I felt that my zeal was likely to compromise me.
"Be careful, Passajon," said the judge very sternly. "You are here only as a witness; but if you try to give the investigation a wrong turn you may return as a suspect."—Upon my word the monster seemed to desire it.—"Come, think, who tore out this page?"
Thereupon I very opportunely remembered that, a few days before leaving Paris, our Governor had told me to bring the books to his house, where they had remained until the following day. The clerk made a note of my declaration, whereupon the magistrate dismissed me with a wave of the hand, warning me that I must hold myself at his disposal. When I was at the door he recalled me:
"Here, Monsieur Passajon, take this; I have no further use for it."
He handed me the papers he had been consulting while he questioned me; and my confusion can be imagined when I saw on the cover the word "Memoirs" written in my roundest hand. I had myself furnished justice with weapons, with valuable information which the suddenness of our catastrophe had prevented me from rescuing from the general cleaning out executed by the police in our offices.
My first impulse, on returning, was to tear these tale-bearing sheets in pieces; then, after reflection, having satisfied myself that there was nothing in these Memoirs to compromise me, I decided, instead of destroying them, to continue them, with the certainty of making something out of them some day or other. There is no lack in Paris of novelists without imagination, who have not the art of introducing anything but true stories in their books, and who will not be sorry to buy a little volume of facts. That will be my way of revenging myself on this crew of high-toned pirates with whom I have become involved, to my shame and to my undoing.
It was necessary, however, for me to find some way of occupying my leisure time. Nothing to do at the office, which has been utterly deserted since the legal investigation began, except to pile up summonses of all colors. I have renewed my former practice of writing for the cook on the second floor, Mademoiselle Seraphine, from whom I accept some trifling supplies which I keep in the safe, once more a pantry. The Governor's wife also is very kind to me and stuffs my pockets whenever I go to see her in her fine apartments in the Chaussee d'Antin. Nothing is changed there. The same magnificence, the same comfort; furthermore, a little baby three months old, the seventh, and a superb nurse, whose Normandy cap creates a sensation when they drive in the Bois de Boulogne. I suppose that when people are once fairly started on the railway of fortune they require a certain time to slacken their speed or come to a full stop. And then, too, that thief of a Paganetti, to guard against accidents, had put everything in his wife's name. Perhaps that is why that jabbering Italian has taken a vow of affection for him which nothing can weaken. He is a fugitive, he is in hiding; but she is fully convinced that her husband is a little St. John in guilelessness, a victim of his kindness of heart and credulity. You should hear her talk: "You know him, Moussiou Passajon. You know whether he is escrupulous. Why, as true as there's a God, if my husband had done the dishonest things they accuse him of, I myself—do you hear me—I myself would have put a gun in his hands, and I would have said: 'Here, Tchecco, blow your head off!'" And the way she opens the nostrils in her little turned-up nose, and her round black eyes, like two balls of jet, makes you feel that that little Corsican from Ile Rousse would have done as she says. I tell you that damned Governor must be a shrewd fellow to deceive even his wife, to act a part in his own house, where the cleverest let themselves be seen as they are.
Meanwhile all these people are living well; Bois-l'Hery at Mazas has his meals sent from the Cafe Anglais, and Uncle Passajon is reduced to living on odds and ends picked up in kitchens. However, we must not complain too much. There are those who are more unfortunate than we, M. Francis, for instance, whom I saw at the Territoriale this morning, pale and thin, with disgraceful linen and ragged cuffs, which he continues to pull down as a matter of habit.
I was just in the act of broiling a bit of bacon in front of the fire in the directors' room, my cover being laid on the corner of a marquetry table with a newspaper underneath in order not to soil it. I invited Monpavon's valet to share my frugal repast; but, because he has waited on a marquis, that fellow fancies that he's one of the nobility, and he thanked me with a dignified air, which made me want to laugh when I looked at his hollow cheeks. He began by telling me that he was still without news of his master, that they had sent him away from the club on Rue Royale where all the papers were under seal and crowds of creditors swooping down like flocks of swallows on the marquis's trifling effects. "So that I find myself a little short," added M. Francis. That meant that he had not a sou in his pocket, that he had slept two nights on the benches along the boulevards, waked every minute by policemen, compelled to get up, to feign drunkenness in order to obtain another shelter. As for eating, I believe that he had not done that for a long while, for he stared at the food with hungry eyes that made one's heart ache, and when I had forcibly placed a slice of bacon and a glass of wine in front of him, he fell on them like a wolf. The blood instantly came to his cheeks, and as he ate he began to chatter and chatter.
"Do you know, Pere Passajon," he said between two mouthfuls, "I know where he is—I've seen him."
He winked slyly. For my part, I stared at him in amazement.
"In God's name, what have you seen, Monsieur Francis?"
"The marquis, my master—yonder in the little white house behind Notre Dame." He did not say the morgue, because that is a too vulgar word. "I was very sure I should find him there. I went straight there the next day. And there he was. Oh! very well hidden, I promise you. No one but his valet de chambre could have recognized him. His hair all gray, his teeth gone, and his real wrinkles, his sixty-five years that he used to fix up so well. As he lay there on that marble slab with the faucet dripping on him, I fancied I saw him at his dressing table."
"And you said nothing?"
"No, I had known his intentions on that subject for a long while. I let him go out of the world quietly, in the English fashion, as he wanted to do. All the same, he might have given me a bit of bread before he went, when I had been in his service twenty years."
Suddenly he brought his fist down upon the table in a rage:
"When I think that, if I had chosen, I might have entered Mora's service instead of Monpavon's, that I might have had Louis's place! There was a lucky dog! Think of the rolls of a thousand he nabbed at his duke's death!—And the clothes the duke left, shirts by the hundred, a dressing-gown in blue fox-skin worth more than twenty thousand francs! And there's that Noel, he must have lined his pockets! Simply by making haste, parbleu! for he knew it couldn't last long. And there's nothing to be picked up on Place Vendome now. An old gendarme of a mother who manages everything. They're selling Saint-Romans, they're selling the pictures. Half of the house is to let. It's the end of everything."
I confess that I could not help showing my satisfaction; for, after all, that wretched Jansoulet is the cause of all our misfortunes. A man who boasted of being so rich and talked about it everywhere. The public was taken in by it, like the fish that sees scales shining in a net. He has lost millions, I grant you; but why did he let people think he had plenty more? They have arrested Bois-l'Hery, but he's the one they should have arrested.—Ah! if we had had another expert, I am sure it would have been done long ago.—Indeed, as I said to Francis, one has only to look at that parvenu of a Jansoulet to see what he amounts to. Such a face, like a high and mighty brigand!
"And so common," added the former valet.
"Not the slightest moral character."
"Utter lack of breeding.—However, he's under water, and Jenkins too, and many others with them."
"What! the doctor too? That's too bad. Such a polite, pleasant man!"
"Yes, there's another man that's being sold out. Horses, carriages, furniture. The courtyard at his house is full of placards and sounds empty as if death had passed that way. The chateau at Nanterre's for sale. There were half a dozen 'little Bethlehems' left, and they packed them off in a cab. It's the crash, I tell you, Pere Passajon, a crash that we may not see the end of, perhaps, because we're both old, but it will be complete. Everything's rotten; everything must burst!"
It was horrible to see that old flunkey of the Empire, gaunt and stooping, covered with filth and crying like Jeremiah: "This is the end," with his toothless mouth wide open like a great black hole. I was afraid and ashamed before him, I longed to see his back; and I thought to myself: "O Monsieur Chalmette! O my little vineyard at Montbars!"
Great news! Madame Paganetti came this afternoon mysteriously and brought me a letter from the Governor. He is in London, just about to start a magnificent enterprise. Splendid offices in the finest part of the city; a stock company with superb prospects. He requests me to join him there, "happy," he says, "to repair in that way the wrong that has been done me." I shall have twice the salary I had at the Territoriale, with lodgings and fuel thrown in, five shares in the new company, and all my back pay in full. Only a trifling advance to be made for travelling expenses and some few importunate debts in the quarter. Vive la joie! my fortune is assured. I must write to the notary at Montbars to raise some money on my vineyard.
As M. Joyeuse had informed the examining magistrate, Paul de Gery was on his way home from Tunis after an absence of three weeks. Three interminable weeks, passed in struggling amid a network of intrigues, of plots cunningly devised by the powerful enmity of the Hemerlingues, wandering from office to office, from department to department, through that vast residence on the Bardo, where all the different departments of the State are collected in the same frowning enclosure, bristling with culverins, under the immediate supervision of the master, like his stables and his harem. Immediately on his arrival Paul had learned that the Chamber of Justice was beginning to hear the Jansoulet case in secret,—a mockery of a trial, lost beforehand; and the Nabob's closed counting-rooms on the Marine Quay, the seals placed upon his cash boxes, his vessels lying at anchor in the harbor of Goletta, the guard of chaouchs around his palaces, already denoted a species of civil death, an intestacy as to which there would soon be nothing left to do but divide the spoils.
Not a champion, not a friend in that greedy pack; even the Frankish colony seemed not displeased at the downfall of a courtier who had so long obstructed all the roads to favor by occupying them himself. It was absolutely hopeless to think of rescuing that victim from the bey's clutches in the absence of a signal triumph in the Chamber of Deputies. All that de Gery could hope to do was to save a few spars from the wreck, and even that required haste, for he expected from day to day to be advised of his friend's complete discomfiture.
He took the field, therefore, and went about his operations with an activity which nothing could abate, neither Oriental cajolery, that refined honey-sweet courtesy beneath which lurk savage ferocity and dissolute morals, nor the hypocritically indifferent smiles, nor the demure airs, the folded arms which invoke divine fatalism when human falsehood fails of its object. The sang-froid of that cool-headed little Southerner, in whom all the exuberant qualities of his countrymen were condensed, stood him in at least as good stead as his perfect familiarity with the French law, of which the Code of Tunis is simply a disfigured copy.
By adroit manoeuvring and circumspection, and in spite of the intrigues of Hemerlingue fils, who had great influence at the Bardo, he succeeded in exempting from confiscation the money loaned by the Nabob a few months before, and in extorting ten millions out of fifteen from the rapacious Mohammed. On the morning of the very day when that sum was to be paid over to him he received a despatch from Paris announcing that the election was annulled. He hurried at once to the palace, desirous to reach there in advance of the news; and on his return, with his ten millions in drafts on Marseille safely bestowed in his pocket-book, he passed Hemerlingue's carriage on the road, its three mules tearing along at full speed. The gaunt, owl-like face was radiant. As de Gery realized that if he remained only a few hours longer at Tunis his drafts would be in great danger of being confiscated, he engaged his passage on an Italian packet that was to sail for Genoa the next day and passed the night on board, and his mind was not at rest until he saw the white terraces of Tunis at the upper end of its bay, and the cliffs of Cape Carthage fading from sight behind him. When they entered the harbor of Genoa, the packet, as it ran alongside the wharf, passed close to a large yacht flying the Tunisian flag among a number of small flags with which she was decorated. De Gery was greatly excited, thinking for a moment that he was pursued and that on going ashore he might have a scuffle with the Italian police like a common pickpocket. But no, the yacht was lying quietly at anchor, her crew were scrubbing the deck and repainting the red mermaid that formed her figurehead as if some personage of importance were expected on board. Paul had no curiosity to ascertain who that personage might be; he simply rode across the marble city and returned by the railway which runs from Genoa to Marseille, following the coast; a marvellous road, where you pass from the inky darkness of tunnels into the dazzling splendor of the blue sea, but so narrow that accidents are very frequent.
At Savona the train stopped and the passengers were told that they could go no farther, as one of the small bridges across the streams that rush down from the mountain into the sea had broken down during the night. They must wait for the engineer and workmen who had been summoned by telegraph, stay there half a day perhaps. It was early morning. The Italian town was just awaking in one of those hazy dawns which promise extreme heat during the day. While the passengers scattered, seeking refuge in hotels or restaurants, or wandering about the town, de Gery, distressed by the delay, tried to find some way of avoiding the loss of ten hours or more. He thought of poor Jansoulet, whose honor and whose life might perhaps be saved by the money he was bringing, of his dear Aline, the thought of whom had not left him once during his journey, any more than the portrait she had given him. Suddenly it occurred to him to hire one of the calesinos, four-horse vehicles which make the journey from Genoa to Nice along the Italian Corniche, a fascinating drive often taken by foreigners, lovers, and gamblers who have been lucky at Monaco. The driver agreed to be at Nice early; but even though he should reach there no sooner than by waiting for the train, the impatient traveller felt an immense longing to be relieved of the necessity of pacing the streets, to know that the space between him and his desire decreased with every revolution of the wheels.
Ah! on a lovely June morning, at our friend Paul's age and with one's heart overflowing with love as his was, to fly along the white Corniche road behind four horses, is to feel an intoxication of travel that words cannot describe. On the left, at a depth of a hundred feet, lies the sea flecked with foam, from the little round bays along the shore to the hazy horizon where the blue of the sea and the blue of the sky melt together; red or white sails, like birds with a single wing spread to the breeze, the slender silhouettes of steamers with a little smoke trailing behind like a farewell, and along the beaches, of which you catch glimpses as the road winds, fishermen no larger than sea-mews in their boats, lying at anchor, which look like nests. Then the road descends, follows a rapid downward slope along the base of cliffs and headlands almost perpendicular. The cool breeze from the water reaches you there, blends with the thousand little bells on the harnesses, while at the right, on the mountain-side, the pines and green oaks rise tier above tier, with gnarled roots protruding from the sterile soil, and cultivated olive-trees in terraces, as far as a broad ravine, white and rocky, bordered with green plants which tell of the passage of the waters, the dry bed of a torrent up which toil laden mules, sure of their footing among the loose shingle, where a washerwoman stoops beside a microscopic pool, a few drops remaining from the great winter freshets. From time to time you rumble through the one street of a village, or rather of a small town of historic antiquity, grown rusty with too much sunshine, the houses crowded closely together and connected by dark archways, a network of covered lanes which climb the sheer cliff with snatches of light from above, openings like the mouths of mines affording glimpses of broods of children with curly hair like a halo about their heads, baskets of luscious fruit, a woman descending the rough pavements with a pitcher on her head or a distaff in her hand. Then, at a corner of the street, the blue twinkling of the waves, immensity once more.
But as the day wore on, the sun, mounting higher in the heavens, scattered its beams over the sea just emerging from its mists, heavy with sleep, dazed, motionless, with a quartz-like transparence, and myriads of rays fell upon the water as if arrow-points had pricked it, making a dazzling reflection, doubled in intensity by the whiteness of the cliffs and the soil, by a veritable African sirocco which raised the dust in a spiral column as the carriage passed. They reached the hottest, the most sheltered portions of the Corniche,—a genuinely tropical temperature, where dates, cactus, the aloe, with its tall, candelabra-like branches, grow in the fields. When he saw those slender trunks, that fantastic vegetation shooting up in the white, hot air, when he felt the blinding dust crunching under the wheels like snow, de Gery, his eyes partly closed, half-dreaming in that leaden noonday heat, fancied that he was making once more the tiresome journey from Tunis to the Bardo, which he had made so often in a strange medley of Levantine chariots, brilliant liveries, meahris with long neck and hanging lip, gayly-caparisoned mules, young asses, Arabs in rags, half-naked negroes, great functionaries in full dress, with their escorts of honor. Should he find yonder, where the road skirts gardens of palm-trees, the curious, colossal architecture of the bey's palace, its close-meshed window gratings, its marble doors, its moucharabies cut out of wood and painted in vivid colors? It was not the Bardo, but the pretty village of Bordighera, divided like all those on the coast into two parts, the Marine lying along the shore, and the upper town, connected by a forest of statuesque palms with slender stalks and drooping tops,—veritable rockets of verdure, showing stripes of blue through their innumerable regular clefts.
The unendurable heat and the exhaustion of the horses compelled the traveller to halt for two or three hours at one of the great hotels that line the road and, from early in November, bring to that wonderfully sheltered little village all the luxurious life and animation of an aristocratic winter resort. But at that time of year the Marine of Bordighera was deserted, save for a few fishermen, who were invisible at that hour. The villas and hotels seemed dead, all their blinds and shades being closely drawn. The new arrival was led through long, cool, silent passages, to a large salon facing north, evidently a part of one of the full suites which are generally let for the season, as it was connected with other rooms on either side by light doors. White curtains, a carpet, the semi-comfort demanded by the English even when travelling, and in front of the windows, which the innkeeper threw wide open as a lure to the visitor, to induce him to make a more extended halt, the magnificent view of the mountain. An astonishing calm reigned in that huge, deserted inn, with no steward, no cook, no attendants,—none of the staff arrived until the first cool days,—and given over to the care of a native spoil-sauce, an expert in stoffatos and risottos, and to two stable-boys, who donned the regulation black coat, white cravat and pumps at meal hours. Luckily, de Gery proposed to remain there only an hour or two,—long enough to breathe, to rest his eyes from the glare of burnished silver and to free his heavy head from the helmet with the painful chin-strap that the sun had placed upon it.
From the couch on which he lay, the beautiful landscape, terraces of light, quivering olive-trees, orange-groves of darker hue, their leaves gleaming as if wet in the moving rays, seemed to come down to his window in tiers of verdure of different shades, amid which the scattered villas stood forth in dazzling whiteness, among them Maurice Trott, the banker's, recognizable by the capricious richness of its architecture and the height of its palm-trees. The Levantine's palace, whose gardens extended to the very windows of the hotel, had sheltered for several months past an artistic celebrity, the sculptor Brehat, who was dying of consumption and owed the prolongation of his life to that princely hospitality. This proximity of a famous moribund, of which the landlord was very proud and which he would have been glad to charge in his bill,—the name of Brehat, which de Gery had so often heard mentioned with admiration in Felicia Ruys' studio, led his thoughts back to the lovely face with the pure outlines, which he had seen for the last time in the Bois de Boulogne, leaning upon Mora's shoulder. What had become of the unfortunate girl when that support had failed her? Would the lesson profit her in the future? And, by a strange coincidence, while he was thinking thus of Felicia, a great white grey-hound went frisking along a tree-lined avenue in the sloping garden before him. One would have said that it was Kadour himself,—the same short hair, the same fierce, slender red jaws. Paul, at his open window, was assailed in an instant by all sorts of visions, sweet and depressing. Perhaps the superb scenery before him, the lofty mountain up which a blue shadow was running, tarrying in all the inequalities of the ground, assisted the vagabondage of his thought. Under the orange and lemon trees, set out in straight lines for cultivation, stretched vast fields of violets in close, regular clusters, traversed by little irrigating canals, whose walls of white stone made sharp breaks in the luxuriant verdure.
An exquisite odor arose, of violets fermented in the sun, a hot boudoir perfume, enervating, weakening, which called up before de Gery's eyes feminine visions, Aline, Felicia, gliding across the enchanted landscape, in that blue-tinted atmosphere, that elysian light which seemed to be the visible perfume of such a multitude of flowers in full bloom. A sound of doors closing made him open his eyes. Some one had entered the adjoining room. He heard a dress brushing against the thin partition, the turning of leaves in a book in which the reader seemed to feel no absorbing interest; for he was startled by a long sigh ending in a yawn. Was he still asleep, still dreaming? Had he not heard the cry of the "jackal in the desert," so thoroughly in harmony with the heavy, scorching temperature without? No. Nothing more. He dozed again; and this time all the confused images that haunted him took definite shape in a dream, a very lovely dream.
He was taking his wedding journey with Aline. A fascinating bride she was. Bright eyes, overflowing with love and faith, which knew only him, looked at none but him. In that same hotel parlor, on the other side of the centre table, the sweet girl was sitting in a white neglige morning costume which smelt of violets and of the dainty lace of the trousseau. One of those wedding-journey breakfasts, served immediately after rising, in sight of the blue sea and the clear sky which tinge with azure the glass from which you drink, the eyes into which you gaze, the future, life and the vast expanse of space. Oh! what superb weather, what a divine, youth-renewing light, and how happy they were!
And suddenly, amid their kisses, their intoxicating bliss, Aline became sad. Her lovely eyes were dimmed with tears. "Felicia is there," she said, "you will not love me any more." And he laughed at her: "Felicia,—here? What an idea!" "Yes, yes, she is there." Trembling, she pointed to the adjoining room, where he heard Felicia's voice, mingled with fierce barking. "Here, Kadour! Here, Kadour!" the low, concentrated, indignant voice of one who seeks to remain concealed and suddenly finds that she is discovered.
Awakened with a start, the lover, disenchanted, found himself in the empty room, beside a table at which no one else was sitting, his lovely dream flown away through the window to the great hillside which filled the whole field of vision and seemed to stoop toward the house. But he really heard the barking of a dog in the adjoining room and repeated blows on the door.
"Open the door. It is I—Jenkins."
Paul sat up on his couch in speechless amazement. Jenkins in that house? How could that be? To whom was he talking? What voice was about to reply to him? There was no reply. A light step walked to the door and the bolt was nervously drawn back.
"At last I have found you," said the Irishman, entering the room.
And in truth, if he had not taken pains to announce himself, Paul, hearing it through the partition, would never have attributed that brutal, hoarse, savage tone to the oily-mannered doctor.
"At last I have found you, after eight days of searching, of rushing frantically from Genoa to Nice, from Nice to Genoa. I knew that you hadn't gone, as the yacht was still in the roads. And I was on the point of investigating all the hotels along the shore when I remembered Brehat. I thought that you would want to stop and see him as you passed. So I came here. It was he who told me that you were at this house."
To whom was he speaking? What extraordinary obstinacy the person showed in not replying! At last a rich, melancholy voice, which Paul knew well, made the heavy resonant air of the hot afternoon vibrate in its turn.
"Well! yes, Jenkins, here I am. What of it, pray?"
Paul could see through the wall the disdainful, drooping mouth, curled in disgust.
"I have come to prevent you from going, from perpetrating this folly."
"What folly? I have work to do in Tunis. I must go there."
"Why, you can't think of such a thing, my dear child."
"Oh! enough of your paternal airs, Jenkins. I know what is hidden underneath. Pray talk to me as you did just now. I prefer you as the bulldog, rather than as the fawning cur. I'm less afraid of you."
"Very good! I tell you that you must be mad to go to that country all alone, young and lovely as you are."
"Why, am I not always alone? Would you have me take Constance, at her age?"
"What about me?"
"You?" She emphasized the word with a most satirical laugh. "And Paris? and your patients? Deprive Paris of its Cagliostro! No, indeed, never!"
"I am thoroughly resolved, however, to follow you wherever you go," said Jenkins, with decision.
There was a moment's pause. Paul wondered if it were very dignified in him to listen to this discussion, which seemed pregnant with terrible disclosures. But, in addition to his fatigue, an unconquerable curiosity glued him to his place. It seemed to him that the engrossing enigma by which he had been so long puzzled and disturbed, to which his mind still held by the end of its veil of mystery, was about to speak at last, to reveal itself, to disclose the woman, sorrowful or perverse, hidden beneath the shell of the worldly artist. So he remained perfectly still, holding his breath, but with no need to listen closely; for the others, believing themselves alone in the hotel, allowed their passions and their voices to rise without restraint.
"After all, what do you want of me?"
"I want you."
"Yes, yes, I know; you have forbidden me ever to utter such words before you; but others than I have said them to you and more too—"
Two nervous steps brought her nearer to the apostle, placed the breathless contempt of her retort close to his broad sensual face.
"And if that were true, villain! If I were unable to defend myself against disgust and ennui, if I did lose my pride, is it for you to mention it? As if you were not the cause of it, as if you had not withered and saddened my life forever."
And three swift, burning words revealed to the horrified Paul de Gery the shocking scene of that assault disguised by loving guardianship, against which the girl's spirit and mind and dreams had had to struggle so long, and which had left her the incurable depression of premature sorrow, a loathing for life almost before it had begun, and that curl at the corner of the lip like the visible wreck of a smile.
"I loved you,—I love you. Passion carries everything before it," Jenkins replied in a hollow voice.
"Very well, love me, if it amuses you. For my part, I hate you, not only because of the injury you have done me and all the beliefs and laudable enthusiasms that you killed in me, but because you represent what are the most execrable and hideous things under the sun to me, hypocrisy and falsehood. Yes, in that worldly masquerade, that mass of false pretences, of grimaces, of cowardly, indecent conventions which have sickened me so thoroughly that I am running away, exiling myself in order to avoid seeing them, that I prefer to them the galleys, the gutter, or to walk the street as a prostitute, your mask, O sublime Jenkins, is the one that inspires the greatest horror in me. You have complicated our French hypocrisy, which consists mainly in smiles and courtesies, with your effusive English handshakes, your cordial and demonstrative loyalty. Everybody is taken in by it. People speak of 'honest Jenkins,' 'excellent, worthy Jenkins.' But I know you, my man, and for all your fine motto, so insolently displayed on your envelopes, on your seal, your cuff-buttons, your hat-buckles and the panels of your carriages, I always see the knave that you are, showing everywhere around the edges of your disguise."
Her voice hissed between her clenched teeth with an indescribably savage intonation; and Paul expected some frantic outburst on the part of Jenkins, rebelling against such a storm of insults. But no. That exhibition of hatred and contempt on the part of the woman he loved evidently caused him more sorrow than anger; for he answered low, in a tone of heart-broken gentleness:—
"Ah! you are cruel. If you knew how you hurt me! Hypocrite, yes, it is true; but a man isn't born that way, he becomes so perforce, in face of the harsh vicissitudes of life. When you have the wind against you and want to go ahead, you tack. I tacked. Charge it to my miserable beginnings, to an unsuccessful entrance on the stage, and agree at least that one thing in me has never lied: my passion! Nothing has succeeded in repelling it, neither your contempt, nor your insults, nor all that I read in your eyes, which have never once smiled on me in all these years. And it is my passion which gives me strength, even after what I have just heard, to tell you why I am here. Listen. You informed me one day that you needed a husband, some one to watch over you while you were at work, to relieve poor, worn-out Crenmitz from sentry duty. Those were your own words, which tore my heart then because I was not free. Now everything is changed. Will you marry me, Felicia?"
"What about your wife?" cried the girl, while Paul asked himself the same question.
"My wife is dead."
"Dead? Madame Jenkins? Is that true?"
"You never knew the one to whom I refer. The other was not my wife. When I met her, I was already married, in Ireland. Years ago. A horrible marriage, entered into with a rope around my neck. My dear, at twenty-five this alternative was presented to me: imprisonment for debt or Miss Strang, a pimply-faced, gouty old maid, the sister of a money-lender who had advanced me five hundred francs to pay for my medical studies. I preferred the jail; but weeks and months of it exhausted my courage and I married Miss Strang, who brought me as her dowry—my note of hand. You can imagine what my life was between those two monsters who adored each other. A jealous, sterile wife. The brother spying upon me, following me everywhere. I might have fled. But one thing detained me. The money-lender was said to be enormously rich. I proposed at all events to secure the profits of my cowardice. You see, I tell you everything. However, I was well punished. Old Strang died insolvent; he was a gambler, and had ruined himself without saying a word. Thereupon I placed my wife's rheumatism in an asylum and came to France. I had to begin life anew, to struggle with poverty once more. But I had on my side experience, hatred and contempt for mankind, and freedom, for I did not suspect that the horrible ball and chain of that infernal union would continue to impede my steps at a distance. Luckily it's all over, and I am free at last."
"Yes, Jenkins, free. But why doesn't it occur to you to marry the poor creature who has shared your life so long, humble and devoted to you as we have all seen her?"
"Oh!" he said with a burst of sincere feeling, "between my two galleys I believe I preferred the other, where I could show my indifference or my hatred without restraint. But the ghastly comedy of conjugal love, of unwearying happiness, when for so many years I have loved no one but you, thought of no one but you! There's no such torture on earth. If I can judge by my own experience, the poor woman must have shouted with relief and joy when we separated. That is the only farewell greeting I hoped for from her."
"But who forced you to use such restraint."
"Paris, society, the world. Being married according to public opinion, we were bound by it."
"And now you are no longer so bound?"
"Now there is one thing that overshadows everything else, the thought of losing you, of seeing you no more. Oh! when I learned of your flight, when I saw the sign: TO LET, on your door, I felt that the time for poses and grimaces had gone by, that there was nothing for me to do but to pack up and rush after my happiness, which you were carrying away. You left Paris, I did the same. Everything in your house was sold; everything in my house is to be sold."
"And she?" rejoined Felicia, with a shudder. "She, the irreproachable companion, the virtuous woman whom no one has ever suspected, where will she go? what will she do? And you have come to propose to me to take her place? A stolen place, and in what a hell! Aha! And our motto, honest Jenkins, virtuous Jenkins, what are we to do with that? 'Do good without hope,' old man!"
At that sneer, stinging as a blow from a whip, which must have left its mark in red on his face, the wretch rejoined, gasping for breath:
"Enough, enough; do not mock me so. It is too horrible, after all that has gone. In God's name doesn't it touch you to be loved as I love you, sacrificing everything to you, wealth, honor, reputation? Come, look at me. However carefully applied my mask may have been, I have torn it off for you, I have torn it off before all the world. And now, look! here is the hypocrite!"
There was a dull sound as of two knees falling upon the floor. And mad with love, stammering, humbling himself before her, he implored her to consent to marry him, to give him the right to go everywhere with her, to defend her; then words failed him, his voice was choked by a passionate sob, so deep, so heart-rending, that it might well have touched any heart, especially in presence of that gorgeous scenery lying impassive in the perfumed, enervating heat. But Felicia was not moved, and her manner was still haughty as she said brusquely: "Enough of this, Jenkins, what you ask is impossible. We have nothing to conceal from each other; and after your confidences of a moment ago, I propose to tell you something which it wounds my pride to tell, but which your persistence seems to me to deserve. I was Mora's mistress."
Paul was not unprepared for that. And yet that sweet voice burdened with such a confession was so sad amid the intoxicating aromas of that lovely blue atmosphere, that his heart was sorely oppressed, and he had in his mouth the taste of tears left by an unavowed regret.
"I knew it," replied Jenkins in a hollow voice. "I have here the letters you wrote him."
"Oh! I will give them back to you; take them. I know them by heart, by dint of reading and re-reading them. That is the kind of thing that hurts when one is in love. But I have undergone other tortures. When I think that it was I—" he paused, he was suffocating—"I who was destined to furnish combustion for your flames, to warm that frozen lover, to send him to you, ardent and rejuvenated! Ah! he made away with the pearls, I tell you. It was of no use for me to say no, he always wanted more. At last I went mad. 'You want to burn, villain. Well, burn!'"
* * * * *
Paul sprang to his feet in dismay. Was he about to hear the confession of a crime?
But he had not to undergo the shame of listening further.
A sharp knock, on his door this time, warned him that the calesino was ready.
"Hallo! Signor Francese."
There was profound silence in the adjoining room, then a hurried whispering. There was somebody close by, who was listening to them!—Paul de Gery rushed downstairs. He longed to be far away from that hotel parlor, to escape the haunting memory of the horrors that had been disclosed to him.
As the post-chaise started, he saw, between the cheap white curtains that hang at every window in the South, a pale face with the hair of a goddess and great blazing eyes, watching for him to pass. But a glance at Aline's portrait soon banished that disturbing vision, and, cured forever of his former passion, he travelled until evening through an enchanted country with the pretty bride of the breakfast, who carried away in the folds of her modest dress, of her maidenly cloak, all the violets of Bordighera.
THE FIRST NIGHT OF "REVOLTE."
"Ready for the first act!"
That cry from the stage manager, standing, with his hands at his mouth like a trumpet, at the foot of the actors' stairway, soars upward in its lofty well, rolls hither and thither, loses itself in the recesses of passage-ways filled with the noise of closing doors and hurried footsteps, of despairing calls to the wig-maker and the dressers, while on the landings of the different floors, slowly and majestically, holding their heads perfectly still for fear of disarranging the slightest detail of their costumes, all the characters of the first act of Revolte appear one by one, clad in elegant modern ball costumes, with much creaking of new shoes, rustling of silk trains, and clanking of handsome bracelets pushed up by the gloves in process of being buttoned. They all seem excited, nervous, pale under their paint, and little shivers pass in waves of shadow over the skilfully prepared velvety flesh of shoulders drenched with white lead. They talk but little, their mouths are dry. The most self-assured, while affecting to smile, have in their eyes and their voices the hesitation of absent-mindedness, that feeling of apprehension of the battle before the footlights which will always be one of the most potent attractions of the actor's profession, its piquancy, its ever-recurring springtime.
On the crowded stage, where scene-shifters and machinists are running hither and thither, jostling one another in the soft, snowy light from the wings, soon to give place, when the curtain rises, to the brilliant light from the theatre, Cardailhac in black coat and white cravat, his hat cocked over one ear, casts a last glance over the arrangement of the scenery, hastens the workmen, compliments the ingenue, humming a tune the while, radiant and superb. To see him, no one would ever suspect the terrible anxieties by which his mind is beset. As he was involved with all the others in the Nabob's downfall, in which his stock company was swallowed up, he is staking his little all on the play to be given this evening, and will be forced—if it does not succeed—to leave this marvellous scenery, these rich stuffs at a hundred francs the yard, unpaid for. His fourth failure is staring him in the face. But, deuce take it! our manager has confidence. Success, like all the monsters that feed on man, loves youth; and this unknown author whose name is entirely new on the posters, flatters the gambler's superstitions.
Andre Maranne is not so confident. As the time for the performance draws near, he loses faith in his work, dismayed by the sight of the crowded hall, which he surveys through a hole in the curtain as through the small end of a stereoscope.
A magnificent audience, filling the hall to the ceiling, despite the lateness of the season and the fashionable taste for going early to the country; for Cardailhac, the declared foe of nature and the country, who always struggles to keep Parisians in Paris as late as possible, has succeeded in filling his theatre, in making it as brilliant as in mid-winter. Fifteen hundred heads swarming under the chandeliers, erect, leaning forward, turned aside, questioning, with a great abundance of shadows and reflections; some massed in the dark corners of the pit, others brilliantly illuminated by the reflection of the white walls of the lobby shining through the open doors of the boxes; a first-night audience, always the same, that collective brigand from the theatrical columns of the newspapers, who goes everywhere and carries by assault those much-envied places when some claim to favor or the exercise of some public function does not give them to him.
In the orchestra-stalls, lady-killers, clubmen, glistening craniums with broad bald streaks fringed with scanty hair, light gloves, huge opera-glasses levelled at the boxes. In the galleries, a medley of castes and fine dresses, all the names well known at functions of the sort, and the embarrassing promiscuousness which seats the chaste, modest smile of the virtuous woman beside the eyes blazing with kohl and the lips streaked with vermilion of the other kind. White hats, pink hats, diamonds and face paint. Higher up, the boxes present the same scene of confusion: actresses and courtesans, ministers, ambassadors, famous authors, critics solemn of manner and frowning, lying back in their chairs with the impassive gloom of judges beyond the reach of corruption. The proscenium boxes are ablaze with light and splendor, occupied by celebrities of the world of finance, decolletee, bare-armed women, gleaming with jewels like the Queen of Sheba when she visited the King of the Jews. But one of those great boxes on the left is entirely unoccupied, and attracts general attention by its peculiar decoration, lighted by a Moorish lantern at the rear. Over the whole assemblage hovers an impalpable floating dust, the flickering of the gas, which mingles its odor with all Parisian recreations, and its short, sharp wheezing like a consumptive's breath, accompanying the slow waving of fans. And with all the rest, ennui, deathly ennui, the ennui of seeing the same faces always in the same seats, with their affectations or their defects, the monotony of society functions, which results every winter in turning Paris into a backbiting provincial town, more gossipy and narrow-minded than the provinces themselves.
Maranne noticed that sullen humor, that evident weariness on the part of the audience, and as he reflected upon the change that would be wrought by the success of his drama in his modest life, now made up entirely of hopes, he asked himself, in an agony of dread, what he could do to bring his thoughts home to that multitude of human beings, to force them to lay aside their preoccupied manner, to set in motion in that vast throng a single current which would attract to him those distraught glances, those minds, now scattered over all the notes in the key-board and so difficult to bring into harmony. Instinctively he sought friendly faces, a box opposite the stage filled by the Joyeuse family; Elise and the younger girls in front, and behind them Aline and their father, a lovely family group, like a bouquet dripping with dew in a display of artificial flowers. And while all Paris was asking disdainfully: "Who are those people?" the poet placed his destiny in those little fairy-like hands, newly gloved for the occasion, which would boldly give the signal for applause when it was time.
"Clear the stage!" Maranne has barely time to rush into the wings; and suddenly he hears, far, very far away, the first words of his play, rising, like a flock of frightened birds, in the silence and immensity of the theatre. A terrible moment! Where should he go? What would become of him? Should he remain there leaning against a post, with ears strained and a feeling of tightness at his heart; to encourage the actors when he was so in need of encouragement himself? He prefers to confront the danger face to face, and he glides through a little door into the lobby outside the boxes and stops at a box on the first tier which he opens softly.—"Sh!—it's I." Some one is sitting in the shadow, a woman whom all Paris knows, and who keeps out of sight. Andre takes his place beside her, and sitting side by side, invisible to all, the mother and son, trembling with excitement, watch the performance.
The audience was dumbfounded at first. The Theatre des Nouveautes, situated at the heart of the boulevard, where its main entrance was a blaze of light, among the fashionable restaurants and select clubs,—a theatre to which small parties used to adjourn after a choice dinner to hear an act or two of something racy, had become in the hands of its clever manager the most popular of all Parisian play-houses, with no well-defined speciality but providing a little of all sorts, from the spectacular fairy-play which exhibits the women in scant attire, to the great modern drama which does the same for our morals. Cardailhac was especially bent upon justifying his title of "manager of the Nouveautes," and since the Nabob's millions had been behind the undertaking, he had striven to give the frequenters of the boulevard some dazzling surprises. That of this evening surpassed them all: the play was in verse—and virtuous.
A virtuous play!
The old monkey had realized that the time had come to try that coup, and he tried it. After the first moments of amazement, and a few melancholy ejaculations here and there in the boxes: "Listen! it's in verse!" the audience began to feel the charm of that elevating, healthy work, as if someone had shaken over it, in that rarefied atmosphere, some cool essence, pleasant to inhale, an elixir of life perfumed with the wild thyme of the hillsides.
"Ah! this is fine—it is restful."
That was the general exclamation, a thrill of comfort, a bleat of satisfaction accompanying each line. It was restful to the corpulent Hemerlingue, puffing in his proscenium box on the ground floor, as in a sty of cherry-colored satin. It was restful to tall Suzanne Bloch, in her antique head-dress with crimps peeping out from under a diadem of gold; and Amy Ferat beside her, all in white like a bride, sprigs of orange-blossoms in her hair dressed a la chien, it was restful to her, too.
There were numbers of such creatures there, some very stout with an unhealthy stoutness picked up in all sorts of seraglios, triple-chinned and with an idiotic look; others absolutely green despite their rouge, as if they had been dipped in a bath of that arsenite of copper known to commerce as "Paris green," so faded and wrinkled that they kept out of sight in the back of their boxes, letting nothing be seen save a bit of white arm or a still shapely shoulder. Then there were old beaux, limp and stooping, of the type then known as little creves, with protruding neck and hanging lips, incapable of standing straight, or of uttering a word without a break. And all these people exclaimed as one man: "This is fine—it is restful." Beau Moessard hummed it like a tune under his little blond moustache, while his queen in a first tier box opposite translated it into her barbarous foreign tongue. Really it was restful to them. But they did not say why they needed rest, from what heart-sickening toil, from what enforced task as idlers and utterly useless creatures.
All these well-disposed murmurs, confused and blended, began to give the theatre the aspect that it wore on great occasions. Success was in the air, faces became brighter, the women seemed embellished by the reflection of the prevailing enthusiasm, of glances as thrilling as applause. Andre, sitting beside his mother, thrilled with an unfamiliar pleasure, with that proud delight which one feels in stirring the emotions of a crowd, even though it be as a street-singer in the faubourgs, with a patriotic refrain and two tremulous notes in one's voice. Suddenly the whispering redoubled, changed into a tumult. People began to move about and laugh sneeringly. What was happening? Some accident on the stage? Andre, leaning forward in dismay toward his actors, who were no less surprised than himself, saw that all the opera-glasses were levelled at the large proscenium box, empty until then, which some one had just entered and had taken his seat there, both elbows on the velvet rail, opera-glass in hand, in ominous solitude.
The Nabob had grown twenty years older in ten days. Those impulsive Southern natures, rich as they are in enthusiastic outbursts, in irresistible spurts of flame, collapse more utterly than others. Since his rejection by the Chamber the poor fellow had remained shut up in his own room, with the curtains drawn, refusing to see the daylight or to cross the threshold beyond which life awaited him, engagements he had entered into, promises made, a wilderness of protests and summonses. The Levantine having gone to some watering-place, attended by her masseur and her negresses, absolutely indifferent to the ruin of the family,—Bompain, the man in the fez, aghast amid the constant demands for money, being utterly at a loss to know how to approach his unfortunate employer, who was always in bed and turned his face to the wall as soon as any one mentioned business to him,—the old mother was left alone to struggle with the disaster, with the limited, guileless knowledge of a village widow, who knows what a stamped paper is, and a signature, and who considers honor the most precious possession on earth. Her yellow cap appeared on every floor of the great mansion, overlooking the bills, introducing reforms among the servants, heedless of outcries and humiliations. At every hour in the day the good woman could be seen striding along Place Vendome, gesticulating, talking to herself, saying aloud: "Bah! I'll go and see the bailiff." And she never consulted her son except when it was indispensable, and then only in a few concise words, careful to avoid looking at him. To arouse Jansoulet from his torpor nothing less would suffice than a despatch from Paul de Gery at Marseille, announcing his arrival with ten millions. Ten millions, that is to say, failure averted, a possibility of standing erect once more, of beginning life anew. And behold our Southerner, rebounding from the depths to which he had fallen, drunk with joy and hope. He ordered the windows to be thrown open, newspapers to be brought. What a magnificent opportunity that first night of Revolte would afford him to show himself to the Parisians, who believed that he had gone under, to re-enter the great eddying whirlpool through the folding doors of his box at the Nouveautes! His mother, warned by an instinctive dread, made a slight effort to hold him back. Paris terrified her now. She would have liked to take her child away to some secluded corner in the South, to care for him with the Elder, both ill with the disease of the great city. But he was the master. It was impossible to resist the will of that man whom wealth had spoiled. She helped him to dress, "made him handsome," as she laughingly said, and watched him not without a certain pride as he left the house, superb, revivified, almost recovered from the terrible prostration of the last few days.
Jansoulet quickly remarked the sensation caused by his presence in the theatre. Being accustomed to such exhibitions of curiosity, he usually responded to them without the least embarrassment, with his kindly, expansive smile; but this time the manifestation was unfriendly, almost insulting.
"What!—is that he?"
"There he is!"
Such exclamations went up from the orchestra stalls, mingled with many others. The seclusion and retirement in which he had taken refuge for the past few days had left him in ignorance of the public exasperation in his regard, the sermons, the dithyrambs with which the newspapers were filled on the subject of his corrupting wealth, articles written for effect, hypocritical verbiage to which public opinion resorts from time to time to revenge itself on the innocent for all its concessions to the guilty. It was a terrible disappointment, which caused him at first more pain than anger. Deeply moved, he concealed his distress behind his opera-glass, turning three-fourths away from the audience and giving close attention to the slightest details of the performance, but unable to avoid the scandalized scrutiny of which he was the victim, and which made his ears ring, his temples throb, and covered the dimmed lenses of his opera-glass with multi-colored circles, whirling about in the first vagaries of apoplexy.
When the act came to an end and the curtain fell, he remained, without moving, in that embarrassed attitude; but the louder whispering, no longer restrained by the stage dialogue, and the persistency of certain curious persons who changed their seats in order to obtain a better view of him, compelled him to leave his box, to rush out into the lobby like a wild beast fleeing from the arena through the circus.
Under the low ceiling, in the narrow circular passage common in theatre lobbies, he stumbled upon a compact crowd of dandies, newspaper men, women in gorgeous hats, tightly laced, laughers by trade, shrieking with idiotic laughter as they leaned against the wall. From the open boxes, which sought a breath of fresh air from that swarming, noisy corridor, issued broken, confused fragments of conversation:
"A delightful play. It is so fresh and clean!"
"That Nabob! What insolence!"
"Yes, it really is very restful. One feels the better for—"
"How is it he hasn't been arrested yet?"
"A very young man, it seems; this is his first play."
"Bois-l'Hery at Mazas!—It isn't possible. There's the marchioness just opposite us in the first gallery, with a new hat."
"What does that prove? She's plying her trade of lanceuse. That's a very pretty hat, by the way—the colors of Desgranges' horse."
"And Jenkins? What has become of Jenkins?"
"At Tunis with Felicia. Old Brahim saw them both. It seems that the bey has taken a decided liking to the pearls."
Farther on, sweet voices whispered:
"Go, father, do go. See how entirely alone he is, poor man."
"But I don't know him, children."
"Even so, just a bow. Something to show him that he isn't utterly abandoned."
Whereupon a little old gentleman, in a white cravat, with a very red face, darted to meet the Nabob and saluted him with a respectful flourish of his hat. How gratefully, with what an eager, pleasant smile, was that single salutation returned, that salutation from a man whom Jansoulet did not know, whom he had never seen, but who, nevertheless, exerted a very great influence upon his destiny; for, except for Pere Joyeuse, the president of the council of the Territoriale would probably have shared the fate of the Marquis de Bois-l'Hery. So it is that in the network of modern society, that vast labyrinth of selfish interests, ambitions, services accepted and rendered, all castes communicate between themselves, mysteriously connected by hidden bonds, from the most elevated to the humblest existences; therein lies the explanation of the variegated coloring, the complication of this study of manners, the assemblage of scattered threads of which the writer with a regard for truth is compelled to make the groundwork of his drama.
Glances cast vaguely into the air, steps turned aimlessly aside, hats pulled abruptly over the eyes, in ten minutes the Nabob was subjected to all the outward manifestations of that terrible ostracism of Parisian society, where he had neither kindred nor substantial connections of any sort, and where contempt isolated him more surely than respect isolates a sovereign when paying a visit. He staggered with embarrassment and shame. Some one said aloud: "He has been drinking," and all that the poor man could do was to go back into the salon of his box and close the door. Ordinarily that little retiro was filled during the entr'actes with financiers and journalists. They laughed and talked and smoked there, making a great uproar; the manager always came to pay his respects to his partner. That evening, not a soul. And the absence of Cardailhac, with his keen scent for success, showed Jansoulet the full measure of his disgrace.
"What have I done to them? Why is it that Paris will no longer have anything to do with me?"
He questioned himself thus in a solitude which was emphasized by the sounds all about, the sudden turning of keys in the doors of boxes, the innumerable exclamations of an amused crowd. Then suddenly the newness of his luxurious surroundings, the odd shadows cast by the Moorish lantern on the brilliant silk covering of the couch and the hangings reminded him of the date of his arrival. Six months! Only six months since he arrived in Paris! Everything consumed and vanished in six months! He relapsed into a sort of torpor from which he was aroused by enthusiastic applause and bravos. Clearly this play of Revolte was a great success. They had now reached the powerful, satirical passages; and the virulent declamation, a little emphatic in tone but relieved by a breath of youth and sincerity, made every heart beat fast after the idyllic effusions of the first act. Jansoulet determined to look and listen with the rest. After all, the theatre belonged to him. His seat in that proscenium box had cost him more than a million; surely the least he was entitled to was the privilege of occupying it.
Behold him seated once more at the front of his box. In the hall a heavy, suffocating heat, stirred but not dissipated by the waving fans, their glittering spangles mingling their reflections with the impalpable outbreathings of the silence. The audience listened intently to an indignant and spirited passage against the pirates, so numerous at that period, who had become cocks of the roost after long haunting the darkest corners to rob all who passed. Certainly Maranne, when he wrote those fine lines, had had nobody less in his mind than the Nabob. But the audience saw in them an allusion to him; and while a triple salvo of applause greeted the end of the tirade, all eyes were turned toward the box on the left, with an indignant, openly insulting movement. The poor wretch, pilloried in his own theatre! A pillory that had cost him so dear! That time he did not seek to avoid the affront, but settled himself resolutely on his seat, with folded arms, and defied that crowd, which stared at him with its hundreds of upturned, sneering faces, that virtuous All-Paris which took him for a scapegoat and drove him forth after loading all its crimes upon him.
A pretty assemblage, in sooth, for such an exhibition! Opposite, the box of an insolvent banker, the wife and the lover side by side in front, the husband in the shadow, neglected and grave. At one side the frequent combination of a mother who has married her daughter according to her (the mother's) own heart, and to make the man she loved her son-in-law. Contraband couples too, courtesans flaunting the price of their shame, diamonds in circlets of flame riveted around arms and necks like dog-collars, stuffing themselves with bonbons, which they swallowed in gluttonous, beastly fashion because an exhibition of the animal nature in woman pleases those who pay for it. And those groups of effeminate fops, with low collars and painted eyebrows, whose embroidered lawn shirts and white satin corsets aroused admiration in the guest chambers at Compiegne; mignons of Agrippa's day, who called one another: "My heart," or "My dear love." Scandal and wickedness in every form, consciences sold or for sale, the vice of an epoch devoid of grandeur or originality, attempting to copy the freaks of all other epochs, and contributing to the Jardin Bullier that duchess, the wife of a minister of state, who rivalled the most shameless dancers of that resort. And they were the people who turned their back upon him, who cried out to him: "Begone! You are unworthy."
"I unworthy! Why, I am worth a hundred times more than the whole of you, vile wretches! You reproach me with my millions. In God's name, who helped me squander them?—Look you, you cowardly, treacherous friend, hiding in the corner of your box your fat carcass like a sick pasha's! I made your fortune as well as my own in the days when we shared everything like brothers.—And you, sallow-faced marquis, I paid a hundred thousand francs at the club to prevent your being expelled in disgrace.—I covered you with jewels, you hussy, so letting people think you were my mistress, because that is good form in our circle, and never asked you for anything in return.—And you, brazen-faced journalist, with no other brains than the dregs of your inkstand, and with as many leprous spots on your conscience as your queen has on her skin, you consider that I didn't pay you what you were worth, and that's the secret of your insults.—Yes, yes, look at me, canaille! I am proud. I am better than you."
All that he said thus to himself, in a frenzy of wrath, visible in the trembling of his thick, pallid lips, the unhappy man, upon whom madness was swooping down, was, perhaps, on the point of shouting aloud in the silence, of pouring out a flood of maledictions upon that insulting mob, and, who can say? of leaping down into the midst of them and killing some one, ah! God's blood! of killing some one, when he felt a light touch on his shoulder; and he saw a blond head, a frank, grave face, and two outstretched hands which he grasped convulsively, like a drowning man.
"Ah! my dear—my dear—" stammered the poor man. But he had no strength to say more. That grateful emotion coming upon him in the midst of his frenzy, melted it into a sob of tears, of blood, of choking speech. His face became purple. He motioned: "Take me away." And, leaning on Paul de Gery's arm, he stumbled through the door of his box and fell to the floor in the lobby.
"Bravo! bravo!" shouted the audience at the conclusion of the actor's tirade; and there was a noise as of a hail-storm, an enthusiastic stamping,—while the great inert body, borne by scene-shifters, passed through the brilliantly-lighted wings, obstructed by men and women crowding around the entrances to the stage, excited by the atmosphere of success, and hardly noticing the passage of that lifeless victim carried in men's arms like the victim of a street affray. They laid him on a couch in the property room, Paul de Gery by his side with a physician and two attendants who were eager to help. Cardailhac, who was very busy with the performance, had promised to come and see how he was getting on, "in a moment, after the fifth act."
Bloodletting upon bloodletting, cupping, plasters, nothing produced even a twitching of the skin in the sick man, who was insensible to all the methods of resuscitation usually resorted to in cases of apoplexy. A relaxation of every fibre of his being seemed to give him over to death, to prepare his body for the rigidity of the corpse; and that in the most dismal place on earth, chaos lighted by a dark lantern, where all the debris of plays that had been performed, gilded furniture, hangings with gorgeous fringe, carriages, strong boxes, card-tables, discarded flights of stairs and banisters, were heaped together pell-mell under the dust, among ropes and pulleys, a wilderness of damaged, broken, demolished, cast-off stage properties. Bernard Jansoulet, as he lay amid that wreckage, his shirt torn away from his chest, at once bleeding and bloodless, was the typical shipwrecked victim of life, bruised and cast ashore with the pitiable debris of his artificial splendor broken and scattered by the Parisian whirlpool. Paul, broken-hearted, gazed sadly at that face with its short nose, retaining in its inert condition the wrathful yet kindly expression of an inoffensive creature who tried to defend himself before dying, but had no time to bite. He blamed himself for his inability to serve him to any useful purpose. What had become of that fine project of his of leading Jansoulet through the quagmires, of saving him from ambuscades? All that he had been able to do was to rescue a few millions, and even those came too late.
* * * * *
The windows were opened on the balcony overlooking the boulevard, then at its full tide of noise and animation, and blazing with light. The theatre was surrounded with rows of gas-jets, a circle of flame lighting up the most obscure recesses where flickering lanterns gleamed like stars travelling through the dark sky. The play was done. The audience was leaving the theatre. The dark throng moved in a compact mass down the steps and scattered to right and left along the white sidewalks, to spread through the city the news of a great success and the name of an unknown author, who would be illustrious and famous on the morrow. A most enjoyable evening, causing the restaurant windows to blaze with delight and the streets to be filled with long lines of belated carriages. That holiday uproar, of which the poor Nabob had been so fond and which was well adapted to the giddy whirl of his existence, aroused him for a second. His lips moved, and his staring eyes, turned toward de Gery, assumed in presence of death a sorrowful, imploring, rebellious expression, as if to call upon him to bear witness to one of the greatest, the most cruel acts of injustice that Paris ever committed.
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George Sand's Works in English.
MAUPRAT. ANTONIA. THE BAGPIPERS. MONSIEUR SYLVESTRE. THE SNOW MAN. NANON. THE MILLER OF ANGIBAULT.
As to "Mauprat," if there were any doubts as to George Sand's power, it would forever set them at rest.—Harper's Monthly.
12mo. Half Russia, uniform with Balzac's Novels. Each, $1.50.
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Little Classics, by George Sand.
FADETTE. FRANCOIS THE WAIF. THE DEVIL'S POOL. THE MASTER MOSAIC WORKERS.
Translated by Jane Minot Sedgwick, Ellery Sedgwick, and Charlotte C. Johnston. With etched frontispieces by Abot and an etched portrait of Titian.
16mo. Cloth, extra, gilt top. Each, $1.25.
Studies of rustic life, of which "La Petite Fadette," "Francois le Champi," and "La Mare au Diable" are the chief, and which some of her admirers regard as her greatest works.—George Saintsbury, in Chambers' Cyclopaedia.
No description is needed of works so well known as "La Petite Fadette," "La Mare au Diable," and "Francois le Champi." Like Wordsworth, with the inward eye she sees into the life of things.—Encyclopaedia Britannica.
"The Master Mosaic Workers" is one of the most delightful of historical novels, and gives a vivid picture of the life in Venice at the time when Titian, Tintoretto, and Giorgione were in their zenith, and when the famous mosaics which still adorn St. Mark's were being made.—Literary World.
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George Sand's Convent Life.
Translated from "L'Histoire de ma Vie" by Maria Ellery McKaye.
These brief chapters from a fragmentary autobiography of the famous French author have been translated from the published memoirs, and are much more familiar in France than here. They relate to George Sand's girlhood, and cover only a few years, and yet are written with that vivid and picturesque charm peculiar to all her writings. They show us, with much force and interest, the kind of life which young girls led in convents seventy years ago.—N. Y. Times.
16mo. Cloth. With portrait. $1.00.
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LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY, PUBLISHERS,
254 WASHINGTON STREET, BOSTON.
The New Library Moliere.
TRANSLATED BY KATHARINE PRESCOTT WORMELEY.
TRANSLATOR OF BALZAC'S NOVELS.
With Preface to Moliere's Works by Honore de Balzac, Criticisms on the Author by Sainte-Beuve, Portraits by Coypel and Mignard, and decorative Titlepages.
Arrangement of the Plays.
Vol. I. The Misanthrope; Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. Vol. II. Tartuffe; Les Precieuses Ridicules; George Dandin. Vol. III. Les Femmes Savantes; Le Malade Imaginaire. Vol. IV. L'Avare; Don Juan; Les Facheux. Vol. V. L'Ecole des Femmes; L'Ecole des Maris; Monsieur de Pourceaugnac. Vol. VI. L'Etourdi; Le Mariage Force; Le Medecin Malgre Lui; La Critique de l'Ecole des Femmes.
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All are familiar with Miss Wormeley's admirable English version of Balzac; and we know of no greater praise in behalf of her recent translation of Moliere than to say it betrays the same knowledge, skill, and insight that has made her name famous among the lovers of high literature. While it is undoubtedly true that the student of Moliere would turn by preference to the original, it is equally true that those who cannot read his works in their native form are now indebted to Miss Wormeley for an appreciation of Sainte-Beuve's declaration "that to love Moliere is to love uprightness and health of mind, in others as well as in ourselves." She did a splendid service for two literatures by her admirable English rendering of the author whom many regard as France's first novelist, and now she continues by an equally excellent translation of the works of the genius to whom is conceded with still greater unanimity the rank of France's first dramatist. And by a happy thought Miss Wormeley avails herself, for the presentation of Moliere to American readers, of the eloquent tribute which Balzac paid to him in his preface to his own edition of Moliere, issued in his younger days. The translator also calls attention to the singular parallel afforded in the lives of the two writers. These "fathers of the 'Comedy of Human Life' and of realism," she says, "died at the same age (fifty-one); the fame of both was of little more than fifteen years' duration in their lifetime; both died of the toil to which their genius impelled them; and both are going down with ever-brightening lustre to posterity."—Boston Budget.
12mo. Half leather. Per volume, $1.50.
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Orders may be addressed to
LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY,
254 WASHINGTON STREET, BOSTON.
PASTELS OF MEN.
BY PAUL BOURGET.
TRANSLATED BY KATHARINE P. WORMELEY,
TRANSLATOR OF BALZAC'S NOVELS.
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A SAINT. M. LEGRIMAUDET. TWO LITTLE BOYS: 1. M. Veples' Brother; 2. Marcel.
MAURICE OLIVIER. A GAMBLER. ANOTHER GAMBLER. JACQUES MOLAN. A LOWLY ONE. CORSEQUES.
The title suggests the character of the stories, which are, for the most part, miniature studies of men and women, done with exquisite grace and with no little power. M. Bourget is just now one of the foremost figures among contemporary French writers. He is a critic as well as a novelist.—Christian Union.
2 volumes. 16mo. Cloth. Each, $1.00.
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A SAINT. By Paul Bourget.
From the "Pastels of Men." Translated by Katharine Prescott Wormeley. With 12 illustrations by Paul Chabas.
12mo. Parchment. $1.00.
The "saint" is an old monk who lives with only two others in one of those old monasteries in Italy which, since the government decree, have gradually fallen into disuse. It is a beautiful little story, in which we are taught the lesson of Christ's manner of dealing with those who are tempted and go astray, and are brought back into the right path.—Boston Times.
M. Bourget is a master of literary art; his portraits are drawn with a wonderful distinctness, and with a realism that is as true to the possibilities of human nature as it is fascinating.—Boston Home Journal.
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LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY, PUBLISHERS, 254 WASHINGTON STREET, BOSTON.
The Romances of Victor Hugo.
Including important passages and chapters hitherto omitted.
WITH 28 PORTRAITS AND PLATES.
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LIST OF STORIES.
Les Miserables. 5 vols. Notre Dame. 2 vols. Ninety-Three, 1 vol. The Man who Laughs. 2 vols. Toilers of the Sea. 2 vols. Hans of Iceland, 1 vol. Bug-Jargal; Claude Gueux; The Last Day of a Condemned, 1 vol.
14 vols. 12mo. Decorated cloth, gilt top, $1.50 per volume; plain cloth, $1.25 per volume; half calf or half morocco, gilt top, $3.00 per volume.
Any story supplied separately in cloth.
Large handsome type, clear white paper, and choicely decorated covers combine to make this the most beautiful and desirable library edition of these great works.
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To what other man can we attribute such sweeping innovations, such a new and significant presentment of the life of man, such an amount, if we merely think of the amount, of equally consummate performance.—ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.
A model edition for use and convenience.—Cincinnati Commercial Gazette.
A permanent, delightful book to all good judges of publishing.—The Beacon.
A most beautiful and desirable library edition.—Baltimore American.
A delight to the eye and the touch.—Boston Journal.
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LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY, PUBLISHERS,
254 WASHINGTON STREET, BOSTON.
Translated from the French of
JULES CLARETIE, Manager of the Comedie Francaise
With Preface by FRANCISQUE SARCEY.
12mo. Cloth, extra, gilt top. $1.50.
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M. Jules Claretie has had a wide acquaintance with actors. He has had an opportunity of studying them still more closely since he has been the manager of the Comedie Francaise. Brichanteau is charming because he is always treading the boards, because he believes in good faith that his life is a drama, in which he plays the principal part. The work is written with a sprightly and witty pen.—FRANCISQUE SARCEY.
The translation has preserved the sprightly wit and grace of the original, in which all the shades of character, frequently delicate and elusive, are brought out by refined turns of expression.—Philadelphia Press.
As a whole, the book is a delightful and beautiful work of art. The man of whom Claretie writes becomes a living character to us, and we love him as we would such a man in real life.—Cincinnati Tribune.
He is more than a sketch; he is a Meissonier portrait, painted with all that accuracy of detail for which Meissonier was famous.—Boston Literary World.
One of the most pathetically humorous books ever written, and it should become a classic.—St. Louis Mirror.
That there is a lovable, generous, elevated, human and humane picturesqueness to the caricatured strolling player is shown with such admirable truth by Claretie, that his "Brichanteau" deserves permanency among desirable books.—Washington Times.
You love Brichanteau and take him to your heart, for he is an honest fellow, who fights gallantly and merrily with his bad luck.—New York Times.
A lively, amusing, intensely Gallic series of studies of stage life.—The Outlook.
A delicious character, this Brichanteau.—Detroit Free Press.
The author is so witty and the ridiculous side of his hero is so well described that the book is a treat—restful and refreshing.
The delicious absurdity of this "optimist failure," "Brichanteau Actor," reminds one of Don Quixote, while his consummate good nature is almost equal to Sir Roger de Coverley's. The clever French author has made his actor tell for the most part his own story, and in a natural, easy manner—the perfection of polished French style.—Chicago Farm, Field, and Fireside.
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LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY, PUBLISHERS,
254 WASHINGTON STREET, BOSTON.
Alphonse Daudet in English.
New Uniform Edition of the Novels, Romances, and Memoirs of Alphonse Daudet, the greatest French Writer since Victor Hugo. Newly Translated by Katharine Prescott Wormeley, Translator of Balzac's Novels; Jane Minot Sedgwick, Translator of George Sand; Charles de Kay, and others.
Printed from large clear type, with Frontispieces. Twenty volumes. 12mo. Cloth, gilt top. $1.50 per volume.
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Arrangement of the volumes.
ALPHONSE DAUDET. By Leon Daudet. To which is added "My Brother and Myself," by Ernest Daudet 1 vol.
FROMONT AND RISLER 1 vol.
THE NABOB 2 vols.
KINGS IN EXILE 1 vol.
NUMA ROUMESTAN 1 vol.
THE LITTLE PARISH and ROBERT HELMONT 1 vol.
LITTLE WHAT'S HIS NAME 1 vol.
TARTARIN OF TARASCON and TARTARIN ON THE ALPS 1 vol.
PORT TARASCON and LA BELLE NIVERNAISE 1 vol.
THIRTY YEARS IN PARIS, etc. 1 vol.
THE IMMORTAL, etc 1 vol.
SOUVENIRS OF A MAN OF LETTERS and ARTISTS' WIVES 1 vol.
THE EVANGELIST and ROSE AND NINETTE 1 vol.
JACK 2 vols.
MONDAY TALES 1 vol.
LETTERS FROM MY MILL, etc 1 vol.
SAPPHO 1 vol.
THE HEAD OF THE FAMILY 1 vol.
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Of the brilliant group of men who have made contemporaneous French literature, of that coterie toward which the eyes of all the reading world have been turned with admiration and interest during the last half a century, Daudet was the greatest. He was the most universal, the most original, the most human.—From an Article in The Book Buyer, by L. Van Vorst.
Has, perhaps, transferred bodily into his writings more actual events, related in the newspapers, in the court-house, or in society, than any other writer of the present age. Of some of his novels one hardly dare say that they are works of fiction; their characters are men and women of our time; they do in the book almost exactly what they had done in real life.—Prof. Adolph Cohn, in The Bookman.
He is a novelist to his finger-tips. No one has such grace, such lightness and brilliancy of execution.—Henry James, in The Century.
The slightest pages from his pen will preserve the vibration of his soul so long as our tongue exists imperishable. He is the author of twenty masterpieces.—EMILE ZOLA.
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LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY, PUBLISHERS,
254 WASHINGTON STREET, BOSTON.