« AnteriorContinua »
the opportunity of repeating to you my regret at having interrupted the business on which you were engaged this morning with my uncle.”.
“As I said before, Monsieur," replied Hubert, “it was a matter of very little consequence, and required no apology."
• Ah! but if I am to believe my uncle, the case is different. He has heaped upon me every reproach which a human being is capable of enduring on account of my having robbed him-not of your society only, but of the occasion for bringing to a successful termination a transaction in which he declares he is deeply interested.”
“ Monsieur Simonet attaches more importance to the affair than it is worth. I should have thought—if you will excuse me for saying so that what you might have had to communicate would have touched him more nearly.”
“ That is the conclusion which ninety-nine people out of a hundred would have arrived at. Allow me to explain to you.”
Monsieur Anatole dropped into a chair as he spoke, and Hubert, willing to humour him, resumed his seat.
“ I am,” said the young man, the nearest relation, except my own mother, that Monsieur Simonet has in the world. Consequently, I have the right to look upon myself as the heir to his property, which, I assure you, is of great extent. Unfortunately, or, I should say, owing to a remarkable perversity, he does not consider things in the same light. Against his inclination I made myself an artist, hoping to tread one day in the footsteps of our great Horace Vernet. For that I am forming myself. His genre is my predilection. My uncle seeks to detach me from the pursuit of the arts, to follow I know not what mechanical occupation. Naturally I resist what I consider a tyranny over the mind, and a frequent suspension of intercourse is the result. But for my mother it would have been wholly broken off. She, however, has endeavoured, from time to time, to impress my uncle with juster views, and brought him at last to agree to do something for me--for her sake, if not for mine. Twenty thousand francs was named as the maximum of his generosity, though he is able to spare ten times that amount; but there was a condition annexed to the gift. Unless summoned by himself, I was never to appear again before him-never trouble him with any communication. You may easily suppose that this arrangement did not give me much pain. I consented to it at once, and waited for its fulfilment. But Monsieur Simonet is one who abhors to part with money: several months went by, and his promise remained unperformed. At last a circumstance happened. The necessity for studying a particular picture took me one day to the Louvre. I there beheld, engaged also in copying from one of the old masters, the loveliest creature that ever was seen, with whom, I own to you, I fell deeply in love. Day after day I returned to the gallery to offer her my silent worship, for I cannot tell you why—a strange timidity would not suffer me to address her. At last I resolved to break through the barrier which I myself had raised. I went one morning, resolved to declare my passion. Can you conceive anything so great as my misfortune? She was no longer there. Neither on that day, nor on the next, nor on the one that succeeded—in fact, she had disappeared altogether. I was furious—I was mad! I interrogated the keeper of the gallery, the porter at the lodge of entrance, but in
vain; I could obtain no information respecting her. I was devoured by grief. Paris became hateful to me. I resolved to go hundreds of leagues away, and efface the recollection of that adorable image by constant change of scene. But in order to travel it is necessary to have money. Then my uncle's proposition, which other thoughts had driven away, came back to my remembrance. I saw that he was unwilling to put his hand in his pocket, and say, 'Here, Anatole, is the money I promised;' but it struck me, that if I were willing to accept a smaller sum-to reduce the amount to one half, or even to a quarter- I should make him yield. The idea was no sooner formed than I hastened to put it into execution, and this, Monsieur, was the object of my sudden visit to my uncle.”
“Well,” said Hubert, who had listened as gravely as he could to this singularly confidential revelation, “ I hope you were successful.”
“Ah, le scélérat d'oncle !" cried Anatole, jumping up and then dashing himself again into his chair. “ Not a sou could I extract from the perfidious old miser! He denied that he had ever entertained the notion of doing anything for one whose conduct, he said—le plaisant—had always been in opposition to his wishes ; and before I could recover from my astonishment, he turned round, and assailed me with the reproaches to which I did myself the honour to allude when first I addressed you. But he has not triumphed over me as he expected! I believe he thought his refusal would cause me to perform an act which I threatened. n sera joliment trompé. I shall neither inhale the fumes of charcoal nor throw myself into the Seine. On the contrary—I will live to spite him."
“You act wisely,” said Hubert. “Who knows! By waiting patiently a little longer, the tables may be turned in your favour. Monsieur Simonet cannot live for ever. Naturally you will survive him—that is to say, unless you shorten your career by doing something rash.”,
“ Řash !" returned Anatole ; “ do me the honour to feel my pulse."
“No!” said Hubert, “I will believe that it is as calm as my own. But what do you propose to do ?”
“ I have not yet formed any plan. When I had the pleasure of seeing you, Monsieur, I was on my way to consult one of my intimate friends, from whom I received this note before I left home this morning.”
He put a note into Hubert's hand, who read as follows:
“ MON CHER CAMARADE,–Viens dîner chez moi aujourd'hui, avec notre ami B.-sans cérémonie. Affaire de fumer et blaguer.
“ Toujours à toi,
"And you mean to go?" asked Hubert, returning the note.
“I have reflected on the terms of the invitation,” replied Anatole, “ and do not feel equal to the undertaking. No amount of smoking can console me for the loss of my unknown divinity! I can share in no conversation that does not relate to her.”
" In that case,” said Hubert, "permit me to suggest an alternative. Bestow upon me the favour of your company for the day! We will dine without smoking, and if you choose to make the lady your theme, you will find me an attentive listener."
“ J'accepte avec plaisir,” said Anatole, holding out his hand. Hubert returned the pressure very cordially, and the programme of the day was soon settled between them. In spite of his accès d'amour, which, however, were only parenthetical, Hubert found Anatole a very entertaining companion, and they walked and talked, and laughed and dined, as if no such persons as cruel uncles and heart-breaking beauties were in existence. They even—shall I say it?—they even smoked a cigar as they sat on the Boulevard in front of the café where they had dined—and then, as Hubert wished to carry away with him a souvenir of one of the sweetest voices on earth, they left the Boulevard for the Opera, where Mademoiselle Falcon appeared that night in one of her favourite parts.
It is just possible, if Hubert had been alone, that the evening might have passed without awakening in him any other sensation than delight at hearing the accomplished singer-but towards the middle of the third act his attention was called from the scene by an exclamation from Anatole.
“Mon Dieu ! Est-il-possible !" were the words he uttered.
Hubert turned, and saw his eyes fixed on one of the principal loges du foyer, in which two persons were seated—one of them an elderly man who wore a decoration, the other a girl apparently about eighteen, with a face of extraordinary beauty.
“Yes—it is she !" whispered Anatole. “ But how comes she there, and who is she?”
It was a problem for Hubert as well as for Anatole, and during the remainder of the performance it occupied his thoughts far more than the business of the stage.
Was she the old man's daughter or his niece ? There was no resemblance between them to justify the idea, neither did her manner seem such as belonged to close relationship, for Hubert observed that she never turned to speak to her companion, though by the motion of his lips it was plain he frequently addressed her. It might be that he was witnessing the consequences of a mariage de convenance-empressement on one side, indifference, if not coldness, on the other; and then there was a troubled expression on her face which showed that pleasure had nothing to do with her presence there. Once, and once only, her wandering eyes met those of Hubert, and though the glance was too brief to be measured by time, a feeling as it were of mutual intelligence stirred him with electric force.
When the curtain fell, Anatole, who had been speculating on his own account, said, “ Let us get round to the entrance as quickly as we can.”
They arrived there in time to see the old man hand his charge into a carriage, and heard the words, “A l'hôtel," as he stepped in after her.
“ To whom does that carriage belong ?” asked Anatole of a sergent de ville who was standing near.
“ I cannot inform you,” was the answer.
NOTES ON THE IONIAN ISLANDS.
THEAKI—that most interesting locality, the ancient Ithaca-the island most celebrated in classic lore of any, and which is separated from Cephalonia by a channel about six miles in breadth, was one of the places which I made it a point to visit. While I resided at Cephalonia I found a companion, who, like myself, was not to be deterred by the fatigue of a pedestrian journey from Argostoli to Samos, and then crossing the strait or channel, a walk from Opposito to Vathé, which last is the capital of Ithaca.
We set off one morning in summer, and each of us got a soldier's haversack, which contained shirts, and socks, and razors, and combs-in short, quite sufficient for a change of clothes—and strapping these to our shoulders we took the route across the wooden bridge for the convent of San Gerasmo. Our route after this lay through the mountains, which run through the centre of the island, and, after passing San Gerasmo, the country had a very wild appearance. The path, which lay through the rocks, was only fit for pedestrians. There was another road for carriages from the convent to Samos, but it was much too long a circuit, so we went through the mountain path and got out on the road into a large glen, which lay between a vast chasm of rocky heights; no trees, but the bare stones on each side. It was very hot, and the state of the atmosphere betokened a thunderstorm. We turned to the right, down a beautiful valley, by the side of which the shrubs of all sorts of evergreens were thickly planted. The road, now fit for carriages, lay on the right side of the valley, and as far down as we could see was a vast mass of foliage from the various plants which I mentioned, and the valley on the opposite side was also planted in the same way. When we got about a mile from Samos we saw on the mountain to the right the enormous wall, which, built of Cyclopean stones, formed part of the city, which in ancient times was the capital of the island. We soon afterwards got into a plain, and saw the small village, as also the remains of the Roman walls. But we did not linger here long, as we were determined, as soon as possible, to get a boat, which could take us over to the opposite shore of Ithaca. We engaged with some Greek boatmen to go,
boat. They put up their one sail, and when we had sailed about two miles from Samos the storm came on. The boatmen wanted to go back, but we insisted on their proceeding to Opposito. The wind was very high, and the rain came on also, violently. "Luckily the Greeks had two or three large capotes, which were spare ones, as they had each of them been provided with these useful articles for their own covering. My companion and myself wrapped ourselves in these capotes, and found that they gave us some shelter from the “pelting of the pitiless storm.” The Greek sailors, despite their timidity and slothfulness, were perfect masters of the art of directing their little craft; so, what with the losing tack and the winuing tack, and with plying their oars lustily, when we reached the lee of the high mountain on which the castle of Úlysses stands, they got the boat into Opposito at four in the afternoon. We paid them for their
into an open
trouble; and though we had now five miles to walk in the torrents of
Non est aptus equis Ithacæ locus, ut neque planis,
Of the trees which we saw, certainly the fig-tree was most abundant. I have since heard that the figs of Ithaca are reckoned the most delicious of all the island fruit. We had a very wet walk through the island, and mostly through glens and valleys, until we arrived at a break in the mountains, which showed us the entrance to the harbour of Vathé, landlocked as it is. The shape of the harbour is exactly that of the ace of clubs, the bottom part of which figure represents its entrance, and the water forming a deep well, so to speak, washing the shore in the shape of the figure which I mentioned. On the farthest extremity from the entrance lies the town of Vathé, and the resident's house, which is commodious and large, lies about the centre of the town. When we got in, the resident was seated with a large party of friends at dinner, and was describing the effects of the late thunderstorm, which caused a thunderbolt to fall on one of the walls of his outhouses, and crushed it down. It was one adjacent to the magazine which held his powder. What a providential escape was here! and how triflingly we pass over the instances of unmerited and wonderful mercy which the Almighty vouchsafes to show us. Had this magazine exploded, the whole house and its inhabitants, together with many others, would inevitably have been destroyed. In our wet plight we were received most hospitably, and given cordials to keep off the bad effects of the weather. We had no clothes to change, but did not suffer any ill effects from it.
The next day we went out with a party of the visitors to explore the sights of Ithaca. I know that there is a quarto volume, written by Sir W. Gell, treating of the antiquities of Ithaca, but such as it is now, and as regards the objects mentioned in classic lore, the only remains of importance which can be seen are Arethusa’s Fountain, the School of Homer, and the Castle of Ulysses. The first lies in a most romantic situation, in a glen about four miles from Vathé. The ascent to the well, where the waterfalls frown from a height, is very steep. Of the history and the associations, I must leave the guide-books or antiquaries to speak. What is called the School of Homer is now only the ruins of some walls, which tradition or history gives this name to. The Castle of Ulysses is the most prominent object of all the ruins in the island. It stands on a high hill, overlooking the strait which lies between Samos and Ithaca. The ruins are large, but the stones are not Cyclopean. They seemed to me as if they were just as likely to belong to a Greek convent, which had been left to go to ruin, as to the abode where Penelope dwelt. The Italians and Greeks have made rhymes upon all the island