"Your fragment of desiccated matter, half as broad as my nail and nearly as thick, after remaining for twenty-four hours under a bell-glass in an atmosphere saturated with water at the temperature of the human body, became supple—so much so as to be a little elastic. I could consequently dissect it, study it like a piece of fresh flesh, and put under the microscope each one of its parts that appeared different, in consistency or color, from the rest.
"I at once found, in the middle, a slight portion harder and more elastic than the rest, which presented the texture and cellular structure of cartilage. This was neither the cartilage of the nose, nor the cartilage of an articulation, but certainly the fibro-cartilage of the ear. You sent me, then, the end of an ear, and it is not the lower end—the lobe which women pierce to put their gold ornaments in, but the upper end, into which the cartilage extends.
"On the inner-side, I took off a fine skin, in which the microscope showed me an epidermis, delicate, perfectly intact; a derma no less intact, with little papillae and, moreover, covered with a lot of fine human hairs. Each of these little hairs had its root imbedded in its follicle, and the follicle accompanied by its two little glands. I will tell you even more: these hairs of down were from four to five millimetres long, by from three to five hundredths of a millimetre in diameter; this is twice the size of the pretty down which grows on a feminine ear; from which I conclude that your piece of ear belongs to a man.
"Against the curved edge of the cartilage, I found delicate striated bunches of the muscle of the helix, and so perfectly intact that one would have said there was nothing to prevent their contracting. Under the skin and near the muscles, I found several little nervous filaments, each one composed of eight or ten tubes in which the medulla was as intact and homogeneous as in nerves removed from a living animal or taken from an amputated limb. Are you satisfied? Do you cry mercy? Well! As for me, I am not yet at the end of my string.
"In the cellular tissue interposed between the cartilage and the skin, I found little arteries and little veins whose structure was perfectly cognizable. They contained some serum with red blood globules. These globules were all of them circular, biconcave and perfectly regular; they showed neither indentations nor that raspberry-like appearance which characterizes the blood globules of a corpse.
"To sum up, my dear confrere, I have found in this fragment nearly everything that is found in the human body—cartilage, muscle, nerve, skin, hairs, glands, blood, etc., and all this in a perfectly healthy and normal state. It is not, then, a piece of a corpse which you sent me, but a piece of a living man, whose humors and tissues are in no way decomposed.
"With high consideration, yours,
"PARIS, July 30th, 1859."
CONSIDERABLE OF A DISTURBANCE IN FONTAINEBLEAU.
It did not take long to get spread about the town that M. Martout and the Messieurs Renault, intended, in conjunction with several Paris savans, to resuscitate a dead man.
M. Martout had sent a detailed account of the case to the celebrated Karl Nibor, who had hastened to lay it before the Biological Society. A committee was forthwith appointed to accompany M. Nibor to Fontainebleau. The six commissioners and the reporter agreed to leave Paris the 15th of August, being glad to escape the din of the public rejoicings. M. Martout was notified to get things ready for the experiment, which would probably last not less than three days.
Some of the Paris papers announced this great event among their "Miscellaneous Items," but the public paid little attention to it. The grand reception of the army returning from Italy engrossed everybody's interest, and moreover, the French do not put more than moderate faith in miracles promised in the newspapers.
But at Fontainebleau, it was an entirely different matter. Not only Monsieur Martout and the Messieurs Renault, but M. Audret, the architect, M. Bonnivet, the notary, and a dozen other of the bigwigs of the town, had seen and touched the mummy of the Colonel. They had spoken about it to their friends, had described it to the best of their ability, and had recounted its history. Two or three copies of Herr Meiser's will were circulating from hand to hand. The question of reanimations was the order of the day; they discussed it around the fish-pond, like the Academy of Sciences at a full meeting. Even in the market-place you could have heard them talking about rotifers and tardigrades.
It must be admitted that the resuscitationists were not in the majority. A few professors of the college, noted for the paradoxical character of their minds; a few lovers of the marvellous, who had been duly convicted of table-tipping; and, to top off with a half dozen of those old white-moustached grumblers who believe that the death of Napoleon I. is a calumnious lie set afloat by the English, constituted the whole of the army. M. Martout had against him not only the skeptics, but the innumerable crowd of believers, in the bargain. One party turned him to ridicule, the others proclaimed him revolutionary, dangerous, and an enemy of the fundamental ideas on which society rests. The minister of one little church preached, in inuendoes, against the Prometheuses who aspired to usurp the prerogatives of Heaven. But the rector of the parish did not hesitate to say, in five or six houses, that the cure of a man as desperately sick as M. Fougas, would be an evidence of the power and mercy of God.
The garrison of Fontainebleau was at that time composed of four squadrons of cuirassiers and the 23d regiment of the line, which had distinguished itself at Magenta. As soon as it was known in Colonel Fougas' old regiment that that illustrious officer was possibly going to return to the world, there was a general sensation. A regiment knows its history, and the history of the 23d had been that of Fougas from February, 1811, to November, 1813. All the soldiers had heard read, at their messes, the following anecdote:
"On the 27th of August, 1813, at the battle of Dresden, the Emperor noticed a French regiment at the foot of a Russian redoubt which was pouring grape upon it. He asked what regiment it was, and was told that it was the 23d of the line. 'That's impossible!' said he. 'The 23d of the line never stood under fire without rushing upon the artillery thundering at it.' At that moment the 23d, led by Colonel Fougas, rushed up the height at double quick, pinned the artillerists to their guns, and took the redoubt."
The officers and soldiers, justly proud of this memorable action, venerated, under the name of Fougas, one of the fathers of the regiment. The idea of seeing him appear in the midst of them, young and living, did not appear likely, but it was already something to be in possession of his body. Officers and soldiers decided that he should be interred at their expense, after the experiments of Doctor Martout were completed. And to give him a tomb worthy of his glory, they voted an assessment of two days' pay.
Every one who wore an epaulette visited M. Renault's laboratory; the Colonel of cuirassiers went there several times—in hopes of meeting Clementine. But Leon's betrothed kept herself out of the way.
She was happier than any woman had ever been, this pretty little Clementine. No cloud longer disturbed the serenity of her fair brow. Free from all anxieties, with a heart opened to Hope, she adored her dear Leon, and passed her days in telling him so. She herself had pressed the publication of the bans.
"We will be married," said she, "the day after the resuscitation of the Colonel. I intend that he shall give me away, I want him to bless me. That is certainly the least he can do for me, after all I have done for him. It is certain that, but for my opposition, you would have sent him to the museum of the Jardin des Plantes. I will tell him all this, Sir, as soon as he can understand us, and he will cut your ears off, in his turn! I love you!"
"But," answered Leon, "why do you make my happiness dependent on the success of an experiment? All the usual formalities are executed, the publications made, the notices given: no one in the world can prevent our marrying to-morrow, and you are pleased to wait until the 19th! What connection is there between us and this desiccated gentleman asleep in his box? He doesn't belong to your family or mine. I have examined all your family records back to the sixth generation, and I haven't found anybody of the name of Fougas in them. So we are not waiting for a grandfather to be present at the ceremony. Who is he, then? The wicked tongues of Fontainebleau pretend that you have a penchant for this fetich of 1813; as for me, who am sure of your heart, I trust that you will never love any one as well as me. However they call me the rival of the Sleeping Colonel in the Wood."
"Let the fools prate!" responded Clementine, with an angelic smile. "I do not trouble myself to explain my affection for poor Fougas, but I love him very much, that's certain. I love him as a father, as a brother, if you prefer it, for he is almost as young as I. When we have resuscitated him, I will love him, perhaps, as a son; but you will lose nothing by it, dear Leon. You have in my heart a place by itself, the best too, and no one shall take it from you, not even he."
This lovers' quarrel, which often began, and always ended with a kiss, was one day interrupted by a visit from the commissioner of police.
This honorable functionary politely declined to give his name and business, and requested the favor of a private interview with young Renault.
"Monsieur," said he, when he saw him alone, "I appreciate all the consideration due to a man of your character and position, and I hope you will see fit not to interpret unpleasantly a proceeding which is prompted in me by a sense of duty."
Leon opened his eyes and waited for the continuation of the discourse.
"You are aware, Monsieur," pursued the Commissioner, "of what is required by the law concerning interments. It is express, and admits no exception. The authorities can keep their eyes shut, but the great tumult that has arisen, and, moreover, the rank of the deceased, without taking into account the religious considerations, put us under obligation to proceed ... in conjunction with you, let it be well understood...."
Leon comprehended little by little. The commissioner finished by explaining to him, always in the administrative style, that it was incumbent upon him to have M. Fougas taken to the town cemetery.
"But Monsieur," replied the engineer, "if you have heard people speaking of Colonel Fougas, they ought to have told you withal that we do not consider him dead."
"Nonsense!" answered the Commissioner, with a slight smile. "Opinions are free. But the doctor whose office it is to attend to the disposition of the dead, and who has had the pleasure of seeing the deceased, has made us a conclusive report which points to immediate interment."
"Very well, Monsieur, if Fougas is dead, we are in hopes of resuscitating him."
"So we have been told already Monsieur, but, for my part, I hesitated to believe it."
"You will believe it when you have seen it; and I hope, Monsieur, that that will be before long."
"But then, Monsieur, have you fixed everything in due form?"
"I do not know, Monsieur, but I suppose that before undertaking such a thing as this, you have fortified yourself with some legal authorization."
"But at all events, Monsieur, you admit that the reanimation of a man is an extraordinary affair. As for myself, this is really the first time that I ever heard it spoken of. Now the duty of a well regulated police, is to prevent anything extraordinary happening in the country."
"Let us see, Monsieur. If I were to say to you: 'Here is a man who is not dead; I have a well-founded hope of setting him on his feet in three days; your doctor, who maintains the contrary, deceives himself,' would you take the responsibility of having Fougas buried?"
"Certainly not! God forbid that I should take any responsibility of any kind on my shoulders! But however, Monsieur, in having M. Fougas buried, I would act in accordance with law and order. Now after all, by what right do you presume to resuscitate a man? In what country is resuscitation customary? Where is the precept of law which authorizes you to resuscitate people?"
"Do you know any law that prohibits it? Now everything that is not prohibited is permitted."
"In the eyes of the magistrates, very likely. But the police ought to prevent and stem disorder. Now a resuscitation, Monsieur, is a thing so unheard of as to constitute an actual disorder."
"You will admit, nevertheless, that it is a very happy disorder."
"There's no such thing as a happy disorder. Consider, morever, that the deceased is not a common sort of a man. If the question concerned a vagabond without house or home, one could use some tolerance in regard to it. But this is a soldier, an officer, of high rank and decorated too; a man who has occupied an exalted position in the army. The army, Monsieur! It will not do to touch the army!"
"Eh! Monsieur, I touch the army like a surgeon who tends its wounds. It is proposed to restore to the army a colonel. And you, actuated by the spirit of routine, wish to rob it of one."
"Don't get so excited, Monsieur, I beg of you, and don't talk so loud: people can hear us. Believe me, I will meet you half way in anything you want to do for the great and glorious army of my country. But have you considered the religious question?"
"What religious question?"
"To tell you the truth, Monsieur (but this entirely between ourselves), what we have spoken of so far is purely accessory and we are now touching upon the delicate point. People have come to see me and have made some very judicious remarks to me. The mere announcement of your project has cast a good deal of trouble into certain consciences. They fear that the success of an undertaking of this kind may strike a blow at the faith, may, in a word, scandalize many tranquil spirits. For, if M. Fougas is dead, of course it is because God has so willed it. Aren't you afraid of acting contrary to the will of God, in resuscitating him?"
"No, Monsieur: for I am sure not to resuscitate Fougas if God has willed it otherwise; God permits a man to catch the fever, but God also permits a doctor to cure him. God permitted a brave soldier of the Emperor to be captured by four drunken Russians, condemned as a spy, frozen in a fortress and desiccated under an air-pump by an old German. But God also permitted me to find this unfortunate man in a junk-shop, to carry him to Fontainebleau, to examine him with certain men of science and to agree with them upon a method almost sure to restore him to life. All this proves one thing—which is that God is more just, more merciful and more inclined to pity than those who abuse his name in order to excite you."
"I assure you, Monsieur, that I am not in the least excited. I yield to your reasons because they are good ones and because you are a man of consideration in the community. I sincerely hope, moreover, that you will not think harshly of an act of zeal which I have been advised to perform. I am a functionary, Monsieur. Now, what is a functionary? A man who holds a place. Suppose now that functionaries were to expose themselves to the loss of their places, what would stand firm in France? Nothing, Monsieur, absolutely nothing. I have the honor to bid you good day!"
On the morning of the 15th of August, M. Karl Nibor presented himself at M. Renault's with Doctor Martont and the committee appointed by the Biological Society of Paris. As often happens in the rural districts the first appearance of our illustrious savant was a sort of disappointment. Mme. Renault expected to see, if not a magician in a velvet robe studded with gold, at least an old man of extraordinarily grave and impressive appearance. Karl Nibor is a man of middle height, very fair and very slight. Possibly he carries a good forty years, but one would not credit him with more than thirty-five. He wears a moustache and imperial; is lively, a good conversationist, agreeable and enough of a man of the world to amuse the ladies. But Clementine did not have the pleasure of his conversation. Her aunt had taken her to Moret in order to remove her from the pangs of fear as well as from the intoxications of victory.
M. Nibor and his colleagues, after the usual compliments, requested to see the subject. They had no time to lose, as the experiment could hardly last less than three days. Leon hastened to conduct them to the laboratory and to open the three boxes containing the Colonel.
They found that the patient presented quite a favorable appearance. M. Nibor took off his clothes, which tore like tinder from having been too much dried in Father Meiser's furnace. The body, when naked, was pronounced entirely free from blemish and in a perfectly healthy condition. No one would yet have guaranteed success, but every one was full of hope.
After this preliminary examination, M. Renault put his laboratory at the service of his guests. He offered them all that he possessed, with a munificence which was not entirely free from vanity. In case the employment of electricity should appear necessary, he had a powerful battery of Leyden jars and forty of Bunsen's elements, which were entirely new. M. Nibor thanked him smilingly.
"Save your riches," said he. "With a bath-tub and caldron of boiling water, we will have everything we need. The Colonel needs nothing but humidity. The thing is to give him the quantity of water necessary to the play of the organs. If you have a small room where one can introduce a jet of vapor, we will be more than content."
M. Audret, the architect, had very wisely built a little bath-room near the laboratory, which was convenient and well lighted. The celebrated steam engine was not far off, and its boiler had not, up to this time, answered any other purpose than that of warming the baths of M. and Mme. Renault.
The Colonel was carried into this room, with all the care necessitated by his fragility. It was not intended to break his second ear in the hurry of moving. Leon ran to light the fire under the boiler, and M. Nibor created him Fireman, on the field of battle.
Soon a jet of tepid vapor streamed into the bath-room, creating around the Colonel a humid atmosphere which was elevated by degrees, and without any sudden increase, to the temperature of the human body. These conditions of heat and humidity were maintained with the greatest care for twenty-four hours. No one in the house went to sleep. The members of the Parisian Committee encamped in the laboratory. Leon kept up the fire; M. Nibor, M. Renault and M. Martout took turns in watching the thermometer. Madame Renault was making tea and coffee, and punch too. Gothon, who had taken communion in the morning, kept praying to God, in the corner of her kitchen, that this impious miracle might not succeed. A certain excitement already prevailed throughout the town, but one did not know whether it should be attributed to the fete of the 15th, or the famous undertaking of the seven wise men of Paris.
By two o'clock on the 16th, encouraging results were obtained. The skin and muscles had recovered nearly all their suppleness, but the joints were still hard to bend. The collapsed condition of the walls of the abdomen and the interval between the ribs, still indicated that the viscera were far from having reabsorbed the quantity of water which they had previously lost with Herr Meiser. A bath was prepared and kept at a temperature of thirty-seven degrees and a half. They left the Colonel in it two hours and a half, taking care to frequently pass over his head a fine sponge soaked with water.
M. Nibor removed him from the bath as soon as the skin, which was filled out sooner than the other tissues, began to assume a whitish tinge and wrinkle slightly. They kept him until the evening of the 16th in this humid room, where they arranged an apparatus which, from time to time, occasioned a fine rain of a temperature of thirty-seven and a half degrees. A new bath was given in the evening. During the night, the body was enveloped in flannel, but kept constantly in the same steaming atmosphere.
On the morning of the 17th, after a third bath of an hour and a half, the general characteristics of the figure and the proportions of the body presented their natural aspect: one would have called it a sleeping man. Five or six curious persons were admitted to see it, among others the colonel of the 23d. In the presence of these witnesses, M. Nibor moved successively all the joints, and demonstrated that they had recovered their flexibility. He gently kneaded the limbs, trunk and abdomen. He partly opened the lips, and separated the jaws, which were quite firmly closed, and saw that the tongue had returned to its ordinary size and consistency. He also partly opened the eyelids: the eye-balls were firm and bright.
"Gentlemen," said the philosopher, "these are indications which do not deceive; I prophesy success. In a few hours you shall witness the first manifestations of life."
"But," interrupted one of the bystanders, "why not immediately?"
"Because the conjunctivae are still a little paler than they ought to be. But the little veins traversing the whites of the eyes have already assumed a very encouraging appearance. The blood is almost entirely restored. What is the blood? Red globules floating in serum, or a sort of whey. The serum in poor Fougas was dried up in his veins; the water which we have gradually introduced by a slow endosmose has saturated the albumen and fibrin of the serum, which is returned to the liquid state. The red globules which desiccation had agglutinated, had become motionless like ships stranded in shoal water. Now behold them afloat again: they thicken, swell, round out their edges, detach themselves from each other and prepare to circulate in their proper channels at the first impulse which shall be given them by the contractions of the heart."
"It remains to see," said M. Renault, "whether the heart will put itself in motion. In a living man, the heart moves under the impulse of the brain, transmitted by the nerves. The brain acts under the impulse of the heart, transmitted by the arteries. The whole forms a perfectly exact circle, without which there is no well-being. And when neither heart nor brain acts, as in the Colonel's case, I don't see which of the two can set the other in motion. You remember the scene in the 'Ecole des femmes,' where Arnolphe knocks at his door? The valet and the maid, Alain and Georgette, are both in the house. 'Georgette!' cries Alain.—'Well?' replies Georgette.—'Open the door down there!'—'Go yourself! Go yourself!'—'Gracious me! I shan't go!'—'I shan't go either!'—'Open it right away!'—'Open it yourself!' And nobody opens it. I am inclined to think, Monsieur, that we are attending a performance of this comedy. The house is the body of the Colonel; Arnolphe, who wants to get in, is the Vital Principle. The heart and brain act the parts of Alain and Georgette. 'Open the door!' says one.—'Open it yourself!' says the other. And the Vital Principle waits outside."
"Monsieur," replied Doctor Nibor smiling, "you forget the ending of the scene. Arnolphe gets angry, and cries out: 'Whichever of you two doesn't open the door, shan't have anything to eat for four days!' And forthwith Alain hurries himself, Georgette runs and the door is opened. Now bear in mind that I speak in this way only in order to conform to your own course of reasoning, for the term 'Vital Principle' is at variance with the actual assertions of science. Life will manifest itself as soon as the brain, or the heart, or any one of the organs which have the capacity of working spontaneously, shall have absorbed the quantity of water it needs. Organized matter has inherent properties which manifest themselves without the assistance of any foreign principle, whenever they are surrounded by certain conditions. Why do not M. Fougas' muscles contract yet? Why does not the tissue of the brain enter into action? Because they have not yet the amount of moisture necessary to them. In the fountain of life there is lacking, perhaps, a pint of water. But I shall be in no hurry to refill it: I am too much afraid of breaking it. Before giving this gallant fellow a final bath, it will be necessary to knead all his organs again, to subject his abdomen to regular compressions, in order that the serous membranes of the stomach, chest and heart may be perfectly disagglutinated and capable of slipping on each other. You are aware that the slightest tear in these parts, or the least resistance, would be enough to kill our subject at the moment of his revival."
While speaking, he united example to precept and kept kneading the trunk of the Colonel. As the spectators had too nearly filled the bath-room, making it almost impossible to move, M. Nibor begged them to move into the laboratory. But the laboratory became so full that it was necessary to leave it for the parlor: the Committee of the Biological Society, had scarcely a corner of the table on which to draw up their account of the proceedings. The parlor even was crowded with people, the dining room too, and so out to the court yard of the house. Friends, strangers, people not at all known to the family, elbowed each other and waited in silence. But the silence of a crowd is not much less noisy than the rolling of the sea. Fat Doctor Martout, apparently overwhelmed with responsibility, showed himself from time to time, and surged through the waves of curious people like a galleon laden with news. Every one of his words circulated from mouth to mouth, and spread even through the street, where several groups of soldiers and citizens were making a stir, in more senses than one. Never had the little "Rue de la Faisanderie" seen such a crowd. An astonished passer-by stopped and inquired:
"What's the matter here? Is it a funeral?"
"Quite the reverse, Sir."
"A christening, then?"
"With warm water!"
"A being born again!"
An old judge of the Civil Court was recounting to a deputy the legend of AEson of old, who was boiled in Medea's caldron.
"This is almost the same experiment," said he, "and I am inclined to think that the poets have calumniated the sorceress of Colchis. There could be some fine Latin verses made appropriate to this occasion; but I no longer possess my old skill!
'Fabula Medeam cur crimine carpit iniquo? Ecce novus surgit redivivus AEson ab undis Fortior, arma petens, juvenili pectore miles ...,'
"Redivivus is taken in the active sense; it's a license, or at least a bold construction. Ah! Monsieur! there was a time when I was, even among those who made the most confident attempts, the man for Latin verses!"
* * * * *
"Corp'ral!" said a conscript of the levy of 1859.
"What is it, Freminot?"
"Is it true that they are boiling an old soldier in a pot, and that they are going to get him up again, Colonel's uniform and all?"
"True or not, subaltern, I'll run the risk of saying it's true."
"I fancy, with all proper deference, that they will not make much at it."
"You should know, Freminot, that nothing is impossible to your superiors! You are not unaware even now, that dried vegetables, on being boiled, recover their original and natural appearance!"
"But, Corp'ral, if one were to cook them, three days' time, they'd dissolve into broth."
"But, imbecile, why shouldn't one consider old soldiers hard to cook?"
At noon, the commisioner of police and the lieutenant of gens-d'armes made way through the crowd and entered the house. These gentlemen hastened to declare to M. Renault that their visit had nothing of an official character, but that they had come merely from curiosity. In the corridor, they met the Sub-prefect, the Mayor and Gothon, who was lamenting in loud tones that she should see the government lend its hand to such sorceries.
About one o'clock, M. Nibor caused a new and prolonged bath to be given the Colonel, on coming out of which, the body was subjected to a kneading harder and more complete than before.
"Now," said the Doctor, "we can carry M. Fougas into the laboratory, in order to give his resuscitation all the publicity desirable. But it will be well to dress him, and his uniform is in tatters."
"I think," answered good M. Renault, "that the Colonel is about my size; so I can lend him some of my clothes. Heaven grant that he may use them! But, between us, I don't hope for it."
Gothon brought in, grumbling, all that was necessary to dress an entirely naked man. But her bad humor did not hold out before the beauty of the Colonel:
"Poor gentleman!" she exclaimed, "he is young, fresh and fair as a little chicken. If he doesn't revive, it will be a great pity!"
There were about forty people in the laboratory when Fougas was carried thither. M. Nibor, assisted by M. Martout, placed him on a sofa, and begged a few moments of attentive silence. During these proceedings, Mme. Renault sent to inquire if she could come in. She was admitted.
"Madame and gentlemen," said Dr. Nibor, "life will manifest itself in a few minutes. It is possible that the muscles will act first, and that their action may be convulsive, on account of not yet being regulated by the influence of the nervous system. I ought to apprise you of this fact, in order that you may not be frightened if such a thing transpires. Madame, being a mother, ought to be less astonished at it than any one else; she has experienced, at the fourth month of pregnancy, the effect of those irregular movements which will, possibly, soon be presented to us on a larger scale. I am quite hopeful, however, that the first spontaneous contractions will take place in the fibres of the heart. Such is the case in the embryo, where the rhythmic movements of the heart, precede the nervous functions."
He again began making systematic compressions of the lower part of the chest, rubbing the skin with his hands, half opening the eyelids, examining the pulse, and auscultating the region of the heart.
The attention of the spectators was diverted an instant by a hubbub outside. A battalion of the 23d was passing, with music at the head, through the Rue de la Faisanderie. While the Sax-horns were shaking the windows, a sudden flash mantled on the cheeks of the Colonel. His eyes, which had stood half open, lit up with a brighter sparkle. At the same instant, Doctor Nibor, who had his ear applied to the chest, cried:
"I hear the beatings of the heart!"
Scarcely had he spoken, when the chest rose with a violent inspiration, the limbs contracted, the body straightened up, and out came a cry: "Vive l'Empereur."
But as if so great an effort had overtasked his strength, Colonel Fougas fell back on the sofa, murmuring in a subdued voice:
"Where am I? Waiter! Bring me a newspaper!"
WHEREIN COLONEL FOUGAS LEARNS SOME NEWS WHICH WILL APPEAR OLD TO MY READERS.
Among all the persons present at this scene, there was not a single one who had ever seen a resuscitation. I leave you to imagine the surprise and joy which reigned in the laboratory. A triple round of applause, mingled with cheers, hailed the triumph of Doctor Nibor. The crowd, packed in the parlor, the passages, the court-yard, and even in the street, understood at this signal, that the miracle was accomplished. Nothing could hold them back, they forced the doors, cleared all obstacles, upset all the philosophers who tried to stop them, and finished by pouring into the chamber of Science.
"Gentlemen!" cried M. Nibor, "Do you want to kill him?"
But they let him talk. The wildest of all passions, curiosity, had long held dominion over the crowd: every one wanted to see, though at the risk of crushing the others. M. Nibor tumbled down, M. Renault and his son, in attempting to help him, were thrown on top of him; Madame Renault, in her turn, was thrown down at the feet of Fougas, and began screaming at the top of her voice.
"Damnation!" said Fougas, straightening himself up as if by a spring, "these scoundrels will suffocate us if some one doesn't squelch them!" His attitude, the glare of his eyes, and, above all, the prestige of the miraculous, cleared a space around him. One would have thought that the walls had been stretched or that the spectators had slid into one another!
"Out of here, every mother's son of you!" cried Fougas, in his fiercest tone of command. A tumult of cries, explanations, and remonstrances was raised around him; he fancied he heard menaces, he seized the first chair within reach, brandished it like a weapon, drove, hammered, upset the citizens, soldiers, officials, savants, friends, sight-seers, commissary of police—everybody, and urged the human torrent into the street with an uproar perfectly indescribable. This done, he shut the door and bolted it, returned to the laboratory, saw three men standing near Madame Renault, and said to the old lady, softening the tone of his voice:
"Well, good mother, shall I serve these three like the others?"
"No! No! No! Be careful!" cried the good old lady. "My husband and my son, Monsieur, and Doctor Nibor, who has restored you to life."
"In that case all honor to them, good mother! Fougas has never violated the laws of gratitude and hospitality. As for you, my Esculapius, give me your hand!"
At the same instant, he noticed ten or a dozen inquisitive people on tiptoe on the pavement just by the windows of the laboratory. Forthwith he marched and opened them with a precipitation which upset the gazers among the crowd.
"People," said he, "I have knocked down a hundred beggarly pandours who respect neither sex nor infirmity. For the benefit of those who are not satisfied, I will state that I call myself colonel Fougas of the 23d. And Vive l'Empereur!"
A confused mixture of plaudits, cries, laughs, and jeers, answered this unprecedented allocution. Leon Renault hastened out to make apologies to all to whom they were due. He invited a few friends to dine the same evening with the terrible colonel, and, of course, he did not forget to send a special messenger to Clementine. Fougas, after speaking to the people, returned to his hosts, swinging himself along with a swaggering air, set himself astride a chair, took hold of the ends of his moustache, and said:
"Well! Come, let's talk this over. I've been sick then?"
"That's fabulous! I feel entirely well. I'm hungry, and, moreover, while waiting for dinner, I'll even try a glass of your schnick."
Mme. Renault went out, gave an order, and returned in an instant.
"But tell me, then, where I am," resumed the colonel. "By these paraphernalia of work, I recognize a disciple of Urania; possibly a friend of Monge and Berthollet. But the cordial friendliness impressed on your countenances proves to me that you are not natives of this land of sour-krout. Yes, I believe it from the beatings of my heart. Friends, we have the same fatherland. The kindness of your reception, even were there no other indications, would have satisfied me that you are French. What accidents have brought you so far from our native soil? Children of my country, what tempest has thrown you upon this inhospitable shore?"
"My dear Colonel," replied M. Nibor, "if you want to become very wise, you will not ask so many questions at once. Allow us the pleasure of instructing you quietly and in order, for you have a great many things to learn."
The Colonel flushed with anger, and answered sharply:
"At all events, you are not the man to teach them to me, my little gentleman!"
A drop of blood which fell on his hand changed the current of his thoughts:
"Hold on!" said he; "am I bleeding?"
"That will amount to nothing; circulation is reestablished, and your broken ear...."
He quickly carried his hand to his ear and said:
"It's certainly so. But Devil take me if I recollect this accident!"
"I'll make you a little dressing, and in a couple of days there will be no trace of it left!"
"Don't give yourself the trouble, my dear Hippocrates; a pinch of powder is a sovereign cure!"
M. Nibor set to work to dress the ear in a little less military fashion. During his operations, Leon reentered.
"Ah! ah!" said he to the Doctor, "you are repairing the harm I did."
"Thunderation!" cried Fougas, escaping from the hands of M. Nibor so as to seize Leon by the collar, "was it you, you rascal, that hurt my ear?"
Leon was very good-natured, but his patience failed him. He pushed his man roughly aside.
"Yes, sir, it was I who tore your ear, in pulling it, and if that little misfortune had not happened to me, it is certain that you would have been, to-day, six feet under ground. It is I who saved your life, after buying you with my money when you were not valued at more than twenty-five louis. It is I who have passed three days and two nights in cramming charcoal under your boiler. It is my father who gave you the clothes you now have on. You are in our house. Drink the little glass of brandy Gothon just brought you; but for God's sake give up the habit of calling me rascal, of calling my mother 'Good Mother.' and of flinging our friends into the street and calling them beggarly pandours!"
The colonel, all dumbfounded, held out his hand to Leon, M. Renault and the doctor, gallantly kissed the hand of Mme. Renault, swallowed at a gulp a claret glass filled to the brim with brandy, and said in a subdued voice:
"Most excellent friends, forget the vagaries of an impulsive but generous soul. To subdue my passions shall hereafter be my law. After conquering all the nations in the universe, it is well to conquer one's self."
This said, he submitted his ear to M. Nibor, who finished dressing it.
"But," said he, summoning up his recollections, "they did not shoot me then?"
"And I wasn't frozen to death in the tower?"
"Why has my uniform been taken off? I see! I am a prisoner!"
"You are free."
"Free! Vive l'Empereur! But then, there's not a moment to lose! How many leagues is it to Dantzic?"
"It's very far."
"What do you call this chicken coop of a town?"
"Fontainebleau! In France?"
"Prefecture of Seine-et-Marne. We are going to introduce to you the sub-prefect, whom you just pitched into the street."
"What the Devil are your sub-prefects to me? I have a message from the Emperor for General Rapp, and I must start, this very day, for Dantzic. God knows whether I'll be there in time!"
"My poor Colonel, you will arrive too late. Dantzic is given up."
"That's impossible! Since when?"
"About forty-six years ago."
"Thunder! I did not understand that you were ... mocking me!"
M. Nibor placed in his hand a calendar, and said: "See for yourself! It is now the 17th of August, 1859; you went to sleep in the tower of Liebenfeld on the 11th of November, 1813; there have been, then, forty-six years, all to three months, during which the world has moved on without you."
"Twenty-four and forty-six; but then I would be seventy years old, according to your statement!"
"Your vitality clearly shows that you are still twenty-four."
He shrugged his shoulders, tore up the calendar and said, beating the floor with his foot: "Your almanac is a humbug!"
M. Renault ran to his library, took up half a dozen books at haphazard and made him read, at the foot of the title pages, the dates 1826, 1833, 1847, 1858.
"Pardon me!" said Fougas, burying his head in his hands. "What has happened to me is so new! I do not think that another human being was ever subjected to such a trial. I am seventy years old!"
Good Madame Renault went and got a looking-glass from the bath room, and gave it to him, saying:
He took the glass in both hands, and was silently occupied in resuming acquaintance with himself, when a hand-organ came into the court and began playing "Partant pour la Syrie!"
Fougas threw the mirror to the ground, and cried out:
"What is that you were telling me? I hear the little song of Queen Hortense!"
M. Renault patiently explained to him, while picking up the pieces of the mirror, that the pretty little song of Queen Hortense had become a national air, and even an official one, since the regimental bands had substituted that gentle melody for the fierce Marsellaise, and that our soldiers, strange to say, had not fought any the worse for it. But the Colonel had already opened the window, and was crying out to the Savoyard:
"Eh! Friend! A napoleon for you if you will tell me in what year I am drawing the breath of life!"
The artist began dancing as lightly as possible playing on his musical instrument.
"Advance at the order!" cried the Colonel, "and keep that devilish machine still!"
"A little penny, my good monsieur!"
"It is not a penny that I'll give you, but a napoleon, if you'll tell me what year it is."
"Oh but that's funny! Hi—hi—hi!"
"And if you don't tell me quicker than this amounts to, I'll cut your ears off!"
The Savoyard ran away, but he came back pretty soon, having meditated, during his flight, on the maxim: "Nothing risk nothing gain."
"Monsieur," said he, in a wheedling voice, "this is the year Eighteen Hundred and Fifty-nine."
"Good!" cried Fougas. He felt in his pockets for money, and found nothing there. Leon saw his predicament, and flung twenty francs into the court. Before shutting the window, he pointed out, to the right, the facade of a pretty little new building where the Colonel could distinctly read
A perfectly satisfactory piece of evidence, and one which did not cost twenty francs.
Fougas, a little confused, pressed Leon's hand, and said to him:
"My friend, I do not forget that Confidence is the first duty from Gratitude toward Beneficence. But tell me of our country! I tread the sacred soil where I received my being, and I am ignorant of the career of my native land. France is still the queen of the world, is she not?"
"Certainly," said Leon.
"How is the Emperor?"
"And the Empress?"
"And the King of Rome?"
"The Prince Imperial? He is a very fine child."
"How? A fine child! And you have the face to say that this is 1859!"
M. Nibor took up the conversation, and explained in a few words that the reigning sovereign of France was not Napoleon I., but Napoleon III.
"But then," cried Fougas, "my Emperor is dead!"
"Impossible! Tell me anything you will but that! My Emperor is immortal."
M. Nibor and the Renaults, who were not quite professional historians, were obliged to give him a summary of the history of our century. Some one went after a big book written by M. de Norvins and illustrated with fine engravings by Raffet. He only believed in the presence of Truth when he could touch her with his hand, and still cried out almost every moment: "That's impossible! This is not history that you are reading to me: it is a romance written to make soldiers weep!"
This young man must indeed have had a strong and well-tempered soul, for he learned in forty minutes all the woful events which Fortune had scattered through eighteen years, from the first abdication up to the death of the King of Rome. Less happy than his old companions in arms, he had no interval of repose between these terrible and repeated shocks, all beating upon his heart at the same time. One could have feared that the blow might prove mortal, and poor Fougas die in the first hour of his recovered life. But the imp of a fellow yielded and recovered himself in quick succession like a spring. He cried out with admiration on hearing of the five battles of the campaign in France; he reddened with grief at the farewells of Fontainebleau. The return from the Isle of Elba transfigured his handsome and noble countenance; at Waterloo his heart rushed in with the last army of the Empire, and there shattered itself. Then he clenched his fists and said between his teeth: "If I had been there at the head of the 23d, Blucher and Wellington would have seen another fate!" The invasion, the truce, the martyr of St. Helena, the ghastly terror of Europe, the murder of Murat—the idol of the cavalry, the death of Ney, Bruno, Mouton Duvernet, and so many other whole-souled men whom he had known, admired, and loved, threw him into a series of paroxysms of rage, but nothing upset him. In hearing of the death of Napoleon, he swore that he would eat the heart of England; the slow agony of the pale and interesting heir of the Empire, inspired him with a passion to tear the vitals out of Austria. When the drama was over and the curtain fell on Schoenbrunn, he dashed away his tears and said: "It is well. I have lived in a moment a man's entire life. Now show me the map of France!"
Leon began to turn over the leaves of an atlas, while M. Renault attempted to continue narrating to the colonel the history of the Restoration, and of the monarchy of 1830. But Fougas' interest was in other things.
"What do I care," said he, "if a couple of hundred babblers of deputies put one king in place of another? Kings! I've seen enough of them in the dirt. If the Empire had lasted ten years longer, I could have had a king for a boot-black."
When the atlas was placed before him, he at once cried out with profound disdain: "That, France!" But soon two tears of pitying affection escaping from his eyes, swelled the rivers Ardeche and Gironde. He kissed the map and said, with an emotion which communicated itself to nearly all present:
"Forgive me, poor old love, for insulting your misfortunes. Those scoundrels whom we always whipped have profited by my sleep to pare down your frontiers; but little or great, rich or poor, you are my mother, and I love you as a faithful son! Here is Corsica, where the giant of our age was born; here is Toulouse, where I first saw the light; here is Nancy where I felt my heart awakened, where, perhaps, she whom I call my AEgle waits for me still! France! Thou hast a temple in my soul; this arm is thine; thou shalt find me ever ready to shed my blood to the last drop in defending or avenging thee!"
THE CONVALESCENT'S FIRST MEAL.
The messenger whom Leon had sent to Moret, could not reach there before seven o'clock. Supposing that he would find the ladies at table with their hosts, that the great news would cut the dinner short, and that there would be a carriage handy, Clementine and her aunt would probably be at Fontainebleau between ten and eleven o'clock. Young Renault rejoiced in advance over the happiness of his fiancee. What a joy it would be for her and for him when he should present to her the miraculous man whom she had protected against the horrors of the tomb, and whom he had resuscitated in answer to her entreaty!
Meanwhile Gothon, proud and happy to the same degree that she had before been scandalized and annoyed, spread the table for a dozen persons. Her yoke-fellow, a young rustic of eighteen, half-fledged in the commune of Sablons, helped her with all his might, and amused her with his conversation.
"Well, now, Ma'm'selle Gothon," said he, setting down a pile of empty plates, "this is what one might call a ghost coming out of its box to upset the commissary and the sub-prefect!"
"Ghost, if you'll have it so, Celestin; it's certain-sure that he comes from a good ways, poor young man! But perhaps 'ghost' isn't a proper word to use in speaking of our masters."
"Is it true, then, that he has come to be our master too? Too many of them come every day. I'd like it better if more servants and help would come!"
"Shut up, you lizard of laziness! When the gentlemen leaves tips for us on going away, you don't complain because there's only two to divide 'em."
"That's all well enough as far as it goes! I've carried more than fifty buckets of water for him to simmer in, that Colonel of yours, and I know mighty well that he won't give me a cent, for he hasn't a farthing in his pockets. We've got to believe that money isn't plenty in the country he just came from!"
"They say there's wills in his favor in Strasburg; a gentleman who'd hurt his fortune——"
"Tell me now, Ma'm'selle Gothon—you who read a little book every Sunday—where he could have been, our Colonel, while he was not in this world."
"Eh! In purgatory, of course!"
"Then why don't you ask him about that famous Baptiste, your sweetheart in 1837, who let himself tumble off a roof, and on whose account you have so many masses said? They ought to have met each other down there!"
"That's very possible."
"Unless Baptiste has left there since the time when you paid so much money to get him out."
"Very well. I'll go this very evening to the Colonel's chamber, and, since he's not proud, he'll tell me all he knows about it.—But, Celestin, are'nt you never going to act different? Here you've rubbed my silver pickle knives on the grindstone again!"
The guests came into the parlor, where the Renault family with M. Nibor and the Colonel were already assembled. There were successively presented to M. Fougas the mayor of the city, Doctor Martout, Master Bonnivet the notary, M. Audret, and three members of the Paris committee; the other three had been obliged to return before dinner. The guests were not entirely at their ease; their sides, bruised by the first movements of Fougas, left room for them to suppose that possibly they were dining with a maniac. But curiosity was stronger than fear. The Colonel soon reassured them by a most cordial reception. He excused himself for acting the part of a man just returned from the other world. He talked a great deal—a little too much, perhaps; but they were so well pleased to listen to him, and his words borrowed such an importance from the singularity of recent events, that he gained an unqualified success. He was told that Dr. Martout had been one of the principal agents of his resuscitation, in conjunction with another person whom they promised soon to present to him. He thanked M. Martout warmly, and asked how soon he could evince his gratitude to the other person.
"I hope," said Leon, "that you will see her this evening."
No one came later than the colonel of the 23d of the line, M. Rollon. He made his way with no little difficulty through the crowds of people who filled the Rue de la Faisanderie. He was a man of forty-five, with a quick voice, and full figure. His hair was a little grizzled, but his brown mustache, full, and twisted at the ends, looked as young as ever. He said little, spoke to the point, knew a great deal, and did no boasting—all in all, he was a fine specimen of a colonel. He came right up to Fougas, and held out his hand like an old acquaintance.
"My dear comrade," said he, "I have taken great interest in your resurrection, as much on my own account as on account of the regiment. The 23d which I have the honor to command, yesterday venerated you as an ancestor. From to-day, it will cherish you as a friend."—Not the slightest allusion to the affair of the morning, in which M. Rollon had undergone his pummelling with the rest.
Fougas answered becomingly, but with, a tinge of coldness:
"My dear comrade, I thank you for your kindly sentiments. It is singular that Destiny places me in the presence of my successor on the very day that I reopen my eyes to the light; for, after all, I am neither dead nor a general; I have not been transferred, nor have I been retired; yet I see another officer, more worthy, doubtless, at the head of my noble 23d. But if you have for your motto 'Honor and Courage,' as I am well satisfied you have, I have no right to complain, and the regiment is in good hands."
Dinner was ready. Mme. Renault took Fougas' arm. She had him sit at her right, and M. Nibor at her left. The Colonel and the Mayor took their places at the sides of M. Renault; the rest of the company distributed themselves as it happened, regardless of etiquette.
Fougas gulped down the soup and entrees, helping himself to every dish, and drinking in proportion. An appetite of the other world! "Estimable Amphitryon," said he to M. Renault, "don't get frightened at seeing me fall upon the rations. I always ate just so; except during the retreat in Russia. Consider, too, that I went to sleep last night, at Liebenfeld, without any supper."
He begged M. Nibor to explain to him by what course of circumstances he had come from Liebenfeld to Fontainebleau.
"Do you remember," said the doctor, "an old German who acted as interpreter for you before the court-martial?"
"Perfectly. An excellent man, with a violet-colored wig. I'll remember him all my life, for there are not two wigs of that color in existence."
"Very well; it was the man with the violet wig, otherwise known as the celebrated Doctor Meiser, who saved your life."
"Where is he? I want to see him, to fall into his arms, to tell him——"
"He was sixty-eight years old when he did you that little service; he would then be, to-day, in his hundred and fifteenth year, if he had waited for your acknowledgments."
"And so, then, he is no more! Death has robbed him of my gratitude!"
"You do not yet know all that you owe to him. He bequeathed you, in 1824, a fortune of seventy-five thousand francs, of which you are the rightful owner. Now, since a sum invested at five per cent, doubles itself in fourteen years—thanks to compound interest—you were worth, in 1838, a trifle of seven hundred and fifty thousand francs; and in 1852, a million and a half. In fine, if you are satisfied to leave your property in the hands of Herr Nicholas Meiser, of Dantzic, that worthy man will owe you three millions at the commencement of 1866—that is to say, in seven years. We will give you, this evening, a copy of your benefactor's will; it is a very instructive document, and you can consider it when you go to bed."
"I'll read it willingly," said Colonel Fougas. "But gold has no attractions for my eyes. Wealth engenders weakness. Me, to languish in the sluggish idleness of Sybaris!—to enervate my senses on a bed of roses! Never! The smell of powder is dearer to me than all the perfumes of Arabia. Life would have no charm or zest for me, if I had to give up the inspiriting clash of arms. On the day when you are told that Fougas no longer marches in the columns of the army, you can safely answer, 'It is because Fougas is no more!'"
He turned to the new colonel of the 23d, and said:
"Oh! do you, my dear comrade, tell them that the proud pomp of wealth is a thousand times less sweet than the austere simplicity of the soldier—of a colonel, more than all. Colonels are the kings of the army. A colonel is less than a general, but nevertheless he has something more. He lives more with the soldier; he penetrates further into the intimacy of his command. He is the father, the judge, the friend of his regiment. The welfare of each one of his men is in his hands; the flag is placed under his tent or in his chamber. The colonel and the flag are not two separate existences; one is the soul, the other is the body."
He asked M. Rollon's permission to go to see and embrace the flag of the 23d.
"You shall see it to-morrow morning," said the new colonel, "if you will do me the honor to breakfast with me in company with some of my officers."
He accepted the invitation with enthusiasm, and flung himself into the midst of a thousand questions touching pay, the amount retained for clothing, promotion, roster, reserve, uniform, full and fatigue dress, armament, and tactics. He understood, without difficulty, the advantages of the percussion gun, but the attempt to explain rifled cannon to him was in vain. Artillery was not his forte; but he avowed, nevertheless, that Napoleon had owed more than one victory to his fine artillery.
While the innumerable roasts of Mme. Renault were succeeding each other on the table, Fougas asked—but without ever losing a bite—what were the principal wars in progress, how many nations France had on her hands, and if it was not intended ultimately to recommence the conquest of the world? The answers which he received, without completely satisfying him, did not entirely deprive him of hope.
"I did well to come," said he; "there's work to do."
The African wars did not interest him much, although in them the 23d had won a good share of glory.
"As a school, it's very well," said he. "The soldier ought to train himself in other ways than in the Tivoli gardens, behind nurses' petticoats. But why the devil are not five hundred thousand men flung upon the back of England? England is the soul of the coalition, I can tell you that."
How many explanations were necessary to make him understand the Crimean war, where the English had fought by our sides!
"I can understand," said he, "why we took a crack at the Russians—they made me eat my best horse. But the English are a thousand times worse. If this young man" (the Emperor Napoleon III.) "doesn't know it, I'll tell him. There is no quarter possible after what they did at St. Helena! If I had been commander-in-chief in the Crimea, I would have begun by properly squelching the Russians, after which I would have turned upon the English, and hurled them into the sea. It's their element, anyhow."
They gave him some details of the Italian campaign, and he was charmed to learn that the 23d had taken a redoubt under the eyes of the Marshal the Duke of Solferino.
"That's the habit of the regiment," said he, shedding tears in his napkin. "That brigand of a 23d will never act in any other way. The goddess of Victory has touched it with her wing."
One of the things, for example, which greatly astonished him, was that a war of such importance was finished up in so short a time. He had yet to learn that within a few years the world had learned the secret of transporting a hundred thousand men, in four days, from one end of Europe to the other.
"Good!" said he; "I admit the practicability of it. But what astonishes me is, that the Emperor did not invent this affair in 1810; for he had a genius for transportation, a genius for administration, a genius for office details, a genius for everything. But (to resume your story) the Austrians are fortified at last, and you cannot possibly get to Vienna in less than three months."
"We did not go so far, in fact."
"You did not push on to Vienna?"
"Well, then, where did you sign the treaty of peace?"
"At Villafranca? That's the capital of Austria, then?"
"No; it's a village of Italy."
"Monsieur, I don't admit that treaties of peace are signed anywhere but in capitals. That was our principle, our A B C, the first paragraph of our theory. It seems as if the world must have changed a good deal while I was not in it. But patience!"
And now truth obliges me to confess that Fougas got drunk at dessert. He had drunk and eaten like a Homeric hero, and talked more fluently than Cicero in his best days. The fumes of wine, spices, and eloquence mounted into his brain. He became familiar, spoke affectionately to some and rudely to others, and poured out a torrent of absurdities big enough to turn forty mills. His drunkenness, however, had in it nothing brutal, or even ignoble; it was but the overflowing of a spirit young, affectionate, vain-glorious, and unbalanced. He proposed five or six toasts—to Glory, to the Extension of our Frontiers, to the Destruction of the last of the English, to Mlle. Mars—the hope of the French stage, to Affection—the tie, fragile but dear, which unites the lover to his sweetheart, the father to his son, the colonel to his regiment!
His style, a singular mixture of familiarity and impressiveness, provoked more than one smile among the auditory. He noticed it, and a spark of defiance flashed up at the bottom of his heart. From time to time he loudly asked if "those people there" were not abusing his ingenuousness.
"Confusion!" cried he, "Confusion to those who want me to take bladders for lanterns! The lantern may blaze out like a bomb, and carry consternation in its path!"
After a series of such remarks, there was nothing left for him to do but to roll under the table, and this denouement was generally expected. But the Colonel belonged to a robust generation, accustomed to more than one kind of excess, and strong to resist pleasure as well as dangers, privations, and fatigues. So when Madame Renault pushed back her chair, in indication that the repast was finished, Fougas arose without difficulty, gracefully offered his arm, and conducted his partner to the parlor. His gait was a little stiff and oppressively regular, but he went straight ahead, and did not oscillate the least bit. He took a couple of cups of coffee, and spirits in moderation, after which he began to talk in the most reasonable manner in the world. About ten o'clock, M. Martout, having expressed a wish to hear his history, he placed himself on a stool, collected his ideas for a moment, and asked for a glass of water and sugar. The company seated themselves in a circle around him, and he commenced the following narrative, the slightly antiquated style of which craves your indulgence.
HISTORY OF COLONEL FOUGAS, RELATED BY HIMSELF.
"Do not expect that I will ornament my story with those flowers, more agreeable than substantial, which Imagination often uses to gloss over truth. A Frenchman and a soldier, I doubly ignore deception. Friendship interrogates me, Frankness shall answer.
"I was born of poor but honest parents at the beginning of the year which the Jeu de Paume brightened with an aurora of liberty. The south was my native clime; the language dear to the troubadours was that which I lisped in my cradle. My birth cost my mother's life. The author of mine was the humble owner of a little farm, and moistened his bread in the sweat of labor. My first sports were not those of wealth. The many-colored pebbles which are found by the brooks, and that well-known insect which childhood holds fluttering, free and captive at the same time, at the end of a thread, stood me in stead of other playthings.
"An old minister at Devotion's altar, enfranchised from the shadowy bondage of fanaticism, and reconciled to the new institutions of France, was my Chiron and Mentor. He nourished me with the strong lion's marrow of Rome and Athens; his lips distilled into my ears the embalmed honey of wisdom. Honor to thee, learned and venerable man, who gavest me the first precepts of wisdom and the first examples of virtue!
"But already that atmosphere of glory which the genius of one man and the valor of a nation had set floating over the country, filled all my senses, and made my young heart throb. France, on the edge of the volcano of civil war, had collected all her forces into a thunderbolt to launch upon Europe, and the world, astounded if not overwhelmed, was shrinking from the surge of the unchained torrent. What man, what Frenchman, could have heard with indifference that echo of victory reverberating through millions of hearts?
"While scarcely leaving childhood, I felt that honor is more precious than life. The warlike music of the drums brought to my eyes brave and manly tears. 'And I, too,' said I, following the music of the regiments through the streets of Toulouse, 'will pluck laurels though I sprinkle them with my blood.' The pale olive of peace had from me nothing but scorn. The peaceful triumphs of the law, the calm pleasures of commerce and finance, were extolled in vain. To the toga of our Ciceros, to the robe of our magistrates, to the curule chair of our legislators, to the opulence of our Mondors, I preferred the sword. One would have said that I had sucked the milk of Bellona. 'Victory or Death!' was already my motto, and I was not sixteen years old.
"With what noble scorn I heard recounted the history of our Proteuses of politics! With what disdainful glances I regarded the Turcarets of finance, lolling on the cushions of some magnificent carriage, and conducted by a laced automaton to the boudoir of some Aspasia. But if I heard told the mighty deeds of the Knights of the Round Table, or the valor of the crusaders celebrated in flowing verse; if chance placed in my hand the great actions of our modern Rolands, recounted in an army bulletin by the successor of Charlemagne, a flame presaging the fire of battles rose in my young eyes.
"Ah, the inaction was too much, and my leading-strings, already worn by impatience, would have broken, perhaps, had not a father's wisdom untied them.
"'Most surely,' said he to me, trying, but in vain, to restrain his tears, 'it was no tyrant who begot you, and I will not poison the life which I myself gave you. I had hoped that your hand would remain in our cottage to close my eyes; but when Patriotism has spoken, Egotism must be still. My prayers will always follow you to the field where Mars harvests heroes. May you merit the guerdon of valor, and show yourself a good citizen, as you have been a good son!'
"Speaking thus, he opened his arms to me. I threw myself into them; we mingled our tears, and I promised to return to our hearthstone as soon as I could bring the star of honor suspended from my breast. But alas! my unhappy father was destined to see me no more. The fate which was already gilding the thread of my days, pitilessly severed that of his. A stranger's hand closed his eyes, while I was gaining my first epaulette at the battle of Jena.
"Lieutenant at Eylau, captain at Wagram, and there decorated by the Emperor's own hand on the field of battle, major before Almieda, lieutenant-colonel at Badajoz, colonel at Moscow, I have drunk the cup of victory to the full. But I have also tasted the chalice of adversity. The frozen plains of Russia saw me alone with a platoon of braves, the last remnant of my regiment, forced to devour the mortal remains of that faithful friend who had so often carried me into the very heart of the enemy's battalions. Trusty and affectionate companion of my dangers, when rendered useless by an accident at Smolensk, he devoted his very manes to the safety of his master, and made of his skin a protection for my frozen and lacerated feet.
"My tongue refuses to repeat the story of our perils in that terrible campaign. Perhaps some day I will write it with a pen dipped in tears—tears, the tribute of feeble humanity. Surprised by the season of frosts in a zone of ice, without fire, without bread, without shoes, without means of transportation, denied the succor of Esculapius' art, harassed by the Cossacks, robbed by the peasants—positive vampires, we saw our mute thunderers, which had fallen into the enemy's hands, belch forth death upon ourselves. What more can I tell you? The passage of the Beresina, the opposition at Wilna—Oh, ye gods of Thunder!—- But I feel that grief overcomes me, and that my language is becoming tinged with the bitterness of these recollections.
"Nature and Love were holding in reserve for me brief but precious consolations. Released from my fatigues, I passed a few happy days in my native land among the peaceful vales of Nancy. While our phalanxes were preparing themselves for fresh combats, while I was gathering around my flag three thousand young but valorous warriors, all resolved to open to posterity the path of honor, a new emotion, to which I had before been a stranger, furtively glided into my soul.
"Beautified by all Nature's gifts, enriched by the fruits of an excellent education, the young and interesting Clementine had scarcely passed from the uncertain shadows of childhood into the sweet illusions of youth. Eighteen springs composed her life. Her parents extended to some of the army officers a hospitality which, though it was not gratuitous, was far from lacking in cordiality. To see their child and love her, was for me the affair of a day. Her virgin heart smiled upon my love. At the first avowals dictated to me by my passion, I saw her forehead color with a lovely modesty. We exchanged our vows one lovely evening in June, under an arbor where her happy father sometimes dispensed to the thirsty officers the brown liquor of the North. I swore that she should be my wife, and she promised to be mine; she yielded still more. Our happiness, regardless of all outside, had the calmness of a brook whose pure wave is never troubled by the storm, and which rolls sweetly between flowery banks, spreading its own freshness through the grove that protects its modest course.
"A lightning stroke separated us from each other at the moment when Law and Religion were about adding their sanction to our sweet communion. I departed before I was able to give my name to her who had given me her heart. I promised to return; she promised to wait for me; and, all bathed in her tears, I tore myself from her arms, to rush to the laurels of Dresden and the cypresses of Leipzic. A few lines from her hand reached me during the interval between the two battles. 'You are to be a father,' she told me. Am I one? God knows! Has she waited for me? I believe she has. The waiting must have appeared to be a long one since the birth of this child, who is forty-six years old to-day, and who could be, in his turn, my father.
"Pardon me for having troubled you so long with misfortunes. I wished to pass rapidly over this sad history, but the unhappiness of virtue has in it something sweet to temper the bitterness of grief.
"Some days after the disaster of Leipzic, the giant of our age had me called into his tent, and said to me:
"'Colonel, are you a man to make your way through four armies?'
"'Alone, and without escort?'
"'There must be a letter carried to Dantzic.'
"'You will deliver it into General Rapp's own hands?'
"'It is probable you will be taken, or killed.'
"'For that reason I send two other officers with copies of the same despatch. There are three of you; the enemy will kill two, the third will get there, and France will be saved.'
"'The one who returns shall be a brigadier-general.'
"Every detail of this interview, every word of the Emperor, every response which I had the honor to address to him, is still engraved upon my memory. All three of us set out separately. Alas! not one of us reached the goal aimed at by his valor, and I have learned to-day that France was not saved. But when I see these blockheads of historians asserting that the Emperor forgot to send orders to General Rapp, I feel a terrible itching to cut their —— story short, at least.
"'When a prisoner in the hands of the Russians in a German village, I had the consolation of finding an old philosopher, who gave me the rarest proofs of friendship. Who would have told me, when I succumbed to the numbness of the cold in the tower of Liebenfeld, that that sleep would not be the last? God is my witness, that in then addressing, from the bottom of my heart, a last farewell to Clementine, I did not even hope to see her again. I will see you again, then, O sweet and confiding Clementine—best of spouses, and, probably, of mothers! What do I say? I see her now! My eyes do not deceive me! This is surely she! There she is, just as I left her! Clementine! In my arms! On my heart! Look here! What's this you've been whining to me, the rest of you? Napoleon is not dead, and the world has not grown forty-six years older, for Clementine is still the same!"
The betrothed of Leon Renault was about entering the room, and stopped petrified at finding herself so overwhelmingly received by the Colonel.
THE GAME OF LOVE AND WAR.
As she was evidently backward in falling into his arms, Fougas imitated Mahomet, and ran to the mountain.
"Oh, Clementine!" said he, covering her with kisses, "the friendly Fates give you back to my devotion. I clasp once more the partner of my life and the mother of my child!"
The young lady was so astounded, that she did not even dream of defending herself. Happily, Leon Renault extricated her from the hands of the Colonel, and placed himself between them, determined to defend his own.
"Monsieur," cried he, clenching his fists, "you deceive yourself entirely, if you think you know Mademoiselle. She is not a person of your time, but of ours; she is not your fiancee, but mine; she has never been the mother of your child, and I trust that she will be the mother of mine!"
Fougas was iron. He seized his rival by the arm, sent him off spinning like a top, and put himself face to face with the young girl.
"Are you Clementine?" he demanded of her.
"I call you all to witness that she is my Clementine!"
Leon returned to the charge, and seized the Colonel by the collar, at the risk of getting himself dashed against the walls.
"We've had joking enough!" said he. "Possibly you don't pretend to monopolize all the Clementines in the world? Mademoiselle's name is Clementine Sambucco; she was born at Martinique, where you never set your foot, if I am to believe what you have said within an hour. She is eighteen years old——"
"So was the other!"
"Eh! The other is sixty-four to-day, since she was eighteen in 1813. Mlle. Sambucco is of an honorable and well-known family. Her father, M. Sambucco, was a magistrate; her grandfather was a functionary of the war department. You see, she is in no way connected with you, nearly or remotely; and good sense and politeness, to say nothing of gratitude, make it your duty to leave her in peace."
He gave the Colonel a shove, in his turn, and made him tumble between the arms of a sofa.
Fougas bounded up as if he had been thrown on a million springs. But Clementine stopped him, with a gesture and a smile.
"Monsieur," said she in her most caressing voice, "do not get angry with him; he loves me."
"So much the more reason why I should! Damnation!"
He cooled down, nevertheless, made the young lady sit down beside him, and regarded her from head to foot with the most absorbed attention.
"This is surely she," said he. "My memory, my eyes, my heart, everything in me, recognizes her, and tells me that it is she. And nevertheless the testimony of mankind, the calculation of times and distances, in a word, the very soul of evidence, seems to have made it a special point to convict me of error.
"Is it possible, then, that two women should so resemble each other? Am I the victim of an illusion of the senses? Have I recovered life only to lose reason? No; I know myself, I find myself the same; my judgment is firm and accurate, and can make its way in this world so new and topsy-turvy. It is on but one point that my reason wavers—Clementine!—I seem to see you again, and you are not you! Well, what's the difference, after all? If the Destiny which snatched me from the tomb has taken care to present to my awaking sense the image of her I loved, it must be because it had resolved to give me back, one after another, all the blessings which I had lost. In a few days, my epaulettes; to-morrow, the flag of the 23d of the line; to-day this adorable presence which made my heart beat for the first time! Living image of all that is sweetest and clearest in the past, I throw myself at your feet! Be my wife!"
The devil of a fellow joined the deed to the word, and the witnesses of the unexpected scene opened their eyes to the widest. But Clementine's aunt, the austere Mlle. Sambucco, thought that it was time to show her authority. She stretched out her big, wrinkled hands, seized Fougas, jerked him sharply to his feet, and cried in her shrillest voice:
"Enough, sir; it is time to put an end to this scandalous farce! My niece is not for you; I have promised her and given her away. Know that, day after to-morrow, the 19th of this month, at ten o'clock in the morning, she will marry M. Leon Renault, your benefactor!"
"And I forbid it—do you hear, Madame Aunt? And if she pretends to marry this boy——"
"What will you do?"
"I'll curse her!"
Leon could not help laughing. The malediction of this twenty-five-year-old Colonel appeared rather more comic than terrible. But Clementine grew pale, burst into tears, and fell, in her turn, at the feet of Fougas.
"Monsieur," cried she, kissing his hands, "do not overwhelm a poor girl who venerates you, who loves you, who will sacrifice her happiness if you demand it! By all the marks of tenderness which I have lavished upon you for a month, by the tears I have poured upon your coffin, by the respectful zeal with which I have urged on your resuscitation, I conjure you to pardon our offences. I will not marry Leon if you forbid me; I will do anything to please you; I will obey you in everything; but, for God's sake, do not pour upon me your maledictions!"
"Embrace me," said Fougas. "You yield; I pardon."
Clementine raised herself, all radiant with joy, and held up her beautiful forehead. The stupefaction of the spectators, especially of those most interested, can be better imagined than described. An old mummy dictating laws, breaking off marriages, and imposing his desires on the whole house! Pretty little Clementine, so reasonable, so obedient, so happy in the prospect of marrying Leon Renault, sacrificing, all at once, her affections, her happiness, and almost her duty, to the caprice of an interloper. M. Nibor declared that it was madness. As for Leon, he would have butted his head into all the walls, if his mother had not held him back.
"Ah, my poor child!" said she, "why did you bring that thing from Berlin?"
"It's my fault!" cried old Monsieur Renault.
"No," interrupted Dr. Martout, "it's mine."
The members of the Parisian committee discussed with M. Rollon the new aspect of the case. "Had they resuscitated a madman? Had the revivification produced some disorder of the nervous system? Had the abuse of wine and other drinkables during the first repast caused a delirium? What an interesting autopsy it would be, if they could dissect M. Fougas at the next regular meeting!"
"You would do very well as far as you would go, gentlemen," said the Colonel of the 23d. "The autopsy might explain the delirium of our unfortunate friend, but it would not account for the impression produced upon the young lady. Is it fascination, magnetism, or what?"
While the friends and relations were weeping, counselling, and buzzing around him, Fougas, serene and smiling, gazed at himself in Clementine's eyes, while they, too, regarded him tenderly.
"This must be brought to an end!" cried Mlle. Sambucco the severe. "Come, Clementine!"
Fougas seemed surprised.
"She doesn't live here, then?"
"No, sir; she lives with me."
"Then I will escort her home. Angel! will you take my arm?"
"Oh, yes, Monsieur, with great pleasure!"
Leon gnashed his teeth.
"This is admirable! He presumes on such familiarity, and she takes it all as a matter of course!"
He went to get his hat, for the purpose of, at least, going home with the aunt, but his hat was not in its place; Fougas, who had not yet one of his own, had helped himself to it without ceremony. The poor lover crowded his head into a cap, and followed Fougas and Clementine, with the respectable Virginie, whose arm cut like a scythe.
By an accident which happened almost daily, the Colonel of cuirassiers met Clementine on the way home. The young lady directed Fougas' attention to him.
"That's M. du Marnet," said she. "His restaurant is at the end of our street, and his room at the side of the park. I think he is very much taken with my little self, but he has never even bowed to me. The only man for whom my heart has ever beaten is Leon Renault."
"Ah, indeed! And me?" said Fougas.
"Oh! as for you, that's another matter. I respect you, and stand in awe of you. It seems to me as if you were a good and respectable parent."
"I'm telling you the truth, as far as I can read it in my heart. All this is not very clear, I confess, but I do not understand myself."
"Azure flower of innocence, I adore your sweet perplexity! Let love take care of itself; it will speak to you in master tones."
"I don't know anything about that; it's possible! Here we are at home. Good evening, Monsieur; embrace me.—Good night, Leon; don't quarrel with M. Fougas. I love him with all my heart, but I love you in a different way!"
The aunt Virginie made no response to the "Good evening" of Fougas. When the two men were alone in the street, Leon marched along without saying a word, till they reached the next lamp-post. There, planting himself resolutely opposite the Colonel, he said,
"Well, sir, now that we are alone, we had better have an explanation. I don't know by what philter or incantation you have obtained such prodigious influence over my betrothed; but I know that I love her, that I have been loved by her more than four years, and that I will not stop at any means of retaining and protecting her."
"Friend," answered Fougas, "you can brave me with impunity; my arm is chained by gratitude. It shall never be written in history that Pierre Fougas was an ingrate!"
"Would it have been more ungrateful in you to cut my throat, than to rob me of my wife?"
"Oh, my benefactor! Learn to understand and pardon! God forbid that I should marry Clementine in spite of you, in spite of herself. It is through her consent and your own that I hope to win her. Realize that she has been dear to me, not for four years, as to you, but for nearly half a century. Reflect that I am alone on earth, and that her sweet face is my only consolation. Will you, who have given me life, prevent my spending it happily? Have you called me back to the world only to deliver me over to despair?—Tiger! Take back, then, the life you gave me, if you will not permit me to consecrate it to the adorable Clementine!"
"Upon my soul, my dear fellow, you are superb! The habit of victory must have totally twisted your wits. My hat is on your head:—keep it; so far so good. But because my betrothed happens to remind you vaguely of a girl in Nancy, must I give her up to you? I can't see it!"
"Friend, I will give you back your hat just as soon as you've bought me another one; but do not ask me to give up Clementine. In the first place, do you know that she will reject me?"
"I'm sure of it."
"She loves me."
"You've seen her at my feet."
"What of that? It was from fear, from respect, from superstition, from anything in the devil's name you choose to call it; but it was not from love."
"We'll see about that pretty clearly, after six months of married life."
"But," cried Leon Renault, "have you the right to dispose of yourself? There is another Clementine, the true one; she has sacrificed everything for you; you are engaged, in honor, to her. Is Colonel Fougas deaf to the voice of honor?"
"Are you mocking me? What! I marry a woman sixty-four years old?"
"You ought to; if not for her sake, at least for your child's."
"My child is a pretty big boy. He's forty-six years old; he has no further need of my care."
"He does need your name, though."
"I'll adopt him."
"The law is opposed to it. You're not fifty years old, and he's not fifteen years younger than you are; quite the reverse!"
"Very well; I'll legitimize him by marrying the young Clementine."
"How can you expect her to acknowledge a child twice as old as she is herself?"
"But then I can't acknowledge him any better; so there's no need of my marrying the old woman. Moreover, I'd be excessively accommodating to break my head for a child who is very likely dead. What do I say? It is possible that he never saw the light. I love and am loved—that much is substantial and certain; and you shall be my groomsman."
"Not yet awhile. Mlle. Sambucco is a minor, and her guardian is my father."
"Your father is an honorable man; and he will not have the baseness to refuse her to me."
"At least he will ask you if you have any position, any rank, any fortune to offer to his ward."
"My position? colonel; my rank? colonel; my fortune? the pay of a colonel. And the millions at Dantzic—I mustn't forget them!—Here we are at home; let me have the will of that good old gentleman who wore the lilac wig. Give me some books on history, too—a big pile of them—all that have anything to say about Napoleon."
Young Renault sadly obeyed the master he had given himself. He conducted Fougas to a fine chamber, brought him Herr Meiser's will and a whole shelf of books, and bid his mortal enemy "Good night." The Colonel embraced him impetuously, and said to him,
"I will never forget that to you I owe life and Clementine. Farewell till to-morrow, noble and generous child of my native land! farewell!"
Leon went back to the ground floor, passed the dining-room, where Gothon was wiping the glasses and putting the silver in order, and rejoined his father and mother, who were waiting for him in the parlor. The guests were gone, the candles extinguished. A single lamp lit up the solitude. The two mandarins on the etagere were motionless in their obscure corner, and seemed to meditate gravely on the caprices of fortune.
"Well?" demanded Mme. Renault.
"I left him in his room, crazier and more obstinate than ever. However, I've got an idea."
"So much the better," said the father, "for we have none left. Sadness has made us stupid. But, above all things, no quarrelling. These soldiers of the empire used to be terrible swordsmen."
"Oh, I'm not afraid of him! It's Clementine that makes me anxious. With what sweetness and submission she listened to the confounded babbler!"
"The heart of woman is an unfathomable abyss. Well, what do you think of doing?"
Leon developed in detail the project he had conceived in the street, during his conversation with Fougas.
"The most urgent thing," said he, "is to relieve Clementine from this influence. If we could get him out of the way to-morrow, reason would resume its empire, and we would be married the day after to-morrow. That being done, I'll answer for the rest."
"But how is such a madman to be gotten rid of?"
"I see but one way, but it is almost infallible—to excite his dominant passion. These fellows sometimes imagine that they are in love, but, at the bottom, they love nothing but powder. The thing is, to fling Fougas back into the current of military ideas. His breakfast to-morrow with the colonel of the 23d will be a good preparation. I made him understand to-day that he ought, before all, to reclaim his rank and epaulettes, and he has become inoculated with the idea. He'll go to Paris, then. Possibly he'll find there some leather-breeches of his acquaintance. At all events, he'll reenter the service. The occupations incident to his position will be a powerful diversion; he'll no longer dream of Clementine, whom I will have fixed securely. We will have to furnish him the wherewithal to knock about the world; but all sacrifices of money are nothing in comparison with the happiness I wish to save."
Madame Renault, who was a woman of thrift, blamed her son's generosity a little.
"The Colonel is an ungrateful soul," said she. "We've already done too much in giving him back his life. Let him take care of himself now!"
"No," said the father; "we've not the right to send him forth entirely empty-handed. Decency forbids."
This deliberation, which had lasted a good hour and a quarter, was interrupted by a tremendous racket. One would have declared that the house was falling down.
"There he is again!" cried Leon. "Undoubtedly a fresh paroxysm of raving madness!"
He ran, followed by his parents, and mounted the steps four at a time. A candle was burning at the sill of the chamber door. Leon took it, and pushed the door half open.
Must it be confessed? Hope and joy spoke louder to him than fear. He fancied himself already relieved of the Colonel. But the spectacle presented to his eyes suddenly diverted the course of his ideas, and the inconsolable lover began laughing like a fool. A noise of kicks, blows, and slaps; an undefined group rolling on the floor in the convulsions of a desperate struggle—so much was all he could see and understand at the first glance. Soon Fougas, lit up by the ruddy glow of the candle, discovered that he was struggling with Gothon, like Jacob with the angel, and went back, confused and pitiable, to bed.
The Colonel had gone to sleep over the history of Napoleon, without putting out the candle. Gothon, after finishing her work, saw the light under the door. Her thoughts recurred to that poor Baptiste, who, perhaps, was groaning in purgatory for having let himself tumble from a roof. Hoping that Fougas could give her some news of her lover, she rapped several times, at first softly, then much louder. The Colonel's silence and the lighted candle made it seem to the servant that there was something wrong. The fire might catch the curtains, and from thence the whole building. She accordingly set down the candle, opened the door, and went, with cat-like steps, to put out the light. Possibly the eyes of the sleeper vaguely perceived the passage of a shadow; possibly Gothon, with her big, awkward figure, made a board in the floor creak. Fougas partially awoke, heard the rustling of a dress, dreamed it one of those adventures which were wont to spice garrison life under the first empire, and held out his arms blindly, calling Clementine. Gothon, on finding herself seized by the hair and shoulders, responded by such a masculine blow that the enemy supposed himself attacked by a man. The blow was returned with interest; further exchanges followed, and they finished by clinching and rolling on the floor.
If anybody ever did feel shamefaced, Fougas was certainly the man. Gothon went to bed, considerably bruised; the Renault family talked sense into the Colonel, and got out of him pretty much what they wanted. He promised to set out next day, accepted as a loan the money offered him, and swore not to return until he should have recovered his epaulettes and secured the Dantzic bequest.
"And then," said he, "I'll marry Clementine."
On that point it was useless to argue with him; the idea was fixed.
Everybody slept soundly in the mansion of the Renaults; the heads of the house, because they had had three sleepless nights; Fougas and Gothon, because each had been unmercifully pummelled; and the young Celestin, because he had drunk the heeltaps from all the glasses.
The next morning M. Rollon came to know if Fougas were in a condition to breakfast with him; he feared, just the least bit, that he would find him under a shower bath. Far from it! The madman of yesterday was as calm as a picture and as fresh as a rosebud. He shaved with Leon's razors, while humming an air of Nicolo. With his hosts, he was charming, and he promised to settle a pension on Gothon out of Herr Meiser's legacy.
As soon as he had set off for the breakfast, Leon ran to the dwelling of his sweetheart.
"Everything is going better," said he. "The Colonel is much more reasonable. He has promised to leave for Paris this very day; so we can get married to-morrow."
Mlle. Virginie Sambucco praised this plan of proceeding highly, not only because she had made great preparations for the wedding, but because the postponement of the marriage would be the talk of the town. The cards were already out, the mayor notified, and the Virgin's chapel, in the parish church, engaged. To revoke all this at the caprice of a ghost and a fool, would be to sin against custom, common sense, and Heaven itself.
Clementine only replied with tears. She could not be happy without marrying Leon, but she would rather die, she said, than give her hand without the sanction of M. Fougas. She promised to implore him, on her knees if necessary, and wring from him his consent.
"But if he refuses? And it's too likely that he will!"
"I will beseech him again and again, until he says yes."
Everybody conspired to convince her that she was unreasonable—her aunt, Leon, M. and Mme. Renault, M. Martout, M. Bonnivet, and all the friends of the two families. At length she yielded, but, at almost the same instant, the door flew open, and M. Audret rushed into the parlor, crying out,
"Well, well! here is a piece of news! Colonel Fougas is going to fight M. du Marnet to-morrow."
The young girl fell, thunderstruck, into the arms of Leon Renault.
"God punishes me!" cried she; "and the chastisement for my impiety is not delayed. Will you still force me to obey you? Shall I be dragged to the altar, in spite of myself, at the very hour he's risking his life?"
No one dared to insist longer, on seeing her in so pitiable a state. But Leon offered up earnest prayers that victory might side with the colonel of cuirassiers. He was wrong, I confess; but what lover would have been sinless enough to cast the first stone at him?
And here is an account of how the precious Fougas had spent his day.
At ten o'clock in the morning, the youngest two captains of the 23d came to conduct him in proper style to the residence of the Colonel. M. Rollon occupied a little palace of the imperial epoch. A marble tablet, inserted over the porte-cochere, still bore the words, Ministere des Finances—a souvenir of the glorious time when Napoleon's court followed its master to Fontainebleau.