Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

that I could no longer control them. That was a unique phenomenon; the like shall not be seen again. It would be as impossible for me to recommence Jean Moreau as for the Neva to recall the mountains of ice which it has precipitated into the sea.”

He very frankly related his flight from Bellombre, and how he had taken a roundabout way to gain a neighboring station where he was unknown; but I was not able to extract from him the reason of his departure: he did not know himself what brought him to Paris. He exhibited a violent aversion for his wife, saying at the same time that he had adored her till the day before. “I will never forgive her,” he said, "for believing in the integrity of that old monster."

It was during this visit that he entreated me to write and publish his history, for the instruction of his contemporaries. I made fun of his mournful presentiments, and wished him to take breakfast with me. But he excused himself upon the plea of having some urgent calls to make. “I must see Bondidier,” he said ; "they expect me at the printing-office; and, besides, I have not yet secured my room at the Grand Hotel.”

Having work to do that day, I did not go out before five o'clock. The first persons of my acquaintance whom I encountered upon the boulevard ran up to tell me of his arrival and of his extravagant conduct.

A few minutes after leaving me, he entered a bookseller's shop and asked for the sixth edition of Jean Moreau. The clerk replied that the work was announced, but that it had not yet appeared. “You lie, scoundrel,” he cried, seizing the young man by the throat; "the first five editions have all been sold this morning!” The same scene, with variations ad infinitum, was renewed in several shops.

He breakfasted at a celebrated restaurant of the Palais Royal, ate like a pack of wolves, poured the anchovy sauce into his wine, and, piling up all the newspapers upon a table, ordered the waiter to set them on fire. The proprietor of the establishment, who knew him well, saw that his mind was distempered, and exerted himself in vain to calm him.

Whether from compassion or curiosity, a number of people followed him. He stopped before the stall of a well-known bookseller's shop in the Rue Vivienne, reading aloud the titles of the books and inquiring after the health of the absent authors. Uttering a cry of joy all at once, he rushes into the shop, seizes an 18mo volume, seats himself upon the counter, and says: "Listen, all of you!" ”

And for more than a quarter of an hour he read, in a clear, thrilling, happy, and sympathetic voice, a chapter from Fean Moreau. The seven or eight persons who heard him declare to this day that they were spell-bound, believing that they saw the first part of an unknown masterpiece. Never had a more acute, sound, and caustic

a mind scourged the abuses and absurdities of the present age. The reader's art doubled, if possible, the merit of the book; but suddenly, without any reason whatever, he changed his tone, and unstrung a bead-roll of cynical enormities. He finished with dancing about and tearing up the poor book one of Madame de Gasparin's very moral romances !

The same evening I sent a dispatch to Bellombre. Madame Etienne arrived in time to nurse and weep for him, but too late to exchange a thought with him.

Some of the newspapers did not hesitate to attribute his malady and death the excessive use of alcoholic drinks, which he detested, and of tobacco, which he never touched.

v.

6

Hortense again retired into the depths of the province, bearing with her the remains of her husband. Next to nothing is known regarding her life; the old Bersac mansion is closed. The poor widow, who has grown terribly old, they say, vegetates, in deep mourning, in a corner of Bellombre, near the tomb of the man whom she accuses herself of having killed. She weeps as on the first day, and sometimes prays with strange fervency; but her devotion is irregular. One would say at times that she fears obtaining too high a place in heaven, which might remove her eternally from him.

Bondidier keeps her informed of business matiers, the widow of a French writer baving an interest in her husband's productions for thirty years. The edition of his complete works has met with a success beyond expectation; the volumes are stereotyped, and they sell as regularly as Musset's tales or the iwo novels of Stendhal. During the few years since his death Etienne bas acquired more than he did during his whole life. Hortense recently wrote to Bondidier: “Enough! Send me no more money. I am only 100 rich, alas ! Every moment I imagine that he is pursuing me with benefits, and that the money is saying 10 me: 'He did not make as good a marriage as you !"" Bondidier replied: "Ah, Madame, what would the amount be if we had Jean Moreau !"

Last Monday the old curé of Saint Maurice, having just come from the burial of that small fagot of dry wood, Célestin Bersac, presented himself before Hortense. " Madame," he said, "ihat good

" man has made his peace with the dead and the living. You would never see his face after that fatal event; but he prayed that you would forgive his offence against you and your Jamenied husband. His repentance was sincere; he earnestly wished to prove worthy of the Divine mercy, and to restore to our poor church ihre steeple which Robespierre and Marat destroyed in their hatred of God. "Father, he said to me, you will carry 10 Madame Etienne this sealed packet, which we two locked up in the safe of your sacristy, on the fourth of September 186-, at a quarter of eight in the morning. It contains papers of value, the sale of which in Paris will probably furnish the sum you require.'

Hortense broke the seal, and found the manuscript of Jean Moreau,

The work is in my hands. It will doubtless be published some day or other.

A STORY OF NINE TRAVELLERS.

CHAPTER XXV.

RESCUED. OLD HAUNTS. The Widow SHORT.

THE

HE day after the storm was one of quiet beauty. A bright

autumn sun was shining. the sea had grown almost as placid as a quiet land-locked lake, the wind had gradually subsided until only a light breeze was left to stir the distress-signal that floated over the Harvest Moon. So complete a wreck was the good barque that she could no longer be guided on her way homeward, and Captain Barker with the remnant of his crew could only labor to paich her up and keep her afloat, with the hope that they should at last drist across the path of scme friendly vessel and ihus escape. Fortunately their supply of food had received but little damage, and there was no immediate danger of starvation ; but the season was one of storms, and another such as they had just passed through would not leave a timber of their hull afloat, or a vestige to tell their sad story. It was therefore with eager eyes that each man when on watch ranged the circle of the horizon in search of a sail that should inspire them with the hope of an early rescue.

" Come, Romer,” said Captain Barker, as he handed his glass to Armero, “ try your keen eyes, and be sure you discover help, for we sadly need it."

“Ay, ay, Sir," was the response, and Carlos mounted the temporary lookout that had been hastily constructed, and proceeded to sweep the whole range of vision with a restless eye that in its eager gaze let nothing escape. Two hours passed in silence, and noon was fast approaching, when those on the deck saw bim start as if shocked by an electric battery, and then bending forward, as he direcied his glass toward a given point, he cried out in shrill, sharp tones : “Sail ho! Siarboard bow!”

In an instant Captain Barker had climbed up into the lookout, and seizing the glass, fixed it on the point indicated by Armero's finger, while he at once engaged in speculation and thankfulness.

“Yes. No. Yes, indeed, it is a three master, bearing nor'east, all sails up; she'll pass in a mile of us. The breeze is just right for her, and she stands well up to it. Thank God!” Then calling out to the inen below, he said: “Almost safe, lads! Rig up all the old canvas you can, save your breath until she bears nearer to us, and then shout like a thousand furies."

The speck of canvas grew, until it seemed like a small cloud low down near the horizon ; a little longer, and it stood out with shape well-defined against the sky, its nearer approach causing the Captain to continue his soliloquy. "Yes, she sails beautifully, beautifully; ; eight knots easy, I dare say. English built; and homeward bound I hope. Still bearing down, Romer?

“Yes, Sir. No; she's changing tack, bearing more north.”

“Great heavens! that would be too bad! Shout, lads, with all your lungs; we must never let her slip by !"

Shout after shout went up from the little band, and the moments they were held in suspense seemed like ages ; for all felt and seemed fully to realise how much depended on their being discovered now.

“They see us, Captain!” earnestly exclaimed Armero. " See ! they again change tack, and are bearing down upon us !”

Sure, Romer?“Yes, Sir. Watch her steadily, and see how she grows upon you."

“True; you are right. Shout louder, lads !” and the Captain led off with a roar worthy of the highest type of the British lion, while the men, emulating his effort, made the air ring with their huzzas.

Soon came the answering shout from the friendly vessel, and then with joyful hearts they saw a little boat dancing on the water, impelled towards them by sturdy arms and warm hearts, eager to rescue them. Strong men who had bravely struggled with the storm and nobly borne the hardships of shipwreck bowed their heads and wept as the boat came alongside and they received the hearty greetings of its crew.

It was with mingled feelings that the Captain and the remnant of his men left the dismasted hull of the Harvest Moon and sought refuge on board the Dolphin, a staunch English craft, only a few days out from Havana, and on her homeward voyage to Liverpool.

Captain Barker had made many voyages in the Harvest Moon; he knew every plank in her decks and every nook and cranny about her from stem to stern; and as she slowly drifted out of sight, he watched her as a father might a wrecked and ruined child floating on to inevitable destruction, and shading his eyes with his - hand turned mournfully away, saying, in tremulous tone: “Good bye. We have rode through many a storm together; I loved you well, but now we part, and I shall never again see another Harvest Moon."

“Cheer up! cheer up ! Captain,” said a voice very near to Barker as he bade adieu to his wrecked vessel. Turning, he saw standing by his side a tall, portly-looking man, with light sandy hair and sidewhiskers, his face brimful of good-nature, his eyes beaming with good-feeling and sympathy, his broad honest palm already extended to bid his unfortunate fellow-captain a most hearty welcome. In the hurry and excitement of getting from the boat on board the vessel, Barker had paid but little heed to any one who might be standing on the deck, and the captain of the Dolphin had considerately waited a little while to give him time to grow calm before coming forward to offer his sympathies and extend the hand of welcome.

“I suppose you are the captain of this vessel, and I must thank you in real earnest for coming to our rescue,” said Captain Barker, as he grasped the offered hand.

"Yes, Sir. My name is Hunter, and our vessel is the Dolphin. No thanks are due for duty done."

“ Hunter! Are you Captain Heber Hunter of Hull ? " “The very same.”

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

“Then you should know me, ‘Honest Billy Barker of the Harvest Moon; we were in port at Bombay together once."

“My old friend! how glad I am to see you, although it makes me sad to see the wreck of your noble ship. Keep up a stout heart; you did all that man could do to save her. She goes down after a noble struggle; and remember, you and your men have a hearty welcome on board the Dolphin. We have plenty of room, no lack of rations, and with favoring winds may hope now for a prosperous voyage; so cheer up!”

No one could long remain despondent in the genial atmosphere that surrounded Captain Hunter, and the two captains were soon making themselves comfortable over a substantial dinner, growing more and more communicative at its close over a rare old bottle of port, with a relish of genuine Stilton; while the rescued crew were feasted to the full in the mess-room of the Dolphin, and soon drowned the memory of their toil and danger in a glass of Jamaica rum. The Dolphin encountered heavy weather before reaching the Channel coast, but passing through in safety, arrived at Liverpool in a little more than three weeks after picking up the crew of the Harvest Moon. Both captains went ashore together; the one to report his arrival, the other to report his vessel to her owners as a total loss.

As they were about parting at a street-corner Captain Hunter said hopefully': “Come with me, Barker ; 'tis only a little way to the office of my owners, and after reporting I will go with you to see yours. You go on a sad errand and need company. I've had the same thing to do before now, and it goes hard against the grain.”

“Indeed it does, Hunter. This is my first total loss, and it almost makes me swear off from the sea.

“ Tut, man, take your turn at ill-luck like the rest of us! It is surprising to me that you floated at all after such a blow as you describe. As good luck would have it, we only caught the rear of it, you bore the brunt. Be thankful that you lived through it. Make up your mind that it is one of those things that couldn't be helped. Report loss to your owners, and we will then be as jolly as we can over a good dinner at 'The Adelphi.' What do you say?'”

"I don't feel jolly, Hunter, but won't mind the dinner; so let us hurry up and dispatch business."

And now we must bid temporary adieu to our two captains, leaving them comfortably seated at a small table in the public dining hall of “The Adelphi,” where, with a keen sailor's relish, they are discussing hot-joint and all the etceteras of an elaborate dinner, as they pledge mutual friendship and drink to the memory of the Harvest Moon.

Armero has once more reached London, and as he calls a cab and orders the driver to take him to the old number in St. James street, many conflicting emotions crowd upon him, and his excitable nature becomes so moved as almost to produce a nervous chill. He had lodged here when there was a price set upon him, and when every day he had in safety passed detectives on the street.

So thoroughly had he impersonated two characters that none of the roughs with whom he had planned and executed daring breaches of the law (with the exception of Hardy Flint) knew at any time where he lived. The

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »