Page images

of the third day, Hardy suddenly laid down his pen. He took his temperature and marked it in the chart.


"Hagebitter was quite wrong,' he said. "The temperature does rise very suddenly and with abnormal rapidity before there are any traces of inflammation. I am afraid that I shall have lost control of my brain before morning, but my work is almost finished. If ever the epidemic reaches the coast they will have reason to remember my name with yours. You have got to go through with it now. Shake hands and remember your promise. No one, whoever it may be, must see me again.'

"That was the beginning of the end. The next morning two women came into the courtyard. The doctor could hardly prevent one of them from rushing up to the window of the ward. Then I held up the message Hardy had written and signed-he had thought of every contingency, you see-against the pane. The elder one dropped on her knees and was led away. The other, after reading the paper, ceased to struggle to approach the ward, but she refused to leave the courtyard. I believe the doctor, very unwisely, allowed her to bring food and necessaries to the lift. At all hours of the day and night, whenever I looked out, she was standing against the wall of the opposite building, watching my window. Once when I was fetching in something she tried to speak to me up the lift. Though I shut the window down promptly and without answering, I thought for the moment that Hardy must have been disturbed by the sound, or his breathing became more restless. This, however, considering his state of collapse, I now consider to be unlikely. It was not until I pulled the blind down, when all was over, that she slowly went away. Hardy's body, in accordance with the instructions he had left, had then already been cremated. The same day I succumbed to the infection, and

[ocr errors]

Hagebitter arrived in time to watch my case. To his ill-concealed disappointment it was a very mild attack. Hagebitter himself had to admit that my serum was a prophylactic of considerable virtue. He had inoculated himself when first I wrote to him, and proved himself to be completely immune. Young Hardy had not died in vain!" "But-" I began.

"Yes," interrupted the Professor, "I know what you are going to say. It was careless of Hardy to leave that syringe lying about, and it was thoughtless of him not to amputate at the elbow as soon as he felt the prick. But when I think of the devotion of the boy to our common cause, when I remember his high spirit which bore him successfully over so many difficulties, well, I must leave it to you laymen to blame him. To men like myself his memory will always be that of one of the great men of science, one of those brave pioneers who fell in the forefront of the battle."

When the Professor runs away with an idea the lay mind has no choice but to give him his head.

"The question I wanted to ask was this," I interposed, as soon as interpellation was possible. "You said the serum cost two lives. Hardy's was

one. The other was-"

"It is curious," observed the Professor, in the tone of one whose interest in the subject under discussion is flickering out, "to note the persistency with which the lay mind fastens on the irrelevant. I was, perhaps, wrong in saying that the serum cost two lives. The connection of the second death with the discovery was remote and indirect. You may, perhaps, remember my reference to a young female who attracted my attention at the hospital. She, it appears, was betrothed to Hardy. She died shortly afterwards. The shock of his death supervening on a disordered nervous system-in short, she

died of what you would ineptly call a broken heart. The lay mind cannot appreciate the fact that emotional-" Temple Bar.

"We will leave it at that," said the lay mind, perhaps a little rudely. Henry Oakley.


In the group of brilliant women who "rule Paris through their Salons" there is not one so characteristic of the worst side of that great Eighteenth Century as Madame d'Epinay. In her one sees its sublime self-deceit, after which all sin is easy. She has in full measure its charm, its cleverness and its folly; its fine talk and its mean practice; its feeling for beauty and truth, and its "windy sentimentalism" which leads away from both. From her rooms comes a hot air, feverish with debate. Here it is always candle-light, with no cold, clear morning to search the shams. Here every woman is in love with the wrong man, and every man in love with the wrong woman. The worst crime is forgiveable if the sinner sins wittily. And out of her portrait the presiding genius of this little world looks down the century with the falsest smiling face that ever woman had. For Madame d'Epinay is light to her soul.

As she is also the friend of the great men of a famous age, listens to Voltaire, Grimm, Galiani, Diderot, Duclos, Holbach, Rousseau, and writes memoirs to record what she has heard, she has no slight claim on remembrance.

Louise Florence Pétronille d'Esclavelles is born in 1726. Her father is governor of Valenciennes, and lives there with his wife and child until his death, ten years later. Then Madame brings up the little Louise to Paris for an education; gives her M. d'Affry as a tutor (Louise attaches herself to him

with a charming childish affection) and returns herself to Valenciennes, leaving the little daughter to be brought up with a large party of cousins, by her Aunt and Uncle Bellegarde.

Judiciousness does not seem to be the distinguishing feature of Louise's early training. Madame d'Esclavelles is a severe, righteous woman-hard and fast rules and sharp punishments. She inspires in the little girl the fear which is but too prone to protect itself by white lies. When Louise has been long a married woman, she is still in no small awe of her mother, nay, has, up to the time of Madame's death-though she is a tender daughter and a devoted -the shrinking of the weak nature before the strong.

Uncle Bellegarde seems to be particularly kind, and Aunt Bellegarde distinctly disagreeable. Louise forms devoted youthful friendships with her girl cousins, and writes affectionate, careful letters (careful, remembering he is her dear tutor and won't expect faults of style and expression) to M. d'Affry. Then she goes for a little while to a convent. When she comes out of it she is no longer a child, but a charming girl, not pretty (but then a Frenchwoman does not need beauty to make her attractive), with great, dark eyes in a very pale, thin, animated and expressive face. As there is a boy cousin a good deal at home, Louise, of course, immediately falls in love with him. She confides her passion to his married sisters, who, to do them jus

tice, warn her quite openly of their brother's real character-of his "rare facility" for lying, his expensive gay tastes, and notoriety for worse wickedness. Louise is not in the least disillusioned, of course. She has the most obstinate youthful infatuation. To be sure this delightful M. de la Live does not at all care for her at present. But he will-he must. M. de la Live-he presently changes his name to d'Epinay -is, in point of fact, not long proof against the very evident admiration of his charming little cousin, and having just, and most conveniently, been made fermier général, marries her at St. Roch. Louise is nineteen.

The young pair continue, after the French fashion, to live with M. de Bellegarde. Madame Bellegarde is now dead, so Madame d'Esclavelles has taken her place in the house. The d'Epinays begin their married life with that abandon to passion which goes before disenchantment, more certainly than pride before a fall. On the very first day they have the most charming coquettish quarrel about rouge. Is Louise to put it on like other women of her time, or not? Mama says No. M. d'Epinay says Yes. Between these two strong-minded people, Louise really can't tell how to act. She gives the most vivacious little account of the scene herself. She is in the heyday of a very brief delight-young, attractive, beloved. One can read between the lines the pleasure of her gay little heart, and can't but feel sad for the happiness that has no stamina to keep it alive.

The pair after a time, and not a little in opposition to the wishes of Madame d'Esclavelles, very naturally like to go out and enjoy themselves. M. d'Epinay seems to take possession of Louise's character, as Mama took possession of it in her childhood. She is just now, at least, more afraid of him than of her mother and, besides, wants to go to those balls and parties where her

brightness and vivacity make her more admired than all the regular, dull beauty in Paris. So they ignore Mama's strictness and presently, and in the very greatest excitement, give a ball themselves.

They have been married about a year when Louise discovers, what the warnings of her sisters-in-law failed to make her realize, the true nature of the man she has married. It is difficult to fancy a more contemptible person than this gay, easy, pleasant, extravagant, selfindulgent, light-hearted fermier général. M. d'Epinay is never troubled all his life long by a scruple. He has not the faintest sense of responsibility. He is more cheerfully and good-naturedly wicked than any other Frenchman in history. He does not, indeed, plan to avoid right and practise wrong. He simply sees no difference between them.

As Louise is a very young wife and has been, poor soul, happy but such a very short time, the shrieks and faintings with which she first learns of her husband's faithlessness may be well forgiven her. M. Jully, her brotherin-law, comforts her by saying, "What does it signify? He won't love you any less in his heart." M. d'Epinay himself also thinks it really does not matter. Louise always ends by sharing the opinion of the people she is with. So she puts on a very pretty frock and a little color on to her pale cheeks, feels quite bright again, and they all go to a delightful ball at the opera.

She has a better consolation when, in the September of 1746, her little son is born to her. There is a great deal of natural affection in this not very profound little heart, it seems. Madame is delightfully fond and proud of the baby, and wants very much to keep him with her instead of putting him out to be nursed after the unnatural fashion of the time. "Que voilà une

de ces folles idées!" writes M. d'Epinay, who is away making his duty "tour en province." So Louise yields

as she always yields. It is while Monsieur is on this tour and his wife is still calling him her "angel," and finding his absence "insupportable," that she discovers by chance one day at a Paris jeweler's that the "angel" has been giving his portrait mounted in pearls to Some Other Person. When she taxes him with this faithlessness when he comes home, he laughs and stops her mouth with a kiss. "What difference does it make to you?" he says (just as M. Jully has said). "However fond I am of others, I shall always be fondest of you." It is a fine consolation. There is not a little significance in the fact that as M. d'Epinay, gay, self-pleased and débonnaire, goes out of the room laughing, M. de Francueil, who is to play so fatal a part in the wife's life, enters it.

The whole scene is quite characteristic of that "Age of Persiflage," which is even now rushing drunk with wit and pleasure, blinded by its own lightness, its specious talking and evildoing, upon the naked swords of the Terror.

Louise, since that gay, faithless husband leaves her so much, begins, in a sort of self-defence to form friendships on her own account. There is Madame d'Arty, who has no reputation to speak of, and who, one night, takes Louise (Louise wanting to go, and half afraid, and planning feeble little excuse for her naughtiness in her own mind all the time) to a gay, surreptitious supper with the inspector of the opera. M. d'Epinay is dreadfully angry when he finds out about the adventure. It is not wicked. It is worse. It is inconvenable. Of what can Madame d'Arty be thinking? It is Monsieur himself who introduces his wife to the friendship of the notorious Mademoiselle d'Ette, who is so shameless, so clever

and so abandoned-with her exquisite complexion of milk and roses, and her girlish airs of timidity-that of all the base actions of the fermier général's life this introduction is, perhaps, the basest.

Mademoiselle takes possession of the little Madame immediately. She establishes herself chez Epinay. Monsieur is away. She sits at work with Louisethose endless tapestries and embroideries which are the fashion of the daylooks up from the frame, perhaps, with her beautiful false eyes, to see how much she may dare to say to this weaker woman, for how strong a poison the feeble soul is fit. Louise adores her and confides in her. (Louise goes on adoring and confiding in the latest comer nearly all her life.) Mademoiselle tells her own shameful history; adding, complacently, as comment, "In all that youth and lightness made me do, there is nothing, thank God, for which I need blush."

When M. de Francueil calls and bends over Louise's little hand and brings to bear upon her very susceptible heart the charms of his cultivated intelligence and of his handsome face, the litle devil of the embroidery frame (there is no other word that quite fits Mademoiselle d'Ette) sees the means to get Madame into her power, and uses them. The next day, perhaps, she tells Louise the further true story of M. d'Epinay's infidelities. The wife repudiates the insinuations; listensdoubts-believes. There seems no very specific reason why Mademoiselle should wish to ruin her friend. That Madame dares to be still innocent, while Mademoiselle is corrupt to the core, may be reason enough.

In June, 1747, Louise has a little daughter. By the time she returns to Paris and her husband joins her again, the influence of the friend he has given her has sunk deep into her soul. She complains plaintively of the dreadful

ennui, of having to feign pleasure at the reunion, when she cannot feel it. Their marriage is stripped of the last rag of illusion. From henceforward all intimacy between husband and wife is at an end.

One can well imagine that Louise's frame of mind when she goes to her husband's place, La Chevrette, with her children, her father-in-law and his household, is not a little dangerous. She is young, deceived, susceptible. She is under the influence of a bad woman. She is deplorably weak. When M. de Bellegarde invites Francueil to stay there with them, it must seem like a decree of destiny. But then, as ever, "character is destiny," one must remember.

Francueil is one of the most brilliant figures of the eighteenth century. He is a musician and an actor of no mean order, and has the finest literary taste and judgment. He is receiver-general, has a large fortune, delightful manners, an agreeable person, and a complete incapacity for any kind of fidelity. He has, at this time, a wife in the background, but she does not seem to count, and is, in fact, dismissed, as it were, from consideration by a man who is once Francueil's secretary, and is to be the greatest man of his age, in the words bien laide, bien douce.

The pair are soon vowing an eternal "pure" and "disinterested friendship." They take long walks when they discuss problems of the heart and soul— the heart and soul meaning, of course, those particular organs which belong to Madame d'Epinay and M. de Francueil. When they come home after these rambles, half guilty, half happy, there is Mademoiselle d'Ette with her evil smile, knowing everything, and working to the vile end quietly in the background, and M. de Bellegarde goodhumored and unconscious.

A very vivid imagination is not needed to picture the life at La Chevrette. Francueil teaches Madame composition and harmony. The bright pupil looks up into the tutor's handsome face and learns there what is not written in textbooks. A woman can find, if she likes, a personal application in algebra or in Greek roots. One may be sure Louise is not long in discovering a very human side to the lessons of this brilliant preceptor. She tells him presently-with bewitching tears, no doubt-the history of her husband's falseness. It is hard to say whether she is more charming when she is softly gay or softly sad.

Everything is against them-the dangerous philosophies both have imbibed, the low public opinion of their age, base friends, bad examples, their own characters. Louise denies herself to the lover for a day or two, weeps, faints and writes, "Go, go; I will never forgive you"-and forgives. It is a very old, shameful story, with the same end always.

There is, perhaps, no worse testimony against Madame d'Epinay than the account she herself gives of this episode in her Memoirs. Her pretty self-complacency is just ruffled. It is as if she would say, "A little imprudent, a little unwise, but so naïve, so impulsive, so warm-hearted!" When M. de Francueil brings down a little troupe of actors to La Chevrette, the charming novelty dismisses from this light soul the last faint shadow of uneasiness which might remain to trouble its peace. Louise is quickly discovered to be the most piquante of amateur actresses, with, it is said, something in her voice, eyes, smile, that moves the heart. Madame de Maupeou, her sister-in-law, is also delightfully piquante in the part of a servant, Lisette-so piquante, in fact, that Monsieur de Maupeou forbids her to act any more. (The attitude of most of these wives towards their husbands is pretty well described by Francueil when he writes to Louise, "C'est que votre mari est un monstre et


« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »