Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

turned, with the same coldness—“it would be as wise to quarrel with these flowers because they have not the waving branches of the willow, as to be angry with me because I cannot feel like you. And if you are angry, that is no reason why I should be displeased with you, because you do not feel that you are unreasonable.”Valamour was highly displeased; but after recollecting himself awhile, he began to consider that his anger was useless, and might be absurd. If her supposed father's words were true, Ariette had no power to understand his feelings, unless he could infuse into her that human and tender spirit which her nature had denied her. There was something pleasant to his vanity in believing that this fair creature depended on him, as the cabalist said, for the gift of a soal, and for the length of her existence. He returned into her presence, determined to excuse the defects of her imperfect frame, and to remedy them if he could by kindness.

These defects were by no means so easy to endure as he had expected. The eternal level on which an ilnatured fairy condemned her victim to walk for thirty years under an unchanging blue sky, was an Eden compared to the dead calm of Ariette's temper.

And the most provoking part of this calmness was, that it showed itself most when he was in a rage. If he hunted, and returned in all the glee of a successful sportsman, she wanted to know the reason of his delight. If his friends or vassals fêted, or congratulated him, she analyzed their compliments, and could not find them reasonable. If he brought her a bouquet, or a gallant madrigal on her beauty, she laid the one aside as useless, and burned the other when she had read it, “ because," said she, “ that is all that can be done with it.” What a mortification for a poet! Valamour actually looked again into the cabalist's fragment, to read the words which hinted she could not live for ever.

It would have been well for Valamour, however, if all his wit had been as little regarded.

But certain persons at Aix-la-Chapelle had paid more attention to his jeux-d'esprit, and some rumours of the sagacious guesses he had made on political matters found their way to Versailles. The consequence was, a domiciliary visit to search for treasonous papers; seals of office were put on the doors of his villa, and a mandate was presented to him, requiring his attendance at the Secretary of State's bureau, under an Exempt's escort. He never doubted the willing attendance of his wife, and was confounded at her refusal. “ There can be no use in my stay with you in prison,” she said, “ therefore you ought not to be so unreasonable as to require it." -"What, madam ! you feel no necessity to prove your duty and attachment to me?”—“None at all, monsieur, unless you can prove that I have failed in either. I should only add to your distresses in Paris, and you to mine--I may be as well employed here, and shall stay where I am."-" There wanted only this to convince me the cabalist spoke the truth,” said the angry husband, and departed alone, satisfied that she neither had a soul, nor ever could have one: and he comforted himself again by remembering her term was short,

Our chevalier was accused of having asserted, that the celebrated prisoner in the iron mask was the lastborn twin-brother of Louis XIV.; and his impertinent conjecture was punished by a confiscation of his estate, and a decree of banishment. Permission, however, was granted him to sell the furniture and heir-looms of his patrimonial villa, and to visit it for ten days without official superintendence. He returned to the Provençal valley in extreme ill-humour; and much as he had been chagrined by his wife's coldness, he was glad to find some one forced to listen to his tale of grievances. She heard the sentence of exile and deprivation with admirable fortitude, but her husband would have been more pleased if she had raved at his enemies and deplored her ill-fortune. He wanted a pretext to scold and lament, and was angry that she seemed wiser than himself. He walked out to his favourite recess in the valley, and found the sacred rose-bushes torn up by the roots, the gates of his gardens broken, and all the outrages of petty and vulgar malice committed by the peasantry, now no longer his vassals." And why, said Ariette, who walked by his side,

are you heartstruck by this ?-Of what use to you were these men's acts of false servility, and what harm is there in their open hatred ? Let them show it as often as they will by such acts--they are only ills because you think then such. Feel them no longer, and you disappoint your enemies. They have had more trouble in pulling up these paltry thickets of roses than you had reason to value them."- “But my mother !-was it nothing to see a memorial of her goodness ?-I need it, madam, I assure you, to prevent me from growing ferocious.”

Very well, chevalier! and if you had no better reason for your goodness than the sight of a few rose-buds growing where your mother's died twenty years ago, your ferocity will be more honest and more natural."

Valamour's fury rose beyond his power of self-command, and he uttered all the bitter upbraidings his wit could devise; for anger and despair are oftener witty than love. They lasted half an hour without provoking a single retort from Ariette ; but as her watch, on which she looked with vexatious calmness, indicated the thirtieth minute, she dropped her veil, and turned to leave him. This act recalled to his mind the custom she had religiously observed before her marriage-he had never held her in passionate discourse so long after, and it cooled his emotion by reminding him of the strange circum tances connected with he haracter. While he hesitated, and thought of snatching off the mysterious veil, she retired in silence, sighing deeply." How intolerable is all this meekness !” said poor Valamour to himself—“ If she would be angry sometimes, I could be angry myself at my ease.”

At the supper-hour he found her sitting alone near a table, dressed with the graceful order of happier times. They were to depart to-morrow; and this parlourthis hearth which his childhood had endeared to him, the portrait of his father, the grave of both his parents seen in the soft moonlight, recalled all that was kind and good in Valamnour's temper. Ariette lifted up her veil, and seated herself at the head of the table, lighted only by the beams of the summer-moon. It touched her countenance with singular beauty, not rendered less affecting to her husband's eye by novelty, for this was the first time she had ever permitted herself to be seen by him in the moon's light.-" To-night," she began, breaking a long silence, " is the anniversary of our marriage, and the seventeenth since—but it is not yet time to speak of that.-You were displeased with me for paying but little attention to the rosetrees you respected— I planted another during your absence at Paris, and these are its first productionsperhaps they will not displease you, for they must die to-night.And smiling sorrowfully, but with great sweetness, she placed on the centre of the table a basket of white roses, and retired. Valamour was surprised and touched by her last words, and still more when, by drawing out a branch of the flowers, he discovered a large quantity of gold coin and several jewels beneath them. A leaf of ivory in a corner of the basket offered itself next to his notice, but the words pencilled on it made him forget every other part of the gift.

You have often asked me why I refused before our marriage to be seen by you in the moon's light. A follower of the Cabalist's Red Cross would tell you that souls are aptest to be communicated in her presence, therefore I declined the hazard then-and since our marriage you have not seemed disposed to give me any part of yours.--A veil must cover the remainder of my few days, for you have not wished to prolong them : but though I cannot give you life, I leave you the means of living nobly till your term is ended."

Valamour made but one step to his wife's apartment, and found it vacant. He was, as all-perplexed men are, extremely angry that he had not foreseen this event. Then he wondered at his own ill-temper and impatience; and though he had almost begun to hate his wife, was heartily chagrined at her sudden and final departure; for with all her provoking calmness, she

once more.

had been a convenient and patient subject of complaints and murmurs, when it suited him, as it sometimes suits every man, to find a passage for his spleen. In a few hours, all that was beautiful and uncommon in Ariette came thronging on his fancy: the last words of her letter began to alarm him, and he looked at his horoscope

By long and anxious references to the astrological books of her reputed father, he had discovered signs and combinations which informed him that his line of life was threatened on the day that deprived him of his wife. Our chevalier became dull, dejected, and sickened as if he had eaten of the Obipoison. In two or three months he was pronounced in a confirmed decline, and the best physicians attended him in vain. One of great eminence at Aix-la-Chapelle offered his services, and came with due ceremony into the sick man's room. When alone with him, he said, “ If you were a common hypochondriac, Valamour, I would force you to laugh by compounding certain medicines in your presence, and inducing those grave men, your other physicians, to taste them. But I shall try plain truth. Who am I?”

“ Erasmus Haller, a most learned and benevolent practitioner—the friend of sick and dying men.

I am also, or I was, the friend of your dead fatherin-law, and have some interest in the French court, which I have used to obtain a revocation of your sentence. This is my first medicine-my next is, to translate your horoscope truly. He who drew it was a sufficient cabalist, for he knew human nature wants no help from other elements. He saw you had been made afraid of ordinary women by a fierce stepmother, and tempted to look for extraordinary ones by old romances. So he devised this scheme of your nativity to ensure a good husband for his daughter. He told you, if she was a sylph or spirit, she had but a short term of certain life, and he thought,-how true and beautiful was that thought !—that you could not fail to treat her gently while you remembered she might die in another

« AnteriorContinuar »