Imatges de pàgina

sumed he had returned to France. I pondered long and anxiously over this conduct, and recalled to my memory many of his observations expressive of his desire to check his father's dangerous career ; but I could not form any satisfactory notion of his plans.

"A few months after this event I arrived in Paris, on my way to London, and once, when walking along the Boulevards, I observed a funeral, conducted in a very imposing manner, pass by. That is the carriage of Count de Berbier,' said one woman to another, while a gorgeous vehicle passed at the usual slow funereal pace, before them : • 'tis said that he won a large sum from the Baron de Beaumain, on the night before his death. Very likely,' answered the other, and he hopes to gain absolution, by attending his funeral ; 'tis a judgment that the father and son should have died on the same day! 'Tis said the Baron sent the youth into Italy some years ago: he never liked him. We poor people don't know how the rich live or die!' and she shrugged her shoulders. God rest their souls !-- The Baron will want it i'faith, if it be true, as they say, he had none upon earth. As the women uttered these remarks a flood of recollections rushed through my mind. I felt unable to ask these people any questions; and, indeed, my heart was so overwhelmed with astonishment and regret, that curiosity was, for the moment, deadened. Anxious, however, to know all the particulars relative to the death of my friend, I made inquiries among my acquaintances in Paris, and from them learned these circumstances, which had become matter of public fame:

" When Florimand was gone into Italy, the Baron, persisting in his licentious habits, continued to indulge in deep play: and as he had made a few successful bets, he was induced to stake higher sums than usual, that his wealth might be returned to him more quickly. His swindling antagonists, however, knew when to win and when to lose, and were careful that whatever success might attend him it should be but transient, and that the result should be always in their favour.

“ He had lately lost considerable sums, and went, one night, to a celebrated café, in the Palais Royal, where there was every accommodation for the man of gaiety, which such people are likely to require. The gaming-houses in the city of Paris are frequently decorated in a style of magnificence equal to that observed in the most fashionable private mansions. The saloon, in which the Baron now found himself, was one of the most costly and imposing in this quarter of the town, and where the stakes were generally proportionate to the richness of the accommodation. Large mirrors, with elegantly gilded frames, were placed against the walls, in various parts where, it was thought, the effects of the scene could be most advantageously heightened. Couches and chairs of the nicest workmanship, adorned with gold and satin, were distributed about the room, and placed in order by the various tables. At one side of the apartment, behind a row of Corinthian pillars, embellished with numerous arabesque ornaments, was a sideboard containing refreshment for those engaged in the games. Candelabras of the most graceful forms were suspended at intervals, and contributed to give a lustre to this enchanting scene. There were numerous groups already assembled, among which many of the fair sex mingled, and diffused gaiety and beauty. These women were richly attired, exhibiting pearls and gems in their dark locks and elegant garments, and charming the beholder with all that winning vivacity of manner so peculiar to the women of this nation. They moved from table to table, smiling to one, glancing at another, and encouraging all in their destructive career. It seemed more like a scene of fancy than reality, for as yet, the evening being early, all faces appeared happy, and offered not a contrast to the gorgeousness of the saloon.

“The Baron paced through the apartment, stopping occasionally at the various tables, to mark the progress of the games. He had not spent much time in this occupation, when he was accosted by a gentleman of tall stature, who seemed to rejoice in a profusion of black locks, arranged with the most scrupulous attention. His demeanour was polite, and there was a degree of earnestness united with it, which might be attributed to various motives, according to the prejudices of the parties. The gamblers by profession believed that the youth was anxious to obtain the Baron's purse ; the Baron himself conceived that he was desirous of obtaining his good opinion. De Beaumain accompanied him to the upper end of the saloon, where other gentlemen were seated, waiting for an opportunity to join in the sport with advantage. Count Berbier,' said the youth, ‘was lucky enough to win 1000 Napoleons last night.'— *Ay luck's all, De Martini,' replied the Count; if you lose this month, you will win next. After all there is never much money lost at the table; you can strike a clear balance-sheet by the end of the year. • Because there will be nothing left on the credit side to made a difference,' gaily retorted the Baron, thus dissembling an uneasy sensation that had arisen in his bosom. Why, now, De Beaumain, you won fifty Napoleons from me last night,' said De Martini : “truly, you should give me the opportunity of regaining them, or I may, by the end of the year, realise your com. mercial calculation. Ay and De Beaumain will gain fifty more this evening,' interrupted a beautiful woman, who now mixed with the group, and leant gently on the Baron's arm, I mean to be his partner; and it would be very ungallant of you, sirs, to take advantage of a lady's hand.' 'Or heart-said De Martini. "There I can defy thy wit,' returned the lady, although I should be less confident in thy honesty.' 'I bow to the lady,' answered the Count, with an ironical smile, who has wit enough to protect her hand and heart. I will bet thee one hundred Napoleons upon this throw,' said Antoinette, addressing the Baron. "Twere uncourteous to take thee upon equal terms: here's two to one against you.' The dice were thrown, and the Baron won his bet. His success imparted a degree of gaiety to his manners, and he said, "Ah! Antoinette, the dice, you see, do not acknowledge the influence of thy charms; perhaps it were well if thy admirers were as blind as they. I'faith, Baron, you have forgotten your days of wooing; as soon as they feel my power they become blind indeed.' • She profits more from the blindness of her admirers, than from

that of the dice,' said the Count De Martini to De Berbier. 'Ay! But she will profit by both this evening, or she would not take that loss so quietly. She will tantalize him with the bait, until he is fairly hooked. See! they have turned to Rouge et Noir!' De Martini watched the conduct of the Baron with the most anxious attention, and marked carefully every bet he made. He did not however play or bet much himself, but was contented with lounging about the saloon, and observing the sport. The Baron frowns!' said De Berbier, he is losing, the francs are dropping through his fingers, faster than he can count them. De Beaumain was not born an arithmetician ! De Berbier now quitted the side of the young Count, and joined the Baron and Antoinette, for like a vulture, he anticipated feasting on the spoil.

“The room is crowded,' said De Berbier, as the party turned to pass to other tables, the bets will run high this evening'—'and some purses low,' muttered the Baron. Thine cannot be one of them, De Beaumain,' returned Antoinette, for it is a perpetual spring!” There was a degree of covert satire in this remark, which escaped the Baron's observation; and believing it to be a compli. ment to his supposed wealth, he thought that he ought to make one bold bet to support his reputation. Five hundred Napoleons upon this trick, De Berbier !' said the Baron, as he stopped by the side of De Martini, who had seated himself at a game of ecarté. • The stake is high!'--answered De Berbier doubtingly, 'nevertheless I will tempt Fortune for once!' I would advise thee pot,' interrupted Antoinette, De Beaumain does not bet high except on good grounds. “I will risk the Naps upon his judgment i replied De Berbier significantly. He was right; De Martini lost the trick. The Baron's upper lip trembled, and it was with the greatest difficulty he could master his emotion. Fortune forsook me,' said he, in concealed agony; She has wings'-added Antoinette. “Ay, and the gold too ! - Fear not l' said De Berbier- try again, double the amount of the next stake; bet fast: you may perhaps overtake the goddess.'

“ The Baron acceded to this seducing remark; and the game was watched by him with an eagerness proportionate to the greatness of the stake. The second trick he won; and the smile returned to his lip. Two hundred Napoleons on the next trick, Baron? said Antoinette. "Willingly'--the hand was played; the trick was lost; and the Baron stamped convulsively on the floor. Again the Baron was allowed to win, but the bet was a trifle; and De Berbier, perceiving that his success had somewhat enlivened him, invited him to stake the amount of the previous bets. The Baron agreed, for his mind was so much excited by the game, that he had scarcely the moral strength to give a refusal. He took a glass of brandy to compose his nerves, and while the cards were shuffled, he watched them with a penetrating eye. The dealer distributed the cards, 'twas a moment of intense interest :-he turned up the king! 'Ah, devils !' cried the Baron, and he struck his forehead violently; • lost again !' His face became of a livid hue; he bit his lip, and his body writhed with agitation. De Berbier smiled, and Antoinette said jocosely, It seems that the goddess partakes of the human character, and will be paid for her favours. She rates them high !' returned the Baron in an earthy tone. She knows your rank, Baron, and will not insult you by a paltry prize : if you do not show confidence she will not be generous.'

“ The Baron continued to play, and doubled and trebled his stakes, although he had no more encouragement than that arising from the prognostications of Antoinette. At last the morning broke ; and when the victim knew the amount of his losses, he invoked curses on himself and his antagonists. Twenty thousand Napoleons l'he muttered to himself— where can I get them? I have no means! I am ruined !' He grasped his grey hairs, and his jaws were locked firmly together, as he spoke this between his teeth. His creditors surrounded him, “You have won all-every sous—I have no money!' said de Beaumain, as their intelligent glances fell upon him. But,' replied de Berbier, coldly,' a man of your rank can have no difficulty in procuring it! I know ye, I know ye-but I pledge my word.'-— Pooh! your land, rather !' said Antoinette, with cutting sarcasm. The Baron shuddered, as the reckless woman boldly advised this last act of desperation. I-I will!' he uttered in a broken voice, and was about to leave, when de Martini advanced, and said in a conciliating tone, • I know a Jew who will settle this matter for you on easy terms. He will not hurry you for the interest. Go to him, 17 Rue de Mai, at ten o'clock : thou can'st not go to a better.' Dost thou know him well ?' enquired the Baron. I do. I pledge the amount of my winnings, if he do not treat thee honourably.' With this assurance the Baron left the saloon. De Martini now consulted with the winners, and offered them the amount of the Baron's losses, so that he might be enabled to make himself the sole creditor. As the prospect of immediate payment was better than depending on the Baron's promises, the proposal was agreed to, and De Martini settled with the gamesters.

“Meanwhile the Baron went straightway home; but his step was hurried, and there was that fierceness in his countenance, which indicates a man moved by strong passions. He rapidly muttered to himself; and occasionally his inarticulate murmurs were arrested by a deep groan, or stifled laugh.

“On entering his mansion, he went immediately to his dressingroom, and taking from his bureau a roll of parchment, he placed it on the table. He then unlocked another drawer, and took therefrom a pair of pistols, which he laid beside the scroll. One of them lingered in his hand sometime before it was deposited; and then, it was placed next its fellow. The Baron then paced, and repaced the apartment, and ever as his voice became elevated, could be heard such exclamations as these, · Why do I hesitate ?-dishonour is around me!-every step I take will lead me to disgrace !--death is better! He stopped before his pistols, took one up;—a groan was heard from his deep chest, and he placed the weapon in his vest. The other pistol and the scroll were concealed in like manner; and he rushed from the apartment.,

“ Remembering his appointment, the Baron immediately bent his course towards the house of the Jew. His mind was, however,

very unsettled; and he sought the Jew, rather because he felt the necessity for action, than from being governed by any fixed determination. On his way thither, he met Antoinette, who heedlessly and insultingly informed him of the arrangement entered into by De Martini. The suspicion of villany, instantly darted through the brain of the irascible man; and it was but with the greatest effort that he could refrain from abandoning himself to the tumult of his passion in the street. He knew but little of De Martini, but he longed for the moment when they might become better known. His eves flashed the vengeance which he did not utter. Antoinette marked his violent feelings; but hardened to indifference, she passed on without making further comment.

“Scarcely conscious of his own movements, the Baron continued to seek the residence of the money-lender; and after wandering through various obscure allies, he arrived at the house. He rang with a tremulous hand : the Jew, an old man, with the characteristics of his race strongly marked on his countenance, came to the door. I have some business with thee,' said the Baron. Enter, noble Sir, the times are bad, and monies are scarce; nevertheless, old Israel will endeavour to assist thee.' If thou call'st money scarce, Jew, what name can I give it?' • Yes; but ye Gentiles can get credit upon the strength of your promises : but who would trust a Jew? If a Jew have not monies he must starve: but what would'st thou?' Money.' 'Ay, ye cry Monies ! as if a Jew could shake francs like dust from his feet. What surety of repayment hast thou? If the bond be good, old Israel may, perhaps, satisfy your thirst for the monies.' So saying, the Jew stepped into another room, and soon returned holding a leathern bag, apparently well filled with this world's lucre. The chink of it struck the ear of the Baron, and he drew the parchment scroll from his pocket. I want 20,000 Napoleons l' said he in agitation; here are my bonds! "20,000 Napoleons ! that is a large sum: and you want at one demand, more than a Jew can amass in a lifetime. All the silver of Solomon's temple melted into ecus would hardly give that sum: but let me see the deeds.' Nay, grinding Jew; I will not part with them, until you have counted the money,' said the Baron fiercely; for he was unwilling to part with the security of the last remnant of his property. That be not just ; can I give thee the Napoleons without seeing the bond; the deeds may not be worth the sum.' Thou liest! give me the money! 'A Jew is not obliged to part with his monies,' answered the money-lender patiently, and turning his back upon the Baron, as if in the act of retiring to deposit his cash safely in his iron chest. De Beaumain changed his determination, and, grinding his teeth, Aung the parchment on the table. "Take the deeds!' he muttered hoarsely. The Jew glanced over them; and then turning to the Baron said, "These lands are not worth 4,000 Napoleons, but it is just to cheat the Jew out of his monies. I will give thee 4,000 Napoleons, by the beard of Aaron, if the interest be good,-say 5, it is worth thy taking.'

Lying Jew, thou knowest better, 20,000! I will bave twenty !! The Baron was about to place his hand on the parchment, but the Jew checked him. Nay, stop,' said he, we can manage it now,

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