I shall weep no more. As he sat back from the table, fingering his glass, he looked exceedingly handsome, dashing, and romantic in his beautiful pale blue uniform.
But he had not found his level, and he was making some bad breaks. It does not always conduce to modesty and diffidence in a young man that his papa is a very prominent and powerful politician, and his mother a leader of Paris Society. As the deft native waiters, arrayed in spotless white, moved the table-cloth and set forth fresh glasses, ash-trays, shapely bottles and cigarette-boxes on the shining mahogany that reflected the electric lights like a mirror, he rushed in once again.
There was no squashing him. One has heard of people being young enough to know better—young enough, that is, to have high ideals, generosity, and purity of motive—but Lieutenant Archambaut Thibaut d'Amienville was young enough to know best. And he was at the moment giving generously and freely to his seniors of the stores of his wisdom and knowledge. He had promised his mamma a select consignment of lion-skins of his own procuring when he left for the wilds of Algiers and the Soudan, and she had helped in the purchase of the battery of sporting weapons that he had bought at the gun-shop in the Rue de la Paix, guiding his taste to the choice of "pretty ones with nice water-marking on the barrels," and dainty ornament in the way of engraving, chasing, damascening and mounting.
It is absolutely useless, you know, for you to go and drill him through and through with neat little holes of which he is unaware, and which trouble him not at all None of your Mausers or Lebels, you know. Eight pairs of eyes regarded the young gentleman without enthusiasm or affection; nay, with positive coldness. The strong and clever face of one of the party, a Captain of Zouaves, looked somewhat Machiavellian, as, with a cold smile, he encouragingly murmured "Yes? Colonel Leon Lebrun, famous chief of Tirailleurs and old enough to have been the young gentleman's grandfather, assumed a Paul-at-the-feet-of-Gamaliel air, and with humility also said "Yes?
Get something with a good fat bore and a good fistful of cordite. Then you know where you are and what you are doing I'd as soon go with my automatic pistol as with a small-bore And never go on foot—especially in those reedy places. And never touch a tablier —what the English call a machan when they put them up for tiger in their Indian colonies No good Suicide in fact What you want to do is to have a platform—like a sentry's vue —strongly lashed in the branches of a convenient high tree, near the 'kill,' put a mattress on it, and make yourself comfortable.
You might, in fact, have a sort of cage Just as good for keeping wild beasts out as for keeping them in. But original! Of a cleverness! How many lions have you shot? The flush of embarrassment deepened that of youth and juiciness in the plump cheek of the young officer. From the discomfort of his confession the youth quickly recovered with the attempted tu quoque —. The Captain's uniform of dark blue and red was a very modest affair beside that of the young Chasseur—and, nom de Dieu!
The young officer raised his absinthe to the light, crossed a leg, admired a neat boot, and glanced a trifle disdainfully at the grizzled, unfashionable old barbare of whom the elegant salons of Paris had never heard. A mere St. Maizent man snubbing an alumnus of St. Drawing a bow at a venture, the Lieutenant had a shot at the horse, he having just purchased his very first pony. Very keen on riding and awfully fond of horses. I love the chasse au renard I know something about them too A thing most useful—to understand horses.
It is not given to all Incredible lot to learn though A difficult subject Any time you may be thinking of buying, let me know, and I shall be charmed to place my knowledge and experience at your disposal. Yes, I will look the beast over Always best to take advice when buying a horse. Terrible rogues these Arabs. You are certain to be swindled if you rely on your own judgment. Cunning fellows these native piqueurs. Hide any defect from inexperienced eyes—bad hoofs, sand-crack, ring-bone, splint, wind-galls, souffle , sight, teeth, age, vice—anything.
Charmed to give you my opinion at any time Try him for you too. Most kind. A thousand thanks. I realize I have a terrible lot to learn about horses yet," replied the favoured one.
You may know his standard work. But Lieutenant d'Amienville again changed the subject hastily, and then scolded a servant for not bringing him what he had not ordered. Thereafter he was silent for nearly five minutes. Some one mentioned Adjudant-Major Gallais and his curious end. He dreamed that he saw his wife murdered by burglars in their little flat at Marseilles, was distraught until news came that such a tragedy had actually happened at the very time of the dream, and at once shot himself.
There is no such thing as this occultism, spiritualism, telepathy, and twaddle. To the devil with supraliminal, transliminal, subliminal, astral, and supernatural. There is no supernatural. Second-hand and third person Third person singular—very singular. Yes, all rot and rubbish. Now, has anyone of us here ever had an experience of the supernatural sort? Not one, I'll be bound. Not one But we all know somebody who has. It's always the way. I give you my word of honour—and I request—and advise—you not to cast any doubt on my statement. The pointed jaw of Lieutenant d'Amienville dropped, and he stared round-eyed and open-mouthed at the officer of the Legion, apparently sane and obviously sober, who could say such things seriously Could it be a case of this cafard of which he had heard so much?
No— le cafard is practically confined to the rank and file—and this man was, moreover, as cool as a cucumber and as normal as the night. He glanced round the table at his fellow-guests. They looked expectant and interested. This vieux moustache was evidently a man of standing and consideration among them.
The brilliant moonlight on the tall and beautiful plane-trees, the cypress and the myrtle, the orange, magnolia, wistaria, bougainvillea, the ivy-draped building of the Cercle with its hundreds of lights, the gorgeous scarlet of the Spahi, the pale blue of the Chasseur, the yellow and blue of the Tirailleur, the scarlet and black of the Legionary, and the other gay uniforms made up a picture as unreal as beautiful. Gazing upon it, he thought of days when he, too, sat in such groups in such club-gardens when Life went very well.
Just a queer little experience. Moreover, should he, while believing in the honesty of my belief, doubt the trustworthiness of my observations and conclusions, I may mention that my ordonnance will be found waiting near the gate—and may be called and questioned. For he was concerned in the matter, and not only saw the marks upon my throat, but actually touched the Dead Hand which all but choked the life out of me.
I was commanding a detachment then, with the rank of Lieutenant. We had disembarked at the mouth of the Red River into two old three-decker river-gunboats, and I had had an infernally busy day—what with the debarkation from the ship and then again at Haiphong, after the six-hour journey up the river. On top of all I had high fever. I always lock my door at night and sleep without a light, but with the means of getting a light easily accessible. Funny things are apt to occur at night in some parts of the shiny East I expect they've got electric light in Haiphong by now Well, in two minutes I was sound asleep—sleeping the sleep of the just and enjoying the reward of my good conscience, virtuous life, and hard work.
Some one had me by the throat and was choking my life out with as deadly and scientific a grip as ever fastened upon a man's neck The human mind is curiously constituted, and, even in that moment, I tried to remember the name of a book about the garotters of India, the 'Thugs'—a book I had read many years before, when studying English—written by a Colonel of the Army of India There was my orderly sleeping on a rug in a little ante-chamber a few feet from me, and I could not call to him. I must face my fate alone and live or die without help from outside.
I was terrified. Finding my right immovable, I naturally struck out with my left and hit again and again with all my strength—to find that I struck nothing —until, being at my last gasp, I grabbed at the hand that was choking me and strove to tear it from my throat. It was as deadly cold as it was horribly strong, and as brain reeled and senses failed, I seemed to visualize a terrible marble statue endowed with life and superhuman strength, leaning its cruel weight upon the frozen hand that clutched my throat.
And I could not seize or even touch any part of this horrible assailant but the Hand And I tell you the thing was dead—dead and cold I was dying—throttled by a Dead Hand, and that is the simple truth. None of the party moved or spoke—not even d'Amienville. And those of the party who knew him well, also knew him to be incapable of telling a lie, when he had given his word that what he said was the truth.
In vain My body writhed, but my right arm budged not a fraction of an inch, and the grip on my throat perceptibly tightened, though I thought the limit had surely been reached I must get one breath, or ears and eyes and brain must burst Surely I was black in the face and my eyeballs were on my cheek-bones? I lived a lifetime in a second Here were to end all dreams of military glory and distinction, all visions of fine, quick death in action against the foes of La France?
A dog's death! To be slowly suffocated in my bed—choked to death by a cold Dead Hand, a Hand without a tangible body For I don't mind confessing that I prefer human, or rather real , antagonists when I have to fight—and when lamp and table smashed to the ground under its weight, and I felt myself knifed, I knew that this cold, dead hand belonged to something actual and tangible—something alive, something human I hate being choked at night when I am getting my due and necessary sleep, and I wanted him badly.
I was really annoyed about it all Was the Thing supernatural after all? I had fallen practically on top of it and actually holding it—and it was not The most violent and virulent Oriental djinn, spirit, ghost, devil, afrit, esprit malin , or demon, does not stab one, even if it throttles—as some of them are said to do And then again I crouched and listened and waited—with my hands at my throat.
I suppose my faculties were all so engrossed in this strange struggle that no corner of my brain was free to think, ' One shout and Jean Boule will burst in your door, sword-bayonet in hand. I never thought to shout for help And then, as I put a hand to the floor, I touched the matches that had fallen with the table. And I thanked le bon Dieu With trembling fingers I struck a light—wondering what would be revealed to my staring eyes, and whether the light would be the signal for my death-blow.
Should I get it in the back—or across the neck? Was it a common Chinese 'pirate'? I hoped so, And, look you, my friends, the door was still locked on the inside; there was no fireplace and chimney, and not so much as a cat could have escaped by the window without knocking down the articles which stood on the inner ledge of it—some little brass ornaments, a crude vase, and one or two framed photographs or pictures.
I went cold all over. What had throttled me? What had stabbed me? Where was the cold Dead Hand which I had grasped? There lay the little lamp which I had carried in from the neighbouring bathroom. Its glass chimney was shattered and oil was running from its brass reservoir. And there, in my right arm, was the great, gaping stab. And I knew that nothing bigger than a rat could have left the room! I was weak and faint from the awful struggle, and a little sick from the stab Also, my friends, I was frightened A murderous foe who can throttle and stab, does not lock the door on the inside as he leaves the room, look you, and neither does he climb through a small window in silence without disturbing bric-a-brac upon the sill He replied on the instant, and came running.
Excuse me' Then he laughed in his quiet gentlemanly way, and glanced at the smashed lamp. He went to sleep on his right side with his right arm raised and bent over his neck—and the arm also went to sleep as the circulation ceased, owing to the position—and Monsieur le Capitaine got hold of his throat and choked himself.
Then he had nightmare, cauchemar , turned on his back, and woke up choking, and it was some time before he could budge the cold, stiff arm When he did, he flung it straight on to the lamp, broke the thing, and cut himself to the bone. Lieutenant d'Amienville made a strange noise in his throat and then rose and escaped from the circle of mocking eyes. If you do a native a good turn, he either wonders what you want of him, or else casts about in his mind for the reason why you want to propitiate him. If you had cause to punish one of your Spahis and did not do it, he would think you were afraid to.
Kindness is in their eyes pure weakness. If you forego vengeance, it must be because you think the offender may avenge that vengeance. No, gratitude doesn't flourish under a tropical sun. Lieutenant d'Amienville was very young and therefore very cynical. Quite so If a fellow does you a really good turn, he is strongly inclined to like you for evermore, and you are equally strongly disposed to regard him as a nuisance, and his mouldy face as a reminder of the time when you had to faire la lessive [ 1 ] or were in some fearful scrape I could name a certain absinthe-sodden old Colonel who absolutely loathes me for having saved him, body and soul, some years ago, when he had been betting and, of course, losing, as all people who bet do and had then gone to Monte Carlo to put everything right at the gaming-tables!
And Madame prefers to do her own gambling. His position, one Sunday night, was that Monday morning must find him with gold in his pocket or lead in his brain. I found the gold, as I had been at school with him, and had stayed with his people a lot, He paid the debt off long ago, too. The gratitude is rarely paid though. I suppose it is because the creditor of gratitude occupies the higher ground, and one resents being on the lower.
And it wasn't my fault the coolness arose, I am sure. Far longer. And it was a deed I could not forget if I lived to be a hundred years old. I feel the deepest gratitude towards him and always will. I should be very glad of an opportunity of proving the fact. He had forgotten doing the kindness, while I had remembered receiving it. She is thine,' and thenceforth hide a breaking heart beneath a writhing brow or a wrinkling tunic or something?
What was the noble deed? What wonderful thing did he present to you and forget? The Spahis roared with laughter at their unpopular brother-officer. He was their guest, but they could not forbear to laugh. A very little goes a long way in the matter of wit in a bored mess, exiled from Home and the larger interests of life.
He noticed the mark before I did. We do. And it can be more truly damnable along the Red River than in any desert station in the Sahara. You have got the sun, though you grumble at it, and too much heat is always better and less depressing than too little, to my way of thinking. What did Dante know of Hell when he had never been in a place consisting wholly of muddy water and watery mud—with nothing else for hundreds of square miles—except fever, starvation, dysentery, and the acutest craving for suicide? A low black sky of wet cotton wool, a vast river of black, muddy water, and its banks vast expanses of black watery mud.
Nothing else to see—but much to feel. I was a young soldier then—a private of the Legion in my first year. No one moved or spoke. Soldier, philosopher, reformer, hero, thinker, and something of a saint. If God is very good, you may perhaps see a castor-oil plant sailing along in the water to tell that there are other human beings somewhere in the terrible world of mud, water, fog, clouds, and rain—Annamese peasants who have sown castor-oil plants in the mud, apparently for the pleasure of seeing that accursed river change its course in order to engulf them.
I have tried both, and I'd serve a year in the Sahara rather than a week in the Annam jungles in the rains. I remember asking the man to whom I have been referring, my benefactor, an Englishman calling himself John Bull, or Jean Boule, why he , for example, went on living. Partly a feeling that suicide is cowardice, and partly the strongest instinct of the human mind—that of self-preservation.
I pondered this until, night falling, the boatmen steered for the shore and anchored our junk. The happy souls then shut themselves in their straw hut and caroused on shum-shum , the poor man's absinthe in China—an awful rice-spirit—while we huddled, foodless, sodden, and frozen in that ceaseless rain, fog, and bitter wind Who would not drink himself insensible and unconscious when there was nothing of which to be sensible and conscious but misery of the acutest?
It always interests me to hear the comfortably-placed rail against the drunkenness of the poor and wretched When the 'Black Flags' came, with the full moon, I was glad, I would have consented to fall into their hands alive rather than not die—and they could have taught the Holy Inquisition a whole language and literature of torture of which the Inquisition only knew the alphabet I knew I had malarial fever, and I feared I had yellow fever.
I knew I had dysentery, and I feared I had cholera. I knew I had an appalling cold and cough, and I feared I had consumption. I can now smile at myself as I was then—but I can also make allowances, for I was a starving, fever-wrecked child of seventeen—nearly dead with dysentery The bullets of the Black Flags were striking all around us, and it was a case of attacking them for our own safety. They were so close and had the range so well that I suspected our boatmen.
Je vous renter cie. Slav a Bogu ,[ 2 ]' and died. I envied old Ivan Plevinski, and, judging by his way of life, decided that it would not be from cold that he would suffer in the Hereafter I tried to take a hand at heaving-in the anchor-rope, but fell on it from sheer weakness and was kicked clear of it. As the junk grounded in the mud, the Legionaries sprang over the side, led by John Bull, and struggled through the mud toward the swamp-jungle whence the bullets came. I staggered as far as I could, and then fell and began slowly to sink in the black clayey mud. No—I was not afraid, only very glad to die.
And half delirious, watched the fight in the moonlight. I remember being bitterly disappointed that I could not distinguish the features of a man who, on his half-engulfed arms and knees, was vomiting blood just in front of me. I did so want to know who had 'got it,' for he also would accompany me and Ivan Plevinski to the Judgment Seat.
I wondered what St. Peter would say if the fellow vomited blood on the doorstep of the Gates of Heaven. Then I became unconscious, delirious The junk following ours—in which was Lieutenant Egrier, as he then was—came ashore, took the 'pirates' in flank, and drove them off I had broken into a perspiration, and was my own man again by then, and desperately anxious to live.
Before our sampans resumed their way to Phu-lang-Thuong, he gave Jean two sausages from the tin he opened. As I live, that gaunt, starving man cooked them both, gave one to me, and made the rest of our boat-load cast lots for the other. When I shook him by the hand, he remembered me, but he had absolutely and completely forgotten the episode of the sausage.
He is my orderly now Have you ever starved, d'Amienville? As she stood on the deck beside her lover-husband and gazed upon the thrillingly beautiful panorama of Marseilles, there was assuredly no happier woman in the world. As he looked at the rapt face and wide-opened glorious eyes of the lovely girl beside him there can scarcely have been a man as happy.
They had been married in England a week earlier, were on their way to his vast house and vaster estate in Australia, and had come round by sea, instead of suffering the miseries of the "special" across France which saves a week to leave-expired returning Anglo-Indians. Her happiness was almost a pain. As a child she had childishly adored him; and now he had returned from his wanderings, after a decade of varied, strenuous life—to adore her.
Life was too impossibly, hopelessly wonderful and beautiful He, who had been everywhere, done everything, been everything—soldier, sailor, rancher, planter, prospector, hunter, explorer—had come Home for a visit, and laid his heart at the feet of a country mouse. His happiness frightened him. After more than ten years of the roughest of roughing it, he had "made good" exceeding good , and on top of good fortune incredible, had, to his wondering bewilderment, won the love of the sweetest, noblest, fairest, and most utterly lovable and desirable woman in the world.
She whom he had left a child had grown into his absolute ideal of Woman, and had been by some miracle reserved for him. And which would now know the greater joy in their travels—he in showing her the fair places of the earth and telling her of personal experiences therein, or she in being shown them by this adored hero who had come to make her life a blessed dream of joy? Not that the fair places of the earth were necessary to their happiness.
They could have spent a happy day in London on a wet Sunday, or at the end of Southend pier on a Bank Holiday, or in a prison-cell for that matter—for the mind of each to the other a kingdom was. The ship being tied up, and a notice having guaranteed that she would on no account untie before midnight, this foolish couple, who utterly loved each other, walked down the gangway, passed the old lady who sells balloons and the old gentleman who sells deck-chairs, the young lady who sells glorious violets and the young gentleman who sells un-glorious "field"-glasses; through the echoing customs-shed and out to where, beside a railway-line, specimens of the genus cocher lie in wait for those who would drive to the boulevards and in hope for those who know not that four francs is ample fare.
Think of English officers sitting, in uniform, on the pavement, like those are, and drinking in public," Aren't they pretty—dears! They all belong to regiments of the African Army Corps, the Nineteenth, and there isn't a finer one on earth. I wonder how many other Englishmen know anything about this African Army and that it is the Ninety-Ninth. Now how do you know? You'll hate it. Is the syrup golden-syrup or syrup-of-squills or what?
No, I'll have some coffee and see if it is. Meanwhile an elderly, grizzled officer, with a somewhat brutal face, was staring hard and rudely at the unconscious couple. So prolonged was his unshifting gaze, so fierce his frown, and so obvious his interest, that his companions noticed the fact. He'll promise Legros to ponch ees 'ead if he thinks he's being rude—as he is. Certainly the elderly and truculent-looking officer was being rude, for not only was he staring with a hard, concentrated glare, but he was leaning as far forward as he could, the better to do it.
Anyone—man, woman, or child—being conscious of this deliberate, searching gaze, must resent it. It was that of a gendarme, examining the face of a criminal and endeavouring to "place" him and recollect the details of his last encounter with him, or of a juge d'instruction examining a criminal in that manner which does not find favour in England. The brutal-looking officer scratched the back of his neck slowly up and down with the forefinger of his left hand, a sure sign that he was wrestling with an elusive reminiscence.
For a moment he took his eyes from the face of the Englishman and looked sideways at the pavement, cudgelling his brains, ransacking the cells of his memory. With a muttered oath at failure to recapture some piece of long-stored information, he put his hand into the inside pocket of his tunic and produced a tiny flat case. From this he took a pair of pince-nez and adjusted them upon the bridge of his broad, short nose. From the slowness and clumsiness of his movements it was evident that he had only just taken to glasses, or else wore them very seldom.
A quiet, gentlemanly-looking officer, a Captain, wearing a similar uniform to that of Legros, observed the action. Sitting with his back to the road, and almost facing Legros, he got a better view of the Englishman's features than did that deeply interested officer, who, without reply, continued his searching scrutiny. Evidently a person of great powers of concentration. As his glance fell upon the young couple, the Captain started slightly and then looked away. The Englishman half-consciously turned toward the sound, and looked away again without noticing the baleful, steady glare fixed upon him through the glasses of the Lieutenant.
Curse it! Was he getting old? He had the fellow's name and the circumstances of his case on the tip of his tongue, so to speak—at the tips of his fingers, as it were—and he could not say the word he was bursting to say; could not lay his twitching mental fingers on the details He knew He was right He would have it in a minute. How ill the poor lad looks! Fancy having to sell papers for a living when you are starving and horribly ill, as he obviously is," and as her hand stole to her charitable purse, she gratefully thought of the utter security, peace, comfort, and health of her life—now that Bill had linked it to his What was the phrase?
Yes—she had "hitched her wagon to a star"; her poor little homely wagon to the glorious and brilliant star of her Bill's career The inquisitorial Lieutenant used the paper-boy for the purposes of his tactics. Recognition was instantaneous and mutual. The brutal countenance of the elderly Lieutenant was not improved by a sardonic smile and look of mean and petty triumph as he thrust an outstretched index-finger in the Englishman's face and harshly grunted. Staring in utter bewilderment from the French officer to her husband, the girl saw with horror that his jaw had dropped, his mouth and eyes were gaping wide, and he had gone as white as a sheet.
What had happened? What in the name of the Merciful Father was this? Was she dreaming? Her husband looked deathly. He seemed paralysed with fright. The Lieutenant half turned, and shouted to a couple of sombre and mysterious-looking gens d'armes who had been standing for some time on the little "island" under the big lamp-post in the middle of the road.
As they approached, the Englishman rose to his feet. Take a fiacre and say ' P. They have But I knew the dog. He too had recognized the soi-disant Henry Robinson Of course Legros had only done his duty—curse him. Curse him a thousand times for a blackguardly, brutal ruffian. The girl was going to faint Her wedding-ring looked brand-new. Jean," he reflected. If he survives that, which is improbable, he will finish his five years of Legion service. No—she won't see much of him during the next decade Poor little soul! This lady is my wife. We have been married a week.
I beg of you to see her safe on board the P. A fat and kindly Frenchman, who understood English, translated for the benefit of the crowd. It became intensely sympathetic—at least with the girl. The French, for some reason, imagine their Foreign Legion to be composed of Germans, and the French do not love Germans If they once got him inside Fort St. Jean the clearing-house for drafts and details going to, and coming from, Algeria—recruits, convalescents, leave-expired, all sorts; Legionaries, Zouaves, Turcos, Spahis, Tirailleurs he was done.
In a short time he would be a convict, in military-convict dress, enduring the living-death of existence in the Zephyrs, the terrible Disciplinary Battalion, compared with whose lot that of the British long-sentence convict at Dartmoor, Portland, or Wormwood Scrubbs is a bed of roses in the lap of luxury. After that—back to the Legion if he were alive to finish his five years, of which there were four unexpired.
And what would she do then—at the end of the voyage? God help them! A few minutes ago—happiness unspeakable, safety, security, peace, all life before them. Now—in a few minutes he would be in gaol and his adored, adoring wife a deserted, friendless stranger in a strange land Would they want her to give evidence—put her in some kind of prison until the Court-Martial sat?
Well, things couldn't be much worse or could they if he "resisted the police," assaulted the duly-appointed officers of the law in the execution of their duty, and made a break for liberty. No, things couldn't be worse. Neither he nor she would survive the next ten years. And there was a chance , or the ghost of a shadow of a chance.
The deck of the Maloja was English soil, and they could not lay a finger on him there. If only she were safe on board, he'd make the attempt. There was a chance—and he had always taken the sporting chance, all his life And this vile cur of a Legros! Now this! If he could only have his hands at the throat of Legros. He appeared to be as cool as he was pale. The Captain was the senior officer present. Was she dying? As she lost her hold and sank into the bottomless depths of unconsciousness she was finally aware that her husband winked at her violently.
That wink in a face which was a pallid, tragic mask, was the most dreadful and heartrending thing she had ever seen. Anyhow, it meant some kind of reassurance which he could not put into words without disclosing some plan to his captors. She fainted completely, in the act of wondering whether this was merely that he was putting a good face on it and pretending for her benefit, or whether he really had a plan.
Anyhow she was to go to the ship—and, in any case, she was dying of a broken heart He would delay as long as he could in order that his wife might be on board the ship before he reached it, if ever he did. He would go quietly and willingly—but as slowly as possible—while the road to Fort St. Jean was the road to the ship. He would then break away from his pursuers and run for it. He would show them what an old Oxford miler and International Rugger forward could do in the way of running and dodging, and, perchance, what sort of a fight an amateur champion heavy-weight could put up.
But strategy first, strength and skill afterwards, for he was playing a terrible game, with his wife's happiness at stake, not to mention his own liberty. With a groan, he artistically smote his knees together and sank to the ground. That would gain a little time anyhow, and they'd hardly carry him to Fort St. Jean, nor waste a cab-fare on the carcase of a Legionary.
Jean, but he remembered that it was down by the waterfront. Yes, he could again see its quaint old tower, like a lighthouse, and its drawbridged moat, as he closed his eyes. Part of the way to it would be the way to the P. Would they take him by tram? That might complicate matters. If they were going to do that, should he make his break for liberty at once, or on the journey, or at the end of it? It would be comparatively easy to make a dash before or after the tram-ride, but they'd surely never let him escape them from a crowded tram.
Would they handcuff him? If so, that would settle it. He'd fight and run the moment handcuffs were produced. You can't run in handcuffs, although you think you can. Would they shoot? It would be Hell to be winged in sight of the ship. Was the P. He was in his element, and fairly gloated over his victim, who only groaned and collapsed the more. To those of the crowd who realized that he was an Englishman, he was an object of pity; to those who concluded that, being a Legionary, he was a German, he was merely an object of interest.
The officers who had been sitting with Legros departed in some disgust, and the crowd changed, eddied, and thinned Only a sick man being attended to by a couple of gens d'armes! These latter grew a little impatient. The sooner they could dispose of this fine fellow the better, but they certainly weren't going to march to Fort St. Let the army do its own dirty work. They'd run him in all right to the nearest lock-up, and he could be handed over to the military authorities, to be dealt with, whenever they liked to fetch him.
Drag him face downward by one toe at the tail of a dust-cart more likely! Police-station, was it? Not Fort St. Jean immediately. And where might the nearest police-station be, wondered the prostrate Englishman. He must not let them get him there. The boat would sail at midnight, whether he were on board or not—and once the cell door closed on him it would not open till the morning. Perhaps he had better take his leave at once.
Unless they went in the direction of the docks for some part of the way it would be a cruelly punishing run Just as bad for them though, and he'd back himself against any of these beefy old birds for a four-mile race And if he did—let them stop him if they could. He'd break through the scrum of them all right. Lay some of them out too. What was Legros saying? Urging the gens d'armes to boot him up and lug him off by the scruff of his neck, eh? He groaned again, sat up with difficulty, shakily and painfully rose to his feet, then smote Legros a smashing blow between the eyes, butted the gendarme who stood on his right, and with a dodge, a jump, and a wriggle was away and running like a hare.
To the end of his life he never forgot that race for life, and for more than life. Scores of times he lived through it again in terrible nightmares and suffered a thousand times more than he did on the actual run itself. For then he was quite cool, steady, and unafraid. He imagined himself to be running with the ball at Blackheath or Richmond, threading his way through the hostile fifteen, dodging, leaping, handing-off. But there were one or two differences.
In Rugger you may not drive your clenched fist with all your might into the face of any man who springs at you Nor do you run for miles over cobbles It was really surprisingly easy. Once he had got clear and put a few yards between himself and the uninjured gendarme, it was even betting that he'd win—provided his wind held and he didn't get the stitch, and that he did not slip and fall on the cursed stones. For the folk behind he cared nothing, and with such in front as grasped the situation in time to do something, he could deal. Some he dodged, some he handed-off as at Rugger, and some he hit.
These last were slower to rise than those he handed-off, or caused to fall by dodging them as they sprang at him. When he turned a sharp corner he was so well ahead of the original pursuers that he was merely a man running, and that is not in itself an indictable offence.
Certainly people stopped and stared at the sight of an obvious foreigner running at top speed, but he might have a boat to catch, he might be pursuing a train of thought or his lost youth and innocence. Que voulez-vous? Besides, he might be English, and therefore mad. And then the blue-faced, panting gendarme would round the corner at the head of such gamins , loafers, police agents, and other citizens as saw fit to run on a hot afternoon. Whereupon people in this sector of street would look after the runaway and some run after him as well.
So the pursuing crowd continually changed, as some left it and others joined it, until there remained of the old original firm scarcely any but the distressed and labouring gendarme—who, at last, himself gave up, reeled to the wall, and whooping and gasping for breath, prepared to meet his Maker. Before the poor man had decided that this event was not yet, the Englishman had dashed round another corner and actually leapt on to an electric tram in full flight toward the quais!
How mad were these English! Fancy a man running like that now, just to catch a tram. No, he would not go inside; he preferred to stand on the platform, and stand there he would. He did, and anon, the tram having stopped at his polite request to the conductor, he strolled on to the P. A steward informed him that his wife were ill, 'aving been brought aboard by a French gent and took to 'er cabing. She were still lying down But not for long, when his arms had assured her that they were not those of a vision and a ghost If you ever travel Home with them, you'll find they don't go ashore at Marseilles.
No, they don't like the place—prefer to stay on board, even through the coaling. For one, he was apprehensive of attack by some wandering band of De Nam's "pirates," and the outlaw brigands who served Monsieur De Nam, mandarin of the deposed Emperor of Annam, Ham-Nghi, were men whose courage and skill in fighting were only excelled by their ingenuity and pitilessness in torturing such of their enemies as fell into their hands.
And what could he do, strung out over a mile, with a weak escort of Tirailleurs Tonkinois to provide his point, cover-point, and main body with the wounded, and an escouade of Legionaries for his rearguard? The sooner he got to Phulang-Thuong, the better. Returning, unhampered by the wounded, he could take care of himself, and any band of "Black Flags" who chose to attack him could do so. The Sergeant grunted. He ran his eye along the halted column.
Would those Tirailleurs Tonkinois stand, if there were a sudden rush of howling devils from the dense jungle on either side of the track? And why should they be allowed to take their women about with them everywhere, so that these should carry their kit and accoutrements for them?
Why should these Annamese be pampered thus? Should he send the squad of Legionaries to the head of the column when they advanced again? He would get the opinion of "Jean Boule" in the course of a little apparently aimless conversation. He had been an officer before he joined the Legion, and these English knew all there is to know about guerilla fighting From his remarks and replies it was clear to the good Sergeant that the Englishman considered that any attack would certainly come from the rear.
He is off in a few minutes. Go and tell him to hurry up. We march again as soon as we have fed. He is the first stretcher in front of the Tirailleurs' women. He knew that poor Jacques Bonhomme's number was up. It was a marvel how he had hung on, horribly wounded as he was—shot, speared, and staked, all at once, and all in the abdomen.
André Schlesser, surnommé Dadé, est un chanteur, cabaretiste d'origine gitane, qui forme .. Ils poursuivront alors leur carrière chacun de leur côté, Marc Chevalier à qui je suis allée tout naturellement pour qu'il m'unisse à ma patrie nouvelle Pour remercier la France d'avoir été une terre d'asile, et étant sans héritiers. Marc Chevalier chansonnier, guitariste, interprète Wikidata La chanson pour tout bagage: Marc Chevalier, Sudoc [ABES], France. Mémoires d'un cabaret, "L' Écluse", Sudoc [ABES], France National Library of Poland National Library of.
He had been friendly with Jacques—an educated man and once a gentleman. A glance showed him that he was too late. The man was delirious and semi-conscious. If he had any message or commission, it would never be put into words now. The Englishman sat on the ground beside the stretcher and took the hand of the poor wretch. Possibly some sense of sympathy, company, friendship, or support might penetrate to, and comfort, the stricken soul. But Jacques Bonhomme talked on in the monotonous way of the fever-smitten, though with a strange consecutiveness.
John Bull listened carefully, in the hope that some name, rank, office, or address might be mentioned and give a clue to relatives or the undelivered message or last commission. Morel tells me there are five hundred and twenty-five thousand and six hundred minutes in each year, and I believe him implicitly, for he is the finest mathematical professor the Sorbonne ever had. I believe him implicitly. He is no Classic, but he has good points and can do wonderful things with figures.
Wonderful feats! He knows all about things like the Metric System, Decimals, and Vulgar Fractions and similar things of which one hears but never encounters. He can not only add up columns of francs and centimes, such as are found in the bills which tradesmen are fond of writing, even when they have received payment, but he can deal with things like pounds, shillings, and pence; dollars and cents; yen and sabuks; or rupees, annas, and pice, not only with marvellous accuracy, but with incredible rapidity.
This makes him an invaluable travelling companion for a Classic who knows none of these things—apart from the fact that he can also find out the times of trains and steamers from railway and shipping guides. It is wonderful to see him seize a book, scan it for a moment, and then say unhesitatingly that a train will leave the Gare de Lyon at a certain hour on a certain day, that it will just catch a ship at Marseilles on the next day, and that this ship will just catch another at Aden, so many days later, and that this one will land you in Japan at a certain hour on a certain day.
And yet he is not a bit proud of these things—no prouder than I am of my little metrical translation of the Satires and Odes of Horace into Greek. And he thinks I travel with him for the sake of his delightful company! A man who cannot utter a hackneyed Latin quotation without some horrible false quantity. Poor Morel! That is to say, counting only the minutes when one is not asleep. He tells me there are three hundred and seventy-two thousand and three hundred waking minutes in the year for a man who averages seven hours sleep a day, or rather night—for he never sleeps in the day.
How he knows I cannot tell, but I believe him absolutely, for he is as truthful as he is clever. So now I know that if I subtract five from this last appalling total I can tell how many minutes of the year I spend in thinking of the other five. After arriving at an aggravating variety of results, I again sought the good Morel's help, and he assures me that, subtracting five from the last total with which he furnished me, I have three hundred and seventy-two thousand and two hundred and ninety-five minutes.
Moreover the figures are also what Morel calls 'vitiated,' by the fact that a vast number of my sleeping moments are also given to dreaming of those five, and dreaming, as any philosopher will tell you, is far better and finer than thinking. Morel stoutly denies this—but that one would expect from so uneducated and uncultured a man. What I want to know is whether you think I might balance the waking moments when I can only think of her subconsciously against the sleeping moments when I am actually dreaming of her, and consider that the total of three hundred and seventy-two thousand and two hundred and ninety-five is approximately correct?
The matter is of the first importance to me. I hate figures, as a rule, for they give me a headache, but in this one instance I want them correct. As I am so often told that I must be more scientific, accurate, and exact, I have tried to express myself mathematically and can do no better. To me it seems that I might just as well have said, 'I spend all the year in thinking of five minutes of it'—but I suppose some queer child of the new generation of Frenchmen would at once point out that I spend nearly a third of my time in sleeping, and much of it in working My head is in a dreadful whirl and muddle about it though I suppose she feels that she must have one week's rest and communion with her own soul if she is to live.
On the first day of every July she goes, and her train stops at Pennebecque for five minutes. As you have guessed, I go to Pennebecque every year for that five minutes. It is the longest stop that the train makes And the setting of the scene is so wonderful, it is worthy to frame such a picture. I would not see her in the dust and noise and bustle of the Gare de l'Ouest, or at any ugly little wayside station.
Yes, I go to Pennebecque to see her for five minutes every year. The only other train that passes through that tiny place does so at night. So I arrive over-night and sit on a seat and wait, almost too happy and exalted to breathe And I have striven not to pray that the Marquis might die. And yet would not he be better dead—the poor, lolling-tongued, squint-eyed, half-witted Marquis?
Think of that marvel of beauty, grace, goodness, and wit, the Marquise de Montheureux, making herself the nurse, the attendant, the keeper, of a lunatic! If she but turns her back he weeps and sobs aloud. She tends that great, slobbering, dribbling lout, that mindless, soulless clod—no more sentient nor responsive than a hippopotamus—as the most devoted of young mothers tends and nurses her firstborn For six months I do nothing but look forward to that five minutes, and for six months again I do nothing but look back upon it.
She is of the real and true noblesse , you see, and has the kind, gentle, and unassuming manner of the genuine aristocrat. Noblesse oblige. She was a noble, and her nobility was made patent by her nobleness. It is your bourgeois 'noble' whose nobility has to be advertised by gilt and plush and display and rudeness to 'inferiors. She understood. And she accepted the bunch of roses I took. Oh, the sleepless nights I passed in the agony of that struggle to decide whether to take the roses! I did not know what an eternity could be covered by two years.
The bellowing calf of a Marquis was 'ill,' forsooth, and she never left his bedside Curse him! Had he not even the sense and understanding to see what he was making of her life, and to die like a man? Surely to die is easy—it is living that is so hard. But no—Monsieur le Marquis de Montheureux could not die. He must go on living, even though he could not wash his own face nor feed himself She knew that I lived but for that five minutes.
How I sang through the next twelve months! She knew. She smiled at me. Why should I not love her? It did neither her nor anyone else any harm, and it made my life—well—glorious, and gave it all the fineness and fulness that it possessed. Was this an offence against Le Bon Dieu? I dare to think for myself in religious matters. And I say that what is absolutely good must be of God—and if it isn't, I can't help it. And I lived as though she were watching me. Had my heart been other than strong I should have died For twelve months I pondered the possibility of daring to put my lips to it, should she give me her hand again.
Whenever she encountered de Grandcourt, he used to bow in the ancient grand manner, sweeping the ground with his hat, as though it were a great mousquetaire head-dress, and as she swept him a mock curtsey in return he could kiss her hand. Why should not I? No de Grandcourt could honour her more nor love her as much What Emperor then could have the pride and glory of the man who had kissed the hand of the Marquise de Montheureux?
She would wear, this year, a silken dust-cloak of a lavender tint, and her glorious hair would be uncovered. One hand would be bare, the other gloved in a shade of lavender. I felt certain of these details. When she had come and gone there would be twelve months to live through, before I might see her again.
She extended it towards me. With heart beating as though I had just run a race, I stepped to the window— and she was not. The carriage was empty, and as I clung to the handle, a little faint, her maid, dressed in deep mourning, came to a neighbouring window and looked out She would stay and work among her stricken people.
The Marquis had died within twenty-four hours. Adieu, maman ; I love you wherever I am, wherever you are. Non seulement la femme y est femme, mais elle est belle. Oh the good and bad country 1 " The letter ends characteristically : 11 Farewell, madame ; here is a long letter, but if I added to it all the adoration that I feel for you, you would die of boredom. Place me at the king's feet, tell him of my follies, and announce the arrival of one of my letters to him in which I would rather be dis- respectful than dull.
Princes need to be amused more than adored. From Vevai " Monsieur Charles " made his way to Lausanne, at that date the pleasantest social centre of the country. Here lived most of the old aristocratic families, who composed a set of their own ; but the lively element was to be found amongst the young people of the university — adepts in the eighteenth- century art of mingling study with frivolity. There were literacy debates for discussing questions of history or philosophy, societies for essay writing, but there were always plenty of amusements — dancing and parties in winter, games and excursions in summer.
At these pursuits the students were joined by a joyous band of young girls calling themselves the " Society of Spring," and who appear to have been the last word in modernity as we understand it in England to-day. At each other's houses they assembled almost every day, without the control or even the presence of a mother or aunt, they were trusted to their own prudence, amongst a crowd of young men of every nation of Europe.
They laughed, they sang, they danced, they played at cards, they acted comedies ; but in the midst of this careless gaiety they respected themselves, and were respected by the men. A singular institution, expressive of the innocent simplicity of Swiss manners. What is prettiest in Geneva are the women ; they are bored to death, though they deserve to enjoy themselves.
He remembers you as well as if he had only just seen you, and loves you as if he could see you. You can have no idea of all the good he does. He is the king and the father of the country in which he lives, he brings happiness to every one around him, and he is as good a father of a family as he is a good poet Whatever his printers may do, he will always be himself the best edition of his works. Farewell, my beautiful, good, dear mother.
Love me always a great deal more than I deserve ; it will still be a great deal less than I love you. You have reason indeed to love this young man ; he portrays marvellously well the absurdities of this world, and he has none him- self. In this respect he is said to resemble his mother ; I think he will go far. I have seen young men of Paris and Versailles, but they were only daubers compared to him. I do not doubt that he will go to Luneville to exercise his talents, and am persuaded that when you know him you will not be able to help loving him with all your heart.
He has been a great success in Switzer- land. A wag said he was here like Orpheus, only an enchanter of animals ; but the wag was wrong. As a matter of fact, there is plenty of wit in Switzerland, and your painter's worth has been very keenly recognized. Keep a little kind feeling for me, and accept my sincere respect.
He paints in pastels charmingly. He will ride off all alone at five o'clock in the morning to go and paint women in Lausanne and make friends with his models ; from there he rushes off to do the same at Geneva, and then comes back to me to rest from his labours amongst the Huguenots. Tous les arts sont sous sa loi. De grace, dis-moi, ma chere, Ce qu'il sait faire avec toi. C'est a vous, 6 jeune Bouffiers, A vous dont notre Suisse admire Les crayons, la prose et les vers, Et les petits contes pour rire j C'est a vous a chanter Themire Et de briller dans un festin, Anime du triple delire, Des vers, de l'amour, et du vin.
Je demande grace aux amours : Vingt beautes a la fois trahies Et toutes assez bien servies, En beaux moments, helas 1 ont change mes beanx jours J'aimais alors toutes les femmes. At this period of his life the only lasting affection of which he seemed capable was his devotion for his mother. Here are extracts from his last two letters to her from Ferney : " I am sending you, for a present, a little sketch of Voltaire " losing at chess. It has neither power nor accuracy, because I did it in a hurry, and in spite of the faces he makes whenever one wants to paint him, but the character of his face has been caught, and that is the important point.
I am still enjoying myself here, and am still loved though I stay on. You cannot imagine how agreeable this man's [Voltaire's] society is ; he would be the best old man in the world if he were not the first among men. An Englishman came here yesterday who is never tired of hearing him talk English and recite all Dryden's poems as Panpan recites the 1 This sketch was made into an engraving in the style of Rembrandt and much sought after in Paris. I have tried in vain to find a copy for repro- duction in this book. But I am too tired of not seeing you in the midst of all my pleasures here, to give in to their re- quests ; it is no good trying to enjoy myself, I miss you everywhere, for I need you in all my pleasures.
Fare- well, Madame la Marquise; it is two o'clock, and I am dead with sleep, and I expect I am sending you to sleep too with my letter. But don't go and put it vulgarly, for I shall be obliged to show your letter! Apparently even at this stage of her life the pen of the marquise could hardly be trusted not to overstep the bounds of propriety, and one can only hope a decorous reply was forthcoming.
It contained, at any rate, the necessary summons, for soon after the Chevalier took leave of the sorrowing Voltaire and started on his home- ward journey. It had been quite easy to transform the Chevalier de Boufflers into the obscure " Monsieur Charles," the artist, but when it came to the artist assuming the illustrious name of Boufflers, the authorities at Geneva became suspicious and the Cheva- lier narrowly escaped being thrown into prison as an impostor. He succeeded, however, finally in proving his identity and made his way safely back to LuneVille. But the days of the little Court of Stanislas were now numbered.
The king was growing old, and his youthful agility was impaired not only by growing infirmity but by increasing bulk. He was, in fact, so enormous that he could hardly walk about at all, and was reduced to playing eternal tric-trac by way of diversion. Gradually the brilliant circle he had gathered round him dispersed, gravitating to Paris in search of gaiety. From time to time Stanislas himself journeyed to Versailles on a visit to his dearly loved Maryczka — the poor old Queen of France, now more than ever neglected by the king and courtiers. In her life was still further saddened by the death of her only son, the Dauphin.
At one moment there had seemed some hope of his recovery, and the Chevalier de Boufflers was sent as envoy to carry his grandfather's congratulations ; but the Chevalier arrived too late and the poor young prince died remarking pathetically that he had never enjoyed himself or done any good in the world. After this tragic event a still deeper gloom settled over Luneville.
Even the king's daily tric-trac party was deserted, and the bourgeoisie of LuneVille had to be lured to the Chateau to play with him.
Her daughter, " la divine mignonne," was now twenty- two and as plain as ever. She had been married at sixteen to the Comte de CuceV but her marriage was as disunited as most others of the period, and she continued to live at LuneVille with her mother. A few members of the old set still remained — Panpan ever faithful, Porquet still amusing, Tressan long since recovered from the pangs of unrequited love, and one or two women, such as Madame de Lenoncourt and Madame Durival, who gathered nightly at the gaming tables of the marquise.
Madame de Boufflers, to whom excitement and variety were as the breath of life, found this new order of things very hard to bear; but she was too good-hearted to neglect the king in his lonely old age. She remained at his side during the sad days that followed the death of his grand- son, the Dauphin, when he refused to have any one else near him ; she was with him when he went to pray at the tomb of Queen Opalinska ; she listened with patience whilst he talked incessantly, as old people are wont to talk, of his approaching end.
It came at last in an unexpected way. One cold February morning the king had risen as usual at half-past six, and, dismissing his attendants, sat down before the fire to smoke his pipe, dressed in a wadded dressing-gown of Indian silk, a present from his daughter, the Queen of France. His pipe ended, the king rose and attempted to lay it down on the high mantel- piece ; but, in reaching up, the edge of his dressing- gown caught fire and in a moment the cotton wadding was in a blaze.
The poor old man shouted loudly for help, but by some strange misfortune all his attendants were out of hearing ; he then tried to reach the bell, but in doing so he stumbled and fell forward into the fire- place. Here he lay still in flames when an old woman 1 Louis Bruno de Boisgelin de Cuce, known later as the Comte de Bois- gelin.
Whilst calling for help she attempted herself to put out the flames, and in the effort was badly burnt. Even in his pain the king's sense of humour did not desert him: " How strange," he remarked to her, " that, at our ages, you and I should both burn with the same flame I " Stanislas lingered on for a fortnight, and from his death-bed dictated a last letter to his daughter Marie referring gaily to her fatal present of the wadded dressing- gown. Since then no sounds of music and laughter have echoed from the rooms looking out on the oran- gerie, for the Chateau was immediately turned into barracks, and to-day the great salons, where once the rose-coloured slippers of the Marquise de Boufllers trod so lightly, resound only to the tramp of soldiers' feet and in the noisy life of the garrison the brilliant Court of the merry monarch Stanislas le Bienfaisant is long since forgotten.
The Comte de Tressan , his passion cooled , at last retired to the country and the soothing occupa- tions of growing melons and writing romances ; the frivolous Porquet fled to Paris, where he became one of the chief ornaments of Mademoiselle Quinault's salon. Thither the Marquise de Boufflers, with her daughter and the Chevalier, followed him the next year. Paris, where she had many hospitable relations, seemed therefore the best place in which to recoup her shattered fortunes.
The only trouble was that Panpan could not be induced to join her I Panpan, her own tame cat, Panpan whom she positively could not do without, selfishly crept away to his house in LuneVille No. M She has loved him for thirty years she tells him, and the last three years have only deepened her affection. One day she will return to Luneville : " Je vivrai et je mourrai en Lorraine mon cher Veaux " — Madame de Boufflers' spelling was always uncertain — meanwhile Marianne, his housekeeper, must take care of him and make his jams properly. There are dozens of these little notes, disconnected and kind-hearted, like the marquise herself.
But all her grief at parting from Panpan could not damp Madame de Boufflers' enjoyment of Paris. She was still only fifty-five, and was not this in the eighteenth century the very age at which to have a really good time? An old Court often produces a vogue in old age throughout society, and so the women who had been young with the king and led a riotous youth at the Court still held their own. Louis XV himself was old and blase, the queen was given up to good works, and Versailles, in consequence, almost abandoned except on state occasions ; but the faded yet still festive beauties of a former age betook themselves to Paris, and continued to enjoy themselves as much as ever.
The most influential of all these old ladies was Madame de Boufflers' aunt, the Marshal e de Luxembourg, formerly the Duchesse de Boufflers. Twenty-four years earlier the Marquise de Boufflers, as a young married woman, had arrived in Paris on a visit to her mother-in- law the old marquise, who was in perpetual mourning for her husband.
The duchesse, then thirty-seven and at the height of her successes, was one of the most scandalous women of her day. Chacun s'empressait a lui plaire, Et chacun l'avait a son tour. The wild career of the Duchesse de Boufflers came, however, to an end in , when the due died. Three years later, she made a second marriage with the Marshal Due de Luxembourg, and therewith turned over a new leaf. Society in its essentials remains the same throughout the ages ; like an uncertain tempered dog, it snarls loudest at the timorous.
The woman who flinches is lost — let her approach it fear- lessly, pat it boldly on the head, and it will lick her hand in admiration. The mare'chale, who en- joyed collecting successful artists at her supper-parties, had heard of the Comte de Vaudreuil's musical talents, and at the end of supper turned to him, remarking graciously : " Monsieur, I hear that you sing extremely well!
I should be charmed to hear you, but pray give us no grand air, only something simple! I love all that is natural, gay, and witty 1 M Whereupon Monsieur de Vaudreuil, who had entirely failed to realize the identity of his hostess with the notorious Duchesse de BoufiTers, broke into the first line of the famous couplet : " Quand Boufflers parut a la cour " The consternation of the guests can be imagined ; what was to be done to stop this terrible young man before he reached the fatal fourth line?
An outbreak of coughs, sneezes, and throat-clearings failed entirely to drown the fine, sonorous voice of the singer until, suddenly finding every eye fixed on him in strangled horror, he paused abruptly. It is easy to understand that a woman with these powers of resource should be able to steer a triumphant course through life, and she became in time the supreme arbiter of le bon air and le bon ton of her day.
Yet in appearance she was far from formidable — " a quiet little woman dressed in brown taffetas with a cap and cuffs of plain hemstitched muslin and no jewels or furbelows of any kind. It is evident that she was thoroughly kind-hearted, and though she might prove a formidable enemy she was certainly an invaluable friend.
So the Marquise de BoufTlers, reappearing in Paris under her powerful wing, found her social path made straight before her.
I felt certain of these details. Sans vous en rendre compte,vous me rendez hommage. On entering the main sculptured oak doorway on rue Saint Francois, one faced an impressive staircase with a handrail and balustrade also of carved oak. Georges Cuvier could not bring down Lamarck, he knew that, but he could create a human and intellectual void around his declared adversary. Between and almost two hundred million livres of silver made its way to France on ships like the Marquis de Vibray. Go Ahead!
Ere long she was enjoying herself wildly, flying from fete to f6te, dining, supping, gambling, flirting, and turning night into day. There are not enough card-parties in Paris, not enough princes, not enough plays for her — what time is left her? She escapes like a bird, and it is a real grief to miss her all the time and see her seldom.
Who has not met her replica in London to-day — the woman incapable of consecutive thought or of settled purpose, who light-heartedly sacrifices every one's convenience to her own amusement, yet who charms by her very irresponsibility and whose gaiety disarms resentment? The Marquise de Boufflers was a type of woman more often to be met with in our century than in her own. In those days it was still the custom to be punctilious, to keep engagements, to converse connectedly, to write carefully worded letters. Madame de Boufflers would have none of this ; the whim of the moment was her only law, and though she reduced her friends to frenzy, she kept them all the same.
On her arrival in Paris she had found another old friend from Lorraine who evidently absorbed her a great deal more than poor Madame de Lenoncourt. This was the Chevalier de Listenay, now the Prince de Bauffremont, who had admired her in the old days in Luneville, and now fell hopelessly in love with her. The prince was a bachelor, and every mother in society had designs on him for her daughter ; but the prince had no eyes for any one but Madame de Boufflers, whom he followed about everywhere, and refused to be lured from her side by the most tempting invitations.
The Due de Choiseul had a bet with Madame du Demand that Madame de Boufflers would marry the prince in the end ; but the due lost, for Madame de Boufflers wa? As time went on her passion for gambling — the beset- ting vice of her family — led her more and more into debt. Wherever high play prevailed at the Marechale de Luxembourg's, at her sister's the Marechale de Mirepoix, at the Prince de Condi's, at the Court, the indefatigable marquise was to be found playing far into the night — even on through the next day without rising from the table ; winning, then encouraged to win more ; losing, then venturing another throw in the hope of retrieving losses, as gamblers have always done since the world began.
It was no uncommon thing for her to lose 1, louis in an evening, and the Chevalier, who was often with his mother on these occasions, lost louis, of which he did not possess a penny. The " Mother- Bird " was kind-hearted too, hardly a day passed without her dropping in at the Couvent St. Joseph to enliven the old blind woman with chatter about " operas, comedies, books old and new, dress, and pompons. Every memoiriste of the period refers to his bons mots and his verses. Conway : " and so is he. He has as much bouffonnerie as the Italians, with more wit and novelty.
His impromptu verses are often admirable. J " Madame du Deffand, who often mentions the Chevalier in her letters, had apparently a peculiar fondness for his dis- respectful verses on the " Puffy Princess," for we hear of her singing them after supper to the assembled company at a party given by the King of Sweden — a strange performance for an old lady of seventy-four! The Chevalier's own supper-parties were some of the gayest in Paris. In Paris no supper-party was complete without him — his strange face with the mocking mouth and small, pierc- ing eyes was to be seen at the supper table in the gorgeous dining-hall of the Hotel de Luxembourg with its marble floor, its gods and goddesses overhead ; at Sophie Arnoult's, the actress whose lovely face Greuze has immortalized for us, or in the gilded rooms at the Louvre where " all that was most powerful and illustrious at the Court and most important in the town came reverently M to the receptions of the retired actress, the great Mademoiselle Quinault.
But there was another Boufflers — Boufflers, as his friends knew him, and of these the most devoted was that naif and charming creature — the Prince de Ligne. Monsieur de Boufflers thought a great deal but always, unfortunately, in haste. His restlessness is what has most deprived us of his wit. One would like to be able to glean all the ideas he let fall on the high-road, together with his time and his money. He had, perhaps, too much mind to be able to fix it on anything whilst the ardour of youth inspired him ; this mind of his had to work on its account and subdue its master, and so he shone at first with all the fitfulness of a will o' the wisp, but age alone gave him the steadiness of a beacon.
A limitless wisdom, profound subtlety, airiness that was never frivolous, the talent for giving point to ideas by the contrast of words — these are the distinctive qualities of a mind to which nothing is unfamiliar. Happily he does not know everything, but he has skimmed all kinds of knowledge, and by his depth surprises those who think him frivolous, by his light- ness those who have discovered he was deep.
The foundation of his character is an unbounded goodness of heart une bonte sans mesure ; he could not endure the idea of any suffering creature, and would give up the actual necessaries of life to help him. He had a servant on his land whom every one denounced to him as a thief ; in spite of that he kept her on, and when asked why he did so answered, ' Who would take her?
He sometimes has the stupid look of La Fontaine, and one would say he is thinking of nothing when he is thinking the most. Yet not well! M said the Chevalier M Dare I ask you why? Monsieur de BoufHers has nothing in his face that is not dignified and noble, intelligent and witty, and this is all that can be required of a man's appearance.
One was temper — he would fly into a passion on the smallest provocation, and then recover himself as quickly. What wonder, then, that BoufHers, with passions intensified by an artistic tem- perament, flung himself into dissipation of every kind? He rode magnificently, danced, sang, and acted brilliantly, painted, played the violin, composed neat verses at a moment's notice, and made love with all the skill and finesse of his day.
He swore them eternal passions of a fortnight and he kept his word faithfully. His love-affairs were endless ; yet, if no woman at this moment had the power to hold him it was because she merely charmed his senses and never touched his heart. Many women, too, gave themselves too readily, and Boufflers was too adventurous to find pleasure in easy conquest. He would appear often quite unexpectedly ; the guests, looking out of the windows, would suddenly perceive an odd figure on some strange screw of a horse wandering across country over hedges and ditches, and ambling finally up to the door.
Then what laughter and rejoicings would follow, what impromptu rhyming, what glorious fooling, what rollicking songs around the harpsichord! It was at Montmorency that Boufflers, a few years earlier, whilst still a seminarist, had encountered Jean Jacques Rousseau, who was then living at the Mont-Louis, and, whilst paving the way for the Revolution with his satires against the society he professed to despise, was basking complacently in the favour of the once pro- fligate old marechale.
Boufflers evidently agreed with his friend the Duchesse de Choiseul in her opinion of the philosopher, whom she described as a " charlatan of virtue. To be unnoticed was the one thing he could not endure, and he was deeply mortified to find that Boufflers took no notice of him. Desperate to reinstate himself, he attempted to conciliate Boufflers, with fatal results, for Boufflers only responded to his advances with a practical joke. He painted an appalling portrait of the marechale, which she declared with truth was not in the least like her.
The treacherous abbe" consulted me, and, like a fool and a liar, I said the picture was a good likeness. Even the shy little Duchesse de Lauzun thawed in time beneath the rays of her cousin's gaiety. Rousseau adored her. However, neither the Arcadian joys of the country houses nor the suppers of Paris satisfied for long the restless Chevalier de Boufflers, and we find him per- petually rushing off on some wild chase after adventure.
The struggle of Corsica for liberty under Paoli took him post-haste to that island. I have formed great ideas of Paoli, of his virtues and his talents. A man who has done everything without resources, who has re- sisted rulers more powerful than himself, who has succeeded in governing his fellow countrymen, ungovern- able hitherto, who has only used his authority to ensure the liberty of his nation, seems to me a worthy successor of the Romans and of the greatest kind of Romans. Paoli became the idol of Napoleon, who, like Boufflers, shared his adoration for the Romans. But the Revolution estranged them, for Paoli could not forgive the usurper of the throne of France or the people that had committed the excesses of M The wretches 1 " he exclaimed to Lucien Bonaparte, " they have murdered their king!
Let them keep their blood-stained liberty ; it is not needed by my brave mountaineers. It would be better for us to become Genoese again. Thus, in 1 , we find him once more soliciting a diplomatic mission through the Due de Choiseul — who was still at that date a minis- ter of the king — in the following characteristic letter : " Monsieur le Due, " I am told that the confinement of the Infanta of Parma is shortly expected, and you are too polite not to pay her a little compliment.
I feel that I have all the required ability and talents to harangue, on this occasion, the father, the mother, and even the child without a word of remonstrance from any one ; but what will please me most will be to go all over Italy afterwards on the profits of my embassy and to travel on velvet. I think my plan will be much appreciated by my creditors, and I hope it will be by you also. Awaiting your reply, I am, monsieur le due, with all respect," etc. The duke, strange to say, declined the services of this candid ambassador, and BoufYlers was obliged to cast about for some other mission.
Soldiering was no doubt his natural profession, and at this moment the prospect of a campaign in Poland offered itself. The patriotic insurrection known as the " Confederation of Bar," directed against Catherine II of Russia, was just beginning, and it occurred to the Chevalier to offer his services to the Poles. Once again the cause of free- dom was in question, and the idea of fighting for a small oppressed people against Catherine the Great fired his imagination.
So, bidding farewell to his friends in Paris, he set forth for the East of Europe, stopping on his way at LuneVille to pay a flying visit to his old friends Panpan and Madame de Lenoncourt. He is going to serve in the army of the Confederates in Poland, where he will be hashed or hung. Why play at the knight errant?
It is most annoying. I implore your Majesty to make him a prisoner of war ; he will amuse you very much ; there is nothing so original as he is, nor sometimes so agreeable. He will compose songs for you, he will sketch you, he will paint you. This remedy comes from Siberia, and is taken on the spot. He had, as we have seen, none of the talents of a courtier ; his sympathies were always with the weak and oppressed. Unfortunately, he was destined to disillusionment, for the Poles whose cause he had taken up with so much fervour proved churlish and ungrateful.
Arriving on the frontier of Poland, he found nothing ready for the campaign, and the forces he had been promised were not forthcoming. For some months he wandered about, in Hungary, Silesia, Bohemia welcomed at many of the chateaux in the countries through which he passed, yet always restless and dis- satisfied in his search for a purpose in life, always thwarted in his belief in human nature.
The Hungarians proved no less disappointing than the Poles. M Whatever good qualities one may attribute to Messrs. Add to that they are dirty, coarse, and rascally — and then love them! M And so Boufflers, sane, and cynical returned to Paris, where, like many another disappointed man of strong passions, he flung himself once more into dissipation.
And then suddenly something happened that changed the whole current of his life. He went one evening — as he had done a hundred times before — to a party at the Marechale de Luxembourg's. In the splendid rooms, with their dim gold and wonder- ful paintings, their carved lions of the Luxembourg and heraldic eagles of the Montmorency, the lights from a myriad of blazing candles lit up the brilliant crowd he knew so well.
As he moved amongst them many women turned their powdered heads towards him ; exquisitely artificial smiles greeted him ; pretty, provoking eyes drew from him the usual graceful compliments. And then, all at once, he found himself looking into a small, whimsical face — the face of a very fair woman framed in an aureole of glorious hair.
Who was she? The young Comtesse de Sabran, of whose wit and beauty he must often have heard, though they had never chanced to meet before. But now, as she raised her eyes to his — such wonderful blue eyes, half tender and half mocking! Her mother, the beautiful Mademoiselle de Montigny, had married a stern and selfish man, Monsieur de Jean de Manville, with whom she found no happiness. She longed for a child to fill her empty life, but when at last this wish was realized it brought her only bitter dis- appointment ; the little girl born to her was lovely, but as time went on Madame de Jean made the piteous discovery that her intellect was defective.
After this she had only one desire — that another child might be sent to comfort her ; but this hope, too, was destined to end in tragedy, for on giving birth to a second daughter — lovelier than the first, and with every sign of a brilliant intelligence — Madame de Jean died. Their father, sterner than ever, left them always with the servants and the two poor little sisters lived out their lonely childhood with never a loving word or a caress. From time to time, however, a coach would draw up at the door of the house from which an old lady de- scended. This was their grandmother, Madame de Montigny, who considered it her duty to come and see 64 cikc.
Little Eleonore's heart always beat painfully on these occa- sions, for Madame de Montigny was a really terrible old lady. She believed in no sentimental nonsense with regard to children. But worse was still to come. A year or two later Monsieur de Jean married again! This was the beginning of a dreadful time for the children, for the new Madame de Jean proved the traditional stepmother, and the necessaries of life were actually denied them. At this even the stern grand- mother was roused to wrath. M My daughter's children neglected, ill-fed, without proper clothes?
The thing is intolerable! Nothing would induce her to let them return to their father again. Life in many eighteenth-century convents was very gay ; the abbess and sisters were usually women of the world, far from austere, who entertained the most frivolous society of Paris in the convent parlours, and initiated the young girls committed to their care into the bon ton and le bel usage which was to fit them to take their place in the world.
At first all went well, but after a few days the school- girls, having discovered the elder sister's mental weak- ness, were brutal enough to make her the butt of their jokes, and the child, dimly realizing she was being made fan of, flew to her younger sister for protection. Eleo- nore, we are told, M defended her bravely against the big girls, fighting like a little lion with pensionnaires a head taller than herself, and soon, by dint of feet and fists, forced them to leave in peace the poor sister she cared for and protected like a mother.
All through the night that followed she wept bitterly and early in the morning ran down to the gardener's cottage to find out if all was well ; but, alas! Pale and trembling, she fled back to the house and threw herself on her bed in an agony of grief. Every one who as a child has loved a dog, and, through dark hours that only come to unloved children, has felt its exquisite powers of sympathy, will understand her despair. Zina, her one, her faithful friend, cruelly murdered — did Zina know, did Zina understand that the mistress she had trusted was powerless to protect her against the brutal crime?
It was true that, as they hastened to explain; the gardener had acted on his own initiative and was now dismissed for his cruelty, yet they realized uneasily that they were to blame for having placed the dog in his keeping. But neither the most engaging of pugs nor the friendliest of spaniels could console her for her loss ; Eleonore tearfully shook her head, declaring that no dog could ever take the place in her heart that Zina had occupied, and she refused them all.
When the new year came Eleonore was still under the ban of the nuns' displeasure. It was the custom at the convents for the pensionnaires to write home letters of congratulation to their parents on this occasion, and since letter-writing at this period was an exceedingly formal affair, the nuns were wont to provide a model letter in the stilted and ceremonious language of the day. This year, however, Eleonore, being in disgrace, was denied the doubtful privilege of copying the model letter and was told that she must compose one on her own account to send to her father.
This was terribly alarming — how was a little girl to remember all the pompous phrases and laboured compliments her stern parent would expect? Then, suddenly a bright idea came to her. Luckily a volume of the letters was to be found in the convent library, and Eleonore, soon deep in its contents, made an astonishing discovery. The art of letter- writing lay simply in writing as one talked I Here in these immortal letters were no tortured phrases, no profound reflections, but just the thoughts and feelings of a clever and warm- hearted woman who wrote of what she saw and heard around her.
Why should not she, Eleonore de Jean de Manville, do the same — forego the formalities contained in the model letter, and just write to her father as if she were talking to him? Taking up her pen, she let herself go and then awaited anxiously M. To her delight, her father declared that she had never written a better expressed letter, and inquired the reason circ. One wonders whether these hard and dreary women lived to realize their want of discernment towards the girl who was to become the author of letters that a hundred and thirty years later were described as " some of the jewels of French prose.
There was never a less " blighted being M than Eleonore. When at last the two sisters left the Couvent de la Conception it was to return once more to the rigid rule of their grandmother. Madame de Montigny's arrogant manner had not softened during the three years the little girls had spent at the convent, and now that poor Eleonore was once more at her mercy all the old bullying began again, every fit of ill-temper the old lady experienced was vented on her unfortunate granddaughter, and even the kind uncle could do little to make her life bearable, as on one fatal occasion he tried to do.
Eleonore, being a perfectly natural girl, loved pretty things and she had often longed for one of the bouquets of artificial flowers it was just then the fashion to carry in one's hand. One day, to her joy, her uncle made her a present of one of these bouquets — the loveliest she had ever seen! She was so pleased with 1 Later the Marquise de Hautefort.
All the way she kept on looking at it, admiring each flower separately, when suddenly her grandmother turned on her and exclaimed angrily : " Eleonore I You are carrying flowers, and you know they always make my head ache 1 " " But, madame, they have no smell, for they are artificial! M M I tell you they make my head ache 1 '! I forbid you to carry flowers 1 " And, before Eleonore could say another word, Madame de Montigny had snatched the bouquet from her hand and thrown it out of the carriage window.
Eleonore, with tears in her eyes, saw her lovely flowers lying in the mud of the Paris street and the coach rolled on, leaving them to be crushed by the wheels of the next carriage that passed that way. At seventeen such griefs as these are very bitter and poor Eleonore had few pleasures to brighten the monotony of her life. A point that was always a matter of discord between Eleonore and her grandmother was her affection for her father.
He cannot have been a very lovable person, but for all that she adored him — perhaps because, as she tells us, she had no one else to love. Madame de Montigny hated her son-in-law, and nothing enraged her more than the little attentions Eleonore showed him from time to time. Once, when she had spent two months over some drawings for him, the grandmother discovered her at work and threw them all into the fire.
Meanwhile the stepmother, furiously jealous of Eleonore, was equally determined to prevent her seeing anything of her father. One morning she arrived as usual, and was just about to go in at the door, when the servant told her that Monsieur de Jean had gone out.
Her father was at home and would not see her! In answer to her question- ings he was obliged to admit that her stepmother was the cause of Monsieur de Jean's refusal to admit her; she had succeeded in persuading her husband that old Madame de Montigny's animosity towards him was shared by Eleonore. She waited anxiously, daily expecting a summons from Monsieur de Jean ; but a fresh obstacle lay in the way of her happiness.
It appeared that her father, always dominated by stronger natures, had fallen under the influence of a certain Chevalier who was nothing more than an ad- venturer and who determined to acquire some portion of Monsieur de Jean's large fortune. Having for months frequented the house and acquired control over the old man's weak will, he now made the infamous proposal that he should marry the elder of Monsieur de Jean's two daughters, whose feeble-mindedness would offer no obstacle to his schemes.
By this arrangement he and his wife would live with Monsieur de Jean, whilst Eleonore would remain on with her grandmother. Eleonore 's indignation at this plot may be imagined, but she was powerless to oppose it, and the marriage would certainly have taken place had not her poor sister died suddenly at the very moment fixed for the wedding.
The Chevalier, finding himself baulked of the fortune he hoped to acquire through his wife, had no intention of allowing this trifling misadventure to inter- fere with his plans and calmly proposed to Monsieur de Jean that he should now marry Eleonore instead of her sister. In the eighteenth century marriages were arranged by the parents of the young couple concerned without any reference to their wishes, and in many cases the future husband and wife met for the first time on the day of their marriage.
Her grandmother was furious at the suggestion. But with the innate courtliness of her day she answered gently : " Deeply as that would grieve me, madame, my choice is made. I must follow my father. Madame de Montigny, who had not carried out her threat of refusing to see her granddaughter again, received her back on her return to Paris.
Eleonore was now nineteen, an age that in the eighteenth century was already quite mature, and the question of a marriage for her must be seriously considered. Monsieur de Jean, at the instigation of the Chevalier, sent various impossible aspirants to pay their court to the lovely Mademoiselle de Jean, who, as they all well knew, would inherit a large fortune on the death of her father.
Need- less to say, these gentlemen shared the same fate as their accomplice the Chevalier, and retired one and all dis- comfited, nor did the eligible young men approved by Madame de Montigny meet with any better success. Eleonore, as a matter of fact, could not bear young men, and certainly most young men of her day were far from inspiring confidence.
These scented , powdered , and brocaded exquisites who paid her well-turned com- pliments and appeared so deeply impressed by her charms would, she knew, find other charms far more alluring a few months after marriage. Love between husbands and wives was in their philosophy only for the bourgeoisie, and marriage was merely an arrangement out of which one should secure the greatest possible advantages.
If she married any one it should be some one who would love her for herself — some one to whom she would be necessary. She had always been unloved, poor child, and she could not face the prospect of a loveless marriage. Now, amongst the guests who came most often to the house of Madame de Montigny was a very famous and dis- tinguished person — the old Comte Elzdar Joseph de Sabran-Grammont, Seigneur de Beaudinar, who had covered himself with glory in the Seven Years War.
Was he not the great Comte de Sabran, bearer of one of the most splendid names in France, 1 whose prowess on the sea had made him the admiration of the world? Everybody knew the story of his career : how, as commander of the Content, he had won a victory over Admiral Byng, and later, when in command of the Centaure, had taken part in one of the most terrible naval battles of his day. The Centaure, cruising off the coast of Gibraltar, was attacked by four British ships, but for seven hours the gallant commander defended himself against the enemy ; with broken masts and torn sails, and with eleven bullet-wounds in his own body, he held on valiantly until all his ammunition was exhausted and the last cannon had been charged with his silver plate.
Then only, when the ship began to sink and he saw no further hope of saving the crew, he was obliged to surrender ; but the English, sportsmen 1 The de Sabrans dated from , and were therefore about the seventh oldest family in France. It has been said that every royal house of Europe is descended from a Sabran. At the end of that time he returned to France, and Louis XV, receiving him in a private audience at Versailles, pre- sented him to the Queen and Dauphin with the words : M The Comte de Sabran is one of ourselves I " To the romantic imagination of Eleonore de Jean it is no wonder that the Comte de Sabran appeared more interesting than the frivolous young men who were proposed to her as partis.
He was so kind and so charming that by degrees she began to treat him as a friend and tell him of her troubles, to which he listened sympathetically, never dreaming that this lovely child could think of him as other than a father. Eleonore was curiously innocent. With all her cleverness she knew little of the world, and it is probable that she understood nothing about marriage, when it occurred to her that it would be perfectly delightful to spend her life with this dear old friend.
The more she thought about it the more the idea took hold of her mind. If they wanted her to marry some one, why not the one man for whom she could feel real affection? She determined at last to ask the advice of her uncle, and the following morning Monsieur de Montigny re- ceived a message asking him to come to her room. Eleonore, as fresh as a rose, her beautiful fair hair unpowdered, and wearing a morning wrapper, received him with a smile. Here, in this household of her grand- mother's, she was so alone and friendless ; her father cared nothing for her ; what was she to do?
Monsieur de Montigny finally agreed to discuss the matter with his mother and Monsieur de Jean, and, having secured their approval, proceeded to sound the Comte de Sabran on his feelings for Eleonore. The old man made no secret of his admiration for her, but had never hoped that he could be accepted as a lover. However, when Monsieur de Montigny delicately con- veyed to him that this was not altogether impossible, the gallant admiral, who had lost none of the ardour of youth, dashed off immediately to ask Eleonore to marry him.
Eleonore received him with an enchanting smile, and in answer to his proposal said that nothing would please her better than to become his wife. The Comte could hardly believe in his good fortune, and since at sixty-nine one cannot afford to wait long for happiness, he lost no time in making Eleonore de Jean the Comtesse de Sabran. At the time of her marriage Eleonore, still a child, with unawakened passions, was perfectly happy, happier than she had ever been in her short, sad life. Released at last from the petty tyrannies and vexations that had made existence so wretched, peace seemed to her the greatest blessing in the world.
The Comte de Sabran hastened to present his young wife at the Court, and this, in the leisurely days of the eighteenth century, was no hurried affair such as presentation at Court means to us — a moment's appearance before the royal presence, a few curtsies, and a graceful exit ; it entailed the spending of several days and nights at the Chateau of Versailles and taking part in all kinds of festivities. Presentation to the king came first, then visits to the apartments of all the royal family in turn during meal-time — a custom to our minds strangely suggestive of a visit to the Zoo — and in the evening the debutante must take her place on one of the stools arranged around the royal card-table — a privilege accorded only to the highest rank and known as the droit des tabourets ; or she must figure in a contre- danse at a ball in the great Galerie des Glaces.
It was all very brilliant and wonderful to the girl who had seen nothing of the world, this dazzling Court with its perpetual pageants — trumpets blowing fanfares, guards in sixteenth-century uniforms drawn up in the marble courtyard when the king went a-hunting ; rows of brilliantly attired courtiers and ladies in immense silken paniers forming a hedge down the length of the long Galerie when his Majesty went to mass ; an exotic world of exquisite delicacy and stately beauty such as we to-day can only dream of, and that, as Taine remarks, must have been seen if we would realize the " triumph of monarchic culture.
She need not have feared criticism, for the Court thought her charming. She brought into the world so much candour and such ignorance of evil that everything must be a surprise to her native innocence. Ever since the death of Madame de Pompadour, five years earlier, life at the Court had been terribly dull ; but now a whisper went round that a fresh fancy had fired the jaded passions of the king, and that before long a new beauty would make her appearance at the Court.
Rumour proved correct, for just after Eldonore de Sabran's presentation the Comtesse du Barry burst upon the disgusted world of Versailles. Did she understand, or wonder, like that other innocent girl, the Dauphine Marie Antoinette who arrived in France a year later, " What was precisely Madame du Barry's office at the Court? These people, accustomed to laugh at innocence, found Eleo- nore's innocence piquant and refreshing ; her wit and charming manners saved her from the gaucheries of inexperience. Into this exotic atmosphere she brought a breath of such freshness and simplicity that in time she became known amongst them by the affec- tionate sobriquet of M Fleur des Champs " — the name by which the Prince de Ligne and other of her con- temporaries refer to her.
The cure of Saint-Roch, who believed in turning beauty to account, was in the habit of inviting the most attractive women at the Court to make a collec- tion after mass for the poor of his parish. The year before the marriage of Eleonore, the celebrated Com- tesse d'Egmont had performed this office, and by her beaux yeux raised a large sum for the cure's charities ; but now the fame of the young Comtesse de Sabran reached the cure's ears, and he lost no time in enlisting her services in the cause of his poor. The curb's scheme succeeded beyond his wildest expectations, for the church was so packed with people eager for a glimpse of the new beauty that she was hardly able to make her way through the crowd.
As each golden louis was dropped into the alms-bag she rewarded the giver with a smile so charming that the organist, looking down from the organ-loft, resolved not to be left out, and hurriedly forsook his post to win a smile for himself as he added his louis to the rest. The last year's beauty, Madame d'Egmont, hearing of the large sum collected by her successor, hastened to the presbytery to find out the exact amount, and was obliged to admit herself beaten — the beaux yeux of Madame de Sabran had proved more potent than her own! But women in eighteenth-century France were often extraordinarily generous to each other's attrac- tions, and Madame d'Egmont was quite ready to con- gratulate her successful rival.
She had no need for the advan- tages for which they were scheming ; she did not want their lovers. The young courtiers who, on seeing her at first with her old husband, had hoped to find her willing to em- bark on bergeries, were indeed sadly disappointed, for Eleouore turned a deaf ear to the most exquisitely worded compliments, whilst amorous glances only met with gentle mockery. At the end of her visits to Versailles, Eleonore was perfectly content to drive away in her gilded coach out of the great Cour de Marbre with the dear old man at her side. She was so proud of him — this hero of the Centaur e, with his " majestic " features and courtly manners, who showed her such tender care.
As time went on it was her turn to care for him, for his health was failing. Eleonore 's heart always went out to the weak and helpless, and she nursed him as devotedly as she had nursed her father at Bourbon TArchambault ; but when, a year later, a little daughter was born to her — a lovely cherub with golden hair and blue eyes like her own — her happiness was complete. Often, remembering the tragedy of her own birth, she would press the little creature to her heart and murmur as she kissed it passionately : " Thou, at any rate, shalt know a mother's love!
Elzear came into the world so weak and delicate that at first his life was almost despaired of, and though his mother's care enabled him to live, he was all through his childhood too precocious and highly strung for happiness. The old admiral, however, was delighted at the birth of his heir.