preparing him for his execution.

When he looked round at the vast crowd that awaited his appearance as
he mounted into the cart, his cheeks grew suddenly purple, and then
gradually subsided to a deathly paleness. He only lifted his head at
the foot of the scaffold; it had remained sunk on his breast during the
journey; then, glancing at the crowd again as he had done on coming
out of the Conciergerie, he knelt at the foot of the ladder and, after
he had kissed the crucifix and embraced the worthy ecclesiastic who
offered it him, he climbed the scaffold, held up by the executioner's
two assistants. He raised his eyes twice quite noticeably to Heaven
while they pinioned him on the fatal block; then, at fifteen minutes
past two, as the quarter chimed, his head fell.

Castaing had experienced the sensation of death that he had not dared
more clearly to define to the audience when he drew his hand across his
neck--Castaing had passed before his Creator--if guilty, to receive
forgiveness, if innocent, to denounce the real criminal.

He had asked to see his father, to receive his benediction _in
extremis_; the favour was refused him. He next asked for this
benediction to be sent him in writing. It was sent to him thus, but was
first passed through vinegar before being handed to him. They feared
the paternal benediction might hide some poison by the aid of which
Castaing might find means to cheat the scaffold of its due.

All was ended by half-past two, and those who wished to have comedy
after tragedy still had time to go from the place de Grève to take
their stand in the queue outside the Théâtre-Français. On that day, 6
December 1823, the _École des Vieillards_ was played.



CHAPTER VIII


Casimir Delavigne--An appreciation of the man and of the poet--The
origin of the hatred of the old school of literature for the new--Some
reflections upon _Marino Faliero_ and the _Enfants d'Édouard_--Why
Casimir Delavigne was more a comedy writer than a tragic poet--Where he
found the ideas for his chief plays


The first representation of the _École des Vieillards_ played by Talma
and Mademoiselle Mars was a great occasion. It was the first time
indeed that these two great actors had appeared together in the same
play.

Casimir Delavigne had laid down his own conditions. Expelled from the
Théâtre-Français under pretext that _his work was badly put together_,
he had profited by the proscription. His _Messéniennes,_ his _Vêpres
siciliennes_, his _Comédiens_ and the _Paria,_ and perhaps even more
than all these, the need felt by the Opposition party for a Liberal
poet to set against Lamartine and Hugo, the Royalist poets of the
period, had made the author of the _École des Vieillards_ so popular
that, with this popularity, all difficulties were cleared away, perhaps
even too smoothly; for, like Richelieu in his litter, Casimir Delavigne
returned to the Théâtre-Français not through the door, but by means of
a gap.

I knew Casimir Delavigne very well as a man, I studied him very much as
a poet: I never could get up much admiration for Casimir Delavigne as
a poet, but I have always had the greatest respect for him as a man.
As an individual, in addition to his uncontested and incontestable
literary probity, Casimir Delavigne was a man of pleasant, polite, even
affable demeanour. The first sight of him gave one the disagreeable
impression that his head was much too big for his small body; but his
fine forehead, his intelligent eyes, his good-natured mouth, very soon
made one forget this first impression. Although a man of great talent,
he was of the number of those who display it only when pen in hand. His
conversation, pleasant and affectionate, was colourless and insipid;
as he lacked dignity of expression and strength of intonation, so he
lacked strength and dignity of actual words. He attracted no notice at
a salon: people needed to have Casimir Delavigne pointed out before
they paid any attention to him. There are men who bear the stamp of
their kingly dignity about with them: wherever these people go they
instantly command attention; at the end of an hour's intercourse
they reign. Casimir Delavigne was not one of them: he would have
declined the power of commanding attention, had it been offered him;
had sovereignty been thrust upon him, he would have abdicated. All
burdens, even the weight of a crown, were embarrassing in his eyes. He
had received an excellent education: he knew everything that could be
taught when he left college; but since he left college he had learnt
very little by himself, had thought but little, had reflected but
little.

One of the chief features of Casimir Delavigne's character--and, in
our opinion, one of his most unlucky attributes--was his submission
to other people's ideas, a submission that could only arise from
want of confidence in his own ideas. Oddly enough, he had created
among his friends and in his family a kind of censorship, a sort of
committee of repression, commissioned to watch over his imagination
and to prevent it from wandering; this was all the more futile since
Casimir Delavigne's imagination, enclosed in decidedly narrow limits,
needed stimulating much more than restraining. The result was that
this Areopagitica, inferior as it was in feeling and, above all, in
style to Casimir Delavigne himself, played sad havoc with what little
picturesqueness of style and imagination in plot he possessed. This
depreciatory cenacle often reminded him that Icarus fell because
he flew too near the sun; and I am sure he did not even dream of
replying, that if the sun melted Icarus's wings, it must have been
because Icarus had false wings fastened on with wax, and that the
eagle, which disappears in the flood of fiery rays sent forth by the
god of day, never falls back on the earth as the victim of a similar
accident.

The result of this abdication of his own will was that just when
Casimir Delavigne's talent was at its best and his reputation was
at its height, he dared not do anything by himself, or on his own
initiative. The ideas that arose in his brain were submitted to this
committee before they were worked into proper shape; the plot decided
upon, he would again put himself in the hands of this commission,
which commented upon it, discussed it, corrected it and returned it
to the poet signed _examined and found correct._ Then, when the plot
became a play and was read before (of course) the same assembly, one
would take a pencil, another a pair of scissors, a third a compass, a
fourth a rule, and set to work to cut all vitality out of the play; to
such purpose that, during the sitting, the comedy, drama or tragedy
was lopped, trimmed and cut about not according to the notions of the
author but as MM. So and So, So and So, So and So thought fit, all
conscientious gentlemen after their own fashion, all talented men in
their own line, wise professors, worthy savants, able philologists, but
indifferent poets who, instead of elevating their friend's efforts by
a powerful breath of inspiration, only thought instead of keeping him
down on the ground for fear he should soar above them to realms where
their short-sighted glance could not follow him.

This habit of Casimir Delavigne, of submitting his will to that of
others, gave him, without his being aware of it himself, a false
modesty, an assumed humility, that embarrassed his enemies and disarmed
those who were jealous of him. How indeed could anyone begrudge a man
his success who seemed to be asking everybody's leave to succeed and
who appeared surprised when he did succeed; or be envious of a poor
poet who, if they would but believe it, had only succeeded through
the addition to his feeble intelligence of abilities superior to his
own; or be vexed with such a quaking victor, who implored people, in
the moment of his triumph, not to desert him, as beseechingly as a
vanquished man might pray them to remain true to him under defeat?
And people were faithful to Casimir Delavigne even to the verge of
fanaticism: they extended hands of flattering devotion in homage to his
renown, the diverging rays of which, like the flame of the Holy Spirit,
became divided into as many tongues of fire as the Casimirian cult
could muster apostles.

We have mentioned the drawbacks, now let us point out the advantages,
of his popularity. His plays were praised abroad before they were
finished, spoken highly of before they were received, in the three
classes of society to which Casimir Delavigne belonged by birth, and
I will even go so far as to say above all by his talent. Thus his
clientèle comprised: through Fortune Delavigne, who was an advocate,
all the law students in Paris; through Gustave de Wailly, professor,
all the students of the Latin quarter; through Jules de Wailly, chief
clerk in the Home Office, all the Government officials.

This sort of family clientèle was extremely useful for the purpose of
doing battle with theatrical managers and publishers.

It knew Casimir and did not allow him to undertake any business
arrangements: he was so modest that he would have unconditionally given
his plays to the comedians, his manuscripts to the publishers without
any agreements. Casimir was aware of his failing in this direction: he
referred publishers and managers to his brother Germain, his brother
Germain referred them to his brother Fortune, and his brother Fortune
managed the affair on a business footing.

And I would point out that all this was done simply, guilelessly, in
kindly fashion, out of the admiration and devotion everybody felt
towards Casimir; without intrigue, for this assistance never prejudiced
anyone who rendered it; and I might even say without there being any
coterie; for, in my opinion, where there is conviction coteries do not
exist.

Now, every friend of Casimir Delavigne was absolutely and perfectly
convinced that Casimir Delavigne was the first lyric poet of his
time, the first dramatic poet of his century. People who never came
in touch with him, and those who were stopped by the vigilant cordon
which surrounded him, acted for and praised him, might well believe
that these opinions emanated from himself, as from the centre to the
circumference; but if they did get to close quarters with him, they
were soon persuaded of the simplicity, the sincerity and the kindliness
of that talented man.

I believe Casimir Delavigne never hated but one of his confrères. But
him he hated well. That man was Victor Hugo. When the author of _Odes
et Ballades_, of _Marion Delorme_ and of _Nôtre-Dame de Paris_ was
taken with the strange fancy of becoming the colleague of M. Droz, of
M. Briffaut and of M. Viennet, I took upon myself to go personally on
his account to ask for Casimir Delavigne's vote. I thought that such an
intelligent person as the author of the _Messéniennes_ would regard it
as the duty of one in his position to help as much as was in his power
in providing a seat for his illustrious rival, a candidate who had done
the Academy the honour of applying for a seat therein.

I was quite wrong: Casimir Delavigne obstinately declined to give his
vote to Victor Hugo, and that with such vehemence and tenacity as I
should have dreamt him incapable of feeling, especially towards me,
of whom he was extremely fond. Neither entreaty nor supplication nor
argument could, I will not say convince, but even persuade him to
agree. And yet Casimir Delavigne knew well enough that he was rejecting
one of the eminent men of his time. I never found out the reason for
this antipathy. It was certainly not on account of their different
schools: I was most decidedly not of the school of Casimir Delavigne,
and he offered me the vote he withheld from Victor Hugo.

The poor Academicians were in a sorry fix in my case; for, if I had put
myself up, I believe they would have elected me! They nominated Dupaty.

Hugo comforted himself by one of the wittiest sayings he ever made.
"I believed," he said, "that one could enter the Academy _par le pont
des Arts_; I was mistaken, for it appears it is by the Pont Neuf that
entrance is effected."

And now that I have criticised the man, perhaps it may be thought that
it will be a much more difficult matter still for me his confrère, his
rival, at times his antagonist, to criticise his poetry. No! my readers
are labouring under a misapprehension: nothing is difficult to whoso
speaks the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Moreover,
I have never written anything about a man that I was not ready to tell
him to his face.

In order to judge Casimir Delavigne fairly, we must glance over the
period at which he was born and in which he lived. We must speak of the
imperial era. What occasioned the burst of hatred that made itself felt
after the appearance of _Henri III_., of _Marion Delorme_ and of the
_Maréchale d'Ancre_, between the new and the old school of poetry and
their representatives?

People have stated the fact without inquiring into its causes: I can
tell you them.

Because, during all the years that Napoleon was levying his toll of
300,000 conscripts, he did not perceive that the poets he looked for,
and looked for so vainly, had been compelled to change their calling,
and that they were in camp, sword, musket or sabre in hand, instead of
pen in hand in their studies. And this state of things lasted from 1796
to 1815--a period of nineteen years.

For nineteen years the enemy's cannon swept down the generation of men
from fifteen to thirty-six years of age. So it came about that when the
poets of the end of the eighteenth century and those of the beginning
of the nineteenth confronted one another, they found themselves hemmed
in on each side by an immense ravine which had been hollowed out by the
grapeshot of five coalitions: at the bottom of this ravine a million of
men were stretched, and among this million of men, snatched away before
they had added to the population, were those twelve poets that Napoleon
had so insistently demanded of M. de Fontanes, without being able to
obtain them from him.

Those who escaped were consumptive poets, considered too feeble to
undertake soldiers' duties, who died young, like Casimir Delavigne and
Soumet. These were bridges thrown across the ravine of which we have
just spoken, but quite unequal to the task allotted them.

Napoleon, with his eighteen years of warfare and his ten years' reign,
the re-constructor of religion, the re-builder of society, he who
established legislation on a firm basis, was foiled in the matter of
poetry. Had it not been for the two men whom we have named--Soumet and
Casimir Delavigne--the thread of continuity would have been broken.

So it came about that Casimir Delavigne, the connecting link between
the old and the new schools, showed always in his poetry a little of
that anæmic quality which was evident in his person; in any work by
Casimir (which never exceeded the limits of one, three or five acts
ordained by the old theatrical régime) there was always something
sickly and airless; his plays lacked breath, as did the man; his work
was as consumptive as the poet.

No one ever made three acts out of his one; no one ever made five acts
out of his three; no one ever made ten acts out of his five. But it was
a simple task to reduce five of his acts to three; three of his acts to
one.

When imagination failed him, and he appealed to Byron or Shakespeare,
he could never attain their sublime heights; he was obliged to stop
short a third of the way up, midway at the very utmost, like a child
who climbs a tree to gather apples and finds he cannot reach the
ripest, which always grow on the highest branches, and are the most
beautiful because they are nearest the sun, save at the risk of
breaking his neck--a risk he is wise enough not to venture to take.

We will make our meaning clearer by a couple of instances: _Marino
Faliero_ and the _Enfants d'Édouard._

In Byron's _Marino Faliero_, the doge plots to revenge himself on the
youthful satirist, who has insulted him by writing on his chair "Marin
Falier, the husband of the fair wife; others kiss her, but he keeps
her." This was a calumny: the fair Angiolina is as pure as her name
implies, in spite of being but eighteen and her husband eighty. It is
therefore to defend a spotless wife, and not to avenge the husband's
outraged honour, that Byron's Marino Faliero conspires, and we hardly
need say that the play gains in distinction by the passage across it of
a sweet and lofty figure, inflamed with devotion, rather than suffused
with repentance.

Now, in Casimir Delavigne's imitation, on the contrary, the wife is
guilty. Héléna (for the poet, in degrading her, has not ventured to
keep her heavenly name) deceives her husband, an old man! She deceives
him, or rather she has deceived him, before the rising of the curtain.
The first lines of the tragedy are concerned with a scarf that she is
embroidering for her lover--a serious blunder in our opinion; for there
could be only one means of making Héléna interesting, if she were to
be made guilty, and that would be to show the struggle in her between
passion and virtue, between love and duty; in short, to have done, only
more successfully, what we did in _Antony._

But we reiterate that it was far better to make the wife innocent, as
Byron does; far better to put a faithful wife alongside the old man
than an adulterous one; far better in the fifth act, where the wife
seeks out her husband, to let him find devotion and not repentance
when his prison doors are opened. When Christ was bowed down under His
bloody agony, God chose the purest of His angels, not a fallen one, to
carry Him the cup of bitterness!

We will pass over the conspiracy which takes place in Venice at
midnight, in the middle of the square of Saint Mark, where fifty
conspirators cry in eager emulation, "Down with the Republic!" In
Venice and at midnight! in Venice, the city of the Council of Ten! in
Venice, the city that never really sleeps, where at least half the
populace is awake while the other half sleeps!

Casimir Delavigne did not venture to borrow anything from Shakespeare's
_Richard III._ but the death of the two princes: instead of that
magnificent historical play by the Elizabethan poet, he substituted
an insignificant little drama, replete with infantine babblings and
maternal tears; of the great figure of Richard III., of the marvellous
scene between the murderer and the wife of the murdered man and of the
assassination of Buckingham, of the duel with Richmond and Richard's
remorse, nothing is left.

The gigantic statue, the Colossus of Rhodes, between whose legs the
tallest galleys can pass, has become a bronze ornament suitable for the
top of a timepiece.

Did Casimir Delavigne even take as much of the subject of the _children
of Edward_ as he might have taken? Has he not turned aside from his
model, Shakespeare, with regard to the dignified way in which the
characters of the heir to the throne and his gentle brother the Duke of
York are treated? We will adduce one example to demonstrate this.

In Casimir Delavigne, when the young Richard takes refuge in
Westminster Abbey, the church possessing the right to offer sanctuary,
the author of the _Messéniennes_, in order to compel the young prince
to come out of the church, causes a letter to be written, apparently
from his brother, inviting him to come back to him at the palace. The
poor fugitive, although surprised at receiving it, puts reliance on
this letter, and comes out of his place of safety. When he reaches the
palace, Richard III. immediately arrests him.

In Shakespeare, the young prince also seeks this refuge. What does
Richard III. do? He sends for the archbishop and says to him, "Has the
crown prince sought refuge in your church?"

"Yes, monseigneur."

"You must give him up to me."

"Impossible, monseigneur."

"Why so?"

"Because the church is a place of sanctuary."

"For guilty men, idiot!" replies Richard, "but not for innocent
ones...."

How small, to my thinking, is Mézence, that scoffer at men and at
gods, by the side of Richard III., who kills his innocent enemies
just as another would kill his guilty enemies. It will be understood
that, since Casimir Delavigne was devoid both of picturesqueness and
dignity, he succeeded much better in comedy than in tragedy; and we
think his two best productions were the two comedies, _Les Comédiens_
and the _École des Vieillards._ It should be clearly understood that
all we have to say is said from the point of view of a rigid standard
of criticism, and it does not therefore follow that Casimir Delavigne
was not gifted with very genuine qualities. These good qualities were:
a facile aptitude for versification which only occasionally rises to
poetic expression, it is true, but which on the other hand never quite
descends to flabbiness and slackness; and, indeed, from the beginning
to the end of his work, from the first line to the last, whatever
else his work may be, it is careful, presentable and particularly
honest; and please note that we have used the word "honest" as the most
suitable word we could choose; for Casimir Delavigne was never the kind
of man to try and rob his public by stinting the work he had in hand
in order to use similar material in his next piece. No; in the case of
Casimir Delavigne, _one got one's money's worth_, as the saying is:
he gave all he possessed, to the last farthing. The spectators at the
first production of each of his new plays had everything he had at that
time to give them. When midnight arrived, and, amidst the cheering of
the audience, his signature was honoured--that is to say, what he had
promised he had performed--he was a ruined man. But what mattered it to
be reduced to beggary! He had owed a tragedy, a drama, a comedy, he had
paid to the uttermost farthing; true, it might perhaps mean his being
compelled to make daily economies of mind, spirit and imagination,
for one year, two years, three years, before he could achieve another
work; but he would achieve it, cost what it might, at the expense of
sleepless nights, of his health, of his life, until the day came when
he died worn out at fifty-two years of age, before he had completed his
last tragedy.

Well, there was no need for the poet of the _Messéniennes_, the
author of the _École des Vieillards_, of _Louis XI._ and of _Don
Juan_ to commiserate himself. He who does all he can does all that
can be expected of him. Nevertheless, we shall always maintain that
Casimir Delavigne would have done better still without his restraining
body-guard; and we need not seek through his long-winded works for
proof of what we assert; we will take, instead, one of the shorter
poems, which the poet wrote under stress of sadness--a similar effort
to M. Arnault's admirable _Feuille_--M. Arnault, who was not only far
less of a poet but still less of a versifier than Casimir Delavigne.

Well, we will hunt up a little ballad which Delavigne relegated to
notes, as unworthy of any other place and which we, on the contrary,
consider a little masterpiece.

      "La brigantine
      Qui va tourner,
      Roule et s'incline
      Pour m'entraîner ...
    O Vierge Marie!
    Pour moi priez Dieu.
      Adieu, patrie!
      Provence, adieu!

      Mon pauvre père
      Verra son vent
      Pâlir ma mère
      Au bruit du vent ...
    O Vierge Marie!
    Pour moi priez Dieu.
      Adieu, patrie!
      Mon père, adieu!

      La vieille Hélène
      Se confira
      Dans sa neuvaine,
      Et dormira ...
    O Vierge Marie!
    Pour moi priez Dieu.
      Adieu, patrie!
      Hélène, adieu!

      Ma sœur se lève,
      Et dit déjà:
      'J'ai fait un rêve,
      Il reviendra!'
    O Vierge Marie!
    Pour moi priez Dieu.
      Adieu, patrie!
      Ma sœur, adieu!

      De mon Isaure
      Le mouchoir blanc
      S'agite encore
      En m'appelant ...
    O Vierge Marie!
    Pour moi priez Dieu.
      Adieu, patrie!
      Isaure, adieu!

      Brise ennemie,
      Pourquoi souffler,
      Quand mon amie
      Veut me parler?
      O Vierge Marie!
    Pour moi priez Dieu.
      Adieu, patrie!
      Bonheur, adieu!"

Scudo, the author of that delightful melody, _Fil de la Vierge_,
once asked Casimir Delavigne for some lines to put to music. Casimir
seized his pen and dashed off _Néra._ Perhaps you do not know _Néra_?
Quite so: it is not a poem, only a simple song: the _Brigantine_ was
relegated to the notes; _Néra_ was excluded from his works.

A day will come--indeed, we believe that day has already come--when the
_Messéniennes_ and _Néra_ will be weighed in the same balance and we
shall see which will turn the scale.

This is _Néra_:--

    "Ah! ah!... de la montagne
    Reviens, Néra, reviens!
    Réponds-moi, ma compagne,
    Ma vache, mon seul bien.
    La voix d'un si bon maître,
             Néra,
    Peux-tu la méconnaître?
             Ah! ah!
             Néra!

    Reviens, reviens; c'est l'heure
    Où le loup sort des bois.
    Ma chienne, qui te pleure,
    Répond seule à ma voix.
    Hors l'ami qui t'appelle,
             Néra,
    Qui t'aimera comme elle?
             Ah! ah!
             Néra!

    Dis-moi si dans la crêche,
    Où tu léchais ma main,
    Tu manquas d'herbe fraîche,
    Quand je manquais de pain?
    Nous n'en avions qu'à peine,
             Néra,
    Et ta crêche était pleine!
             Ah! ah!
             Néra!

    Hélas! c'est bien sans cause
    Que tu m'as délaissé.
    T'ai-je dit quelque chose,
    Hors un mot, l'an passé?
    Oui, quand mourut ma femme,
             Néra,
    J'avais la mort dans l'âme,
             Ah! ah!
             Néra!

    De ta mamelle avide,
    Mon pauvre enfant crira;
    S'il voit l'étable vide,
    Qui le consolera?
    Toi, sa mère nourrice,
             Néra,
    Veux-tu donc qu'il périsse?
             Ah! ah!
             Néra!

    Lorsque avec la pervenche
    Pâques refleurira,
    Des rameaux du dimanche
    Qui te couronnera?
    Toi, si bonne chrétienne,
             Néra,
    Deviendras-tu païenne?
             Ah! ah!
             Néra!

    Quand les miens, en famille,
    Tiraient les Rois entre eux,
    Je te disais: 'Ma fille,
    Ma part est à nous deux!'
    A la fête prochaine,
             Néra,
    Tu ne seras plus reine.
             Ah! ah!
             Néra!

    Ingrate! quand la fièvre
    Glaçait mes doigts roidis,
    Otant mon poil de chèvre,
    Sur vous je l'étendis ...
    Faut-il que le froid vienne,
             Néra,
    Pour qu'il vous en souvienne
             Ah! ah!
             Néra!

    Adieu! sous mon vieux hêtre
    Je m'en reviens sans vous;
    Allez chercher pour maître
    Un plus riche que nous ...
    Allez! mon cœur se brise,
             Néra!...
    Pourtant, Dieu te conduise
             Ah! ah!
             Néra!

    Je n'ai pas le courage
    De te vouloir du mal;
    Sur nos monts crains l'orage
    Crains l'ombre dans le val.
    Pais longtemps l'herbe verte,
             Néra!
    Nous mourrons de ta perte,
             Ah! ah!
             Néra!

    Un soir, à ma fenêtre,
    Néra, pour t'abriter,
    De ta come peut-être
    Tu reviendras heurter;
    Si la famille est morte,
             Néra,
    Qui t'ouvrira la porte?
             Ah! ah!
             Néra!"



CHAPTER IX


Talma in the _École des Vieillards_--One of his letters--Origin of his
name and of his family_--Tamerlan_ at the pension Verdier--Talma's
début--Dugazon's advice--More advice from Shakespeare--Opinions of the
critics of the day upon the débutant--Talma's passion for his art


The _École des Vieillards_ was very successful. A fatal Dud, which had
recently taken place under pretty nearly similar conditions to those
that operated between Danville and the duke, gave the piece just that
appropriate touch which captivated the Parisian public. We ought also
to add that Talma had perhaps never looked finer; the play of emotions
in the part of the old and betrayed lover could not have been rendered
in more moving accents. It was a part that interested the audience from
an entirely different point of view than that of the part of Marino
Faliero, who shares with Danville the lot of a betrayed lover.

Oh! what an inestimable gift a good voice is to the actor who knows
how to use it! How tender were Talma's tones in the first act, how
impatient in the second, uneasy in the third, threatening in the
fourth, dejected in the fifth! The part is gracious, noble, pleasing
and harmoniously consistent throughout. How the old man's heart goes
out to Hortense partly from paternal feeling, partly as a lover! And,
while complaining of the wife who allows herself to be snared, like a
foolish lark, by the mirror of youth and the babblings of coquetry, how
he despises the man who has in some inexplicable way managed to catch
her fancy! Alas! there is in every maiden's heart one vulnerable place,
open to unscrupulous attack.

The wife's part is very much below that of the man. Does Hortense love
the duke or does she not? Is she a flirt or is she not? It is a serious
flaw that the situation is not more clearly defined, and the following
passage shows it: in the fourth act, while Hortense is conversing
with the duke in a salon at one o'clock in the morning, she hears her
husband's footsteps, and hides the duke.

Now, I appeal to all wives: would any wife hide a man whom she did not
love when surprised by her husband, no matter at what hour of the day
or night it might be?

Hortense must love the duke, since she hid him. If Hortense loves the
duke, she cannot escape from an accusation of ingratitude; for it is
impossible to comprehend how an honourable wife, who had a good and
thoughtful husband, young-hearted in spite of his white hairs, could
for one moment fall in love with such a colourless creature as the Duke
Delmas.

With what moving accents does Talma utter the words

    "Je ne l'aurais pas cru! C'est bien mal! C'est affreux!"

as he gets up and traverses the stage in despair. No human anguish was
ever more clearly revealed than in this sob.

Vulgar amateurs and second-rate critics praised exceedingly the
character of one of Danville's college chums, in this comedy by Casimir
Delavigne, played with much humour by an actor called Vigny. It is the
part of an old bachelor, who, after remaining in single blessedness
for sixty years, decides to marry on the strength of the description
Danville draws of conjugal happiness, and comes to tell his friend of
his decision at the very moment when he is racked with jealous pangs.

No, indeed, a hundred times no, it is not here where the real beauty
of the _École des Vieillards_ lies. No, it is not that scene wherein
Danville repeats incessantly: "_Mais moi, c'est autre chose!"_ that
should be applauded. No, the matter to be applauded is the presentation
of the deep and agonising torture of a broken heart; what should be
applauded is the situation that gives scope for Talma to display both
dignity and simplicity at the same time, and that shows how much
suffering that creature, born of woman, cradled in grief and brought up
to grief, whom we call _man_, is capable of enduring.

Talma's friends blamed him for playing the part in a frock-coat; he
told them he had been sacrificed to Mademoiselle Mars. They asked him
why he had so easily allowed himself to be made the footstool of an
actress placed above him, the pedestal for one whose renown rivalled
his own: Talma let them say.

He knew well enough that in spite of all Mademoiselle Mars' talent,
all her winsomeness, all her ease of manner on the stage, all the
pretty things she said in her charming voice, everything was eclipsed,
effaced, annihilated, by a single utterance, a sob, a sigh of his. It
must have been a proud moment for the poet when he saw his work thus
finely interpreted by Talma; but it must have been quite a different
matter to Talma, for he felt that the limits of art could be extended
farther, or rather that art has no boundaries. For Talma had been
educated in the spacious school of Shakespeare, which intermingles
laughter with tears, the trivial with the sublime, as they are
intermingled in the pitiful struggle which we call life. He knew what
the drama should aim at: he had played tragedy all his life and had
never ventured to attempt comedy. We will briefly relate how he came to
be the man we knew.

Talma was born in Paris, in the rue des Ménétriers, on 15 January 1766.
When I became acquainted with him he would be about fifty-seven. He
received from his godfather and godmother the names François-Joseph
and from his father that of Talma. In a letter from Talma which I have
by me, it is stated that the name of Talma, which became celebrated by
the deeds of the great artiste, was several times made the subject of
investigation by etymologists.

This autograph letter by Talma is the copy of one in which he replies
in 1822 to a savant of Gruningen, named Arétius Sibrandus Talma, who,
after giving details of his ancestry, asks the modern Roscius if he
cannot lay claim to the honour of relationship with him. This is
Talma's reply:--

      "I do not know, monsieur, and it would be a difficult
      matter for me to find out, whether you and I are of the
      same family. When I was in Holland, more than fifteen
      years ago, I learnt that there were many people bearing
      the same name as myself in the land of Ruyter and of Jan
      de Witt My family mainly inhabited a little strip of
      country six leagues from Cambrai, in French Flanders.
      This is not the first time, monsieur, that my name has
      given rise to discussion with regard to my origin, on the
      part of foreigners. About forty or fifty years ago, a son
      of the Emperor of Morocco staying in Paris and hearing
      mention of my father's name came and asked him if it were
      not of Arabian derivation--a question that my father was
      unable to answer. Later, an Arab merchant whom I met in
      Paris in my youth put the same question to me: I could
      not answer him more explicitly than could my father, the
      son of His Majesty of Morocco.

      "M. Langlais, a distinguished savant, who had made a very
      profound study of Oriental languages, told me, at that
      time that the word Talma, in the Arabic tongue, meant
      _intrepid_, and that it was a very customary name among
      the descendants of Ishmael, to distinguish the different
      branches of the same family. You may be sure, monsieur,
      that such an interpretation ought to make me very proud,
      and I have ever done my utmost not to fall short of it.
      I have consequently given rein to my imagination and
      conjecture that a Moorish family remained in Spain,
      embraced Christianity and wandered from that kingdom to
      the Netherlands, which were formerly under allegiance to
      the Spaniards, and that by degrees members of this family
      wandered into French Flanders, where they settled. But,
      on the other hand, I have been informed that our name has
      a Dutch ending and that it was once very common in one of
      the provinces of Holland. This new version has completely
      upset my castle in Spain, and conveyed me from the
      African deserts to the marshes of the United Netherlands.
      Now, monsieur, you ought to be able to decide better than
      anyone, certainly better than I, since you speak Dutch,
      whether we really came from the North or from the South,
      whether our ancestors wore turbans or hats, whether they
      offered their prayers to Mahomed or to the God of the
      Christians.

      "I have omitted to give you another piece of information,
      which is not without its relevancy--namely, that the
      Count de Mouradgea d'Olisson, who lived in the East
      for some years, and who has brought out a work on the
      religious systems of Oriental peoples, quotes a passage
      from one of their authors which tells us that the king,
      or rather the pharaoh, who drove the Israelites out of
      Egypt, was called Talma. I have to admit that that king
      was a great scoundrel, if the account given of him by
      Moses (surely a reliable authority) be correct; but we
      must not look too closely into the matter if we wish to
      claim so illustrious an origin.

      "You see, monsieur, there is not a single German baron
      who boasts his sixteen quarterings, not even a king,
      throughout the four quarters of the globe, were he
      even of the house of Austria, that oldest of all royal
      families, who can boast such a lofty descent as mine.
      However it may be, monsieur, believe me, I hold it a
      much greater honour to be related to so distinguished
      a savant as yourself than to be the descendant of a
      crowned head. Such men as you work only for the good of
      men, whilst others--and by others I mean kings, pharaohs
      and emperors--think only of driving them mad. I trust,
      monsieur, that, since you seem to have made up your
      mind on this matter, you would be so good as to inform
      me whether the name we bear is Dutch or Arabian. In any
      case, I congratulate myself, monsieur, upon bearing the
      name that you have made celebrated.--Believe me, etc. etc.

                                                      "TALMA"

This letter serves to give us both positive information concerning
Talma's family and a good idea of his way of looking at things.

Talma often told me that his remotest recollections carried him back to
the time when he lived in a house in the rue Mauconseil, the windows of
which looked towards the old Comédie-Italienne theatre. He had three
sisters and one brother; also a cousin whom his father, who was a
dentist by profession, had adopted.

One day, Lord Harcourt came to Talma's father to have a troublesome
tooth extracted, and he was so pleased with the way the operation was
performed that he urged Talma's father to go and live in London, where
he promised to procure him an aristocratic clientèle. Talma's father
yielded to Lord Harcourt's pressure, crossed the Channel and set up
in Cavendish Square. Lord Harcourt kept his promises: he brought the
French dentist such good customers that he soon became the fashionable
dentist, and included the Prince of Wales,--afterwards the elegant
George IV.,--among his clients.

The whole family followed its head; but Talma's father, considering a
French education better than any other, sent his son back to Paris in
the course of the year 1775. He was then nine years old and, thanks
to having spent three years in England at the age when languages are
quickly picked up, he could speak English when he reached Paris as
well as he could speak French. His father chose M. Verdier's school
for him. A year after he joined the school, great news began to leak
out. M. Verdier, the head of the school, had composed a tragedy
called _Tamerlan._ This tragedy was to be played on Prize Day. Talma
was hardly ten at that time, so it was probable that he would not be
allotted a leading part, even if he were allowed to take any part in it
at all. The assumption is incorrect. M. Verdier gave him the part of
a confidential friend. It was like all such parts,--a score of lines
strewn throughout the play and a monologue at the end.

In this peroration the bosom-friend expatiates on the death of his
friend, who was condemned to death, like Titus, by an inexorable
father. The beginning of this recitation went like a charm; the bulk
of it was successfully delivered also; but, towards the end, the
child's emotion grew to such a pitch that he burst into tears, and
fainted away. This fainting fit marked his destiny, for the child was
an artiste! Ten years later, on 21 November 1787, Talma made his first
appearance at the Théâtre-Français, in the part of Séide.

On the previous day, he paid a visit to Dugazon, and Dugazon gave him
a paper containing the following advice. I copy it from the original,
which is now in my possession.

      "Aim at greatness, from your first entry, or at any
      rate at something above the common. You must try to
      leave your mark and to make an appeal to the spirit of
      curiosity. Perhaps it may be better to hit straight than
      to strike hard; but amateurs are legion and connoisseurs
      are scarce. However, if you can unite both truth and
      strength, you will have the suffrages of all. Do not
      be carried away by applause; nor allow yourself to be
      discouraged by hissing. Only fools allow themselves to
      be disconcerted by cat-calls; none but idiots are made
      dizzy by applause. When applause is lavished without
      discrimination, it injures talent at the very outset of
      its career. Some artistes have failed, instead of having
      passed through their careers with distinction, because of
      faults which genuine criticism might have pointed out or
      hissing punished.

      "Lekain, Peville, Fleury were all hissed and they are
      immortal. A. and B. and C. have succumbed beneath the
      hail of too much applause. What has become of them?

      "Fewer means and more study, less indulgence and more
      discipline, are all pledges of success; if not immediate
      and striking, at least permanent and substantial. Do
      you want to captivate women and young people? Begin in
      the _genre sensible._ 'Tout le monde aime,' as Voltaire
      says, 'et personne ne conspire.' At the same time, what
      may have been good advice in his day may not be worth
      very much in ours. If you want chiefly to delight the
      multitude, which feels much and reasons but little, adopt
      either a magnificent or an awe-inspiring style: they will
      instantly take effect. How is it possible to sustain the
      dignified part of Mahomed, the condescension of Augustus,
      the remorse of Orestes? The impression to be made by
      such parts as Ladislas, Orosmane and Bajazet should be
      carefully prepared and it will then be ineffaceable.

      "True talent, well supported, and a fortunate début are
      a guarantee of immediate popularity; but the artiste
      should strive to perpetuate them; he must compel the
      public to go on appreciating. After having applauded
      from conviction, people should be made to continue their
      applause from habit. That collective body of people whom
      we call the public has its caprices like any ordinary
      individual; it must be coaxed; and (may I go so far as
      to say that) if it be won over by good qualities, it is
      not impossible to keep its favour by faults; you may
      use defects, then, to that end! Nevertheless, you must
      be careful that they are those with which your judges
      will be in sympathy. Should the case be otherwise, you
      may still have defects; but they will be poor relations
      dogging the footsteps of your talent and welcomed only
      by reason of its greater authority. Molé stammered and
      slurred, Fleury staggered and I have been reproached with
      over-acting; but Molé had indescribable charms, Fleury an
      alluring delivery, and I make people laugh so heartily
      that the critic who tries to be solemn at my expense is
      never given a hearing.

      "There are débutants who shoot up like rockets, shine for
      a few months and fall back into utter darkness. There are
      several causes for such disasters: their talents were
      either forced, or without range, or immature; as the
      English say, a few exhibitions have used them up; one or
      two efforts have exhausted them. Perhaps, too, deviating
      from the path trodden by the masters, they have entered
      the crooked labyrinths of innovation, wherein only genius
      can lead temerity aright. Perhaps also, and this is more
      hopeless still, they have been bad copies of excellent
      originals. And the public, seeing that they have aped
      defects rather than copied excellences, has taken them
      for parodists and called their efforts caricatures. When
      a comedian has reached this point, the best thing for
      him to do is to escape out of it by the prompters side
      door, and fly to Pan to amuse the Basques, or to Riom to
      entertain the Auvergnats. But Paris lays claim to you, my
      dear Talma, Paris will cleave to you, Paris will possess
      you; and the land of Voltaire and of Molière, of which
      you will become the worthy interpreter, will not be long
      in giving you letters of naturalisation.

                                                     "DUGAZON

      "20 _November_ 1787"

It is interesting to read the advice that Shakespeare gave two
centuries before, through the mouth of Hamlet, to the players of his
time. It was as follows:--

      "Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounce it to
      you, trippingly on the tongue: but if you mouth it, as
      many of your players do, I had as lief the town-crier
      spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with
      your hand, thus; but use all gently: for in the very
      torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, whirlwind of your
      passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that
      may give it smoothness. O, it offends me to the soul to
      hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion
      to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the
      groundlings, who, for the most part, are capable of
      nothing but inexplicable dumb-shows and noise: I would
      have such a fellow whipped for o'erdoing Termagant; it
      out-herods Herod: pray you, avoid it.

      "Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion be
      your tutor: suit the action to the word, the word to the
      action; with this special observance, that you o'erstep
      not the modesty of nature: for anything so overdone is
      from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first
      and now, was and is, to hold, as 'twere, the mirror up
      to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn her
      own image, and the very age and body of the time his
      form and pressure. Now this overdone or come tardy off,
      though it make the unskilful laugh, cannot but make the
      judicious grieve; the censure of the which one must in
      your allowance o'erweigh a whole theatre of others. O,
      there be players that I have seen play, and heard others
      praise, and that highly, not to speak it profanely, that
      neither having the accent of Christians nor the gait of
      Christian, pagan, nor man, have so strutted and bellowed,
      that I have thought some of nature's journeymen had made
      men, and not made them well, they imitated humanity so
      abominably.

      "And let those that play your clowns speak no more than
      is set down for them; for there be of them that will
      themselves laugh, to set on some quantity of barren
      spectators to laugh too; though, in the meantime, some
      necessary question of the play be then to be considered:
      that's villanous, and shows' a most pitiful ambition in
      the fool that uses it."

Let the successors of Lekain and of Garrick, of Molé and of Kemble, of
Talma and of Kean, compare this last advice with the first, and profit
by both!

Talma succeeded, but there was nothing extraordinary about his success.
The débutant was marked out rather by amateurs than by the general
public. It was agreed that his acting was simple and natural. The
account books of the Comédie-Française show that the receipts at
Talma's first appearance amounted to three thousand four hundred and
three francs, eight sous.

Now shall we hear the opinion of the critics on Talma's début? The
_Journal de Paris_ wrote thus: "The young man who has just made his
début in the character of Séide gives promise of most pleasing talents;
he possesses, besides, every natural advantage that it is possible to
desire, in the rôle of a _jeune premier_,--figure, grace, voice,--and
the public were justified in their applause."

We will next see what Bachaumont had to say about him. "The débutant
possesses besides his natural gifts, a pleasing face, and a sonorous
and expressive voice, a pure and distinct pronunciation; he both feels
and can express the rhythm of his lines. His deportment is simple, his
movements are natural; moreover, his taste is always good and he has no
affectation; he does not imitate any other actor, but plays according
to his own ideas and abilities."

Two months later, _Le Mercure_ said, apropos of the revival of Ducis'
_Hamlet_: "We mean soon to speak of a young actor, M. Talma, who has
caught the fancy of playgoers; but we will wait until he has played
more important parts. His taste lies in the direction of tragedy."

It will readily be understood that the appearance of Mademoiselle
Rachel met with a very different reception from these mild
approbations. And the explanation is not far to seek. Mademoiselle
Rachel was a kind of fixed star, which had been discovered in the
high heavens, where she dwelt unmoved, shining brilliantly. Talma,
on the contrary, was a star destined to shine during a definite
period, to describe the gigantic arc that separates one horizon from
another horizon, to have his rising, his zenith, his setting--a
setting equivalent to that of the sun in mid-August, more fiery, more
magnificent, more splendid in his setting than during the noontide of
his brightness. And indeed what a triumphant progress his was! from
Séide to Charles IX., from Charles IX. to Falkland, from Falkland
to Pinto, from Pinto to Leicester, from Leicester to Danville, from
Danville to Charles VI.!

But in spite of the brilliant career that was Talma's lot, he always
regretted that he did not see the full dawn of the modern drama. I
spoke to him of my own hopes several times. "Make haste," he would say
to me, "and try to succeed in my time."

Well, I saw Talma play what very few people outside his own intimate
circle were privileged to see him play--the _Misanthrope_, which he
never dared to put upon the boards of the Théâtre-Français, though he
was anxious to do so; a part of _Hamlet_ in English, particularly the
monologue; also some farcical scenes got up at the Saint-Antoine for M.
Arnault's fête.

Art was Talma's only care, his only thought, throughout his life.
Without possessing a brilliant mind, he possessed fine feeling, much
knowledge and profound discernment. When he was about to create a new
part, he spared no pains in investigating what history or archæology
might have to offer him in the way of assistance; every gift, good
or indifferent, that he possessed, qualities as well as defects,
was utilised by him. A fortnight before his death, when he rallied
a little, and the rally gave rise to the hope that he might again
reappear at the Théâtre-Français, Adolphe and I went to see him.

Talma was having a bath; he was studying Lucien Arnault's _Tibère_, in
which he hoped to make his reappearance. Condemned by a disease of the
bowels to die literally of starvation, he was terribly thin; but he
seemed to find consolation even in his emaciated state and to derive
hope of a success from it.

"Well, my boys," he said to us, as he pressed his hanging cheeks
between his hands, "won't these be just right for the part of old
Tiberius?"

Oh! how great and glorious a thing art is! It shows more devotion than
a friend, is more faithful than a mistress, more consoling than a
confessor!

END OF VOL. II





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