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his sides for some five minutes in immoderate laughter.
"Par Dieu! Monsieur," said he, after having recovered himself, "you owed me this recompense for the two hours you have kept me on the stand. I beg you will repeat your proposition."
"I have the honor to repeat, Monsieur le Marquis," replied the malicious old man, with an imperturbable sang-froid, "that the only way of reconciling, in this affair, your reputation with your interest is to offer M'lle de La Seigliére in marriage to the son of your old farmer."
This time the marquis was utterly unable to contain himself. He was obliged to get up from his chair and take a turn or two about the chamber before he could recover himself from the convulsions of laughter induced by his excessive delight. When he had become tolerably calm
"Monsieur," said he, "I had been told that you were a very able man, but I had no conception of your real power. Ventresaint-gris! What penetration! What a prompt and ready glance! What a way of arranging things! You must have been sent to school early to have acquired so much at your age. Your father was, doubtless, king's attorney. Vive Dieu! What wells of science! Madame Des Tournelles, when you walk out with her, at Blossac, on Sunday, must carry a high head. Monsieur le jurisconsulte," added he, suddenly changing his tone, "you have to consult not to advise."
"Oh! to be sure, Monsieur le Marquis," replied M. Des Tournelles, without discovering the least embarrassment, "I understand perfectly well that such a proposition is revolting to your noble instinct. I can fully appreciate your feelings; I can feel all the weight of your objections; I can excuse your opposition. Still, if you will reflect but for one moment you will see in your turn, that there are exigencies to which the most legitimate pride is obliged sometimes to yield."
"Stop there, Monsieur," said the Marquis, in a severe tone, which admitted of no reply; which however did not silence the crafty old man.
"Monsieur le Marquis," he continued with firmness, "the sincere interest, the very lively sympathy with which your position inspires me, the respectful attach
ment which I have always felt towards illustrious family, the frankness and well known sincerity of my character, all unite in compelling me to insist; and I must insist, though I incur your ridicule and even your indignation, as the reward of my devotion. Suppose, some day, your foot should slip, and you should be precipitated into the Clain, would he not be justly chargeable with crime before God and man, who, when it was in his power, should not lend you a helping hand. But the truth is, you have fallen into a gulf a hundred times deeper than the bed of our river; and I think I should be wanting to my duty did I not make use, even at the risk of wounding you, of all possible human means to attempt to extricate you."
"Well! Monsieur," retorted the Marquis, "let people drown in peace, if it is their good pleasure. Far better to drown respectably in pure, transparent water, than drag out a dishonorable life in poverty and disgrace."
"These sentiments honor you; I recognize in them the worthy heir of a noble family. I fear, however, that you exaggerate the dangers of an alliance with a family not of your rank. You must be aware that, whether right or wrong, opinions have latterly undergone a great modification on this point. Monsieur le Marquis, these are trying times. Although nominally restored, the noblesse are by no means really so; under the factitious brilliancy which has recently been imparted to them, there is already the melancholy of a star which pales and declines. I am convinced that they can recover their ancient splendor only by mingling, to some extent, with the democracy which surrounds them on all sides. I have carefully reflected upon our prospects, for I also am interested as well as yourself; and for the purpose of convincing you how deeply I am penetrated with the necessity of an alliance between us and the people, I will state, what you are perhaps not aware of, that I recently resigned myself to the marriage of my eldest daughter with a sheriff. We must take things as they are. At the present time it is with the aristocracy as with the precious metals, which cannot be sufficiently hardened to be useful without a grain of alloy. In these times a marriage of convenience, such a one as I am recom
mending, is a sort of family lightning rod, for the protection and the best interests of all concerned. We must stoop a little that we may get a better support, and fortify ourselves more strongly against the tempest. A great and curious change is at this moment going on in society. Before twenty years shall have passed the citizen gentleman will take the place of the gentleman cit. Will you, Monsieur le Marquis, have my whole thought?"
"No, I am not particular about it," said the Marquis.
<< Well, as I was going on to say," resumed M. Des Tournelles with unwaver
ing assurance, your great name and fortune, your intellectual superiority, and your accomplished manners, have very naturally excited towards you feelings of envy. You have enemies; what superior man has not? He must be unfortunate indeed who has not two or three at least. But you, for the reasons I have just stated, have many. How could it be otherwise? You are not popular. What more easily accounted for, since in all things popularity is only the seal of stupidity, and the crown of mediocrity? In short, Monsieur le Marquis, you have the honor to be detested." "Monsieur
(( I beg pardon; I appreciate your modesty; but, as I was saying, you have the honor to be detested. You serve as the mark for the shots and jibes of an unscrupulous party, which is increasing every day, and which threatens very soon to become the majority of the nation. shall not allow myself to repeat to you the thousand base calumnies which this lawless and faithless party is daily engaged in spreading like venom over your noble life. I know too well the respect due to you to consent to become the echo of these vile and cowardly aspersions. They charge you openly with having deserted your country at a time when it was in danger; they accuse you of having borne arms against France."
"Monsieur," replied the Marquis with virtuous indignation, "I have never borne arms against any one.'
"I believe it, Monsieur le Marquis; I am sure of it. All honorable persons are agreed on this point; but, unfortunately, the liberals have no reverence, they respect nothing, and honorable men are rare.
They are pleased to point you out as an enemy of the public liberties; the rumor goes that you detest the charter; they insinuate that you are seeking to restore within your domains the dime, the corvée, and other seigniorial privileges. They assert that you have written to His Majesty Louis XVIII. to advise him to enter the Chamber booted and spurred, whip in hand as Louis XIV. did his parliament; they affirm that you annually celebrate the anniversary of the battle of Waterloo; they suspect you of being in correspondence with the congregation of the Jesuits; in fine, they go so far as to say that you openly insult the glory of our arms by habitually attaching to the tail of your horse a tricolored rosette. This is not all, for calumny will not readily stop where it finds so many attractions; they declare that old Stamply was a victim of scandalous and heartless devices, and that as a return for all his benefactions, you left him to die with chagrin. I do not wish to alarm you; nevertheless, I must avow that as things are situated, if a second revolution should break out-and God only knows what the future has in reserve for us-you would be obliged to fly again with the greatest haste; otherwise, Monsieur le Marquis, I would not answer for your head."
"You know very well, Monsieur, that this is infamous," exclaimed M. de La Seigliére, whom this oration of the satanic old man had excited to the utmost pitch of endurance. "These liberals are villainous scoundrels. I, an enemy of the public liberties! I adore them. And how could I detest the charter? I never saw it. The Jesuits! but ventre-saint gris! I never saw the tail of one; and as for the other charges, I will not deign to reply to such low and vulgar accusations. As to a second revolution," added the Marquis gaily, as cowards whistle to keep up their courage, "I imagine, Monsieur, you must be jesting."
"Jesting! By no means," quickly replied M. Des Tournelles. The future is thick with tempests; the heavens are charged with livid clouds; political passions can already be heard in the distance; the very soil beneath us is mined, and ready to explode. Indeed, Monsieur le Marquis, I tell you in all earnestness, that if you would
not be surprised by the storm, you must watch, watch incessantly, give ear to every sound, be on your guard night and day, have neither rest nor truce, nor respite, but have your baggage constantly ready, that you may be on your way at the first clap of thunder that shall break in the hothe horizon."
M. de La Seigliére turned pale, and regarded M. Des Tournelles with a look of fear. After enjoying the fright for a few moments, which he had thus thrown into the heart of his unfortunate client, the lawyer continued :—
Do you now perceive, Monsieur le Marquis, the propriety of this alliance? Do you not begin to see that a marriage between the son of Stamply and your daughter, would be, on your part, an act of profound policy? See how, by such a course, you would change the face of things. You are suspected of hating the people; you give your daughter to the son of a peasant. They mark you as an enemy of our rising glory; you adopt a child of the empire. They accuse you of ingratitude; you mingle your blood with that of your benefactor. Thus, at a single stroke, you confound calumny; you disarm envy; you bring public opinion to your support; you contract a favorable alliance with a party which now seeks your ruin; you insure your head and fortune against the danger which threatens; in short, you will end your days surrounded with luxury and opulence, happy, tranquil, honored, and safe from the storms of revolution."
"Monsieur," said the Marquis, with dignity, "if need be my daughter and I will mount the scaffold. We can pour out our blood; but we will never pollute it so long as it shall flow in our veins. We are ready; the noblesse of France have proved, thank God! that they know how to die."
"To die is nothing. To live is the difficulty. If the scaffold was ready at your door, I would take you by the hand and say to you: Mount into heaven!' But from here there, how many sad days to pass! Think
"Not a word more, I beg of you," said M. de la Seigliére, drawing from the pocket of his black satin breeches a little silk purse, which he furtively slipped into the hand of M. Des Tournelles."You have exceedingly entertained me," added the
Marquis; "it is a long time since I have laughed so heartily."
Monsieur le Marquis," replied M. Des Tournelles, carelessly letting the purse drop upon the floor; "I am abundantly recompensed by the honor you have done me in esteeming me worthy of your confidence. Besides, if it is true that I have succeeded in making you laugh in the position in which you are placed, it is one of my greatest professional triumphs, and I am under great obligation to you. Whenever you may be pleased to resort to my humble advice, I shall ever be ready to afford you any assistance in my power, and think myself fortunate, if, as to-day, Í shall succeed in allaying, in any degree, your apprehensions."
"You are too kind a thousand times," rejoined the Marquis, with a low bow. "And though this is no longer to be your home," resumed Des Tournelles, though you may, henceforth, possess neither chateau, nor park, nor forest, nor domain, not even a poor corner of the earth large enough to pitch your tent upon, you are still, and will continue to be, to me, the Marquis de la Seigliére, greater, perhaps, in misfortune than ever you were in prosperity. It is my nature; misfortune seduces me, adversity attracts me. my political opinions admitted of it, I should have accompanied Napoleon to St. Helena. Be assured that my devotion and respect will follow you wherever you may go, and that you will always find in me a friend faithful in misfortune."
M. Des Tournelles had arisen from his seat. As he was about to leave, he threw a complacent look around the apartment and observed in all its details the sumptuous furniture.
"Delightful sojourn! enchanting retreat!" murmured he, as if talking with himself. "Carpets from Aubusson, damasks from Genoa, Saxony porcelain, chairs from Boule, Bohemian glass, splendid paintings, objects of art, charming fancies
Monsieur le Marquis, you live here like a king. And this park! Why, it is a perfect wood," added he, approaching
the window. "As you sit by the corner of your fireside, in the spring, you must hear the songs of the nightingale."
At this moment the door opened and a valet appeared.
"Jasmin," said M. de la Seigliére, kicking the purse which still lay upon the carpet and discovered the yellow metal gleaming through its silken meshes, like the scales of a gold fish" pick that up, it is a present to you from M. Des Tournelles. Good day, Monsieur Des Tournelles, good day. My compliments to your wife. Jasmin, show the gentleman out, you owe him that politeness."
This said, he turned his back without more ado, stepped behind the window and leaned his head forward against the glass. He supposed that M. Des Tournelles had left, when, all of a sudden, the execrable old man, who had slipped back, stealthily as a cat, standing on tiptoe and placing his mouth close to the ear of the ruminating Marquis
"Monsieur le Marquis-" said he in a low tone, and with a mysterious look. "What!" cried the Marquis, suddenly starting up, "you here yet?"
A last opinion, it is a good one. The matter is a very serious one, and if you wish to get well out of it, marry your daughter to Bernard."
Thereupon, followed by the maledictions of the Marquis, and attended by Jasmin, who overwhelmed him with bows and other demonstrations of politeness, M. Des Tournelles turned quickly on his heel, and, with cane under his arm and rubbing his hands, darted out of the door delighted as a fox just leaving the poultry yard drunk with blood and licking his jaws.
Thus, apparently with the intention not to touch, or to touch only to cure, M. Des Tournelles had only irritated and poisoned the wounds of his victim, M. de La Seigliére who had previously felt sick, was now convinced that his sickness was mortal—that he should never recover. Such was the result of this memorable consultation; a Marquis was drowning; a lawyer, who was passing by, proved to him that he was lost and tied a stone to his neck, after having, for a couple of hours, dragged and rolled him in the mud.
But the heart of the Marquis was not the only one in the valley of the Clain
that was true blood. To say nothing of Madame de Vaubert, who was not quite reassured as to the success of her enterprize, Helen and Bernard had both lost repose and serenity. For some time M'lle de La Seigliére had been greatly perplexed, and a thousand strange questions were constantly coming up in her mind. Why, in none of her letters to Raoul, had she ventured to mention the presence of Bernard? Doubtless she feared to provoke the pleasantry of the young baron, who could never tolerate old Stamply; but why, when in conversation with Bernard, and mention was made of the son of the baroness, had she never dared to speak of her approaching union with him? Sometimes she seemed to herself to be deceiving them both. Whence came that vague dread, or that cold indifference, which she had recently experienced at the thought of the return of Raoul. Whence was it, also, that his letters, which at first so delighted and almost charmed her, brought now only a profound and mortal ennui? Whence, in fine, that overwhelming feeling of lassitude which she invariably felt on sitting down to reply? These questions troubled her. Nor was she troubled by what was passing in her own mind alone. She saw instinctively that the movements and acts of those around her had a mysterious and equivocal appearance. The dejection of her father, the sudden departure of Raoul, his prolonged absence, the attitude of the baroness, all these alarmed her. The glow of health upon her cheek was disappearing; her full dark eyes were losing their fullness and lustre ; her cheerful temper was gradually becoming changed. In order to explain, if she could, the trouble and embarrassment which she experienced in the presence of Bernard, she tried to hate him. She knew that it was since his arrival that she had lost the calm and freedom of her young days. She accused him, in her heart, of too readily accepting the hospitality of a family whom his father had despoiled. She said that he ought to have sought a nobler employment for his courage and his youth, and regretted that he had not more pride and dignity. Then turning her thoughts towards Raoul, with every determination to love him, mistaking her conscience for love and her love for hatred, she gradually and purposely avoid
ed Bernard, renounced her walks in the park, ceased to appear in the saloon, and secluded herself in her chamber. Reduced to the intimacy of the baroness and the Marquis, since M'lle de La Seigliére was no longer present to veil with her sincerity, innocence and beauty, the intrigues and ruses of which he was the sport, Bernard became sombre, eccentric and irascible.
It was then that the Marquis, by a resolution which merits all the epithets which Madame de Sévigné lavishes upon the marriage of a grand-daughter of Henry IV. to a cadet of Gascony, suddenly determined to suffer the humiliation which M. Des Tournelles had pointed out as the only way of safety which remained to him in this lower world.
To be Continued.