Imágenes de páginas
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

THERE appeared at Spa, in the lier was duly fascinated with her beau

year 1720, a young gentleman, ty, and took all the pains required in whose fine figure and good equipage the beginning of the eighteenth century created what is now called a great sen- to recommend himself. Not that he sation. He had all the wit and learn- fully understood his own meaning, for ing of that day; talked to the ladies of he had a most religious horror of a the plurality of worlds in the style of a woman's tongue, especially a wife's. junior Fontenelle, and quoted Montes- Linnæus himself, whom he partly requieu to the gentlemen. He dropped sembled in genius, was not more unone day from his pocket an extract fortunate in a shrewish mother than he from Voiture's correspondence which had been. His father's lady had comfurnished half the petit-maitres of Spa pelled him to sweep his own room, prewith pretty billets during the season. pare his own breakfast, and perhaps to Then he affected great knowledge of hem his cambric ruffles. Certainly state-mysteries : shook his head when this woman's violence of power had Prince Eugene was named; hinted at contributed to excite and fix his imagiQueen Anne's love for her brother, nation on the idea of a placid beauty and said something strange about the as the most perfect. And as he probaFrench lady whose accouchment took bly did not find one exactly realized in place in King James's palace, and was the common world, he read romances, foster-mother to his heir-apparent. As and especially the 6 Count de Gabathere is remarkable sympathy between lis," till he conceived something of the similar characters, the Chevalier Vala- kind might be found elsewhere. Arimour, as he chose to call himself, be- ette was more like the charming creacame very intimate with an obscure ture detained in the palace of silence watch-maker in the suburbs of Aix-la, by the King of the Fishes than any Chapelle. If this recluse had been the human female he had ever seen. She Emperor Charles V. in his watch- seemed to have chosen Madame Damaking frolic, he could not have known cier's motto, “ Silence is the ornament more of men and manners. He had of women;" if indeed she had a choice, also a surprising familiarity with the which certain mysterious motions of names of learned physicians, and now the father's head rendered doubtful. and then dropped mystic phrases of One thing was remarkable :-he could cabalistical import. He had a daugh- never prevail on her to shew herself ter whom he secreted in a corner of by moonlight, nor to lift her veil when his miserable house, and guarded with he had spoken to her half an hour. At the most anxious care. Our Cheva- the expiration of that time she always


dropped the light and elegant screen of then the power of sharing earthly hapblack silk net which was constantly at piness, and their partners, if they chuse, tached to her fine hair. This, and the may share with them that intellectual marble paleness of of Ariette's counte- soul which is the spirit of eternal life. nance. gave something of poetic sancti- Or if they so please, these husbands ty to her character, which her profound may content themselves with their somodesty and secluded mode of life ciety during the short period which the completed. He was often tempted to order of their nature permits them to propose himself to the ancient watch- exist in human shape-Ariette is, as I maker as a son-in-law, but his reve- humbly guess, a sylph or spirit of the rence for him as a man of science was purest element. For she has no internot quite enough to subdue the pride of est in the world's wealth, no delight in birth, and some hereditary fears of a its tumults, no capacity for ardent, jeawife's dominion. At length fear and lous, or hostile feelings. She thinks, pride gave ground, and the chevalier she acts, and she speaks, by the rule of made a suitable speech in the artist's reason ;-butstudy. To his great surprise, the ofier T he manuscript broke off, as if a was rejected, but with an air more in sudden sickness had arrested the wrisorrow than in anger. Ile repeated it, ter's hand. To whom this could be and was promised a month's considera- addressed, unless to him, was not to be tion. Before the end of that time, he conjectured, and Valamour went home was informed the watch-maker had in great agitation. The very few suffered an apoplectic stroke, and lay neighbours who had seen Ariette, celeat the point of death. He ran to him brated her domestic virtues, her chari

-the old man was expiring, and had ties, and unimpeachable prudence, duronly strength to put a small ring on his ing her residence of ten years' length finger before he breathed his last. The among them. He could judge for room was silent—there was no specta- himself of her grace and beauty: what tor but himsalf, and a crowd of alem- could he risque by marrying her ? If bies, phials, and chemical preparations, the Romaic manuscript was a fable, it lay in one corner. The suspicion he could no way harm him-if it stated had always entertained that the deceas- truths, it increased his chance of haped artist studied alchymy, and had piness. Valamour's heart was better probably discovered the long sought than his head ;-it prevailed, and he secret of creating gold, induced our married Ariette. chevalier to search into the heap under On his marriage-day, the bride's which rested a little iron box. He conduct gave some countenance to the soon perceived that the ring put on his dead cabalist's assertion. For instead finger by the dying man was contrived of the grateful tenderness which might to act as a key, and it readily unlocked have been expected to touch an orphan the coffer. There were in it only a raised from poverty to a noble rank, few mysterious calculations, and one Ariette shewed a reserved, calm, and on which a horoscope was constructed. gentle demeanour, which expressed Underneath it, in Romaic characters, more good sense than sensibility. Valhe decyphered words to this import. amour, however, was delighted with

“Niy art informs me you will find his prospect of escaping all the turthis parchment on which your nativity moils caused by an impatient spirit and is accurately traced. Ariette is not of enjoying perpetual serenity with a wife my nature, nor have I power to bestow altogether reasonable. On the third her. What her veil conceals I never day after their nuptials, the Chevalier knew, nor can I recollect any change conducted her to a carriage without in her aspect, though she has dwelt saying a word of its destination, which here many years; but I am at no loss she never enquired, and the next mornto guess her purpose. Sylphs, gnomes, ing brought them to a charming villa nymphs, and salamanders, are incapa- in the midst of a rich Provençal valley. ble of enjoying eternity, unless by mar. It was late in spring, but few flowers riage with a Christian. They have had made their appearance, except in a little recess near the Garonne, where temper. And the most provoking part a perfect bower of roses was spread of this calmness was, that it shewed it“ These," said he, 66 are all the off- self most when he was in a rage. If spring of a sprig planted by my mother, he hunted and returned in all the glee who won in her youth the Crown of of a successful sportsman, she wanted Roses given as a trophy of merit by to know the reason of his delight. If the owner of the Chateau de Salency. his friends or vassals fêted, or congratYou must have heard of that affecting ulated him, she analyzed their compliceremony, and I hold these rose-trees ments, and could not find them reasonas the best part of my patrimony."- able. If he brought her a bouquet, or - There is no reason for it,” she an- a gallant madrigal on her beauty, she swered coldly :-6 these roses are no laid the one aside as useless, and burnway conscious of their origin, nor a ed the other when she had read it, part of your mother's merit-if they“ because," said she, “ that is all that were, you have no right to it-If, in- can be done with it.” What a mortideed, they had been reared and nursed fication for a poet! Valamour actually for you by your grateful peasants, like looked again into the cabalist's fragthe roses of M. de Malesherbes, you ment, to read the words which hinted would have reason to be pleased with she could not live for ever. them."-Valamour was piqued at this It would have been well for Valareply, and obliquely reproached her mour, however, if-all his wit had been with a want of that feeling which in as little regarded. But certain persons such cases is more delightful than rea- at Aix-la-Chapelle had paid more atson,-" It is not my fault," she return- tention to his jeux-d'esprit, and some ed with the same coldness, it would rumours of the sagacious guesses he be as wise to quarrel with these flowers had made on political matters found because they have not the waving their way to Versailles. The consebranches of the willow, as to be angry quence was, a domiciliary visit to with me because I cannot feel like you. search for treasonous papers; seals of And if you are angry, that is no reason office were put on the doors of his villa, why I should be displeased with you, and a mandate was presented to him, because you do not feel that you are requiring his attendance at the Secreunreasonable." - Valamour was highly tary of State's bureau under an Exdispleased ; but after recollecting him- empt's escort. He never doubted the self awhile, he began to consider that willing attendance of his wife, and was his anger was useless, and might be confounded at her refusal. “ There absurd. If her supposed father's words can be no use in my stay with you in were true, Ariette had no power to un- prison," she said, “ therefore you ought derstand his feelings unless he could not to be so unreasonable as to require infuse into her that human and tender it." _ What, madam! you feel no nespirit which her nature had denied her. cessity to prove your duty and attachThere was something pleasant to his ment to me?"_“None at all, monvanity in believing that this fair crea- sieur, unless you can prove that I have ture depended on him, as the cabalist failed in either. I should only add to said, for the gift of a soul, and for the your distresses in Paris, and you to length of her existence. He returned mine-I may be as well employed into her presence, determined to ex- here, and shall stay where I am.”— cuse the defects of her imperfect frame, « There wanted only this to convince and to remedy them if he could by me the cabalist spoke truth," said the kindness.

angry husband, and departed alone, These defects were by no means so satisfied that she neither had a soul, easy to endure as he had expected. nor ever could have one : and he comThe eternal level on which an ill na- forted himself again by remembering tured fairy condemned her victim to her term was short. walk for thirty years under an un- Our Chevalier was accused of haychanging blue sky, was an Eden com- ing asserted, that the celebrated prisopared to the dead calm of Ariette's ner in the Iron Mask was the last-bora twin-brother of Louis XIV. and his tious calmness, indicated the thirtieth impertinent conjecture was punished minute, she dropped her veil, and turnby a confiscation of his estate and a ed to leave him. This act recalled to decree of banishment. Permission, his mind the custom she had religiously however, was granted him to sell the observed before her marriage - he had furniture and heir-looms of his patri- never held her in passionate discourse monial villa, and to visit it for ten days so long after, and it cooled his emotion without official superintendence. He by reminding him of the strange cirreturned to the Provençal valley in ex- cumstances connected with her charactreme ill-humour; and much as he had ter. While he hesitated and thought been chagrined by his wife's coldness, of snatching off the mysterious veil, she he was glad to find some one forced to retired in silence, sighing deeply. listen to his tale of grievances. She “ How intolerable is all this meekheard the sentence of exile and depri- ness!” said poor Valamour to himself vation with admirable fortitude, but —“ If she would be angry sometimes, her husband would have been more I could be angry myself at my ease.” pleased if she had raved at his enemies At the supper-hour he found her sitand deplored her ill-fortune. He ting alone near a table, dressed with wanted a pretext to scold and lament, the graceful order of happier times. and was angry that she seemed wiser They were to depart to-morrow; and than himself. He walked out to his this parlour-this hearth which his favourite recess in the valley, and found childhood had endeared to him, the the sacred rosebushes torn up by the portrait of his father, the grave of both roots, the gates of his gardens broken, his parents seen in the soft moonlight, and all the outrages of petty and vulgar recalled all that was kind and good in malice committed by the peasantry, Valamour's temper. Ariette lifted up now no longer his vassals." And her veil, and seated herself at the head why," said Ariette, who walked by his of the table, lighted only by the beams side, “ are you heart-struck by this ? of the summer-moon. It touched her Of what use to you were these men's countenance with singular beauty, not acts of false servility, and what harm is rendered less affecting to her husband's there in their open hatred ? Let them eye by novelty, for this was the first shew it as often as they will by such time she had ever permitted herself to acts—they are only ills because you be seen by him in the moon's light. " think them such-Feel them no longer, “ To-night,” she began, breaking a and you disappoint your enemies.- long silence, " is the anniversary of They have had more trouble in pulling our marriage, and the seventeenth since up these paltry thickets of roses than —but it is not yet time to speak of that. you had reason to value them.”—“ But – You were displeased with me for my mother !-was it nothing to see a paying but little attention to the rosememorial of her goodness ?-I need it, trees you respected-I planted another madam, I assure you, to prevent me during your absence at Paris, and these from growing ferocious.”_6 Very well, are its first productions—perhaps they chevalier! and if you had no better will not displease you, for they must die reason for your goodness than the sight to-night.And smiling sorrowfully, of a few rosebuds growing where your but with great sweetness, she placed on mother's died twenty years ago, your the centre of the table a basket of ferocity will be more honest and more white roses and retired.–Valamour natural.”

was surprised and touched by her last Valamour's fury rose beyond his words, and still more when, by drawpower of self-command, and he uttered ing out a branch of the flowers, he disall the bitter upbraidings his wit could covered a large quantity of gold coin, devise; for anger and despair are of- and several jewels beneath them. A tener more witty than love. They leaf of ivory in a corner of the basket lasted half an hour without provoking offered itself next to his notice, but the a single retort from Ariette ; but as her words pencilled on it made him forget watch, on which she looked with vexa- every other part of the gift.

“ You have often asked me why I and benevolent practitioner-the friend refused before our marriage to be seen of sick and dying men." by you in the moon's light. A follower “I am also, or I was, the friend of of the Cabalist's Red Cross would tell your dead father-in-law, and have some you that souls are aptest to be commu- interest in the French court, which I nicated in her presence, therefore I de- have used to obtain a revocation of clined the hazard then and since our your sentence. This is my first medimarriage you have not seemed disposed cine-my next is to translate your to give me any part of your's—A veil horoscope truly. He who drew it was must cover the remainder of my few a sufficient cabalist, for he knew hudays, for you have not wished to pro- man nature wants no help from other long them: but though I cannot give elements. He saw you had been made you life, I leave you the means of liv- afraid of ordinary women by a fierce ing nobly till your term is ended.” step-mother, and tempted to look for

Valamour made but one step to his extraordinary ones by old romances. wife's apartment, and found it vacant. So he devised this scheme of your naHe was, as all perplexed men are, ex- tivity to ensure a good husband for his tremely angry that he had not foreseen daughter. He told you, if she was a this event. Then he wondered at his sylph or spirit, she had but a short own ill-temper and impatience; and tern of certain life, and he thought, though he had almost begun to hate how true and beautiful was that thought! his wife, was heartily chagrined at her that you could not fail to treat her sudden and final departure; for with gently while you remembered she might all her provoking calmness, she had die in another moment. Who could been a convenient and patient subject be harsh or unjust to another, if that of complaints and murmurs, when it remembrance was always present, as it suited him, as it sometimes suits every ought, to all of us ?-He thought her man, to find a passage for his spleen. quiet character would suit your's, and In a few hours, all that was beautiful perhaps be animated by it, as he and uncommon in Ariette came throng- chose to hint in a poetic way, which ing on his fancy: the last words of her gave you, no doubt, much comfort and letter began to alarm him, and he look- encouragement. At least, like a wise ed at his horoscope once more. By father, he ensured your care of her by long and anxious references to knitting your line of life with her's. trological books of her reputed father, Come, forgive the cabalism, and be he had discovered signs and combina- content with a mere woman, composed, tions which informed him that his line as all the sex are, of both sylph and of life was threatened on the day that salamander. If she refused to go with deprived him of his wife. Our cheva- you to Paris, it was because she could lier became dull, dejected, and sicken- serve you better by coming to beg my ed as if he had eaten of the Obi-poison. help, and by selling her jewels to buy In two or three months he was pro- the court's pardon. And now she nounced in a confirmed decline, and comes to beg, not to buy, your's." the best physicians attended him in Ariette came in covered with her vain. One of great eminence at Aix- veil, and stood at a timid distance, la-Chapelle offered his services, and though beckoned forwards. came with due ceremony into the sick “Do you not see," said the good man's room. When alone with him, physician, “ the moon is waning, and he said, “ If you were a common hy- this is the moment when a gentle soul pochondriac, Valamour, I would force may be communicated !” you to laugh by compounding certain I give her mine fully and for ever," medicines in your presence, and induc- said her husband, “ if she drops that ing those grave men, your other phy- mysterious and cabalistic veil.” sicians, to taste them. But I shall try « Ah !” she replied, “ be prepared plain truth. Who am I?”

to see me with a different face-I wore “ Erasmus Haller, a .most learned it only when I felt my aspect changing

« AnteriorContinuar »