First published in 1862.
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The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005
You have not forgotten that nearly two years ago, before our business connection was thought of, this identical translation was ‘respectfully declined’ by you with that same courtesy, the exercise of which in frequent similar cases, each one of us now tries so hard to shove on the other’s shoulders. I hope that your surprise on reading this note of dedication will not interfere with your forgiving the pertinacity with which, through it, I still strive to make the book yours.
451 Broome Street, May 16, 1867.
* Published by Leypoldt & Holt.
On the 18th of May, 1859, M. Renault, formerly professor of physics and chemistry, now a landed proprietor at Fontainebleau, and member of the Municipal Council of that charming little city, himself carried to the post-office the following letter:—
“To Monsieur Leon Renault, Civil Engineer, Berlin, Prussia.
(To be kept at the Post-Office till called for.)
“My dear child:
“The good news you sent us from St. Petersburg caused us the greatest joy. Your poor mother had been ailing since winter, but I had not spoken to you about it from fear of making you uneasy while so far from home. As for myself, I had not been very well; and there was yet a third person (guess the name if you can!) who was languishing from not seeing you. But content yourself, my dear Leon: we have been recuperating more and more since the time of your return is almost fixed. We begin to believe that the mines of the Ural will not swallow up that which is dearer to us than all the world. Thank God! that fortune which you have so honorably and so quickly made will not have cost your life, nor even your health, since you tell us you have been growing fat off there in the desert. If you have not finished up all your business out there, so much the worse for you: there are three of us who have sworn that you shall never go back again. You will not find it hard to accede, for you will be happy among us. Such, at least, is the opinion of Clementine. . . . I forget that I was pledged not to name her. Master Bonnivet, our excellent neighbor, has not rested content with investing your funds in a good mortgage, but has also drawn up, in his leisure moments, a most edifying little indenture, which now lacks nothing but your signature. Our worthy mayor has ordered, on your account, a new official scarf, which is on the way from Paris. You will have the first benefit of it. Your apartment (which will soon belong to a plural ‘you’) is elegant, in proportion to your present fortune. You are to occupy. . . .; but the house has changed so in three years, that my description would be incomprehensible to you. M. Audret, the architect of the imperial chateau, directed the work. He actually wanted to construct me a laboratory worthy of Thénard or Duprez. I earnestly protested against it, and said that I was not yet worthy of one, as my celebrated work on the Condensation of Gases had only reached the fourth chapter. But as your mother was in collusion with the old scamp of a friend, it has turned out that science has henceforth a temple in our house — a regular sorcerer’s den, according to the picturesque expression of your old Gothon: it lacks nothing, not even a four-horse-power steam engine. Alas! what can I do with it? I am confident, nevertheless, that the expenditure will not be altogether lost to the world. You are not going to sleep upon your laurels. Oh, if I had only had your fortune when I had your youth! I would have dedicated my days to pure science, instead of losing the best part of them among those poor young men who got nothing from my lectures but an opportunity to read Paul de Kock. I would have been ambitious! — I would have striven to connect my name with the discovery of some great general law, or at least with the invention of some very useful apparatus. It is too late now; my eyes are worn out, and the brain itself refuses to work. Take your turn, my boy! You are not yet twenty-six, the Ural mines have given you the wherewithal to live at ease, and, for yourself alone, you have no further wants to satisfy; the time has come to work for humanity. That you will do so, is the strongest wish and dearest hope of your doting old father, who loves you and who waits for you with open arms.
“P. S. According to my calculations, this letter ought to reach Berlin two or three days before you. You have been already informed by the papers of the 7th inst. of the death of the illustrious Humboldt. It is a cause of mourning to science and to humanity. I have had the honor of writing to that great man several times in my life, and he once deigned to reply, in a letter which I piously cherish. If you happen to have an opportunity to buy some personal souvenir of him, a bit of his handwriting or some fragment of his collections, you will bring me a real pleasure.”
A month after the departure of this letter, the son so eagerly looked for returned to the paternal mansion. M. and Mme. Renault, who went to meet him at the depot, found him taller, stouter, and better-looking in every way. In fact, he was no longer merely a remarkable boy, but a man of good and pleasing proportions. Leon Renault was of medium height, light hair and complexion, plump and well made. His large blue eyes, sweet voice, and silken beard indicated a nature sensitive rather than powerful. A very white, round, and almost feminine neck contrasted singularly with a face bronzed by exposure. His teeth were beautiful, very delicate, a little inclined backward, and very evenly shaped. When he pulled off his gloves, he displayed two small and rather pudgey hands, quite firm and yet pleasantly soft, neither hot nor cold, nor dry nor damp, but agreeable to the touch and cared-for to perfection.
As he was, his father and mother would not have exchanged him for the Apollo Belvedere. They embraced him rapturously, overwhelming him with a thousand questions, most of which he, of course, failed to answer. Some old friends of the family, a doctor, an architect, and a notary, had run to the depot with the good old people; each one of them in turn gave him a hug, and asked him if he was well, and if he had had a pleasant journey. He listened patiently and even joyfully to this common-place music whose words did not signify much, but whose melody went to the heart because it came from the heart.
They had been there a good quarter of an hour, the train had gone puffing on its way, the omnibuses of the various hotels had started one after another at a good trot up the street leading to the city, and the June sun seemed to enjoy lighting up this happy group of excellent people. But Madame Renault cried out all at once that the poor child must be dying of hunger, and that it was barbarous to keep him waiting for his dinner any longer. There was no use in his protesting that he had breakfasted at Paris, and that the voice of hunger appealed to him less strongly than that of joy. They all got into two carriages, the son beside his mother, the father opposite, as if he could not keep his eyes off his boy. A wagon came behind with the trunks, long boxes, chests, and the rest of the traveller’s baggage. At the entrance of the town, the hackmen cracked their whips, the baggage-men followed the example, and this cheerful clatter drew the people to their doors and woke up for an instant the quietude of the streets. Madame Renault threw her glances right and left, searching out the spectators of her triumph, and saluting with most cordial affability people she hardly knew at all. And more than one mother saluted her, too, without knowing her; for there is no mother indifferent to such kinds of happiness, and, moreover, Leon’s family was liked by everybody. And the neighbors, meeting each other, said with a satisfaction free from jealousy:
“That is Renault’s son, who has been at work three years in the Russian mines, and now has come to share his fortune with his old parents.”
Leon also noticed several familiar faces, but not all that he wished to see. For he bent over an instant to his mother’s ear, saying: “And Clementine?” This word was pronounced so low and so close that M. Renault himself could not tell whether it was a word or a kiss. The good lady smiled tenderly, and answered but a single word: “Patience!” As if patience were a virtue very common among lovers!
The door of the house was wide open, and old Gothon was standing on the threshold. She raised her arms toward heaven and cried like a booby, for she had known Leon since he was not much higher than her wash-tub. There was now another formidable hugging on the upper step, between the good old servant and her young master. After a reasonable interval, the friends of M. Renault prepared to leave, but it was wasted pains; for they were assured that their places at table had already been prepared. And when all save the invisible Clementine were reassembled in the parlor, the great round-backed chairs held out their arms to the scion of the house of Renault; the old mirror on the mantle delighted to reflect his image; the great chandelier chimed a little song of welcome with its crystal pendants, and the mandarins on the etagére shook their heads in sign of welcome, as if they were orthodox penates instead of strangers and pagans. No one can tell why kisses and tears began to rain down again, but it certainly did seem as if he had once more just returned.
“Soup!” cried Gothon.
Madame Renault took the arm of her son, contrary to all the laws of etiquette, and without even apologizing to the honored guests present. She scarcely excused herself, even, for helping the son before the company. Leon let her have her own way, and took it all smilingly: there was not a guest there who was not ready to upset his soup over his waistcoat rather than taste it before Leon.
“Mother!” cried Leon, spoon in hand, “this is the first time for three years that I’ve tasted good soup.” Madame Renault felt herself blush with satisfaction, and Gothon was so overcome that she dropped a plate. Both fancied that possibly he had spoken to please their self-conceit; but nevertheless he spoke truly. There are two things in this world which a man does not often find away from home: the first is good soup; the second is disinterested love.
If I should attempt here an accurate enumeration of all the dishes that appeared on the table, there would not be one of my readers whose mouth would not water. I believe, indeed, that more than one delicate lady would be in danger of an attack of indigestion. Suppose, if you please, that such a list would reach nearly to the end of the volume, leaving me but a single page on which to write the marvellous history of Fougas. Therefore I forthwith return to the parlor, where coffee is already served.
Leon took scarcely half of his cup: but do not let that lead you to infer that the coffee was too hot, or too cold, or too sweet. Nothing in the world would have prevented his drinking it to the last drop, if a knock at the street-door had not stopped it just opposite his heart.
The minute which followed appeared to him interminable. Never in his travels had he encountered such a long minute. But at length Clementine appeared, preceded by the worthy Mlle. Virginie Sambucco, her aunt; and the mandarins who smiled on the etagére heard the sound of three kisses. Wherefore three? The superficial reader, who pretends to foresee things before they are written, has already found a very probable explanation. “Of course,” says he, “Leon was too respectful to embrace the dignified Mlle. Sambucco more than once, but when he came to Clementine, who was soon to become his wife, he very properly doubled the dose.” Now sir, that is what I call a premature judgment! The first kiss fell from the mouth of Leon upon the cheek of Mlle. Sambucco; the second was applied by the lips of Mlle. Sambucco to the right cheek of Leon; the third was, in fact, an accident that plunged two young hearts into profound consternation.
Leon, who was very much in love with his betrothed, rushed to her blindly, uncertain whether he would kiss her right cheek or her left, but determined not to put off too long a pleasure which he had been promising himself ever since the spring of 1856. Clementine did not dream of defending herself, but was fully prepared to apply her pretty rosy lips to Leon’s right cheek or his left, indifferently. The precipitation of the two young people brought it about that neither Clementine’s cheeks nor Leon’s received the offering intended for them. And the mandarins on the etagére, who fully expected to hear two kisses, heard but one. And Leon was confounded, and Clementine blushed up to her ears, and the two lovers retreated a step, intently regarding the roses of the carpet which will remain eternally graven upon their memories.
In the eyes of Leon Renault, Clementine was the most beautiful creature in the world. He had loved her for little more than three years, and it was somewhat on her account that he had taken the journey to Russia. In 1856 she was too young to marry, and too rich for an engineer with a salary of 2,400 francs to properly make pretentions to her hand. Leon, who was a good mathematician, proposed to himself the following problem: “Given — one young girl, fifteen and a half years old, with an income of 8,000 francs, and threatened with the inheritance from Mlle. Sambucco of, say 200,000 more:— to obtain a fortune at least equal to hers within such a period as will give her time enough to grow up, without leaving her time enough to become an old maid.” He had found the solution in the Ural mines.
During three long years, he had indirectly corresponded with the beloved of his heart. All the letters which he wrote to his father or mother, passed into the hands of Mlle. Sambucco, who did not keep them from Clementine. Sometimes, indeed, they were read aloud in the family, and M. Renault was never obliged to omit a phrase, for Leon never wrote anything which a young girl should not hear. The aunt and the niece had no other distractions; they lived retired in a little house at the end of a pretty garden, and received no one but old friends. Clementine, therefore, deserved but little credit for keeping her heart for Leon. With the exception of a big colonel of cuirassiers, who sometimes followed her in her walks, no man had ever made any demonstrations toward her.
She was very pretty withal, and not so merely to the eyes of her lover, or of the Renault family, or of the little city where she lived. Provincial towns are apt to be easily satisfied. They give the reputation of being a pretty woman or a great man, cheaply; especially when they are not rich enough in such commodities to show themselves over particular. In capitals, however, people claim to admire nothing but absolute merit. I have heard the mayor of a village say, with a certain pride: “Admit now, that my servant Catherine is right pretty, for a village of six hundred people!” Clementine was pretty enough to be admired in a city of eight hundred thousand. Fancy to yourself a little blonde creole, with black eyes, creamy complexion and dazzling teeth. Her figure was round and supple as a twig, and was finished off with dainty hands and pretty Andalusian feet, arched and beautifully rounded. All her glances were smiles, and all her movements caresses. Add to this, that she was neither a fool nor a prude, nor even an ignoramus like girls brought up in convents. Her education, which was begun by her mother, had been completed by two or three respectable old professors selected by M. Renault, who was her guardian. She had a sound heart, and a quick mind. But I may reasonably ask myself why I have so much to say about her, for she is still living; and, thank God! not one of her perfections has departed
About ten o’clock in the evening, Mlle. Virginie Sambucco said it was time to think of going home: the ladies lived with monastic regularity. Leon protested; but Clementine obeyed, though not without pouting a little. Already the parlor door was open, and the old lady had taken her hood in the hall, when the engineer, suddenly struck with an idea, exclaimed:
“You surely won’t go without helping me to open my trunks! I demand it of you as a favor, my good Mademoiselle Sambucco!”
The respectable lady paused: custom urged her to go; kindness inclined her to stay; an atom of curiosity swayed the balance.
“I’m so glad!” cried Clementine, replacing her aunt’s hood on the rack.
Mme. Renault did not yet know where they had put Leon’s baggage. Gothon came to say that everything had been thrown pell-mell into the sorcerer’s den, to remain there until Monsieur should point out what he wanted taken to his own room. The whole company, armed with lamps and candles, betook themselves to a vast room on the ground floor, where furnaces, retorts, philosophical instruments, boxes, trunks, clothes bags, hat boxes and the famous steam-engine, formed a confused and entertaining spectacle. The light played about this interior, as it appears to in certain pictures of the Dutch school. It glanced upon the great yellow cylinders of the electric machine, struck upon the long glass bottles, rebounded from two silver reflectors, and rested, in passing, upon a magnificent Fortin barometer. The Renaults and their friends, grouped in the midst of the boxes — some sitting, some standing, one holding a lamp, another a candle — detracted nothing from the picturesqueness of the scene.
Leon, with a bunch of little keys, opened the boxes one after another. Clementine was seated opposite him on a great oblong box, and watched him with all her eyes, more from affection than curiosity. They began by setting to one side two enormous square boxes which contained nothing but mineralogical specimens. After this they passed in review the riches of all kinds which the engineer had crowded among his linen and clothing.
A pleasant odor of Russia leather, tea from the caravans, Levant tobacco, and attar of roses soon permeated the laboratory. Leon brought forth a little at a time, as is the custom of all rich travellers who, on leaving home, left a family and good stock of friends behind. He exhibited, in turn, fabrics of the Asiatic looms, narghiles of embossed silver from Persia, boxes of tea, sherbets flavored with rose, precious extracts, golden webs from Tarjok, antique armor, a service of frosted silver of Toula make, jewelry mounted in the Russian style, Caucasian bracelets, necklaces of milky amber, and a leather sack full of turquoises such as they sell at the fair of Nijni Novgorod. Each object passed from hand to hand amid questions, explanations, and interjections of all kinds. All the friends present received the gifts intended for them. There was a concert of polite refusals, friendly urgings, and ‘thank-yous’ in all sorts of voices. It is unnecessary to say that much the greater share fell to the lot of Clementine; but she did not wait to be urged to accept them, for, in the existing state of affairs, all these pretty things would be but as a part of the wedding gifts — not going out of the family.
Leon had brought his father an exceedingly handsome dressing gown of a cloth embroidered with gold, some antiquarian books found in Moscow, a pretty picture by Greuze, which had been stuck out of the way, by the luckiest of accidents, in a mean shop at Gastinitvor; two magnificent specimens of rock-crystal, and a cane that had belonged to Humboldt. “You see,” said he to M. Renault, on handing him this historic staff, “that the postscript of your last letter did not fall overboard.” The old professor received the present with visible emotion.
“I will never use it,” said he to his son. “The Napoleon of science has held it in his hand: what would one think if an old sergeant like me should permit himself to carry it in his walks in the woods? And the collections? Were you not able to buy anything from them? Did they sell very high?”
“They were not sold,” answered Leon. “All were placed in the National Museum at Berlin. But in my eagerness to satisfy you, I made a thief of myself in a strange way. The very day of my arrival, I told your wish to a guide who was showing me the place. He told me that a friend of his, a little Jew broker by the name of Ritter, wanted to sell a very fine anatomical specimen that had belonged to the estate. I ran to the Jew’s, examined the mummy, for such it was, and, without any haggling, paid the price he asked. But the next day, a friend of Humboldt, Professor Hirtz, told me the history of this shred of a man, which had been lying around the shop for more than ten years, and never belonged to Humboldt at all. Where the deuce has Gothon stowed it? Ah! Mlle. Clementine is sitting on it.”
Clementine attempted to rise, but Leon made her keep seated.
“We have plenty of time,” said he, “to take a look at the old baggage; meanwhile you can well imagine that it is not a very cheerful sight. This is the history that good old Hirtz told me; he promised to send me, in addition, a copy of a very curious memoir on the same subject. Don’t go yet, my dear Mademoiselle Sambucco; I have a little military and scientific romance for you. We will look at the mummy as soon as I have acquainted you with his misfortunes.”
“Aha!” cried M. Audret, the architect of the chateau, “it’s the romance of the mummy, is it, that you’re going to tell us? Too late my poor Leon! Theophile Gautier has gotten ahead of you, in the supplement to the Moniteur, and all the world knows your Egyptian history.”
“My history,” said Leon, “is no more Egyptian than Manon Lescault. Our excellent doctor Martout, here, ought to know the name of professor John Meiser, of Dantzic; he lived at the beginning of this century, and I think that his last work appeared in 1824 or 1825.”
“In 1823,” replied M. Martout. “Meiser is one of the scientific men who have done Germany most honor. In the midst of terrible wars which drenched his country in blood, he followed up the researches of Leeuwenkoeck, Baker, Needham, Fontana, and Spallanzani, on the revivification of animals. Our profession honors in him, one of the fathers of modern biology.”
“Heavens! What ugly big words!” cried Mlle. Sambucco. “Is it decent to keep people till this time of night, to make them listen to Dutch.”
“Don’t listen to the big words, dear little auntey. Save yourself for the romance, since there is one.”
“A terrible one!” said Leon. “Mlle. Clementine is seated over a human victim, sacrificed to science by professor Meiser.”
Clementine instantly got up. Her fiancé handed her a chair, and seated himself in the place she had just left. The listeners, fearing that Leon’s romance might be in several volumes, took their places around him, some on boxes, some on chairs.
“Ladies,” said Leon, “Professor Meiser was no vulgar malefactor, but a man devoted to science and humanity. If he killed the French colonel who at this moment reposes beneath my coat tails, it was for the sake of saving his life, as well as of throwing light on a question of the deepest interest, even to each one of you.
“The duration of our existence is very much too brief. That is a fact which no man can contradict. We know that in a hundred years, not one of the nine or ten persons assembled in this house will be living on the face of the earth. Is not this a deplorable fact?”
Mlle. Sambucco heaved a heavy sigh, and Leon continued:
“Alas! Mademoiselle, like you I have sighed many a time at the contemplation of this dire necessity. You have a niece, the most beautiful and the most adorable of all nieces, and the sight of her charming face gladdens your heart. But you yearn for something more; you will not be satisfied until you have seen your little grand nephews trotting around. You will see them I earnestly believe. But will you see their children? It is doubtful. Their grandchildren? Impossible! In regard to the tenth, twentieth, thirtieth generation, it is useless even to dream.
“One will dream of it, nevertheless, and perhaps there is no man who has not said to himself at least once in his life: ‘If I could but come to life again in a couple of centuries!’ One would wish to return to earth to seek news of his family; another, of his dynasty. A philosopher is anxious to know if the ideas that he has planted will have borne fruit; a politician, if his party will have obtained the upper hand; a miser, if his heirs will not have dissipated the fortune he has made; a mere land-holder, if the trees in his garden will have grown tall. No one is indifferent to the future destinies of this world, which we gallop through in a few years, never to return to it again. Who has not envied the lot of Epimenides, who went to sleep in a cave, and, on reopening his eyes, perceived that the world had grown old? Who has not dreamed, on his own account, of the marvellous adventure of the sleeping Beauty in the wood?
“Well, ladies, Professor Meiser, one of the least visionary men of the age, was persuaded that science could put a living being to sleep and wake him up again at the end of an infinite number of years — arrest all the functions of the system, suspend life itself, protect an individual against the action of time for a century or two, and afterwards resuscitate him.”
“He was a fool then!” cried Madame Renault.
“I wouldn’t swear it. But he had his own ideas touching the main-spring which moves a living organism. Do you remember, good mother mine, the impression you experienced as a little girl, when some one first showed you the inside of a watch in motion? You were satisfied that there was a restless little animal inside the case, who worked twenty-four hours a day at turning the hands. If the hands stopped going, you said: ‘It is because the little animal is dead.’ Yet possibly he was only asleep.
“It has since been explained to you that a watch contains an assemblage of parts well fitted to each other and kept well oiled, which, being wound, can be considered to move spontaneously in a perfect correspondence. If a spring become broken, if a bit of the wheel work be injured, or if a grain of sand insinuate itself between two of the parts, the watch stops, and the children say rightly: ‘The little animal is dead.’ But suppose a sound watch, well made, right in every particular, and stopped because the machinery would not run from lack of oil; the little animal is not dead; nothing but a little oil is needed to wake him up.
“Here is a first-rate chronometer, made in London. It runs fifteen days without being wound. I gave it a turn of the key yesterday: it has, then, thirteen days to run. If I throw it on the ground, or if I break the main-spring, all is over. I will have killed the little animal. But suppose that, without damaging anything, I find means to withdraw or dry up the fine oil which now enables the parts to slip upon one another: will the little animal be dead? No! It will be asleep. And the proof is that I can lay my watch in a drawer, keep it there twenty-five years, and if, after a quarter of a century, I put a drop of oil on it, the parts will begin to move again. All that time would have passed without waking up the little sleeping animal. It will still have thirteen days to go, after the time when it starts again.
“All living beings, according to the opinion of Professor Meiser, are watches, or organisms which move, breathe, nourish themselves, and reproduce themselves as long as their organs are intact and properly oiled. The oil of the watch is represented in the animal by an enormous quantity of water. In man, for example, water provides about four-fifths of the whole weight. Given — a colonel weighing a hundred and fifty pounds, there are thirty pounds of colonel and a hundred and twenty pounds, or about sixty quarts, of water. This is a fact proven by numerous experiments. I say a colonel just as I would say a king; all men are equal when submitted to analysis.
“Professor Meiser was satisfied, as are all physiologists, that to break a colonel’s head, or to make a hole in his heart, or to cut his spinal column in two, is to kill the little animal; because the brain, the heart, the spinal marrow are the indispensable springs, without which the machine cannot go. But he thought too, that in removing sixty quarts of water from a living person, one merely puts the little animal to sleep without killing him — that a colonel carefully dried up, can remain preserved a hundred years, and then return to life whenever any one will replace in him the drop of oil, or rather the sixty quarts of water, without which the human machine cannot begin moving again.
“This opinion, which may appear inadmissible to you and to me too, but which is not absolutely rejected by our friend Doctor Martout, rests upon a series of reliable observations which the merest tyro can verify to-day. There are animals which can be resuscitated: nothing is more certain or better proven. Herr Meiser, like the Abbé Spallanzani and many others, collected from the gutter of his roof some little dried worms which were brittle as glass, and restored life to them by soaking them in water. The capacity of thus returning to life, is not the privilege of a single species: its existence has been satisfactorily established in numerous and various animals. The genus Volvox — the little worms or wormlets in vinegar, mud, spoiled paste, or grain-smut; the Rotifera — a kind of little shell-fish protected by a carapace, provided with a good digestive apparatus, of separate sexes, having a nervous system with a distinct brain, having either one or two eyes, according to the genus, a crystalline lens, and an optic nerve; the Tardigrades — which are little spiders with six or eight legs, separate sexes, regular digestive apparatus, a mouth, two eyes, a very well defined nervous system, and a very well developed muscular system; — all these die and revive ten or fifteen times consecutively, at the will of the naturalist. One dries up a rotifer: good night to him; somebody soaks him a little, and he wakes up to bid you good day. All depends upon taking great care while he is dry. You understand that if any one should merely break his head, no drop of water, nor river, nor ocean could restore him.
“The marvellous thing is, that an animal which cannot live more than a year, like the minute worm in grain-smut, can lie by twenty-four years without dying, if one has taken the precaution of desiccating him.
“Needham collected a lot of them in 1743; he presented them to Martin Folkes, who gave them to Baker, and these interesting creatures revived in water in 1771. They enjoyed a rare satisfaction in elbowing their own twenty-eighth generation. Wouldn’t a man who should see his own twenty-eighth generation be a happy grandfather?
“Another no less interesting fact is that desiccated animals have vastly more tenacity of life than others. If the temperature were suddenly to fall thirty degrees in this laboratory, we should all get inflammation of the lungs. If it were to rise as much, there would be danger of congestion of the brain. Well, a desiccated animal, which is not absolutely dead, and which will revive to-morrow if I soak it, faces with impunity, variations of ninety-five degrees and six-tenths. M. Meiser and plenty of others have proved it.
“It remains to inquire, then, if a superior animal, a man for instance, can be desiccated without any more disastrous consequences than a little worm or a tardigrade. M. Meiser was convinced that it is practicable; he wrote to that effect in all his books, although he did not demonstrate it by experiment.
“Now where would be the harm in it, ladies? All men curious in regard to the future, or dissatisfied with life, or out of sorts with their contemporaries, could hold themselves in reserve for a better age, and we should have no more suicides on account of misanthropy. Valetudinarians, whom the ignorant science of the nineteenth century declares incurable, needn’t blow their brains out any more; they can have themselves dried up and wait peaceably in a box until Medicine shall have found a remedy for their disorders. Rejected lovers need no longer throw themselves into the river; they can put themselves under the receiver of an air pump, and make their appearance thirty years later, young, handsome and triumphant, satirizing the age of their cruel charmers, and paying them back scorn for scorn. Governments will give up the unnatural and barbarous custom of guillotining dangerous people. They will no longer shut them up in cramped cells at Mazas to complete their brutishness; they will not send them to the Toulon school to finish their criminal education; they will merely dry them up in batches — one for ten years, another for forty, according to the gravity of their deserts. A simple store-house will replace the prisons, police lock-ups and jails. There will be no more escapes to fear, no more prisoners to feed. An enormous quantity of dried beans and mouldy potatoes will be saved for the consumption of the country.
“You have, ladies, a feeble delineation of the benefits which Doctor Meiser hoped to pour upon Europe by introducing the desiccation of man. He made his great experiment in 1813 on a French colonel — a prisoner, I have been told, and condemned as a spy by court-martial. Unhappily he did not succeed; for I bought the colonel and his box for the price of an ordinary cavalry horse, in the dirtiest shop in Berlin.”
“My dear Leon,” said M. Renault, “you remind me of a college commencement. We have listened to your dissertation just as they listen to the Latin discourse of the professor of rhetoric; there are always in the audience a majority which learns nothing from it, and a minority which understands nothing of it. But every body listens patiently, on account of the sensations which are to come by and by. M. Martout and I are acquainted with Meiser’s works, and those of his distinguished pupil, M. Pouchet; you have, then, said too much that is in them, if you intended to speak for our benefit; and you have not said enough that is in them for these ladies and gentlemen who know nothing of the existing discussions regarding the vital and organic principles.
“Is life a principle of action which animates the organs and puts them into play? Is it not, on the contrary, merely the result of organization — the play of various functions of organized matter? This is a problem of the highest importance, which would interest the ladies themselves, if one were to place it plainly before them. It would be sufficient to say: ‘We inquire whether there is a vital principle — the source of all functions of the body, or if life be not merely the result of the regular play of the organs? The vital principle, in the eyes of Meiser and his disciple, does not exist; if it really existed, they say, one could not understand how it can leave a man and a tardigrade when they are desiccated, and return to them again when they are soaked.’ Now, if there be no vital principle, all the metaphysical and moral theories which have been hypothecated on its existence, must be reconstructed. These ladies have listened to you patiently, it is but justice to them to admit; but all that they have been able to gather from your slightly Latinish discourse, is that you have given them a dissertation instead of the romance you promised. But we all forgive you for the sake of the mummy you are going to show us. Open the colonel’s box.”
“We’ve well earned the sight!” cried Clementine, laughing.
“But suppose you were to get frightened?”
“I’d have you know, sir, that I’m not afraid of anybody, not even of live colonels!”
Leon took his bunch of keys and opened the long oak box on which he had been seated. The lid being raised, they saw a great leaden casket which enclosed a magnificent walnut box carefully polished on the outside, and lined on the inside with white silk, and padded. The others brought their lamps and candles near, and the colonel of the 23d of the line appeared as if he were in a chapel illuminated for his lying in state.
One would have said that the man was asleep. The perfect preservation of the body attested the paternal care of the murderer. It was truly a remarkable preparation, and would have borne comparison with the finest European mummies described by Vicq d’Azyr in 1779, and by the younger Puymaurin in 1787.
The part best preserved, as is always the case, was the face. All the features had maintained a proud and manly expression. If any old friend of the colonel had been present at the opening of the third box, he would have recognized him at first sight.
Undoubtedly the point of the nose was a little sharper, the nostrils less expanded and thinner, and the bridge a little more marked than in the year 1813. The eyelids were thinned, the lips pinched, the corners of the mouth drawn down, the cheek bones too prominent, and the neck visibly shrunken, which exaggerated the prominence of the chin and larynx. But the eyelids were closed without contraction, and the sockets much less hollow than one could have expected; the mouth was not at all distorted like the mouth of a corpse; the skin was slightly wrinkled but had not changed color; it had only become a little more transparent, showing, after a fashion, the color of the tendons, the fat and the muscles, wherever it rested directly upon them. It also had a rosy tint which is not ordinarily seen in embalmed corpses. Doctor Martout explained this anomaly by saying that if the colonel had actually been dried alive, the globules of the blood were not decomposed, but simply collected in the capillary vessels of the skin and subjacent tissues where they still preserved their proper color, and could be seen more easily than otherwise, on account of the semi-transparency of the skin.
The uniform had become much too large, as may be readily understood; though it did not seem, at a casual glance, that the members had become deformed. The hands were dry and angular, but the nails, although a little bent inward toward the root, had preserved all their freshness. The only very noticeable change was the excessive depression of the abdominal walls, which seemed crowded downward toward the posterior side; at the right, a slight elevation indicated the place of the liver. A tap of the finger on the various parts of the body, produced a sound like that from dry leather. While Leon was pointing out these details to his audience and doing the honors of his mummy he awkwardly broke off the lower part of the right ear, and a little piece of the Colonel remained in his hand.
This trifling accident might have passed unnoticed, had not Clementine, who followed with visible emotion all the movements of her lover, dropped her candle and uttered a cry of affright. All gathered around her. Leon took her in his arms and carried her to a chair. M. Renault ran after salts. She was as pale as death, and seemed on the point of fainting.
She soon recovered, however, and reassured them all by a charming smile.
“Pardon me,” she said, “for such a ridiculous exhibition of terror; but what Monsieur Leon was saying to us . . . and then . . . that figure which seemed sleeping . . . it appeared to me that the poor man was going to open his mouth and cry out when he was injured.”
Leon hastened to close the walnut box, while M. Martout picked up the piece of ear and put it in his pocket. But Clementine, while continuing to smile and make apologies, was overcome by a fresh accession of emotion and melted into tears. The engineer threw himself at her feet, poured forth excuses and tender phrases, and did all he could to console her inexplicable grief. Clementine dried her eyes, looked prettier than ever, and sighed fit to break her heart, without knowing why.
“Beast that I am!” muttered Leon, tearing his hair. “On the day when I see her again after three years’ absence, I can think of nothing more soul-inspiring than showing her mummies!” He launched a kick at the triple coffin of the Colonel, saying: “I wish the devil had the confounded Colonel!”
“No!” cried Clementine with redoubled energy and emotion. “Do not curse him, Monsieur Leon! He has suffered so much! Ah! poor, poor unfortunate man!”
Mlle. Sambucco felt a little ashamed. She made excuses for her niece, and declared that never, since her tenderest childhood, had she manifested such extreme sensitiveness. M. and Mme. Renault, who had seen her grow up; Doctor Martout who had held the sinecure of physician to her; the architect, the notary, in a word, everybody present was plunged into a state of absolute stupefaction. Clementine was no sensitive plant. She was not even a romantic school girl. Her youth had not been nourished by Anne Radcliffe, she did not trouble herself about ghosts, and she would go through the house very tranquilly at ten o’clock at night without a candle. When her mother died, some months before Leon’s departure, she did not wish to have any one share with her the sad satisfaction of watching and praying in the death-chamber.
“This will teach us,” said the aunt, “how to stay up after ten o’clock. What! It is midnight, all to quarter of an hour! Come, my child; you will get better fast enough after you get to bed.”
Clementine arose submissively, but at the moment of leaving the laboratory she retraced her steps, and with a caprice more inexplicable than her grief, she absolutely wished to see the mummy of the colonel again. Her aunt scolded in vain; in spite of the remarks of Mlle. Sambucco and all the persons present, she reopened the walnut box, kneeled down beside the mummy and kissed it on the forehead.
“Poor man!” said she, rising, “How cold he is! Monsieur Leon, promise me that if he is dead you will have him laid in consecrated ground!”
“As you please, Mademoiselle. I had intended to send him to the anthropological museum, with my father’s permission; but you know that we can refuse you nothing.”
They did not separate as gaily, by a good deal, as they had met. M. Renault and his son escorted Mlle. Sambucco and her niece to their door, and met the big colonel of cuirassiers who had been honoring Clementine with his attentions. The young girl tenderly pressed the arm of her betrothed and said: “Here is a man who never sees me without sighing. And what sighs! Gracious Heavens! It wouldn’t take more than two to fill the sails of a a ship. The race of colonels has vastly degenerated since 1813. One doesn’t see any more such fine looking ones as our unfortunate friend.”
Leon agreed with all she said. But he did not exactly see how he had become the friend of a mummy for which he had just paid twenty-five louis. To divert the conversation, he said to Clementine: “I have not yet shown you all the nice things I brought. His majesty, the Emperor of all the Russias, made me a present of a little enamelled gold star hanging at the end of a ribbon. Do you like button-hole ribbons?”
“Oh, yes!” answered she, “the red ribbon of the Legion of Honor. Did you notice? The poor colonel still has a shred of one on his uniform, but the cross is there no longer. Those wicked Germans tore it away from him when they took him prisoner!”
“It’s very possible,” said Leon.
When they reached Mlle. Sambucco’s house, it was time to separate. Clementine offered her hand to Leon, who would have been better pleased with her cheek.
Father and son returned home arm in arm, with slow steps, giving themselves up to endless conjectures regarding the whimsical emotions of Clementine.
Mme. Renault was waiting to put her son to bed; a time-honored and touching habit which mothers do not early lose. She showed him the handsome apartment above the parlor and M. Renault’s laboratory, which had been prepared for his future domicile.
“You will be as snug in here as a little cock in a pie,” said she, showing him a bed-chamber fairly marvellous in its comfort. “All the furniture is soft and rounded, without a single angle. A blind man could walk here without any fear of hurting himself. See how I understand domestic comfort! Why, each arm-chair can be a friend! This will cost you a trifle. Penon Brothers came from Paris expressly. But a man ought to be comfortable at home, so that he may have no temptation to go abroad.”
This sweet motherly prattle stretched itself over two good hours, and much of it related to Clementine, as you will readily suppose. Leon had found her prettier than he had dreamed her in his sweetest visions, but less loving. “Devil take me!” said he, blowing out his candle; “One might think that that confounded stuffed Colonel had come to thrust himself between us.”
Leon learned to his cost, that a good conscience and a good bed are not enough to insure a good sleep. He was bedded like a sybarite, innocent as an Arcadian shepherd, and, moreover, tired as a soldier after a forced march; nevertheless a dull sleeplessness weighed upon him until morning. In vain he tossed into every possible position, as if to shift the burden from one shoulder on to the other. He did not close his eyes until he had seen the first glimmering of dawn silver the chinks of his shutters.
He lulled himself to sleep thinking of Clementine; an obliging dream soon showed him the image of her he loved. He saw her in bridal costume, in the chapel of the imperial chateau. She was leaning on the arm of the elder M. Renault, who had put spurs on in honor of the ceremony. Leon followed, having given his arm to Mlle. Sambucco; the ancient maiden was decorated with the insignia of the Legion of Honor. On approaching the altar, the bridegroom noticed that his father’s legs were as thin as broomsticks, and, when he was about expressing his astonishment, M. Renault turned around and said to him: “They are thin because they are desiccated; but they are not deformed.” While he was giving this explanation, his face altered, his features changed, he shot out a black moustache, and grew terribly like the Colonel. The ceremony began. The choir was filled with tardigrades and rotifers as large as men and dressed like choristers: they intoned, in solemn measure, a hymn of the German composer, Meiser, which began thus:
The vital principle
Is a gratuitous hypothesis!
The poetry and the music appeared admirable to Leon; he was trying to impress them on his memory when the officiating priest advanced toward him with two gold rings on a silver salver. This priest was a colonel of cuirassiers in full uniform. Leon asked himself when and where he had met him. It was on the previous evening before Clementine’s door. The cuirassier murmured these words: “The race of colonels has vastly degenerated since 1813.” He heaved a profound sigh, and the nave of the chapel, which was a ship-of-the-line, was driven over the water at a speed of forty knots. Leon tranquilly took the little gold ring and prepared to place it on Clementine’s finger, but he perceived that the hand of his betrothed was dried up; the nails alone had retained their natural freshness. He was frightened and fled across the church, which he found filled with colonels of every age and variety. The crowd was so dense that the most unheard-of efforts failed to penetrate it. He escapes at last, but hears behind him the hurried steps of a man who tries to catch him. He doubles his speed, he throws himself on all-fours, he gallops, he neighs, the trees on the way seem to fly behind him, he no longer touches the earth. But the enemy comes up faster than the wind; Leon hears the sound of his steps, his spurs jingle; he catches up with Leon, seizes him by the mane, flings himself with a bound upon his back, and goads him with the spur. Leon rears; the rider bends over toward his ear and says, stroking him with his whip: “I am not heavy to carry:— thirty pounds of colonel.” The unhappy lover of Mlle. Clementine makes a violent effort and springs sideways; the Colonel falls and draws his sword. Leon loses no time; he puts himself on guard and fights, but almost instantly feels the Colonel’s sword enter his heart to the hilt. The chill of the blade spreads further and further, and ends by freezing Leon from head to foot. The Colonel draws nearer and says, smiling: “The main-spring is broken; the little animal is dead.” He puts the body in the walnut box, which is too short and too narrow. Cramped on every side, Leon struggles, strains and wakes himself up, worn out with fatigue and half smothered between the bed and the wall.
He quickly jumped into his slippers and eagerly raised the windows and pushed open the shutters. “He made light, and saw that it was good,” as is elsewhere written. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Brrroum! He shook off the recollections of his dream as a wet dog shakes off drops of water. The famous London chronometer told him that it was nine o’clock. A cup of chocolate, served by Gothon, helped not a little to untangle his ideas. On proceeding with his toilet, in a very bright, cheerful and convenient dressing-room, he reconciled himself to the realities of life. “Everything considered,” he said to himself, combing out his yellow beard, “nothing but happiness has come to me. Here I am in my native country, with my family and in a pretty house which is our own. My father and mother are both well, and, for myself, I revel in the most luxuriant health. Our fortune is moderate, but so are our tastes, and we shall never feel the want of anything. Our friends received me yesterday with open arms; and as for enemies we have none. The prettiest girl in Fontainebleau is willing to become my wife; I can marry her in less than three weeks if I see fit to hurry things a little. Clementine did not meet me as if I were of no interest to her; far from it. Her lovely eyes smiled upon me last night with the most tender regard. It is true that she wept at the end, that’s too certain. That is my only vexation, my only anxiety, the sole cause of that foolish dream I had last night. She did weep, but why? Because I was beast enough to regale her with a lecture, and that, too, about a mummy. All right! I’ll have the mummy buried; I’ll hold back my dissertations, and nothing else in the world will come to disturb our happiness.”
He went down stairs, humming an air from the Nozze. M. and Mme. Renault, who were not accustomed to going to bed after midnight, were still asleep. On going into the laboratory, he saw that the triple box of the Colonel was closed. Gothon had placed a little wooden cross and a sprig of consecrated box on the cover. “We may as well begin masses for his soul,” he murmured between his teeth, with a smile that might have been a little sceptical. At the same time he noticed that Clementine, in her agitation, had forgotten the presents he had brought her. He made a bundle of them, looked at his watch, and concluded that there would be no indiscretion in straining a point to go to Mlle. Sambucco’s .
The much-to-be-respected aunt was an early riser, as they generally are in the rural districts, and had, in fact, already gone out to church, and Clementine was gardening near the house. She ran to her lover without thinking of throwing down the little rake she held in her hand, and with the sweetest smile in the world, held up her pretty rosy cheeks which were a little moist and flushed by the pleasant warmth of pleasure and exercise.
“Aren’t you put out with me?” said she. “I was very ridiculous last night. My aunt has scolded me in the bargain. And I forgot to take the pretty things you brought me from among the savages! But it was not from lack of appreciation. I am so happy to see that you have always thought of me as I have thought of you! I could have sent for them to-day, but I am pleasantly anticipated. My heart told me that you would come yourself.”
“Your heart knew me, dear Clementine.”
“It would be very unfortunate if it did not know its owner.”
“How good you are, and how much I love you!”
“Oh! I, too, dear Leon, I love you dearly.”
She stood the rake against a tree, and hung upon the arm of her intended husband with that supple and languishing grace, the secret of which the creoles possess.
“Come this way” said she, “so that I can show you all the improvements we have made in the garden.”
Leon admired everything she wanted him to. The fact is that he had eyes for nothing but her. The grotto of Polyphemus and the cave of Cæcus would have appeared to him pleasanter than the gardens of Armida, if Clementine’s little red jacket had been promenading in them.
He asked her if she did not feel some regret in leaving so charming a retreat, and one which she had embellished with so much care.
“Why?” asked she, without thinking to blush. “We will not go far off, and, besides, won’t we come here every day?”
The coming marriage was a thing so well settled, that it had not even been spoken of on the previous evening. Nothing remained to be done but to publish the bans and fix the date. Clementine, simple and honest heart, expressed herself without any false modesty concerning an event so entirely expected, so natural and so agreeable. She had expressed her tastes to Mme. Renault in the arrangement of the new apartments, and chosen the hangings herself; and she no longer made any ceremony in talking with her intended of the happy life in common which was about beginning for them, of the people they would invite to the marriage ceremony, of the wedding calls to be made afterwards, of the day which should be appropriated for receptions and of the time they would devote to each other’s society and to work. She inquired in regard to the occupation which Leon intended to make for himself, and the hours which, of preference, he would give to study. This excellent little woman would have been ashamed to bear the name of a sloth, and unhappy in passing her days with an idler. She promised Leon in advance, to respect his work as a sacred thing. On her part she thoroughly intended to make her time also of use, and not to live with folded arms. At the start she would take charge of the housekeeping, under the direction of Madame Renault, who was beginning to find it a little burdensome. And then would she not soon have children to care for, bring up and educate? This was a noble and useful pleasure which she did not intend to share with any one. Nevertheless she would send her sons to college, in order to fit them for living in the world, and to teach them early those principles of justice and equality which are the foundation of every good manly character. Leon let her talk on, only interrupting her to agree with her: for these two young people who had been educated and brought up with the same ideas, saw everything with the same eyes. Education had created this pleasant harmony rather than Love.
“Do you know” said Clementine, “that I felt an awful palpitation of the heart when I entered the room where you were yesterday?”
“If you think that my heart beat less violently than yours —”
“Oh! but it was a different thing with me: I was afraid.”
“I was afraid that I should not find you the same as I had seen you in my thoughts. Remember that it had been three years since we bid each other good bye. I remembered distinctly what you were when you went away, and, with imagination helping memory a little, I had reconstructed my Leon entire. But if you had no longer resembled him! What would have become of me in the presence of a new Leon, when I had formed the pleasant habit of loving the other?”
“You make me tremble. But your first greeting reassured me in advance.”
“Tut, sir! Don’t speak of that first greeting, or you will make me blush a second time. Let us speak rather of that poor colonel who made me shed so many tears. How is he getting along this morning?”
“I forgot to inquire after his health, but if you want me to —”
“It’s useless. You can announce to him a visit from me to-day. It is absolutely necessary that I should see him this noon.”
“You would be very sensible to give up this fancy. Why expose yourself again to such painful emotions?”
“The fancy is stronger than I am. Seriously, dear Leon, the old fellow attracts me.”
“Why ‘old fellow?’ He has the appearance of a man who died when from twenty-five to thirty years of age.”
“Are you very sure that he is dead? I said ‘old fellow’ because of a dream I had last night.”
“Ha! You too?”
“Yes. You remember how agitated I was on leaving you, and, moreover, I had been scolded by my aunt. And, too, I had been thinking of terrible sights — my poor mother lying on her death-bed. In fact, my spirits were quite broken down.”
“Poor dear little heart!”
“Nevertheless, as I did not want to think about anything any more, I went to bed quickly, and shut my eyes with all my might, so tightly, indeed, that I put myself to sleep. It was not long before I saw the colonel. He was lying as I saw him in his triple coffin, but he had long white hair and a most benign and venerable appearance. He begged us to put him in consecrated ground, and we carried him, you and I, to the Fontainebleau cemetery. On reaching my mother’s tomb we saw that the stone was displaced. My mother, in a white robe, was moved so as to make a place beside her, and she seemed waiting for the colonel. But every time we attempted to lay him down, the coffin left our hands and rested suspended in the air, as if it had no weight. I could distinguish the poor old man’s features, for his triple coffin had become as transparent as the alabaster lamp burning near the ceiling of my chamber. He was sad, and his broken ear bled freely. All at once he escaped from our hands, the coffin vanished, and I saw nothing but him, pale as a statue, and tall as the tallest oaks of the bas-Breau. His golden epaulettes spread out and became wings, and he raised himself to heaven, holding over us both hands as if in blessing. I woke up all in tears, but I have not told my dream to my aunt, for she would have scolded me again.”
“No one ought to be scolded but me, Clementine dear. It is my fault that your gentle slumbers are troubled by visions of the other world. But all this will be stopped soon: to-day I am going to seek a definite receptacle for the Colonel.”
Clementine had a fresh young heart. Before knowing Leon, she had loved but one person — her mother. No cousins of either sex, nor uncles, nor aunts, nor grandfathers, nor grandmothers, had dissipated, by dividing it among themselves, that little treasure of affection which well-constituted children bring into the world. The grandmother, Clementine Pichon, was married at Nancy in January, 1814, and died three months later in the suburbs of Toulon, during her first confinement. The grandfather, M. Langevin, a sub-commissary of the first class, being left a widower, with a daughter in the cradle, devoted himself to bringing up his child. He gave her, in 1835, to M. Sambucco, an estimable and agreeable man, of Italian extraction, born in France, and King’s counsel in the court of Marseilles. In 1838 M. Sambucco, who was a man of considerable independence, because he had resources of his own, in some manner highly honorable to himself, incurred the ill-will of the Keeper of the Seals. He was therefore appointed Advocate-General to Martinique, and after some days of hesitation, accepted the transfer to that remote situation. But old M. Langevin did not easily console himself for the departure of his daughter: he died two years later without having embraced the little Clementine, to whom it was intended that he should be godfather. M. Sambucco, his son-in-law, lost his life in 1843, during an earthquake. The papers of the colony and of the metropolis related at the time how he had fallen a victim to his devotion to others. After this fearful misfortune, the young widow hastened to recross the sea with her daughter. She settled in Fontainebleau, in order that the child might live in a healthy atmosphere. Fontainebleau is one of the healthiest places in France. If Mme. Sambucco had been as good a manager as she was mother, she would have left Clementine a respectable fortune, but she regulated her affairs badly and got herself under heavy embarrassments. A neighboring notary relieved her of a round sum; and two farms which she had paid dearly for, brought her almost nothing. In short, she no longer knew what her situation was, and began to lose all control of it, when a sister of her husband, an old maid, pinched and pious, expressed a desire to live with her and use their resources in common. The arrival of this long-toothed spinster strangely frightened the little Clementine, who hid herself under the furniture and nestled among her mother’s skirts; but it was the salvation of the house. Mlle. Sambucco was not one of the most spirituelle nor one of the most romantic of women, but she was Order incarnated. She reduced the expenses, handled the resources herself, sold the two farms in 1847, bought some three-per-cents. in 1848, and restored stable equilibrium in the budget. Thanks to the talents and activity of this female steward, the gentle and improvident widow had nothing to do but to fondle her child. Clementine learned to honor the virtues of her aunt, but she adored her mother. When she had the affliction of losing her, she found herself alone in the world, leaning on Mlle. Sambucco, like a young plant on a prop of dry wood. It was then that her friendship for Leon glimmered with a vague ray of love; and young Renault profited by the necessity for expansion which filled this youthful soul.
During the three long years that Leon spent away from her, Clementine scarcely knew that she was alone. She loved and felt that she was loved in return; she had faith in the future, and an inner life of tenderness and timid hope; and this noble and gentle heart required nothing more.
But what completely astonished her betrothed, her aunt and herself, and strangely subverted all the best accredited theories respecting the feminine heart — what, indeed, reason would have refused to credit had it not been established by facts, was that the day when she again met the husband of her choice, an hour after she had thrown herself into Leon’s arms with a grace so full of trust, Clementine was so abruptly invaded by a new sentiment which was not love, nor friendship, nor fear, but transcended them all and spoke with master tones in her heart.
From the instant when Leon had shown her the figure of the Colonel, she had been seized by an actual passion for this nameless mummy. It was nothing like what she felt towards young Renault, but it was a combination of interest, compassion and respectful sympathy.
If any one had recounted some famous feat of arms, or some romantic history of which the Colonel had been the hero, this impression would have been natural, or, at least, explicable. But she knew nothing of him except that he had been condemned as a spy by a council of war, and yet she dreamed of him the very night after Leon’s return.
This inexplicable prepossession at first manifested itself in a religious form. She caused a mass to be said for the repose of the Colonel’s soul, and urged Leon to make preparations for the funeral, herself selecting the ground in which he was to be interred. These various cares never caused her to omit her daily visit to the walnut box, or the respectful bending of the knee before the body, or the sisterly or filial kiss which she regularly placed upon its forehead. The Renault family soon became uneasy about such strange symptoms, and hastened the interment of the attractive unknown, in order to relieve themselves of him as soon as possible. But the day before the one fixed for the ceremony, Clementine changed her mind.
“By what right could they shut in the tomb a man who, possibly, was not dead? The theories of the learned Doctor Meiser were not such that one could reject them without examination. The matter was at least worthy of a few days’ reflection. Was it not possible to submit the Colonel’s body to some experiments? Professor Hirtz, of Berlin, had promised to send some valuable documents concerning the life and death of this unfortunate officer: nothing ought to be undertaken before they were received; some one ought to write to Berlin to hasten the sending of these papers.”
Leon sighed, but yielded uncomplainingly to this new caprice, and wrote to M. Hirtz.
Clementine found an ally in this second campaign in Doctor Martout. Though he was but an average practitioner and disdained the acquisition of practice far too much, M. Martout was not deficient in knowledge. He had long been studying five or six great questions in physiology, such as reanimation, spontaneous generation and the topics connected with them. A regular correspondence kept him posted in all recent discoveries; he was the friend of M. Pouchet, of Rouen; and knew also the celebrated Karl Nibor, who has carried the use of the microscope into researches so wide and so profound. M. Martout had desiccated and resuscitated thousands of little worms, rotifers and tardigrades; he held that life is nothing but organization in action, and that the idea of reviving a desiccated man has nothing absurd about it. He gave himself up to long meditations when Professor Hirtz sent from Berlin the following document, the original of which is filed among the manuscripts of the Humboldt collection.
On this 20th day of January, 1824, being worn down by a cruel malady and feeling the approach of the time when my person shall be absorbed in the Great All;
I have written with my own hand this testament which is the expression of my last will.
I appoint as executor my nephew Nicholas Meiser, a wealthy brewer in the city of Dantzic.
I bequeath my books, papers and scientific collections of all kinds, except item 3712, to my very estimable and learned friend, Herr Von Humboldt.
I bequeath all the rest of my effects, real and personal, valued at 100,000 Prussian thalers or 375,000 francs, to Colonel Pierre Victor Fougas, at present desiccated, but living, and entered in my catalogue opposite No. 3712 (Zoology).
I trust that he will accept this feeble compensation for the ordeals he has undergone in my laboratory, and the service he has rendered to science.
Finally, in order that my nephew Nicholas Meiser may exactly understand the duties I leave him to perform, I have resolved to inscribe here a detailed account of the desiccation of Colonel Fougas, my sole heir.
It was on the 11th of November in that unhappy year 1813, that my relations with this brave young man began. I had long since quitted Dantzic, where the noise of cannon and the danger from bombs had rendered all labor impossible, and retired with my instruments and books under the protection of the Allied Armies in the fortified town of Liebenfeld. The French garrisons of Dantzic, Stettin, Custrin, Glogau, Hamburg and several other German towns could not communicate with each other or with their native land; meanwhile General Rapp was obstinately defending himself against the English fleet and the Russian army. Colonel Fougas was taken by a detachment of the Barclay de Tolly corps, as he was trying to pass the Vistula on the ice, on the way to Dantzic. They brought him prisoner to Liebenfeld on the 11th of November, just at my supper time, and Sergeant Garok, who commanded in the village, forced me to be present at the examination and act as interpreter.
The open countenance, manly voice, proud firmness and fine carriage of the unfortunate young man won my heart. He had made the sacrifice of his life. His only regret, he said, was having stranded so near port, after passing through four armies; and being unable to carry out the Emperor’s orders. He appeared animated by that French fanaticism which has done so much harm to our beloved Germany. Nevertheless I could not help defending him; and I translated his words less as an interpreter than as an advocate. Unhappily, they found upon him a letter from Napoleon to General Rapp, of which I preserved a copy:
“Abandon Dantzic, break the blockade, unite with the garrisons of Stettin, Custrin and Glogau, march along the Elbe, arrange with St. Cyr and Davoust to concentrate the forces scattered at Dresden, Forgau, Wittenberg, Magdeburg and Hamburg; roll up an army like a snow ball; cross Westphalia, which is open, and come to defend the line of the Rhine with an army of 170,000 Frenchmen which you will have saved!
This letter was sent to the headquarters of the Russian army, whilst a half-dozen illiterate soldiers, drunk with joy and bad brandy, condemned the brave Colonel of the 23d of the line to the death of a spy and a traitor. The execution was fixed for the next day, the 12th, and M. Pierre Victor Fougas, after having thanked and embraced me with the most touching sensibility, (He is a husband and a father.) was shut up in the little battlemented tower of Liebenfeld, where the wind whistles terribly through all the loopholes.
The night of the 11th and 12th of November was one of the severest of that terrible winter. My self-registering thermometer, which hung outside my window with a southeast exposure, marked nineteen degrees below zero, centigrade. I went early in the morning to bid the Colonel a last farewell, and met Sergeant Garok, who said to me in bad German:
“We won’t have to kill the Frantzouski, he is frozen to death.”
I ran to the prison. The colonel was lying on his back, rigid. But I found after a few minutes’ examination, that the rigidity of the body was not that of death. The joints, though they had not their ordinary suppleness, could be bent and extended without any great effort. The limbs, the face, and the chest gave my hands a sensation of cold, but very different from that which I had often experienced from contact with corpses.
Knowing that he had passed several nights without sleep, and endured extraordinary fatigues, I did not doubt that he had fallen into that profound and lethargic sleep which is superinduced by intense cold, and which if too far prolonged slackens respiration and circulation to a point where the most delicate physiological tests are necessary to discover the continuance of life. The pulse was insensible; at least my fingers, benumbed with cold, could not feel it. My hardness of hearing (I was then in my sixty-ninth year) prevented my determining by auscultation whether the beats of the heart still aroused those feeble though prolonged vibrations which the ear continues to hear some time after the hand fails to detect them.
The colonel had reached that point of torpor produced by cold, where to revive a man without causing him to die, requires numerous and delicate attentions. Some hours after, congelation would supervene, and with it, impossibility of restoration to life.
I was in the greatest perplexity. On the one hand I knew that he was dying on my hands by congelation; on the other, I could not, by myself, bestow upon him the attentions that were indispensable. If I were to administer stimulants without having him, at the same time, rubbed on the trunk and limbs by three or four vigorous assistants, I would revive him only to see him die. I had still before my eyes the spectacle of that lovely young girl asphyxiated in a fire, whom I succeeded in reviving by placing burning coals under the clavicles, but who could only call her mother, and died almost immediately, in spite of the administration of internal stimulants and electricity for inducing contractions of the diaphragm and heart.
And even if I should succeed in bringing him back to health and strength, was not he condemned by court-martial? Did not humanity forbid my rousing him from this repose akin to death, to deliver him to the horrors of execution?
I must confess that in the presence of this organism where life was suspended, my ideas on reanimation took, as it were, fresh hold upon me. I had so often desiccated and revived beings quite elevated in the animal scale, that I did not doubt the success of the operation, even on a man. By myself alone I could not revive and save the Colonel; but I had in my laboratory, all the instruments necessary to desiccate him without assistance.
To sum up, three alternatives offered themselves to me. I. To leave the Colonel in the crenellated tower, where he would have died the same day of congelation. II. To revive him by stimulants, at the risk of killing him. And for what? To give him up, in case of success, to inevitable execution. III. To desiccate him in my laboratory with the quasi certainty of resuscitating him after the restoration of peace. All friends of humanity will doubtless comprehend that I could not hesitate long.
I had Sergeant Garok called, and I begged him to sell me the body of the Colonel. It was not the first time that I had bought a corpse for dissection, so my request excited no suspicion. The bargain concluded, I gave him four bottles of kirsch-wasser, and soon two Russian soldiers brought me Colonel Fougas on a stretcher.
As soon as I was alone with him, I pricked one of his fingers: pressure forced out a drop of blood. To place it under a microscope between two plates of glass was the work of a minute. Oh, joy! The fibrin was not coagulated. The red globules appeared cleanly circular, flattened, biconcave, and without notches, indentations or spheroidal swellings. The white globules changed their shape, taking at intervals the spherical form, and varying their shapes again by delicate expansions. I was not deceived then, it was a torpid man that I had under my eyes, and not a dead one!
I placed him on a pair of scales. He weighed one hundred and forty pounds, clothing included. I did not care to undress him, for I had noticed that animals desiccated directly in contact with the air, died oftener than those which remained covered with moss and other soft materials, during the ordeal of desiccation.
My great air-pump, with its immense platform, its enormous oval wrought-iron receiver, which a rope running on a pulley firmly fixed in the ceiling easily raised and lowered by means of a windlass — all these thousand and one contrivances which I had so laboriously prepared in spite of the railleries of those who envied me, and which I felt desolate at seeing unemployed, were going to find their use! Unexpected circumstances had arisen at last to procure me such a subject for experiment, as I had in vain endeavored to procure, while I was attempting to reduce to torpidity dogs, rabbits, sheep and other mammals by the aid of freezing mixtures. Long ago, without doubt, would these results have been attained if I had been aided by those who surrounded me, instead of being made the butt of their railleries; if our authorities had sustained me with their influence instead of treating me as a subversive spirit.
I shut myself up tête-à-tête with the Colonel, and took care that even old Getchen, my housekeeper, now deceased, should not trouble me during my work. I had substituted for the wearisome lever of the old fashioned air-pumps, a wheel arranged with an eccentric which transformed the circular movement of the axis into the rectilinear movement required by the pistons: the wheel, the eccentric, the connecting rod, and the joints of the apparatus all worked admirably, and enabled me to do everything by myself. The cold did not impede the play of the machine, and the lubricating oil was not gummed: I had refined it myself by a new process founded on the then recent discoveries of the French savant M. Chevreul.
Having extended the body on the platform of the air-pump, lowered the receiver and luted the rim, I undertook to submit it gradually to the influence of a dry vacuum and cold. Capsules filled with chloride of calcium were placed around the Colonel to absorb the water which should evaporate from the body, and to promote the desiccation.
I certainly found myself in the best possible situation for subjecting the human body to a process of gradual desiccation without sudden interruption of the functions, or disorganization of the tissues or fluids. Seldom had my experiments on rotifers and tardigrades been surrounded with equal chances of success, yet they had always succeeded. But the particular nature of the subject and the special scruples imposed upon my conscience, obliged me to employ a certain number of new conditions, which I had long since, in other connections, foreseen the expediency of. I had taken the pains to arrange an opening at each end of my oval receiver, and fit into it a heavy glass, which enabled me to follow with my eye the effects of the vacuum on the Colonel. I was entirely prevented from shutting the windows of my laboratory, from fear that a too elevated temperature might put an end to the lethargy of the subject, or induce some change in the fluids. If a thaw had come on, all would have been over with my experiment. But the thermometer kept for several days between six and eight degrees below zero, and I was very happy in seeing the lethargic sleep continue, without having to fear congelation of the tissues.
I commenced to produce the vacuum with extreme slowness, for fear that the gases distributed through the blood, becoming free on account of the difference of their tension from that of rarified air, might escape in the vessels and so bring on immediate death. Moreover, I watched, every moment, the effects of the vacuum on the intestinal gases, for by expanding inside in proportion as the pressure of the air diminished outside of the body, they could have caused serious disorders. The tissues might not have been entirely ruptured by them, but an internal lesion would have been enough to occasion death in a few hours after reanimation. One observes this quite frequently in animals carelessly desiccated.
Several times, too rapid a protrusion of the abdomen put me on my guard against the danger which I feared, and I was obliged to let in a little air under the receiver. At last, the cessation of all phenomena of this kind satisfied me that the gases had disappeared by exosmose or had been expelled by the spontaneous contraction of the viscera. It was not until the end of the first day that I could give up these minute precautions, and carry the vacuum a little further.
The next day, the 13th, I pushed the vacuum to a point where the barometer fell to five millimetres. As no change had taken place in the position of the body or limbs, I was sure that no convulsion had been produced. The colonel had been desiccated, had become immobile, had lost the power of performing the functions of life, without death having supervened, and without the possibility of returning to activity having departed. His life was suspended, not extinguished.
Each time that a surplus of watery vapor caused the barometer to ascend, I pumped. On the 14th, the door of my laboratory was literally broken in by the Russian General, Count Trollohub, who had been sent from headquarters. This distinguished officer had run in all haste to prevent the execution of the colonel and to conduct him into the presence of the Commander in Chief. I loyally confessed to him what I had done under the inspiration of my conscience; I showed him the body through one of the bull’s-eyes of the air-pump; I told him that I was happy to have preserved a man who could furnish useful information to the liberators of my country; and I offered to resuscitate him at my own expense if they would promise me to respect his life and liberty. The General, Count Trollohub, unquestionably a distinguished man, but one of an exclusively military education, thought that I was not speaking seriously. He went out slamming the door in my face, and treating me like an old fool.
I set myself to pumping again, and kept the vacuum at a pressure of from three to five millimetres for the space of three months. I knew by experience that animals can revive after being submitted to a dry vacuum and cold for eighty days.
On the 12th of February 1814, having observed that for a month no modification had taken place in the shrinking of the flesh, I resolved to submit the Colonel to another series of operations, in order to insure more perfect preservation by complete desiccation. I let the air re-enter by the stop-cock arranged for the purpose, and, after raising the receiver, proceeded at once to my experiment.
The body did not weigh more than forty-six pounds; I had then reduced it nearly to a third of its original weight. It should be borne in mind that the clothing had not lost as much water as the other parts. Now the human body contains nearly four-fifths of its own weight of water, as is proved by a desiccation thoroughly made in a chemical drying furnace.
I accordingly placed the Colonel on a tray, and, after sliding it into my great furnace, gradually raised the temperature to 75 degrees, centigrade. I did not dare to go beyond this heat, from fear of altering the albumen and rendering it insoluble, and also of taking away from the tissues the capacity of reabsorbing the water necessary to a return to their functions.
I had taken care to arrange a convenient apparatus so that the furnace was constantly traversed by a current of dry air. This air was dried in traversing a series of jars filled with sulphuric acid, quick-lime and chloride of calcium.
After a week passed in the furnace, the general appearance of the body had not changed, but its weight was reduced to forty pounds, clothing included. Eight days more brought no new decrease of weight. From this, I concluded that the desiccation was sufficient. I knew very well that corpses mummified in church vaults for a century or more, end by weighing no more than a half-score of pounds, but they do not become so light without a material alteration in their tissues.
On the 27th of February, I myself placed the colonel in the boxes which I had had made for his occupancy. Since that time, that is to say during a space of nine years and eleven months, we have never been separated. I carried him with me to Dantzic. He stays in my house. I have never placed him, according to his number, in my zoological collection; he remains by himself, in the chamber of honor. I do not grant any one the pleasure of re-using his chloride of calcium. I will take care of you till my dying day, Oh Colonel Fougas, dear and unfortunate friend! But I shall not have the joy of witnessing your resurrection. I shall not share the delightful emotions of the warrior returning to life. Your lachrymal glands, inert to-day, but some day to be reanimated, will not pour upon the bosom of your old benefactor, the sweet dew of recognition. For you will not recover your life until a day when mine will have long since departed! Perhaps you will be astonished that I, loving you as I do, should have so long delayed to draw you out of this profound slumber. Who knows but that some bitter reproach may come to taint the tenderness of the first offices of gratitude that you will perform over my tomb! Yes! I have prolonged, without any benefit to you, an experiment of general interest to others. I ought to have remained faithful to my first intention, and restored your life, immediately after the signature of peace. But what! Was it well to send you back to France when the sun of your fatherland was obscured by our soldiers and allies? I have spared you that spectacle — one so grievous to such a soul as yours. Without doubt you would have had, in March, 1815, the consolation of again seeing that fatal man to whom you had consecrated your devotion; but are you entirely sure that you would not have been swallowed up with his fortune, in the shipwreck of Waterloo?
For five or six years past, it has not been your welfare nor even the welfare of science, that prevented me from reanimating you, it has been. . . . Forgive me, Colonel, it has been a cowardly attachment to life. The disorder from which I am suffering, and which will soon carry me off, is an aneurism of the heart; violent emotions are interdicted to me. If I were myself to undertake the grand operation whose process I have traced in a memorandum annexed to this instrument, I would, without any doubt, succumb before finishing it; my death would be an untoward accident which might trouble my assistants and cause your resuscitation to fail.
Rest content! You will not have long to wait, and, moreover, what do you lose by waiting? You do not grow old, you are always twenty-four years of age; your children are growing up, you will be almost their contemporary when you come to life again. You came to Liebenfeld poor, you are now in my house poor, and my will makes you rich. That you may be happy also, is my dearest wish.
I direct that, the day after my death, my nephew, Nicholas Meiser, shall call together, by letter, the ten physicians most illustrious in the kingdom of Prussia, that he shall read to them my will and the annexed memorandum, and that he shall cause them to proceed without delay, in my own laboratory, to the resuscitation of Colonel Fougas. The expenses of travel, maintenance, etc., etc., shall be deducted from the assets of my estate. The sum of two thousand thalers shall be devoted to the publication of the glorious results of the experiment, in German, French and Latin. A copy of this pamphlet shall be sent to each of the learned societies then existing in Europe.
In the entirely unexpected event of the efforts of science being unable to reanimate the Colonel, all my effects shall revert to Nicholas Meiser, my sole surviving relative.
John Meiser, M. D.
Doctor Hirtz of Berlin, who had copied this will himself, apologized very politely for not having sent it sooner. Business had obliged him to travel away from the Capital. In passing through Dantzic, he had given himself the pleasure of visiting Herr Nicholas Meiser, the former brewer, now a very wealthy land-owner and heavy holder of stocks, sixty-six years of age. This old man very well remembered the death and will of his uncle, the savant; but he did not speak of them without a certain reluctance. Moreover, he said that immediately after the decease of John Meiser, he had called together ten physicians of Dantzic around the mummy of the Colonel; he showed also a unanimous statement of these gentlemen, affirming that a man desiccated in a furnace cannot in any way or by any means return to life. This certificate, drawn up by the professional competitors and enemies of the deceased, made no mention of the paper annexed to the will. Nicholas Meiser swore by all the Gods (but not without visibly coloring) that this document concerning the methods to be pursued in resuscitating the Colonel, had never been known by himself or his wife. When interrogated regarding the reasons which could have brought him to part with a trust as precious as the body of M. Fougas, he said that he had kept it in his house fifteen years with every imaginable respect and care, but that at the end of that time, becoming beset with visions and being awakened almost every night by the Colonel’s ghost coming and pulling at his feet, he concluded to sell it for twenty crowns to a Berlin amateur. Since he had been rid of this dismal neighbor, he had slept a great deal better, but not entirely well yet; for it had been impossible for him to forget the apparition of the Colonel.
To these revelations, Herr Hirtz, physician to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent of Prussia, added some remarks of his own. He did not think that the resuscitation of a healthy man, desiccated with precaution, was impossible in theory; he thought also, that the process of desiccation indicated by the illustrious John Meiser was the best to follow. But in the present case, it did not appear to him probable that Colonel Fougas could be called back to life; the atmospheric influences and the variations of temperature which he had undergone during a period of forty six years, must have altered the fluids and the tissues.
This was also the opinion of M. Renault and his son. To quiet Clementine’s excitement a little, they read to her the concluding paragraphs of Prof. Hirtz’ letter. They kept from her John Meiser’s will, which could have done nothing but excite her. But the little imagination worked on without cessation, do what they would to quiet it. Clementine now sought the company of Doctor Martout, she held discussions with him and wanted to see experiments in the resuscitation of rotifers. When she got home again, she would think a little about Leon and a great deal about the Colonel. The project of marriage was still entertained, but no one ventured to speak about the publication of the bans. To the most touching endearments of her betrothed, the young fiancée responded with disquisitions on the vital principle. Her visits to the Renaults’ house were paid less to the living than to the dead. All the arguments they put in use to cure her of a foolish hope served only to throw her into a profound melancholy. Her beautiful complexion grew pale, the brilliancy of her glance died away. Undermined by a hidden disorder, she lost the amiable vivacity which had appeared to be the sparkling of youth and joy. The change must have been very noticeable, for even Mlle. Sambucco, who had not a mother’s eyes, was troubled about it.
M. Martout, satisfied that this malady of the spirit would not yield to any but a moral treatment, came to see her one morning, and said:
“My dear child, although I cannot well explain to myself the great interest that you take in this mummy, I have done something for it and for you. I am going to send the little piece of ear that Leon broke off to M. Karl Nibor.”
Clementine opened all her eyes.
“Don’t you understand me?” continued the Doctor. “The thing is, to find out whether the humors and tissues of the Colonel have undergone material alterations. M. Nibor, with his microscope, will tell us the state of things. One can rely upon him: he is an infallible genius. His answer will tell us if it be well to proceed to the resuscitation of our man, or whether nothing is left but to bury him.”
“What!” cried the young girl. “One can tell whether a man is dead or living, by sample?”
“Nothing more is required by Doctor Nibor. Forget your anxieties, then, for a week. As soon as the answer comes, I will give it to you to read. I have stimulated the curiosity of the great physiologist: he knows absolutely nothing about the fragment I send him. But if, to suppose an impossibility, he tells us that the piece of ear belongs to a sound being, I will beg him to come to Fontainebleau and help us restore his life.”
This vague glimmer of hope dissipated Clementine’s melancholy, and brought back her buoyant health. She again began to sing and laugh and flutter about the garden at her aunt’s, and the house at M. Renault’s. The tender communings began again, the wedding was once more talked over, and the first ban was published.
“At last,” said Leon, “I have found her again.”
But Madame Renault, that wise and cautious mother, shook her head sadly.
“All this goes but half well,” said she. “I do not like to have my daughter-in-law so absorbed with that handsome dried-up fellow. What are we to expect when she knows that it is impossible to bring him to life again? Will the black butterflies1 then fly away? And suppose they happen, by a miracle, to reanimate him! are you sure she will not fall in love with him? Indeed, Leon must have thought it very necessary to buy this mummy, and I call it money well invested!”
1 Black butterflies, a French expression that we might tastefully substitute for blue devils.
One Sunday morning M. Martout rushed in upon the old professor, shouting victory.
Here is the answer which had come to him from Paris:—
“My dear confrère:
“I have received your letter, and the little fragment of tissue whose nature you asked me to determine. It did not cost me much trouble to find out the matter in question, I have done more difficult things twenty times, in the course of experiments relating to medical jurisprudence. You could have saved yourself the use of the established formula: “When you shall have made your microscopic examination, I will tell you what it is.” These little tricks amount to nothing: my microscope knows better than you do what you have sent me. You know the form and color of things: it sees their inmost nature, the laws of their being, the conditions of their life and death.
“Your fragment of desiccated matter, half as broad as my nail and nearly as thick, after remaining for twenty-four hours under a bell-glass in an atmosphere saturated with water at the temperature of the human body, became supple — so much so as to be a little elastic. I could consequently dissect it, study it like a piece of fresh flesh, and put under the microscope each one of its parts that appeared different, in consistency or color, from the rest.
“I at once found, in the middle, a slight portion harder and more elastic than the rest, which presented the texture and cellular structure of cartilage. This was neither the cartilage of the nose, nor the cartilage of an articulation, but certainly the fibro-cartilage of the ear. You sent me, then, the end of an ear, and it is not the lower end — the lobe which women pierce to put their gold ornaments in, but the upper end, into which the cartilage extends.
“On the inner-side, I took off a fine skin, in which the microscope showed me an epidermis, delicate, perfectly intact; a derma no less intact, with little papillæ and, moreover, covered with a lot of fine human hairs. Each of these little hairs had its root imbedded in its follicle, and the follicle accompanied by its two little glands. I will tell you even more: these hairs of down were from four to five millimetres long, by from three to five hundredths of a millimetre in diameter; this is twice the size of the pretty down which grows on a feminine ear; from which I conclude that your piece of ear belongs to a man.
“Against the curved edge of the cartilage, I found delicate striated bunches of the muscle of the helix, and so perfectly intact that one would have said there was nothing to prevent their contracting. Under the skin and near the muscles, I found several little nervous filaments, each one composed of eight or ten tubes in which the medulla was as intact and homogeneous as in nerves removed from a living animal or taken from an amputated limb. Are you satisfied? Do you cry mercy? Well! As for me, I am not yet at the end of my string.
“In the cellular tissue interposed between the cartilage and the skin, I found little arteries and little veins whose structure was perfectly cognizable. They contained some serum with red blood globules. These globules were all of them circular, biconcave and perfectly regular; they showed neither indentations nor that raspberry-like appearance which characterizes the blood globules of a corpse.
“To sum up, my dear confrère, I have found in this fragment nearly everything that is found in the human body — cartilage, muscle, nerve, skin, hairs, glands, blood, etc., and all this in a perfectly healthy and normal state. It is not, then, a piece of a corpse which you sent me, but a piece of a living man, whose humors and tissues are in no way decomposed.
“With high consideration, yours,
“Paris, July 30th, 1859.“
It did not take long to get spread about the town that M. Martout and the Messieurs Renault, intended, in conjunction with several Paris savans, to resuscitate a dead man.
M. Martout had sent a detailed account of the case to the celebrated Karl Nibor, who had hastened to lay it before the Biological Society. A committee was forthwith appointed to accompany M. Nibor to Fontainebleau. The six commissioners and the reporter agreed to leave Paris the 15th of August,2 being glad to escape the din of the public rejoicings. M. Martout was notified to get things ready for the experiment, which would probably last not less than three days.
2 The 15th of August is the Emperor’s birthday.
Some of the Paris papers announced this great event among their “Miscellaneous Items,” but the public paid little attention to it. The grand reception of the army returning from Italy engrossed everybody’s interest, and moreover, the French do not put more than moderate faith in miracles promised in the newspapers.
But at Fontainebleau, it was an entirely different matter. Not only Monsieur Martout and the Messieurs Renault, but M. Audret, the architect, M. Bonnivet, the notary, and a dozen other of the bigwigs of the town, had seen and touched the mummy of the Colonel. They had spoken about it to their friends, had described it to the best of their ability, and had recounted its history. Two or three copies of Herr Meiser’s will were circulating from hand to hand. The question of reanimations was the order of the day; they discussed it around the fish-pond, like the Academy of Sciences at a full meeting. Even in the market-place you could have heard them talking about rotifers and tardigrades.
It must be admitted that the resuscitationists were not in the majority. A few professors of the college, noted for the paradoxical character of their minds; a few lovers of the marvellous, who had been duly convicted of table-tipping; and, to top off with a half dozen of those old white-moustached grumblers who believe that the death of Napoleon I. is a calumnious lie set afloat by the English, constituted the whole of the army. M. Martout had against him not only the skeptics, but the innumerable crowd of believers, in the bargain. One party turned him to ridicule, the others proclaimed him revolutionary, dangerous, and an enemy of the fundamental ideas on which society rests. The minister of one little church preached, in inuendoes, against the Prometheuses who aspired to usurp the prerogatives of Heaven. But the rector of the parish did not hesitate to say, in five or six houses, that the cure of a man as desperately sick as M. Fougas, would be an evidence of the power and mercy of God.
The garrison of Fontainebleau was at that time composed of four squadrons of cuirassiers and the 23d regiment of the line, which had distinguished itself at Magenta. As soon as it was known in Colonel Fougas’ old regiment that that illustrious officer was possibly going to return to the world, there was a general sensation. A regiment knows its history, and the history of the 23d had been that of Fougas from February, 1811, to November, 1813. All the soldiers had heard read, at their messes, the following anecdote:
“On the 27th of August, 1813, at the battle of Dresden, the Emperor noticed a French regiment at the foot of a Russian redoubt which was pouring grape upon it. He asked what regiment it was, and was told that it was the 23d of the line. ‘That’s impossible!’ said he. ‘The 23d of the line never stood under fire without rushing upon the artillery thundering at it.’ At that moment the 23d, led by Colonel Fougas, rushed up the height at double quick, pinned the artillerists to their guns, and took the redoubt.”
The officers and soldiers, justly proud of this memorable action, venerated, under the name of Fougas, one of the fathers of the regiment. The idea of seeing him appear in the midst of them, young and living, did not appear likely, but it was already something to be in possession of his body. Officers and soldiers decided that he should be interred at their expense, after the experiments of Doctor Martout were completed. And to give him a tomb worthy of his glory, they voted an assessment of two days’ pay.
Every one who wore an epaulette visited M. Renault’s laboratory; the Colonel of cuirassiers went there several times — in hopes of meeting Clementine. But Leon’s betrothed kept herself out of the way.
She was happier than any woman had ever been, this pretty little Clementine. No cloud longer disturbed the serenity of her fair brow. Free from all anxieties, with a heart opened to Hope, she adored her dear Leon, and passed her days in telling him so. She herself had pressed the publication of the bans.
“We will be married,” said she, “the day after the resuscitation of the Colonel. I intend that he shall give me away, I want him to bless me. That is certainly the least he can do for me, after all I have done for him. It is certain that, but for my opposition, you would have sent him to the museum of the Jardin des Plantes. I will tell him all this, Sir, as soon as he can understand us, and he will cut your ears off, in his turn! I love you!”
“But,” answered Leon, “why do you make my happiness dependent on the success of an experiment? All the usual formalities are executed, the publications made, the notices given: no one in the world can prevent our marrying to-morrow, and you are pleased to wait until the 19th! What connection is there between us and this desiccated gentleman asleep in his box? He doesn’t belong to your family or mine. I have examined all your family records back to the sixth generation, and I haven’t found anybody of the name of Fougas in them. So we are not waiting for a grandfather to be present at the ceremony. Who is he, then? The wicked tongues of Fontainebleau pretend that you have a penchant for this fetich of 1813; as for me, who am sure of your heart, I trust that you will never love any one as well as me. However they call me the rival of the Sleeping Colonel in the Wood.”
“Let the fools prate!” responded Clementine, with an angelic smile. “I do not trouble myself to explain my affection for poor Fougas, but I love him very much, that’s certain. I love him as a father, as a brother, if you prefer it, for he is almost as young as I. When we have resuscitated him, I will love him, perhaps, as a son; but you will lose nothing by it, dear Leon. You have in my heart a place by itself, the best too, and no one shall take it from you, not even he.”
This lovers’ quarrel, which often began, and always ended with a kiss, was one day interrupted by a visit from the commissioner of police.
This honorable functionary politely declined to give his name and business, and requested the favor of a private interview with young Renault.
“Monsieur,” said he, when he saw him alone, “I appreciate all the consideration due to a man of your character and position, and I hope you will see fit not to interpret unpleasantly a proceeding which is prompted in me by a sense of duty.”
Leon opened his eyes and waited for the continuation of the discourse.
“You are aware, Monsieur,” pursued the Commissioner, “of what is required by the law concerning interments. It is express, and admits no exception. The authorities can keep their eyes shut, but the great tumult that has arisen, and, moreover, the rank of the deceased, without taking into account the religious considerations, put us under obligation to proceed . . . in conjunction with you, let it be well understood. . . . ”
Leon comprehended little by little. The commissioner finished by explaining to him, always in the administrative style, that it was incumbent upon him to have M. Fougas taken to the town cemetery.
“But Monsieur,” replied the engineer, “if you have heard people speaking of Colonel Fougas, they ought to have told you withal that we do not consider him dead.”
“Nonsense!” answered the Commissioner, with a slight smile. “Opinions are free. But the doctor whose office it is to attend to the disposition of the dead, and who has had the pleasure of seeing the deceased, has made us a conclusive report which points to immediate interment.”
“Very well, Monsieur, if Fougas is dead, we are in hopes of resuscitating him.”
“So we have been told already Monsieur, but, for my part, I hesitated to believe it.”
“You will believe it when you have seen it; and I hope, Monsieur, that that will be before long.”
“But then, Monsieur, have you fixed everything in due form?”
“I do not know, Monsieur, but I suppose that before undertaking such a thing as this, you have fortified yourself with some legal authorization.”
“But at all events, Monsieur, you admit that the reanimation of a man is an extraordinary affair. As for myself, this is really the first time that I ever heard it spoken of. Now the duty of a well regulated police, is to prevent anything extraordinary happening in the country.”
“Let us see, Monsieur. If I were to say to you: ‘Here is a man who is not dead; I have a well-founded hope of setting him on his feet in three days; your doctor, who maintains the contrary, deceives himself,’ would you take the responsibility of having Fougas buried?”
“Certainly not! God forbid that I should take any responsibility of any kind on my shoulders! But however, Monsieur, in having M. Fougas buried, I would act in accordance with law and order. Now after all, by what right do you presume to resuscitate a man? In what country is resuscitation customary? Where is the precept of law which authorizes you to resuscitate people?”
“Do you know any law that prohibits it? Now everything that is not prohibited is permitted.”
“In the eyes of the magistrates, very likely. But the police ought to prevent and stem disorder. Now a resuscitation, Monsieur, is a thing so unheard of as to constitute an actual disorder.”
“You will admit, nevertheless, that it is a very happy disorder.”
“There’s no such thing as a happy disorder. Consider, moreover, that the deceased is not a common sort of a man. If the question concerned a vagabond without house or home, one could use some tolerance in regard to it. But this is a soldier, an officer, of high rank and decorated too; a man who has occupied an exalted position in the army. The army, Monsieur! It will not do to touch the army!”
“Eh! Monsieur, I touch the army like a surgeon who tends its wounds. It is proposed to restore to the army a colonel. And you, actuated by the spirit of routine, wish to rob it of one.”
“Don’t get so excited, Monsieur, I beg of you, and don’t talk so loud: people can hear us. Believe me, I will meet you half way in anything you want to do for the great and glorious army of my country. But have you considered the religious question?”
“What religious question?”
“To tell you the truth, Monsieur (but this entirely between ourselves), what we have spoken of so far is purely accessory and we are now touching upon the delicate point. People have come to see me and have made some very judicious remarks to me. The mere announcement of your project has cast a good deal of trouble into certain consciences. They fear that the success of an undertaking of this kind may strike a blow at the faith, may, in a word, scandalize many tranquil spirits. For, if M. Fougas is dead, of course it is because God has so willed it. Aren’t you afraid of acting contrary to the will of God, in resuscitating him?”
“No, Monsieur: for I am sure not to resuscitate Fougas if God has willed it otherwise; God permits a man to catch the fever, but God also permits a doctor to cure him. God permitted a brave soldier of the Emperor to be captured by four drunken Russians, condemned as a spy, frozen in a fortress and desiccated under an air-pump by an old German. But God also permitted me to find this unfortunate man in a junk-shop, to carry him to Fontainebleau, to examine him with certain men of science and to agree with them upon a method almost sure to restore him to life. All this proves one thing — which is that God is more just, more merciful and more inclined to pity than those who abuse his name in order to excite you.”
“I assure you, Monsieur, that I am not in the least excited. I yield to your reasons because they are good ones and because you are a man of consideration in the community. I sincerely hope, moreover, that you will not think harshly of an act of zeal which I have been advised to perform. I am a functionary, Monsieur. Now, what is a functionary? A man who holds a place. Suppose now that functionaries were to expose themselves to the loss of their places, what would stand firm in France? Nothing, Monsieur, absolutely nothing. I have the honor to bid you good day!”
On the morning of the 15th of August, M. Karl Nibor presented himself at M. Renault’s with Doctor Martont and the committee appointed by the Biological Society of Paris. As often happens in the rural districts the first appearance of our illustrious savant was a sort of disappointment. Mme. Renault expected to see, if not a magician in a velvet robe studded with gold, at least an old man of extraordinarily grave and impressive appearance. Karl Nibor is a man of middle height, very fair and very slight. Possibly he carries a good forty years, but one would not credit him with more than thirty-five. He wears a moustache and imperial; is lively, a good conversationist, agreeable and enough of a man of the world to amuse the ladies. But Clementine did not have the pleasure of his conversation. Her aunt had taken her to Moret in order to remove her from the pangs of fear as well as from the intoxications of victory.
M. Nibor and his colleagues, after the usual compliments, requested to see the subject. They had no time to lose, as the experiment could hardly last less than three days. Leon hastened to conduct them to the laboratory and to open the three boxes containing the Colonel.
They found that the patient presented quite a favorable appearance. M. Nibor took off his clothes, which tore like tinder from having been too much dried in Father Meiser’s furnace. The body, when naked, was pronounced entirely free from blemish and in a perfectly healthy condition. No one would yet have guaranteed success, but every one was full of hope.
After this preliminary examination, M. Renault put his laboratory at the service of his guests. He offered them all that he possessed, with a munificence which was not entirely free from vanity. In case the employment of electricity should appear necessary, he had a powerful battery of Leyden jars and forty of Bunsen’s elements, which were entirely new. M. Nibor thanked him smilingly.
“Save your riches,” said he. “With a bath-tub and caldron of boiling water, we will have everything we need. The Colonel needs nothing but humidity. The thing is to give him the quantity of water necessary to the play of the organs. If you have a small room where one can introduce a jet of vapor, we will be more than content.
M. Audret, the architect, had very wisely built a little bath-room near the laboratory, which was convenient and well lighted. The celebrated steam engine was not far off, and its boiler had not, up to this time, answered any other purpose than that of warming the baths of M. and Mme. Renault.
The Colonel was carried into this room, with all the care necessitated by his fragility. It was not intended to break his second ear in the hurry of moving. Leon ran to light the fire under the boiler, and M. Nibor created him Fireman, on the field of battle.
Soon a jet of tepid vapor streamed into the bath-room, creating around the Colonel a humid atmosphere which was elevated by degrees, and without any sudden increase, to the temperature of the human body. These conditions of heat and humidity were maintained with the greatest care for twenty-four hours. No one in the house went to sleep. The members of the Parisian Committee encamped in the laboratory. Leon kept up the fire; M. Nibor, M. Renault and M. Martout took turns in watching the thermometer. Madame Renault was making tea and coffee, and punch too. Gothon, who had taken communion in the morning, kept praying to God, in the corner of her kitchen, that this impious miracle might not succeed. A certain excitement already prevailed throughout the town, but one did not know whether it should be attributed to the fête of the 15th, or the famous undertaking of the seven wise men of Paris.
By two o’clock on the 16th, encouraging results were obtained. The skin and muscles had recovered nearly all their suppleness, but the joints were still hard to bend. The collapsed condition of the walls of the abdomen and the interval between the ribs, still indicated that the viscera were far from having reabsorbed the quantity of water which they had previously lost with Herr Meiser. A bath was prepared and kept at a temperature of thirty-seven degrees and a half.3 They left the Colonel in it two hours and a half, taking care to frequently pass over his head a fine sponge soaked with water.
3 Centigrade, of course.
M. Nibor removed him from the bath as soon as the skin, which was filled out sooner than the other tissues, began to assume a whitish tinge and wrinkle slightly. They kept him until the evening of the 16th in this humid room, where they arranged an apparatus which, from time to time, occasioned a fine rain of a temperature of thirty-seven and a half degrees. A new bath was given in the evening. During the night, the body was enveloped in flannel, but kept constantly in the same steaming atmosphere.
On the morning of the 17th, after a third bath of an hour and a half, the general characteristics of the figure and the proportions of the body presented their natural aspect: one would have called it a sleeping man. Five or six curious persons were admitted to see it, among others the colonel of the 23d. In the presence of these witnesses, M. Nibor moved successively all the joints, and demonstrated that they had recovered their flexibility. He gently kneaded the limbs, trunk and abdomen. He partly opened the lips, and separated the jaws, which were quite firmly closed, and saw that the tongue had returned to its ordinary size and consistency. He also partly opened the eyelids: the eye-balls were firm and bright.
“Gentlemen,” said the philosopher, “these are indications which do not deceive; I prophesy success. In a few hours you shall witness the first manifestations of life.”
“But,” interrupted one of the bystanders, “why not immediately?”
“Because the conjunctivæ are still a little paler than they ought to be. But the little veins traversing the whites of the eyes have already assumed a very encouraging appearance. The blood is almost entirely restored. What is the blood? Red globules floating in serum, or a sort of whey. The serum in poor Fougas was dried up in his veins; the water which we have gradually introduced by a slow endosmose has saturated the albumen and fibrin of the serum, which is returned to the liquid state. The red globules which desiccation had agglutinated, had become motionless like ships stranded in shoal water. Now behold them afloat again: they thicken, swell, round out their edges, detach themselves from each other and prepare to circulate in their proper channels at the first impulse which shall be given them by the contractions of the heart.”
“It remains to see,” said M. Renault, “whether the heart will put itself in motion. In a living man, the heart moves under the impulse of the brain, transmitted by the nerves. The brain acts under the impulse of the heart, transmitted by the arteries. The whole forms a perfectly exact circle, without which there is no well-being. And when neither heart nor brain acts, as in the Colonel’s case, I don’t see which of the two can set the other in motion. You remember the scene in the ’Ecole des femmes,’ where Arnolphe knocks at his door? The valet and the maid, Alain and Georgette, are both in the house. ‘Georgette!’ cries Alain. —‘Well?’ replies Georgette. —‘Open the door down there!’—‘Go yourself! Go yourself!’—‘Gracious me! I shan’t go!’—‘I shan’t go either!’—‘Open it right away!’—‘Open it yourself!’ And nobody opens it. I am inclined to think, Monsieur, that we are attending a performance of this comedy. The house is the body of the Colonel; Arnolphe, who wants to get in, is the Vital Principle. The heart and brain act the parts of Alain and Georgette. ‘Open the door!’ says one. —‘Open it yourself!’ says the other. And the Vital Principle waits outside.”
“Monsieur,” replied Doctor Nibor smiling, “you forget the ending of the scene. Arnolphe gets angry, and cries out: ‘Whichever of you two doesn’t open the door, shan’t have anything to eat for four days!’ And forthwith Alain hurries himself, Georgette runs and the door is opened. Now bear in mind that I speak in this way only in order to conform to your own course of reasoning, for the term ‘Vital Principle’ is at variance with the actual assertions of science. Life will manifest itself as soon as the brain, or the heart, or any one of the organs which have the capacity of working spontaneously, shall have absorbed the quantity of water it needs. Organized matter has inherent properties which manifest themselves without the assistance of any foreign principle, whenever they are surrounded by certain conditions. Why do not M. Fougas’ muscles contract yet? Why does not the tissue of the brain enter into action? Because they have not yet the amount of moisture necessary to them. In the fountain of life there is lacking, perhaps, a pint of water. But I shall be in no hurry to refill it: I am too much afraid of breaking it. Before giving this gallant fellow a final bath, it will be necessary to knead all his organs again, to subject his abdomen to regular compressions, in order that the serous membranes of the stomach, chest and heart may be perfectly disagglutinated and capable of slipping on each other. You are aware that the slightest tear in these parts, or the least resistance, would be enough to kill our subject at the moment of his revival.”
While speaking, he united example to precept and kept kneading the trunk of the Colonel. As the spectators had too nearly filled the bath-room, making it almost impossible to move, M. Nibor begged them to move into the laboratory. But the laboratory became so full that it was necessary to leave it for the parlor: the Committee of the Biological Society, had scarcely a corner of the table on which to draw up their account of the proceedings. The parlor even was crowded with people, the dining room too, and so out to the court yard of the house. Friends, strangers, people not at all known to the family, elbowed each other and waited in silence. But the silence of a crowd is not much less noisy than the rolling of the sea. Fat Doctor Martout, apparently overwhelmed with responsibility, showed himself from time to time, and surged through the waves of curious people like a galleon laden with news. Every one of his words circulated from mouth to mouth, and spread even through the street, where several groups of soldiers and citizens were making a stir, in more senses than one. Never had the little “Rue de la Faisanderie” seen such a crowd. An astonished passer-by stopped and inquired:
“What’s the matter here? Is it a funeral?”
“Quite the reverse, Sir.”
“A christening, then?”
“With warm water!”
“A being born again!”
An old judge of the Civil Court was recounting to a deputy the legend of Æson of old, who was boiled in Medea’s caldron.
“This is almost the same experiment,” said he, “and I am inclined to think that the poets have calumniated the sorceress of Colchis. There could be some fine Latin verses made appropriate to this occasion; but I no longer possess my old skill!
‘Fabula Medeam cur crimine carpit iniquo?
Ecce novus surgit redivivus Æson ab undis
Fortior, arma petens, juvenili pectore miles . . .,
“Redivivus is taken in the active sense; it’s a license, or at least a bold construction. Ah! Monsieur! there was a time when I was, even among those who made the most confident attempts, the man for Latin verses!”
“Corp’ral!” said a conscript of the levy of 1859.
“What is it, Freminot?”
“Is it true that they are boiling an old soldier in a pot, and that they are going to get him up again, Colonel’s uniform and all?”
“True or not, subaltern, I’ll run the risk of saying it’s true.”
“I fancy, with all proper deference, that they will not make much at it.”
“You should know, Freminot, that nothing is impossible to your superiors! You are not unaware even now, that dried vegetables, on being boiled, recover their original and natural appearance!”
“But, Corp’ral, if one were to cook them, three days’ time, they’d dissolve into broth.”
“But, imbecile, why shouldn’t one consider old soldiers hard to cook?”
At noon, the commisioner of police and the lieutenant of gens-d’armes made way through the crowd and entered the house. These gentlemen hastened to declare to M. Renault that their visit had nothing of an official character, but that they had come merely from curiosity. In the corridor, they met the Sub-prefect, the Mayor and Gothon, who was lamenting in loud tones that she should see the government lend its hand to such sorceries.
About one o’clock, M. Nibor caused a new and prolonged bath to be given the Colonel, on coming out of which, the body was subjected to a kneading harder and more complete than before.
“Now,” said the Doctor, “we can carry M. Fougas into the laboratory, in order to give his resuscitation all the publicity desirable. But it will be well to dress him, and his uniform is in tatters.”
“I think,” answered good M. Renault, “that the Colonel is about my size; so I can lend him some of my clothes. Heaven grant that he may use them! But, between us, I don’t hope for it.”
Gothon brought in, grumbling, all that was necessary to dress an entirely naked man. But her bad humor did not hold out before the beauty of the Colonel:
“Poor gentleman!” she exclaimed, “he is young, fresh and fair as a little chicken. If he doesn’t revive, it will be a great pity!”
There were about forty people in the laboratory when Fougas was carried thither. M. Nibor, assisted by M. Martout, placed him on a sofa, and begged a few moments of attentive silence. During these proceedings, Mme. Renault sent to inquire if she could come in. She was admitted.
“Madame and gentlemen,” said Dr. Nibor, “life will manifest itself in a few minutes. It is possible that the muscles will act first, and that their action may be convulsive, on account of not yet being regulated by the influence of the nervous system. I ought to apprise you of this fact, in order that you may not be frightened if such a thing transpires. Madame, being a mother, ought to be less astonished at it than any one else; she has experienced, at the fourth month of pregnancy, the effect of those irregular movements which will, possibly, soon be presented to us on a larger scale. I am quite hopeful, however, that the first spontaneous contractions will take place in the fibres of the heart. Such is the case in the embryo, where the rhythmic movements of the heart, precede the nervous functions.”
He again began making systematic compressions of the lower part of the chest, rubbing the skin with his hands, half opening the eyelids, examining the pulse, and auscultating the region of the heart.
The attention of the spectators was diverted an instant by a hubbub outside. A battalion of the 23d was passing, with music at the head, through the Rue de la Faisanderie. While the Sax-horns were shaking the windows, a sudden flash mantled on the cheeks of the Colonel. His eyes, which had stood half open, lit up with a brighter sparkle. At the same instant, Doctor Nibor, who had his ear applied to the chest, cried:
“I hear the beatings of the heart!”
Scarcely had he spoken, when the chest rose with a violent inspiration, the limbs contracted, the body straightened up, and out came a cry: ”Vive l’Empereur.”
But as if so great an effort had overtasked his strength, Colonel Fougas fell back on the sofa, murmuring in a subdued voice:
“Where am I? Waiter! Bring me a newspaper!”
Among all the persons present at this scene, there was not a single one who had ever seen a resuscitation. I leave you to imagine the surprise and joy which reigned in the laboratory. A triple round of applause, mingled with cheers, hailed the triumph of Doctor Nibor. The crowd, packed in the parlor, the passages, the court-yard, and even in the street, understood at this signal, that the miracle was accomplished. Nothing could hold them back, they forced the doors, cleared all obstacles, upset all the philosophers who tried to stop them, and finished by pouring into the chamber of Science.
“Gentlemen!” cried M. Nibor, “Do you want to kill him?”
But they let him talk. The wildest of all passions, curiosity, had long held dominion over the crowd: every one wanted to see, though at the risk of crushing the others. M. Nibor tumbled down, M. Renault and his son, in attempting to help him, were thrown on top of him; Madame Renault, in her turn, was thrown down at the feet of Fougas, and began screaming at the top of her voice.
“Damnation!” said Fougas, straightening himself up as if by a spring, “these scoundrels will suffocate us if some one doesn’t squelch them!” His attitude, the glare of his eyes, and, above all, the prestige of the miraculous, cleared a space around him. One would have thought that the walls had been stretched or that the spectators had slid into one another!
“Out of here, every mother’s son of you!” cried Fougas, in his fiercest tone of command. A tumult of cries, explanations, and remonstrances was raised around him; he fancied he heard menaces, he seized the first chair within reach, brandished it like a weapon, drove, hammered, upset the citizens, soldiers, officials, savants, friends, sight-seers, commissary of police — everybody, and urged the human torrent into the street with an uproar perfectly indescribable. This done, he shut the door and bolted it, returned to the laboratory, saw three men standing near Madame Renault, and said to the old lady, softening the tone of his voice:
“Well, good mother, shall I serve these three like the others?”
“No! No! No! Be careful!” cried the good old lady. “My husband and my son, Monsieur, and Doctor Nibor, who has restored you to life.”
“In that case all honor to them, good mother! Fougas has never violated the laws of gratitude and hospitality. As for you, my Esculapius, give me your hand!”
At the same instant, he noticed ten or a dozen inquisitive people on tiptoe on the pavement just by the windows of the laboratory. Forthwith he marched and opened them with a precipitation which upset the gazers among the crowd.
“People,” said he, “I have knocked down a hundred beggarly pandours who respect neither sex nor infirmity. For the benefit of those who are not satisfied, I will state that I call myself colonel Fougas of the 23d. And Vive l’Empereur!“
A confused mixture of plaudits, cries, laughs, and jeers, answered this unprecedented allocution. Leon Renault hastened out to make apologies to all to whom they were due. He invited a few friends to dine the same evening with the terrible colonel, and, of course, he did not forget to send a special messenger to Clementine. Fougas, after speaking to the people, returned to his hosts, swinging himself along with a swaggering air, set himself astride a chair, took hold of the ends of his moustache, and said:
“Well! Come, let’s talk this over. I’ve been sick then?”
“That’s fabulous! I feel entirely well. I’m hungry, and, moreover, while waiting for dinner, I’ll even try a glass of your schnick.”
Mme. Renault went out, gave an order, and returned in an instant.
“But tell me, then, where I am,” resumed the colonel. “By these paraphernalia of work, I recognize a disciple of Urania; possibly a friend of Monge and Berthollet. But the cordial friendliness impressed on your countenances proves to me that you are not natives of this land of sour-krout. Yes, I believe it from the beatings of my heart. Friends, we have the same fatherland. The kindness of your reception, even were there no other indications, would have satisfied me that you are French. What accidents have brought you so far from our native soil? Children of my country, what tempest has thrown you upon this inhospitable shore?”
“My dear Colonel,” replied M. Nibor, “if you want to become very wise, you will not ask so many questions at once. Allow us the pleasure of instructing you quietly and in order, for you have a great many things to learn.”
The Colonel flushed with anger, and answered sharply:
“At all events, you are not the man to teach them to me, my little gentleman!”
A drop of blood which fell on his hand changed the current of his thoughts:
“Hold on!” said he; “am I bleeding?”
“That will amount to nothing; circulation is reëstablished, and your broken ear. . . . ”
He quickly carried his hand to his ear and said:
“It’s certainly so. But Devil take me if I recollect this accident!”
“I’ll make you a little dressing, and in a couple of days there will be no trace of it left!”
“Don’t give yourself the trouble, my dear Hippocrates; a pinch of powder is a sovereign cure!”
M. Nibor set to work to dress the ear in a little less military fashion. During his operations, Leon reëntered.
“Ah! ah!” said he to the Doctor, “you are repairing the harm I did.”
“Thunderation!” cried Fougas, escaping from the hands of M. Nibor so as to seize Leon by the collar, “was it you, you rascal, that hurt my ear?”
Leon was very good-natured, but his patience failed him. He pushed his man roughly aside.
“Yes, sir, it was I who tore your ear, in pulling it, and if that little misfortune had not happened to me, it is certain that you would have been, to-day, six feet under ground. It is I who saved your life, after buying you with my money when you were not valued at more than twenty-five louis. It is I who have passed three days and two nights in cramming charcoal under your boiler. It is my father who gave you the clothes you now have on. You are in our house. Drink the little glass of brandy Gothon just brought you; but for God’s sake give up the habit of calling me rascal, of calling my mother ‘Good Mother.’ and of flinging our friends into the street and calling them beggarly pandours!”
The colonel, all dumbfounded, held out his hand to Leon, M. Renault and the doctor, gallantly kissed the hand of Mme. Renault, swallowed at a gulp a claret glass filled to the brim with brandy, and said in a subdued voice:
“Most excellent friends, forget the vagaries of an impulsive but generous soul. To subdue my passions shall hereafter be my law. After conquering all the nations in the universe, it is well to conquer one’s self.”
This said, he submitted his ear to M. Nibor, who finished dressing it.
“But,” said he, summoning up his recollections, “they did not shoot me then?”
“And I wasn’t frozen to death in the tower?”
“Why has my uniform been taken off? I see! I am a prisoner!”
“You are free.”
“Free! Vive l’Empereur! But then, there’s not a moment to lose! How many leagues is it to Dantzic?”
“It’s very far.”
“What do you call this chicken coop of a town?”
“Fontainebleau! In France?”
“Prefecture of Seine-et-Marne. We are going to introduce to you the sub-prefect, whom you just pitched into the street.”
“What the Devil are your sub-prefects to me? I have a message from the Emperor for General Rapp, and I must start, this very day, for Dantzic. God knows whether I’ll be there in time!”
“My poor Colonel, you will arrive too late. Dantzic is given up.”
“That’s impossible! Since when?”
“About forty-six years ago.”
“Thunder! I did not understand that you were . . . mocking me!”
M. Nibor placed in his hand a calendar, and said: “See for yourself! It is now the 17th of August, 1859; you went to sleep in the tower of Liebenfeld on the 11th of November, 1813; there have been, then, forty-six years, all to three months, during which the world has moved on without you.”
“Twenty-four and forty-six; but then I would be seventy years old, according to your statement!”
“Your vitality clearly shows that you are still twenty-four.”
He shrugged his shoulders, tore up the calendar and said, beating the floor with his foot: “Your almanac is a humbug!”
M. Renault ran to his library, took up half a dozen books at haphazard and made him read, at the foot of the title pages, the dates 1826, 1833, 1847, 1858.
“Pardon me!” said Fougas, burying his head in his hands. “What has happened to me is so new! I do not think that another human being was ever subjected to such a trial. I am seventy years old!”
Good Madame Renault went and got a looking-glass from the bath room, and gave it to him, saying:
He took the glass in both hands, and was silently occupied in resuming acquaintance with himself, when a hand-organ came into the court and began playing “Partant pour la Syrie!”
Fougas threw the mirror to the ground, and cried out:
“What is that you were telling me? I hear the little song of Queen Hortense!”4
4 Fougas’ surprise is explained by the well-known fact that Napoleon was obliged to forbid the playing of Partant pour la Syrie in his armies, on account of the homesickness and consequent desertion it occasioned.
M. Renault patiently explained to him, while picking up the pieces of the mirror, that the pretty little song of Queen Hortense had become a national air, and even an official one, since the regimental bands had substituted that gentle melody for the fierce Marsellaise, and that our soldiers, strange to say, had not fought any the worse for it. But the Colonel had already opened the window, and was crying out to the Savoyard:
“Eh! Friend! A napoleon for you if you will tell me in what year I am drawing the breath of life!”
The artist began dancing as lightly as possible playing on his musical instrument.
“Advance at the order!” cried the Colonel, “and keep that devilish machine still!”
“A little penny, my good monsieur!”
“It is not a penny that I’ll give you, but a napoleon, if you’ll tell me what year it is.”
“Oh but that’s funny! Hi — hi — hi!”
“And if you don’t tell me quicker than this amounts to, I’ll cut your ears off!”
The Savoyard ran away, but he came back pretty soon, having meditated, during his flight, on the maxim: “Nothing risk nothing gain.”
“Monsieur,” said he, in a wheedling voice, “this is the year Eighteen Hundred and Fifty-nine.”
“Good!” cried Fougas. He felt in his pockets for money, and found nothing there. Leon saw his predicament, and flung twenty francs into the court. Before shutting the window, he pointed out, to the right, the façade of a pretty little new building where the Colonel could distinctly read
A perfectly satisfactory piece of evidence, and one which did not cost twenty francs.
Fougas, a little confused, pressed Leon’s hand, and said to him:
“My friend, I do not forget that Confidence is the first duty from Gratitude toward Beneficence. But tell me of our country! I tread the sacred soil where I received my being, and I am ignorant of the career of my native land. France is still the queen of the world, is she not?”
“Certainly,” said Leon.
“How is the Emperor?”
“And the Empress?”
“And the King of Rome?”
“The Prince Imperial? He is a very fine child.”
“How? A fine child! And you have the face to say that this is 1859!”
M. Nibor took up the conversation, and explained in a few words that the reigning sovereign of France was not Napoleon I., but Napoleon III.
“But then,” cried Fougas, “my Emperor is dead!”
“Impossible! Tell me anything you will but that! My Emperor is immortal.”
M. Nibor and the Renaults, who were not quite professional historians, were obliged to give him a summary of the history of our century. Some one went after a big book written by M. de Norvins and illustrated with fine engravings by Raffet. He only believed in the presence of Truth when he could touch her with his hand, and still cried out almost every moment: “That’s impossible! This is not history that you are reading to me: it is a romance written to make soldiers weep!”
This young man must indeed have had a strong and well-tempered soul, for he learned in forty minutes all the woful events which Fortune had scattered through eighteen years, from the first abdication up to the death of the King of Rome. Less happy than his old companions in arms, he had no interval of repose between these terrible and repeated shocks, all beating upon his heart at the same time. One could have feared that the blow might prove mortal, and poor Fougas die in the first hour of his recovered life. But the imp of a fellow yielded and recovered himself in quick succession like a spring. He cried out with admiration on hearing of the five battles of the campaign in France; he reddened with grief at the farewells of Fontainebleau. The return from the Isle of Elba transfigured his handsome and noble countenance; at Waterloo his heart rushed in with the last army of the Empire, and there shattered itself. Then he clenched his fists and said between his teeth: “If I had been there at the head of the 23d, Blucher and Wellington would have seen another fate!” The invasion, the truce, the martyr of St. Helena, the ghastly terror of Europe, the murder of Murat — the idol of the cavalry, the death of Ney, Bruno, Mouton Duvernet, and so many other whole-souled men whom he had known, admired, and loved, threw him into a series of paroxysms of rage, but nothing upset him. In hearing of the death of Napoleon, he swore that he would eat the heart of England; the slow agony of the pale and interesting heir of the Empire, inspired him with a passion to tear the vitals out of Austria. When the drama was over and the curtain fell on Schoenbrunn, he dashed away his tears and said: “It is well. I have lived in a moment a man’s entire life. Now show me the map of France!”
Leon began to turn over the leaves of an atlas, while M. Renault attempted to continue narrating to the colonel the history of the Restoration, and of the monarchy of 1830. But Fougas’ interest was in other things.
“What do I care,” said he, “if a couple of hundred babblers of deputies put one king in place of another? Kings! I’ve seen enough of them in the dirt. If the Empire had lasted ten years longer, I could have had a king for a boot-black.”
When the atlas was placed before him, he at once cried out with profound disdain: “That, France!” But soon two tears of pitying affection escaping from his eyes, swelled the rivers Ardeche and Gironde. He kissed the map and said, with an emotion which communicated itself to nearly all present:
“Forgive me, poor old love, for insulting your misfortunes. Those scoundrels whom we always whipped have profited by my sleep to pare down your frontiers; but little or great, rich or poor, you are my mother, and I love you as a faithful son! Here is Corsica, where the giant of our age was born; here is Toulouse, where I first saw the light; here is Nancy where I felt my heart awakened, where, perhaps, she whom I call my Ægle waits for me still! France! Thou hast a temple in my soul; this arm is thine; thou shalt find me ever ready to shed my blood to the last drop in defending or avenging thee!”
The messenger whom Leon had sent to Moret, could not reach there before seven o’clock. Supposing that he would find the ladies at table with their hosts, that the great news would cut the dinner short, and that there would be a carriage handy, Clementine and her aunt would probably be at Fontainebleau between ten and eleven o’clock. Young Renault rejoiced in advance over the happiness of his fiancée. What a joy it would be for her and for him when he should present to her the miraculous man whom she had protected against the horrors of the tomb, and whom he had resuscitated in answer to her entreaty!
Meanwhile Gothon, proud and happy to the same degree that she had before been scandalized and annoyed, spread the table for a dozen persons. Her yoke-fellow, a young rustic of eighteen, half-fledged in the commune of Sablons, helped her with all his might, and amused her with his conversation.
“Well, now, Ma’m’selle Gothon,” said he, setting down a pile of empty plates, “this is what one might call a ghost coming out of its box to upset the commissary and the sub-prefect!”
“Ghost, if you’ll have it so, Célestin; it’s certain-sure that he comes from a good ways, poor young man! But perhaps ‘ghost’ isn’t a proper word to use in speaking of our masters.”
“Is it true, then, that he has come to be our master too? Too many of them come every day. I’d like it better if more servants and help would come!”
“Shut up, you lizard of laziness! When the gentlemen leaves tips for us on going away, you don’t complain because there’s only two to divide ’em.”
“That’s all well enough as far as it goes! I’ve carried more than fifty buckets of water for him to simmer in, that Colonel of yours, and I know mighty well that he won’t give me a cent, for he hasn’t a farthing in his pockets. We’ve got to believe that money isn’t plenty in the country he just came from!”
“They say there’s wills in his favor in Strasburg; a gentleman who’d hurt his fortune ——”
“Tell me now, Ma’m’selle Gothon — you who read a little book every Sunday — where he could have been, our Colonel, while he was not in this world.”
“Eh! In purgatory, of course!”
“Then why don’t you ask him about that famous Baptiste, your sweetheart in 1837, who let himself tumble off a roof, and on whose account you have so many masses said? They ought to have met each other down there!”
“That’s very possible.”
“Unless Baptiste has left there since the time when you paid so much money to get him out.”
“Very well. I’ll go this very evening to the Colonel’s chamber, and, since he’s not proud, he’ll tell me all he knows about it. — But, Célestin, are’nt you never going to act different? Here you’ve rubbed my silver pickle knives on the grindstone again!”
The guests came into the parlor, where the Renault family with M. Nibor and the Colonel were already assembled. There were successively presented to M. Fougas the mayor of the city, Doctor Martout, Master Bonnivet the notary, M. Audret, and three members of the Paris committee; the other three had been obliged to return before dinner. The guests were not entirely at their ease; their sides, bruised by the first movements of Fougas, left room for them to suppose that possibly they were dining with a maniac. But curiosity was stronger than fear. The Colonel soon reassured them by a most cordial reception. He excused himself for acting the part of a man just returned from the other world. He talked a great deal — a little too much, perhaps; but they were so well pleased to listen to him, and his words borrowed such an importance from the singularity of recent events, that he gained an unqualified success. He was told that Dr. Martout had been one of the principal agents of his resuscitation, in conjunction with another person whom they promised soon to present to him. He thanked M. Martout warmly, and asked how soon he could evince his gratitude to the other person.
“I hope,” said Leon, “that you will see her this evening.”
No one came later than the colonel of the 23d of the line, M. Rollon. He made his way with no little difficulty through the crowds of people who filled the Rue de la Faisanderie. He was a man of forty-five, with a quick voice, and full figure. His hair was a little grizzled, but his brown mustache, full, and twisted at the ends, looked as young as ever. He said little, spoke to the point, knew a great deal, and did no boasting — all in all, he was a fine specimen of a colonel. He came right up to Fougas, and held out his hand like an old acquaintance.
“My dear comrade,” said he, “I have taken great interest in your resurrection, as much on my own account as on account of the regiment. The 23d which I have the honor to command, yesterday venerated you as an ancestor. From to-day, it will cherish you as a friend."— Not the slightest allusion to the affair of the morning, in which M. Rollon had undergone his pummelling with the rest.
Fougas answered becomingly, but with, a tinge of coldness:
“My dear comrade, I thank you for your kindly sentiments. It is singular that Destiny places me in the presence of my successor on the very day that I reopen my eyes to the light; for, after all, I am neither dead nor a general; I have not been transferred, nor have I been retired; yet I see another officer, more worthy, doubtless, at the head of my noble 23d. But if you have for your motto ‘Honor and Courage,’ as I am well satisfied you have, I have no right to complain, and the regiment is in good hands.”
Dinner was ready. Mme. Renault took Fougas’ arm. She had him sit at her right, and M. Nibor at her left. The Colonel and the Mayor took their places at the sides of M. Renault; the rest of the company distributed themselves as it happened, regardless of etiquette.
Fougas gulped down the soup and entrées, helping himself to every dish, and drinking in proportion. An appetite of the other world! “Estimable Amphitryon,” said he to M. Renault, “don’t get frightened at seeing me fall upon the rations. I always ate just so; except during the retreat in Russia. Consider, too, that I went to sleep last night, at Liebenfeld, without any supper.”
He begged M. Nibor to explain to him by what course of circumstances he had come from Liebenfeld to Fontainebleau.
“Do you remember,” said the doctor, “an old German who acted as interpreter for you before the court-martial?”
“Perfectly. An excellent man, with a violet-colored wig. I’ll remember him all my life, for there are not two wigs of that color in existence.”
“Very well; it was the man with the violet wig, otherwise known as the celebrated Doctor Meiser, who saved your life.”
“Where is he? I want to see him, to fall into his arms, to tell him ——”
“He was sixty-eight years old when he did you that little service; he would then be, to-day, in his hundred and fifteenth year, if he had waited for your acknowledgments.”
“And so, then, he is no more! Death has robbed him of my gratitude!”
“You do not yet know all that you owe to him. He bequeathed you, in 1824, a fortune of seventy-five thousand francs, of which you are the rightful owner. Now, since a sum invested at five per cent, doubles itself in fourteen years — thanks to compound interest — you were worth, in 1838, a trifle of seven hundred and fifty thousand francs; and in 1852, a million and a half. In fine, if you are satisfied to leave your property in the hands of Herr Nicholas Meiser, of Dantzic, that worthy man will owe you three millions at the commencement of 1866 — that is to say, in seven years. We will give you, this evening, a copy of your benefactor’s will; it is a very instructive document, and you can consider it when you go to bed.”
“I’ll read it willingly,” said Colonel Fougas. “But gold has no attractions for my eyes. Wealth engenders weakness. Me, to languish in the sluggish idleness of Sybaris! — to enervate my senses on a bed of roses! Never! The smell of powder is dearer to me than all the perfumes of Arabia. Life would have no charm or zest for me, if I had to give up the inspiriting clash of arms. On the day when you are told that Fougas no longer marches in the columns of the army, you can safely answer, ‘It is because Fougas is no more!’”
He turned to the new colonel of the 23d, and said:
“Oh! do you, my dear comrade, tell them that the proud pomp of wealth is a thousand times less sweet than the austere simplicity of the soldier — of a colonel, more than all. Colonels are the kings of the army. A colonel is less than a general, but nevertheless he has something more. He lives more with the soldier; he penetrates further into the intimacy of his command. He is the father, the judge, the friend of his regiment. The welfare of each one of his men is in his hands; the flag is placed under his tent or in his chamber. The colonel and the flag are not two separate existences; one is the soul, the other is the body.”
He asked M. Rollon’s permission to go to see and embrace the flag of the 23d.
“You shall see it to-morrow morning,” said the new colonel, “if you will do me the honor to breakfast with me in company with some of my officers.”
He accepted the invitation with enthusiasm, and flung himself into the midst of a thousand questions touching pay, the amount retained for clothing, promotion, roster, reserve, uniform, full and fatigue dress, armament, and tactics. He understood, without difficulty, the advantages of the percussion gun, but the attempt to explain rifled cannon to him was in vain. Artillery was not his forte; but he avowed, nevertheless, that Napoleon had owed more than one victory to his fine artillery.
While the innumerable roasts of Mme. Renault were succeeding each other on the table, Fougas asked — but without ever losing a bite — what were the principal wars in progress, how many nations France had on her hands, and if it was not intended ultimately to recommence the conquest of the world? The answers which he received, without completely satisfying him, did not entirely deprive him of hope.
“I did well to come,” said he; “there’s work to do.”
The African wars did not interest him much, although in them the 23d had won a good share of glory.
“As a school, it’s very well,” said he. “The soldier ought to train himself in other ways than in the Tivoli gardens, behind nurses’ petticoats. But why the devil are not five hundred thousand men flung upon the back of England? England is the soul of the coalition, I can tell you that.”
How many explanations were necessary to make him understand the Crimean war, where the English had fought by our sides!
“I can understand,” said he, “why we took a crack at the Russians — they made me eat my best horse. But the English are a thousand times worse. If this young man” (the Emperor Napoleon III.) “doesn’t know it, I’ll tell him. There is no quarter possible after what they did at St. Helena! If I had been commander-in-chief in the Crimea, I would have begun by properly squelching the Russians, after which I would have turned upon the English, and hurled them into the sea. It’s their element, anyhow.”
They gave him some details of the Italian campaign, and he was charmed to learn that the 23d had taken a redoubt under the eyes of the Marshal the Duke of Solferino.
“That’s the habit of the regiment,” said he, shedding tears in his napkin. “That brigand of a 23d will never act in any other way. The goddess of Victory has touched it with her wing.”
One of the things, for example, which greatly astonished him, was that a war of such importance was finished up in so short a time. He had yet to learn that within a few years the world had learned the secret of transporting a hundred thousand men, in four days, from one end of Europe to the other.
“Good!” said he; “I admit the practicability of it. But what astonishes me is, that the Emperor did not invent this affair in 1810; for he had a genius for transportation, a genius for administration, a genius for office details, a genius for everything. But (to resume your story) the Austrians are fortified at last, and you cannot possibly get to Vienna in less than three months.”
“We did not go so far, in fact.”
“You did not push on to Vienna?”
“Well, then, where did you sign the treaty of peace?”
“At Villafranca? That’s the capital of Austria, then?”
“No; it’s a village of Italy.”
“Monsieur, I don’t admit that treaties of peace are signed anywhere but in capitals. That was our principle, our A B C, the first paragraph of our theory. It seems as if the world must have changed a good deal while I was not in it. But patience!”
And now truth obliges me to confess that Fougas got drunk at dessert. He had drunk and eaten like a Homeric hero, and talked more fluently than Cicero in his best days. The fumes of wine, spices, and eloquence mounted into his brain. He became familiar, spoke affectionately to some and rudely to others, and poured out a torrent of absurdities big enough to turn forty mills. His drunkenness, however, had in it nothing brutal, or even ignoble; it was but the overflowing of a spirit young, affectionate, vain-glorious, and unbalanced. He proposed five or six toasts — to Glory, to the Extension of our Frontiers, to the Destruction of the last of the English, to Mlle. Mars — the hope of the French stage, to Affection — the tie, fragile but dear, which unites the lover to his sweetheart, the father to his son, the colonel to his regiment!
His style, a singular mixture of familiarity and impressiveness, provoked more than one smile among the auditory. He noticed it, and a spark of defiance flashed up at the bottom of his heart. From time to time he loudly asked if “those people there” were not abusing his ingenuousness.
“Confusion!” cried he, “Confusion to those who want me to take bladders for lanterns! The lantern may blaze out like a bomb, and carry consternation in its path!”
After a series of such remarks, there was nothing left for him to do but to roll under the table, and this dénoûement was generally expected. But the Colonel belonged to a robust generation, accustomed to more than one kind of excess, and strong to resist pleasure as well as dangers, privations, and fatigues. So when Madame Renault pushed back her chair, in indication that the repast was finished, Fougas arose without difficulty, gracefully offered his arm, and conducted his partner to the parlor. His gait was a little stiff and oppressively regular, but he went straight ahead, and did not oscillate the least bit. He took a couple of cups of coffee, and spirits in moderation, after which he began to talk in the most reasonable manner in the world. About ten o’clock, M. Martout, having expressed a wish to hear his history, he placed himself on a stool, collected his ideas for a moment, and asked for a glass of water and sugar. The company seated themselves in a circle around him, and he commenced the following narrative, the slightly antiquated style of which craves your indulgence.
“Do not expect that I will ornament my story with those flowers, more agreeable than substantial, which Imagination often uses to gloss over truth. A Frenchman and a soldier, I doubly ignore deception. Friendship interrogates me, Frankness shall answer.
“I was born of poor but honest parents at the beginning of the year which the Jeu de Paume5 brightened with an aurora of liberty. The south was my native clime; the language dear to the troubadours was that which I lisped in my cradle. My birth cost my mother’s life. The author of mine was the humble owner of a little farm, and moistened his bread in the sweat of labor. My first sports were not those of wealth. The many-colored pebbles which are found by the brooks, and that well-known insect which childhood holds fluttering, free and captive at the same time, at the end of a thread, stood me in stead of other playthings.
5 Jeu de Paume (tennis-court), is the name given to the meeting of the third-estate (tiers-état) in 1789, from the locality where it took place.
“An old minister at Devotion’s altar, enfranchised from the shadowy bondage of fanaticism, and reconciled to the new institutions of France, was my Chiron and Mentor. He nourished me with the strong lion’s marrow of Rome and Athens; his lips distilled into my ears the embalmed honey of wisdom. Honor to thee, learned and venerable man, who gavest me the first precepts of wisdom and the first examples of virtue!
“But already that atmosphere of glory which the genius of one man and the valor of a nation had set floating over the country, filled all my senses, and made my young heart throb. France, on the edge of the volcano of civil war, had collected all her forces into a thunderbolt to launch upon Europe, and the world, astounded if not overwhelmed, was shrinking from the surge of the unchained torrent. What man, what Frenchman, could have heard with indifference that echo of victory reverberating through millions of hearts?
“While scarcely leaving childhood, I felt that honor is more precious than life. The warlike music of the drums brought to my eyes brave and manly tears. ‘And I, too,’ said I, following the music of the regiments through the streets of Toulouse, ‘will pluck laurels though I sprinkle them with my blood.’ The pale olive of peace had from me nothing but scorn. The peaceful triumphs of the law, the calm pleasures of commerce and finance, were extolled in vain. To the toga of our Ciceros, to the robe of our magistrates, to the curule chair of our legislators, to the opulence of our Mondors, I preferred the sword. One would have said that I had sucked the milk of Bellona. ‘Victory or Death!’ was already my motto, and I was not sixteen years old.
“With what noble scorn I heard recounted the history of our Proteuses of politics! With what disdainful glances I regarded the Turcarets of finance, lolling on the cushions of some magnificent carriage, and conducted by a laced automaton to the boudoir of some Aspasia. But if I heard told the mighty deeds of the Knights of the Round Table, or the valor of the crusaders celebrated in flowing verse; if chance placed in my hand the great actions of our modern Rolands, recounted in an army bulletin by the successor of Charlemagne, a flame presaging the fire of battles rose in my young eyes.
“Ah, the inaction was too much, and my leading-strings, already worn by impatience, would have broken, perhaps, had not a father’s wisdom untied them.
“‘Most surely,’ said he to me, trying, but in vain, to restrain his tears, ‘it was no tyrant who begot you, and I will not poison the life which I myself gave you. I had hoped that your hand would remain in our cottage to close my eyes; but when Patriotism has spoken, Egotism must be still. My prayers will always follow you to the field where Mars harvests heroes. May you merit the guerdon of valor, and show yourself a good citizen, as you have been a good son!’
“Speaking thus, he opened his arms to me. I threw myself into them; we mingled our tears, and I promised to return to our hearthstone as soon as I could bring the star of honor suspended from my breast. But alas! my unhappy father was destined to see me no more. The fate which was already gilding the thread of my days, pitilessly severed that of his. A stranger’s hand closed his eyes, while I was gaining my first epaulette at the battle of Jena.
“Lieutenant at Eylau, captain at Wagram, and there decorated by the Emperor’s own hand on the field of battle, major before Almieda, lieutenant-colonel at Badajoz, colonel at Moscow, I have drunk the cup of victory to the full. But I have also tasted the chalice of adversity. The frozen plains of Russia saw me alone with a platoon of braves, the last remnant of my regiment, forced to devour the mortal remains of that faithful friend who had so often carried me into the very heart of the enemy’s battalions. Trusty and affectionate companion of my dangers, when rendered useless by an accident at Smolensk, he devoted his very manes to the safety of his master, and made of his skin a protection for my frozen and lacerated feet.
“My tongue refuses to repeat the story of our perils in that terrible campaign. Perhaps some day I will write it with a pen dipped in tears — tears, the tribute of feeble humanity. Surprised by the season of frosts in a zone of ice, without fire, without bread, without shoes, without means of transportation, denied the succor of Esculapius’ art, harassed by the Cossacks, robbed by the peasants — positive vampires, we saw our mute thunderers, which had fallen into the enemy’s hands, belch forth death upon ourselves. What more can I tell you? The passage of the Beresina, the opposition at Wilna — Oh, ye gods of Thunder! — But I feel that grief overcomes me, and that my language is becoming tinged with the bitterness of these recollections.
“Nature and Love were holding in reserve for me brief but precious consolations. Released from my fatigues, I passed a few happy days in my native land among the peaceful vales of Nancy. While our phalanxes were preparing themselves for fresh combats, while I was gathering around my flag three thousand young but valorous warriors, all resolved to open to posterity the path of honor, a new emotion, to which I had before been a stranger, furtively glided into my soul.
“Beautified by all Nature’s gifts, enriched by the fruits of an excellent education, the young and interesting Clementine had scarcely passed from the uncertain shadows of childhood into the sweet illusions of youth. Eighteen springs composed her life. Her parents extended to some of the army officers a hospitality which, though it was not gratuitous, was far from lacking in cordiality. To see their child and love her, was for me the affair of a day. Her virgin heart smiled upon my love. At the first avowals dictated to me by my passion, I saw her forehead color with a lovely modesty. We exchanged our vows one lovely evening in June, under an arbor where her happy father sometimes dispensed to the thirsty officers the brown liquor of the North. I swore that she should be my wife, and she promised to be mine; she yielded still more. Our happiness, regardless of all outside, had the calmness of a brook whose pure wave is never troubled by the storm, and which rolls sweetly between flowery banks, spreading its own freshness through the grove that protects its modest course.
“A lightning stroke separated us from each other at the moment when Law and Religion were about adding their sanction to our sweet communion. I departed before I was able to give my name to her who had given me her heart. I promised to return; she promised to wait for me; and, all bathed in her tears, I tore myself from her arms, to rush to the laurels of Dresden and the cypresses of Leipzic. A few lines from her hand reached me during the interval between the two battles. ‘You are to be a father,’ she told me. Am I one? God knows! Has she waited for me? I believe she has. The waiting must have appeared to be a long one since the birth of this child, who is forty-six years old to-day, and who could be, in his turn, my father.
“Pardon me for having troubled you so long with misfortunes. I wished to pass rapidly over this sad history, but the unhappiness of virtue has in it something sweet to temper the bitterness of grief.
“Some days after the disaster of Leipzic, the giant of our age had me called into his tent, and said to me:
“‘Colonel, are you a man to make your way through four armies?’
“‘Alone, and without escort?’
“‘There must be a letter carried to Dantzic.’
“‘You will deliver it into General Rapp’s own hands?’
“‘It is probable you will be taken, or killed.’
“‘For that reason I send two other officers with copies of the same despatch. There are three of you; the enemy will kill two, the third will get there, and France will be saved.’
“‘The one who returns shall be a brigadier-general.’
“Every detail of this interview, every word of the Emperor, every response which I had the honor to address to him, is still engraved upon my memory. All three of us set out separately. Alas! not one of us reached the goal aimed at by his valor, and I have learned to-day that France was not saved. But when I see these blockheads of historians asserting that the Emperor forgot to send orders to General Rapp, I feel a terrible itching to cut their —— story short, at least.
“‘When a prisoner in the hands of the Russians in a German village, I had the consolation of finding an old philosopher, who gave me the rarest proofs of friendship. Who would have told me, when I succumbed to the numbness of the cold in the tower of Liebenfeld, that that sleep would not be the last? God is my witness, that in then addressing, from the bottom of my heart, a last farewell to Clementine, I did not even hope to see her again. I will see you again, then, O sweet and confiding Clementine — best of spouses, and, probably, of mothers! What do I say? I see her now! My eyes do not deceive me! This is surely she! There she is, just as I left her! Clementine! In my arms! On my heart! Look here! What’s this you’ve been whining to me, the rest of you? Napoleon is not dead, and the world has not grown forty-six years older, for Clementine is still the same!”
The betrothed of Leon Renault was about entering the room, and stopped petrified at finding herself so overwhelmingly received by the Colonel.
As she was evidently backward in falling into his arms, Fougas imitated Mahomet, and ran to the mountain.
“Oh, Clementine!” said he, covering her with kisses, “the friendly Fates give you back to my devotion. I clasp once more the partner of my life and the mother of my child!”
The young lady was so astounded, that she did not even dream of defending herself. Happily, Leon Renault extricated her from the hands of the Colonel, and placed himself between them, determined to defend his own.
“Monsieur,” cried he, clenching his fists, “you deceive yourself entirely, if you think you know Mademoiselle. She is not a person of your time, but of ours; she is not your fiancée, but mine; she has never been the mother of your child, and I trust that she will be the mother of mine!”
Fougas was iron. He seized his rival by the arm, sent him off spinning like a top, and put himself face to face with the young girl.
“Are you Clementine?” he demanded of her.
“I call you all to witness that she is my Clementine!”
Leon returned to the charge, and seized the Colonel by the collar, at the risk of getting himself dashed against the walls.
“We’ve had joking enough!” said he. “Possibly you don’t pretend to monopolize all the Clementines in the world? Mademoiselle’s name is Clementine Sambucco; she was born at Martinique, where you never set your foot, if I am to believe what you have said within an hour. She is eighteen years old ——”
“So was the other!”
“Eh! The other is sixty-four to-day, since she was eighteen in 1813. Mlle. Sambucco is of an honorable and well-known family. Her father, M. Sambucco, was a magistrate; her grandfather was a functionary of the war department. You see, she is in no way connected with you, nearly or remotely; and good sense and politeness, to say nothing of gratitude, make it your duty to leave her in peace.”
He gave the Colonel a shove, in his turn, and made him tumble between the arms of a sofa.
Fougas bounded up as if he had been thrown on a million springs. But Clementine stopped him, with a gesture and a smile.
“Monsieur,” said she in her most caressing voice, “do not get angry with him; he loves me.”
“So much the more reason why I should! Damnation!”
He cooled down, nevertheless, made the young lady sit down beside him, and regarded her from head to foot with the most absorbed attention.
“This is surely she,” said he. “My memory, my eyes, my heart, everything in me, recognizes her, and tells me that it is she. And nevertheless the testimony of mankind, the calculation of times and distances, in a word, the very soul of evidence, seems to have made it a special point to convict me of error.
“Is it possible, then, that two women should so resemble each other? Am I the victim of an illusion of the senses? Have I recovered life only to lose reason? No; I know myself, I find myself the same; my judgment is firm and accurate, and can make its way in this world so new and topsy-turvy. It is on but one point that my reason wavers — Clementine! — I seem to see you again, and you are not you! Well, what’s the difference, after all? If the Destiny which snatched me from the tomb has taken care to present to my awaking sense the image of her I loved, it must be because it had resolved to give me back, one after another, all the blessings which I had lost. In a few days, my epaulettes; to-morrow, the flag of the 23d of the line; to-day this adorable presence which made my heart beat for the first time! Living image of all that is sweetest and clearest in the past, I throw myself at your feet! Be my wife!”
The devil of a fellow joined the deed to the word, and the witnesses of the unexpected scene opened their eyes to the widest. But Clementine’s aunt, the austere Mlle. Sambucco, thought that it was time to show her authority. She stretched out her big, wrinkled hands, seized Fougas, jerked him sharply to his feet, and cried in her shrillest voice:
“Enough, sir; it is time to put an end to this scandalous farce! My niece is not for you; I have promised her and given her away. Know that, day after to-morrow, the 19th of this month, at ten o’clock in the morning, she will marry M. Leon Renault, your benefactor!”
“And I forbid it — do you hear, Madame Aunt? And if she pretends to marry this boy ——”
“What will you do?”
“I’ll curse her!”
Leon could not help laughing. The malediction of this twenty-five-year-old Colonel appeared rather more comic than terrible. But Clementine grew pale, burst into tears, and fell, in her turn, at the feet of Fougas.
“Monsieur,” cried she, kissing his hands, “do not overwhelm a poor girl who venerates you, who loves you, who will sacrifice her happiness if you demand it! By all the marks of tenderness which I have lavished upon you for a month, by the tears I have poured upon your coffin, by the respectful zeal with which I have urged on your resuscitation, I conjure you to pardon our offences. I will not marry Leon if you forbid me; I will do anything to please you; I will obey you in everything; but, for God’s sake, do not pour upon me your maledictions!”
“Embrace me,” said Fougas. “You yield; I pardon.”
Clementine raised herself, all radiant with joy, and held up her beautiful forehead. The stupefaction of the spectators, especially of those most interested, can be better imagined than described. An old mummy dictating laws, breaking off marriages, and imposing his desires on the whole house! Pretty little Clementine, so reasonable, so obedient, so happy in the prospect of marrying Leon Renault, sacrificing, all at once, her affections, her happiness, and almost her duty, to the caprice of an interloper. M. Nibor declared that it was madness. As for Leon, he would have butted his head into all the walls, if his mother had not held him back.
“Ah, my poor child!” said she, “why did you bring that thing from Berlin?”
“It’s my fault!” cried old Monsieur Renault.
“No,” interrupted Dr. Martout, “it’s mine.”
The members of the Parisian committee discussed with M. Rollon the new aspect of the case. “Had they resuscitated a madman? Had the revivification produced some disorder of the nervous system? Had the abuse of wine and other drinkables during the first repast caused a delirium? What an interesting autopsy it would be, if they could dissect M. Fougas at the next regular meeting!”
“You would do very well as far as you would go, gentlemen,” said the Colonel of the 23d. “The autopsy might explain the delirium of our unfortunate friend, but it would not account for the impression produced upon the young lady. Is it fascination, magnetism, or what?”
While the friends and relations were weeping, counselling, and buzzing around him, Fougas, serene and smiling, gazed at himself in Clementine’s eyes, while they, too, regarded him tenderly.
“This must be brought to an end!” cried Mlle. Sambucco the severe. “Come, Clementine!”
Fougas seemed surprised.
“She doesn’t live here, then?”
“No, sir; she lives with me.”
“Then I will escort her home. Angel! will you take my arm?”
“Oh, yes, Monsieur, with great pleasure!”
Leon gnashed his teeth.
“This is admirable! He presumes on such familiarity, and she takes it all as a matter of course!”
He went to get his hat, for the purpose of, at least, going home with the aunt, but his hat was not in its place; Fougas, who had not yet one of his own, had helped himself to it without ceremony. The poor lover crowded his head into a cap, and followed Fougas and Clementine, with the respectable Virginie, whose arm cut like a scythe.
By an accident which happened almost daily, the Colonel of cuirassiers met Clementine on the way home. The young lady directed Fougas’ attention to him.
“That’s M. du Marnet,” said she. “His restaurant is at the end of our street, and his room at the side of the park. I think he is very much taken with my little self, but he has never even bowed to me. The only man for whom my heart has ever beaten is Leon Renault.”
“Ah, indeed! And me?” said Fougas.
“Oh! as for you, that’s another matter. I respect you, and stand in awe of you. It seems to me as if you were a good and respectable parent.”
“I’m telling you the truth, as far as I can read it in my heart. All this is not very clear, I confess, but I do not understand myself.”
“Azure flower of innocence, I adore your sweet perplexity! Let love take care of itself; it will speak to you in master tones.”
“I don’t know anything about that; it’s possible! Here we are at home. Good evening, Monsieur; embrace me. — Good night, Leon; don’t quarrel with M. Fougas. I love him with all my heart, but I love you in a different way!”
The aunt Virginie made no response to the “Good evening” of Fougas. When the two men were alone in the street, Leon marched along without saying a word, till they reached the next lamp-post. There, planting himself resolutely opposite the Colonel, he said,
“Well, sir, now that we are alone, we had better have an explanation. I don’t know by what philter or incantation you have obtained such prodigious influence over my betrothed; but I know that I love her, that I have been loved by her more than four years, and that I will not stop at any means of retaining and protecting her.”
“Friend,” answered Fougas, “you can brave me with impunity; my arm is chained by gratitude. It shall never be written in history that Pierre Fougas was an ingrate!”
“Would it have been more ungrateful in you to cut my throat, than to rob me of my wife?”
“Oh, my benefactor! Learn to understand and pardon! God forbid that I should marry Clementine in spite of you, in spite of herself. It is through her consent and your own that I hope to win her. Realize that she has been dear to me, not for four years, as to you, but for nearly half a century. Reflect that I am alone on earth, and that her sweet face is my only consolation. Will you, who have given me life, prevent my spending it happily? Have you called me back to the world only to deliver me over to despair? — Tiger! Take back, then, the life you gave me, if you will not permit me to consecrate it to the adorable Clementine!”
“Upon my soul, my dear fellow, you are superb! The habit of victory must have totally twisted your wits. My hat is on your head:— keep it; so far so good. But because my betrothed happens to remind you vaguely of a girl in Nancy, must I give her up to you? I can’t see it!”
“Friend, I will give you back your hat just as soon as you’ve bought me another one; but do not ask me to give up Clementine. In the first place, do you know that she will reject me?”
“I’m sure of it.”
“She loves me.”
“You’ve seen her at my feet.”
“What of that? It was from fear, from respect, from superstition, from anything in the devil’s name you choose to call it; but it was not from love.”
“We’ll see about that pretty clearly, after six months of married life.”
“But,” cried Leon Renault, “have you the right to dispose of yourself? There is another Clementine, the true one; she has sacrificed everything for you; you are engaged, in honor, to her. Is Colonel Fougas deaf to the voice of honor?”
“Are you mocking me? What! I marry a woman sixty-four years old?”
“You ought to; if not for her sake, at least for your child’s .”
“My child is a pretty big boy. He’s forty-six years old; he has no further need of my care.”
“He does need your name, though.”
“I’ll adopt him.”
“The law is opposed to it. You’re not fifty years old, and he’s not fifteen years younger than you are; quite the reverse!”
“Very well; I’ll legitimize him by marrying the young Clementine.”
“How can you expect her to acknowledge a child twice as old as she is herself?”
“But then I can’t acknowledge him any better; so there’s no need of my marrying the old woman. Moreover, I’d be excessively accommodating to break my head for a child who is very likely dead. What do I say? It is possible that he never saw the light. I love and am loved — that much is substantial and certain; and you shall be my groomsman.”
“Not yet awhile. Mlle. Sambucco is a minor, and her guardian is my father.”
“Your father is an honorable man; and he will not have the baseness to refuse her to me.”
“At least he will ask you if you have any position, any rank, any fortune to offer to his ward.”
“My position? colonel; my rank? colonel; my fortune? the pay of a colonel. And the millions at Dantzic — I mustn’t forget them! — Here we are at home; let me have the will of that good old gentleman who wore the lilac wig. Give me some books on history, too — a big pile of them — all that have anything to say about Napoleon.”
Young Renault sadly obeyed the master he had given himself. He conducted Fougas to a fine chamber, brought him Herr Meiser’s will and a whole shelf of books, and bid his mortal enemy “Good night.” The Colonel embraced him impetuously, and said to him,
“I will never forget that to you I owe life and Clementine. Farewell till to-morrow, noble and generous child of my native land! farewell!”
Leon went back to the ground floor, passed the dining-room, where Gothon was wiping the glasses and putting the silver in order, and rejoined his father and mother, who were waiting for him in the parlor. The guests were gone, the candles extinguished. A single lamp lit up the solitude. The two mandarins on the étagère were motionless in their obscure corner, and seemed to meditate gravely on the caprices of fortune.
“Well?” demanded Mme. Renault.
“I left him in his room, crazier and more obstinate than ever. However, I’ve got an idea.”
“So much the better,” said the father, “for we have none left. Sadness has made us stupid. But, above all things, no quarrelling. These soldiers of the empire used to be terrible swordsmen.”
“Oh, I’m not afraid of him! It’s Clementine that makes me anxious. With what sweetness and submission she listened to the confounded babbler!”
“The heart of woman is an unfathomable abyss. Well, what do you think of doing?”
Leon developed in detail the project he had conceived in the street, during his conversation with Fougas.
“The most urgent thing,” said he, “is to relieve Clementine from this influence. If we could get him out of the way to-morrow, reason would resume its empire, and we would be married the day after to-morrow. That being done, I’ll answer for the rest.”
“But how is such a madman to be gotten rid of?”
“I see but one way, but it is almost infallible — to excite his dominant passion. These fellows sometimes imagine that they are in love, but, at the bottom, they love nothing but powder. The thing is, to fling Fougas back into the current of military ideas. His breakfast to-morrow with the colonel of the 23d will be a good preparation. I made him understand to-day that he ought, before all, to reclaim his rank and epaulettes, and he has become inoculated with the idea. He’ll go to Paris, then. Possibly he’ll find there some leather-breeches of his acquaintance. At all events, he’ll reënter the service. The occupations incident to his position will be a powerful diversion; he’ll no longer dream of Clementine, whom I will have fixed securely. We will have to furnish him the wherewithal to knock about the world; but all sacrifices of money are nothing in comparison with the happiness I wish to save.”
Madame Renault, who was a woman of thrift, blamed her son’s generosity a little.
“The Colonel is an ungrateful soul,” said she. “We’ve already done too much in giving him back his life. Let him take care of himself now!”
“No,” said the father; “we’ve not the right to send him forth entirely empty-handed. Decency forbids.”
This deliberation, which had lasted a good hour and a quarter, was interrupted by a tremendous racket. One would have declared that the house was falling down.
“There he is again!” cried Leon. “Undoubtedly a fresh paroxysm of raving madness!”
He ran, followed by his parents, and mounted the steps four at a time. A candle was burning at the sill of the chamber door. Leon took it, and pushed the door half open.
Must it be confessed? Hope and joy spoke louder to him than fear. He fancied himself already relieved of the Colonel. But the spectacle presented to his eyes suddenly diverted the course of his ideas, and the inconsolable lover began laughing like a fool. A noise of kicks, blows, and slaps; an undefined group rolling on the floor in the convulsions of a desperate struggle — so much was all he could see and understand at the first glance. Soon Fougas, lit up by the ruddy glow of the candle, discovered that he was struggling with Gothon, like Jacob with the angel, and went back, confused and pitiable, to bed.
The Colonel had gone to sleep over the history of Napoleon, without putting out the candle. Gothon, after finishing her work, saw the light under the door. Her thoughts recurred to that poor Baptiste, who, perhaps, was groaning in purgatory for having let himself tumble from a roof. Hoping that Fougas could give her some news of her lover, she rapped several times, at first softly, then much louder. The Colonel’s silence and the lighted candle made it seem to the servant that there was something wrong. The fire might catch the curtains, and from thence the whole building. She accordingly set down the candle, opened the door, and went, with cat-like steps, to put out the light. Possibly the eyes of the sleeper vaguely perceived the passage of a shadow; possibly Gothon, with her big, awkward figure, made a board in the floor creak. Fougas partially awoke, heard the rustling of a dress, dreamed it one of those adventures which were wont to spice garrison life under the first empire, and held out his arms blindly, calling Clementine. Gothon, on finding herself seized by the hair and shoulders, responded by such a masculine blow that the enemy supposed himself attacked by a man. The blow was returned with interest; further exchanges followed, and they finished by clinching and rolling on the floor.
If anybody ever did feel shamefaced, Fougas was certainly the man. Gothon went to bed, considerably bruised; the Renault family talked sense into the Colonel, and got out of him pretty much what they wanted. He promised to set out next day, accepted as a loan the money offered him, and swore not to return until he should have recovered his epaulettes and secured the Dantzic bequest.
“And then,” said he, “I’ll marry Clementine.”
On that point it was useless to argue with him; the idea was fixed.
Everybody slept soundly in the mansion of the Renaults; the heads of the house, because they had had three sleepless nights; Fougas and Gothon, because each had been unmercifully pummelled; and the young Célestin, because he had drunk the heeltaps from all the glasses.
The next morning M. Rollon came to know if Fougas were in a condition to breakfast with him; he feared, just the least bit, that he would find him under a shower bath. Far from it! The madman of yesterday was as calm as a picture and as fresh as a rosebud. He shaved with Leon’s razors, while humming an air of Nicolo. With his hosts, he was charming, and he promised to settle a pension on Gothon out of Herr Meiser’s legacy.
As soon as he had set off for the breakfast, Leon ran to the dwelling of his sweetheart.
“Everything is going better,” said he. “The Colonel is much more reasonable. He has promised to leave for Paris this very day; so we can get married to-morrow.”
Mlle. Virginie Sambucco praised this plan of proceeding highly, not only because she had made great preparations for the wedding, but because the postponement of the marriage would be the talk of the town. The cards were already out, the mayor notified, and the Virgin’s chapel, in the parish church, engaged. To revoke all this at the caprice of a ghost and a fool, would be to sin against custom, common sense, and Heaven itself.
Clementine only replied with tears. She could not be happy without marrying Leon, but she would rather die, she said, than give her hand without the sanction of M. Fougas. She promised to implore him, on her knees if necessary, and wring from him his consent.
“But if he refuses? And it’s too likely that he will!”
“I will beseech him again and again, until he says yes.”
Everybody conspired to convince her that she was unreasonable — her aunt, Leon, M. and Mme. Renault, M. Martout, M. Bonnivet, and all the friends of the two families. At length she yielded, but, at almost the same instant, the door flew open, and M. Audret rushed into the parlor, crying out,
“Well, well! here is a piece of news! Colonel Fougas is going to fight M. du Marnet to-morrow.”
The young girl fell, thunderstruck, into the arms of Leon Renault.
“God punishes me!” cried she; “and the chastisement for my impiety is not delayed. Will you still force me to obey you? Shall I be dragged to the altar, in spite of myself, at the very hour he’s risking his life?”
No one dared to insist longer, on seeing her in so pitiable a state. But Leon offered up earnest prayers that victory might side with the colonel of cuirassiers. He was wrong, I confess; but what lover would have been sinless enough to cast the first stone at him?
And here is an account of how the precious Fougas had spent his day.
At ten o’clock in the morning, the youngest two captains of the 23d came to conduct him in proper style to the residence of the Colonel. M. Rollon occupied a little palace of the imperial epoch. A marble tablet, inserted over the porte-cochère, still bore the words, Ministère des Finances— a souvenir of the glorious time when Napoleon’s court followed its master to Fontainebleau.
Colonel Rollon, the lieutenant-colonel, the major-in-chief, the three majors of battalions, the surgeon-major, and ten or a dozen officers were outside, awaiting the arrival of the illustrious guest from the other world. The flag was placed in the middle of the court, under guard of the ensign and a squad of non-commissioned officers selected for the honor. The band of the regiment, at the entrance of the garden, filled up the background of the picture. Eight panoplies of arms, which had been improvised the same morning by the armorers of the corps, embellished the walls and railings. A company of grenadiers, with their arms at rest, were in attendance.
At the entrance of Fougas, the band played the famous ”Partant pour la Syrie;“ the grenadiers presented arms; the drums beat a salute; the non-commissioned officers and soldiers cried, ”Vive le Colonel Fougas!“ the officers, in a body, approached the patriarch of their regiment. All this was neither regular nor according to discipline, but we can well allow a little latitude to these brave soldiers on finding their ancestor. For them it seemed a little debauch in glory.
The hero of the fête grasped the hands of the colonel and officers with as much emotion as if he had found his old comrades again. He cordially saluted the non-commissioned officers and soldiers, approached the flag, bent one knee to the earth, raised himself loftily, grasped the staff, turned toward the attentive crowd, and said,
“My friends, under the shadow of the flag, a soldier of France, after forty-six years of exile, finds his family again to-day. All honor to thee, symbol of our fatherland, old partner in our victories, and heroic support in our misfortunes! Thy radiant eagle has hovered over prostrate and trembling Europe. Thy bruised eagle has again dashed obstinately against misfortune, and terrified the sons of Power. Honor to thee, thou who hast led us to glory, and fortified us against the clamor of despair! I have seen thee ever foremost in the fiercest dangers, proud flag of my native land! Men have fallen around thee like grain before the reaper; while thou alone hast shown to the enemy thy front unbending and superb. Bullets and cannon-shot have torn thee with wounds, but never upon thee has the audacious stranger placed his hand. May the future deck thy front with new laurels! Mayst thou conquer new and far-extending realms, which no fatality shall rob thee of! The day of great deeds is being born again; believe a warrior, who has risen from the tomb to tell thee so. ‘Forward!’ Yes, I swear it by the spirit of him who led us at Wagram. There shall be great days for France when thou shalt shelter with thy glorious folds the fortunes of the brave 23d!”
Eloquence so martial and patriotic stirred all hearts. Fougas was applauded, fêted, embraced, and almost carried in triumph into the banquet hall.
Seated at table opposite M. Rollon, as if he were a second master of the house, he breakfasted heartily, talked a great deal, and drank more yet. You may occasionally meet, in the world, people who get drunk without drinking. Fougas was far from being one of them. He never felt his equanimity seriously disturbed short of three bottles. Often, in fact, he went much further without yielding.
The toasts presented at dessert were distinguished for pith and cordiality. I would like to recount them in order, but am forced to admit that they would take up too much room, and that the last, which were the most touching, were not of a lucidity absolutely Voltairian.
They arose from the table at two o’clock, and betook themselves in a body to the Café Militaire, where the officers of the 23d placed a punch before the two colonels. They had invited, with a feeling of eminent propriety, the superior officers of the regiment of cuirassiers.
Fougas, who was drunker, in his own proper person, than a whole battalion of Suisses, distributed a great many hand-shakings. But across the storm which disturbed his spirit, he recognized the person and name of M. du Marnet, and made a grimace. Between officers, and, above all, between officers of different arms of the service, politeness is a little excessive, etiquette rather severe, amour-propre somewhat susceptible. M. du Marnet, who was preëminently a man of the world, understood at once, from the attitude of M. Fougas, that he was not in the presence of a friend.
The punch appeared, blazing, went out with its strength unimpaired, and was dispensed, with a big ladle, into threescore glasses. Fougas drank with everybody, except M. du Marnet. The conversation, which was erratic and noisy, imprudently raised a question of comparative merits. An officer of cuirassiers asked Fougas if he had seen Bordesoulle’s splendid charge, which flung the Austrians into the valley of Plauen. Fougas had known General Bordesoulle personally, and had seen with his own eyes the beautiful heavy cavalry manoeuvre which decided the victory of Dresden. But he chose to be disagreeable to M. du Marnet, by affecting an air of ignorance or indifference.
“In our time,” said he, “the cavalry was always brought into action after the battle; we employed it to bring in the enemy after we had routed them.”
Here a great outcry arose, and the glorious name of Murat was thrown into the balance.
“Oh, doubtless — doubtless!” said he, shaking his head. “Murat was a good general in his limited sphere; he answered perfectly for all that was wanted of him. But if the cavalry had Murat, the infantry had Napoleon.”
M. du Marnet observed, judiciously, that Napoleon, if he must be seized upon for the credit of any single arm of the service, would belong to the artillery.
“With all my heart, monsieur,” replied Fougas; “the artillery and the infantry. Artillery at a distance, infantry at close quarters — cavalry off at one side.”
“Once more I beg your pardon,” answered M. du Marnet; “you mean to say, at the sides, which is a very different matter.”
“At the sides, or at one side, I don’t care! As for me, if I were commander-in-chief, I would set the cavalry aside.”
Several cavalry officers had already flung themselves into the discussion. M. du Marnet held them back, and made a sign that he wanted to answer Fougas alone.
“And why, then, if you please, would you set the cavalry aside?”
“Because the dragoon is an incomplete soldier.”
“Yes, sir; and the proof is, that the Government has to buy four or five hundred francs’ worth of horse in order to complete him. And when the horse receives a ball or a bayonet thrust, the dragoon is no longer good for anything. Have you ever seen a cavalryman on foot? It would be a pretty sight!”
“I see myself on foot every day, and I don’t see anything particularly ridiculous about it.”
“I’m too polite to contradict you.”
“And for me, sir, I am too just to combat one paradox with another. What would you think of my logic, if I were to say to you (the idea is not mine — I found it in a book), if I were to say to you, ‘I entertain a high regard for infantry, but, after all, the foot soldier is an incomplete soldier, deprived of his birthright, an inefficient body deprived of that natural complement of the soldier, called a horse! I admire his courage, I perceive that he makes himself useful in battle; but, after all, the poor devil has only two feet at his command, while we have four!’ You see fit to consider a dragoon on foot ridiculous; but does the foot-soldier always make a very brilliant appearance when one sticks a horse between his legs? I have seen excellent infantry captains cruelly embarrassed when the minister of war made them majors. They said, scratching their heads, ‘It’s not over when we’ve mounted a grade; we’ve got to mount a horse in the bargain!’”
This crude pleasantry amused the audience for a moment. They laughed, and the mustard mounted higher and higher in Fougas’ nose.
“In my time,” said he, “a foot soldier became a dragoon in twenty-four hours; and if any one would like to make a match with me on horseback, sabre in hand, I’ll show him what infantry is!”
“Monsieur,” coolly replied M. du Marnet, “I hope that opportunities will not be lacking to you in the field of battle. It is there that a true soldier displays his talents and bravery. Infantry and cavalry, we alike belong to France. I drink to her, Monsieur, and I hope you will not refuse to touch glasses with me. — To France!”
This was certainly well spoken and well settled. The clicking of glasses applauded M. du Marnet. Fougas himself approached his adversary and drank with him without reserve. But he whispered in his ear, speaking very thickly:
“I hope, for my part, that you will not refuse the sabre-match which I had the honor to propose to you?”
“As you please,” said the colonel of cuirassiers.
The gentleman from the other world, drunker than ever, went out of the crowd with two officers whom he had picked up haphazard. He declared to them that he considered himself insulted by M. du Marnet, that a challenge had been given and accepted, and that the affair was going on swimmingly.
“Especially,“added he in confidence, “since there is a lady in the case! These are my conditions — they are all in accordance with the honor of the infantry, the army, and France: we will fight on horseback, stripped to the waist, mounted bareback on two stallions. The weapon — the cavalry sabre. First blood. I want to chastise a puppy. I am far from wishing to rob France of a soldier.”
These conditions were pronounced absurd by M. du Marnet’s seconds. They accepted them, nevertheless, for the military code requires one to face all dangers, however absurd.
Fougas devoted the rest of the day to worrying the poor Renaults. Proud of the control he exercised over Clementine, he declared his wishes; swore he would take her for his wife as soon as he had recovered his rank, family, and fortune, and prohibited her to dispose of herself before that time. He broke openly with Leon and his parents, refused to accept their good offices any longer, and quitted their house after a serious passage of high words. Leon concluded by saying that he would only give up his betrothed with life itself. The Colonel shrugged his shoulders and turned his back, carrying off, without stopping to consider what he was doing, the father’s clothes and the son’s hat. He asked M. Rollon for five hundred francs, engaged a room at the Hotel du Cadron-bleu, went to bed without any supper, and slept straight through until the arrival of his seconds.
There was no necessity for giving him an account of what had passed the previous day. The fogs of punch and sleep dissipated themselves in an instant. He plunged his head and hands into a basin of fresh water, and said:
“So much for my toilet! Now, Vive l’Empereur! Let’s go and get “into line!”
The field selected by common consent was the parade-ground — a sandy plain enclosed in the forest, at a good distance from the town. All the officers of the garrison betook themselves there of their own accord; there would have been no need of inviting them. More than one soldier went secretly and billeted himself in a tree. The gendarmerie itself ornamented the little family fête, with its presence. People went to see an encounter in chivalric tourney, not merely between the infantry and the cavalry, but between the old army and the young. The exhibition fully satisfied public expectation. No one was tempted to hiss the piece, and everybody had his money’s worth.
Precisely at nine o’clock, the combatants entered the lists, attended by their four seconds and the umpire of the field. Fougas, naked to the waist, was as handsome as a young god. His lithe and agile figure, his proud and radiant features, the manly grace of his movements, assured him a flattering reception. He made his English horse caper, and saluted the lookers-on with the point of his sword.
M. du Marnet, a man rather of the German type, hardy, quite hairy, moulded like the Indian Bacchus, and not like Achilles, showed in his countenance a slight shade of disgust. It was not necessary to be a magician to understand that this duel in naturalibus, under the eyes of his own officers, appeared to him useless and even ridiculous. His horse was a half-blood from Perche, a vigorous beast and full of fire.
Fougas’ seconds rode badly enough. They divided their attention between the combat and their stirrups. M. du Marnet had chosen the best two horsemen in his regiment, a major and captain. The umpire of the field was Colonel Rollon, an excellent rider.
At a signal given by Colonel Rollon, Fougas rode directly at his adversary, presenting the point of his sabre in the position of “prime,” like a cavalry soldier charging infantry in a hollow square. But he reined up about three lengths from M. du Marnet, and described around him seven or eight rapid circles, like an Arab in a play. M. du Marnet, being forced to turn in the same spot and defend himself on all sides, clapped both spurs to his horse, broke the circle, took to the field, and threatened to commence the same manoeuvre about Fougas. But the gentleman from the other world did not wait for him. He rushed off at a full gallop, and made a round of the hippodrome, always followed by M. du Marnet. The cuirassier, being heavier, and mounted on a slower horse, was distanced. He revenged himself by calling out to Fougas:
“Oh, Monsieur! I must say that this looks more like a race than a battle. I ought to have brought a riding-whip instead of a sword!”
But Fougas, panting and furious, had already turned upon him.
“Hold on there!” cried he; “I have shown you the horseman; now I will show you the soldier!”
He lanched a thrust at him, which would have gone through him like a hoop if M. du Marnet had not been as prompt as at parade. He retorted by a fine cut en quarte, powerful enough to cut the invincible Fougas in two. But the other was nimbler than a monkey. He wholly shielded his body by letting himself slide to the ground, and then remounted his horse in the same second.
“My compliments!” said M. du Marnet. “They don’t do any better than that in the circus.”
“No more do they in war,” rejoined the other. “Ah, scoundrel! so you revile the old army? Here’s at you! A miss! Thanks for the retort, but it’s not good enough yet. I’ll not die from any such thrust as that! How do you like that? — and that?-and that? Ah, you claim that the foot-soldier is an incomplete man! Now we’re going to make your assortment of limbs a little incomplete. Look out for your boot! He’s parried it! Perhaps he expects to indulge in a little promenade under Clementine’s windows this evening. Take care! Here’s for Clementine! And here’s for the infantry! Will you parry that? So, traitor! And that? So he does! Perhaps you’ll parry them all, then, by Heavens! Victory! Ah, Monsieur! Your blood is flowing! What have I done? Devil take the sword, the horse, and all! Major! major! come quickly! Monsieur, let yourself rest in my arms. Beast that I am! As if all soldiers were not brothers! Oh, forgive me, my friend! Would that I could redeem each drop of your blood with all of mine! Miserable Fougas, incapable of mastering his fierce passions! Ah, you Esculapian Mars, I beg you tell me that the thread of his days is not to be clipped! I will not survive him, for he is a brave!”
M. du Marnet had received a magnificent cut which traversed the left arm and breast, and the blood was streaming from it at a rate to make one shudder. The surgeon, who had provided himself with hemostatic preparations, hastened to arrest the hemorrhage. The wound was long rather than deep, and could be cured in a few days. Fougas himself carried his adversary to the carriage, but that did not satisfy him. He firmly insisted on joining the two officers who took M. du Marnet home; he overwhelmed the wounded man with his protestations, and was occupied during most of the ride in swearing eternal friendship to him. On reaching the house, he put him to bed, embraced him, bathed him with tears, and did not leave him for a moment until he heard him snoring.
When six o’clock struck, he went to dine at the hotel, in company with his seconds and the referee, all of whom he had invited after the fight. He treated them magnificently, and got drunk himself, as usual.
The next day, after a visit to M. du Marnet, he wrote thus to Clementine:
“Light of my life, I am about to quit these scenes, the witnesses of my fatal courage and the repositories of my love. To the bosom of the capital, to the foot of the throne, I will first betake my steps. If the successor of the God of Combats is not deaf to the voice of the blood that courses in his veins, he will restore me my sword and epaulettes, so that I may lay them at thy feet. Be faithful to me — wait, hope! May these lines be to thee a talisman against the dangers threatening thy independence. Oh, my Clementine, tenderly guard thyself for thy
Clementine sent him no answer, but, just as he was getting on the train, he was accosted by a messenger, who handed him a pretty red leather pocket-book, and ran away with all his might. The pocket-book was entirely new, solid, and carefully fastened. It contained twelve hundred francs in bank notes — all the young girl’s savings. Fougas had no time to deliberate on this delicate circumstance. He was pushed into a car, the locomotive puffed, and the train started.
The Colonel began to review in his memory the various events which had succeeded each other in his life during less than a week. His arrest among the frosts of the Vistula, his sentence to death, his imprisonment in the fortress of Liebenfeld, his reawakening at Fontainebleau, the invasion of 1814, the return from the island of Elba, the hundred days, the death of the emperor and the king of Rome, the restoration of the Bonapartes in 1852, his meeting with a young girl who was the counterpart of Clementine Pichon in all respects, the flag of the 23d, the duel with the colonel of cuirassiers — all this, for Fougas, had not taken up more than four days. The night reaching from the 11th of November, 1813, to the 17th of August, 1859, seemed to him even a little shorter than any of the others; for it was the only time that he had had a full sleep, without any dreaming.
A less active spirit, and a heart less warm, would, perhaps, have lapsed into a sort of melancholy. For, in fact, one who has been asleep for forty-six years would naturally become somewhat alien to mankind in general, even in his own country. Not a relation, not a friend, not a familiar face, on the whole face of the earth! Add to this a multitude of new words, ideas, customs, and inventions, which make him feel the need of a cicerone, and prove to him that he is a stranger. But Fougas, on reopening his eyes, following the precept of Horace, was thrown into the very midst of action. He had improvised for him friends, enemies, a sweetheart, and a rival. Fontainebleau, his second native place, was, provisionally, the central point of his existence. There he felt himself loved, hated, feared, admired — in a word, well known. He knew that in that sub-prefecture his name could not be spoken without awakening an echo. But what attached him more than all to modern times, was his well-established relationship with the great family of the army. Wherever a French flag floats, the soldier, young or old, is at home. Around that church-spire of the fatherland, though dear and sacred in a way different from the village spire, language, ideas, and institutions change but little. The death of individuals has little effect; they are replaced by others who look like them, and think, talk, and act in the same way; who do not stop on assuming the uniform of their predecessors, but inherit their souvenirs also — the glory they have acquired, their traditions, their jests, and even certain intonations of their voices. This accounts for Fougas’ sudden friendship, after a first feeling of jealousy, for the new colonel of the 23d; and the sudden sympathy which he evinced for M. du Marnet as soon as he saw the blood running from his wound. Quarrels between soldiers are family quarrels, which never blot out the relationship.
Calmly satisfied that he was not alone in the world, M. Fougas derived pleasure from all the new objects which civilization placed before his eyes. The speed of the rail-cars fairly intoxicated him. He was inspired with a positive enthusiasm for this force of steam, whose theory was a closed book to him, but on whose results he meditated much.
“With a thousand machines like this, two thousand rifled cannon, and two hundred thousand such chaps as I am, Napoleon would have conquered the world in six weeks. Why doesn’t this young fellow on the throne make some use of the resources he has under his control? Perhaps he hasn’t thought of it. Very well, I’ll go to see him. If he looks like a man of capacity, I’ll give him my idea; he’ll make me minister of war, and then — Forward, march!”
He had explained to him the use of the great iron wires running on poles all along the road.
“The very thing!” said he. “Here are aides-de-camp both fleet and judicious. Get them all into the hands of a chief-of-staff like Berthier, and the universe would be held in a thread by the mere will of a man!”
His meditations were interrupted, a couple of miles from Melun, by the sounds of a foreign language. He pricked up his ears, and then bounded from his corner as if he had sat on a pile of thorns. Horror! it was English! One of those monsters who had assassinated Napoleon at St. Helena for the sake of insuring to themselves the cotton monopoly, had entered the compartment with a very pretty woman and two lovely children.
“Conductor, stop!” cried Fougas, thrusting his body halfway out of the window.
“Monsieur,” said the Englishman in good French, “I advise you to have patience until we get to the next station. The conductor doesn’t hear you, and you’re in danger of falling out on the track. If I can be of any service to you, I have a flask of brandy with me, and a medicine chest.”
“No, sir,” replied Fougas in a most supercilious tone, “I’m in want of nothing, and I’d rather die than accept anything from an Englishman! If I’m calling the conductor, it’s only because I want to get into a different car, and cleanse my eyes from the sight of an enemy of the Emperor.”
“I assure you, monsieur,” responded the Englishman, “that I am not an enemy of the Emperor. I had the honor of being received by him while he was in London. He even deigned to pass a few days at my little country-seat in Lancashire.”
“So much the better for you, if this young man is good enough to forget what you have done against his family; but Fougas will never forgive your crimes against his country.”
As soon as they arrived at the station at Melun, he opened the door and rushed into another saloon. There he found himself alone in the presence of two young gentlemen, whose physiognomies were far from English, and who spoke French with the purest accent of Touraine. Both had coats of arms on their seal-rings, so that no one might be ignorant of their rank as nobles. Fougas was too plebeian to fancy the nobility much; but as he had left a compartment full of Britons, he was happy to meet a couple of Frenchmen.
“Friends,” said he, inclining toward them with a cordial smile, “we are children of the same mother. Long life to you! Your appearance revives me.”
The two young gentlemen opened their eyes very wide, half bowed, and resumed their conversation, without making any other response to Fougas’ advance.
“Well, then, my dear Astophe,” said one, “you saw the king at Froshdorf?”
“Yes, my good Americ; and he received me with the most affecting condescension. ‘Vicomte,’ said he to me, ‘you come of a house well known for its fidelity. We will remember you when God replaces us on the throne of our ancestors. Tell our brave nobility of Touraine that we hope to be remembered in their prayers, and that we never forget them in ours.’”
“Pitt and Coburg!” said Fougas between his teeth. “Here are two little rascals conspiring with the army of Condé! But, patience!”
He clenched his fists and opened his ears.
“Didn’t he say anything about politics?”
“A few vague words. Between us, I don’t think he bothers with them much; he is waiting upon events.”
“He’ll not wait much longer.”
“Who can tell?”
“What! Who can tell? The empire is not good for six months longer. Monseigneur de Montereau said so again last Monday to my aunt the canoness.”
“For my part, I give them a year, for their campaign in Italy has strengthened them with the lower orders. I didn’t put myself out to tell the king so, though!”
“Damnation! gentlemen, this is going it a little too strongly!” interrupted Fougas. “Is it here in France that Frenchmen speak thus of French institutions? Go back to your master; tell him that the empire is eternal, because it is founded on the granite of popular support, and cemented by the blood of heroes. And if the king asks you who told you this, tell him it was Colonel Fougas, who was decorated at Wagram by the Emperor’s own hand!”
The two young gentlemen looked at each other, exchanged a smile, and the Viscount said to the Marquis:
“What is that?”
“No, dear; a mad dog.”
6 The English used by the two young noblemen is M. About’s own. It is certainly such English as Frenchmen would be apt to speak, and it is as fair to attribute that fact to M. About’s fine sense of the requirements of the occasion, as to lack of familiarity with our language.
“Very well, gentlemen,” cried the Colonel. “Speak English; you’re fit for it!”
He changed his compartment at the next station, and fell in with a lot of young painters. He called them disciples of Zeuxis, and asked them about Gérard, Gros, and David. These gentlemen found the sport novel, and recommended him to go and see Talma in the new tragedy of Arnault.
The fortifications of Paris dazzled him very much, and scandalized him a little.
“I don’t like this,” said he to his companions. “The true rampart of a capital is the courage of a great people. This piling bastions around Paris, is saying to the enemy that it is possible to conquer France.”
The train at last stopped at the Mazas station. The Colonel, who had no baggage, marched out pompously, with his hands in his pockets, to look for the hôtel de Nantes. As he had spent three months in Paris about the year 1810, he considered himself acquainted with the city, and for that reason he did not fail to lose himself as soon as he got there. But in the various quarters which he traversed at hazard, he admired the great changes which had been wrought during his absence. Fougas’ taste was for having streets very long, very wide, and bordered with very large houses all alike; he could not fail to notice that the Parisian style was rapidly approaching his ideal. It was not yet absolute perfection, but progress was manifest.
By a very natural illusion, he paused twenty times to salute people of familiar appearance; but no one recognized him.
After a walk of five hours he reached the Place du Carrousel. The hôtel de Nantes was no longer there; but the Louvre had been erected instead. Fougas employed a quarter of an hour in regarding this monument of architecture, and half an hour in contemplating two Zouaves of the guard who were playing piquet. He inquired if the Emperor was in Paris; whereupon his attention was called to the flag floating over the Tuilleries.
“Good!” said he. “But first I must get some new clothes.”
He took a room in a hotel on the Rue Saint Honoré, and asked a waiter which was the most celebrated tailor in Paris. The waiter handed him a Business Directory. Fougas hunted out the Emperor’s bootmaker, shirtmaker, hatter, tailor, barber, and glovemaker. He took down their names and addresses in Clementine’s pocket-book, after which he took a carriage and set out.
As he had a small and shapely foot, he found boots ready-made without any difficulty. He was promised, too, that all the linen he required should be sent home in the evening. But when he came to explain to the hatter what sort of an apparatus he intended to plant on his head, he encountered great difficulties. His ideal was an enormous hat, large at the crown, small below, broad in the brim, and curved far down behind and before; in a word, the historic heirloom to which the founder of Bolivia gave his name long ago. The shop had to be turned upside down, and all its recesses searched, to find what he wanted.
“At last,” cried the hatter, “here’s your article. If it’s for a stage dress, you ought to be satisfied; the comic effect can be depended upon.”
Fougas answered dryly, that the hat was much less ridiculous than all those which were then circulating around the streets of Paris.
At the celebrated tailor’s, in the Rue de la Paix, there was almost a battle.
“No, monsieur,” said Alfred, “I’ll never make you a frogged surtout and a pair of trousers à la Cosaque! Go to Babin, or Morean, if you want a carnival dress; but it shall never be said that a man of as good figure as yours left our establishment caricatured.”
“Thunder and guns!” retorted Fougas. “You’re a head taller than I am, Mister Giant, but I’m a colonel of the Grand Empire, and it won’t do for drum-majors to give orders to colonels!”
Of course, the devil of a fellow had the last word. His measure was taken, a book of costumes consulted, and a promise made that in twenty-four hours he should be dressed in the height of the fashion of 1813. Cloths were presented for his selection, among them some English fabrics. These he threw aside with disgust.
“The blue cloth of France,” cried he, “and made in France! And cut it in such a style that any one seeing me in Pekin would say, ‘That’s a soldier!’”
The officers of our day have precisely the opposite fancy. They make an effort to resemble all other “gentlemen”7 when they assume the civilian’s dress.
7 It is not without interest to note that M. About used the English word gentlemen.
Fougas ordered, in the Rue Richelieu, a black satin scarf, which hid his shirt, and reached up to his ears. Then he went toward the Palais Royal, entered a celebrated restaurant, and ordered his dinner. For breakfast he had only taken a bite at a pastry-cook’s in the Boulevard, so his appetite, which had been sharpened by the excursion, did wonders. He ate and drank as he did at Fontainebleau. But the bill seemed to him hard to digest: it was for a hundred and ten francs and a few centimes. “The devil!” said he; “living has become dear in Paris!” Brandy entered into the sum total for an item of nine francs. They had given him a bottle, and a glass about the size of a thimble; this gimcrack had amused Fougas, and he diverted himself by filling and emptying it a dozen times. But on leaving the table he was not drunk; an amiable gayety inspired him, but nothing more. It occurred to him to get back some of his money by buying some lottery tickets at Number 113. But a bottle-seller located in that building apprised him that France had not gambled for thirty years. He pushed on to the Théâtre Français, to see if the Emperor’s actors might not be giving some fine tragedy, but the poster disgusted him. Modern comedies played by new actors! Neither Talma, nor Fleury, nor Thénard, nor the Baptistes, nor Mlle. Mars, nor Mlle. Raucourt! He then went to the opera, where Charles VI. was being given. The music astounded him at once. He was not accustomed to hear so much noise anywhere but on the battle-field. Nevertheless, his ears soon inured themselves to the clangor of the instruments; and the fatigue of the day, the pleasure of being comfortably seated, and the labor of digestion, plunged him into a doze. He woke up with a start at this famous patriotic song:
“_Guerre aux tyrans! jamais, jamais en France,_
_Jamais l’Anglais ne régnera!_”8
8 War against tyrants! Never, never, never shall the Briton reign in France!
“No!” cried he, stretching out his arms toward the stage. “Never! Let us swear it together on the sacred altar of our native land! Perish, perfidious Albion! Vive l’Empereur!“
The pit and orchestra arose at once, less to express accord with Fougas’ sentiments, than to silence him. During the following entr’acte, a commissioner of police said in his ear, that when one had dined as he had, one ought to go quietly to bed, instead of interrupting the performance of the opera.
He replied that he had dined as usual, and that this explosion of patriotic sentiment had not proceeded from the stomach.
“But,” said he, “when, in this palace of misused magnificence, hatred of the enemy is stigmatized as a crime, I must go and breathe a freer air, and bow before the temple of Glory before I go to bed.”
“You’ll do well to do so,” said the policeman.
He went out, haughtier and more erect than ever, reached the Boulevard, and ran with great strides as far as the Corinthian temple at the end. While on his way, he greatly admired the lighting of the city. M. Martout had explained to him the manufacture of gas; he had not understood anything about it, but the glowing and ruddy flame was an actual treat to his eyes.
As soon as he had reached the monument commanding the entrance to the Rue Royale, he stopped on the pavement, collected his thoughts for an instant, and exclaimed:
“Oh, Glory! Inspirer of great deeds, widow of the mighty conqueror of Europe! receive the homage of thy devoted Victor Fougas! For thee I have endured hunger, sweat, and frost, and eaten the most faithful of horses. For thee I am ready to brave further perils, and again to face death on every battle-field. I seek thee rather than happiness, riches, or power. Reject not the offering of my heart and the sacrifice of my blood! As the price of such devotion, I ask nothing but a smile from thy eyes and a laurel from thy hand!”
This prayer went all glowing to the ears of Saint Marie Madeleine, the patroness of the ex-temple of Glory. Thus the purchaser of a chateau sometimes receives a letter addressed to the original proprietor.
Fougas returned by the Rue de la Paix and the Place Vendôme, and saluted, in passing, the only familiar figure he had yet found in Paris. The new costume of Napoleon on the column did not displease him in any way. He preferred the cocked hat to a crown, and the gray surtout to a theatrical cloak.
The night was restless. In the Colonel’s brain a thousand diverse projects crossed each other in all directions. He prepared the little speech which he should make to the Emperor, going to sleep in the middle of a phrase, and waking up with a start in the attempt to lay hold on the idea which had so suddenly vanished. He put out and relit his candle twenty times. The recollection of Clementine was occasionally intermingled with dreams of war and political utopias. But I must confess that the young girl’s figure seldom got any higher than the second place.
But if the night appeared too long, the morning seemed short in proportion. The idea of meeting the new master of the empire face to face, inspired and chilled him in turn. For an instant he hoped that something would be lacking in his toilet — that some shopkeeper would furnish him an honorable pretext for postponing his visit until the next day. But everybody displayed the most desperate punctuality. Precisely at noon, the trousers à la Cosaque and the frogged surtout were on the foot of the bed opposite the famous Bolivar hat.
“I may as well be dressing,” said Fougas. “Possibly this young man may not be at home. In that case I’ll leave my name, and wait until he sends for me.”
He got himself up gorgeously in his own way, and, although it may appear impossible to my readers, Fougas, in a black satin scarf and frogged surtout, was not homely nor even ridiculous. His tall figure, lithe build, lofty and impressive carriage, and brusque movements, were all in a certain harmony with the costume of the olden time. He appeared strange, and that was all. To keep his courage up, he dropped into a restaurant, ate four cutlets, a loaf of bread, a slice of cheese, and washed it all down with two bottles of wine. The coffee and supplements brought him up to two o’clock, and that was the time he had set for himself.
He tipped his hat slightly over one ear, buttoned his buckskin gloves, coughed energetically two or three times before the sentinel at the Rue de Rivoli, and marched bravely into the gate.
“Monsieur,” cried the porter, “what do you want?”
“Have you an audience letter?”
“Colonel Fougas does not need one. Go and ask references of him who towers over the Place Vendôme. He’ll tell you that the name of Fougas has always been a synonym for bravery and fidelity.”
“You knew the first Emperor?”
“Yes, my little joker; and I have talked with him just as I am talking with you.”
“Indeed! But how old are you then?”
“Seventy years on the dial-plate of time; twenty-four years on the tablets of History!”
The porter raised his eyes to Heaven, and murmured:
“Still another! This makes the fourth for this week!”
He made a sign to a little gentleman in black, who was smoking his pipe in the court of the Tuilleries. Then he said to Fougas, putting his hand on his arm:
“So, my good friend, you want to see the Emperor?”
“I’ve already told you so, familiar individual!”
“Very well; you shall see him to-day. That gentleman going along there with the pipe in his mouth, is the one who introduces visitors; he will take care of you. But the Emperor is not in the Palace; he is in the country. It’s all the same to you, isn’t it, if you do have to go into the country?”
“What the devil do you suppose I care?”
“Only I don’t suppose you care to go on foot. A carriage has already been ordered for you. Come, my good fellow, get in, and be reasonable!”
Two minutes later, Fougas, accompanied by a detective, was riding to a police station.
His business was soon disposed of. The commissary who received him was the same one who had spoken to him the previous evening at the opera. A doctor was called, and gave the best verdict of monomania that ever sent a man to Charenton. All this was done politely and pleasantly, without a word which could put the Colonel on his guard or give him a suspicion of the fate held in reserve for him. He merely found the ceremonial rather long and peculiar, and prepared on the spot several well-sounding sentences, which he promised himself the honor of repeating to the Emperor.
At last he was permitted to resume his route. The hack had been kept waiting; the gentleman-usher relit his pipe, said three words to the driver, and seated himself at the left of the Colonel. The carriage set off at a trot, reached the Boulevards, and took the direction of the Bastille. It had gotten opposite the Porte Saint-Martin, and Fougas, with his head at the window, was continuing the composition of his impromptu speech, when an open carriage drawn by a pair of superb chestnuts passed, so to speak, under his very nose. A portly man with a gray moustache turned his head, and cried, “Fougas!”
Robinson Crusoe, discovering the human footprint on his island, was not more astonished and delighted than our hero on hearing that cry of “Fougas!” To open the door, jump out into the road, run to the carriage, which had been stopped, fling himself into it at a single bound, without the help of the step, and fall into the arms of the portly gentleman with the gray moustache, was all the work of a second. The barouche had long disappeared, when the detective at a gallop, followed by his hack at a trot, traversed the line of the Boulevards, asking all the policemen if they had not seen a crazy man pass that way.
In falling upon the neck of the big man with the gray moustache, Fougas supposed he was embracing Massena. He naturally intimated as much to him, whereupon the owner of the barouche burst into a great peal of laughter.
“Ah, my poor old boy,” said he, “it’s a long time since we buried the ‘Child of Victory!’ Look me square in the face: I am Leblanc, of the Russian campaign.”
“Impossible! You little Leblanc?”
“Lieutenant in the 3d Artillery, who shared with you a million of dangers and that famous piece of roast horse which you salted with your tears.”
“Well, upon my soul! It is you! You cut me out a pair of boots from the skin of the unfortunate Zephyr! And we needn’t speak of the number of times you saved my life! Oh, my brave and faithful friend, thank God that I embrace you once more! Yes, I recognize you now; but I needn’t say that you are changed!”
“Gad! I haven’t been preserved in a jug of spirits of wine. I’ve lived, for my part!”
“You know my history, then?”
“I heard it told last night at the Minister’s of Public Instruction. He had there the savant who set you on your legs again. I even wrote to you, on getting back home, to offer you a bunk and a place at mess; but my letter is on the way to Fontainebleau.”
“Thanks! You’re a sound one! Ah, my poor old boy, what things have happened since Beresina! You know all the misfortunes that have come?”
“I’ve seen them, and that’s sadder still. I was a major after Waterloo; the Bourbons put me aside on half-pay. My friends got me back into service again in 1822, but I had bad luck, and lazed around in garrisons at Lille, Grenoble, and Strasburg, without getting ahead any. My second epaulette did not reach me till 1830; then I took a little turn in Africa. I was made brigadier-general at Isly, got home again, and banged about from pillar to post until 1848. During that year we had a June campaign in Paris itself. My heart still bleeds every time I think of it, and, upon my soul, you’re blest in not having seen it. I got three balls in my body and a commission as general of division. After all, I’ve no right to complain for the campaign in Italy brought me good luck. Here I am, Marshal of France, with a hundred thousand francs income, and Duke of Solferino in the bargain. Yes, the Emperor has put a handle to my name. The fact is, that short ‘Leblanc’ was a little too short.”
“Thunderation!” cried Fougas, “that’s splendid! I swear, Leblanc, that I’m not jealous of your good fortune! It’s seldom enough that one soldier rejoices over the promotion of another; but indeed, from the bottom of my heart, I assure you that I do now. It’s all the better, since you deserved your honors, and the blind goddess must have had a glimpse of your heart and talents, over the bandage that covers her eyes!”
“You’re very kind! But let’s talk about yourself now: where were you going when I met you?”
“To see the Emperor.”
“So was I; but where the devil were you looking for him?”
“I don’t know; somebody was showing me the way.”
“But he is at the Tuilleries!”
“Yes! There’s something under all this; tell me about it.”
Fougas did not wait to be urged. The Marshal soon understood from what sort of danger he had extricated his friend.
“The concierge is mistaken,” said he; “the Emperor is at the Palace; and, as we’ve reached there now, come with me; perhaps I can present you after my audience.”
“The very thing! Leblanc, my heart beats at the idea of seeing this young man. Is he a good one? Can he be counted upon? Is he anything like the other?”
“You can see for yourself. Wait here.”
The friendship of these two men dated from the winter of 1812. During the retreat of the French army, chance flung the lieutenant of artillery and the colonel of the 23d together. One was eighteen years old, the other not quite twenty-four. The distance between their ranks was easily bridged over by common danger. All men are equal before hunger, cold, and fatigue. One morning, Leblanc, at the head of ten men, rescued Fougas from the hands of the Cossacks; then Fougas sabred a half dozen stragglers who were trying to steal Leblanc’s cloak. Eight days later, Leblanc pulled his friend out of a hut which the peasants had set on fire; and Fougas, in turn, fished Leblanc out of the Beresina. The list of their dangers and their mutual services is too long for me to give entire. To finish off, the Colonel, at Koenigsberg, passed three weeks at the bedside of the lieutenant, who was attacked with fever and ague. There is no doubt that this tender care saved his life. This reciprocal devotion had formed between them bonds so strong that a separation of forty-six years could not break them.
Fougas, alone in a great saloon, was buried in the recollections of that good old time, when an usher asked him to remove his gloves, and go into the cabinet of the Emperor.
Respect for the powers that be, which is the very foundation of my character, does not permit me to bring august personages upon the scene. But Fougas’ correspondence belongs to contemporaneous history, and here is the letter which he wrote to Clementine on returning to his hotel:
“Paris (what am I saying?)—Heaven, Aug. 21, 1859.
“My sweet Angel: I am intoxicated with joy, gratitude, and admiration. I have seen him, I have spoken to him; he gave me his hand, he made me be seated. He is a great prince; he will be the master of the world. He gave me the medal of St. Helena, and the Cross of an Officer. Little Leblanc, an old friend and a true heart, conducted me into his presence; he is Marshal of France, too, and a Duke of the new empire! As for promotion, there’s no more need of speculation on that head. A prisoner of war in Prussia and in a triple coffin, I return with my rank; so says the military law. But in less than three months I shall be a brigadier-general — that’s certain; he deigned to promise it to me himself. What a man! A god on earth! No more conceited than he of Wagram and Moscow, and, like him, the father of the soldier. He wanted to give me money from his private purse to replace my equipments. I answered, ‘No, sire; I have a claim to recover at Dantzic; if it is paid, I shall be rich; if the debt is denied, my pay will suffice for me.’ Thereupon (O Beneficence of Princes, thou art not, then, but an empty name!) he smiled slightly, and said, twisting his moustache, ‘You remained in Prussia from 1813 to 1859?’—‘Yes, sire.’—‘Prisoner of war under exceptional conditions?’—‘Yes, sire.’—‘The treaties of 1814 and 1815 stipulated for the release of prisoners?’—‘Yes, sire.’—‘They have been violated, then, in your case?’—‘Yes, sire.’—‘Well, then, Prussia owes you an indemnity. I will see that it is recovered by diplomatic proceedings.’—‘Yes sire. What goodness!’ Now, there’s an idea which would never have occurred to me! To squeeze money out of Prussia — Prussia, who showed herself so greedy for our treasures in 1814 and 1815! Vive l’Empereur! My well-beloved Clementine! Oh, may our glorious and magnanimous sovereign live forever! Vivent l’Imperatrice et le Prince Imperial! I saw them! The Emperor presented me to his family! The Prince is an admirable little soldier! He condescended to beat the drum on my new hat. I wept with emotion. Her Majesty the Empress said, with an angelic smile, that she had heard my misfortunes spoken of. ‘Oh, Madame!’ I replied, ‘such a moment as this compensates them a hundred fold.’—‘You must come and dance at the Tuilleries next winter.’—‘Alas, Madame, I have never danced but to the music of cannon; but I shall spare no effort to please you! I will study the art of Vestris."—’I‘ve managed to learn the quadrille very nicely,’ joined in Leblanc.
“The Emperor deigned to express his happiness at getting back an officer like me, who had yesterday, so to speak, taken part in the finest campaigns of the century, and retained all the traditions of the great war. This encouraged me. I no longer feared to remind him of the famous principle of the good old time — to treat for peace only in capitals! ‘Take care!’ said he; ‘it was on the strength of that principle that the allied armies twice came to settle the basis of peace at Paris.’—‘They’ll not come here again,’ cried I, ‘without passing over my body!’ I dwelt upon the troubles apt to come from too much intimacy with England. I expressed a hope of at once proceeding to the conquest of the world. First, to get back our frontiers for ourselves; next, the natural frontiers of Europe: for Europe is but the suburb of France, and cannot he annexed too soon. The Emperor shook his head as if he was not of my opinion. Does he entertain peaceful designs? I do not wish to dwell upon this idea; it would kill me!
“He asked me what impressions I had formed regarding the appearance of the changes which had been made in Paris. I answered, with the sincerity of a lofty soul, ‘Sire, the new Paris is the great work of a great reign; but I entertain the hope that your improvements have not yet had the finishing touch.’—‘What is left to be done, now, in your opinion?’—‘First of all, to remedy the course of the Seine, whose irregular curve is positively shocking. The straight line is the shortest distance between two points, for rivers as well as boulevards. In the second place, to level the ground and suppress all inequalites of surface which seem to say to the Government, ‘Thou art less powerful than Nature!’ Having accomplished this preparatory work, I would trace a circle three leagues in diameter, whose circumference, marked by an elegant railing, should be the boundary of Paris. At the centre I would build a palace for your Majesty and the princes of the imperial family — a vast and splendid edifice, including in its arrangements all the public offices — the staff offices, courts, museums, cabinet offices, archives, police, the Institute, embassies, prisons, bank of France, lecture-rooms, theatres, the Moniteur, imperial printing office, manufactory of Sèvres porcelain and Gobelin tapestry, and commissary arrangements. At this palace, circular in form and of magnificent architecture, should centre twelve boulevards, a hundred and twenty yards wide, terminated by twelve railroads, and called by the names of twelve marshals of France. Each boulevard is built up with uniform houses, four stories high, having in front an iron railing and a little garden three yards wide, all to be planted with the same kind of flowers. A hundred streets, sixty yards wide, should connect the boulevards; these streets communicate with each other by lanes thirty-five yards wide, the whole built up uniformly according to official plans, with railings, gardens, and specified flowers. Householders should be prohibited from allowing any business to be conducted in their establishments, for the aspect of shops debases the intellect and degrades the heart. Merchants could be permitted to establish themselves in the suburbs under the regulation of the laws. The ground floors of all the houses to be occupied with stables and kitchens; the first floors let to persons worth an income of a hundred thousand francs and over; the second, to those worth from eighty to a hundred thousand francs; the third, to those worth from sixty to eighty thousand; the fourth, from fifty to sixty thousand. No one with an income of less than fifty thousand francs should be permitted to live in Paris. Workmen are to be lodged ten miles outside of the boundary in workmen’s barracks. We will exempt them from taxes to make them love us; and we’ll plant cannon around them to make them fear us. That’s my Paris!’ The Emperor listened to me patiently, and twisted his moustache. ‘Your plan,’ said he, ‘would cost a trifle.’—‘Not much more than the one already adopted,’ answered I. At this remark, an unreserved hilarity, the cause of which I am unable to explain, lit up his serious countenance. ‘Don’t you think,’ said he, ‘that your project would ruin a great many people?’—‘Eh! What difference does it make to me?’ I cried, ‘since it will ruin none but the rich?’ He began laughing again, and bid me farewell, saying, ‘Colonel, you will have to remain colonel only until we make you brigadier-general!’ He permitted me to press his hand a second time. I waved an adieu to brave Leblanc, who has invited me to dine with him this evening, and I returned to my hotel to pour my joy into your sweet soul. Oh, Clementine! hope on! You shall be happy, and I shall be great! To-morrow morning I leave for Dantzic. Gold is a deception, but I want you to be rich.
“A sweet kiss upon your pure brow!
The subscribers to La Patrie, who keep files of their paper, are hereby requested to hunt up the number for the 23d of August, 1859. In it they will find two paragraphs of local intelligence, which I have taken the liberty of copying here:
“His Excellency, the Marshal, the Duke of Solferino, yesterday had the honor of presenting to his Majesty the Emperor a hero of the first Empire, Colonel Fougas, whom an almost miraculous event, already mentioned in a report to the Academy of Sciences, has restored to his country.”
Such was the first paragraph; here is the second
“A madman, the fourth this week, but the most dangerous of all, presented himself yesterday at one of the entrances of the Tuilleries. Decked out in a grotesque costume, his eyes flashing, his hat cocked over his ear, and addressing the most respectable people with unheard-of rudeness, he attempted to force his way past the sentry, and thrust himself, for what purpose God only knows, into the presence of the Sovereign. During his incoherent ejaculations, the following words were distinguished: ‘bravery, Vendôme column, fidelity, the dial-plate of time, the tablets of history.’ When he was arrested by one of the detective watch, and taken before the police commissioner of the Tuilleries section, he was recognized as the same individual who, the evening before, at the opera, had interrupted the performance of Charles VI. with most unseemly cries. After the customary medical and legal proceedings, he was ordered to be sent to the Charenton Hospital. But opposite the porte Saint-Martin, taking advantage of a lock among the vehicles, and of the Herculean strength with which he is endowed, he wrested his hands from his keeper, threw him down, beat him, leaped at a bound into the street, and disappeared in the crowd. The most active search was immediately set on foot, and we have it from the best authority that the police are already on the track of the fugitive.”
The wisdom of mankind declares that ill-gotten gains never do any good. I maintain that they do the robbers more good than the robbed, and the good fortune of Herr Nicholas Meiser is an argument in support of my proposition.
The nephew of the illustrious physiologist, after brewing a great deal of beer from a very little hops, and prematurely appropriating the legacy intended for Fougas, had amassed, by various operations, a fortune of from eight to ten millions. “In what kind of operations?” No one ever told me, but I know that he called all operations that would make money, good ones. To lend small sums at a big interest, to accumulate great stores of grain in order to relieve a scarcity after producing it himself, to foreclose on unfortunate debtors, to fit out a vessel or two for trade in black flesh on the African coast — such are specimens of the speculations which the good man did not despise. He never boasted of them, for he was modest; but he never blushed for them, for he had expanded his conscience simultaneously with his capital. As for the rest, he was a man of honor, in the commercial sense of the word, and capable of strangling the whole human race rather than of letting his signature be protested. The banks of Dantzic, Berlin, Vienna, and Paris, held him in high esteem; his money passed through all of them.
He was fat, unctuous, and florid, and lived well. His wife’s nose was much too long, and her bones much too prominent, but she loved him with all her heart, and made him little sweetmeats. A perfect congeniality of sentiment united this charming couple. They talked with each other with open hearts, and never thought of keeping back any of their evil thoughts. Every year, at Saint Martin’s day, when rents became due, they turned out of doors the families of five or six workmen who could not pay for their terms; but they dined none the worse after it, and their good-night kiss was none the less sweet.
The husband was sixty-six years old, the wife sixty-four. Their physiognomies were such as inspire benevolence and command respect. To complete their outward resemblance to the patriarchs, nothing was needed but children and grandchildren. Nature had given them one son — an only one, because they had not solicited Nature for more. They would have thought it criminal improvidence to divide their fortune among several. Unhappily, this only child, the heir-presumptive to so many millions, died at the University of Heidelberg from eating too many sausages. He set out, when he was twenty, for that Valhalla of German students, where they eat infinite sausages, and drink inexhaustible beer; where they sing songs of eight hundred million verses, and gash the tips of each other’s noses with huge swords. Envious Death snatched him from his parents when they were no longer of an age to improvise a successor. The unfortunate old millionnaires tenderly collected his effects, to sell them. During this operation, so trying to their souls (for there was a great deal of brand-new linen that could not be found), Nicholas Meiser said to his wife, “My heart bleeds at the idea that our buildings and dollars, our goods above ground and under, should go to strangers. Parents ought always to have an extra son, just as they have a vice-umpire in the Chamber of Commerce.”
But Time, who is a great teacher in Germany and several other countries, led them to see that there is consolation for all things except the loss of money. Five years afterwards, Frau Meiser said to her husband, with a tender and philosophic, smile: “Who can fathom the decrees of Providence? Perhaps your son would have brought us to a crust. Look at Theobald Scheffler, his old comrade. He wasted twenty thousand francs at Paris on a woman who kicked up her legs in the middle of a quadrille. We ourselves spent more than two thousand thalers a year for our wicked scapegrace. His death is a great saving, and therefore a good thing!”
As long as the three coffins of Fougas were in the house, the good dame scolded at the visions and restlessness of her husband. “What in the name of sense are you thinking about? You’ve been kicking me all night again. Let’s throw this ragamuffin of a Frenchman into the fire; then he’ll no longer disturb the repose of a peaceable family. We can sell the leaden box; it must weigh at least two hundred pounds. The white silk will make me a good lining for a dress; and the wool in the stuffing, will easily make us a mattress.” But a tinge of superstition prevented Meiser from following his wife’s advice; he preferred to rid himself of the Colonel by selling him.
The house of this worthy couple was the handsomest and most substantial on the street of Public Wells, in the aristocratic part of the city. Strong railings, in iron open work, decorated all the windows magnificently, and the door was sheathed in iron, like a knight of the olden time. A system of little mirrors, ingeniously arranged in the entrance, enabled a visitor to be seen before he had even knocked. A single servant, a regular horse for work and camel for temperance, ministered under this roof blessed by the gods.
The old servant slept away from the house, both because he preferred to and because while he did so he could not be tempted to wring the venerable necks of his employers. A few books on Commerce and Religion constituted the library of the two old people. They never cared to have a garden at the back of their house, because the shrubbery might conceal thieves. They fastened their door with bolts every evening at eight o’clock, and never went out without being obliged to, for fear of meeting dangerous people.
And nevertheless, on the 29th of April, 1859, at eleven o’clock in the morning, Nicholas Meiser was far away from his beloved home. Gracious! how very far away for him — this honest burgher of Dantzic! He was traversing, with heavy tread, the promenade in Berlin, which bears the name of one of Alphonse Karrs’ romances: Sous les tilleuls. In German: Unter den Linden.
What mighty agency had thrown out of his bon-bon box, this big red bon-bon on two legs? The same that led Alexander to Babylon, Scipio to Carthage, Godfrey de Bouillon to Jerusalem, and Napoleon to Moscow — Ambition! Meiser did not expect to be presented with the keys of the city on a cushion of red velvet, but he knew a great lord, a clerk in a government office, and a chambermaid who were working to get a patent of nobility for him. To call himself Von Meiser instead of plain Meiser! What a glorious dream!
This good man had in his character that compound of meanness and vanity which places lacqueys so far apart from the rest of mankind. Full of respect for power, and admiration for conventional greatness, he never pronounced the name of king, prince, or even baron, without emphasis and unction. He mouthed every aristocratic syllable, and the single word “Monseigneur” seemed to him like a mouthful of well-spiced soup. Examples of this disposition are not rare in Germany, and are even occasionally found elsewhere. If they could be transported to a country where all men are equal, homesickness for boot-licking would kill them.
The claims brought to bear in favor of Nicholas Meiser, were not of the kind which at once spring the balance, but of the kind which make it turn little by little. Nephew of an illustrious man of science, powerfully rich, a man of sound judgment, a subscriber to the New Gazette of the Cross, full of hatred for the opposition, author of a toast against the influence of demagogues, once a member of the City Council, once an umpire in the Chamber of Commerce, once a corporal in the militia, and an open enemy of Poland and all nations but the strong ones. His most brilliant action dated back ten years. He had denounced, by an anonymous letter, a member of the French Parliament who had taken refuge in Dantzic. While Meiser was walking under the lindens, his cause was progressing swimmingly. He had received that sweet assurance from the very lips of its promoters. And so he tripped lightly toward the depot of the North-Eastern Railroad, without any other baggage than a revolver in his pocket. His black leather trunk had gone before; and was waiting for him at the station. On the way, he was glancing into the shop windows, when he stopped short before a stationer’s, and rubbed his eyes — a sovereign remedy, people say, for impaired vision. Between the portraits of Mme. Sand and M. Mérimée, the two greatest writers of France, he had noticed, examined, recognized a well-known countenance.
“Surely,” said he, “I’ve seen that man before, but he was paler. Can our old lodger have come to life? Impossible! I burned up my uncle’s directions, so the world has lost — thanks to me — the secret of resuscitating people. Nevertheless, the resemblance is striking. Is it a portrait of Colonel Fougas, taken from life in 1813? No; for photography was not then invented. But possibly it’s a photograph copied from an engraving? Here are Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette reproduced in the same way: that doesn’t prove that Robespierre had them resuscitated. Anyhow, I’ve had an unfortunate encounter.”
He took a step toward the door of the shop to reassure himself, but a peculiar reluctance held him back. People might wonder at him, ask him questions, try to learn the reason of his trouble. He resumed his walk at a brisk pace, trying to reassure himself.
“Bah! It’s an hallucination — the result of dwelling too much on one idea. Moreover, the portrait was dressed in the style of 1813; that settles the question.”
He reached the station, had his black leather trunk checked, and flung himself down at full length in a first-class compartment. First he smoked his porcelain pipe, but his two neighbors being asleep, he soon followed their example, and began snoring. Now this big man’s snores had something awe-inspiring about them; you could have fancied yourself listening to the trumpets of the judgment day. What shade visited him in this hour of sleep, no other soul has ever known; for he kept his dreams to himself, as he did everything that was his.
But between two stations, while the train was running at full speed, he distinctly felt two powerful hands pulling at his feet — a sensation, alas! too well known, and one which called up the ugliest recollections of his life. He opened his eyes in terror, and saw the man of the photograph, in the costume of the photograph. His hair stood on end, his eyes grew as big as saucers, he uttered a loud cry, and flung himself headlong between the seats among the legs of his neighbors.
A few vigorous kicks brought him to himself. He got up as well as he could, and looked about him. No one was there but the two gentlemen opposite, who were mechanically lanching their last kicks into the empty space, and rubbing their eyes with their arms. He succeeded in awakening them, and asked them about the visitation he had had; but the gentlemen declared they had seen nothing.
Meiser sadly returned to his own thoughts; he noticed that the visions appeared terribly real. This idea prevented his going to sleep again.
“If this goes on much longer,” thought he, “the Colonel’s ghost will break my nose with a blow of his fist, or give me a pair of black eyes!”
A little later, it occurred to him that he had breakfasted very hastily that morning, and he reflected that the nightmare had perhaps been brought about by such dieting.
He got off at the next five-minute stopping-place and called for soup. Some very hot vermicelli was brought him, and he blew into his bowl like a dolphin into the Bosphorus.
A man passed before him, without jostling him, without saying anything to him, without even seeing him. And nevertheless, the bowl dropped from the hands of the rich Nicholas Meiser, the vermicelli poured over his waistcoat and shirt-bosom, where it formed an elegant fretwork suggestive of the architecture of the porte Saint Martin. Some yellowish threads, detached from the mass, hung in stalactites from the buttons of his coat. The vermicelli stopped on the outside, but the soup penetrated much further. It was rather warm for pleasure; an egg left in it ten minutes would have been boiled hard. Fatal soup, which not only distributed itself among the pockets, but into the most secret sinuosities of the man himself! The starting bell rang, the waiter collected his two sous, and Meiser got into the cars, preceded by a plaster of vermicelli, and followed by a little thread of soup which was running down the calves of his legs.
And all of this, because he had seen, or thought he had seen, the terrible figure of Colonel Fougas eating sandwiches.
Oh! how long the trip seemed! What a terrible time it appeared to be before he could be at home, between his wife Catharine and his servant Berbel, with all the doors safely closed! His two companions laughed till the buttons flew; people laughed in the compartment to the right of him, and in the compartment to the left of him. As fast as he picked off the vermicelli, little spots of soup saucily congealed and seemed quietly laughing. How hard it comes to a great millionnaire to amuse people who do not possess a cent! He did not get off again until they reached Dantzic; he did not even put his nose to the window; he sucked solitary consolation from his porcelain pipe, on which Leda caressed her swan and smiled not.
Wearisome, wearisome journey! But he did reach home nevertheless. It was eight o’clock in the evening; the old domestic was waiting with ropes to sling his master’s trunk on his back. No more alarming figures, no more mocking laughs! The history of the soup was fallen into the great forgotten, like one of M. Heller’s speeches. In the baggage room, Meiser had already seized the handle of a black leather trunk, when, at the other end, he saw the spectre of Fougas, which was pulling in the opposite direction, and seemed inclined to dispute possession. He bristled up, pulled stronger, and even plunged his left hand into the pocket where the revolver was lying. But the luminous glance of the Colonel fascinated him, his legs trembled, he fell, and fancied that he saw Fougas and the black trunk rolling over each other. When he came to, his old servant was chafing his hands, the trunk already had the slings around it, and the Colonel had disappeared. The domestic swore that he had not seen anybody, and that he had himself received the trunk from the baggage agent’s own hand.
Twenty minutes later, the millionnaire was in his own house, joyfully rubbing his face against the sharp angles of his wife. He did not dare to tell her about his visions, for Frau Meiser was a skeptic, in her own way. It was she who spoke to him about Fougas.
“A whole history has happened to me,” said she. “Would you believe that the police have written to us from Berlin, to find out whether our uncle left us a mummy, and when, and how long we kept him, and what we have done with him? I answered, telling the truth, and adding that Colonel Fougas was in such a bad condition, and so damaged by mites, that we sold him for rags. What object can the police have in troubling themselves about our affairs?”
Meiser heaved a heavy sigh.
“Let’s talk about money!” said the lady. “The president of the bank has been to see me. The million you asked him for, for to-morrow, is ready; it will be delivered upon your signature. It seems that they’ve had a deal of trouble to get the amount in specie. If you had but wanted drafts on Vienna or Paris, you would have put them at their ease. But at last they’ve done what you wanted. There’s no other news, except that Schmidt, the merchant, has killed himself. He had to pay a note for ten thousand thalers, and didn’t have half the amount on hand. He came to ask me for the money; I offered him ten thousand thalers, at twenty-five per cent., payable in ninety days, with a first mortgage on all his real estate. The fool preferred to hang himself in his shop. Everyone to his taste!”
“Did he hang himself very high?”
“I don’t know anything about that. Why?”
“Because one might get a piece of rope cheap, and we’re greatly in want of some, my poor Catharine! That Colonel Fougas has given me a shiver.”
“Some more of your notions! Come to supper, my love.”
The angular Baucis conducted her Philemon into a large and beautiful dining-room, where Berbel served a repast worthy of the gods. Soup with little balls of aniseeded bread, fish-balls with black sauce, mutton-balls stuffed, game balls, sour-krout cooked in lard and garnished with fried potatoes, roast hare with currant jelly, deviled crabs, salmon from the Vistula, jellies, and fruit tarts. Six bottles of Rhine-wine selected from the best vintages were awaiting, in their silver caps, the master’s kiss. But the lord of all these good things was neither hungry nor thirsty. He ate by nibbles and drank by sips, all the time expecting a grand consummation, which he did not have to expect along. A formidable rap of the knocker soon resounded through the house.
Nicholas Meiser trembled. His wife tried to reassure him. “It’s nothing,” said she. “The president of the bank told me that he was coming to see you. He offers to pay us the exchange, if we’ll take paper instead of specie.”
“It is about money, sure as Fate!” cried the good man. “Hell itself is coming to see us!”
At the same instant, the servant rushed into the room, crying, “Oh, Sir! Oh, Madame! It’s the Frenchman of the three coffins! Jesus! Mary, Mother of God!”
Fougas saluted them, and said, “Don’t disturb yourselves, good people, I beg of you. We’ve a little matter to discuss together, and I’m ready to explain it to you in two words. You’re in a hurry, so am I; you’ve not had supper, neither have I!”
Frau Meiser, more rigid and more emaciated than a thirteenth-century statue, opened wide her toothless mouth. Terror paralyzed her. The man, better prepared for the visit of the phantom, cocked his revolver under the table and took aim at the Colonel, crying ”Vade retro, Satanas!“ The exorcism and the pistol missed fire together.
Meiser was not at all discouraged: he snapped the six barrels one after the other at the demon, who stood watching him do it. Not one went off.
“What devilish game is that you’re playing?” said the Colonel, seating himself astride a chair. “People are not in the habit of receiving an honest man’s visit with that ceremony!”
Meiser flung down his revolver, and grovelled like a beast at Fougas’ feet. His wife, who was not one whit more tranquil, followed him. They joined hands, and the fat man exclaimed:
“Spirit! I confess my misdeeds, and I am ready to make reparation for them. I have sinned against you; I have violated my uncle’s commands. What do you wish? What do you command? A tomb? A magnificent monument? Prayers? Endless prayers?”
“Idiot!” said Fougas, spurning him with his foot; “I am no spirit, and I want nothing but the money you’ve robbed me of!”
Meiser kept rolling on the floor; but his scrawny wife was already on her feet, her fists on her hips, and facing Fougas.
“Money!” cried she, “But we don’t owe you any! Have you any documents? Just show us our signature! Where would one be, Just God! if we had to give money to all the adventurers who present themselves? And in the first place, by what right did you thrust yourself into our dwelling, if you’re not a spirit? Ah! you’re a man just the same as other people! Ha! ha! So you’re not a ghost! Very well, sir; there are judges in Berlin; there are some in the country, too, and we’ll soon see whether you’re going to finger our money! Get up there, you great booby; it’s only a man! And do you, Mister Ghost, get out of here! Off with you!”
The Colonel did not budge more than a rock.
“The devil’s in women’s tongues! Sit down, old lady, and take your hands away from my eyes — they bother me. And as for you, swell-head, get on to your chair, and listen to me. There will be time enough to go to law if we can’t come to an understanding. But stamped paper stinks in my nostrils; and therefore I’d rather settle peaceably.”
Herr and Frau Meiser repressed their first emotion. They distrusted magistrates, as do all people without clean consciences. If the Colonel was a poor devil who could be put off with a few thalers, it would be better to avoid legal proceedings.
Fougas stated the case to them with entire military bluntness. He proved the existence of his right, said that he had had his identity substantiated at Fontainebleau, Paris, and Berlin; cited from memory two or three passages of the will, and finished by declaring that the Prussian Government, in conjunction with that of France, would support his just claims if necessary.
“You understand clearly,” said he, taking Meiser by the button of his coat, “that I am no fox, depending on cunning. If you had a wrist vigorous enough to swing a good sabre, we’d take the field against each other, and I’d play you for the amount, first two cuts out of three, as surely as that’s soup before you!”
“Fortunately, monsieur,” said Meiser, “my age shields me from all brutality. You would not wish to trample under foot the corpse of an old man!”
“Venerable scoundrel! But you would have killed me like a dog, if your pistol had not missed fire!”
“It was not loaded, Monsieur Colonel! It was not —— anywhere near loaded! But I am an accommodating man, and we can come to terms very easily. I don’t owe you anything, and, moreover, there’s prescription; but after all —— how much do you want?”
“He has had his say: now it’s my turn!”
The old rascal’s mate softened the tone of her voice. Imagine to yourself a saw licking a tree before biting in.
“Listen, Claus, my dear — listen to what Monsieur Colonel Fougas has to say. You’ll see that he is reasonable! It’s not in him to think of ruining poor people like us. Oh, Heavens! he is not capable of it. He has such a noble heart! Such a disinterested man! An officer worthy of the great Napoleon (God receive his soul!).”
“That’s enough, old lady!” said Fougas, with a curt gesture which cut the speech off in the middle. “I had an estimate made at Berlin of what is due me — principal and interest.”
“Interest!” cried Meiser. “But in what country, in what latitude, do people pay interest on money? Perhaps it may sometimes happen in business, but between friends — never, no never, my good Monsieur Colonel! What would my good uncle, who is now gazing upon us from heaven, say, if he knew that you were claiming interest on his bequest?”
“Now shut up, Nickle!” interrupted his wife. “Monsieur Colonel is just about telling you, himself, that he did not intend to be understood as speaking of the interest.”
“Why in the name of great guns don’t you both shut up, you confounded magpies? Here I am dying of hunger, and I didn’t bring my nightcap to go to bed here, either! —— Now here’s the upshot of the matter: You owe me a great deal; but it’s not an even sum — there are fractions in it, and I go in for clean transactions. Moreover, my tastes are modest. I’ve enough for my wife and myself; nothing more is needed than to provide for my son!”
“Very well,” cried Meiser; “I’ll charge myself with the education of the little fellow!”
“Now, during the dozen days since I again became a citizen of the world, there is one word that I’ve heard spoken everywhere. At Paris, as well as at Berlin, people no longer speak of anything but millions; there is no longer any talk of anything else, and everybody’s mouth is full of millions. From hearing so much said about it, I’ve acquired a curiosity to know what it is. Go, fetch me out a million, and I’ll give you quittance!”
If you want to reach an approximate idea of the piercing cries which answered him, go to the Jardin des Plantes at the breakfast hour of the birds of prey, and try to pull the meat out of their beaks. Fougas stopped his ears and remained inexorable. Prayers, arguments, misrepresentations, flatteries, cringings, glanced off from him like rain from a zinc roof. But at ten o’clock at night, when he had concluded that all concurrence was impossible, he took his hat:
“Good evening!” said he. “It’s no longer a million that I must have, but two millions, and all over. We’ll go to law. I’m going to supper.”
He was on the staircase, when Frau Meiser said to her husband:
“Call him back, and give him his million!”
“Are you a fool?”
“Don’t be afraid.”
“I can never do it!”
“Father in heaven! what blockheads men are! Monsieur! Monsieur Fougas! Monsieur Colonel Fougas! Come up again, I pray you! We consent to all that you require!”
“Damnation!” said he, on reëntering; “you ought to have made up your minds sooner. But after all, let’s see the money!”
Frau Meiser explained to him with her tenderest voice, that poor capitalists like themselves, were not in the habit of keeping millions under their own lock and key.
“But you shall lose nothing by waiting, my sweet sir! To-morrow you shall handle the amount in nice white silver; my husband will sign you a check on the Royal Bank of Dantzic.”
“But —— ” said the unfortunate Meiser. He signed, nevertheless, for he had boundless confidence in the practical ingenuity of Catharine. The old lady begged Fougas to sit down at the end of the table, and dictated to him a receipt for two millions, in payment of all demands. You may depend that she did not forgot a word of the legal formulas, and that she arranged the affair in due form according to the Prussian code. The receipt, written throughout in the Colonel’s hand, filled three large pages.
He signed the instrument with a flourish, and received in exchange the signature of Nicholas, which he knew well.
“Well,” said he to the old gentleman, “you’re certainly not such an Arab as they said you were at Berlin. Shake hands, old scamp! I don’t usually shake hands with any but honest people; but on an occasion like this, one can do a little something extra.”
“Do it double, Monsieur Fougas,” said Frau Meiser, humbly. “Will you not join us in this modest supper?”
“Gad! old lady, it’s not a thing to be refused. My supper must be cold at the inn of the ‘Clock’; and your viands, smoking on their chafing dishes, have already caused me more than one fit of distraction. Besides, here are some yellow glass flutes, on which Fougas will not be at all reluctant to play an air.”
The respectable Catharine had an extra plate laid, and ordered Berbel to go to bed. The Colonel folded up Father Meiser’s million, rolled it carefully among a pile of bank-bills, and put the whole into the little pocket-book which his dear Clementine had sent him.
The clock struck eleven.
At half-past eleven Fougas began to see everything in a rosy cloud. He praised the Rhine wine highly, and thanked the Meisers for their hospitality. At midnight, he assured them of his highest esteem. At quarter past twelve, he embraced them. At half-past twelve, he delivered a eulogy on the illustrious John Meiser, his friend and benefactor. When he learned that John Meiser had died in that house, he poured forth a torrent of tears. At quarter to one, he assumed a confidential tone, and spoke of his son, whom he was going to make happy, and of the betrothed who was waiting for him. About one o’clock, he tasted a celebrated port wine which Frau Meiser had herself gone to bring from the cellar. About half-past one, his tongue thickened and his eyes grew dim; he struggled some time against drunkenness and sleepiness, announced that he was going to describe the Russian campaign, muttered the name of the Emperor, and slid under the table.
“You may believe me, if you will,” said Frau Meiser to her husband, “this is not a man who has come into our house; it’s the devil!”
“If not, would I have advised you to give him a million? I heard a voice saying to me, ‘If you do not obey the messenger of the Infernal powers, you will both die this very night.’ It was on account of that, that I called him up stairs. Ah! if we had been doing business with a man, I would have told you to contest it in law to our last cent.”
“As you please! So you’re still making sport of my visions?”
“Forgive me, Claus dear; I was a fool!”
“And I’ve concluded I was, too.”
“Poor innocent! Perhaps you too thought this was Colonel Fougas?”
“As if it were possible to resuscitate a man! It is a demon, I tell you, who assumed the shape of the Colonel, to rob us of our money!”
“What can demons do with money?”
“Build cathedrals, to be sure!”
“But how is the devil to be recognized when he is disguised?”
“First by his cloven-foot — but this one has boots on; next by his clipped ear.”
“Bah! And why?”
“Because the devil’s ears are pointed, and, in order to make them round, he has to cut them.”
Meiser stuck his head under the table and uttered a cry of horror.
“It’s certainly the devil!” said he. “But how did he happen to let himself go to sleep?”
“Perhaps you did not know that when I came back from the cellar, I dropped into my chamber? I put a drop of holy water into the Port; charm against charm, and he is fallen.”
“That’s splendid! But what shall we do with him, now that we have him in our power?”
“What is done with demons in Scripture? The Saviour throws them into the sea.”
“The sea is a long way from here.”
“But, you big baby, the public wells are just by!”
“And what will be said to-morrow, when the body is found?”
“Nothing at all will be found; and even the check that we signed, will be turned into tinder.”
Ten minutes later, Herr and Frau Meiser were lugging something toward the public wells, and soon dame Catharine murmured, sotto voce, the following incantation:
“Demon, child of hell, be thou accursed!
“Demon, child of hell, be thou dashed headlong down!
“Demon, child of hell, return to hell!”
A dull sound — the sound of a body falling into water, terminated the ceremony, and the two spouses returned to their domicil, with the satisfaction that always follows the performance of a duty.
Nicholas said to himself:
“I didn’t think she was so credulous!”
“I didn’t think he was so simple!” thought the worthy Kettle, wedded wife of Claus.
They slept the sleep of innocence. Oh, how much less soft their pillows would have seemed, if Fougas had gone home with his million!
At ten o’clock the next morning, while they were taking their coffee and buttered rolls, the president of the bank called in, and said to them:
“I am greatly obliged to you for having accepted a draft on Paris instead of a million in specie, and without premium, too. That young Frenchman you sent to us is a little brusque, but very lively, and a good fellow.”
Fougas had left Paris for Berlin the day after his audience. He took three days to make the trip, because he stopped some time at Nancy. The Marshal had given him a letter of introduction to the Prefect of Meurthe, who received him very politely, and promised to aid him in his investigations. Unfortunately, the house where he had loved Clementine Pichon was no longer standing. The authorities had demolished it in 1827, in cutting a street through. It is certain that the commissioners had not demolished the family with the house, but a new difficulty all at once presented itself: the name of Pichon abounded in the city, the suburbs, and the department. Among this multitude of Pichons, Fougas did not know which one to hug. Tired of hunting, and eager to hasten forward on,the road to fortune, he left this note for the commissioner of police:
“Search, on the registers of personal statistics and elsewhere, for a young girl named Clementine Pichon. She was eighteen years old in 1813; her parents kept an officers’ boarding-house. If she is alive, get her address; if she is dead, look up her heirs. A father’s happiness depends upon it!”
On reaching Berlin, the Colonel found that his reputation had preceded him. The note from the Minister of War had been sent to the Prussian Government through the French legation; Leon Renault, despite his grief, had found time to write a word to Doctor Hirtz; the papers had begun to talk, and the scientific societies to bestir themselves. The Prince Regent, even, had not disdained to ask information on the subject from his physician. Germany is a queer country, where science interests the very princes.
Fougas, who had read Doctor Hirtz’s letter annexed to Herr Meiser’s will, thought that he owed some acknowledgments to that excellent gentleman. He made a call upon him, and embraced him, addressing him as the oracle of Epidaurus. The doctor at once took possession of him, had his baggage brought from the hotel and gave him the best chamber in his house. Up to the 29th day of the month, the Colonel was cared for as a friend, and exhibited as a phenomenon. Seven photographers disputed the possession of so precious a sitter. The cities of Greece did no more for our poor old Homer. His Royal Highness, the Prince Regent, wished to see him in propriâ personâ, and begged Herr Hirtz to bring him to the palace. Fougas scratched his ear a little, and intimated that a soldier ought not to associate with the enemy, seeming to think himself still in 1813.
The Prince is a distinguished soldier, having commanded in person at the famous siege of Rastadt. He took pleasure in Fougas’ conversation; the heroic simplicity of the young old-time soldier charmed him. He paid him huge compliments and said that the Emperor of France was very fortunate in having around him officers of so much merit.
“He has not a great many,” replied the Colonel. “If there were but four or five hundred of my stamp, your Europe would have been bagged long ago!”
This answer seemed more amusing than threatening, and no addition was immediately made to the available portion of the Prussian army.
His Royal Highness directly informed Fougas that his indemnity had been fixed at two hundred and fifty thousand francs, and that he could receive the amount at the treasury whenever he should find it agreeable.
“My Lord,” replied he, “it is always agreeable to pocket the money of an enemy —— a foreigner. But wait! I am not a censor-bearer to Plutus: give me back the Rhine and Posen, and I’ll leave you your two hundred and fifty thousand francs.”
“Are you dreaming?” said the Prince, laughing. “The Rhine and Posen!”
“The Rhine belongs to France, and the Posen to Poland, much more legitimately than this money to me. But so it is with great lords: they make it a duty to pay little debts, and a point of honor to ignore big ones!”
The Prince winced a little, and all the faces of the court gave a sympathetic twitch. It was discovered that M. Fougas had evinced bad taste in letting a crumb of truth fall into a big plateful of follies.
But a pretty little Viennese baroness, who was at the presentation, was much more charmed with his appearance than scandalized at his remarks. The ladies of Vienna have made for themselves a reputation for hospitality which they always attempt to support, even when they are away from their native land.
The baroness of Marcomarcus had still another reason for getting hold of the Colonel: for two or three years she had, as a matter of course, been making a photographic collection of celebrated men. Her album was peopled with generals, statesmen, philosophers, and pianists, who had given their portraits to her, after writing on the back: “With respects of ——” There were to be found there several Roman prelates, and even a celebrated cardinal; but a more direct envoy from the other world was still wanting. She wrote Fougas, then, a note full of impatience and curiosity, inviting him to supper. Fougas, who was going to start for Dantzic next day, took a sheet of paper embossed with a great eagle, and set to work to excuse himself politely. He feared — the delicate and chivalrous soul! — that an evening of conversation and enjoyment in the society of the loveliest women of Germany might be a sort of moral infidelity to the recollection of Clementine. He accordingly hunted up an eligible formula of address, and wrote:
“Too indulgent Beauty, I——” The muse dictated nothing more. He was not in the mood for writing. He felt rather more in the mood for supper. His scruples scattered like clouds driven before a brisk North East wind; he put on the frogged surtout, and carried his reply himself. It was the first time that he had been out to supper since his resuscitation. He gave evidence of a good appetite, and got moderately drunk, but not as much so as usual. The Baroness de Marcomarcus, astonished at his high spirits and inexhaustible vivacity, kept him as long as she could. And moreover she said to her friends, on showing them the Colonel’s portrait, “Nothing is needed but these French officers to conquer the world!”
The next day he packed a black leather trunk which he had bought at Paris, drew his money from the treasury, and set out for Dantzic. He went to sleep in the cars because he had been out to supper the night before. A terrible snoring awoke him. He looked around for the snorer, and, not finding him near him, opened the door into the adjoining compartment (for the German cars are much larger than the French), and shook a fat gentleman, who seemed to have a whole organ playing in his person. At one of the stations he drank a bottle of Marsala and ate a couple of dozen sandwiches, for last night’s supper seemed to have hollowed out his stomach. At Dantzic, he rescued his black trunk from the hands of an enormous baggage-snatcher who was trying to take possession of it.
He went to the best hotel in the place, ordered his supper, and hastened to Meiser’s house. His friends at Berlin had given him accounts of that charming family. He knew that he would have to deal with the richest and most avaricious of sharpers: that was why he assumed the cavalier tone that may have seemed strange to more than one reader in the preceding chapter.
Unhappily, he let himself become a little too human as soon as he had his million in his pocket. A curiosity to investigate the long yellow bottles all the way to the bottom, came near doing him an ugly turn. His reason wandered, about one o’clock in the morning, if I am to believe the account he himself gave. He said that, after saying “good night” to the excellent people who had treated him so well, he tumbled into a large and deep well, whose rim was hardly raised above the level of the street, and ought at least to have had a lamp by it. “I came to” (it is still he speaking) “in water, very fresh and of a pleasant taste. After swimming around a minute or two, looking for a firm place to take hold of, I seized a big rope, and climbed without any trouble to the surface of the earth, which was not more than forty feet off. It required nothing but wrists and a little gymnastic skill, and was not much of a feat, anyhow. On getting on to the pavement, I found myself in the presence of a sort of night watchman, who was bawling the hours through the street, and who asked me insolently what I was doing there. I thrashed him for his impudence, and the gentle exercise did me good, as it set my blood well in circulation again. Before getting back to the inn, I stopped under a street lamp, opened my pocket-book, and saw with pleasure that my million was not wet. The leather was thick, and the clasp firm; moreover, I had enveloped Herr Meiser’s check in a half-dozen hundred-franc bills, in a roll as fat as a monk. These surroundings had preserved it.”
This examination being made, he went home, went to bed, and slept with his fists clenched. The next morning he received, on getting up, the following memoranda, which came from the Nancy police:
“Clementine Pichon, aged eighteen, minor daughter of Auguste Pichon, hotel-keeper, and Leonie Francelot, was married, in this town, January 11, 1814, to Louis Antoine Langevin; profession not stated.
“The name of Langevin is as rare in this department, as the name of Pichon is common. With the exception of the Hon. M. Victor Langevin, Counsellor to the Prefecture at Nancy, there is only known Langevin (Pierre), usually called Pierrot, miller in the commune of Vergaville, canton of Dieuze.”
Fougas jumped nearly to the ceiling, crying,
“I have a son!”
He called the hotel-keeper, and said to him:
“Make out my bill, and send my baggage to the depot. Take my ticket for Nancy; I shall not stop on the way. Here are two hundred francs, with which I want you to drink to the health of my son! He is called Victor, after me! He is counsellor of the Prefecture! I’d rather he were a soldier; but never mind! Ah! first get somebody to show me the way to the bank! I must go and get a million for him!”
As there is no direct connection between Dantzic and Nancy, he was obliged to stop at Berlin. M. Hirtz, whom he met accidentally, told him that the scientific societies of the city were preparing an immense banquet in his honor; but he declined positively.
“It’s not,” said he, “that I despise an opportunity to drink in good company, but Nature has spoken: her voice draws me on! The sweetest intoxication to all rightly constituted hearts is that of paternal love!”
To prepare, his dear child for the joy of a return so little expected, he enclosed his million in an envelope addressed to M. Victor Langevin, with a long letter which closed thus:
“A father’s blessing is more precious than all the gold in the world!
The infidelity of Clementine Pichon touched his amour-propre a little, but he soon consoled himself for it.
“At least,” thought he, “I’ll not have to marry an old woman, when there’s a young one waiting for me at Fontainebleau. And, moreover, my son has a name, and a very presentable name. Fougas would be a great deal better, but Langevin is not bad.”
He arrived, on the 2d of September, at six o’clock in the evening, at that large and beautiful but somewhat stupid city which constitutes the Versailles of Lorraine. His heart was beating fit to burst. To recuperate his energies, he took a good dinner. The landlord, when catechized at dessert, gave him the very best accounts of M. Victor Langevin: a man still young, married for the past six years, father of a boy and a girl, respected in the neighborhood, and prosperous in his affairs.
“I was sure of it!” said Fougas.
He poured down a bumper of a certain kirsch-wasser from the Black Forest, which he fancied delicious with his maccaroni.
The same evening, M. Langevin related to his wife how, on returning from the club at ten o’clock, he had been brutally accosted by a drunken man. He at first took him for a robber, and prepared to defend himself; but the man contented himself with embracing him, and then ran away with all his might. This singular accident threw the two spouses into a series of conjectures, each less probable than the preceding. But as they were both young, and had been married barely seven years, they soon changed the subject.
The next morning, Fougas, laden down like a miller’s ass with bon-bons, presented himself at M. Langevin’s. In order to make himself welcome to his two grandchildren, he had skimmed the shop of the celebrated Lebègue — the Boissier of Nancy. The servant who opened the door for him asked if he were the gentleman her master expected.
“Good!” said he; “my letter has come?”
“Yes, sir; yesterday morning. And your baggage?”
“I left it at the hotel.”
“Monsieur will not be satisfied at that. Your room is ready, up stairs.”
“Thanks! thanks! thanks! Take this hundred franc note for the good news.”
“Oh, monsieur! it was not worth so much.”
“But where is he? I want to see him — to embrace him — to tell him ——”
“He’s dressing, monsieur; and so is madame.”
“And the children — my dear grandchildren?”
“If you want to see them, they’re right here, in the dining room.”
“If I want to! Open the door right away!”
He discovered that the little boy resembled him, and was overjoyed to see him in the dress of an artillerist playing with a sabre. His pockets were soon emptied on the floor; and the two children, at the sight of so many good things, hung about his neck.
“O philosophers!” cried the Colonel, “do you dare to deny the existence of the voice of Nature?”
A pretty little lady (all the young women are pretty in Nancy) ran in at the joyous cries of the little brood.
“My daughter-in-law!” cried Fougas, opening his arms.
The lady of the house modestly recoiled, and said, with a slight smile:
“You are mistaken, sir; I am not your daughter-in-law;9 I am Madame Langevin.”
9 The original here contains a neat little conceit, which cannot be translated, but which is too good to be lost. The French for daughter-in-law is belle fille, literally “beautiful girl.” To Fougas’ address ”Ma belle fille!“ Mme. Langevin replies: ”I am not beautiful, and I am not a girl.“ It suggests the similar retort received by Faust from Marguerite, when he addressed her as beautiful young lady!
“What a fool I am!” thought the Colonel. “Here I was going to tell our family secrets before these children. Mind your manners, Fougas! You are in fine society, where the ardor of the sweetest sentiments is hidden under the icy mask of indifference.”
“Be seated,” said Mme. Langevin. “I hope that you have had a pleasant journey?”
“Yes, madame. Only steam seemed too slow for me!”
“I did not know that you were in such a hurry to get here.”
“You did not, then, appreciate that I was fairly burning to be with you?”
“I am glad to hear it; it is a proof that Reason and Family Affection have made themselves heard at last.”
“Was it my fault that family ties did not speak effectually sooner?”
“Well, after all, the main thing is that you have listened to them. We will exert ourselves to prevent your finding Nancy uninteresting.”
“How could I, since I am to live with you?”
“Thank you! Our house will be yours. Try to imagine yourself entirely at home.”
“In imagination, and affection too, madame.”
“And you’ll not think of Paris again?”
“Paris! —— I don’t care any more for it than I do for doomsday!”
“I forewarn you that people are not in the habit of fighting duels here.”
“What? You know already ——”
“We know all about it, even to the history of that famous supper with those rather volatile ladies.”
“How the devil did you hear of that? But that time, believe me, I was very excusable.”
M. Langevin here made his appearance, freshly shaven and rubicund — a fine specimen of the sub-prefect in embryo.
“It’s wonderful,” thought Fougas, “how well all our family bear their years! One wouldn’t call that chap over thirty-five, and he’s forty-six if he’s a day. He doesn’t look a bit like me, by the way; he takes after his mother!”
“My dear!” said Mme. Langevin, “here’s a tough subject, who promises to be wiser in future.”
“You are welcome, young man!” said the Counsellor, offering his hand to Fougas.
This reception appeared cold to our poor hero. He had been dreaming of a shower of kisses and tears, and here his children contented themselves with offering their hands.
“My chi —— monsieur,” said he to Langevin, “there is one person still needed to complete our reunion. A few mutual wrongs, and those smoothed over by time, ought not to build an insurmountable barrier between us. May I venture to request the favor of being presented to your mother?”
M. Langevin and his wife opened their eyes in astonishment.
“How, monsieur?” said the husband. “Paris life must have affected your memory. My poor mother is no more. It is now three years since we lost her!”
The good Fougas burst into tears.
“Forgive me!” said he; “I didn’t know it. Poor woman!”
“I don’t understand you! You knew my mother?”
“Why, you’re an amusing fellow! But your parents were invited to the funeral, were they not?”
“Your father and mother!”
“Eh! What’s this you’re cackling to me about? My mother was dead before yours was born!”
“Your mother dead?”
“Yes, certainly; in ‘89!”
“What! Wasn’t it your mother who sent you here?”
“Monster! It was my fatherly heart that brought me!”
“Fatherly heart? —— Why, then you’re not young Jamin, who has been cutting up didoes in the capital, and has been sent to Nancy to go through the Agricultural School?”
The Colonel answered with the voice of Jupiter tonans:
“I am Fougas!”
“If Nature says nothing to you in my behalf, ungrateful son, question the spirit of your mother!”
“Upon my soul, sir,” cried the Counsellor, “we can play at cross purposes a good while! Sit down there, if you please, and tell me your business —— Marie, take away the children.”
Fougas did not require any urging. He detailed the romance of his life, without omitting anything, but with many delicate touches for the filial ears of M. Langevin. The Counsellor heard him patiently, with an appearance of perfect disinterestedness.
“Monsieur,” said he, at last, “at first I took you for a madman; but now I remember that the newspapers have contained some scraps of your history, and I see that you are the victim of a mistake. I am not forty-six years old, but thirty-four. My mother’s name was not Clementine Pichon, but Marie Herval. She was not born at Nancy, but at Vannes, and she was but seven years old in 1813. Nevertheless, I am happy to make your acquaintance.”
“Ah! you’re not my son!” replied Fougas, angrily. “Very well! So much the worse for you! No one seems to want a father of the name of Fougas! As for sons by the name of Langevin, one only has to stoop to pick them up. I know where to find one who is not a Counsellor of the Prefecture, it is true, and who does not put on a laced coat to go to mass, but who has an honest and simple heart, and is named Pierre, just like me! But, I beg your pardon, when one shows gentlemen the door, one ought at least to return what belongs to them.”
“I don’t prevent your collecting the bon-bons which my children have scattered over the floor.”
“Yes, I’m talking about bon-bons with a vengeance! My million, sir!”
“Your brother’s million! —— No! The million that belongs to him who is not your brother — to Clementine’s son, my dear and only child, the only scion of my race, Pierre Langevin, called Pierrot, a miller at Vergaville!”
“But I assure you, monsieur, that I haven’t your million, or anybody’s else.”
“You dare to deny it, scoundrel, when I sent it to you by mail, myself!”
“Possibly you sent it, but I certainly have not received it!”
“Aha! Defend yourself!”
He made at his throat, and perhaps France would have lost a Counsellor of Prefecture that day, if the servant had not come in with two letters in her hand. Fougas recognized his own handwriting and the Berlin postmark, tore open the envelope, and displayed the check.
“Here,” said he, “is the million I intended for you, if you had seen fit to be my son! Now it’s too late for you to retract. The voice of Nature calls me to Vergaville. Your servant, sir!”
On the 4th of September, Pierre Langevin, miller at Vergaville, celebrated the marriage of Cadet Langevin, his second son. The miller’s family was numerous, respectable, and in comfortable circumstances. First, there was the grandfather, a fine, hale old man, who took his four meals a day, and doctored his little ailings with the wine of Bar or Thiaucourt. The grandmother, Catharine, had been pretty in her day, and a little frivolous; but she expiated by absolute deafness the crime of having listened too tenderly to gallants. M. Pierre Langevin, alias Pierrot, alias Big Peter, after having sought his fortune in America (a custom becoming quite general in the rural districts), had returned to the village in pretty much the condition of the infant Saint John, and God only knows how many jokes were perpetrated over his ill luck. The people of Lorraine are terrible wags, and if you are not fond of personal jokes, I advise you not to travel in their neighborhood. Big Peter, stung to the quick, and half crazed at having run through his inheritance, borrowed money at ten per cent., bought the mill at Vergaville, worked like a plough-horse in heavy land, and repaid his capital and the interest. Fortune, who owed him some compensations, gave him gratis pro Deo, a half dozen superb workers — six big boys, whom his wife presented him with, one annually, as regularly as clock-work. Every year, nine months, to a day, after the fête of Vergaville, Claudine (otherwise known as Glaudine) presented one for baptism. At last she died after the sixth, from eating four huge pieces of quiche before her churching. Big Peter did not marry again, having concluded that he had workers enough, and he continued to add to his fortune nicely. But, as standing jokes last a long time in villages, the miller’s comrades still spoke to him about those famous millions which he did not bring back from America, and Big Peter grew very red under his flour, just as he used to in his earlier days.
On the 4th of September, then, he married his second son to a good big woman of Altroff, who had fat and blazing cheeks: this being a kind of beauty much affected in the country. The wedding took place at the mill, because the bride was orphaned of father and mother, and had previously lived with the nuns of Molsheim.
A messenger came and told Pierre Langevin that a gentleman wearing decorations had something to say to him, and Fougas appeared in all his glory. “My good sir,” said the miller, “I am far from being in a mood to talk business, as we just took a good pull at white wine before mass; but we are going to drink some red wine that’s by no means bad, at dinner, and if your heart prompts you, don’t be backward! The table is a long one. We can talk afterwards. You don’t say no? Then that’s yes.”
“For once,” thought Fougas, “I am not mistaken. This is surely the voice of Nature! I would have liked a soldier better, but this genial rustic, so comfortably rounded, satisfies my heart. I cannot be indebted to him for many gratifications of my pride; but never mind! I am sure of his good-will.”
Dinner was served, and the table more heavily laden with viands than the stomach of Gargantua. Big Peter, as proud of his big family as of his little fortune, made the Colonel stand by as he enumerated his children. And Fougas was joyful at learning that he had six welcome grandchildren.
He was seated at the right of a little stunted old woman who was presented to him as the grandmother of the youngsters. Heavens! how changed Clementine appeared to him. Save the eyes which were still lively and sparkling, there was no longer anything about her that could be recognized. “See,” thought Fougas, “what I would have been like to-day, if the worthy John Meiser had not desiccated me!” He smiled to himself on regarding Grandfather Langevin, the reputed progenitor of this numerous family. “Poor old fellow,” murmured Fougas, “you little think what you owe to me!”
They dine boisterously at village weddings. This is an abuse which, I sincerely hope, Civilization will never reform. Under cover of the noise, Fougas entered into conversation, or thought he did, with his left-hand neighbor. “Clementine!” he said to her. She raised her eyes, and her nose too, and responded:
“My heart has not deceived me, then? — you are indeed my Clementine!”
“And you have recognized me, noble and excellent woman!”
“But how did you conceal your emotion so well? —— How strong women are! —— I fall from the skies into the midst of your peaceful existence, and you see me without moving a muscle!”
“Have you forgiven me for a seeming injury for which Destiny alone is responsible?”
“Thanks! A thousand thanks! —— What a charming family you have about you! This good Pierre, who almost opened his arms on seeing me approach, is my son, is he not?”
“Rejoice! He shall be rich! He already has happiness; I bring him fortune. His portion shall be a million. Oh, Clementine! what a commotion there will be in this simple assembly, when I raise my voice and say to my son: ‘Here! this million is for you!’ Is it a good time now? Shall I speak? Shall I tell all?”
Fougas immediately arose, and requested silence. The people thought he was going to sing a song, and all kept quiet.
“Pierre Langevin,” said he with emphasis, “I have come back from the other world, and brought you a million.”
If Big Peter did not want to get angry, he at least got red, and the joke seemed to him in bad taste. But when Fougas announced that he had loved the grandmother in her youth, grandfather Langevin no longer hesitated to fling a bottle at his head. The Colonel’s son, his splendid grandchildren, and even the bride all jumped up in high dudgeon and there was a very pretty scrimmage indeed.
For the first time in his life, Fougas did not get the upper hand. He was afraid that he might injure some of his family. Paternal affection robbed him of three quarters of his power.
But having learned during the clamor that Clementine was called Catharine, and that Pierre Langevin was born in 1810, he resumed the offensive, blacked three eyes, broke an arm, mashed two noses, knocked in four dozen teeth, and regained his carriage with all the honors of war.
“Devil take the children!” said he, while riding in a post-chaise toward the Avricourt station. “If I have a son, I wish he may find me!”
On the fifth of September, at ten o’clock in the morning, Leon Renault, emaciated, dejected and scarcely recognizable, was at the feet of Clementine Sambucco in her aunt’s parlor. There were flowers on the mantel and flowers in all the vases. Two great burglar sunbeams broke through the open windows. A million of little bluish atoms were playing in the light, crossing each other and getting fantastically mixed up, like the ideas in a volume of M. Alfred Houssaye. In the garden, the apples were falling, the peaches were ripe, the hornets were ploughing broad, deep furrows in the duchesse pears; the trumpet-flowers and clematis-vines were in blossom, and to crown all, a great mass of heliotropes, trained over the left window, was flourishing in all its beauty. The sun had given all the grapes in the arbor a tint of golden bronze; and the great Yucca on the lawn, shaken by the wind like a Chinese hat, noiselessly clashed its silver bells. But the son of M. Renault was more pale and haggard than the white lilac sprays, more blighted than the leaves on the old cherry-tree; his heart was without joy and without hope, like the currant bushes without leaves and without fruit!
To be exiled from his native land, to have lived three years in an inhospitable climate, to have passed so many days in deep mines, so many nights over an earthenware stove in the midst of an infinity of bugs and a multiplicity of serfs, and to see himself set aside for a twenty-five-louis Colonel whom he himself had brought to life by soaking him in water!
All men are subject to disappointments, but surely never had one encountered a misfortune so unforeseen and so extraordinary. Leon knew that Earth is not a valley flowing with chocolate and soup à la reine. He knew the list of the renowned unfortunates beginning with Abel slain in the garden of Paradise, and ending with Rubens assassinated in the gallery of the Louvre at Paris. But history, which seldom instructs us, never consoles us. The poor engineer in vain repeated to himself that a thousand others had been supplanted on the day before marriage, and a hundred thousand on the day after. Melancholy was stronger than Reason, and three or four soft locks were beginning to whiten about his temples.
“Clementine!” said he, “I am the most miserable of men. In refusing me the hand which you have promised, you condemn me to agony a hundred times worse than death. Alas! What would you have me become without you? I must live alone, for I love you too well to marry another. For four long years, all my affections, all my thoughts have been centred upon you; I have become accustomed to regard other women as inferior beings, unworthy of attracting the interest of a man! I will not speak to you of the efforts I have made to deserve you; they brought their reward in themselves, and I was already too happy in working and suffering for you. But see the misery in which your desertion has left me! A sailor thrown upon a desert island has less to deplore than I: I will be forced to live near you, to witness the happiness of another, to see you pass my windows upon the arm of my rival! Ah! death would be more endurable than this constant agony. But I have not even the right to die! My poor old parents have already sorrows enough. What would it be, Great God! if I were to condemn them to bear the loss of their son?”
This complaint, punctuated with sighs and tears, lacerated the heart of Clementine. The poor child wept too, for she loved Leon with her whole soul, but she was interdicted from telling him so. More than once, on seeing him half dying before her, she felt tempted to throw her arms about his neck, but the recollection of Fougas paralyzed all her tender impulses.
“My poor friend,” said she, “you judge me very wrongfully if you think me insensible to your sufferings. I have known you thoroughly, Leon, and that too since my very childhood. I know all that there is in you of devotion, delicacy and precious and noble virtues. Since the time when you carried me in your arms to the poor, and put a penny in my hand to teach me to give alms, I have never heard benevolence spoken of without involuntarily thinking of you. When you whipped a boy twice your size for taking away my doll, I felt that courage was noble and that a woman would be happy in being able to lean on a brave man. All that I have ever seen you do since that time, has only redoubled my esteem and my sympathy. Believe me that it is neither from wickedness or ingratitude that I make you suffer now. Alas! I no longer belong to myself, I am under external control; I am like those automatons that move without knowing why. Yes, I feel an impulse within me more powerful than my self control, and it is the will of another that leads me.”
“If I could but be sure that you will be happy! But no! This man, before whom you immolate me, will never know the worth of a soul as delicate as yours. He is a brute, a swash-buckler, a drunkard.”
“I beseech you, Leon, remember that he has a right to my unreserved respect!”
“Respect! For him! And why? I ask of you, in Heaven’s name, what you find respectable in the character of Mister Fougas? His age? He is younger than I. His talents? He never shows them anywhere but at the table. His education? It’s lovely! His virtues? I know what is to be thought of his refinement and gratitude!”
“I have respected him, Leon, since I first saw him in his coffin. It is a sentiment stronger than all else; I cannot explain it, I can but submit to it.”
“Very well! Respect him as much as you please! Yield to the superstition that enchains you. See in him a miraculous being, consecrated, rescued from the grip of Death to accomplish something great on earth! But this itself, Oh my dear Clementine, is a barrier between you and him! If Fougas is outside of the conditions of humanity, if he is a phenomenon, a being apart, a hero, a demigod, a fetich, you cannot seriously think of becoming his wife. As for me, I am but a man like others, born to work, to suffer and to love. I love you! Love me!”
“Scoundrel!” cried Fougas, opening the door.
Clementine uttered a cry, Leon sprung up quickly, but the Colonel had already seized him by the most practicable part of his nankeen suit, before he had even time to think of a single word in reply. The engineer was lifted up, balanced like an atom in one of the sunbeams, and flung into the very midst of the heliotropes. Poor Leon! Poor heliotropes!
In less than a second, the young man was on his feet. He dusted the earth from his knees and elbows, approached the window, and said in a calm but resolute voice: “Mister Colonel, I sincerely regret having brought you back to life, but possibly the folly of which I have been guilty is not irreparable. I hope soon to have an opportunity to find out if it be! As for you, Mademoiselle, I love you!”
The Colonel shrugged his shoulders and put himself at the young girl’s feet on the very cushion which still bore the impression left by Leon. Mlle. Virginie Sambucco, attracted by the noise, came down stairs like an avalanche and heard the following conversation.
“Idol of a great soul! Fougas returns to thee like the eagle to his eyrie. I have long traversed the world in pursuit of rank, fortune and family which I was burning to lay at thy feet. Fortune has obeyed me as a slave: she knows in what school I learned the art of controlling her. I have gone through Paris and Germany like a victorious meteor led by its star. I have everywhere associated as an equal with the powers of Earth, and made the trumpet of truth resound in the halls of kings. I have put my foot on the throat of greedy Avarice, and snatched from him a part, at least, of the treasures which he had stolen from too-confiding Honor. One only blessing is denied me: the son I hoped to see has escaped the lynx-eyes of paternal love. Neither have I found the ancient object of my first affections. But what matters it? I shall feel the want of nothing, if you fill for me the place of all. What do we wait for now? Are you deaf to the voice of Happiness which calls you? Let us go to the temple of the laws, then you shall follow me to the foot of the altar; a priest shall consecrate our bonds, and we will go through life leaning on one another, I like the oak sustaining weakness, thou like the graceful ivy ornamenting the emblem of strength.”10
10 The Translator has intentionally used both the singular and the plural of the second person in Fougas’ apostrophe to Clementine, as it seemed to him naturally required by the variations of the sentiment.
Clementine remained a few moments without answering, as if stunned by the Colonel’s vehement rhetoric. “Monsieur Fougas,” she said to him, “I have always obeyed you, I promise to obey you all my life. If you do not wish me to marry poor Leon, I will renounce him. I love him devotedly, nevertheless, and a single word from him arouses more emotion in my heart than all the fine things you have said to me.”
“Good! Very good!” cried the Aunt. “As for me, sir, although you have never done me the honor to consult me, I will tell you my opinion. My niece is not at all the woman to suit you. Were you richer than M. de Rothschild and more illustrious than the Duke of Malakoff, I would not advise Clementine to marry you.”
“And why, chaste Minerva?”
“Because you would love her fifteen days, and then, at the first sound of cannon, be off to the wars! You would abandon her, sir, just as you did that unhappy Clementine whose misfortunes have been recounted to us!”
“Zounds! Lady Aunt! I do advise you to bestow your pity on her! Three months after Leipzic, she married a fellow named Langevin at Nancy.”
“What do you say?”
“I say that she married a military commissary named Langevin.”
“At that identical town.”
“This is strange!
“But this woman — this young girl — her name?
“I’ve told you a hundred times: Clementine!”
“Gracious Heavens! My keys! Where are my keys? I’m sure I put them in my pocket! Clementine Pichon! M. Langevin! It’s impossible! My senses are forsaking me! Come, my child, bestir yourself! The happiness of your whole life is concerned. Where did you poke my keys? Ah! Here they are!”
Fougas bent over to Clementine’s ear, and said:
“Is she subject to these attacks? One, would suppose that the poor old girl had lost her head!”
But Virginie Sambucco had already opened a little rosewood secretary. Her unerring glance discovered in a file of papers, a sheet yellow with age.
“I’ve got it!” said she with a cry of joy. “Marie Clementine Pichon, legitimate daughter of August Pichon, hotel keeper, rue des Merlettes, in this town of Nancy; married June 10th, 1814, to Joseph Langevin, military sub-commissary. Is it surely she, Monsieur? Dare to say it isn’t she!”
“Well! But how do you happen to have my family papers?”
“Poor Clementine! And you accuse her of unfaithfulness! You do not understand then that you had been taken for dead! That she supposed herself a widow without having been a wife; that —”
“It’s all right! It’s all right! I forgive her. Where is she? I want to see her, to embrace her, to tell her —”
“She is dead, Monsieur! She died three months after she was married,”
“Ah! The Devil!”
“In giving birth to a daughter —”
“Where is my daughter? I’d rather have had a son, but never mind! Where is she? I want to see her, to embrace her, to tell her —”
“Alas! She is no more! But I can conduct you to her tomb.”
“But how the Devil did you know her?”
“Because she married my brother!”
“Without my consent? But never mind! At least she left some children, didn’t she?”
“A son! He is my grandson!”
“Never mind! She is my granddaughter! I’d rather have had a grandson, but where is she? I want to see her, to embrace her, to tell her —”
“Embrace away, Monsieur! Her name is Clementine: after her grandmother, and there she is!”
“She! That accounts for the resemblance! But then I can’t marry her! Never mind! Clementine! Come to my arms! Embrace your grandfather!”
The poor child had not been able entirely to comprehend this rapid conversation, from which events had been falling like tiles, upon the head of the Colonel. She had always heard M. Langevin spoken of as her maternal grandfather, and now she seemed to hear that her mother was the daughter of Fougas. But she knew at the first words, that it was no longer possible for her to marry the Colonel, and that she would soon be married to Leon Renault. It was, therefore, from an impulse of joy and gratitude that she flung herself into the arms of the young-old man.
“Ah, Monsieur!” said she, “I have always loved and respected you like a grandfather!”
“And I, my poor child, have always behaved myself like an old beast! All men are brutes, and all women are angels. You divined with the delicate instinct of your sex, that you owed me respect, and I, fool that I am, didn’t divine anything at all! Whew! Without the venerable Aunt there, I’d have made a pretty piece of work!”
“No,” said the aunt.” You would have found out the truth in going over our family papers.”
“Would that I could have seen them and nothing more! Just to think that I went off to seek my heirs in the department of Meurthe, when I had left my family in Fontainebleau! Imbecile! Bah! But never mind. Clementine! You shall be rich, you shall marry the man you love! Where is he, the brave boy? I want to see him, to embrace him, to tell him —”
“Alas, Monsieur; you just threw him out of the window.”
“I? Hold on, it is true. I had forgotten all about it. Fortunately he’s not hurt, and I’ll go at once and make amends for my folly. You shall get married when you want to; the two weddings shall come off together. — But in fact, no! What am I saying? I shall not marry now! It will all be well soon, my child, my dear granddaughter. Mademoiselle Sambucco you’re a model aunt; embrace me!”
He ran to M. Renault’s house, and Gothon, who saw him coming, ran down to shut him out.
“Ain’t you ashamed of yourself,” said she, “to act this way with them as brought you to life again? Ah! If it had to be done over again! We wouldn’t turn the house upside down again for the sake of your fine eyes! Madame’s crying, Monsieur is tearing his hair, M. Leon has just been sending two officers to hunt you up. What have you been at again since morning?”
Fougas gave her a twirl on her feet and found himself face to face with the engineer. Leon had heard the sound of a quarrel, and on seeing the Colonel excited, with flashing eyes, he expected some brutal aggression and did not wait for the first blow. A struggle took place in the passage amid the cries of Gothon, M. Renault and the poor old lady, who was screaming: “Murder!” Leon wrestled, kicked, and from time to time launched a vigorous blow into the body of his antagonist. He had to succumb, nevertheless; the Colonel finished by upsetting him on the ground and holding him there. Then he kissed him on both cheeks and said to him:
“Ah! You naughty boy! Now I’m pretty sure to make you listen to me! I am Clementine’s grandfather, and I give her to you in marriage, and you can have the wedding to-morrow if you want to! Do you hear? Now get up, and don’t you punch me in the stomach any more. It would be almost parricide!”
Mlle. Sambucco and Clementine arrived in the midst of the general stupefaction. They completed the recital of Fougas, who had gotten himself pretty badly mixed up in the genealogy. Leon’s seconds appeared in their turn. They had not found the enemy in the hotel where he had taken up his quarters, and came to give an account of their mission. A tableau of perfect happiness met their astonished gaze, and Leon invited them to the wedding.
“My friends,” said Fougas, “you shall see undeceived Nature bless the chains of Love.”
“Mlle. Virginie Sambucco has the honor to announce to you the marriage of Mlle. Clementine Sambucco, her niece, to M. Leon Renault, civil engineer.
“M. and Mme. Renault have the honor to announce to you the marriage of M. Leon Renault, their son, to Mlle. Clementine Sambucco;
“And invite you to be present at the nuptial benediction which will be given them on the 11th of September, 1859, in the church of Saint Maxcence, in their parish, at eleven o’clock precisely.”
Fougas absolutely insisted that his name should figure on the cards. They had all the trouble in the world to cure him of this whim. Mme. Renault lectured him two full hours. She told him that in the eyes of society, as well as in the eyes of the law, Clementine was the granddaughter of M. Langevin; that, moreover, M. Langevin had acted very liberally in legitimizing by marriage, a daughter that was not his own; finally, that the publication of such a family secret would be an outrage against the sanctity of the grave and would tarnish the memory of poor Clementine Pichon. The Colonel answered with the warmth of a young man, and the obstinacy of an old one:
“Nature has her rights; they are anterior to the conventions of society, and a thousand times more exalted. The honor of her I called my Ægle, is dearer to me than all the treasures of the world, and I would cleave the soul of any rash being who should attempt to tarnish it. In yielding to the ardor of my vows, she but conformed to the custom of a great epoch when the uncertainty of life and the constant existence of war simplified all formalities. And in conclusion, I do not wish that my grandchildren, yet to be born, should be ignorant that the source of their blood is in the veins of Fougas. Your Langevin is but an intruder who covertly slipped into my family. A commissary! It’s almost a sutler! I spurn under foot the ashes of Langevin!”
His obstinacy would not yield to the arguments of Mme. Renault, but it succumbed to the entreaties of Clementine. The young creole twisted him around her finger with irresistible grace.
“My good Grandpa this, my pretty little Grandpa that; my old baby of a Grandpa, we’ll send you off to college if you’re not reasonable!”
She used to seat herself familiarly on Fougas’ knee, and give him little love pats on the cheeks. The Colonel would assume the gruffest possible voice, and then his heart would overflow with tenderness, and he would cry like a child.
These familiarities added nothing to the happiness of Leon Renault; I even think that they slightly tempered his joy. Yet he certainly did not doubt either the love of his betrothed or the honor of Fougas. He was forced to admit that between a grandfather and his granddaughter such little liberties are natural and proper and could justly offend no one. But the situation was so new and so unusual that he needed a little time to adapt his feelings to it, and forget his chagrin. This grandfather, for whom he had paid five-hundred francs, whose ear he had broken, for whom he had bought a burial-place in the Fontainebleau cemetery: this ancestor younger than himself, whom he had seen drunk, whom he had found agreeable, then dangerous, then insupportable: this venerable head of the family who had begun by demanding Clementine’s hand and ended by pitching his future grandson into the heliotropes, could not all at once obtain unmingled respect and unreserved affection.
M. and Mme. Renault exhorted their son to submission and deference. They represented M. Fougas to him as a relative who ought to be treated with consideration.
“A few days of patience!” said the good mother. “He will not stay with us long; he is a soldier and can’t live out of the army any better than a fish out of water.”
But Leon’s parents, in the bottom of their hearts, held a bitter remembrance of so many pangs and mortifications. Fougas had been the scourge of the family; the wounds which he had made could not heal over in a day. Even Gothon bore him ill will without confessing it. She heaved great sighs while preparing for the wedding festivities at Mlle. Sambucco’s .
“Ah! my poor Célestin!” said she to her acolyte. “What a little rascal of a grandfather we’re going to have to be sure!”
The only person who was perfectly at ease was Fougas. He had passed the sponge over his pranks; out of all the evil he had done, he retained no ill will against any one. Very paternal with Clementine, very gracious with M. and Mme. Renault, he evinced for Leon the most frank and cordial friendship.
“My dear boy,” said he to him, “I have studied you, I know you, and I love you thoroughly; you deserve to be happy, and you shall be. You shall soon see that in buying me for twenty-five napoleons, you didn’t make a bad bargain. If gratitude were banished from the universe, it would find a last abiding place in the heart of Fougas!”
Three days before the marriage, M. Bonnivet informed the family that the colonel had come into his office to ask for a conference about the contract. He had scarcely cast his eyes on the sheet of stamped paper, when Rrrrip! it was in pieces in the fireplace.
“Mister Note-scratcher,” he said, “do me the honor of beginning your chef-d’oeuvre over again. The granddaughter of Fougas does not marry with an annuity of eight thousand francs. Nature and Friendship give her a million. Here it is!”
Thereupon he took from his pocket a bank check for a million, paced the study proudly, making his boots creak, and threw a thousand-franc note on a clerk’s desk, crying in his clearest tones:
“Children of the Law! Here’s something to drink the health of the Emperor and the Grand Army with!”
The Renault family strongly remonstrated against this liberality. Clementine, on being told of it by her intended, had a long discussion, in the presence of Mlle. Sambucco, with the young and terrible grandpapa; she tried to impress upon him that he was but twenty-four years old, that he would be getting married some day, and that his property belonged to his future family.
“I do not wish,” said she, “that your children should accuse me of having robbed them. Keep your millions for my little uncles and aunts!”
But for once, Fougas would not yield an inch.
“Are you mocking me?” he said to Clementine. “Do you think that I will be guilty of the folly of marrying now? I do not promise you to live like a monk of La Trappe, but at my age, a man put together like I am can find enough to talk to around the garrisons without marrying anybody. Mars does not borrow the torch of Hymen to light the little aberrations of Venus! Why does man ever tie himself in matrimonial bonds? . . . For the sake of being a father. I am one already, in the comparative degree, and in a year, if our brave Leon does a man’s part, I shall assume the superlative. Great-grandfather! That’s a lovely position for a trooper twenty-five years old! At forty-five or fifty, I shall be great-great-grandfather. At seventy . . . the French language has no more words to express what I shall become! But we can order one from those babblers of the Academy! Are you afraid that I’ll want for anything in my old age? I have my pay, in the first place, and my officer’s cross. When I reach the years of Anchises or Nestor, I will have my halt-pay. Add to all this the two hundred and fifty thousand francs from the king of Prussia, and you shall see that I have not only bread, but all essential fixings in the bargain, up to the close of my career. Moreover, I have a perpetual grant, for which your husband has paid in advance, in the Fontainebleau cemetery. With all these possessions, and simple tastes, one is sure not to eat up one’s resources!”
Willing or unwilling, they had to concede all he required and accept his million. This act of generosity made a great commotion in the town, and the name of Fougas, already celebrated in so many ways, acquired a new prestige. The signature of the bride was attested by the Marshal the Duke of Solferino and the illustrious Karl Nibor, who but a few days before had been elected to the Academy of Sciences. Leon modestly retained the old friends whom he had long since chosen, M. Audret the architect, and M. Bonnivet the notary.
The Mayor was brilliant in his new scarf. The curé addressed to the young couple an affecting allocution on the inexhaustible goodness of Providence, which still occasionally performs a miracle for the benefit of true Christians. Fougas, who had not discharged his religious duties since 1801, soaked two handkerchiefs with tears.
“One must always part from those nearest the heart,” said he on going out of church. “But God and I are made to understand each other! After all, what is God but a little more universal Napoleon!”
A Pantagruelic feast, presided over by Mlle. Virginie Sambucco in a dress of puce-colored silk, followed immediately upon the marriage ceremony. Twenty-four persons were present at this family fête, among others the new colonel of the 23d and M. du Marnet, who was almost well of his wound.
Fougas took up his napkin with a certain anxiety. He hoped that the Marshal had brought his brevet as brigadier general. His expressive countenance manifested lively disappointment at the empty plate.
The Duke of Solferino, who had been seated at the place of honor, noticed this physiognomical display, and said aloud:
“Don’t be impatient, my old comrade! I know what you miss; it was not my fault that the fête was not complete. The minister of war was out when I dropped in on my way here. I was told however, at the department, that your affair was kept in suspense by a technical question, but that you would receive a letter from the office within twenty-four hours.”
“Devil take the documents!” cried Fougas. “They’ve got them all, from my birth-certificate, down to the copy of my brevet colonel’s commission. You’ll find out that they want a certificate of vaccination or some such six-penny shinplaster!”
“Oh! Patience, young man! You’ve time enough to wait. It’s not such a case as mine: without the Italian campaign, which gave me a chance to snatch the baton, they would have slit my ear like a condemned horse, under the empty pretext that I was sixty-five years old. You’re not yet twenty-five, and you’re on the point of becoming a brigadier: the Emperor promised it to you before me. In four or five years from now, you’ll have the gold stars, unless some bad luck interferes. After which you’ll need nothing but the command of an army and a successful campaign to make you Marshal of France and Senator, which may nothing prevent!”
“Yes,” responded Fougas; “I’ll reach it. Not only because I am the youngest of all the officers of my grade, and because I have been in the mightiest of wars and followed the lessons of the master of Bellona’s fields, but above all because Destiny has marked me with her sign. Why did the bullets spare me in more than twenty battles? Why have I sped over oceans of steel and fire without my skin receiving a scratch? It is because I have a star, as He had. His was the grander, it is true, but it went out at St. Helena, while mine is burning in Heaven still! If Doctor Nibor resuscitated me with a few drops of warm water, it was because my destiny was not yet accomplished. If the will of the French people has re-established the imperial throne, it was to furnish me a series of opportunities for my valor, during the conquest of Europe which we are about to recommence! Vive l’Empereur, and me too! I shall be duke or prince in less than ten years, and . . . why not? One might try to be at roll-call on the day when crowns are distributed! In that case, I will adopt Clementine’s oldest son: we will call him Pierre Victor II., and he shall succeed me on the throne just as Louis XV. succeeded his grandfather Louis XIV.!”
As he was finishing this wonderful speech, a gendarme entered the dining room, asked for Colonel Fougas, and handed him a letter from the Minister of War.
“Gad!” cried the Marshal, “it would be pleasant to have your promotion arrive at the end of such a discourse. For once, we would prostrate ourselves before your star! The Magi kings would be nowhere compared with us.”
“Read it yourself,” said he to the Marshal, holding out to him the great sheet of paper. “But no! I have always looked Death in the face; I will not turn my eyes away from this paper thunder if it is killing me.
“In preparing the Imperial decree which elevated you to the rank of brigadier general, I found myself in the presence of an insurmountable obstacle: viz., your certificate of birth. It appears from that document that you were born in 1789, and that you have already passed your seventieth year. Now, the limit of age being fixed at sixty years for colonels, sixty-two for brigadier generals and sixty-five for generals of division, I find myself under the absolute necessity of placing you upon the retired list with the rank of colonel. I know, Monsieur, how little this measure is justified by your apparent age, and I sincerely regret that France should be deprived of the services of a man of your capacity and merit. Moreover, it is certain that an exception in your favor would arouse no dissatisfaction in the army and would meet with nothing but sympathetic approval. But the law is express, and the Emperor himself cannot violate or elude it. The impossibility resulting from it is so absolute that if, in your ardor to serve the country, you were willing to lay aside your epaulettes for the sake of beginning upon a new career, your enlistment could not be received in a single regiment of the army. It is fortunate, Monsieur, that the Emperor’s government has been able to furnish you the means of subsistence in obtaining from His Royal Highness the Regent of Prussia the indemnity which was due you; for there is not even an office in the civil administration in which, even by special favor, a man seventy years old could be placed. You will very justly object that the laws and regulations now in force date from a period when experiments on the revivification of men had not yet met with favorable results. But the law is made for the mass of mankind, and cannot take any account of exceptions. Undoubtedly attention would be directed to its amendment if cases of resuscitation were to present themselves in sufficient number.
A gloomy silence succeeded the reading. The Mene mene tekel upharsin of the oriental legends could not have more completely produced the effect of thunderbolts. The gendarme was still there, standing in the position of the soldier without arms, awaiting Fougas’ receipt. The Colonel called for pen and ink, signed the paper, gave the gendarme drink-money, and said to him with ill-suppressed emotion:
“You are happy, you are! No one prevents you from serving the country. Well,” added he, turning toward the Marshal, “what do you say to that?”
“What would you have me say, my poor old boy? It breaks me all up. There’s no use in arguing against the law; it’s express. The stupid thing on our parts was not to think of it sooner. But who the Devil would have thought of the retired list in the presence of such a fellow as you are?”
The two colonels avowed that such an objection would never have entered their heads; now that it had been suggested, however, they could not see what to rebut it with. Neither of them would have been able to enlist Fougas as a private soldier, despite his ability, his physical strength and his appearance of being twenty-four years old.
“If some one would only kill me!” cried Fougas. “I can’t set myself to weighing sugar or planting cabbages. It was in the career of arms that I took my first steps; I must continue in it or die. What can I do? What can I become? Take service in some foreign army? Never! The fate of Moreau is still before my eyes. . . . Oh Fortune! What have I done to thee that I should be dashed so low, when thou wast preparing to raise me so high?”
Clementine tried to console him with soothing words.
“You shall live near us,” said she. “We will find you a pretty little wife, and you can rear your children. In your leisure moments you can write the history of the great deeds you have done. You will want for nothing: youth, health, fortune, family, all that makes up the happiness of men, is yours. Why then should you not be happy?”
Leon and his parents talked with him in the same way. Everything appertaining to the festive occasion was forgotten in the presence of an affliction so real and a dejection so profound.
He roused himself little by little, and even sang, at dessert, a little song which he had prepared for the occasion.
Here’s a health to these fortunate lovers
Who, on this thrice blessed day,
Have singed with the torch of chaste Hymen,
The wings with which Cupid doth stray.
And now, little volatile boy-god,
You must keep yourself quiet at home —
Enchained there by this happy marriage
Where Genius and Beauty are one.
He’ll make it, henceforth, his endeavor
To keep Pleasure in Loyalty’s power,
Forgetting his naughty old habit
Of roaming from flower to flower.
And Clementine makes the task easy,
For roses spring up at her smile:
From thence the young rascal can steal them
As well as in Venus’s isle.
The verses were loudly applauded, but the poor Colonel smiled sadly, talked but little, and did not get fuddled at all. The man with the broken ear could not at all console himself for having a slit ear.11 He took part in the various diversions of the day, but was no longer the brilliant companion who had inspired everything with his impetuous gayety.
11 The reader will bear in mind Marshal Leblanc’s allusion to condemned horses.
The Marshal buttonholed him during the evening and said: “What are you thinking about?”
“I’m thinking of the old messmates who were happy enough to fall at Waterloo with their faces toward the enemy. That old fool of a Dutchman who preserved me for posterity, did me but a sorry service. I tell you, Leblanc, a man ought to live in his own day. Later is too late.”
“Oh, pshaw, Fougas, don’t talk nonsense! There’s nothing desperate in the case. Devil take it! I’ll go to see the Emperor to-morrow. The matter shall be looked into. It will all be set straight. Men like you! Why France hasn’t got them by the dozen that she should fling them among the soiled linen.”
“Thanks! You’re a good old boy, and a true one. There were five hundred thousand of us, of the same, same sort, in 1812; there are but two left; say, rather, one and a half.”
About ten o’clock in the evening, M. Rollon, M. du Marnet and Fougas accompanied the Marshal to the cars. Fougas embraced his comrade and promised him to be of good cheer. After the train left, the three colonels went back to town on foot. In passing M. Rollon’s house, Fougas said to his successor:
“You’re not very hospitable to-night; you don’t even offer us a pony of that good Andaye brandy!”
“I thought you were not in drinking trim,” said M. Rollon. “You didn’t take anything in your coffee or afterwards. But come up!”
“My thirst has come back with a vengeance.”
“That’s a good symptom.”
He drank in a melancholy fashion, and scarcely wet his lips in his glass. He stopped a little while before the flag, took hold of the staff, spread out the silk, counted the holes that cannon balls and bullets had made in it, and could not repress his tears. “Positively,” said he, “the brandy has taken me in the throat; I’m not a man to-night. Good evening, gentlemen.”
“Hold on! We’ll go back with you.”
“Oh, my hotel is only a step.”
“It’s all the same. But what’s your idea in staying at a hotel when you have two houses in town at your service?”
“On the strength of that, I am going to move to-morrow.”
The next morning, about eleven o’clock, the happy Leon was at his toilet when a telegram was brought to him. He opened it without noticing that it was addressed to M. Fougas, and uttered a cry of joy. Here is the laconic message which brought him so much pleasure:
“To Colonel Fougas, Fontainebleau.
“Just left the Emperor. You to be brevet brigadier until something better turns up. If necessary, corps legislatif will amend law.
Leon dressed himself, ran to the hotel of the blue sundial, and found Fougas dead in his bed.
It is said in Fontainebleau, that M. Nibor made an autopsy, and found that serious disorders had been produced by desiccation. Some people are nevertheless satisfied that Fougas committed suicide. It is certain that Master Bonnivet received, by the penny post, a sort of a will, expressed thus:
“I leave my heart to my country, my memory to natural affection, my example to the army, my hate to perfidious Albion, fifty thousand francs to Gothon, and two hundred thousand to the 23d of the line. And forever Vive l’Empereur!
Resuscitated on the 17th of August, between three and four in the afternoon, he died on the 17th of the following month, at what hour we shall never know. His second life had lasted a little less than thirty-one days. But it is simple justice to say that he made good use of his time. He reposes in the spot which young Renault had bought for him. His granddaughter Clementine left off her mourning about a year since. She is beloved and happy, and Leon will have nothing to reproach himself with if she does not have plenty of children.
Bourdonnel, August, 1861.
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