« הקודםהמשך »
if his client had occasionally been somewhat stomachs make most excellent heralds, and at all hasty in his manner toward her, he was no mon- events she is rich enough to pay for her own ster, and that in the sweet heart of this angel fame. there was considerable vinegar and a great deal “Eighteen months after her establishment in of calculation. He tried to prove to the court Paris she published a romance, which by the that there was every excuse for the behavior of merest of all accidents fell into my hands. I Monsieur Corneuil, but that his wife looked upon confess I did not read it through to the end ; evhis determination to live in Périgueux as a crime, ery variety of courage can not be looked for in for she could not endure the place; and, since one individual. It began with the description of she could not persuade him to change their a mist. At the end of ten pagesHeaven be abode to Paris, which she considered the only praised the fog lifted, and a woman in a caspot worthy of her grace and her genius, she had lèche was visible. I remember that the calèche determined to lay a plan to regain her indepen- was bought of Binder; I remember also that the dence, and for that end had applied herself with woman, whose heart was an abyss, wore six and Machiavellian ingenuity to aggravate him; that one-quarter gloves, that she had three freckles she had made his home unbearable by the sharp- on her right temple—just so many, and no more ness of her wit, by every kind of petty persecu- -' quivering nostrils, arms inimitably rounded, tion, by all those little pin-prickings of which an- and breathless silences.' I do not know if we gels alone have the secret, and which drive to are of the same opinion, but descriptions appall distraction even men who are not monsters! me, and I rush away. Besides, my mind is so Was the unfortunate man to blame for now and poorly constructed that I can not see this woman then asserting himself? I assure you again that with whose description the author has taken so both lawyers did wonderfully well. The great great pains. Good Homer, who does not belong difficulty was to know which was the liar. For to the new school, was satisfied to tell me merely myself, I should have dismissed both. However, that Achilles was fair, and yet I can see him bethe court sided with Papin. The separation was fore me. But what is to be done? It is the granted, and half the fortune adjudged to Ma- fashion of our day; they call it studying—what dame Corneuil. It seemed, however, that Virion is the word ?-studying the human documents, was not entirely wrong, for six months after the and it seems no one ever thought of that till verdict Madame Corneuil left for Paris in com- now, not even my old friend Fielding, whom I pany with her mother.
reread every year. I am not very fond of even “I know beforehand, my dear Mathilde, that serious pedants, but I have a holy horror of you will ask me what became of the beautiful pedantry when applied to the merest trifles. As Madame Corneuil in Paris. I have been out I am no longer young, I agree with Voltaire, who three times this morning for the sole end of find- did not like those subjects seriously discussed ing out-you need not thank me, for I like it. which were not worth being lightly touched upon. Madame de Corneuil has not yet satisfied her The romance of Madame Corneuil, I regret to secret ambition; she can not yet say, 'I have say, fell flat. She strove to recover herself by reached it !'but she is fairly on her way thither. poetry, and published a volume of sonnets, in The butterfly has not entirely cast aside the which there was no allusion whatever to Monchrysalis; but she is patient, and one day will sieur Corneuil. The verses were written with spread her wings and fly in triumph from her rapid pen, but a pen sharpened by an angel, and sheath. Madame Corneuil gives receptions and full of the most exquisitely sweet and refined dinner-parties, and holds a salon. A beautiful sentiment. As a general rule, the sonnets of woman, with a manœuvring mother and a good wives separated from their husbands are always cook, need not fear being left to pine in solitude. sublime. Unfortunately, there is not a great call Formerly there were to be seen at her house a for the sublime. It was a cruel disappointment great many literary men, especially those of the to Madame Corneuil, who suddenly broke with new school-the young men. Great good may her Muse. it do them! There are among them men of “All great artists, Mozart as well as Talleytalent with a future before them, but there are rand, Raphael as well as Bismarck, have their also among them those whose novelties are not different phases. Madame Corneuil thought she new, and whose youth is somewhat rank; but had better change hers: she reformed the whole that is no business of mine. It does not prevent style of her house, her cooking, her furniture, them from dining at Madame Corneuil's. She and her dress. She turned to serious things, and is not merely contented with encouraging litera- suddenly assumed a taste for neutral tints and ture, she also manufactures it, and employs the sober conversations, for metaphysics and feuilleyoung men around her to write little scraps for morte ribbons. This beautiful blonde discovered the lesser journals in praise of her. Grateful that she did not show her right value, except in
being relieved to half-tint against the back- have quarreled, so you must believe neither when ground of a room full of grave people. She un- . we talk of one another.' So I only believe half dertook to weed out her company, and gently of what the young man says. closed her doors on nearly all those insignificant “This is all the information I can give you, fellows, at least upon the noisiest ones who hover my dear Mathilde ; tell me what you want of it? about the green-rooms and tell coarse stories. Your old uncle embraces you tenderly. She grew disgusted with gossip, and found that respect was more desirable, even at the price of “P. S.—I open my letter to say that as I was a little ennui. She endeavored, henceforth, to going to put my letter in the box on my way to draw around her men of position and women of dinner, by the grace of Heaven I met the lawyer high character. It was difficult, but, with some Papin at the corner of the Rue Choiseul. It was pains and a great deal of perseverance, an am- bis eloquence that gained the case for the amibitious woman who can stand being bored can able lady whom you seem to have taken a grudge accomplish anything. She wrote no more son- against, no one knows why. I asked him for nets nor romances, but rushed at full might into still further information. Madame de Corneuil works of charity.
has changed her style again, and I begin to think “Charity, my dear Mathilde, is at the same she changes too often. I am afraid she has not time, and according to circumstances, the most that concentrated mind or that persistence which beautiful of all the virtues or the most useful oc- is necessary for great enterprises. I have my cupation. You have your poor, and God alone doubts of those impulsive creatures who go by can tell how much you love them, how you care fits and starts. At my very first words, Papin for them and cherish them; but your left hand bridled up and straightened himself, after the knows naught of what your right hand doeth. manner of lawyers, as if he bore the weight of I do not know if Madame de Corneuil has often the universe on his shoulders, and broadened seen the poor; but, instead of that, she goes and them lest it should fall. As if he were apostrocomes, and agitates and schemes, and preaches. phizing a judge, he exclaimed : ‘Monsieur le She is on six committees and twelve sub-com- Marquis, that woman is simply a marvel of mittees; she is an incomparable beggar, a very Christian virtue. She heard eighteen months ago expert cashier, an experienced treasurer, and ac- that her husband had a dangerous attack of the complished vice-president. Yes, my dear, they lungs. What did she do? Forgetting her own say no one can preside better than she. It is the wrongs and her justifiable resentment, she rushed very best way to push one's self into society. I to him in Périgueux, and has become reconciled must add that, although she composes poetry to him. Monsieur Corneuil was advised to go to no longer, she has not given up prose. She has Egypt; she left everything to accompany him, to written an eloquent treatise on 'The Apostleship become the nurse of a brute whose harshness of Woman,' which is sold for the benefit of a had endangered her own life. Was I not right new hospital, and which has reached its fifth in affirming to the court that Madame de Coredition. The sonnets were sublime, but the neuil was an angel?' •There is no need of gettreatise is more than sublime. It is a mixture of ting excited,' said I to him; I admire her fine the tenderness of Saint François de Sales and character as well as you, but might it not be that the spirituality of Saint Theresa. Never has the after having obtained, thanks to you, half of the sugar-plum been held so high out of the reach fortune, this angel proposes to secure the other of our poor humanity—it is not even in the air hal as her inheritance ?' which we can breathe, but in pure ether. I am “He made a gesture of indignation, straightcurious to know what Monsieur Corneuil and Péri- ened himself again—Ah! Monsieur le Marquis,' gueux think of it. The young fellow who fur- answered he, ‘you never believed in women ; you nished me with all these details spoke in rather a are a horrible skeptic.' I looked at him, he satirical manner; I asked him why, and he contin- looked at me; I laughed, and he began to laugh. ued : 'That really few knew her well. My opin- I think we must have resembled the augurs of ion,' he said, “is that she is a cool, calculating Cicero. woman ; that she is determined to have a posi- “The good of it all, my dear Mathilde, is that tion, and to satisfy her ambition by fair means or you have no further need of explaining yourself foul. She aspires to become a leader, to have a to me. Listen to me. This is just what has hand in politics, and her dream is to marry some happened: Your son Horace, an Egyptologist great name, or else a deputy.' The young fellow of great promise, who does me the honor of being said all this with a little bitterness. I learned that my great-nephew, has been in Egypt for two for nearly a year he has neither dined nor put his years. There he has met a lovely blonde, and foot in the house of Madame Corneuil. Montes- for the first time his heart has spoken; he could quieu used to say, 'Father Tournemine and I not keep from writing you about it, hence his letters are filled with Madame Corneuil, and your “Do not deny, my dear, that this mania made maternal anxiety is aroused. Am I not right? you desperate. Then why do you complain ? For shame! you are ungrateful toward Provi. Your son is nearly saved. Heaven has sent Madence. You have a thousand times reproached dame de Corneuil to him. She will teach him a your son for being too sober, too serious, too great many things of which he is ignorant, and much given to study; scorning society, women, lead him to unlearn a great deal else. In her gayety, and business; cherishing no other dream beautiful eyes he will forget Amenophis III. of but that of some day composing a large book the eighteenth dynasty, Amen-Apt the ever-truthwhich will reveal to the astonished universe the ful, and the man with the great white cone. Do ancient secrets of four thousand years. You flat- not grudge him his tardy enjoyment, to say notered yourself that you might see him either in thing about charity toward a poor nurse of an inthe Chamber of Deputies, the Council of State, valid. Everything is going on well, my dear Maor in diplomacy: his refusal made you wretched. thilde. Write me that, on further reflection, you From his most tender infancy he cried to be tak- agree with me." en to the Egyptian Museum at the Louvre, and could have told with his eyes closed what was
The next day but one, the Marquis de Mirain the Cabinet K, and the Case Q, in the room
val received the following short reply from his of sacred antiquities. It is no fault of mine.
niece : I did not make him. This truly extraordinary youth never loved any one but the goddess Isis, wife of Osiris. He was never interested in any
“MY DEAR UNCLE: Your letter and the inevents but such as took place under Sesostris
formation you have been so kind as to gather for the Great. The most heated discussions of our
me have only doubled my anxiety. Madame deputies and the most eloquent words they might
Corneuil is an intriguer. Why must Horace be utter always seemed tame to him in comparison
caught in her toils ? Since I lost my husband, with the story of the Pharaohs. He liked, better
you have been my only counselor and my first than all the amusements you might offer to him,
resort. Never did I need your assistance more. a papyrus mounted on linen or pasteboard, a
It is cruel to tear you away from your dear Paris, mummy's mask, a hawk, symbol of the soul, or a
but I know your kind feelings in my behalf, your pretty scarabæus of gold, emblem of immortality.
care for the interests of our family, and your I speak knowingly, for he honored me with his con
almost fatherly love for my poor, silly Horace. fidence. The last time I saw him I shall long re
I implore you to come to Vichy, that we may member: I found him shut up with hieroglyph
consult together. I summon you, and shall exic writing arranged backward in columns, and pect you." ornamented with drawings of faces. He seemed much annoyed at being interrupted in this en Madame de Penneville was right in thinking chanting tête-à-tête. At the head of the manu- it would be hard for her uncle to leave-Paris ; script was a man with a yellow face, hair painted since he had left diplomacy, he could not endure blue, and his forehead ornamented with a lotus- any other spot. In the hottest months of sumbud and a great white cone. I touched one of mer, when every one goes away, he never dreamed the columns and said to the dear child, .Great of leaving. He preferred to the most beautiful decipherer, what can all this conundrum be?' pine-trees, the tiny-leaved elms, which he saw He answered, without being offended : “My dear from the terrace of his club, where he spent the uncle, this conundrum, which, by your leave, is greater part of his days and even of his nights. very plain, is of the greatest importance, and sig- Nevertheless, this egotist or philosopher always nifies that the keeper of the flocks of Ammon, had at heart the interest of his nephew, whom he Amen-Heb, the ever-truthful, and his wife, who intended to make his heir; and, besides, he was loves him, Amen-Apt, the ever-truthful, render very curious about it all, and did not conceal it. homage to Osiris, dwelling in the land of the With a sigh he ordered his valet to pack his West, ruler of times and seasons, to Ptah-Sokari, trunks, and that very evening left for Vichy. ruler of the tomb, and to the great Tum, who I nformed by telegraph, Madame de Pennemade the heavens and created all the essences ville was waiting for him at the station. She coming out of the earth. I listened to him with rushed to meet him as soon as he came in sight, so much interest that the next day he meant to saying: confer a great favor upon me by sending me the “Fancy it—that woman is a widow, and he entire history of Amen-Heb, written down. I really means to marry her!” read it once every year, on his birthday. Could “Poor mother!” exclaimed the Marquis. “I any one accuse me of neglecting my duty as a agree with you, that things are getting segreat-uncle ?
embarkation with a leaden coffin for Périgueux, Horace begged the favor of a moment's inter
view at night under the starry skies of Egypt, in MONSIEUR DE MIRAVALwas not mistaken in a delicious atmosphere, wherein flitted the great his surmises ; things had gone on just about as he vague ghosts of the Pharaohs: he then confessed had imagined. The Count Horace de Penneville to her his passion, and strove to make her engage had made the acquaintance of a beautiful blonde at herself to him before the year was over. Then Cairo, and, for the first time, his heart was touched. did he learn still further all the delicacy of her They met at the “ new hotel"; from the very refined soul. She reproached him with downcast first Madame Corneuil took pains to attract the eyes for the eagerness of his love, and that she attention and the thought of the young man. could not think of so mingling the rose and cyMonsieur Corneuil seemed to rally somewhat, and press and thoughts of love with long crape veils. they profited by his improvement to visit together But she would permit him to write to her, and the museum at Boulak, the subterranean ruins of promised to reply in six months. At parting she Serapeum, the pyramids of Gizeh and of Sak- smiled upon him demurely but encouragingly. karah. Horace took upon himself the office of He then ascended the Nile again, reaching Upper cicerone in good earnest, and made it both his Egypt, glad to pass his months of waiting in the business and pleasure to explain Egypt to Ma- solitude of Thebais, where the days are more dame Corneuil, and Madame Corneuil listened than twenty-four hours in length ; they could not to all his explanations with great seriousness and be too long for him to decipher hieroglyphics interested attention, occasionally mingled with a while thinking of Madame Corneuil. Crocodiles mild ecstasy. She seemed rapt and intent, a dull will play a conspicuous part in this story : Horflame glowed in the depths of her eyes; she ace was at Keri, or Crocodilopolis, when he repossessed in perfection the art of listening with ceived an exquisitely written and perfumed note, her eyes. She found no difficulty in admitting telling him that the adored being was passing that Moses lived in the reign of Rameses II. ; the summer with her mother on the borders of she seemed delighted to learn that the second Lake Leman, at an apartment-house a short disdynasty lasted three hundred years; that Menes tance from Lausanne, and that if the Count de was a native of Thinis; and that the great pyra- Penneville should present himself, he need not mid was built gradually by Ka-kau, the Kaiechós knock twice for the door to open. He left like an of Manetho, by whom was founded the worship arrow, and ran with one stretch of the bow to of the ox Apis, the living manifestation of the Lausanne. He had written a letter of twelve god Ptah. She felt all the enthusiasm of a nov- pages to Madame de Penneville, in which he told ice, initiated in the sacred mysteries of Egyptian to her his good fortune with such effusion of chronology, declared that it was the most de- tenderness and of joy as might well have made lightful of all sciences and the most charming her despair. of pastimes, and vowed that she would learn to Both uncle and niece spent all their evening read hieroglyphics.
in talking, deliberating, and discussing, as generThe dénoúment took place during a visit to ally happens in like cases. The same things the tomb of Ti, by the reddish glare of torches. were repeated twenty times; it helps nothing, They were examining in a sort of ecstasy the but is a great comfort. Monsieur de Miraval, pictures graven on the walls of each of the fu- who seldom took things tragically, set himself to nereal chambers. One of them represented a console the Countess; but she was inconsolable. hunter seated in a bark in the midst of a marsh, “How, in good faith,” said she, “ could you in which hippopotami and crocodiles were swim- expect me to coolly contemplate the prospect of ming. As they were bending over the crocodiles, having for a daughter-in-law a girl sprung from Madame Corneuil, absorbed in her reverie, grew no one knows where; the daughter of a man of more than usually expansive. The young man ruined reputation, who married an insignificant was touched with a totally new sensation. She man, and separated from him that she might left the tomb first. On joining her without, he have her own way in Paris; a woman whose became dazzled, and suddenly discovered that name has been dragged through the 'Gazette des she had the bearing of a queen, brown eyes shot Tribunaux '; a woman who writes descriptions of with faun, the most wonderful hair in the world, mists, who composes sonnets, and who, I know, that she was beautiful as a dream, and that he is none too scrupulous ? " was wildly in love with her.
“I do not know about that," answered the A few weeks later, Monsieur Corneuil gave Marquis, “but it has been said for a long time up his soul to God, leaving his entire fortune to that the most dangerous creatures in the world his wife, who, to speak the truth, had nursed him are the women •à sonnets,' and the serpents à with heroic patience. The evening before her sonnettes.' I will wager, however, that this woman is a manæuvrer, and that it is a very disa- from Egypt, and you may be sure he will not greeable business.'
come until you give your consent. A man loves “ Horace, wretched Horace !” exclaimed the and respects his mother in vain when he is really Countess, “what grief you cause me !—The dear on fire, and Horace is that surely. Heavens! his fellow has a most noble and generous heart; un- letter proves it. So feverish is the prose that it fortunately, he never had a bit of common sense; almost burns the paper." but how could I expect this?”.
Madame de Penneville drew near the Mar“Alas! you had every reason to expect just quis, tenderly stroking his white hair, and putting this," interrupted the Marquis. “One can not her arms about his neck: mistrust too much such precocious wisdom; it “ You are so shrewd : you have so much tact. always ends in some calamity. I have told you I have been told that very difficult missions were a hundred times, my dear Mathilde, that your son intrusted to you in the past, and that you acgave me considerable uneasiness, and that some quitted yourself gloriously." unfortunate surprise was preparing for us. We “O thou cunning one, it is far easier to negoare all born with a certain amount of nonsense tiate with a government than to treat with a in us, which we must get rid of; happy are those lover in the toils of a manœuvrer." who exhaust it in youth! Horace kept it all till “You can never make me believe that anyhe was twenty-eight years old, capital and inter- thing is impossible to you." est, and this is the result of all his economy. “You have resolved to bring me into the Many little follies save from greater ones; when game,” said he to her. “Well, so be it; the ena man only commits one, it is almost always enor- terprise deserves to be attempted. But, à propos, mous, and generally irreparable.”
have you replied yet to the formidable letter Madame de Penneville passed to the Marquis which you have just read to me?”. a cup of tea, sweetened by her white hand, and “I would do nothing without consulting you." said to him in most caressing tones :
“So much the better; nothing is compromised; “My dear uncle, you alone can save us," the affair is as yet unmeddled with. I will let “In what way?" asked he.
you know to-morrow if I decide to go to Lau“Horace has so much regard, so much re- sanne." spect for you. You have always had so much The Countess thanked Monsieur de Miraval authority with him.”
warmly. She thanked him still more warmly the “Bah! we no longer live under the régime of next day when he announced to her that he would authority."
do as she wished, and asked her to take him to “ But, then, you have always allowed him to the station. She accompanied him, for fear he look upon himself as your heir; that gives you a might repent, and on the way said to him: certain right, it seems to me."
“This is a journey for all mothers to glory “Come! Young men who live in space, like over; but, would you be kind enough to write your son, can easily give up an inheritance. What me often from there?” is an income of a hundred thousand francs com- “Oh, certainly," answered he, “but only upon pared with a pretty scarabaus, emblem of im- one condition.” mortality ?"
“What may that be?" “My dear, dear uncle, I am persuaded that, “That you do not believe one single word if you would consent to go to Lausanne-" that I write to you.”
The Marquis jumped from his seat. “Good “What do you mean?” Heavens !” said he, “ Lausanne is very far.” “I also request of you," continued he, “ that
And he heaved a sigh, as his thoughts turned you answer me as if you really did believe me, to the terrace at his club.
and that you send my letters to Horace, begging “Only accept this task, and I will be eternally him to keep them to himself.” grateful. You can make the boy listen to rea- "I understand you less and less." son.”
“What can that be which is beyond the com“My dear Mathilde, once in a while I read prehension of a woman? Open letters are the over my Latin poets. I know one of them says depths of diplomacy. After all, it is not necesthat madness is allied to love, and that to talk sary that you should understand ; the essential reason to a lover is as absurd as to ask him to thing is that you obey my instructions scrupurave with moderation,'ut cum ratione insaniat.'” lously. Good-by, my dear; I am going to where
“Horace has a heart. You must represent Heaven and your purrings have sent me. If I to him that this marriage will drive me to de- do not succeed, it will prove that our friends the spair."
Republicans were quite right in shelving me." " He suspects as much, my dear, since he did Having thus spoken, he kissed his niece, and not dare to come and greet you on his arrival stepped into the railway-carriage. He reached