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de Giboyeux, whom the excitement of the impending elections sometimes robbed of sleep, made a thousand advances to Etienne. He gently insinuated that the member for the southeastern part of the city was old, incompetent, and had but little popularity. He had been nominated with much noise, yet he received a majority of only one hundred and ten votes. If (he said) so rich and celebrated a man as he, backed by the Bersacs, would come to an understanding with the prefecture, there could not be the shadow of a doubt of his nomination. But,"
,” said Etienne, “I care very little for politics and do not know a word about it.” “Exactly!” replied the prefect, “it is from the élite of the indifferent and the doubting that we get our good majorities.”
When alone, Etienne jotted down his impressions and began a journal, into which he entered the details of his new life. I possess the manuscript book, which, unfortunately, is in a very poor condition and full of large gaps. About two o'clock he perceived that the sky was overcast, and that the rain, a genuine Atlantic rain, such as is seen only in our western departments, was washing the roofs and pavements with streams of water. It was impossible to go out, and the Bersacs were not to arrive before six o'clock. When he had left Paris the evening before he took no reading matter with him, unless the railway guide may be classed under that title. He rang the bell for some newspapers; a waiter brought him five or six, which appeared to him a year old, though they had been issued only two days before. Ennui took hold of him ; these petulant natures can with diffiulty bear two or three hours of inaction. He began to walk from the door to the window, and from the window to the door, like a sentinel or a prisoner. The pendulum of the clock moved also but slowly, and he thought that the minutes might indeed be a little longer in the province than in Paris. The rain was certainly less monotonous, less obstinate, and less insolent in Paris than this departmental deluge. "True, I have sometimes seen the rain pouring
I down, but I never took any notice of it before,” he said. “We would chat, laugh, friends entered and left, and when the worst came to the worst, I opened a book or looked at a picture. Had I felt very melancholy, I should have taken a hackney-coach and gone to Anna's or to the club. In the evening, during theatre hours, it may rain by the bucketful, and nobody will know anything about it except the hackdrivers and policemen."
Having pushed aside the curtains, he discovered his counterpart on the other side of the street. It was a man of some sixty or sixtyfive years, perhaps a retired colonel, who lodged on the first floor of the dwelling opposite the hotel. He was of tall stature and very corpulent, with his white hair cut straight and a bristling moustache; and he had on no outer garments but a pair of pantaloons, held up by damask suspenders, and a black stock. The apartment appeared large and richly furnished, but the poor soldier, it was evident, found little enjoyment in his comfortable leisure. He would walk with large strides into half-a-dozen rooms, stop methodically at the same window, rest his right hand against the same pane, drum some short air — the mounting-signal or the Casquette — yawn abundantly, and
execute a pirouette upon his right heel. Every fifteen minutes he filled a large pipe, lighted it with paper, threw himself into an arm. chair, took five or six puffs, half-opened the window, and emptied the
the pavement. These proceedings finally exasperated Etienne. “What!” he mused, “here is a man who has been young, active and as ambitious as anybody; he has dreamed of glory and victories; perhaps you would find in his papers, buried in a box at one of the Ministers' offices, the account of a heroic action; he does not look like a fool ; he appears to have the wherewithal to live ; yet he will vegetate to his last day amid this ennui of the province like an oak in a flower-pot! Why don't you go to Paris, you big fool?”
Now, as he was not wanting in logic, he at the same time reviewed his own situation. “And I! What am I doing here? Is what I gain by leaving Paris worth what I leave behind? What will become of poor Etienne in ten years, perhaps sooner? How many rainy days will it require to reduce a healthy mind to the intellectual nothingness expressed by the oyster-like yawns of the gentleman opposite? Supposing I were to save myself? There is yet time; nothing has been concluded. There is reciprocal liberty. What a noise it would cause in Paris ! The very evening that all the newspapers
The persons who should meet me on the boulevard would rub their eyes. To do the thing well it would be necessary for me to lie concealed till nine or ten o'clock, and then appear in the full green-room of the Comédie Française. "You! He! Thou!' Grand tableau ! What an adventure! Yes, my children, I am yours for life, and shall read you five acts of a new drama next month!
His mind was so delighted with the particulars of this supposition that he forgot the colonel, the clock, the rain and all. When the landlord came up and cried, “Monsieur, the train will arrive at the terminus in twenty minutes !” he became aware that he had been sleeping in broad daylight. It was the first time in more than thirty years. He shook off his last celibate illusions and hastened to meet Hortense. The Bersac family had received an accession on the way in the person of cousin George, the major of the chasseurs à pied. Etienne was on the point of representing to the old people that a widow would do better to travel with her intended than with a rejected suitor ; but he was disarmed by the loving welcome of Hortense and the honest look of the cousin, who was himself about to be married in a month, after the general review.
They were driven straight to Célestin's dwelling, where they dined among themselves without any formality. Some notabilities of the city, the flower of the right-minded Legitimists, numbering at most ten persons, men and women, arrived to tea at nine o'clock. The female portion left much to be desired, but the male members of the party were not as grotesque as Etienne had supposed. They vied with one another in cockering him up, intimating that they would be wholly his if he yielded, if he ranged himself on the side of good principles, and if he honestly broke with that flippant literature which respects neither the throne nor the altar. “Messieurs," said Bersac junior, “I have his word of honor. I will answer for him as if it were myself.”
Etienne would most gladly have exchanged the compliments of this senate for a three minutes' tête-à-tête with his betrothed ; but the obstinately watchful eyes of the Bersacs pursued the poor lovers to the last. The women took advantage of a change in the weather to conduct the young widow in a procession to her mansion, several petticoated body-guards escorting her even to her bed-chamber, whilst the band of old men attended Etienne back to the hotel. Need I say that he awoke a hundred times for once, and that he accused the sun of lingering behind the horizon ? Day finally appeared. Gala carriages rolled through the city ; the mayor, repeating the few words of address which he was to extemporise, girded on his sash; the four witnesses chosen by Célestin Bersac carefully examined the knots of their neck-cloths; the while Etienne dressed himself, stamping with impatience, and poor Hortense had much to endure at the hands of the six tire-women, from the best families, who volunteered their services.
The act of civil marriage, so grand in its simplicity, profoundly moved the men, but caused the women to smile, they reserving their emotion for the church. They then all set off for the cathedral amid the loud pealing of the bells, alighting in the midst of the inevitable crowd, and Etienne while passing caught the commentaries of the vagrants and beggars.
“A beautiful woman, isn't she, Baptiste ? I wouldn't mind having one like her myself."
"Is that tali man the bridegroom? She has taken him for his money."
All the authors of Paris are present to see the marriage." “Show me Alexandre Dumas." “The little light-haired man yonder must be he.”
“Alms, kind Monsieur, I will pray to God to give you half-a-dozen children!”
After the mass and during the noise at the audit-house, Bersac junior embraced Etienne with warmth. “Ab, my friend," he said, "you have abjured your errors in bending the knee before our holy altars."
“My dear sir," replied Etienne, “I once took off my shoes and stockings before entering Saint Sophia. I had to do so, but that did not make me a Mussulman.”
The nuptial train left immediately for Bellombre, where the domestics of Madame Etienne had spread a large table. The master and mistress of the château were received at the entrance to the village by the curé of Saint Maurice, the mayor, and the thirty-two firemen, with a band of music at their head. The magistrate was not too awkward, and the firemen's band reserved its falsest notes for the ball in the evening. The curé, a very genial man, but a sly rogue if ever there was one, begged M. Etienne to excuse the dilapidated condition of the old church, beheaded by the vandals of the Revolu- . tion, and insinuated that the bounteousness of some lord of the castle would sooner or later re-erect the parish steeple. In the meantime the man of God allowed himself to be conveyed to the château with the mayor, and ate his share of the dinner.
All passed off in the most pleasing manner possible; the repast was seasoned with more gaiety than one would have predicted, for the bald heads were decidedly in the majority. Etienne discovered that one may grow old in the provinces without turning sour. An old magistrate, slender and neat, very prettily sang a little aria which Mozart had taught him in 1786; and when one of the ladies expressed astonishment that he should have so well preserved a memory of his early boyhood, he replied, proudly: "But, Madame, in 1786 I was sixteen years old — the age of Cherubini, and I had a little of his spirit too."
At the close of day the guests and villagers assembled on the lawn. Hortense opened the ball with the captain of the firemen, and Etienne with the mayor's wife. This profane amusement did not at all dismay the good curé. Etienne congratulating him upon his toleration, he replied: “Do you take us for people of the middle ages? The church has made great progress, unchangeable though she is said to be. Be Christians, respect our dogmas, submit to our authority, and we release you from the rest. A thousand millions of rigadoons give less offence to God than one line of Voltaire."
The time sped rapidly for the dancers of every age and condition, Etienne and his wife excepted. They finally escaped about ten o'clock, and reached a spacious chamber, where the servants of the deceased, still retained, had left the portrait of their master. The happy husband took no notice of it; but the next day, wbile Hortense's pretty head was still reposing on the pillow, he suspected that it was old Bersac in the cap and robe of a consular judge. He got up noiselessly, gravely saluted the picture of the old man, and said inwardly to him : “Thanks, sir, for having bequeathed to me, if not a young girl, at least a pure and beautiful woman.”
The manuscript book from which I abridge this narrative, breaks off the day after the marriage and does not resume before the following January --- a gap of about five months. No doubt but that the honeymoon was serene and bright. A few scattered papers, probably relating to this period, make known to us the strange passions of the first husband, the astonishment of Etienne, and the docility of Hortense.
Bellombre, situated three leagues from the city in a charming tract of country, dated from the reign of Louis XIII. M. Bersac had spoiled the park, at a great expense, by laying it out in straight lines; he had also rebuilt, heaven knows how, the two wings of the château. All the furniture was rich and modern, mahogany and lampas, in the cossu style of 1835. At the entrance of each apartment you might see upon a placard an inventory and the price of the effects and household furniture contained therein. The daily work of each servant was minutely appointed by special regulations. Every Sunday, after vespers, Madame was to deliver to the cook a list of the dishes for the week; the housekeeper had orders to furnish clean linen
to her master and mistress on Saturday and Wednesday evenings, neither more nor less often. The porcelain-ware and crystal-glass used each day were under the care of the valet de chambre, as was also the plated silver used during the week. On Sundays and holidays Madame would herself give out the plate and costly services. These she was to lock up in the dining-room while the diners proceeded to the parlor, and was not to open the cupboard before the next morning, at five in summer and six in winter, so that all the pieces might be washed, put in order, and locked away in her presence. One of Etienne's first acts was to cast the regulations into the fire, and Madame, who observed them out of respect for the dead, does not appear to have pleaded their cause.
Bersac senior fasted and abstained from meat as often as the church prescribes, although he had his pockets full of dispensations. He imposed his regimen upon his young wife, who, however, had served her apprenticeship at the convent. Hortense did not try to change aught in Etienne's habits, and as he had the sense not to
discuss the penances which she inflicted upon herself, she gradually • discontinued them without a word. Mutual forbearance soon brought them, love aiding, to live and think as one being, which is the ideal of domestic life.
In celebration of his advent, Etienne presented the commune of Saint Maurice with a fire-engine costing a thousand crowns, while Hortense gave them a bell. The good curé loudly preferred a steeple; but Etienne discovered upon inquiry that the parish slandered the vandals of 1793, that the destroyed steeple had never existed but paper, and that the execution of this plan, devised by an economical architect, would cost at least forty thousand francs.
There is nothing to indicate that during these six months, the author of Jacqueline and Silva regretted the pleasures, the toil, and the pangs of literary life. Not only did he forget to write, but, when he read, it was in the little heart of his excellent wife, where he found more to interest him than in the best romance.
As Christmas drew near he had some books sent him, and subscribed for five or six newspapers and reviews. The evenings were decidedly too long to pass with nothing but gazing into each other's eyes, and a rather mild but wet and gloomy winter prohibited outdoor pleasures and occupations. Conversation then remained as the only resource. But a moment will always come when even the most congenial spirits have nothing to say to each other beyond what they have repeated a hundred times. Etienne would read with Hortense; he permitted some great minds to share their happy tête-à-têtes as third parties. The young wife, like all those who have passed through the Aattening-mill of convents, was incredibly ignorant. The half-liberty
of marriage had led her to turn over the pages of a few authors in vogue ; but of the immortal masterpieces which are the inheritance of all mankind she hardly knew the titles. She took an ardent interest in these lofty studies, which widened her horizon and rounded her mental being; but, nevertheless, having remarked that Etienne was not able to read aloud without yawning at every tenth line, she of her own accord proposed to return to the city.