Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

The next was from an old school friend:

MY DEAR Fortuné, – Your blooming out into a minister is an unexpected godsend. This is what I should like: a substantial governorship in the colonies, which I could hold without going out there, pending a vacant prefectorate worth having. The salary would tide me over present difficulties, which are considerable by reason of unpaid rents; besides, it looks bad at this moment not to be serving one's country. I beg to remind you also that I am only a Knight of the Legion of Honor ; my appointment to the governorship would be a good pretext for promoting me to the rosette. With best respects to your excellent Excellency,

Yours affectionately,

RAOUL DE PLUMEAUVENT. The third note came from Mlle. Cabroile, of the Théâtre des Folies Gauloises, and may as well be transcribed in its terse, original, and artistic orthography :

Mon chair Conte, — Maintenant queue vous voilà ministre, j'espaire que vous allez vous o. q. p. sans rétard de plasser mon coussin Jules. C'est un imbecille de la plus belle'o qui n'a jamai rien fait de bon à la maisson ce qui est émilion pour une famile qui se raiespecte. Ossi ce qui lui fodrait c'est un poste de 6 à 8,000 francs ousqu'y n'y aurait pas traup à faire ni d'argens à gardé crainte de désagrémens. Je vous salu avecq raispect et vous enbrasse de tout queur car on mattend pour la répétission du “ Prince Poireau ” où j'ai un rôlle de laiegume.

Toute à vous,

TA CABRIOLE. Of Mlle. Cabriole's claims the count could dispose by a few bank-notes sent in a bouquet; but how put off the old school-friend who wanted to be a governor, and the marquise, whose brother was for an attachéship? It needed all the new minister's self-control to resist the temptation of doing a little harmless jobbery on behalf of those well-loved persons; but he did resist: for the Frenchman who has got astride the hobby of performing his duty immaculately, is a being whom there is no unhorsing, attack him from whichever point you will. Nothing could be firmer set than the count's lips, as he sat in his study and marked with a bold R, which stands for Refused, all the letters that appealed to him on grounds purely personal. M. Narcisse, his valet, scarcely knew him again, and half fancied that some devilish enchantment had changed his master in a night, leaving nought of him but the outer cuticle. For gall and wormwood had it been to M. Narcisse, when, on venturing to sound his master about that little place in the custoins, he had received the freezing reply, “ Ask me for what money you want, either for yourself or your family; but do not presume beyond that.” M. Narcisse had not presumed beyond that, for there are certain inflections of the voice which warn one off like a spiked gate; but every time he entered his master's presence, and saw him conning over and taking notes from a portentous manuscript folio, which was none other than the hardly-won Tabular List, he said to himself that this was the cause of all the mischief, and he wished that document at the other side of Jordan; as, no doubt, did many another denizen of the office, especially M. Jobus.

M. Jobus, however, was on the watch. He knew that it was not mere idle reading, this daily study of the Tabular List : and that as soon as the count had learned conclusively that there were three times more clerks than there was any need for; that posts had been created both at home and abroad, which were as good as sinecures, and which had no other possible object but to lodge some protégés or kinsmen of M. Jobus: when he had learned all this, and a good many other strange things, then there would be a storm. M. Jobus foresaw it mentally, and he was taking his precautions, as a man unfolds his umbrella ; nor had he long to wait. The storm did burst, and broke with violence. One morning the count told M. Jobus that he intended recommending the government to dismiss two-thirds of the employér, hoine and foreign, of the Cochin-China office; but that in considering which officials should be dismissed, and which retained, attention would be paid to length of service, — the claim which M. Jobus seemed to have most disdained, seeing that all the names on his list were mixed

up in inextricable confusion, promotion appearing to have fallen on no principle whatever, save that of repeatedly advancing certain names, and repeatedly passing over certain others. M. Jobus protested at this that he was honest and irresponsible, and the debate was of long duration. It ended by the count's declaring that he would abide by his resolve; whereat, had he not feared that it would be accepted, M. Jobus would most certainly have tendered his resignation. He did better. He bowed, and said it should be as his Excellency wished; but in his cold eye it was easy to read that there was a declaration of war.

Ảnd what a war! Let us pass swiftly over the incidents of that tragic contest. The new minister, in seeking to inaugurate departmental purity, had forgotten that innovation is a weapon which, if not carefully shouldered, kicks as well as hits; in assailing M. Jobus, he had committed the further blunder of supposing that he was only attacking a man, whereas he was buffeting a principle. This is always the way with amateurs, be it in art or politics. Who plashes his yellow ochre and vermilion so gaudily over his canvas as the amateur painter ? Who thunders so headlong at a fence as a gentleman rider ? Who bawls with such histrionic ire as the amateur actor? Who rams his head so triumphantly against a stone wall as the amateur politician ? Institutions, alas! are not things that we can go forth to do battle against with our naked fists; and M. Jobus, the permanent and irresponsible, was an institution.

He was ubiquitous, was M. Jobus; he had ramifications; he extended to branches and nooks of the commonwealth where there was no expecting him. There were Jobuses in the press, Jobuses in the army, Jobuses in the church, Jobuses in society; each public office had its Jobus: for whether Jobuses by name, or by connection, or by intermarriage, or by ties of interest, gratitude, or duty, they were all Jobuses, every man of them, and held together tightly, rising up at the sound of the war-note like a gathering of Scottish clans, and presenting, not a bold battle front, but an invisible array of ambuscades, from out of which they shot, whistling their arrows from behind rocks, out of copses, from everywhere. The minister began to be attacked by the papers, not the large political journals, but the light skirmishers of the press, which, in Paris, have most influence. The Cigare observed that his trousers were ill-cut. Now, every man has his foibles, and the count's was to like well-cut trousers; so he felt the squib keenly. In society it was said that his charming manners of former days were quite vanished; that he had grown a bear, and was becoming mad; some ladies, always kind, invented that his father had died in a lunatic asylum. In the cafés, it was reported that he had only accepted office because he was ruined, having squandered all his fortune in debauchery. Among pious circles, people asked whether it were true that he was privately married, but that his wife was a person of disreputable life, who had fled from him to drink. When a man goes to war with the Jobuses he has not many bruises to show; but he is covered all over with stains, as if a million of Aies had settled on bim.

The warfare had not gone very far, however, before the great personage, who had been the count's patron, was apprised of it. He had selected the count, of all men, on purpose to avoid these disturbances, and it was rather hard that the sagacity of his choice should be so soon belied. Nevertheless it was probably not too late to repair matters ; so he sent in hot haste to bid the culprit, that is, the minister, come and see him at once, to talk over the business.

“So your cog-wheels are not working quite smoothly, iny dear count?” he said, in the friendly tone of one who should remark, “ The governmental machine is a difficult one for a young hand to manage; but I know what it is, and will ad

“I am in great trouble with my department, sir,” answered the Cochin-China minister. “Î have discovered abuses there which I should not have deemed possible; and I have been at work on a comprehensive scheine of reform, which I intend submitting to your Excellency, and to the council, at an early date.” 'I'he great personage making no immediate reply, the count proceeded to recapitulate

vise you.”.

[ocr errors]

66

[ocr errors]

what we already know, and a great deal more that we do who had swept, rabid and hungry, along there, eighty not know, and which can be no business of ours, being only years before, to bring Louis XVI. and his wife to Paris, members of the public, and consequently debarred from the saying that once the “ Baker” was in the capital, breal right of prying too closely into official secrets, which should would follow. Somehow he fancied that at that date the always be respected. Whilst he spoke, the great person- irresponsible Monsieur Jobus, already in the flesh, and age, who was standing on his hearth-rug, with his back to already permanent in his department, must have been the fire, kept the glasses of his gold-rimmed spectacles fixed watching the proceedings from behind a curtain, and chuckon the carpet, and a slight frown sketched itself between ling to himself that it was a merciful, though mysterious his eyebrows, and he seemed to be musing, “How falla- dispensation of Providence, that the people, in performing cious are appearances! Here is a man we relied on to be revolutions, should always light upon the wrong culprits. soft and affable with everybody, to make us friends, and to Then he pictured M. Jobus, reading of the execution of let things in general be ; and here he comes, stirring up a Louis XVI. in the Moniteur Universel, looking on from his war amongst our own people, just as if we had not enemies window at the flight of Charles X., figuring as spectator enough as it is."

at the downfall of Louis Philippe, raising his hat to the “I do not say that right is not entirely on your side,” he Empress Eugénie on her way to the railway station on the replied, in that measured tone which those only can con- 4th September, 1870, and repeating to himself, after ceive who have ever heard an experienced statesman speak. each of these catastrophes, “ It is certainly a great com“ Indeed, your conduct in this affair quite bears out the fort that I should be permanent and irresponsible.” high opinion I had formed of your political aptitudes, before He imagined that the sentry who saluted him, eyed him inviting you into the ministry. But, my dear count, there askant, as if reflecting, “ You're a poor creature.". A are cases where we must act with extreine caution. M. black dog, - perhaps M. Jobus's dog, — sitting on his hind Jobus is a very valuable servant; he has been in his post,

I

quarters in the yard, beside a gray dog, set up a bark at think, almost half a century; and half a century is a long his approach, and appeared to be saying, “ That is the man time. Then we could not introduce reforms into one de- who thought to uproot M. Jobus ;” at which the gray doz partment without doing so in all. It would look as if the was seized with a prolonged fit of hilarity. He wrote a ministers were trying to outbid each other in public favor, lengthy and dejected letter to Mme. de Claire, confessing which would be most undesirable. Again, the reforms you all his troubles, his deceptions, his despondency. He exsuggest would require money, a great deal of money, and plained that he had done violence to his nature to seem we can afford none: the budget is the subject of my most other than he was, to be puritanical and unbending, and anxious cares. I lay awake from thinking of it, last that it had all broken down. He thought of the talisman night.”

Pritchard,” which he used to wear on his locket, and telt * But it is precisely because the budget is so overcharged it would be wise to have a new locket, emblazoned with that I wish to reform and retrench,” exclaimed the per- that same motto. What, indeed, dil discussion or worry plexed count. “ It cannot surely want money to stop

on political matters lead to ? Government and policy were waste; to dismiss people who are doing nothing; to abolish always the same, for Government and policy were M. Jobus. posts that are sucking up gold that is so precious."

She answered, Persevere; but there is no need for “ To abolish posts is always a serious matter," answered puritanism. Be yourself. Results are not attained in a the great personage, lifting up his coat-tails, and speaking day; and, as for M. Jobus, I suppose he will yield to Time, with gravity. “We could not dismiss anybody, you know,

like other crumbling monuments.” without compensation. Two millions of francs would be necessary in your department, alone. Twenty millions if we generalized your scheme. Where is all that to come from?”

So M. de Ris persevered, not by attacking M. Jobus, but “ Two millions twenty millions ! ” echoed the count, by letting him alone. The great personage has given him aghast.

to understand that the shortest cut towards abolishing M. The great personage followed up his advantage :

Jobus would be to found an enlightened republic; so he “I admit that all you urge is very forcible,

inost forci

devoted his energies to the enlightened republic, devising ble. What you tell me of despatches of great value re- by day and night how such an institution might best be maining unnoticed; of officials in foreign service being raised. The time for opening the session was fast approachsnubbed for conveying information, or for suggesting in- ing; and the large political papers, as already observed, ventions or improvements; of salaries remaining accumu- had not assailed the Cochin-China minister on the clerk lated in M. Jubus's hands, and of employés being afraid to question, from not knowing accurately, as yet, to which draw then lest doing so should hinder their chances of party he belonged. They were waiting. If he turned out promotion, — all that is very striking and very new to me. à Monarchist, the Republicans would lead the assault by But it is not good that the public should be led to suspect taking the part of the poor ill-paid clerks, whom it hail these things, my dear count: it produces a bad effect. been sought to turn out of house and home without inMy great aim at this moment is to found an enlightened demnity, whilst bloated, over-paid officials (i.c., himself) republic; and we have need to be united, for our enemies revelled in anti-democratic splendor, &c., &c. If, on the would catch, with pleasure, at any rumors of departmental other hand, he proved a Republican, then the Monarchists abuses. Abuses of this nature should always be reformed would open their batteries upon him by lamentations over en famille, quietly. By and by, at some future time per- M. Jobus, who was an institution of the past, and had been haps, when we have a great deal of leisure on our hands, persecuted solely on that account, we will inquire into all this, and operate rent y. Mean- The count resolved to embody his views in the form of a while they talk of the clerks in your department striking work : this, of course, must be prevented at all hazards.

programme or constitution, which he should submit to his

friends in the cabinet, and then advocate publicly, whenever As a personal favor to me, my dear colleague, make friends he had a chance, in order that no doubt whatever might with your people; and, as regards M. Jobus, the best policy, remain as to what his sentiments were. you will find, is to be forbearing; for, as I have said, he has This project of constitution began to absorb all bis really held his present post almost fifty years !”

leisure. He read treatises of political philosophy,- Plato, The clock on the mantle-piece struck twelve.

Stuart Mill, and essays in the Revue des Deur Mondes. “ That is luncheon time,” broke off the great personage He took in English periodicals, he sought out Englishmen gayly. “ You will stay and try some Yeddo wine that has and Americans in society, and sounded them as to the been brought me by the Japanese ambassadors very charters of their respective liberties. Mr. Washburne prur curious - it tastes like Jalmsey."

cured him a copy of the Unied States Constitution ; Lord After tasting the Japanese Malmsey, the count walked Lyons presented him with Hallam and a fac-simile of bick to his effice. In passing the Boulevard de la Reine, Magna Charta. The clerks in his oflice began to breathe. hy could not restrain a shrug at the thou;ht of the mob The terrific spell of work that had fallen upon them when

V.

3. A President of the Republic elected by the two Chambers for a term of seven years, and not re-eligible.*

4. Complete separation of Church and State.
5. Liberty of the press and of public meeting

6. Trial by jury in civil cases, where desired by either of the suitors; and abolition, in criminal cases, of "l'instruction secrète."

7. Municipal independence; each Municipal Council to elect its own Mayor.

8. Appointment of Prefects for a term of five years, subject to good behavior; and abolition of all sub-prefectorates.

9. Compulsory military service for all able-bodied citizens. 10 Compulsory education.

11. Payment of such Senators and Deputics only as shall make an affidavit that their income is below twenty-five thousand francs. 12. Establishment of divorce, and simplifications of the marriage laws; men to be considered of age at twenty-one, instead of twenty-five, and free to marry at that age without sanction from parents.

There were some three score more articles that followed the above, which were only the more prominent items of a programme that embraced reform and re-constitution, in all its branches, the recasting of the judicial system alone absorbing a couple of dozen paragraphs. Never had the members of the cabinet twirled their pens so disconsolately over their blotting-books. Why was this new Cochin-China minister always breaking out in fresh places after this fashion? Most rueful of all to behold, too, were the Republican ministers. If this programme were pushed to a division in the cabinet they could not well help supporting it; and this must lead to a trial of strength, after which one or other section of the cabinet must retire. And they were all so comfortable where they were, and the compromise system, that had been in force for a year, had worked so well; and there really was so little need for sensational programmes, or for reform in any shape! An icy silence followed the reading of the document, and the great personage sitting at the head of the table wiped his brow despairingly with his silk handkerchief. The count had not quite been able to understand the silence, but he understood the handkerchief; one has not been a man of the world all one's life for nothing. He rose with an agreeable, though very superficial smile, and said their Excellencies would have time to think about it. Then the council being over, he went out and drove to the House.

that direful tabular list was being drawn up, loomed backwards in the distance like a forgotten nightmare. They found time to read the news of their country, play pitch and toss, and crack walnuts during office hours, as in the good old days; and save that they continued to be civil to the public, nothing was changed from what it had been of yore. The young gentleman in the blue-striped shirt-collar and with the double eye-glass was even re-instated in his cane-bottomed chair and his emoluments, on expressing contrition for the past, and promising not to put his tongue in his cheek for the future. The count had never been brusque with his subordinates, even when the reforming fever was most strongly on him. He was always courteous and unassuming; but he now fell perceptibly into his old manner of letting things drift as they listed, and judging them all with a smile. He bought a new locket, with the name "Pritchard" embossed rather larger than before, and in rubies, to be more conspicuous; the use of it was to keep his temper within bounds whenever he held interviews with M. Jobus. That gentleman continued to rule and be useful, as in his palmiest days. To be sure, when there was an appointment to be filled up, the count endeavored to select the best man that he knew; but he had sent his hobby, Puritan, to its stable, and was determined not to risk quarrels with lady or other friends for the empty satisfaction of being treated by everybody as a Jack in office. Thus, his school comrade, M. de Pleumeauvent, obtained the governorship he wanted; Mme. de Rosecroix was promised a post for her brother; and when a minor vacancy arose for which he knew of no eligible person, he abandoned the nomination to M. Jobus, who always knew of somebody. Needless to add, that watermelons began to travel once again through the streets under the custody of dragoons, and that cork-soles, heaps of newspapers, and novels were despatched about the country with the government frank, as if nothing had ever happened to check the practice.

In this way time flew by until the opening of the session, a day or two after which M. de Ris completed his plan of a constitution, and had it neatly copied out on foolscap by his secretary, skilled in précis writing. It was a bright December morning when, with the document in his official portfolio, the Cochin-China minister went to attend the cabinet council where he intended producing it.

There was to be a question put to the Cochin-China minister that afternoon, by an honorable member of the right, who wished to know whether it were true that a post of dignity in Cochin-China had been bestowed upon a convict who had escaped from the hulks (ie. to a republican who had been transported to Cayenne for his opinions under the second empire, and had fled thence). As the count would have to vindicate his appointment, he had conceived that no opportunity could be more fitting for a public profession of his new faith; and he explained this his astonished colleagues, who, not having come prepared to hear a new constitutional programme read to them, sat in blank dismay round the council-board when the count drew out his manuscript, and perused it aloud with evident satisfaction.

PROJECT OF REPUBLICAN CONSTITUTION FOR

FRANCE.

1. Two Chambers, viz, a Senate elected by the Councils-General, and comprising certain ex-officio members, and a legislative body of three hundred members, elected by universal suffrage, for a term of three years.

2. The Senate to be renewable by thirds every two years, so that the term of oflice of each Senator shall be of six years. The ex-officio members of the Senate to be the President of the Republic on leaving office; ex-cabinet ministers of five years standing; the Chief Judges of the Cour de Cassation, Cour des Comptes, and Tribunal de Commerce; the Procureurs-Généraux of the Cour de Cassation and Cour des Comptes; a member elected out of cach of the five classes of the Institut de France; the Doyen and sub-Doyen of the Faculty of Medicine; the Archbishop of Paris, and four prelates elected by the Episcopacy; and the three senior Generals and Admirals on active service.

But he knew that his days in the Cabinet were numbered, perhaps even his hours. If not sacrificed by the compromise proclivities of his colleagues, he would retire of his own free will; for what could he do in a cabinet where every effort of patriotism on his part was rebuffed? It must be noticed that the count, being a Frenchman, was little imbued with the parliamentary spirit, based on mutual concessions, and the strong pull, the long pull, and the pull altogether system. He was little able to perceive the ludicrous feature of a minister arriving with a constitution on foolscap, and demanding all his colleagues to swallow it entire, under pain of cabinet dismemberment. He did not stop to inquire what it would come to if every minister drew up a constitution, nor how far government would be possible, if each minister absolutely refused to consider office tenable unless all his schemes were submitted to by the rest. He entered the House, and made a very freezing answer, in fifty words, to the honorable member who wished to know about the Republican who had escaped from the hulks. Then, with his portfolio under his arm, he went to walk about the Galerie des Tombeaux, which acts as principal lobby.

A minister inspires so much respect to the French mind that deputies uncovered themselves right and left as Count de Ris passed, and many pressed forward to give him news of the Count de Chambord, or of the Count de Paris, or of Chiselhurst, hoping that such might please him, and perhaps induce him to make a statement indicative of Mon

* M. de Ris's idea in fixing seven years was probably this. That during a term of four years a President has scarcely the time to give full play to his abilities; besides which. Presidential elections in excitable countries should not be too frequent. Seven years is a term neither dangerously long nor inconveniently short. A French President however, should never be re-eligible, for re-e.ection in France would be the certain prelude to monarchy.

archist tendencies. M. Gambetta, also, having somehow She did not ask, “ Shared with whom?” nor was her esheard that he had got to loggerheads with his colleagues, pression so discouraging

that he felt it necessary to tell her. came and shook his hand very cordially. But the count The Boulevard wits in Paris say that Madame la Comtesse was not thinking of Chiselhurst, and he had but a moderate de Ris will make an excellent Republican minister, when her faith in M. Gambetta. He was looking for some man of husband takes office again ; for, on the whole, he thought sober sense, by conversation with whom he could refresh his it better to resign for the present. Every time he took his excited mind.' He stumbled across an English newspaper seat at the council-board, his colleagues looked apprehencorrespondent, who was skurrying along with a note-book sively at him, as if they feared he was going to draw a new in one hand, an umbrella in the other, and a field-glass at constitution from his pocket, or, worse than all, suggest his side. He knew this gentleman, and stopped him. some new reforms.

" If you wished to found a republic in England, monsieur," he asked, “how should you do it ? ” “We have a republic,” smiled the correspondent: “every

A MUSCULAR HYPOCHONDRIAC. country where freedom exists with a respect for the law is a republic. The style of the person who nominally governs WELL-MEANING móralists, and young curates, and, in matters little."

fact, all persons addicted to the abuse of metaphorical lan“Then, how do you define republicanism ?”

guage, are a little hard on feminine beauty. They can "It is indefinable," answered the Englishman; “but is never touch on the vanity, brevity, and superficiality of practicable to those who hold to substance instead of shad

things in general without pointing their dull platitudes by ow."

the most unfair allusions and comparisons to the fair sex. The correspondent vanished, he and his field-glass; and No doubt the perfect bloom of "all those endearing young the minister walked on until he came to the model of Bay- charms” is soon impaired; but beauty is not the only thing ard's tomb, where, scribbling notes in a book resting on the

which culminates to decline. Other charms than those of head of that warrior, stood a chroniqueur of the Cigare, M.

beauty have a scarcely less ephemeral duration. The Timoleon Tartine. It was M. Tartine who had written

charms of muscle, for instance, the glory of the calf, that the count's trousers were ill-cut. He would have escaped if possible; but the count had taken him unawares,

That play of lungs inspiring, and again so he brazened it out.

Respiring freely the fresh air, that makes " I know I have been attacking your Excellency,” he

Swift pace or steep ascent no toil, laughed; " but I had a grudge against your tailor, an old enemy of mine."

all these are things which endure in their glory and perfec“ You shouldn't attack those who are for freedom of the tion but for a season, - a base sea-side season. Why, then, press, as I am; besides, trousers are not politics."

can we not have a little variety in our teacher's parables ? “ They are French politics,” answered M. Tartine; Why not leave the epidermis of the fair, and have an occa“ but," added he in huge disgust, " freedom of the press, sional tilt at the muscle of the strong ? Granted that who cares for that, M. le Comte ? Every day of my life, our dear enslavers may be none the worse for an occasional and of a Sunday in church, when I go there, I pray for a reminder that their empire is limited - in time, for it is press-law which may make of journalists something higher fleeting; and in space, for it is but skin deep. But, o in the social scale than they are now.

Some years ago, 1

Hercules ! do not our " barbarized athletes "need a word in held my head high ; I had been twice imprisoned, and season too? Possibly the ball-room belle sets too high a value every line I wrote was gold. Now my editor tells me every on her charms, and is too deeply cast down by their decline; day that he didn't quite like that last article of mine. And but not her emotions, when she feels she is a budding

" wallwhy? Is it that I write worse? Not I; but four years flower,” not the depression of the gentleman in Wordsago it was despotism; and as you dared not say much, worth, “ who daily travels further from the east,” not the every thing that you did dare say was listened to, even forlorn misery of the love-sick Guppy, can approach the when it was bad grammar. Give me back despotism and pathetic desolation of the athlete, who feels that he is inSte. Pélagie; that's the only enjoyable government for a creasing in the wrong place. To feel that the days are at chroniqueur.'

hand in which he shall no more emulate the baboon on the The minister laughed. "France and England: there trapeze, or the flea on the vaulting bar; that he must 2000 we have them. It will perhaps be an up-hill work to rear abjure the rectangular delights of standing at ninety dean enlightened republic with such caryatides as M. Tartine.” grees to a chair ; that he can no more hang on to a bar by He had got so far in his soliloquy when a silver-chained his toes or the back of his neck; that, in short, he must usher touched him on the arm and handed a card, —"A soon abandon the high pedestal, from which he has hitherlady desires to see your Excellency.”.

to contemned his less fortunate, because flabbier fellowThe card was Mme. de Claire's, who wished for places creatures, is to feel reduced to the level of a retired pugilist, in the strangers' gallery for herself and Miss Lucie. She whose example he may almost as well follow, and open a was in her brougham in the courtyard, and had come very public-house. Henceforth, nothing can effectually assuage bravely dressed in the hope of hearing M. de Ris speak. the melancholy of the ex-gladiator; but such transient So she said, smiling, whilst Mlle. Lucie held out her tiny gleams of sunshine as gild his blighted life are when he is gloved hand. He told them it was too late, for he had in judge or starter at some athletic meeting; but even then all likelihood made his first and last speech as a minister. he feels that he is only a sort of male chaperon, and the “And why?"

reflection is full of bitterness. He explained briefly, and she listened with her large, I do not thus borrow the language of the preacher be. liquid eyes so open that he could see himself in them. He cause I have felt in my own case how bitter it is to retire felt a little ashamed of himself for having so poor an ac- into private life. Personally I am not muscular, nor ever count to give of two months' power. “But it was not power," was. I have always been able to pass a fifty-six pound added he apologetically: “ It has been like stiff plough- weight without the slightest desire to push it up from the ing on a hard land, which I now see is sterile. It is no shoulder; I have always been perfectly continent in the good casting Republican seed there."

matter of dumb-bells and Indian clubs. To scull from the " Oh, if only I had the chance!" she exclaimed, naïvely, barges to Sanford, with an occasional fantasia in a scratch and then checked herself, blushing.

four, was the extent of my powers and the summit of my But the words were out, and he was not slow to profit by ambition. I was rather thinking of - or at-my old college them.

chum, Joe Rullock, with whom I was spending a few days “I might try again,” he said, looking at her, and speak- a short time since. In our old Oxford days, Joe was to me ing cheerfully, yet with earnestness, — "if"— he paused for a sort of self-appointed committee or keeper, considering it a word, and said in a lower voice " if the power wore his mission to interpose his brawny person between ine and made lighter to me by being shared.”

all sorts of imaginary dangers; and so, in course of tine,

[ocr errors]

a

men.

I came to play an academic Phil Squod to his Capt. petticoats! No offence meant to you, you know, because George; I used to steer him to Iffey, to measure his throws you never were strong. But to slip through one's six ages with the hammer, or take his times when he ran at the into the slippered pantaloon by thirty-five! But it's all Marston ground. In short, he loved me because he looked those confounded gymnastics." on me as so helpless and feeble, — though I am not really “ Confounded gymnastics ; ” and from those lips ! I feebler than Dr. Beddoe's average man, - and I loved him could not believe my ears. No. The pope might deny his that he did pity me. I did, indeed, sometimes endeavor to own infallibility, and Bass might advocate a Maine Liquor protest against his mild and benevolent despotism, but Law; but Joe Rullock, the mighty gymnasiarch, the hero of he always calmly waived me off with, “ Pooh! my dear a hundred “ grinds," * the unwearied haunter of the palæsfellow; leave it to me; you know you are not strong." tra, could never give the lie to his whole past life, and deny What made my tame acquiescence in this bondage the his own gymnastics. more ridiculous was, that I was Joe's senior in years and “Come, Joe,” I said, soothingly;" you're riled, old fellow. standing. It was, therefore, but natural that, when I put on You must be chaffing about the gymnastics.” my gown, I should leave my protector behind me.

But “I tell you,” he repeated, with solemn emphasis, “it's this natural course of events annoyed him greatly, and those cursed gymnastics. They bring you into an unnatucaused him as keen a pang as a hen who rears a duck feels ral state of training and muscular development; and the when her protégée takes to the water. But I went my consequence is, that you break down twice as early as other way, and left Joe in a halo of cricket, and long throws, and Look at me : at five and twenty I was a sort of tremendous puts, living a life of incredible hardship on raw Milo; at five and thirty I am a wreck." meat, but perfectly recompensed by his inches round the It was no use trying to argue Joe out of his position ; chest, and his generally lumpy and tuberous condition, and besides, I had no wind to spare for talk, as it was all I the unanimous commendations of the sporting-press. could do to keep up with this poor wreck, striding along at

Ten years elapse between the prologue and the next five miles an hour. But, not being a wreck myself, I soon act. I had been serving my country in India, and Joe had began to exhibit symptoms of distress at this rapid pace, retired to his comfortable patrimony, where he settled down whereon Joe graciously proposed that we should sit on a into a model squire. From time to time reports reached gate and chat. Being anxious to divert him, if possible, me, through Bell's Life, of his prowess in cricket; and occa- from the unhappy train of reflections in which he was evisionally he favored me with a letter. But after a while, dently indulging, I started a hobby that I hoped he would without any diminution of kindly feeling, our correspond- deign to ride. “ Made any long scores lately, Joe?” I ence fell through, and the notices of my friend in the inquired. oracle became rarer and rarer.

At the end of ten years,

I « What at ? ” snapped Joe. came home on leave for twelve months; and I lost no time “ Why, cricket, of course.' in getting to Ashlins, where Joe gave me the warmest of “ Cricket! Do you think a man can make a score with welcomes. He had developed into a magnificent specimen a pot like mine? No, sir; I'm too fleshy for that sort of of an Anglo-Saxon, deep in the chest, broad in the shoul- fun; too fat, sir. Do you know that I weigh fourteen stone ders, firmly set on long, massive thighs, with a full yellow seven ? And what have I to thank for it? Those inferbeard rippling over his honest, serious, sun-browned face. nal gymnastics. They put on great lumps of muscle at His figure, perhaps, was verging on the portly; but, as yet, high pressure, which, directly you return to a natural, norhe was safe from any curter epithet than portly. He wrung mal life, turn to fat." my hand with his old remorselesø gripe, and patted me on I tried to assure the poor fellow that his case, as yet, was the back with the old Oxford air of protection; so that I by no means desperate that he was far from a Banting ; felt at home immediately on the old footing of the feeble but he would not be comforted. dependant. I observed, too, at luncheon, that my friend's “I tell you, I ought to know best, Tom. It has been old prowess with the knife and fork still clung by him. coming upon me some time now. I had long had some Huge slices of beef crumbled beneath his molars, like corn uneasy suspicions on the subject, but I was brought up in a mill; and quart pewters, the trophies of his legs and sharp about two years ago. I was taking a team to play arms, streamed with bright ale. Afterwards, he smoked the opening match of the season with the Sialkshire Hedgehis venerable meerschaum, with that deliberate and grave hogs. Well

, sir, when I came to put on my bags, I found I enjoyment of which none but physically powerful men are had precious hard work to draw them on; my thighs capable. Luncheon over, a walk to the covers was pro- seemed to be in tights, and the buttons altogether refused posed; and we were soon immersed in that discursive chat, to meet. At first, I thought they had shrunk in the wash ; dear to long-parted chums. Unfortunately for our quiet or possibly I had got a pair of my brother's, by mistake. enjoyment, a five-barred gate threw its malignant shadow But when I tried another pair, I found it was still the across our path. I need scarcely say that I had no more same; and then I realized the stern fact, that I was growiinagination apropos of a five-barred gate, than Peter Bell ing a pot. Since then, I have seldom played, except with of a yellow prinırose. And I have my private opinion that our own fellows; and I shall give it up altogether next Joe also had, by this time, got into a way, when alone, of season." walking through gates, when possible, rather than vaulting This failure of my best-meant efforts dismayed me exover them. On the present occasion, however, the associa- cessively, for I saw that I had to deal with a perfect hypotion of ideas, I suppose, was too strong for him; for he put chondriac on the subject of muscular atrophy. He persisted his hand carelessly on the gate, and — struck his knee in regarding himself as a shattered athlete, and was perheavily against the top bar.

petually “ facing the infernal facts," as he phrased it. The “ Foot slipped,” explained Joe; and again he went at slightest thing set hiin off; he would go off on the very the gate, with the same result as before. A shade of faintest scent. For instance, when his eldest boy, as fine a annoyance crossed his face, as if it were a humiliation to lad of eight years old as ever a man called son, was brought have to take a run at such a mere bagatelle as five feet six. in after dinner, I stumbled on the unlucky remark, “that He felt, however, that he had gone too far to recede with he was a perfect little athlete.” Joe was down on me like bonor; so he took a run, and again succeeded in heavily

a knife. banging his knee. The saddening conviction now began to “ Don't talk like a fool, Tom. Do you want to vitiate the dawn on poor Joe's mind, that he could not get over the the

little fellow's mind already? I once caught that gate at all. The truth was horrible, but irresistible ; and boy playing with a dumb-bell, and I gave him a good lickthe moan of the fallen athlete was as touching as Wolsey's ing for it. And if ever,” he continued, sternly fixing the lament to Cromwell. " Oh, hang it ! Tom,” he said, with a boy with his eye, “I catch Joe on the bars, or playing the mournful shake of the head; “ this is too sickening! This tomfool in any such way, I'll skin him! Remember that, is the approach of the sere and yellow with a vengeance. Joe; for I mean it. Gymnastics have caused your poor I give you my word, I once got over six foot seven at Mac's. And now I have to sneak over five foot six like a girl in

poor

** Grinds," college slang for athletic sports.

« ПредишнаНапред »