Imágenes de páginas

NEWCOMES. of Nature to cheer and accompany it, the happy day's journey would. come to an end.

So they travelled by the accustomed route to the prettiest town of all places where Pleasure has set up her tents; and where the gay, the melancholy, the idle or occupied, grave or naughty, come for amusement, or business, or relaxation; where London beauties, having danced and flirted all the season, may dance and flirt a little more; where well-dressed rogues from all quarters of the world assemble; where I have seen severe London lawyers, forgetting their wigs and the Temple, trying their luck against fortune and M. Bénazet ; where wistful schemers conspire and prick cards down, and deeply meditate the infallible coup; and try it, and lose it, and borrow a hundred francs to go home; where even virtuous British ladies venture their little stakes, and draw up their winnings with trembling rakes, by the side of ladies who are not virtuous at all, no, not even by name; where young prodigals break the bank sometimes, and carry plunder out of a place which Hercules himself could scarcely compel; where you meet wonderful countesses and princesses, whose husbands are almost always absent on their vast estates in Italy, Spain, Piedmont --who knows where their lordships' possessions are ?-while trains of suitors surround those wandering Penelopes their noble wives; Russian Boyars, Spanish Grandees of the Order of the Fleece, Counts of France, and Princes Polish and Italian innumerable, who perfume the gilded halls with their tobacco-smoke, and swear in all languages against the Black and the Red. The famous English monosyllable by which things, persons, luck, even eyes, are devoted to the infernal gods, we may be sure is not wanting in that Babel. Where does one not hear it ? :D---- the luck," says Lord Kew, as the croupier sweeps off his lordship's rouleaux. “D- the luck," says Brown the bagman, who has been backing his lordship with five-franc pieces. “Ah, body of Bacchus !” says Count Felice, whom we all remember a courier. “Ah, sacré coup," cries M. le Vicomte de Florac, as his last louis parts company from him-each cursing in his native tongue. Oh, sweet chorus!

That Lord Kew should be at Baden is no wonder. If you heard of him at the “ Finish," or at Buckingham Palace ball, or in a watchhouse, or at the “ Third Cataract," or at a Newmarket meeting, you would not be surprised. He goes everywhere; does everything with all his might; knows everybody. Last week he won who knows how many thousand louis from the bank (it appears Brown has chosen one of the unlucky days to back his lordship). He will eat his supper as gaily after a great victory as after a signal defeat; and we know that to win with magnanimity requires much more constancy than to lose. His sleep will not be disturbed by one event or the other. He will

play skittles all the morning with perfect contentment, romp with children in the forenoon (he is the friend of half the children in the place), or he will cheerfully leave the green table and all the risk and excitement there, to take a hand at sixpenny whist with General Fogey, or to give the six Miss Fogeys a turn each in the ball-room. From H.R.H. the Prince Royal of who is the greatest guest at Baden, down to Brown the bagman, who does not consider himself the smallest, Lord Kew is hail-fellow with everybody, and has a kind word from and for all.

CHAPTER XXVIII. IN WHICH CLIVE BEGINS TO SEE THE WORLD. TN the company assembled at Baden Clive found one or two old I acquaintances; among them his friend of Paris, M. de Florac, not in quite so brilliant a condition as when Newcome had last met him on the Boulevard. Florac owned that Fortune had been very unkind to him at Baden; and, indeed, she had not only emptied his purse, but his portmanteaus, jewel-box, and linen-closet-the contents of all of which had ranged themselves on the red and black against Monsieur Bénazet's crown-pieces: whatever side they took was, however, the unlucky one. “This campaign has been my Moscow, mon cher," Florac owned to Clive. “ I am conquered by Bénazet; I have lost in almost every combat. I have lost my treasure, my baggage, my ammunition of war, everything but my honour, which, au reste, Mons. Bénazet will not accept as a stake; if he would, there are plenty here, believe me, who would set it on the Trente et Quarante. Sometimes I have had a mind to go home; my mother, who is an angel, all forgiveness, would receive her prodigal, and kill the fatted veal for me. But what will you? He annoys me— the domestic veal. Besides, my brother, the Abbé, though the best of Christians, is a Jew upon certain matters; a Bénazet who will not troquer absolution except against repentance; and I have not a sou of repentance in my pocket! I have been sorry, yes--but it was because odd came up in place of even, or the reverse. The accursed apres has chased me like a remorse, and when black has come up I have wished myself converted to red. Otherwise I have no repentance; I am joueur-nature has made me so, as she made my brother dévot. The Archbishop of Strasbourg is of our parents; I saw his grandeur when I went lately to Strasbourg, on my last pilgrimage to the Mont de Piété. I owned to him that I would pawn his cross and ring to go play: the good prelate laughed, and said his chaplain should keep an eye on them. Will you dine with me? The landlord of my hotel was the intendant of our cousiņ, the Duc d'Ivry, and will give me credit to the day of judgment. I do not abuse his noble confidence. My dear! there are covers of silver put on my table every day with which I could retrieve my fortune, did I listen to the suggestions of Satanas; but I say to him, Vade retro. Come and dine with me-Duluc's kitchen is very good.”

These easy confessions were uttered by a gentleman who was nearly forty years of age, and who had indeed played the part of a young man in Paris and the great European world so long, that he knew or chose to perform no other. He did not want for abilities; had the best temper in the world; was well bred and gentlemanlike always; and was gay even after Moscow. His courage was known, and his character for bravery, and another kind of gallantry probably exaggerated by his bad reputation. Had his mother not been alive, perhaps he would have believed in the virtue of no woman. But this one he worshipped, and spoke with tenderness and enthusiasm of her constant love, and patience, and goodness. “See her miniature !” he said, "I never separate myself from it-Oh, never! It saved my life in an affair about-about a woman who was not worth the powder which poor Jules and I burned for her. His ball struck me here, upon the waistcoat, bruising my rib and sending me to my bed, which I never should have left alive but for this picture. Oh, she is an angel, my mother! I am sure that Heaven has nothing to deny that saint, and that her tears wash out my sins."

Clive smiled. “I think Madame de Florac must weep a good deal,” he said.

Enormément, my friend! My faith! I do not deny it! I give her cause, night and evening. I am possessed by demons! This little Affenthaler wine of this country has a little smack which is most agreeable. The passions tear me, my young friend! Play is fatal, but play is not so fatal as woman. Pass me the écrevisses, they are most succulent. Take warning by me, and avoid both. I saw you rôder round the green tables, and marked your eyes as they glistened over the heaps of gold, and looked at some of our beauties of Baden. Beware of such sirens, young man! and take me for your Mentor; avoiding what I have done-that understands itself. You have not played as yet ? Do not do so; above all avoid a martingale, if you do. Play ought not to be an affair of calculation, but of inspiration. I have calculated infallibly, and what has been the effect ? Gousset empty, tiroirs empty, nécessaire parted for Strasbourg! Where is my fur pelisse, Frédéric ?»

“Parbleu ! vous le savez bien, Monsieur le Vicomte," says Frédéric, the domestic, who was waiting on Clive and his friend.

"A pelisse lined with true sable, and worth three thousand francs, that I won of a little Russian at billiards. That pelisse is at Strasbourg (where the infamous worms of the Mount of Piety are actually gnawing her). Two hundred francs and this reconnaissance, which Frédéric received, are all that now represents the pelisse. How many chemises have I, Frédéric ?"

“Eh, parbleu, Monsieur le Vicomte sait bien que nous avons toujours vingt-quatre chemises," says Frédéric, grumbling.

Monsieur le Vicomte springs up. shrieking from the dinner-table. ** Twenty-four shirts," says he, “and I have been a week without a louis in my pocket! Bélître! Nigaud !He flings open one drawer after another, but there are no signs of that superfluity of linen of which the domestic spoke, whose countenance now changes from a grim frown to a grim smile.

“Ah, my faithful Frédéric, I pardon thee! Mr. Newcome will understand my harmless supercherie. Frédéric was in my company of the Guard, and remains with me since. He is Caleb Balderstone and I am Ravenswood. Yes, I am Edgar. Let us have coffee and a cigar, Balderstone."

“ Plait-il Monsieur le Vicomte ?” says the French Caleb.

“ Thou comprehendest not English. Thou readest not Valtare Scott, thou !” cries the master. "I was recounting to Monsieur Newcome thy history and my misfortunes. Go seek coffee for us, Nigaud." And as the two gentlemen partake of that exhilarating liquor, the elder confides gaily to his guest the reason why he prefers taking coffee at the Hotel to the coffee at the great Café of the “Redoute," with a duris urgens in rébūs égestāss ! pronounced in the true French manner.

Clive was greatly amused by the gaiety of the Viscount after his misfortunes and his Moscow; and thought that one of Mr. Baines's circular notes might not be ill laid out in succouring this hero. It may have been to this end that Florac's confessions tended; though, to do him justice, the incorrigible young fellow would confide his adventures to any one who would listen; and the exact state of his wardrobe, and the story of his pawned pelisse, dressing-case, rings and watches, were known to all Baden.

“ You tell me to marry and range myself,” said. Clive, (to whom the Viscount was expatiating upon the charms of the superbe young Anglaise with whom he had seen Clive walking on the promenade). “Why do you not marry and range yourself too ?”

“Eh, my dear! I am married already. You do not know it? I am married since the Revolution of July. Yes. We were poor in those days, as poor we remain. My cousins the Duc d'Ivry's sons and his grandson were still alive. Seeing no other resource and pursued by the Arabs, I espoused the Vicomtesse de Florac. I gave her my name, you comprehend, in exchange for her own odious one. She was Miss Higg. Do you know the family Higg of Manchesterre in the Comté. of Lancastre? She was then a person of a ripe age. The Vicomtesse is now-ah! it is fifteen years since, and she dies not. Our union was not happy, my friend—Madame Paul de Florac

« AnteriorContinuar »