Imágenes de páginas

husband to absent himself, she knew not for how long. It was difficult to conceal the truth from parents who loved their daughter so tenderly as Mathieu and Mabille Caron; and when they hurried up to Paris, and sought her out in the Rue de Sèvres, urging her to return with them at once to Croisset, the struggle was hard between her sense of wrong and the affection which, in spite of his unworthiness, she still bore to the man who had treated her with so much cruelty. The latter, however, prevailed, and she succeeded in calming the suspicions which they entertained, while, at the same time, she made it appear to them how much more desirable it was for her to remain in the neighbourhood of Parisat least, till after her confinement, an event that could not now be far distant. The old people, therefore, gave a reluctant consent to her wishes in this respect; but Madame Caron made Marie promise to let her be with her during her illness; and then, providing her with everything of which she stood in need, went back with sorrowful hearts into Normandy, while Marie established herself in a small apartment at Passy, not far from the entrance to the Bois de Boulogne.

The old couple had sadly missed their daughter after her marriage, and, now that they knew she was alone and unhappy, their discomfort greatly increased. Their home became distasteful to them, and they had not returned many days before M. Caron proposed to his wife that they should sell the farm and remove to where Marie now lived, to be near her for the rest of their days. A purchaser, on very fair terms, was readily found; and, after investing the greater part of the proceeds in a rente viagère, they took the remainder with them to Passy, where they were not long before a complete ménage was formed, with Marie and her father and mother under the same roof, and the family was soon afterwards increased by Marie giving birth to a boy.

Here they all dwelt in comparative content for nearly two years; but the change of life gradually produced an effect on old Mathieu and Mabille, who yearned for their native air and former occupations, and at the beginning of the second winter the old man died, and before the next spring his wife had followed him to the tomb. Except her little Philippe, Marie was now entirely alone, but that exception was all the world to her ; and if not perfectly happy, her present life offered more of tranquil enjoyment than she ever imagined could have chanced when first her husband deserted her. The income to which she succeeded on the death of her parents more than sufficed for her wants; and what she put by, she calculated would be for the advantage of her boy hereafter.

But there was one thing which, as much, almost, as her husband's desertion, preyed upon her mind; it was the sting which the woman's words had left when the nature of his former life was first revealed to her. His right to the name he bore had been denied; and whether the accusation were true or false, she herself felt that it had been sullied, and, therefore, when she removed to Passy, she dropped that of Vilette, retaining only her maiden appellation of Caron. It was a bitter thought that Philippe must not own his father; but it was better thus than be exposed, in after years, to blush for him.

It was the spring of 1845, and Marie Caron had taken Philippe, one fine day, to the Bois de Boulogne, to pass some hours of that al fresco life of which all are so fond in France, from infancy to extreme age.

[ocr errors]

She had found a bank of violets, and had been teaching the child how to arrange them in little bouquets ; and while he was sedulously employed on his task, with all the grave attention which men bestow on affairs of the deepest moment, occupied herself with some knitting, now and then glancing from her work, to smile encouragement on the industrious little fellow, or stimulate him by a word of praise.

On one of these occasions, as she raised her eyes, her attention was caught by observing a man very poorly dressed, who seemed to be watching her very closely from behind some shrubs, a short distance in front of the place where she sat. His countenance was nearly concealed beneath his large beard and long, straggling hair, and there was a broad, disfiguring scar across one cheek, which might have disguised him effectually from the knowledge of his ordinary acquaintance, but Marie had too much reason to remember the expression of features on which she had often looked with a gaze so inquiring. She hastily rose to her feet, and, clasping her hands, exclaimed,

“My husband !"

“Yes, here I am, ma mignonne !" replied Vilette, as he advanced from the covert.

Little Philippe, hearing voices, now looked up in his turn, and, frightened at the stranger's wild appearance, ran to his mother's side, and clung, crying, to her dress.

“ Is he afraid?" said Vilette, in a mocking tone. “I'll wager he does not know his father ; but you,” he continued, approaching still nearer to where his wife stood—“you, Marie, have not forgotten me, hein!"

“I-have-not-forgotten you,” faltered Marie; “but oh, Philippe, why did you forsake me?--where--where have you been so long?" ?

” “ Hiding, ma mie," replied her husband, "a long way off. But you are looking as pretty as ever, Marie. Where are you living now?"

Here, close by—at Passy,” answered Marie, forgetting all the past in her revived affection. “You seem tired, ill — you want rest, refreshment!”

“Both, badly enough,” was Vilette's reply; “but I must wait for them a little longer. Neither my

clothes are very

fit for the streets by daylight; and if that child keeps making such a noise, even this will be no place for me long. Take him in, and bring me, if you like, some wine and bread; you will find me hereabouts.”

So saying, he crouched behind the bushes, and hid himself again in the thicket.

Marie caught up the boy and hurried away ; but in less than a quarter of an hour she returned with a basket containing all the provisions she could find. A low whistle directed her to the spot where her husband was seated, and a gleam of pleasure danced in his eyes when he saw how she was laden. He uttered a brief "Merci, ma mie," and threw himself upon the contents of the basket with all the eagerness of a famished wolf, while Marie stood by, pitying the suffering which this hunger showed her he must have undergone. When he had finished his meal, and emptied the bottle, which he only twice raised to his lips, he spoke to his wife.

“We shall have a good deal to talk about, Marie, but not here; because, do you see, I am not quite in a state ; besides, there are long


looks nor my


ears everywhere. Tell me where you

I will come there this evening, entre chien et loup—in the mean time I shall take a nap."

Marie carefully explained the exact situation of her dwelling, and then, at his desire, left him ; and had scarcely turned her back, before his loud breathing assured her that he had sunk into a deep slumber.

But it appeared that he was too much accustomed to take his rest by snatches to oversleep himself, for scarcely had the obscurity of evening settled over the long street of Passy, when Marie, as she watched from an upper window, saw him slowly approaching; her bonne and the child had both retired for the night, and, with none to observe her, she cautiously opened the door and admitted her husband, to hear explained the cause of his prolonged absence.

What that explanation was, it is not necessary to repeat, for scarcely a syllable of truth was in it. He told her much of dangers and fatigues, but never hinted at the convict's broken chain, though he admitted that it was not altogether safe for him to be seen abroad; but that which was caused by the vilest crime, he readily ascribed to political opinion ; and Marie's compassionate heart forgave him all on account of his sufferings. On her part, she told him, with many tears, all that had befallen her since the unhappy hour when he abandoned her. It was a joyful tale for him to hear, as he saw that there was still a harvest left to reap. The schooling he had experienced during the period of his absence was not of the kind that softens the heart, or makes a man scrupulous ; and when he left her that night, to seek, as he said, a securer asylum, he carried with him the sum she had hoarded so carefully for the sake of little Philippe.

It would have mattered little had this been all, but, emboldened by the placability and generous feeling which his wife exhibited, he gradually worked upon the facility of her nature so far as to induce her to convert her rente viagère into cash, under the pretext of establishing himself in an honest business in Paris, as soon as he had atoned for his political sins, and made his peace with the authorities. He professed the most complete reformation in his conduct; and assured her, as he pocketed the money, that henceforward he should study no interests but hers and those of his darling boy.

On the very night that he made these protestations, he went to a low haunt where, amidst a crew of fellow-sharpers, he again lost his last franc; and his ruffian-associates, seeing that he was completely penniless, betrayed him to the police, who, as he staggered from the den, arrested him for an escaped convict!



No. XXVI.-LIGHT READINGS IN ALISON. LEST subsequent paragraphs should seem to be too exclusively informed by a spirit of captious " censure"-by a carping detraction, a nibbling disparagement, of Sir Archibald Alison's literary character,—be the present and opening one devoted to a sincere ascription of homage to whatever is laudable and there is much that is highly so) in his historical writings. The more needful is this, because the subsequent paragraphs in question are, after all, concerned rather with superficial points, connected with such things as style and composition, than with the substance of his narrative. Honour due, then,—and the dues are considerable,-be forthwith and cordially paid to the learned baronet's industry, energy, enthusiasm, elevation of moral tone, and honest impartiality of purpose. Especial honour, that with such strong and staunch convictions of his own, he can and will, not only lend an attentive ear, but assign a prominent place, to the equally strong and utterly opposed convictions of others. He is himself deeply impressed with, and consistently prompt to impress on his countrymen, the belief,

That, for the functions of an ancient State

Strong by her charters, free because unbound,
Servant of Providence, not slave of Fate-

Perilous is sweeping change, all chance unsound.* Mr. de Quincey has remarked of Southey, as a writer of history,-and the remark may be applied in a measure to Alison,—that his very prejudices tended to unity of feeling-being in harmony with each other, and growing out of a strong moral feeling, which is the one sole secret for giving interest to an historical narrative, fusing the incoherent details into one body, and carrying the reader Auently along the else monotonous recurrences and unmeaning details of military movements.t The Corn-laws and the Currency,—who has not dipped into and dozed over the learned baronet's lucubrations on those terrible topics ? Which of us has not guiltily skipped by the score whole-page tables of statistics, laboriously compiled, and infallibly demonstrative of old England's moribund state ? One is profanely reminded (mutatis mutandis), by the spectacle of Sir Archibald's mode of watching and predicting the free-trade décadence de l'Angleterre, of a stanza in a much-disputed variorum poem,

Down the river did glide, with wind and with tide,

A pig with vast celerity;
And the Devil look'd wise, as he saw how the while
It cut its own throat. “There!" quoth he with a smile,

“Goes England's commercial prosperity.” Not that the smile” pertains to Sir Archibald, any more than does

* Wordsworth: Sonnets.
† De Quincey's Autobiographic Sketches, vol. ij.

(absit comparatio :) the general character of the smiling Mephistopheles : Sir Archibald is too serious, and in fact too much of a croaker, to smile much in print at any time, especially when paper currency and protection are his theme. Smollett represents as the most hardy of all Lieutenant Lismahago's crotchets, his position “that commerce would, sooner or later, prove the ruin of any nation where it flourishes to any extent;" that eccentric and gallant countryman of Sir Archibald strenuously asserting, “ that the nature of commerce was such, that it could not be fixed or perpetual; but, having flowed to a certain height, would immediately begin to ebb, and so continue, till the channels should be left almost dry,”—while there was no instance of the tide's rising a second time to any considerable influx in the same nation.* 'Tis consolatory, when one remembers the date of that gallant officer's prelections, to find that the old British channels are not yet left almost dry; and one cannot but hope that the Scotch baronet of the nineteenth century may be as far out (as to time if not fact) in his proleptical philosophy, as was the Scotch lieutenant of the eighteenth. Goldsmith's Chinese cosmopolite laughed, in his day, at our national propensity to gloomy forebodings, periodically revived, and exposed those professional croakers who, said he, make it their business, at convenient intervals, to denounce ruin both on their contemporaries and their posterity. “England,” he adds, seems to be the very region where spleen delights to dwell: a man not only can give an unbounded scope to the disorder in himself, but may, if he pleases, propagate it over the whole kingdom, with a certainty of success. He has only to cry out, that the government, the government is all wrong, that their schemes are leading to ruin, that Britons are no more; every good member of the commonwealth thinks it his duty, in such a case, to deplore the universal decadence with sympathetic sorrow, and, by fancying the constitution in a decay, absolutely to impair its vigour.”+ Let us hope that since the time when good old Lien Chi Altangi sojourned in London, and consorted with Beau Tibbs and the Man in Black, nous avons changé tout, or a good part of, cela. Meanwhile, there may be expected political monitors of the George Grenville type, to whom Burke applied the lines

- Tritonida conspicit arcem Ingeniis, opibusque, et festa pace virenten;

Vixque tenet lacrymas quia nil lacrymabile cernit; and of whom a recent essayist has said, that while every sea was covered with our ships, and our language heard on every shore, he was in dismay at the decline of British shipping, and the want of British enterprise ; that while great manufacturing cities were starting up on barren heaths, and all parts of England and Scotland were resounding with the busy hum of industry, he, George Grenville, was sighing over the loss of our manufactures, and the increase of imports over exports: our conquests, he said, “were fallacious ; our exports were principally consumed by our own fleets and armies ; our carrying trade was entirely engrossed by the neutral nations; the number of our ships was diminishing; our revenues were decreasing ; our husbandry was standing still for want of hands ; on

* Humphrey Clinker.

† Citizen of the World. Letter cvii.

« AnteriorContinuar »