Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

“Entretiens” to be printed in the order allusions in them, which must have of their composition, either in 1650, been meant to deceive. M. Quicherat the year when the “Carmina" appeared, has called attention to the fact that or a little later. As then in Entretien some of these explanations differ from iv. he passes from the epigram on roses those of subsequent commentators, parto the epigram on Xerxes, and from ticularly Wernsdorf; and it had occurred this to the supposed Neronian frag to me that the occasional extravagance ment, Burmann concluded that all of the commentary was designed to react three were found in the same MS.,—the in favour of the genuineness of the text, Codex Salmasianus. It is true that as, for instance, when Titii is supposed Burmann must have been a most super- by Balzac to allude to the “Tityon Terræ ficial reader, if, acquainted as he pro omniparentis alumnum ” of Virgil. But, fesses to be with the Latin letters of be this as it may, the two pages of Balzac, he did not discover in the very commentary devoted to the illustration same volume the poem containing the of the poems are incompatible with a forged fragment. I believe that, in belief in Balzac's honesty. Men do not credible as it may seem, this was the generally take the trouble to explain or case; though from the loose style in

quote passages to illustrate what they which he speaks of that volume know to be a forgery ; if they do take (ii. 645, and preface, p. xlvii.), it is the trouble, it is because they wish the possible that he speaks at second-hand. forgery to be thought true. M. Quicherat. Possible, but barely; else why parti endeavours to defend his countryman on cularize the pages, as in both cases he the plea that the chapter in the “Entrehas done? Perhaps he was misled as tiens” is a mere jeu d'esprit. Unfortuto the fragment by Balzac himself; for, nately, it is a jeu d'esprit which deceived in the sixth chapter of the same Entre a century of scholars. Vanity may have tien iv., Balzac mentions, d-propos of had something to do with this another epigram on a beauty losing a lock assui

suredly reprehensible pleasantry." of her hair, one of his own Latin poems The “Entretiens” were published postcontained in the identical volume humously; and this piece, as put forth of “Carmina” which gives the first during his own lifetime in the “ Cardraft of the supposed fragment. This mina,” is signed with his name, and fact might be thought to prove that could not impose upon anybody. But Balzac did not intend to deceive. I then the “Entretiens " is a work which have come to a different conclusion; he he was known to be preparing some meant to deceive, but to deceive with an years before his death, and which he appearance of honesty. His plan is mentions in his letters as forthcoming. sufficiently dexterous; very few readers The way in which the fragment is there in that age were likely to have both

introduced, is deliberately calculated to the “ Entretiens” and the “Carmina,” deceive; there is nothing to show that to test the truth of each by the other; he thought of suppressing the work; he and, without such a test, the natural has imposed upon posterity. inference from the mention of his The cleverness of the imposition is. own poems in the second case would acknowledged ; we will do our French be that they had nothing to do with neighbours the justice of confessing that the first, in which they were not the Latin verses of this Neroniau of mentioned. Moreover, there is a cir the seventeenth century would, in our cumstantiality in Balzac's way of judgment, have been no discredit to the speaking, not only of the lines as a period to which they profess to belong. whole, but of particular expressions and They might have been written, we à la Déesse Vénus, pour la donner au prophète think, by many Englishmen; they are Mahomet, et qui tiennent (c'est Busbequius better than most Latin verses of Gerqui le dit dans ses Relations) que les premières Roses sont nées de la sueur de ce grand Pro

man composition with which we are phète !" (p. 86.)

acquainted.

KHISMET.

" the sugges

ONE evening between five and six years you and your affairs deprived me of ago

I was engaged in that very unpala several hours of my natural rest last table occupation called chewing the cud night, and considerably impaired my of bitter fancy, and had just come to appetite for breakfast this morning; the conclusion that, if I had not reached but to-day, thank goodness, I see my the nadir of human misery, I must at way to helping you out of your diffileast have got pretty near it, when a culties, and I've come down to impart circumstance occurred quite suddenly the suggestion to you;- you must marry and unexpectedly, which not only at an heiress !" once infused a certain amount of sweet “Thanks!” I replied ; ness into my unpleasant ruminations, tion is good, but, I fear, purely chibut had the effect of tinging and altering merical. Unless I were to evolve an the whole course of my after-life as well. heiress out of my inner consciousness,

During the three months which im as the Germans say, I really do not see mediately preceded the time of which I where one is to come from." write, almost every conceivable species “Not so fast, Charley," returned my of misfortune had befallen me. My

cousin. “Leslie Foster has come to losses on the turf had been consider town; and I saw her to-day, and from able ; my beautiful yacht had been what transpired during that interview I wrecked ; my favourite mare had gone know that you can have her for tha dead lame; the girl to whom I was

asking." engaged had jilted me, and eloped with “Impossible !” I exclaimed, and true that personage popularly known as to the habits and instincts of my class, Another; and, worse than all, I had notwithstanding the golden vista opened just made the startling discovery that I before me, I shrank with a feeling very was terribly involved, so deeply dipped nearly akin to repugnance from the in that mare profundum called debt, idea of linking niyself to a woman who that I could see no chance, either proxi could thus suffer herself to be won unmate or remote, of ever being able to sought. “It is not to be done, Alice, extricate myself from my difficulties. not even for the money," I went on; Under these circumstances it will occa “ and even if it were, I am sure that sion no surprise if I add that I was either you are mistaken, or there must wont at this period to look at life be a screw loose somewhere." somewhat darkly; but on the even “Wrong in both surmises, Charley. ing in question I felt so peculiarly I know what I have told you to be the wretched that I had just begun to case; and for the rest, Leslie, though think that if I could hit upon any easy, not handsome, is one of the best and speedy way of making my exit from nicest girls possible. But you know the stage of existence—I objected to her, do you not ?" shooting myself, because it made so " That is to say, I have met her in much noise, and to prussic acid, because society, but I am bound to add I never it was so painful—I should be a fool if noticed her, and no more did she me, I did not avail myself of the discovery, I'll swear.” when the door opened, and my cousin “There you err again. She admires Mrs. Wynne entered the room, and thus you particularly, and thinks you so addressed me :

handsome ; not as young as you might "Do you know, Charley, thinking of be, perhaps, and rather too apt to look

66

as though everything bored you, but evening came, bringing her with it, and all the same, a very nice-looking fellow, I actually found myself in her presence, and she knows from me that you are a I felt my heart beating vigorously against very good one.

my waistcoat as I stood taking stock of Well, it's the strangest thing I ever her charms and countercharms, and heard of," I was beginning, but my trying to realize that the woman was cousin interrupted me by saying, “ Not before me with whom, as it appeared, so strange at all, if you knew the whole I was destined to spend the rest of my story. The fact is, she, like yourself, natural life. Luckily, however, I was was going to be married, but at the on the whole favourably impressed. eleventh hour the match was broken She had that indispensable requisite in off, and I do believe it is a feeling of a nice woman, a very soft, sweet voice; pique which makes her anxious to marry

besides which ber tongue was an organ now.

But as she is all I have repre which discoursed most excellent music; sented her to be, and you will have full and when upon dinner being announced control over her fortune if you take her, she rose like Venus from the foam I do not see what there is to prevent of a sea of white muslin-I was obliged its being a very happy ménage, after all ; to admit, that though not exactly pretty, for you know you were not touched in she was certainly very pleasant to look the other quarter, and have therefore at, as well as to listen to. a free and unoccupied heart to offer The dinner, during which she sat her."

opposite me—a grace before meat “Yes,” I replied, “that is quite true; passed off very well ; partly because but

we were a partie carrée, a circumstance But at the sound of that disagreeable which generally makes everything pretty little conjunction my cousin lost patience, square, but more particularly because and as she rose to leave the room she the conversation was general, and all said, “Well, Charley, if you choose to contributed their quota to it. But be a fool I can't help you. However, when we returned to the drawing-room, Leslie is coming here to-morrow to spend I had a different story to tell; for some weeks with me, so you can make shortly after we got there, Mr. Wynne up your mind between this and then; having fallen asleep behind his newsand as she is not to arrive until even paper, and his wife having pointedly ing, you'll have plenty of time to think left the room, my position became such the matter over.

an awkward one, that I began to feel Of course I did think the matter quite put out and embarrassed ; and in over; and as an inevitable logical se my abortive efforts to appear the reverse, quence, I also of course came finally to I felt painfully conscious that I was both the conclusion, that, though I had no looking and acting like a fool. vocation for marriage in the abstract, Now before I go further, I wish it to and an especial distaste for it in this be distinctly understood that I was particular instance, as beggars cannot not a fool by any means.

On the conbe choosers, it would be utter madness trary, my advice was constantly and for a poor devil in my position to eagerly sought for—so was my money throw away such a chance, and that too, unfortunately—and at school and it was therefore my bounden duty to in college I was considered a regular go in for the heiress, and win her if I sap. However, though I might be quite could. This was the decision I came at home in tracing Cæsar through the to; and in the solitude of my own mazes of an extinct topography—though room, as I was a tolerably cool hand on the unknown quantities of algebra were most occasions, I fancied that I should by no means unknown to me—though I be able not only to meet her, but also could get “Old Mother Hubbard " to to carry out my intentions with a calm, hobble, or rather, I should say, to glide unblushing front. But when the next most gracefully into Greek iambics-and

[ocr errors]

66

though the “calculus” was mere sport to

great dit as it was a long time since me, I was not at all equal to the emer he had heard her sing. Of course she gency of making small talk as became was obliged to comply with his request; an officer and a gentleman for this one and once he got her to the piano, not little woman-because I knew that her being in league with his wife, he kept bright eyes were fixed upon me scruti her there—asking for song after song, nizingly, as though she would fain read until it was time to retire. So the me through and through, and I felt that evening ended sweetly, if not harmoin her secret soul she was enjoying my niously, after all; and while listening confusion, and laughing at me all the to the music, which was really exquisite time.

of its kind, my temporary irritation But indeed it was not surprising that passed away, and I almost forgot that, she should have felt amused; for as instead of being amusing, I must have soon as my cousin had taken her depar- appeared to her a very heavy dragoon ture, this was how we comported our indeed. selves :

After an oppressive silence of several The next afternoon we went out to minutes' duration, Miss Foster at length ride, and for many succeeding days we exclaimed, “Do please say something, did the same thing. But my cousin Colonel Blayne !"

always accompanied us, and never again “ Ahem !” said I.

absented herself in the evening either, Oh, that is nothing !" said she. which was a much better arrangement, I coughed nervously.

seeing that we had not a word to say to “ Worse and worse !" she cried. each other which the whole world might

“It's very hot !” was my next at not hear, and her presence prevented the tempt.

awkwardness of a tête-à-tête. This state “I know it is; but I have heard of things lasted for ten days, but at the that said so often to-day that the remark expiration of that time Miss Foster got seems now to have quite a weather a telegram one morning, to say that an beaten aspect. Cannot you think of aunt of hers, to whom she was very something fresher and less meteor much attached, was dangerously ill; and ological to tell me ?"

as she had consequently to hasten off at "Are you fond of gardening ?” I once, any chance that might have existed asked in despair—for at that moment of my getting smitten with her was thus my unlucky eye chanced to light on nipped in the bud. But the worst fea

flowers, which suggested the ture in the case was, that she did not question.

come back. Days pas, ed away and “ Uncommonly. But let me remind merged into weeks, bu still she said you that the responsibility of enter- nothing about returning. And, meantaining me has been laid upon you, so while, the state of my affairs was beI expect you to be very brilliant. Please coming more desperate each day; so say something witty or funny; or if desperate indeed that I was at last you haven't anything of your own, you obliged to speak seriously to my cousin, can tell me some nice little historiette and beg of her to try and discover at or clever anecdote. I'm so fond of good once whether the heiress would honour stories of all kinds."

me with her hand or not. To my no I saw she was chaffing me to the small relief, however, the young lady top of her bent; and I was just about wrote by return of post to accept my to tell her so; but before I had time to proposal, and furthermore signified her carry out my intention, our host, having willingness to be married the following burst the chain of slumber by which he month! But she added that she did had been bound, suddenly roused up not like lovemaking; and as her aunt and petitioned for some music, adding, still required her care, she would not that he hoped she would give him a return until the day before the wedding,

some

.ce at

course, that

which she wished should tak

day, and now I must do so.

I know, the Wynnes.

of

you

married me merely Now I will not deny that this strange to extricate yourself from your embarmode of procedure astonished me so rassments; but as you broke no troth, much, that my fears about the loose and did not deceive me, and as you screw returned in full force; and had knew I was not an objectionable person my position been less critical, I do in any way, I think you were perfectly believe I should have been inclined justifiable in doing so. I had my own to draw back, even at the eleventh reasons for marrying you too; but, as hour. As it

was, however, I was you are aware, affection had nothing to obliged to let matters take their course. do with my motives any more than it But when the day drew near on which had with yours. However, we will let I was to sign the death-warrant of my that

pass;

what I want to say to you freedom, my spirits were by no means now is that my fortune, being for the exuberant, and I was filled with that most part at your disposal, I hope you sort of pity for myself which all men will at once pay all your debts with it, feel—except, of course, those who are and make yourself as happy as possible desperately in love-at the thought of in every respect. But under the circumbidding adieu to their bachelor days stances, though we can be the best of for ever, and making that terrible friends, we must both go our separate promise to forsake all others and keep ways in life. I have my own pursuits only unto one as long as they shall live. -you have yours; and we can follow All I can say of my marriage is that them without interfering with each it duly came off on the day appointed, other in any way, and that is what I and that immediately after the ceremony wish should be the case.” we started for Foster Hall, where I found She held down her head as she ceased Leslie's invalid aunt installed, and was speaking, and I did not answer at first, informed that she was not only to spend because, for some moments, I did not the honeymoon with us—just fancy a exactly know what she meant. But honeymoon with a third party !—but when her meaning did dawn upon me, was to live with us altogether. This it was in the very coldest of tones that was startling, and not particularly I replied, “Of course it shall be just as agreeable; but what struck me as more you please !” And before I had time strange than anything else was the to add another word, she had quitted change which had taken place in my the room. Well, time passed on, and I bride. The mocking light had left her am bound to say the chariot-wheels did eyes, she no longer chaffed me, and the not drive heavily either. Once my debts gaiety and brigʻitness of her manner were all paid, I felt as light as a bird ; had given place to a sort of grave and having always believed that if earnestness for which I was quite at wealth does not bring happiness, it at a loss to account. I fancied, too, several least brings an exceedingly good imitatimes during the day, that she was tion of it, I had no reason to change anxious to speak to me on some im my opinion then, when I found myself portant subject, but could not pluck the possessor of a charming house in up courage to do so; and that my town, ditto in the country, with as many surmise was correct events abundantly horses as I liked to keep, and, above proved, for about an hour after we all, the power of having my friends with reached our destination I was sitting me whenever and wherever I wished. alone in the drawing-room, gazing out Meanwhile

my

little wife remained just on the fair domain now all my own, the same as she had been at the comwhen she entered the room very softly, mencement of our married life, and was and coming up quite close to where I ever kind, but ever cold. She seemed was seated, she said, “I have been anxious to please me in all things, and wishing so much to speak to you all not only consulted my wishes, but on

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »