Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

that's a dull subject, M. de Berniers; “Ah, now you ask too much. I have give me news of home. The Queen ?" never seen her." “More virtuous than ever."

“But you say " " And the King ?"

“ That I know all about her. Yes, " Less."

I am to wed her in six weeks." "Impossible!”

“The Devil and St. Philippe !” “Quite true.”

.“I don't wonder you are astonished, “Some more wine, then. And the my dear De Montalván. It's quite Pompadour ?”

throwing myself away to marry any “Cold, but still powerful."

woman at my time of life. Think “I have heard,” said M. de Montal- how many adventures I shall lose. I van, lowering his voice, “ strange tales never intended to be married until I about the Parliament, - that it holds had risen to something like the glosecret meetings, and that the court ry of Richelieu. Imagine having two should keep itself prepared for some beauties fight a duel for you, for exunexpected action."

ample! Richelieu was only twenty“ Bah!” said M. de Berniers, with a two when Mesdames de Nesle and de laugh, or rather a gentle inarticulate Polignac fought for his favor. I am murmur of mockery; “put aside those twenty-three, and no woman ever notions, my dear M. de Montalvan fought for me. At least, not that I There is no power on earth can move am aware of." the court of France."

“Courage, De Berniers ; if you had “Good! And the theatres ?lived in Richelieu's day you would have " Intolerable. La Clairon has done had forty duels upon your account insomething in a play by M. de Voltaire, stead of one." -a play stolen from a Chinese tragedy, “Quite likely. The age has degen'The Orphan of Tchao.' He calls it erated. Some wine, De Montalvan. Yes, "The Orphan of China.' It is dreary the affair was arranged by our relatives. stuff. I wonder if our well-beloved king Contiguous estates; enormous dot. I could not be induced to keep M. de know very little about it myself, except Voltaire's plays in exile, as well as M. that I am the victim. Apropos," added de Voltaire himself.”

M. de Berniers, as energetically as was "Precisely,” said M. de Montalvan. consistent with his sense of what a dis“Some more wine."

ciple of Fronsac owed himself, "you " And yet,” said M. de Berniers, are at leisure. The contract is to be whose usually pale facé was flushed by signed early in September. Come to the repeated draughts of Burgundy with Brittany, and help me through. They which he had found it necessary to say Brittany is a fine country. I have stimulate himself to the effort of con- never seen it, though I have a chateau versation, and yet Mlle. de Terville, there. Will you come ?" they say, will hear of nothing but M. de De Montalvan looked keenly at his Voltaire. We shall quarrel finely about companion, as if endeavoring to detect that, for one thing," - and his eyes some hidden meaning in these last gleamed with what would have been words, drank some more wine, and reamusement if they had been capable of mained silent. so definite an expression.

“Come, De Montalvan, an answer." « Mlle. de Terville !” said M. de M. de Montalvan scowled, and drank Montalvan in some surprise, which, again. He appeared to be considering however, the other did not observe; in what manner he could most readily "do you know her ?"

make himself offensive to M. de Ber* Perfectly."

niers. Presently he remarked, in a "Is it possible ?"

tone which was intended to be deeply " All about her.”

satirical, but which his frequent im“Tell me, how does she look * bibitions rendered merely malicious, “Have you made any wagers of late, this manner,” said the stranger, and my little friend ?”

he directed his attendant to move forM. de Berniers's countenance fell into ward. the same expression of discontent as “No, Monsieur,” said De Montalvan, that which it had displayed on his com- placing himself in the way, “ that is panion's first appearance. He essayed out of the question. I feel it my duty a frown, - a feat it would have been to object to your making use of a broudifficult for him to execute at any time, ette on such a day as this." but which was now simply impossible. “Ah, you object !” He was not equal even to a distortion. “ Most decidedly. In fact I will not But he answered spitefully : “ To the allow it." Devil with you and your wagers ! But The stranger sprang with alacrity I will make it even yet. Perhaps an- upon the sidewalk, and, drawing his other time you will not dare to compete sword, advanced upon his persecutor. so readily."

“ We shall see,” he said, grimly. “Dare, Monsieur !” said De Montal- “As you please, Monsieur,” said De van, hastily. Then, checking himself, Montalvan, putting himself on guard. be added, more composedly: “But why But, as may be supposed, the solshould I quarrel with Fronsacquin? It dier's hand was unsteady, and his eye is clear he knows nothing. If I must uncertain. After a few rapid passes, he ease my mind by quarrelling, there are let fall his right arm, which had been plenty hereabout," and he glared around sharply punctured above the elbow. quite savagely. His eye lighted upon M. de Berniers absolutely cackled with a brouette, one of the small hand-car- delight. riages then in vogue, in which a large “Now, Monsieur," said the stout and heavily built young man was re- stranger, “you will probably suffer me clining, while the owner of the vehi- to traverse the streets in the manner cle, a slender lad, toiled with difficulty that best suits me.” before him. “ Dare, is it, De Berniers ? “Pardon me again," responded De Do you see that sluggard, wasting this Montalvan; “you have fairly wounded beautiful day in a lazy brouette? Ten me, but I am sure you are too gallant a louis that I have him out, and walking, gentleman to deprive a bleeding adveras he ought, in less than five minutes.” sary of the most convenient means of

* You are mad, M. de Montalvan." reaching his home"; — with which he " You decline ?"

quietly stepped into the brouette and “No, I accept!” and De Berniers, was wheeled away, while the stranger who was not so tipsy but that he could gazed after him in stupefaction. plainly see De Montalvan was more so, De Berniers would have gnashed his wore upon his face what by one who teeth, but that he had not yet recovered was acquainted with him would have from the exertion of his previous cacbeen understood as an air of triumph, kle. For a week thenceforth he was but to a casual observer would convey the sport of Paris, and, to complete his no direct idea of any kind.

disgust, the adventure was circulated M. de Montalvan rose and advanced, by the celebrated raconteur, M. de Luhat in hand. - Pardon me, Monsieur," geac, in the salons of the Dauphine and he began, “I have a few observations elsewhere, with embellishments by no to address to you. It is a singular means favorable to his reputation as a spectacle to behold a man of your bel esprit. health and vigor, and especially of your size, compelling a poor wretch R aoul de Montalvan was a young like this to drag you through the gentleman of moderate fortune, who, streets in the midsummer heat." at the age of twenty, sold his small

"It is more singular, Monsieur, that estates in Avignon in order to equip you should venture to address me in a company and join the Chevalier de

Modène in the campaign of 1745, un- twenty-first year, joined the expedition der the Maréchal Saxe. At Fontenoy of the Pretender ; but as his fortunes he was acknowledged to have distin- were not materially improved by this guished himself; but his recollections enterprise, he next year became loyal, of that battle were embittered by the and assisted M. de Belle-Isle in the fact that the Comte de Lally had robbed extirpation of the Austrians from Dauhim of the honor which he most covet- phiny. In 1748 he again followed ed, — that of having detected, by a bold his old leader, M. de Saxe, to victory, reconnoissance, the weak point in the after which, the war in France having enemy's front, by piercing which the ceased, he turned his attention to forfield was ultimately won.* Neverthe- eign fields of glory and profit. He less, he had been praised ; and praise, served two years in India, with Duat that period, was his best reward: pleix, where he found that, although the With a light heart and high hopes he glory was free to any man's clutch, the started for Paris, in further pursuit of profit was sacred to a few. After Dufortune. In company with his patron, pleix's fall, he joined the French troops M. de Modène, he presented himself in America, where, with his comrades, at court. The sentinel on duty cu- he assisted in the defeat of Lieutenantriously eyed their uniforms, and re- Colonel Washington in the action which fused to admit them. The King, fa- followed the massacre of M. de Jumontigued with war's alarms, and anxious ville. Finally, after ten years of milito banish from court all memories of tary hardship and heroism, he returned carnage and confusion, had ordered to Paris, bringing with him as the rethat no military dresses should appear sult of his career a high repute for in his salons. In vain the young sol- skill and courage, a well-worn sword, diers represented that they had parted and a dozen deep scars. with all their possessions to serve their It may be imagined that these ten monarch, and that they had surren- years had not softened the asperity dered the last means of otherwise ar- with which M. de Montalvan regarded raying themselves; in vain they in- the court and society. His manners sisted that the noblest decorations in were bizarre, his language was cynical, the eyes of his Majesty should be the and his wilful deviations from the strict dust and blood of the field of Fontenoy. etiquette of the day could never have They were repulsed. De Modène re- been tolerated excepting for the brilvenged himself by the famous epigram liant notoriety he had gained as a darwhich caused an order of arrest, and ing adventurer. He permitted himcompelled his flight. De Montalvan, self to mingle in fashionable circles, taking the insult more to heart, swore that he might the better ridicule them, furiously that, excepting as a soldier which he did audaciously. The edict and in soldier's dress, he would never against military dress was no longer enter the French court, and from that in force, so that he was enabled to time had steadfastly persisted in the rig- hover upon the outskirts of the court orous costume which excited M. de Ber- without sacrifice of dignity. But nothniers's criticism. There were, indeed, ing in that effeminate world seemed to some who declared that he claimed as satisfy his turbulent instincts. Homo a virtue of obstinacy that which was erat, - yet everything human, in that only a necessity of poverty; but for sphere, was foreign to him. At one of such aspersions he cared little

the court balls, however, an incident ocAs a further mark of his disgust, he curred which momentarily turned him quitted France altogether, and, in his from the course of his ill-humor.

* The Lieutenant-General Duc de Richelieu en Mlle. Virginie de Terville, a noble joyed the fame and received the reward of this im- Nantaise, whose life, though not one portant discovery, due really to an unknown adventurer. Even the claim of De Lally was set aside in

of seclusion, had been judiciously kept favor of the illustrious impostor.

apart from the corrupting influences VOL. XX. — NO. 119.

23

of the capital, was at Paris for the wise than by his follies ; for he was first time, with her uncle, an ex-officer not without one or two good qualities, of the king's household. To the fair - for example, generosity. But with neophyte the scene was one of rare him generosity took the form of a enchantment; and although her keen reckless prodigality, which caused him instincts enabled her to conform with to be surrounded by a swarm of flataptitude to the usages of the lively terers and parasites, male and female, world around her, there was a fresh- who so fed and pampered his raging ness and a naïveté in her manner vanity that he believed himself a Crichwhich contrasted charmingly with the ton at eighteen. His ambition soared effete and ceremonious forms of the only to the height of emulating the experienced. M. de Montalvan met boudoir exploits of M. de Richelieu, her at a masked ball, and was captivat- and he fancied himself a master of all ed with becoming rapidity. Although the social ceremonies of the capital. poor beyond description, his family So far as his languid nature would alwas among the best, and he found no low him, he sought notoriety in every difficulty in making M. de Terville's quarter. “ No man's pie was free from acquaintance, and in due season that of his ambitious finger.” He had acted his niece. For once he abandoned his with Madame de Pompadour's comacerbity, and returned to the charac- pany of amateurs at Versailles, and, ter which had been natural to him ten though surrounded by clever gentleyears before. None could be more men like D'Entragues and De Maillewinning than M. de Montalvan if the bois, firmly believed himself the only impulse prompted him; and his grace. worthy supporter of Madame d'Etioles. ful conversation, overflowing with anec. On the strength of his supposed sudote and illustration which the home premacy, he had from time to time ly wits of the home-keeping youth of graciously volunteered his aid to LeParis could not rival, made a vivid im- kain and Mlle. Clairon in the prepapression upon Virginie's imagination. ration of their most difficult rôles. They met only twice ; for, just as M. de He had supplied the poet Beauverset Montalvan was beginning to take se- with now and then a topic, and imrious thought of where this would lead agined himself to be the true source him, he received an appointment from whence that incendiary rhymer drew M. de Richelieu to the command of a his choicest inspirations. After the company in the Minorca expedition, success of Rousseau's Devin du Viland was obliged to sail for Port Ma- lage, he had driven the composer wild hon without even the opportunity of by his offers to assist him in the purifia hasty adieu. Partly by good luck, cation of his melodies. Nothing in the partly by hard fighting, and partly way of notoriety was too high or too owing to the blunders of Admiral low for him. He had laid out a plan Byng, the island was captured in a for the replanting of the Trianon garfew months, and it was not long after dens, and was disgusted because Richhis return from victory - as full of ard, the king's gardener, politely dehonors and as empty in purse as ever clined to adopt it; and he had been - that De Montalvan encountered his heard to say that in the composition "little Fronsacquin ” on the threshold of sauces and ragoûts he could easily of the Café de la Régence.

rival his Majesty himself, and would

prove his superiority, but for the fear Louis de Berniers was the incarna- of losing favor at court. tion of aristocratic niaiserie. He was M. de Berniers and M. de Montalvan young, titled, not ill-looking, and had had met a short time before the attack vast wealth at his command. But for upon Minorca. The gallant soldier was this latter possession he might possi- no Aatterer, but the conceited little bly have distinguished himself other- Parisian amused him sufficiently to oC

cupy a good share of his leisure. He Virginie de Terville, as has been said, satirized De Berniers mercilessly from was a different being, not only in the morning till night, to the latter's great freshness and bloom of her beauty, but astonishment, he having up to that time also by virtue of her domestic educareceived only adulation and deference tion, from the artificial goddesses of from his companions. But the name the Parisian sphere with whom she of “ Fronsacquin," which De Montalvan had been thrown into temporary conhad jestingly applied, so gratified his tact. But her visit had not been long puerile vanity, that for a few days he enough to reveal to her what lay belooked upon the warlike adventurer al- neath the glittering exterior of life at most with affection. Their intimacy court. Her cautious uncle had cut had, however, been broken off a few short their sojourn at what he deemed days before De Montalvan's departure, a judicious period, and brought his in consequence of De Berniers's chagrin ward back to the tranquil old chateau at losing a wager he had boastingly near Nantes, not entirely, it must be made. He had declared himself capa- admitted, to her satisfaction. The ble of securing the attention of any splendors of the capital had just begun lady, however distinguished in appear to fascinate her, and, what was more, ance and however reserved in manner, she had been loath to think that that that his friends might indicate, at a last brief interview with the handsome certain masked ball, and of bringing and eccentric captain, who had seen so her openly to sup with them. De much and told what he had seen so Montalvan defied him, and, selecting a well, might never be repeated. Not fresh-faced lad from the opera, trained that she cared to hear anything beyond him to a perfect illustration of femi- his strange tales of adventure. Indeed nine modesty and simplicity, and set no. He had lightly touched upon one De Berniers upon him. Of course the or two other topics, during that same farce was easily carried through. After last interview, and she was sorry she the requisite preliminaries of shy eva- had not checked him. Yet she did sion and coy resistance, the supposed wonder what ever had become of him, fair one was led triumphantly to the and really would have been glad to supper-table, – the mask was removed, know the result of his long journey the secret exposed, and for ten humili- through the tropical Indian forests with ating days De Berniers was the laugh that beautiful Rajah's daughter of whom of the town.

he had begun to tell her. It may be supposed that his peevish- But these ideas did not occur to Virness was not diminished by the loss of ginie until after she had left Paris. a second public wager ; but his oppo. While there, the constant succession nent had been wounded, and that af- of gayeties left no room for other than forded him some comfort. Besides, he merry thoughts. She was a belle of was still confident of winning his re- high distinction, -an heiress, and a venge, so he stified his angry feelings, lovely one. For a month she was a and renewed the request that De leader of fashionable revels, and a very Montalvan would accompany him to princess of masquerade. If it were Nantes. De Montalvan was moody, known that at a particular ball she and swore he would go and join Mont- would appear as a heathen goddess, the calm in Canada. But his own recollec- salons were thronged with illustrations tion of the charms of Mademoiselle de of mythology. When she wore the Terville, added to the solicitations of quaint dress of a Brittany peasant, all De Berniers, who was all uncon- classes affected a rural simplicity. She scious that they had ever known one had only to personate Joan of Arc, and another, -induced him to change his a martial spirit fired the assembly; and resolution, and he half graciously con- when she crowned her triumphs by ensented.

acting a dashing young cavalier of the

« AnteriorContinuar »