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This was, indeed, putting the final blow to the hopes of Mrs. Charlton; but when the newly-married pair were gone, and the lapse of a few days had restored something of the routine of ordinary life at Charlwood, Mrs. Charlton found that she had still something to learn. She was taunting her husband with having dowered Laura so liberally.
“Were she marrying a man of large fortune, there would have been some sense in it,” she said; "but eight hundred a year is the very utmost limit of Colonel Home's income.
“ Her husband's being in need of money would be but another reason for my being liberal to Laura," was the reply. “ But I have given her only what was strictly her due; her mother's fortune is, of course, hers, and Charlwood shall be hers when I die; otherwise, she has only had what I shall give to each of my other children. But you are mistaken as to Colonel Home's claims ; Sir Thomas Lenox showed me his will, and, with the exception of a few trifling legacies and a life interest to Lady Lenox, Home is his heir."
“And you did not remonstrate ; you did not protest against so vile & piece of injustice to me and mine !' exclaimed Mrs. Charlton.
“I don't see the injustice," he answered. Something I did say, but Sir Thomas was quite resolved, and his wife equally so. Very handsome and
generous, I call it !" “ I have not learned now for the first time that my interests, and those of my children, have ever been unworthy of your consideration when they have come into collision with those of Laura,” she replied. “ I call the whole business a most iniquitous, abominable, heartless piece of trickery, and I shall take care to let those concerned learn a piece of my mind whenever I can find an opportunity. A gang of schemers, and crazed ill-natured old fools, sharpers, and their fitting prey !"
“ Hush! hush !" said Mr. Charlton. “Laura is certainly not much of a sharper, I don't think I am, and as for Home, I never saw a man of his experience of life more careless about money.
“ Yes, that was the proper rôle for him to play. His game was made for him; he had nothing to do but assume the part of the unwilling, grateful recipient. Oh! it has been a nice piece of trickery from first to Jast. I'll take care the Errols shall know that Laura did not give up Arthur for mere love of her Adonis of a colonel; she knew pretty well what she was doing."
Mr. Charlton laughed.
" See how far your anger carries you! With the exception of myself and Sir Thomas, his wife, and the lawyers, not a soul knows of this. Laura and her husband are in total ignorance of the business.”
“ Get me to believe that, if
“I really don't care. I simply state the fact. You may credit me or pot, as you please. Have you any commands to the village? I am going to ride in to see Stevens about those water-meadows. I promised to meet him at Empson's office at half-past three."
Mrs. Charlton deigned no reply-her heart was too full of “malice, envy, and all uncharitableness ;" 'and, after waiting without effect for a moment or two, her husband walked off, leaving her to communicate the dreadful news to Emilie, and indulge her own bitterness in drawing forth that of her amiable daughter.
FRENCH ARISTOCRACY AT HOME.
The antecedents of the Marchioness Eliane de Lanrose cannot be said to have been exemplary. This although she was pre-eminently pious in youth and in middle age. But her piety, though sincere, was so deeply imbued with vanity and selfishness as to detract much from its sincerity; and she made it serve so tenaciously to her worldly advancement, that it certainly was not the kind of piety which can be held up for general imitation.
One of the several daughters of a poor country gentleman-M. de Batéjins—so poor that the girls had to take it in turns to tend the goat in the lanes adjacent to their humble dwelling, accident had brought a great lady, the Princess San Lugar, and her far too intimate secretary, Paulin Viguier, to the house when still young; the not irreproachable pair acted as sponsors to the child, and provided for its education, until the Marquis San Lugar got the secretary put out of the way by a hired assassin, and madame retired in disgust to a convent. Before, however, all this came to pass, Eliane's education had been attended to by the village priest, and partook, as before observed, of a marked religious character. Her temperament was by nature so ardent and excitable, that at times she was almost in a state of ecstasy, a particular feature of this virginal exaltation consisting in the holy persons whom she most loved to imitate being those who bad practised the Christian virtues in the highest places, more especially Louis de Gonzague and Elizabeth of Hungary. But when Madame San Lugar withdrew to a convent, that lady's bounties found a different channel, and no longer flowed in the direction of the young and fair protégée of Pillesac, as her native village was called. Eliane meditated upon the matter, and to some purpose. It was no use, she said to herself, writing to Madame de San Lugar, the superior of the convent would take charge of her letter; so she addressed her godmother through the Archbishop of Seville, that being the city in which the princess resided, declaring it to be her wish to quit this abominable world, and to seek for salvation in a convent by her side. It so bappened that the archbishop and superior both agreed that some other tie than that of religion was necessary to retain their wealthy pensioner within the convent walls, and they came to the conclusion that this pious and beautiful child (she had enclosed her photograph) would precisely answer their purposes. So Eliane was duly sent for, and Madame San Lugar was so delighted and so pleased with her god child's beauty, that she spent a week in turning and re-turning the charming puppet that had fallen into her hands. But she was chiefly amused with her naïveté and ignorance, assumed or otherwise. It made her think of the world, of her palace, of her equipages-of that outer life which is forgotten in a convent--and the result was that she came to the conclusion that the dear pretty creature must go out
La Vieille Roche. Le Marquis de Lanrose. Par Edmond About. Paris : L Hachette et se
and learn a little of the world before taking the veil. If she died in such simplicity, the saints in paradise, she said, would laugh at her. As to Eliane, she declared that, as far as she was concerned, she preferred to remain in the convent; but she could not but avow that she would like to see Madame San Lugar, were it only for a moment, happy and admired in one of those salons of which she had ever been so great an ornament. She also ventured to inquire, with her usual simplicity, if devotion to good works and charity out of doors, for a person of wealth, like the princess, would not be as acceptable in heaven as seclusion in a convent? The result was, that, despite the interference of the superior, which rather bastened Madame San Lugar's resolves than otherwise, the princess returned once more to the world, taking her god-daughter with her. Thus it was that Eliane de Batéjins became installed in the palace of Madame de San Lugar, close by the Alcazar, where she became the princess's almoner, devoting her time to reading, charity, and religious exercises, but having at the same time an eye to worldly advancement. But Eliane soon perceived that she had no chance in Spain; the haughty Castilian noble never condescends to wed beneath him.
It is, indeed, only in Paris, M. About tells us, that personal merit carries the day over pride of birth, and Eliane found this out by instinct. The next step, then, was to get Madame de San Lugar removed from Seville to Paris. It was difficult to set such an old and rusty machine in movement; but Eliane was not the person to be dismayed by difficulties. One of the princess's weak points was anxiety for her health. Eliane persuaded her that the climate of Seville was too relaxing, and that of France would suit her age and constitution better. Once in France, she was too much of a Frenchwoman not to know that all the roads lead to Paris. At length a start was effected for a three months' trip, for change of air. This was in the autumn of 1844, and the trip was not concluded in 1850. It was indeed not long before Madame de San Lugar was, through the admirable perspicacity of Eliane, established in one of the handsomest hotels of the Cours la Reine, and that Mademoiselle de Batéjins was dazzling all Paris by her charms of mind, manners, and person. But Eliane, having no dowry, was more admired than sought for in marriage. The Count de Mably was the only person to offer her a name, a fortune at that epoch not squandered away, and a person worthy of her. Eliane was not insensible to the attentions of a person like Gontran. Her whole affections became concentrated in him, and all would have gone on to a satisfactory conclusion, but for the interference of Madame de San Lugar; she declared that Gontran was a profligate, a spendthrift, and an infidel, and a pious young lady like Mademoiselle de Batéjins could never be united to a person without the pale of religion and morality. Gontran was thus discarded, and a more suitable husband, as it was supposed, was found in the person of the middle-aged, wealthy, and discreet Marquis of Lanrose, father of Count Adhémar, the leading and most prosperous director in all the great financial enterprises and limited liability undertakings at that time fomenting in a city where, even more than in London, it is the fashion to disregard the dictum of the Greek philosopher—that no just man has ever become suddenly rich, and to adopt the principle
that it is the duty of every man to do so with the greatest possible celerity, and at all hazards.
We have seen how the Laproses of the first and second family found themselves at the Grande Balme as guests upon the occasion of the marriage of Lambert, Baron of St. Genin, with Valentine, the piece and wealthy heiress of the old Lyonese miser, M. de Fafiaux; how the discarded and ruined profligate, Gontran, tumbled down upon the company
like a bombshell, and carried off the young, pretty, and wealthy heiress, to the utter disgust and discomfiture of Lambert and of M. de Fafiaux. We have seen, also, how Valentine, Countess of Mably, spent her summer at the sea-side quarters of Carville, escorted by her first love, Lambert, and persecuted by a third, Odoacre de Bourgalys, whilst the Count de Mably remained in Paris under pretext of business matters. We have seen also that the intimacy of Bourgalys and the jealousy of Lambert had led to a duel and a catastrophe, and that Père Fafiaux came in at the crisis, and said to his daughter in distress :
“ If the Lanroses have done you harm, my dear child, be comforted ! Heaven has punished them both ; the father in his honour, and the son in his money."
It is a sad task to tell how these events, thus in part foreshadowed, came about; but the picture given of a certain class of the aristocracy of France is so graphic, the details are eliminated with such infinite delicacy, and the conversational portion is so exquisitely refined, that, as in a great work of art by a Titian or a Rubens, we pardon the subject for the manner in which it is treated. There can be no question that in these points M. About distances all his literary compeers in France. The great Alexander himself may be more pointed, more sparkling, and far more full of incident, but M. About has moved in good society, and he tones down his pictures of social delinquencies to a degree of refinement which has been almost unknown since the days of Jean Jacques Rousseau.
Eliane, as Marchioness of Lanrose, still held by the convictions of her youth, and, however much she had made them serve worldly purposes, still her sincerity was unimpeachable. She belonged to the church, to the good fathers, to the poor, to her friends—to all the world, in fact, save her husband. The Marquis of Lanrose was proud of her, loved her, and respected her. He had been unfortunate in his first marriage; he thought he could depend upon a young person brought up in firm religious principles like Eliane, and he had every confidence in her. But, on bis side, his tastes did not lie in the direction of the convent of the good fathers of St. Joseph ; bis daily rides, his attendance at his club and at the opera, and his addiction to newspapers and cigars, took bim in an opposite direction, and after eight years of wedded life-after the fashion of the Parisian aristocracy, with almost separate establishments as well as habits-a deep abyss yawned between the marquis and his wife, without either seeking or thinking of such a result, and without either being precisely to blame.
It was just when affairs were in this condition that the still beautiful and gifted marchioness took it into her pretty and wilful head to convert Gontran, and that Gontran, by some almost inexplicable fancy, but with which reminiscences of the past had much to do, re
mained in Paris to await the process of conversion, whilst his own more beautiful and more youthful wife was seeking distraction at Carville.
Eliane, on her side, was fully convinced that, bad she been Valentine, she would long ago have brought this young profligate to his senses, and she thought the matter over till she also became equally convinced that she was destined to show him the way to salvation. Nay, so far did she carry her enthusiasm, that one night, upon her husband returning from his club, she embraced him with unaccustomed warmth, and boasted of her success in converting a well-known profligate and infidel, telling the marquis that she would soon lead him to the chapel of the good fathers, where he should witness a scene that would bring tears to his eyes !
The result may be anticipated. Eliane's first step was to induce Gontran to attend the chapel of St. Joseph daily. As he was sure to meet her there, he was nothing loth. But still progress was slow.
“I don't get on,” he complained to her one day. “Faith does not come. I want to be catechised. Tell me of some one who will do it, or rather undertake the business yourself.”
Eliane pleaded want of ability, and recommended her own director, Gontran objecting to this, she condescended to send him the “ Bosquet de Pénitence,” which be returned laden with mystical engravings. What he wanted, he said, was to be convinced upon all points seriatim, and that could only be done by personal conversation. Eliane allowed herself to be persuaded.
“Well," she said, "I love your soul sufficiently to spend an hour to profit it, and I esteem you too much to fear you. Expect me tomorrow at your own house at three.”
Eliane took the precaution of having herself accompanied by two orphans from the convent of Ave Maria, in the Rue de Grenelle, which adjoined upon the Hôtel Mably. The garden of the sisters communicated by a back way with the garden of the Hôtel Mably. The children were delighted; Gontran gave them cakes and preserves, and sent them into the garden to gather flowers wherewith to decorate the altar. In the mean time, Gontran played the hypocrite with the marchioness, and so great was the progress made, that when the back door was opened to allow of the children and Eliane's return to the convent, he not only embraced the orphans, but also bis fair catechist.
Madame de Lanrose felt hurt. Her confidence in herself and in Gontran began to waver, and she was grieved that she had ever entered upon so dangerous an enterprise. Her trepidations were still further increased when, next day, she found a letter in the box of her prie-dieu in the chapel of the convent of Ave Maria. It had been placed there by Gontran, and it intimated that “the soul to be saved," by which M. de Mably designated himself, wished his good angel to see him at two o'clock with her orphans, in order to complete her work of charity. It is true she hesitated; but was she not safe in her innocence ? she asked herself. So she had the orphans dressed, and thus reinforced, she kept her appointment. The meeting lasted two long hours, and yet questions of faith were only incidentally brought up. Nor yet was there any question of love. Gontran knew better than to terrify the marchioness by any act that did not savour of the