תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

Lausanne twenty-four hours later. The first turning his eye toward the large open window, thing which he did after engaging a room at the he saw that the moon, at its fullness, trailed along Hôtel Gibbon was to supply himself with a com- the shimmering waters of the lake a long row of plete fishing-outfit. After that, tired with his silver spangles. But, by a fortunate condition of journey, he slept six hours. After waking, he things, he was also wholly absorbed in his work; dined; after dining, he took a carriage for the he was not in the least distracted from it; he apartment-house Vallaud, situated at twenty min- belonged to the Hyksos. The moon, the rose, utes' distance from Lausanne, upon the brow of Madame Corneuil, the cat-headed divinity, the one of the most beautiful hills in the world. This sphinx on the escritoire, the Unclean, and the charming villa, since changed into an hotel, con- King Apepi-were all blended together and besisted of a country-house in which the Count de come one to his inmost thoughts. The blessed Penneville had an apartment, and a lovely de- in paradise see all in God, and can thus think of tached chalet which was occupied by Madame all things without losing for one moment their Corneuil and her mother. The chalet and the great idea, which is infinite. The Count Horace house were separated, or, if it sounds better, was at the same moment at Lausanne in the united by a large park well shaded, which Hor- neighborhood of the woman whose image was ace crossed many times a day, saying to him- never out of his mind, and in Egypt two thouself, “ When shall we live under the same roof?” sand years before Christ, and his happiness was But one must learn how to wait for happiness. as complete as his application to his studies.

At that very moment Horace was working, He had just finished this phrase : “ Consider pen in hand, at his great “ History of the Hyk- the sculptures of the period of the Shepherd sos, or the Shepherd Kings, or of the Unclean” kings; examine carefully and impartially their --that is to say, of those terrible Canaanitish angular faces, with their prominent cheek-bones; hordes who, two thousand years before the Chris- and, if you are fair, you will agree that the race tian era, disturbed in their camps by the Elamite to which the Hyksos belong could not have been invasions of the Kings Chodornakhounta and purely Semitic, but must have been strongly Chodormabog, swept in their turn over the valley mixed with the Turanian element." of the Nile, set it on fire, and drenched it in Satisfied with this ending, he stopped his blood, and for more than five centuries occupied work for a second, laid down his pen, and, drawboth the center and the north of Egypt. Full of ing the purple rose nearer to him, pressed it to learning, and rich in fresh documents collected his lips. Hearing a knock at the door, he quickby him with very great pains, he undertook to ly returned the rose to its vase, and in a tone show on unquestionable testimony that the Pha- of vexation exclaimed, “ Come in!” The door raoh under whom Joseph became minister was opened. Monsieur de Miraval entered. Horace's indeed Apophis or Apepi, King of the Hyksos, face grew dark; the unexpected apparition disand he flattered himself that he could prove it so mayed him; he felt as if he had been suddenly strongly that henceforth it would be impossible shut out of his paradise. Alas! the happiest life for the most critical minds to contradict it. A of all is nothing but an intermittent paradise ! few months previously he had sent from Cairo to The Marquis, immovable on the threshold, Paris the first chapters of his history, which were bowed soberly to his nephew, saying to him : read at the Institute. His thesis shocked one “Ah! indeed, do I disturb you? You never or two Egyptologists, others thought there was knew how to conceal your feelings." some good in it, while one of them wrote him “My dear uncle," answered he, “how can thus : “Your début is promising. Macte amino, you think such a thing ? I was not expecting generose puer."

you, that I must confess. But pray, how did you Wrapped in a sort of burnous of white wool- happen here?" en stuff, his neck bare, and his hair disordered, “I am traveling in Switzerland. Could I he was leaning over a round table, before a writ- pass through Lausanne without coming to see ing-desk surmounted by a sphinx. His face wore you?” the expression of a contented heart and a per- “Own up, uncle, that you were not passing fectly serene conscience. On the table a beautiful through," answered Horace ; "own that you are purple rose, almost black, opened its petals; he more than a passer-by-that you came here on had put it into a glass, into which a statuette of purpose." blue faïence, representing an Egyptian goddess “You are right, I did come on purpose, my with a cat's face, plunged her impertinent nose boy," answered Monsieur de Miraval. without bending into the water. Horace seemed "Then I have the honor of having an amby turns contemplating this very nose and also bassador to deal with ?" the flower which Madame Corneuil had gathered “Yes, an ambassador, most strict in etiquette, for him less than an hour before; at times also, who insists upon being received with all the respect due to him, and according to the rules con- are less apt to be dreaded, for one knows beforecerning the rights of men in his position.”

hand how they may all be answered. So he Horace had recovered from his trouble ; he awaited the advance of the enemy with firm step, had recourse to philosophy, and put a good face and, as the enemy was drinking champagne and on a bad business. Offering a chair to the Mar- evidently in no hurry to commence hostilities, he quis, he said:

marched up to meet him, “ Be seated, my lord ambassador, in the very "First, dear uncle," said he to him, “give me best of my easy-chairs. But, to begin with, let quickly whatever news you can of my mother." us embrace one another, my dear uncle. If I “I wish I had something good to tell you am not mistaken, it is full two years since we about her," answered the Marquis. “But you have had the pleasure of seeing one another. know we are anxious about her health, and you What can I offer to entertain you? I think I must be aware that the letter which she received remember that champagne frappé used to be from you—" your favorite drink. Do not think you are in a “ Did my letter trouble her?” barbarous country ; one can find anything one “Could you doubt it ?” wishes ; you shall be satisfied at once."

" I love my mother dearly," answered Horace At these words he pulled a bell-rope, and a quickly, “ but I have always considered her to domestic appeared. He gave him his orders, be a most reasonable woman. Evidently I did which were immediately carried out, although not go to work rightly ; I will write to her toslowly. Nevertheless, Monsieur de Miraval looked morrow and try to reconcile her to my happiat his nephew with a satisfaction mingled with ness.” secret vexation. It seemed to him that the hand. “If you think as I do, you will not write some fellow had grown still handsomer. His again ; one evil never undoes another. Your short beard was beautifully black; his features, mother assuredly wishes you to be happy, but formerly rather weak, had gained strength, firm- the extravagant proposition which you confided ness, and emphasis ; his grayish-blue eyes had to her-does the word 'extravagant' hurt you ? grown larger, his complexion was sunburned and I withdraw it; I meant to say the somewhat sinbrowned to a tint which became him greatly; gular-well, I withdraw the word 'singular' also. his smile, full of sweetness and mystery, was But it is often used in that sense in the Chamber charming - it was like that undefinable smile of Deputies, and you must not hold yourself which the Egyptian sculptors, whose genius higher than a deputy. In short, this proposition, Greece could hardly surpass, carved upon the which is neither extravagant nor singular, disturbs lips of their statues. The sphinxes in the Louvre your mother greatly, and you will not be able to would have recognized Horace from his family overcome her objections to it.” resemblance, and have claimed him as a relation. “Has she authorized you to make them known It is easy to get the complexion of the country to me?" where one is living, and a face grows often to “Must I, then, present my credentials ? " resemble the thing one most loves.

This is all unnecessary, uncle. Say frankly “Fool of fools !” thought the Marquis angri- whatever you please—or rather, if you are fortily; "you have the proudest bearing, the finest fied by good arguments, say nothing at all, for I head in the world, and you do not know how to warn you that you will spend all your eloquence put them to a better use. Ah! if at your age I for naught, and I know you never care to waste had had such eyes and such a smile, what would your words." I not have done with them! No woman could “But you may as well resign yourself to listen have resisted me; but you—what can you say to me. You can not suppose that I have come for yourself when Providence calls you to account a hundred leagues at full gallop for nothing. My for all the gifts he has bestowed upon you? You speech is ready, and you must submit to it." will have to say, 'I profited by them to marry “Till morning dawns, if needs be," answered Madame Corneuil.' Ah! you fool !' will be Horace; “the night shall be devoted to you." the answer, ‘you foolishly ended where others “Thanks. And now let us begin at the bebegan.'"

ginning. That which has just taken place has Horace was miles away from guessing the not only grieved me much, but cruelly humiliated secret thoughts of Monsieur de Miraval. After me. I flattered myself that I understood human his disagreeable emotion of the first meeting was nature somewhat, and was quite proud of my over, his natural feeling returned, which was that knowledge. Now, I must confess, to my own of pleasure at again seeing his uncle, for he loved confusion, that I am entirely mistaken in you. him well. In truth, it was as an ambassador What, my son! can it be that you—whom I conthat he displeased him, but he resolved not to sidered the most sensible, serious, sober fellow in spare him, for, when the will is fixed, objections the world—can think of thus suddenly casting

dismay into the bosom of your family by a de “But, permit me—I do know the name quite termination,”

well — Madame Corneuil — is it not Corneuil ? “Extravagant and singular," interrupted Hor- My gentle friend, does it not seem to you that the ace.

goddess Sekhet or Bubastis, who represents the "I said I would withdraw both of those solar radiation, fastens her angry glances blazing words; but, I ask you, does not this project of with indignation upon that purple rose, and curses marriage seem a headstrong thing ?”.

the rival whom you insolently prefer to her ? “Must I answer you proposition by proposi- Take care-roses fade; both roses and givers of tion?” exclaimed he, “or would you rather give them only live for a day, while the goddesses me your whole speech at one breath ?”

are immortal and their anger also.” “No, that would tire me too much. Answer “Reassure yourself, uncle," answered Horace as I go along."

with a smile. “The goddess Sekhet looks with “Well, dear uncle, let me tell you that you gentle eyes upon that flower. If you should ask are not at all mistaken in your ideas of me, and her, she would say: 'The fifty heiresses which that this headstrong act is the most sensible and you have proposed for the Count de Penneville prudent thing with which my good genius ever are all or nearly all but foolish creatures, with inspired me-an act which both my heart and narrow and frivolous minds, caring only for gewreason approve."

gaws and trifles; therefore I approve him decid“Then you forbid my surprise that the heir edly for having disdained these dolls, and for of a good name and large fortune, that a Count wishing to marry a woman whom there are few de Penneville, who could choose in his own rank, like, whose intelligence is as remarkable as her among fifty young girls really worthy of him, re- heart is loving; a woman who adores Egypt and fuses every one whom his mother proposes, and who longs to return thither; a woman who will suddenly changes his mind to marry—whom? A not only be the sweetest companion to your -madame--Horace, what is her name? I never nephew, but who will also be passionately intercan remember her nothing of a name."

ested in his labors, who will aid him by her coun“Her name is Madame Corneuil, at your ser- sel, and be the confidante of all his thoughts.'” vice," answered Horace in a piqued tone. “I And who will deserve to become a member am sorry if her name displeases you, but spare of the Institute like him," interrupted Monsieur yourself the trouble of fixing it in your memory. de Miraval. “How charming it will be to see In two months from now you can call her the you enter it arm-in-arm! Horace, I will give up Countess Hortense de Penneville.”

reciting the end of my speech to you. Only per“ The deuce! how fast you go! But that is mit me to ask you a question or two. Where not yet the case.”

did this incomprehensible accident take place ? “We have exchanged words, uncle. You may Oh! I remember—your mother told me that it as well consider it so, for I defy you to undo it." was in a grotto at Memphis."

Monsieur de Miraval filled and emptied his “My mother was not very prudent," answered glass anew, then he began again :

Horace; “but let that go! It was in the depths "Do not get excited, or lose your temper, I of a grotto. We call it a hypogeum.” would not offend you for anything, but I am so “Confound the hypogeum! My ideas are getastonished, so surprised. Tell me, what is that ting confused. I remember it was in the tomb statuette in blue faience, with a halo round about of the King Ti.” her head, with such a slender figure and the face “Ti was not a king, uncle," answered Horace of a cat, holding a queer sort of a guitar in her in a tone of mild indulgence. “Ti was one of right hand ?"

the great feudal lords, one of the barons of some “That is no guitar, uncle, it is a timbrel, a ruler of the fourth dynasty, which held sway for symbol of the harmony of the universe. Do you two hundred and eighty-four years, or perhaps of not recognize the statuette to be that of the god- the fifth, which was also Memphite." dess Sekhet, the Bubastis of Greek authors, whom “Heaven keep me from denying it! So you they called the great lover of Ptah, a divinity by were in the tomb? Inspired by love, Madame turn beneficent and revengeful, who, according to Corneuil deciphered fluently a hieroglyphic inall appearances, represents the solar radiation in scription, and, touched by the beautiful miracle, its twofold office ?"

you fell at her feet.” "I beg a thousand pardons, I believe I do "Such miracles do not come to pass, uncle. remember her, and that rose which she seems to Madame Corneuil does not yet know how to read smell of somewhat suspiciously-ah! I think I hieroglyphics, but she will read them some day.” need not ask whence that rose comes."

“And is that why you love her, unhappy "Well, yes ! it was given me by the woman youth?" whose name you can not possibly remember." “I love her," exclaimed Horace ardently, " because she is wonderfully beautiful, because ly convinced that some day she might meet a she is adorable, because she has every grace, and man capable of understanding her—whose soul beside her every other woman seems ugly. Yes, might be on a level with her own. Yes,' she I love her-I have given her my heart and my life said to me the other evening, 'I had faith in him. for ever! So much the worse for those who do I was sure of his existence, and the first time I not understand me."

saw you it seemed as if I recognized you, and I "So it may be," answered the uncle; “but said to myself, “ May it not be he?"! Yes, uncle, your mother has made inquiries, and evil tongues she and I are one and the same, and it will be say that-"

the greatest honor of my life. She loves me, I “Enough!" replied Horace, raising his voice. tell you, she loves me-you can not change any" If any one else but you ventured to hint in that thing ; so we might as well end here, if you are manner of a woman for whom my respect equals willing." my love, of a woman worthy the regard of every The Marquis passed his hands twice through one, he should either have my life or I his !” his white hair, and exclaimed :

“You know that I could not have the slight- “I declare, Horace, you are the frankest of est desire to fight with my only heir — what innocents, the most naïve of lovers." would become of the property? Since you say “I assure you, uncle, that you are the most so, I will be convinced that Madame Corneuil is a obstinate and incurable of unbelievers.” person absolutely above reproach. But where “Horace, I call this sphinx and the nose of the deuce did your mother pick up her informa- the goddess Sehket to witness that poetry is the tion? She says plainly that she is an ambitious malady of those who know nothing of life.” maneuvrer, and that her dream is—are you And I, uncle, I call to witness the moon really sure that this woman is not one of the yonder, and this purple rose, which looks at you cunning ones? Are you very sure that she is and laughs, that skepticism is the punishment of sincerely passionately interested in the exploits of those who may have abused their life.” the Pharaohs, and in the god Anubis, guide of “And I-I swear to you by that which is souls ? Are you sure that sometimes the great- most sacred, by the great Sesostris himself—". est effects are produced with slight effort, and “O úncle, what a blunder! I know that that down in the grotto of Ti she might not have you should not be blamed for it, for you have been acting a little farce, to which an Egyptolo- hardly studied the history of Egypt, and it is no gist of my acquaintance has fallen an easy dupe ? Dusiness of yours, but know that there has never For my own part, I believe that if this same been so exaggerated and even usurped reputahandsome fellow had a crooked nose, and dull, tion as that of the man whom you call the great squinting eyes, Madame Corneuil would like him Sesostris, and whose name really was Rameses II. just as well, for the excellent reason that Madame Swear, if you choose, by the King Cheops, conCorneuil has got it into her head that some day queror of the Bedouins, swear by Menes, who she will be called the 'Countess of Penneville.'” built Memphis; swear by Amenophis III., called

"Really, you excite my pity, uncle, and it is Memnon; or, if you like it better, by Snefrou, last very good in me to answer you. To ascribe such king but one of the third dynasty, who subdued miserable calculation, self-interest, and vanity to the nomadic tribes of Arabia Petræa ; but know the proudest, noblest, and purest of souls! You that your great Sesostris was at bottom a very ought to blush that you can so lower yourself. modiocre man, of very slight merit, who carried She has told me the story of her life, day by day, his vanity so far as to have the names of the hour by hour. God knows she has nothing to sovereigns who preceded him erased from the conceal ! Poor saint, married very young and monuments and substituted his own, which had against her will, through the tyranny of her weight with superficial minds, Diodorus Siculus father, to a man who was not worthy to touch particularly, and introduced thereby the most unthe hem of her garment with the tip of his fin- fortunate mistakes in history. Your Sesostris, ger-and yet she forgave him all. If you only good Heavens! he has only lived upon one exknew how tenderly she took care of him in his ploit of his youth. Either through address or last moments!”

through luck, he managed to get through an “But it seems to me, my young friend, that ambuscade with life and baggage unharmed. she was well rewarded for her trouble, since he That was the great achievement which he had left her his fortune.”

engraved hundreds and hundreds of times on the “And to whom should he have left it? Had walls of all the buildings erected during his reign; he not everything to make amends for ? No, that was his eternal Valmy, his everlasting Jenever did woman suffer more or was more wor- mappes. I ask you what were his conquests? He thy of happiness. One thing only helped her to managed to capture negroes because he wanted bear her heavy weight of grief. She was strong- masons, he hunted down men in Soudan, and his only claim to glory was in having had one hun. “One of my hours. I never work between dred and seventy children, of whom sixty-nine breakfast and dinner.” were sons.”

“So everything is ruled to order, like music“Goodness! that is no small thing; but, af- paper. You are right; there must be method in ter all, what conclusion do you reach from all things. Even in love everything must be that ?"

done by weight, number, and measure. I knew a “I conclude," answered Horace, who had lost philosopher once who said that measure was the sight of the principal topic in this digression—“I best definition of God. But, by the way, I took conclude that Sesostris—no," replied he, “I con- a nap this afternoon, and am not in the least clude that I adore Madame Corneuil, and that sleepy. Lend me a book for company after I go before three months she shall be my wife.” to bed. You, doubtless, own the writings of

The Marquis rose hastily, exclaiming, "Hor- Madame Corneuil ?” ace, my heir and my great-nephew, come to my “Could you doubt that ?". arms !"

"Don't give me her novel ; I have already And as Horace, immovable, looked at him read that.” astonished—“Must I say it again ? Come to my “ It is a real masterpiece," said Horace. arms,” continued he. “I am pleased with you. " There is rather too much fog in it to suit Your passion really makes me young once more. my taste. There is a rumor that she has pubI admire youth, love, and frankness. I thought lished sonnets." you only had a fancy for this woman, a whim, but “They are real gems," exclaimed he. I see your heart is touched, and one can do no bet “And an essay upon the apostleship of woter than to listen to the voice of the heart. For- man.” give my foolish questions and my impertinent “A wonderful book !" exclaimed he again. objections. What I said was to acquit my con- “Lend me the essay and the sonnets. I will science. Your mother gave me my lesson, and read them to-night, that I may be prepared for I repeated it like a parrot. We must not get to-morrow's interview." angry with these poor mothers; their scruples Horace began at once to search for the two are always to be respected.”

volumes, which he found with great difficulty. “Ah, there you touch a tender and sore By means of rummaging, he discovered them at point," interrupted the young man, “but I know last under a great pile of quartos, which were how to bring her back-I will write her to-mor- crushing them with their terrible weight. He row."

said to his uncle as he gave them to him : “Let me say one word more-do not write; “Keep them as the apple of your eye. For your prose has not the power of pleasing her she gave them to me." She has great confidence in me; my words will “Give yourself no uneasiness; I appreciate have weight. My son, I am all ready to go over the preciousness of the treasure," answered the to the enemy if this lovely woman who lives Marquis. near you is really what you say. I will be your I n the same breath he observed that the treaadvocate with your mother, and we will make tise was only half cut, and that the volume of her listen to reason. Will you introduce me to sonnets was not cut at all, which gave rise to Madame Corneuil ?”.

certain reflections of his own; but he carefully “Are you really sincere, uncle?" asked Hor- kept them to himself. ace, looking at him with mistrust and defiance. “Can I depend upon your loyalty ?”

III. “Upon the faith of an uncle and a gentle. This world is full of mysterious events, and man!" interrupted the Marquis in his turn. Hamlet was right in saying that there were more

" If that be so, we can embrace this time in things in heaven and earth than were dreamed of good earnest," answered Horace, taking the hand in Horatio's philosophy. held out to him.

It has been observed that during the time of The uncle and nephew staid talking together great wars, when different peoples coming from for some time longer like good friends. It was all parts of a great empire find themselves sudnear midnight when Monsieur de Miraval re- denly brought together in an army to serve a membered that his carriage was waiting for him campaign, strange contagions and fatal epidemin the road to take him back to his hotel. He ics spring up among them, and a great thinker rose and said to Horace:

has dared to attribute the cause of it to the “It is settled, then, that you will introduce forced propinquity of men totally unlike in dispome to-morrow?'

sition, in language, and in intellect, who, not “ Yes, uncle, at two o'clock precisely.” having been made to live together, are brought “ Is that the hour when you see her?" in contact by an evil caprice of destiny. It has

« הקודםהמשך »