Imagens das páginas

with sorrow and wonder in these days of earnestness and good faith.

In politics a republican and a democrat, he advocated the rights of man to an extent that might destroy all right save that of the strongest and that darling chimera of the French, equality, almost with as much consistency as Procrustes himself-and, aided by a clear intellect and natural hardihood of character, unenfeebled by the weaknesses of delicacy and sensibility which perplex the proceedings of many honest theorists, he actually carried these, his professions of contempt for worldly distinctions and their professors, into practice. That is to say, professing to hold the illusions of rank, wealth, ancestry, high blood, and fine manners, in the utmost disregard-his ways of behaving to those so endowed were, as it may be seen, pretty exactly in conformity with his professions.

The Marquis de Montalembert, as such, was nothing to him. As an individual, he had seen little to respect in him ; and most assuredly, as a marquis, he had no idea of paying him any respect. Man to man, he knew himself to be the superior in wit and wisdom, and, maybe, in morals; and he treated him as he considered him, very much like an inferior.

He wanted imagination to invest a nobleman of ancient family with any of that lustre which clings round the memory of great names and of long descent; nor had he sensibility to divine all the infinite susceptibilities to pain which, the consequence of habitual distinction, lay its possessors so cruelly exposed to the attacks of those endowed with -“ le terrible don de la familiarité.

Yet let it not be supposed that M. Guibert, in his disregard of artificial distinctions, was possessed by the almost childlike enthusiasm of the philanthropical levellers of eighty-nine; or by the fierce, gloomy, yet honest fanaticism of ninety-three-he was a republican of his own era and of his own times ; possessing, in its full extent, the luxurious, dandy, affected, egotistical spirit of his age.

He was not one, in a moment of ardent emulation, to fling down the advantages he himself had possessed, under a generous impression of the injustice of such advantages; he was not one to show his contempt for wealth by the simplicity of his own habits, or the temperance of his own desires--no bread and cresses for him.

It is true, he despised all those distinctions which depend for their existence upon the imagination alone ; but he was fully aware of the value of those more gross and sensible ones, which can be counted, weighed, and bartered.

Though he could not fairly be said to respect or honour any other man for being wealthy, nothing did M. Guibert despise less, as related to himself, than a good estate. And

though, to do him justice, he was neither to be imposed upon nor dazzled by elegant equipages, brocade hangings, nor services of plate-he possessed, as we have seen, a very elegant coupe of his own-his house might have been cited as the model of elaborate luxury-and his table, that most important of all modern considerations, might have tempted the epicurism of Talleyrand the great himself. Likewise, M. Guibert never encouraged the slightest approach to familiarity on the part of his inferiors : so far as regarded his own domestic arrangements, no man had juster views of the propriety and the advantages of proper subordination.

The marquis and M. Guibert radically disagreed upon almost every point which can come under discussion between two men-and little recked Guibert what prejudices he offended, or what feelings he wounded, as he harangued, with his usual volubility, upon every subject which presented itself; abused without mercy the principles by which the past, and the modification of them by which the present rulers of France are directed-ridiculed the pretensions of birth and privilege-scoffed without mercy at hereditary titles—anathematized the aristocratical principle of primogeniture, &c. &c. &c. &c.

The marquis listened with the sensations of an Indian tied to the stake, while every early prejudice, every subject of family and personal pride, was thus unmercifully stripped, exposed, and laughed at. He listened with the heroism of an Indian-resolved to die, but not to flinch, or betray the slightest symptom of suffering to his unrelenting tormentor.

At last, after the Chambers, M. Thiers, Louis Philippe, and the budget, were done with, M. Guibert suddenly recollected himself

“ What hour do you dine ? I should like to arrange my toilet a little before dinner, when, I presume, I shall have the honour of being presented to the fair object of my present aspirations. These dusty roads derange one excessively."

“We dine at six,” said the marquis, rising and ringing the bell.

Champagne, show M. Guibert to his apartment.” “There shall be one prepared for monsieur immediately," said Champagne ; we did not know monsieur should sleep here."

“I am here for some days,” said M. Guibert to the astonished Champagne; so tell that rascal of mine, Duverney, to have all my malles and nonsense carried into my room, and my dressing-table arranged for five o'clock. In the meantime, with your leave, Montalembert, I will stroll out, and see whether your farming be better upon this side of your estate than upon the other-and look about me a little to see what this property of yours consists of.”

[ocr errors]

“As you please,” said the marquis; "you will excuse me, I seldom walk out.”

"Oh, don't derange yourself ; I shall find my way well enough.

And M. Guibert walked off.

Montalembert was left alone. Stupified, as it were, with suppressed emotion, he remained leaning against the window where Guibert had quitted him, gazing vacantly upon the opposite wall. After a while, he slowly crossed the floor and sat down ; he gave way to no demonstrations, he yielded to no paroxysm of passion - he looked crushed, battered, and beaten. He had that deplorable air of animal degradation which too often attends the victim of extreme, cruelty-of cruelty which the sufferer has not dared to resent. His hair was dishevelled, and fell about his temples as though it had been disordered by positive violence-his eyes were spiritless, his whole expression miserable and helpless. Had he been kicked across the floor, as he lay prostrate at the feet of an adversary, it is thus that he would have risen.

Unhappy man!-long intrenched in the icy coldness of his pride and secret resentments, he had denied a place within his breast to every gentle domestic affection. He had only within these few days known what it was to possess the heart of a father-known only to have that heart lacerated in the most barbarous and cruel manner.

It was remarked, from that day, that the countenance of the marquis never recovered its natural hue, nor his figure its ordinary character.


THERESE and her charge were sitting in that large apartment which Virginie called her own.

The windows were open, but most of the persiennes closed ; so that, although it was bright mid-day, an agreeable air of coolness and seclusion was diffused around. One or two of the blinds, however, remained half open, and a glimpse might be caught of the old garden, with its alcoves, its trellised walks, its flower-beds, and terraces, all framed, as it were, by the dark green foliage of the surrounding plantation.

Not a sound was to be heard in that quiet spot, save, at intervals, the shrill crowing of the cock fron the distant villages;

the chirp of the innumerable little birds that haunted the trees of the garden ; the distant sound of a

labourer's scythe; or the hoarse note of a solitary rook, winging his way through the clear blue sky, to join his fellow-citizens of a distant grove.

Virginie sat on a low chair beside the half-open window; her eyes were fixed upon the still expanse before her; her delicate hands were crossed upon her breast; an anxious, troubled expression was upon her brow, as she turned towards Therese, who was placed at a little distance, busy with some lace and muslin that lay upon her lap.

“ And indeed, Therese, my heart fails me sadly." “And why should it, my darling ?"

“I cannot feel that it is quite right-if I could but be sure that it was quite right!"

“I cannot reason like Monsieur Bernard," said Therese; “I am no reasoner, you know; but I am sure that it is right! Dear child! I think that, to save your life, I would not have you do what was wrong. But I have seen enough to know that there is no wrong like that of pledging hands without hearts-no wrong like that of severing hearts and hands. You have given your faith, you know, to Monsieur Victor. It is only intended to put it out of Monsieur de Montalembert's power to force you to do a very wicked thing—to break your faith.”

Virginie sighed.

“Ah!" said Therese," and I could sigh too, to see the heiress of Montalembert stealing away to be betrothed in secret, when she ought to have been affianced before the universe, with all the pride and circumstance of her rankbut we cannot help that."

“I was not thinking of that I was thinking of my father." “Alas! dearest child, you must forget him.” “I cannot,” said Virginie. The sound of the carriage wheels was now heard. “Merciful Heaven! what is that ?" cried Virginie, startled and frightened at the least unusual noise, as those are who are about to do something they wish to conceal.

“Nay,” said Therese," it certainly is a carriage and there is a ring at the great gate, and I hear it coming up the coach-road; who on earth can it be ?"

Therese went out to learn. Presently she returned. “It is M. Guibert, an old friend of M. de Montalembert, as Champagne supposes; for he went into the library, and

tleman; may be the age of M. le Marquis-he can be nothing to us, so do not look so pale. Let me put this over you," said she, throwing over her a long white veil, which, falling to her feet, entirely enveloped her delicate figure; and shrouded by which, standing with her arms still folded across her breast, she looked like a fair marble statue of modesty. “He is to dine here; so monsieur will not want you this


evening; therefore do not tremble so, my dear and beautiful child—don't be so very foolish. Believe me, you will never regret what is this day to be done."

No,” said she, musingly, her eyes bent to the earth, “I shall not regret it. Alas! even now, I cannot feel so sorry as I ought. My Victor! No, Therese, you are right; I shall not regret this day—this sweet, lovely, heavenly day!” said she, passionately. Oh, beautiful heaven; oh, delightful earth Sweet flowers !-Soft sounds! No; I shall never hate this day."

There was a knock at the door-it was Champagne.

Monsieur le Marquis desires me to inform Mademoiselle de Montalembert that dinner is ordered at six; and that there is a stranger-a gentleman, to dine here."

“ Very well," said Therese.

"Then,” thought she, “I shall have an excuse in dressing her as I like; and little will they think for whom she wears all those pretty things that she shall have on."

Then, unfolding the veil in which Virginie still stood wrapped and musing, she took the comb from her hair, and suffered the waves of soft brown to fall over her neck and shoulders. She combed, she smoothed, she perfumed them, with a pleasure which none but those in love, if one may say so, with another's happiness, can conceive ;-adorning her, as she fondly hoped, for a betrothing, the harbinger of espousals under happier circumstances.

At times she would retreat a few paces to gaze upon this treasure of her heart, and delight herself with the soft and gentle character of her beauty; then she would return to renew her task, and throw the soft shining gold in silken waves round the form she doted on. Then again she would retire, to choose in the simple wardrobe of the heiress of Montalembert that dress in which she intended to array her.

Virginie let her do as she would; her heart was too busy to interest itself much in these proceedings, and responded only to the affectionate caresses with which Therese accompanied her labours.

And certainly, when those labours were completed, and Virginie, in a dress of the purest and softest white muslin, only ornamented by a richly-embroidered girdle, her hair parted over her brow, and falling upon her shoulders, as it was her custom to wear it, entered the dining-room,-adorned, still more than by all the arts of dress, with that gentle. ness, simplicity, and ineffable modesty of demeanour, in which a certain air of dignity and good sense mingled so charmingly, it was impossible to conceive a more attractive figure.

She was followed by Therese, who, indeed, never quitted her; and who still preserved the habit, retained from hábit, of waiting behind her.

« AnteriorContinuar »