marks — in the right of the poor to appropriate the property of the rich — in the right of love to dispense with marriage, and the duty of the State to provide lor any children that might result from such union, the parents being incapacitated to do so, as whatever they might leave was due to the treasury in common. Graham listened to these doctrines with melancholy not unmixed with contempt. "Are these opinions of yours," he asked, "derived from reading or your own reflection?"

"Well, from both, but from circumstances in life that induced me to read and reflect. I am one of the many victims of the tyrannical law of marriage. When very young I married a woman who made me miserable, and then forsook me. Morally, she has ceased to be my wife — legally, she is. I then met with another woman who suits me, who loves me. She lives with me; I cannot marry her; she has to submit to humiliations, to be called contemptuously an ouvrier's mistress. Then, though before I was only a Republican, I felt there was something wrong in society which needed a greater change than that of a merely political government; and then, too, when I was all troubled and sore, I chanced to read one of Madame de Grantmesnil's books. A glorious genius that woman's!"

"She has genius, certainly," said Graham, with a keen pang at his heart; Madame de Grantmesnil, the dearest friend of Isaura !" But," he added, " though I believe that eloquent author has indirectly assailed certain social institutions, including that of marriage, I am perfectly persuaded that she never designed to effect such complete overthrow of the system which all civilized communities have hitherto held in reverence, as your doctrines would attempt; and after all, she but expresses her ideas through the medium of fabulous incidents and characters. And men of your sense should not look for a creed in the fictions of poets and romancewriters."

"Ah," said Monnier, " I daresay neither Madame de Grantmesnil nor even Rousseau ever even guessed the ideas they awoke in their readers ; but one idea leads on to another. And genuine poetry and romance touch the heart so much more than dry treatises. In a word, Madame de Grantmesnil's book set me thinking; and then I read other books, and talked with clever men, and educated myself. And so I became the man I am." Here, with a self-satisfied air, Monnier bowed

to the Englishman and joined a group at the other end of the room.

The next evening, just before dusk, Graham Vane was seated musingly in his own apartment in the Faubourg Montmartre, when there came a sHght knock at his door. He was so wrapt in thought that he did not hear the sound, though twice repeated. The door opened gently, and M. Lebeau appeared on the threshold. The room was lighted only by the gaslamp from the street without.

Lebeau advanced through the gloom, and quietly seated himself in the corner of the fireplace opposite to Graham before he spoke. "A thousand pardons for disturbing your slumbers, M. Lamb."

Startled then by the voice so near him, Graham raised his head, looked round, and beheld very indistinctly the person seated so near him.

"M. Lebeau?"

"At your service. I promised to give an answer to your question: accept my apologies that it has been deferred so long. I shall not this evening go to our cafe's I took the liberty of calling"

"M. Lebeau, you are a brick."

"A what, Monsieur ! — a briquet"

"I forgot — you are not up to our fashionable London idioms. A brick means a jolly fellow, and it is very kind in you to call. What is your decision?"

"Monsieur, I can give you some information, but it is so slight that I offer it gratis, and forego all thought of undertaking farther inquiries. They could only be prosecuted in another country, and it would not be worth my while to leave Paris on the chance of gaining so trifling a reward as you propose. Judge for yourself. In the year 1849, and in the month of July, Louise Duval left Paris for Aixla-Chapelle. There she remained some weeks, and then left it. I can learn no farther traces of her movements."

"Aix-la-Chapelle ! — what could she do there?"

"It is a Spa in great request; crowded during the summer season with visitors from all countries. She might have gone there for health or for pleasure."

"Do you think that one could learn more at the Spa itself if one went there?"

"Possibly. But it is so long — twenty years ago."

"She might have revisited the place."

"Certainly; but I know no more."

"Was she there under the same name — Duval?"

"I am sure of that."

"Do you think she left it alone, or with others? You tell me she was awfully belle — she might have attracted admirers."

"If," answered Lebeau, reluctantly, " I could believe the report of my informant, Louise Duval left Aix not alone, but with some gallant — not an Englishman. They are said to have parted soon, and the man is now dead. But, speaking frankly, I do not think Mademoiselle Duval would have thus compromised her honour and sacrificed her future. I believe she would have scorned all proposals that were not those of marriage. But all I can say for certainty is, that nothing is known to me of her fate since she quitted Aix-la-Chapelle."

"In 1849 — she had then a child living?"

"A child? I never heard that she had any child ; and I do not believe she could have had any child in 1849."

Graham mused. Somewhat less than five years after 1849 Louise Duval had been seen at Aix-la-Chapelle. Possibly she found some attraction at that place, and might yet be discovered there. "Monsieur Lebeau," said Graham, "you know this lady by sight; you would recognize her in spite of the lapse of years. Will you go to Aix and find out there What you can? Of course, expenses will be paid, and the reward will be given if you succeed."

"I cannot oblige you. My interest in this poor lady is not very strong, though I should be willing to serve her, and glad to know she were alive. I have now business on hand which interests me much more, and which will take me from Paris, but not in the direction of Aix."

"If I wrote to my employer, and got him to raise the reward to some higher amount that might make it worth your while?"

"I should still answer that my affairs will not permit such a journey. But if there be any chance of tracing Louise Duval at Aix — and there may be — you would succeed quite as well as I should. You must judge for yourself if it be worth your trouble to attempt such a task; and if you do attempt it, and do succeed, pray let me know. A line to my office will reach me for some little time, even if I am absent from Paris. Adieu, M. Lamb."

Here M. Lebeau rose and departed.

Graham relapsed into thought; but a train of thought much more active, much more concentred than before. "No," — thus ran his meditations ;" no, it would not be safe to employ that man further. The

reasons that forbid me to offer any very high reward for the discovery of this woman operate still more strongly against tendering to her own relation a sum that might indeed secure his aid, but would unquestionably arouse his suspicions, and perhaps drag into light all that must be concealed. Oh this cruel mission! I am, indeed an impostor to myself till it be fulfilled. I will go to Aix, and take Renard with me. I am impatient till I set out, but I cannot quit Paris without once more seeing Isaura. She consents to relinquish the stage; surely I could wean her too from intimate friendship with a woman whose genius has so fatal an effect upon enthusiastic minds. And then — and then?"

He fell into a delightful reverie; and contemplating Isaura as his future wife, he surrounded her sweet image with all those attributes of dignity and respect with which an Englishman is accustomed to invest the destined bearer of his name, the gentle sovereign of his household, the sacred mother of his children. In this picture the more brilliant qualities of Isaura found, perhaps, but faint presentation. Her glow of sentiment, her play of fancy, her artistic yearnings for truths remote, for the invisible fairyland of beautiful romance, receded into the background of the picture. It was all these, no doubt, that had so strengthened and enriched the love at first sight, which had shaken the equilibrium of his positive existence; and yet he now viewed all these as subordinate to the one image of mild decorous matronage into which wedlock was to transform the child of genius, longing for angel wings and unlimited space.


On quitting the sorry apartment of the false M. Lamb, Lebeau walked on with slow steps and bended head, like a man absorbed in thought. He threaded a labyrinth of obscure streets, no longer in the Faubourg Montmartre, and dived at last into one of the few courts which preserve the cachet of the moyen Age untouched by the ruthless spirit of improvement which, during the Second Empire, has so altered the face of Paris. At the bottom of the Court stood a large house, much dilapidated, but bearing the trace of former grandeur in pilasters and fretwork in the style of the Renaissance, and a defaced coat of arms, surmounted with a ducal coronet, over the doorway. The house had the aspect of desertion: many of the windows were broken ; others were jealously closed with mouldering shutters. The door stood ajar; Lebeau pushed it open, and the action set in movement a bell within a porter's lodge. The house, then, was not uninhabited; it retained the dignity of a concierge. A man with a large grizzled beard cut square, and holding a journal in his hand, emerged from the lodge, and moved his cap with a certain bluff and surly reverence on recognizing Lebeau.

"What! so early, citizen?"

"Is it too early ?" said Lebeau, glancing at his watch. "So it is. I was not aware of the time; but I am tired with waiting. Let me into the salon. I will wait for the rest; I shall not be sorry for a little repose."

"Bon" said the porter, sententiously; "while man reposes men advance."

"A profound truth, citizen Le Roux; though, if they advance on a reposing foe, they have blundering leaders unless they march through unguarded by-paths and with noiseless tread."

Following the porter up a dingy broad staircase, Lebeau was admitted into a large room, void of all other furniture than a table, two benches at its sides, and a fauteuil at its head. On the mantelpiece there was a huge clock, and some iron sconces were fixed on the panelled walls.

Lebeau flung himself, with a wearied air into the fauteuil. The porter looked at him with a kindly expression. He had a liking to Lebeau, whom he had served in his proper profession of messenger or cominissionnaire before being placed by that courteous employer in the easy post he now held. Lebeau, indeed, had the art, when he pjeased, of charming inferiors; his knowledge of mankind allowed him to distinguish peculiarities in each individual, and flatter the amour propre by deference to such eccentricities. Marc le Roux, the roughest of '■red caps," had a wife of whom he was very proud. He would have called the Empress Citoyenne Euge'nie, but he always spoke of his wife as Madame. Lebeau won his heart by always asking after Madame.

"You look tired, citizen," said the porter; "let me bring you a glass of wine."

"Thank you, mon ami, no. Perhaps later, if I have time, after we break up, to pay my respects to Madame."

The porter smiled, bowed, and retired, muttering, "Norn d'un petit bonhomme il riy a ricn de lei que les belles mam'ires."

Left alone, Lebeau leaned his elbow on the table, resting his chin on his hand, and gazing into the dim space—for it was now, indeed, night, and little light came through the grim panes of the one window left unclosed by shutters. He was musing deeply. This man was, in much, an enigma to himself. Was he seeking to unriddle it? A strange compound of contradictory elements. In his stormy youth there had been lightninglike flashes of good instincts, of irregular honour, of inconsistent generosity — a puissant wild nature — with strong passions of love and of hate, without fear, but not without shame. In other forms of society that love of applause which had made him seek and exult in the notoriety which he mistook for fame, might have settled down into some solid and useful ambition. He might have become great in the world's eye, for at the service of his desires there were no ordinary talents. Though too true a Parisian to be a severe student, still, on the whole, he had acquired much general information, partly from books, partly from varied commerce with mankind. He had the gift, both by tongue and by pen, of expressing himself with force and warmth — time and necessity had improved that gift. Coveting, during his brief career of fashion, the distinctions which necessitate lavish expenditure, he had been the most reckless of spendthrifts, but the neediness which follows waste had never destroyed his original sense of personal honour. Certainly Victor de Mauldon was not, at the date of his fall, a man to whom the thought of accepting, much less of stealing the jewels of a woman who loved him, could have occurred as a possible question of casuistry between honour and temptation. Nor could that sort of question have, throughout the sternest trials, or the humblest callings to which his after life had been subjected, forced admission into his brain. He was one of those men, perhaps the most terrible though unconscious criminals, who are the- offsprings produced by intellectual power and egotistical ambition. If you had offered to Victor de Mauldon the crown of the Caesars, on condition of his doing one of those base things which "a gentleman" cannot do — pick a pocket, cheat at cards — Victor de Mauldon would have refused the crown. He would not have refused on account of any laws of morality affecting the foundations of the social system, but from the pride of his own personality. "I, Victor de Mauldon! I pick a pocket! I cheat at cards! I!" But when something incalculably worse for the interests of society than picking a pocket or cheating at cards was concerned ; — when, for the sake either of private ambition, or political experiment hitherto untested, and therefore very doubtful, the peace and order and happiness of millions might be exposed to the release of the most savage passions — rushing on revolutionary madness or civil massacre—then this French dare-devil would have been just as unscrupulous as any English philosopher whom a metropolitan borough might elect as its representative. The system of the Empire was in the way of Victor de Mauldon— in the way of his private ambition, in the way of his political dogmas — and therefore it must be destroyed, no matter what nor whom it crushed beneath its ruins. He was one of those plotters of revolutions not uncommon in democracies, ancient and modern, who invoke popular agencies with the less scruple because they have a supreme contempt for the populace. A man with mental powers equal to De Mauldon's, and who sincerely loves the people and respects the grandeur of aspiration with which, in the great upheaving of their masses, they so often contrast the irrational credulities of their ignorance and the blind fury of their wrath, is always exceedingly loath to pass the terrible gulf that divides reform from revolution. He knows how rarely it happens that genuine liberty is not disarmed in the passage, and what sufferings must be undergone by those who live by their labour during the dismal intervals between the sudden destruction of one.form of society and the gradual settlement of another. Such a man, however, has no type in a Victor de Mauldon. The circumstances of his life had placed this strong nature at war with society, and corrupted into misanthropy affections that had once been ardent. That misanthropy made his ambition more intense, because it increased his scorn for the human instruments it employed.

Victor de Mauldon knew that, however innocent of the charges that had so long darkened his name, and however — thanks to his rank, his manners, his savoir vivre '— the aid of Louvier's countenance, and the support of his own high-born connections— he might restore himself to his rightful grade"in private life, the higher prizes in public life would scarcely be within reach, to a man of his antecedents and stinted means, in the existent form

and conditions of established political order. Perforce, the aristocrat must make himself democrat if he would become a political chief. Could he assist in turning upside down the actual state of things, he trusted to his individual force of character to find himself among the uppermost in the general boulevcrsement. And in the first stage of popular revolution the mob has no greater darling than the noble who deserts his order, though in the second stage it may guillotine him at the denunciation of his cobbler. A mind so sanguine and so audacious as that of Victor de Mauldon never thinks of the second step if it sees a way to the first.


The room was in complete darkness, save where a ray from a gas-lamp at the mouth of the court came aslant through the window, when citizen Le Roux reentered, closed the window, lighted two of the sconces, and drew forth from a drawer in the table implements of writing, which he placed thereon noiselessly, as if he feared to disturb M., whose head, buried in his hands, rested on the table. He seemed in a profound sleep. At last the porter gently touched the arm of the slumberer, and whispered in his ear, " It is on the stroke of ten, citizen; they will be here in a minute or so." Lebeau lifted his head drowsilv.

"Eh," said he —"what?"

"You have been asleep."

"I suppose so, for I have been dreaming. Ha! I hear the doorbell. I am wide awake now."

The porter left him, and in a few minutes conducted into the salon two men wrapped in cloaks, despite the warmth of the summer night. Lebeau shook hands with them silently, not less silently they laid aside their cloaks and seated themselves. Both these men appeared to belong to the upper section of the middle class. One, strongly built, with a keen expression of countenance, was a surgeon considered able in his profession, but with limited practice, owing to a current suspicion against his honour in connection with a forged will. The other, talL meagre, with long grizzled hair and a wild unsettled look about the eyes, was a man of science; had written works well esteemed upon mathematics and electricity, also against the existence of any other creative power than that which he called "nebulosity," and defined to be the combination of heat and moisture. The surgeon was about the age of forty, the atheist a few years older. In another minute or so, a knock was heard against the wall. One of the men rose and touched a spring in the panel, which then flew back, and showed an opening upon a narrow stair, by which, one after the other, entered three other members of the society. Evidently there was more than one mode of ingress and exit.

The three new-comers were not Frenchmen— one might see that at a glance; probably they had reasons for greater precaution than those who entered by the front door. One, a tall, powerfully-built man, with fair hair and beard, dressed with a certain pretension to elegance — faded threadbare elegance — exhibiting no appearance of linen, was a Pole. One — a slight bald man, very dark and sallow — was an Italian. The third, who seemed like an ouvrier in his holiday clothes, was a Belgian.

Lebeau greeted them all with an equal courtesy, and each with an equal silence took his seat at the table.

Lebeau glanced at the clock. "Confreres" he said, "our number, as fixed for this stance, still needs two to be complete, and doubtless they will arrive in a few minutes. Till they come, we can but talk upon trifles. Permit me to offer you my cigar-case." And so saying, he who professed to be no smoker, handed his next neighbour, who was the Pole, a large cigar-case amply furnished; and the Pole, helping himself to two cigars, handed the case to the man next him — two only declining the luxury, the Italian and the Belgian. But the Pole was the only man who took two cigars.

Steps were now heard on the stairs, the door opened, and citizen Le Roux ushered in, one after the other, two men, this time unmistakably French — to an experienced eye unmistakably Parisians: the one a young beardless man, who seemed almost boyisn, with a beautiful face, and a stinted, meagre frame; the other, a stalwart man of about eight-and-twenty, dressed partly as an ouvrier, not in his Sunday clothes, rather affecting the blouse,— not that he wore that antique garment, but that he was in rough costume unbrushed and stained, with thick shoes and coarse stockings, and a workman's cap. But of all who gathered round the table at which M. Lebeau presided, he had the most distinguished exterior. A virile honest exterior, a massive open forehead, intelligent eyes, a handsome clear-cut incisive profile, and solid jaw. The expression of


the face was stern, but not mean—an expression which might have become an ancient baron as well as a modern workman— in it plenty of haughtiness and of will, and still more of self-esteem.

"Confreres" said Lebeau, rising, and every eye turned to him, "our number for the present stance is complete. To business. Since we last met, our cause has advanced with rapid and not with noiseless stride. I need not tell you that Louis Bonaparte has virtually abnegated Les idtcs Napoltoniennes — a fatal mistake for him, a glorious advance for us. The liberty of the press must very shortly be achieved, and with it personal government must end. When the autocrat once is compelled to go by the advice of bisi Ministers, look for sudden changes. His Ministers will be but weathercocks, turned hither and thither according as the wind chops at Paris; and Paris is the temple of the winds. The new revolution is almost at hand." (Murmurs of applause.) "It would move the laughter of the Tuileries and its Ministers, of the Bourse and of its gamblers, of every dainty salon of this silken city of wouldbe philosophers and wits, if they were told that here within this mouldering baraque, eight men, so little blest by fortune, so little known to fame as ourselves, met to concert the fall of an empire. The Government would not deem us important enough to notice our existence."

"I know not that," interrupted the Pole.

"Ah, pardon," resumed the orator; "I should have confined my remark to the five of us who are French. I did injustice to the illustrious antecedents of our foreign allies. I know that you, Thaddeus Loubisky — that you, Leonardo Raselli — have been too eminent for hands hostile to tyrants not to be marked with a black cross in the books of the police. I know that you, Jan Vanderstegen, if hitherto unscarred by those wounds in defence of freedom which despots and cowards would fain miscall the brands of the felon, still owe it to your special fraternity to keep your movements rigidly concealed. The tyrant would suppress the International Society, and forbids it the liberty of congress. To you three is granted the secret entrance to our council-hall. But we Frenchmen are as yet safe in our supposed insignificance. Confreres, permit me to impress on you the causes why, insignificant as we seem, we are really formidable. In the first place, we are few: the great mistake in

« VorigeDoorgaan »