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   Chapter 5 AT THE CHATEAU DE BRUYERES

Captain Fracasse By Theophile Gautier Characters: 86255

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


The extensive domain of the Marquis de Bruyeres was situated just upon the edge of the Landes, and consisted mostly of productive, highly-cultivated land-the barren sand reaching only to the boundary wall of the great park that surrounded the chateau. An air of prosperity pervaded the entire estate, in pleasing contrast with the desolate region of country close at hand. Outside the park wall was a broad, deep ditch, filled with clear water and spanned by a handsome stone bridge, wide enough for two carriages abreast, which led to the grand entrance gates. These were of wrought iron, and quite a marvel of delicate workmanship and beauty. There was a good deal of gilding about them, and the lofty apex bore a marquis's crown above a shield supported by two naked savages, upon which the de Bruyeres arms were richly emblazoned-it was an entrance worthy of a royal demesne. When our party paused before it, in the course of the morning, a servant in a rich, showy livery was slowly opening the folding leaves of the magnificent gates, so as to admit them into the park. The very oxen hesitated ere they took their slow way through it, as if dazzled by so much splendour, and ashamed of their own homeliness-the honest brutes little suspecting that the wealthy nobleman's pomp and glitter are derived from the industry of the lowly tillers of the soil. It certainly would seem as if only fine carriages and prancing horses should be permitted to pass through such a portal as this, but the chariot of Thespis, no matter how humble, is privileged, and not only enters, but is welcome everywhere.

A broad avenue led from the bridge to the chateau, passing by carefully clipped shrubbery, whence marble statues peeped out here and there, and a beautiful garden, with flower-beds ingeniously laid out in geometrical patterns, and brilliant with well contrasted colours. The narrow walks among them were bordered with box, and strewn with fine sand of various tints, and several little fountains threw up their sparkling jets among the flowers. In the centre of the garden was a magnificent fountain, with a large, oblong, marble basin, and a Triton, on a high pedestal, pouring water from a shell. A row of yews, skilfully trimmed into pyramids, balls, and various fanciful shapes, and placed at regular distances on each side of the grand avenue, extended from the entrance gates to the chateau, their sombre hue contrasting well with the brighter green of the foliage behind them. Everything was in the most perfect order; not a leaf out of place, nor a particle of dust to be seen anywhere, as if the gardeners had just freshly washed and trimmed every tree, shrub, and plant under their care.

All this magnificence astonished and delighted the poor comedians, who rarely gained admission to such an abode as this. Serafina, affecting indifference, but noting everything carefully from under her lowered eye-lashes, promised herself to supplant the soubrette in the marquis's favour, feeling that this great seignior was her own legitimate prey, and ought to have devoted himself to her in the first place, instead of weakly yielding to the vulgar blandishments of the pretty waiting-maid, as he should no longer be permitted to do-if she had any power.

Meanwhile the soubrette, feeling sure of her conquest, had given herself up to castle-building with all the fervour Of her ardent southern nature. Isabelle, who was not preoccupied by any ambitious projects, turned her head now and then to glance and smile tenderly at de Sigognac, who was sitting in the chariot behind her and who she knew must be feeling acutely the painful contrast between this splendid estate and his own desolate, half-ruined chateau. Her loving heart ached for him, and her eyes spoke sweetest sympathy to the poor young nobleman, reduced so low a fortune, yet so worthy of a better fate.

The tyrant was deep in thought, trying to decide how, much he might venture to demand for the services of his troupe, and mentally increasing the amount at every step, as new glories disclosed themselves to his wondering eyes. The pedant was looking forward impatiently to the copious draughts of generous wine he felt sure of enjoying in the splendid chateau that was now in full view, and Leander, striving to smooth his slightly dishevelled locks with a dainty little tortoise-shell pocket-comb, was wondering, with a fluttering heart, whether a fair marquise dwelt within those walls, and would gaze down upon him from one of those windows as he alighted-indulging in high hopes of the impression he should make upon her susceptible heart.

The Chateau de Bruyeres, which had been entirely rebuilt in the preceding reign, was a noble structure, of immense size, three stories in height, and enclosing a large interior court. It was built of red brick, with elaborate, white stone facings. There were many pretty balconies with sculptured stone railings, and large, clear panes of glass-an unusual luxury at that epoch-in the numerous lofty windows, through which the rich hangings within were visible; and a projecting porch, reached by an imposing flight of broad stone steps, in the centre of the facade, marked the main entrance. The high, steep roof was of slate, in several shades, wrought into a quaint, pretty pattern, and the groups of tall chimneys were symmetrically disposed and handsomely ornamented. There was a look of gaiety and luxury about this really beautiful chateau which gave the idea of great prosperity, but not the slightest approach to vulgar pretension. There was nothing meretricious or glaring; everything was substantial and in perfect taste, and an indescribably majestic, dignified air, if we may be allowed the expression, pervaded the whole establishment, which spoke of ancient wealth and nobility under all this modern splendour.

Behind the chateau, its gardens and terraces, was a veritable forest of lofty, venerable trees, forming the magnificent park, which was of great extent, and for centuries had been the pride of the Bruyeres.

Although our high-minded young hero had never been envious of any one in his life, he could not altogether suppress the melancholy sigh with which he remembered that in former years the de Sigognacs had stood higher than the de Bruyeres in the province, and had taken precedence of them at court; nor could he help contrasting in his own mind this fresh, new chateau, replete with every beauty and luxury that a cultivated taste could devise and plentiful wealth procure, with his own desolate, dilapidated mansion-the home of owls and rats-which was gradually but surely crumbling into dust, and a keen pang shot through his heart at the thought. He recalled the dreary, solitary, hopeless life he had led there, and said to himself that the Marquis de Bruyeres ought to be a very happy man, with so much to make his existence delightful. The stopping of the chariot at the foot of the broad stone steps in the front of the chateau aroused him from his reverie; he dismissed as quickly as he could the sad thoughts that had engrossed him, endeavoured to dismiss also the dark shadow from his brow, and jumping lightly to the ground turned and held out his hand to help Isabelle to descend, before any one else could offer her that little service.

The Marquis de Bruyeres, who had seen the chariot advancing slowly up the avenue, stood in the porch to receive them. He was superbly dressed, and looked very handsome, as both Serafina and the soubrette secretly remarked. He descended two or three steps as the chariot stopped, and welcomed his guests with a friendly wave of the hand-doing them as much honour as if they had been of his own rank-which act of courtesy, let us hasten to explain, was because of the Baron de Sigognac's presence among them; but for that they would not have been brought to the main entrance at all.

At this moment the wily soubrette, seeing her opportunity for a bold stroke, prepared to alight; and as de Sigognac was fully occupied with Isabelle, and nobody else thought of paying any attention to her-for she always jumped to the ground as lightly as a bird, disdaining assistance-she hesitated for a moment, with an adorable little air of timidity, and then raised an appealing glance to the marquis. He could not resist it, and, rushing down the steps to her aid, held out both hands to her. With wonderful art the clever little actress managed to slip and lose her balance, so as to fall into his extended arms, clasping him around the neck as she did so.

"Pardon me, my lord," said she, breathlessly, to the marquis, feigning a confusion she was far from really feeling, "I thought I was going to fall, and grasped your collar, just as a drowning man clutches at the nearest object. A fall is a bad omen, you know, as well as a serious matter, for a poor actress."

"Permit me to look upon this little accident as a favour," the marquis replied, giving her a most significant glance, and lightly pressing her yielding form in his arms before he released her.

Serafina had watched this little by-play out of the corner of her eye, though her face was apparently turned away from them, and she bit her lip till it bled, with vexation; so after all the soubrette had succeeded, by an abominably bold action, in compelling the marquis to neglect her betters and give his warmest welcome to a low intrigante, said the "leading lady" to herself, swelling with righteous indignation, and abusing the offender roundly in her thoughts-wishing that she could do it aloud, and expose her outrageous, unmannerly artifice.

"Jean," said the marquis to a servant in livery who stood near, "have this chariot taken into the court, and see that the decorations, scenery, etc., are carefully put in some convenient place; have the luggage of these ladies and gentlemen carried to the rooms that I ordered to be made ready for them, and take care that they have everything they want;" then in a lower tone, but very emphatically, "I desire that they should be treated with the utmost courtesy and respect."

These orders being given, the marquis gravely ascended the steps, followed by the comedians, and having consigned them to his major-domo to show them to their respective rooms and make them comfortable, he gracefully bowed and left them; darting an admiring glance at the soubrette as he did so, which she acknowledged by a radiant smile, that Serafina, raging inwardly, pronounced "abominably bold."

The chariot meantime had made its way into a back court, accompanied by the tyrant, the pedant and Scapin, who superintended the unloading of the various articles that would be needed-a strange medley, which the supercilious servants of the chateau, in their rich liveries, handled with a very lofty air of contempt and condescension, feeling it quite beneath their dignity to wait upon a band of strolling players. But they dared not rebel, for the marquis had ordered it, and he was a severe master, as well as a very generous one.

The major-domo, however, conducted his charges to their appointed chambers with as profound an air of respect as if they had been real princes and princesses; for the marquis himself had visited the left wing of the chateau, where they were to be lodged, had specified the room for each guest, and ordered that they should want for nothing-a very unusual proceeding on his part, as he was in the habit of leaving all such minor details to his trusty major-domo. A beautiful chamber, hung with tapestry which represented the loves of Cupid and Psyche, was given to the soubrette, the pretty, dainty, blue one to Isabelle, and the luxurious red one to Serafina, whilst the more sober brown one was assigned to the duenna. The Baron de Sigognac was installed in a magnificent apartment, whose panelled walls were covered with richly embossed Spanish leather. It was close to Isabelle's room-a delicate attention on the part of the marquis. This superb chamber was always reserved for his most honoured guests, and in giving it to our young hero he desired to testify that he recognised and appreciated his rank, though he religiously respected his incognito.

When de Sigognac was left alone, and at liberty to think over quietly the odd situation in which he found himself, he looked at his magnificent surroundings with surprise as well as admiration-for he had never in his life seen, or even imagined, such splendour and luxury. The rich glowing colours of the chimerical flowers and foliage embossed on a golden ground of the Spanish leather on the walls, the corresponding tints in the frescoed ceiling and the heavy, silken hangings at the windows and doors and round the bed, the elaborately carved and gilded furniture, the luxurious easy-chairs and sofas, the large mirrors with bevelled edges, and the dainty dressing-table, lavishly furnished with all the accessories of the toilet, with its oval glass draped with lace which was tied back with knots of gay ribbon, certainly did make up a charming whole, and the wood fire burning brightly in the open fireplace gave a cheerful, cosy air to it all.

Our poor young baron blushed painfully as he caught sight of his own figure in one of the long mirrors-his shabby, ill-fitting clothes looked so sadly out of place amidst all this magnificence-and for the first time in his life he felt ashamed of his poverty. Highly unphilosophical this, but surely excusable in so young a man as our hero. With a natural desire to improve his forlorn appearance if he could, he unpacked the scanty supply of clothing that his faithful Pierre had put up for him-hoping that he might come across something a little less thread-bare than the suit he actually had on his back-but the inspection was not satisfactory, and he groaned as he discarded one faded, shabby garment after another. The linen was not any better-worn so that it was thin everywhere, with numerous darns and patches, and many holes, he could not find a single shirt that was whole and in good condition. He was so absorbed in this melancholy inspection that he did not hear a low knock at the door, nor notice that it was slowly pushed open, having been already ajar, to admit the stout person of Blazius, who approached him with many bows and flourishes, though entirely unobserved. When the pedant reached his side de Sigognac was just holding up before him a shirt that had as many openings as the rose window of a cathedral, and slowly shaking his head as he gazed at it, with an expression of utter discouragement.

"Body of Bacchus!" exclaimed the pedant-his voice, so close at hand, startling the astonished baron, who had believed himself alone, and safe from intrusion-"that shirt has verily a valiant and triumphant air. It looks as if it had been worn by Mars himself in battle, so riddled has it been by lances, spears, darts, arrows, and I know not what besides. Don't be ashamed of it, Baron!-these holes are honourable to you. Many a shirt of fine linen, ruffled and embroidered, according to the latest fashion, disguises the graceless person of some rascally parvenu-and usurer as well perhaps-who usurps the place of his betters. Several of the great heroes, of immortal fame, had not a shirt to their backs-Ulysses, for example, that wise and valiant man, who presented himself before the beautiful Princess Nausicaa, with no other covering than a bunch of sea-weed-as we are told, in the Odyssey, by the grand old bard, Homer."

"Unfortunately," de Sigognac replied, "there is no point of resemblance, my dear Blazius, between me and the brave King of Ithaca, save the lack of linen. I have done no deeds of valour to shed a lustre over MY poverty. I have had no chance to make myself famous, and I fear that the poets will never celebrate my praises in glowing hexameters. But, jesting aside, I must confess that I do feel greatly annoyed at being forced to appear in this guise here. The Marquis de Bruyeres recognised me, though he made no sign, and he may betray my secret."

"It is a pity," said the pedant in reply, "but there's a remedy for every ill under the sun, save death, according to the old saying, and if you will permit me, I think that I can help you out of this awkward dilemma. We, poor players, shadows of real men and women, phantoms of personages of every degree, from the highest to the lowest, have the means necessary for assuming almost any character, you know. As 'costumier' of the troupe I am accustomed to make all sorts of transformations, and can turn a miserable vagabond into an Alexander, or a vulgar wench into a princess. Now, if you are not too proud, I will exercise my poor skill in your lordship's service. Since you have been willing to join our company for this journey, do not disdain to make use of our resources, such as they are, and put aside these ill-fitting garments, which disguise your natural advantages, and make you feel ill at ease. Most fortunately I happen to have in reserve a handsome suit of black velvet, which has not the least of a theatrical air about it, and has never been used; any gentleman could wear it, and unless I am much mistaken it will fit you capitally. I have also the fine linen shirt, silk stockings, shoes-with broad buckles, and cloak to go with it-there is nothing wanting, not even the sword."

"Oh! as to that," cried de Sigognac, with a gesture expressive of all that pride of birth which no misfortunes could crush, "I have my father's sword."

"True," answered Blazius, "and guard it sacredly, my lord! for a sword is a faithful friend-defender of its master's life and honour. IT does not abandon him in times of peril and disaster, like the false friends who cling only to prosperity. Our stage swords have neither edge nor point, for they are only intended for show; the wounds they make disappear suddenly when the curtain falls, without the aid of the surgeon with his instruments and lint. That trusty sword of yours you can depend upon in any emergency, and I have already seen it doing good service in our behalf. But permit me to go and fetch the things I spoke of; I am impatient to see the butterfly emerge from the chrysalis."

Having thus spoken, in the theatrical way that had become habitual with him, the worthy pedant quitted the room, and soon reappeared, carrying a large package, which he deposited on the table in the centre of the chamber.

"If your lordship will accept an old actor as valet-de-chambre," he said, rubbing his hands joyfully together, "I will beautify you in no time. All the ladies will be sure to fall in love with you, for-with no disrespect to the larder at the Chateau de Sigognac be it said-you have fasted so much in your lonely life there that it has made you most interestingly slender and pale-just what the dear creatures delight in. They would not listen to a word from a stout lover, even if the diamonds and pearls of the fairy tale dropped from his lips whenever he spoke. That is the sole reason for my want of success with the fair sex, and I long ago deserted the shrine of Venus for the worship of Bacchus. A big paunch is not amiss among the devotees of that merry god, for it bears witness to plentiful libations."

Thus running on gaily, the worthy pedant strove to amuse the melancholy young nobleman, while he deftly performed his duties as valet; and they were very quickly completed, for the requirements of the stage necessitate great dexterity on the part of the actors to make the metamorphoses frequently needed with sufficient promptness and rapidity. Charmed with the result of his efforts he led de Sigognac up to one of the large mirrors, wherein, upon raising his eyes, he saw a figure which, at the first glance, he thought must be that of some person who had entered the room without his knowledge, and turned to ask who the intruder was-but there was no stranger there, and he discovered that it was his own reflection-so changed that he was mute with astonishment. A young, handsome, richly-dressed de Sigognae stood before him, and a radiant smile parted his lips and lighted up his face as he gazed at his own image, which perfected the really marvellous transformation. Blazius, standing near, contemplated his work with undisguised pride and satisfaction, changing his position several times so as to get different views, as a sculptor might who had just put the finishing touches to his statue altogether to his liking.

"When you have made your way at court, my lord, and regained the position held by your ancestors, as I hope and expect that you will do, I shall pray you to give me a refuge for my old age in your household, and make me intendant of your lordship's wardrobe," said he, with a profound bow to the baron.

"I will not forget your request, my good Blazius, even though I fear that I shall never be able to comply with it," de Sigognae answered with a melancholy smile. "You, my kind friend, are the first human being that has ever asked a favour of me."

"After our dinner, which we are to have very shortly, we are to consult with his lordship, the marquis, as to what play shall be given this evening, and learn from him where we are to rig our theatre. You will pass for the poet of the troupe; it is by no means an unheard-of thing for men of learning and position to join a band of players thus-either for the fun of the thing, and in hope of adventures, or for the love of a young and beautiful actress. I could tell you of several notable instances; and it is thought to be rather to a man's credit than otherwise in fashionable circles. Isabelle is a very good pretext for you; she is young, beautiful, clever, modest, and virtuous. In fact many an actress who takes like her the role of the ingenuous young girl is in reality all that she personates, though a frivolous and frequently licentious public will not credit it for a moment."

Herewith the pedant discreetly retired, having accomplished, to his great satisfaction, what he had really feared to propose to the young baron, for whom he had conceived a very warm affection.

Meanwhile the elegant Leander, indulging in delightful dreams of the possible fair chatelaine who was to fall a victim to his charms, was making his careful toilet-arraying himself in his most resplendent finery, scrupulously kept for grand occasions-convinced that great good fortune awaited him, and determined to carry the noble lady's heart by storm.

As to the actresses, to whom the gallant marquis, with princely munificence, had sent several pieces of rich stuffs and silks, it is needless to say that they spared no pains to make themselves as charming as possible, and obeyed the summons to dinner radiant with smiles and in high good humour-excepting indeed the fair Serafina, who was inwardly consumed with envy and spite, but careful to conceal it from all beholders.

The marquis, who was of an ardent, impatient nature, made his appearance in the dining-room before they had quite finished the sumptuous repast which had been served to them; he would not allow them to rise, but seated himself at the table with them, and when the last course had been removed, asked the tyrant to be good enough to give him a list of the plays they were in the habit of acting, so that he might select one for the evening's entertainment. But so many were enumerated that his lordship found it not easy to make a choice, and expressed his desire to have the tyrant's ideas upon the subject.

"There is one piece we often play," Herode said, "which never fails to please, and is so full of good-natured fun and nonsense that it keeps the audience in a roar of laughter from the beginning to the end."

"Let us have that one, by all means," the marquis exclaimed; "and pray what is the name of this delightful play?"

"The Rodomontades of Captain Matamore."

"A capital title, upon my word! and has the soubrette a good part in it?" asked his lordship, with a languishing glance at her.

"The most racy, mischievous role imaginable," said Herode warmly, "and she plays it to perfection-it is her chef d'oeuvre. She is always applauded to the echo in it."

At this high praise from the manager, Zerbine-for such was the soubrette's name-tried her best to get up a becoming blush, but in vain. Modesty she had none, and the tint she would fain have called into requisition at that moment was not contained in any of her numerous rouge-pots. So she cast down her eyes, thereby displaying to advantage the length and thickness of her jet-black lashes, and raised her hand with a deprecating gesture, which called attention to its pretty, taper fingers and rosy nails. The marquis watched he admiringly, and she certainly was very charming in her way. He did not vouchsafe even a glance to the other two young actresses-refraining from testifying any marked admiration for Isabelle because of the prior claim of the Baron de Sigognac-though he was secretly very much delighted with her sweet, refined style of beauty, and the quiet dignity and grace of her deportment. Serafina, who was naturally indignant that the marquis had not even asked if there was a part for her in the piece to be performed, accused him in her heart of being no gentleman, and of having very low, vulgar tastes, but she was the only one of the party that felt any dissatisfaction.

Before the marquis left them he said to Herode, "I have given orders to have the orangery cleared so that our theatre can be arranged there; they are carrying planks, trestles, benches, hangings, and all other needful articles in there now. Will you kindly superintend the workmen, who are new to this sort of business? They will obey your orders as they would my own."

Accordingly the tyrant, Blazius and Scapin repaired to the orangery, which was at a little distance from the chateau and admirably calculated for the purpose it was now to serve, and where they found everything necessary to convert it into a temporary theatre.

Whilst this work is going forward we will make our amiable, indulgent readers acquainted with the fair mistress of the chateau-having heretofore forgotten to mention that the Marquis de Bruyeres was a married man; he thought of it so seldom himself that we may surely be pardoned for this omission. As can be readily imagined, from our last remark, love had not been the moving cause in this union. Adjoining estates, which, united in one, formed a noble domain, and equality of rank had been the chief considerations. After a very brief honeymoon, during which they had become painfully aware of a total want of congeniality, the marquis and marquise-like well-bred people, making no outcry about their matrimonial failure-had tacitly agreed to live amicably under the same roof, but entirely independent of each other-he to go his way and she hers, with perfect freedom. They always treated each other in public, and indeed whenever they chanced to meet, with the greatest courtesy, and might easily have been mistaken by a casual observer for an unusually happy and united pair. Mme. la Marquise occupied a sumptuous suite of apartments in the chateau, which her husband never thought of entering without first sending to ascertain whether it would be convenient for madame to receive him, like a formal visitor. But we will avail ourselves of the time-honoured privilege of authors, and make our way into the noble chatelaine's bed-chamber, without any form or ceremony-feeling sure of not disturbing its fair occupant, since the writer of a romance wears upon his finger the wonder-working ring of Gyges, which renders him invisible.

It was a large, lofty room, hung with superb tapestry representing the adventures of Apollo, and exhibiting every luxury that wealth could procure. Here also a bright wood fire was, burning cheerily, and the Marquise de Bruyeres sat before her dressing table, with two maids in attendance upon her, absorbed in the all-important business of putting the finishing touches to her extremely becoming as well as effective toilet. Mme. la Marquise was a handsome brunette, whose embonpoint, which had succeeded to the slender outline of early youth, had added to her beauty; her magnificent black hair, which was one of her ladyship's greatest charms, was dressed in the most elaborate fashion-an intricate mass of glossy braids, puffs and curls, forming a lofty structure, and ornamented with a large bow of crimson ribbon, while one long curl fell upon her fair neck, making it look all the whiter by contrast. Her dress of crimson silk, cut very low, displayed to advantage-the plump, dimpled shoulders, and her snowy bosom, and from a band of black velvet round her throat was suspended a heart-shaped locket, set with superb rubies and brilliants. A white satin petticoat covered with priceless old lace, over which the crimson silk gown, open in front, was looped high upon the hips, and then swept back in a long, ample, richly trimmed train, completed the elegant toilet of Mme. la Marquise. Jeanne, the favourite maid and confidante, held open the box of tiny black, "muoches"-without which no fashionable lady of that epoch considered herself fully equipped-while the marquise placed one, with most happy effect, near the corner of her rather pretty mouth, and then hesitated some time before she could decide where to put the other, which she held ready on the tip of her forefinger. The two maids stood motionless, breathlessly watching their mistress, as if fully impressed with the importance of this grave question, until at last the little black star found a resting-place just above the edge of the crimson silk bodice, to the left-indicating, in the accepted hieroglyphics of that age of gallantry, that he who aspired to the lips of the fair wearer must first win her heart.

After a last lingering look in the mirror Mme. la Marquise rose and walked slowly towards the fire, but suddenly, remembering that there was yet one adornment wanting, turned back, and took from a beautiful casket standing open on the toilet-table, a large, thick watch-called in those days a Nuremberg egg-which was curiously enamelled in a variety of bright colours, and set with brilliants. It hung from a short, broad chain of rich workmanship, which she hooked into her girdle, near another chain of the same description, from which depended a small hand-mirror in a pretty gold frame.

"Madame is looking her loveliest to-day," said Jeanne in flattering tones; "her hair is dressed to perfection, and her gown fits like a glove."

"Do you really think so?" asked her mistress languidly, and with affected indifference. "It seems to me, on the contrary, that I am positively hideous. My eyes are sunken, and this colour makes me look immensely stout. I have half a mind to exchange this dress for a black one now. What do you think, Jeanne? Black makes people look slender, they say."

"If madame insists upon it I can quickly make the exchange; but it would be a sad pity not to wear such an elegant and becoming costume as madame has on now."

"Well, let it be then; but it will be all your fault, Jeanne, if I fail to receive as much admiration as usual this evening. Do you know whether the marquis has invited many people to come and see this play?"

"Yes, madame, several messengers have been sent off on horseback in different directions, and there will be sure to be a large gathering-they will come from all the chateaux within driving distance-for such an occasion as this is rare, here in the depths of the country."

"You are right," said Mme. la Marquise, with a deep sigh, which was almost a groan; "we are buried alive in this dreary place. And what about these players?-have you seen them, Jeanne?-are there any handsome young actors among them?"

"I have only had a glimpse of them, madame, and such people are so painted and fixed up, they say, that it is hard to tell what they really do look like; but there was one slender young man, with long, black curls and a very good figure, who had quite a grand air."

"That must be the lover, Jeanne, for it is always the best looking young actor in the troupe who takes that part. It would be ridiculous, you know, to have a stout old codger, or a very ugly man, or even an awkward one, making declarations of love, and going down on their knees, and all that sort of thing-it would not do at all, Jeanne!"

"No, madame, it would not be very nice," said the maid with a merry laugh, adding shrewdly, "and although it seems to make very little difference what husbands may be like, lovers should always be everything that is charming."

"I confess that I have a weakness for those stage gallants," Mme. la Marquise said with a little sigh, "they are so handsome, and so devoted-they always use such beautiful language, and make such graceful gestures-they are really irresistible. I cannot help feeling vexed when their impassioned appeals are received coldly, and they are driven to despair, as so often happens in plays; I would like to call them to me and try to console them, the bewitching creatures!"

"That is because madame has such a kind heart that she can't bear to see any one suffer without trying to help and comfort them," said the specious Jeanne. "Now I am of quite a different mind-nothing I would like better than to flout a sentimental suitor; fine words would not gain any favour with me-I should distrust them."

"Oh! you don't understand the matter, Jeanne! You have not read as many romances, or seen as many plays as I have. Did you say that young actor was very handsome?"

"Mme. la Marquise can judge for herself," answered the maid, who had gone to the window, "for he is just crossing the court this blessed minute, on his way to the orangery, where they are rigging up their theatre."

Mme. la Marquise hastened to the window, and there was Leander in full view, walking along slowly, apparently lost in thought, and wearing a tender, sad expression, which he considered especially effective and interesting-as we have said, he never for a moment forgot his role. As he drew near he looked up, as by a sudden inspiration, to the very window where the marquise stood watching him, and instantly taking off his hat with a grand flourish, so that its long feather swept the ground, made a very low obeisance, such as courtiers make to a queen; then drew himself up proudly to his full height, and darting an ardent glance of admiration and homage at the beautiful unknown, put on his broad felt hat again and went composedly on his way. It was admirably well done; a genuine cavalier, familiar with all the gallant usages in vogue at court, could not have acquitted himself better. Flattered by this mark of respect for her rank and admiration of her beauty, so gracefully tendered, Mme. la Marquise could not help acknowledging it by a slight bend of the head, and a little half suppressed smile. These favourable signs did not escape Leander, who, with his usual self-conceit, took a most exaggerated view of their import. He did not for a moment doubt that the fair mistress of the chateau-for he took it for granted it was she-had fallen violently in love with him, then and there; he felt sure that he had read it in her eyes and her smile. His heart beat tumultuously; he trembled with excitement; at last it had come! the dream of his life was to be accomplished; he, the poor, strolling player, had won the heart of a great lady; his fortune was made! He got through the rehearsal to which he had been summoned as best he might, and the instant it was over hastened back to his own room, to indite an impassioned appeal to his new divinity, and devise some means to insure its reaching her that same evening.

As everything was in readiness the play was to begin as soon as the invited guests had all assembled. The orangery had been transformed into a charming little theatre, and was brilliantly lighted by many clusters of wax candles. Behind the spectators the orange trees had been arranged in rows, rising one above the other, and filled the air with their delicious fragrance. In the front row of seats, which was composed of luxurious arm-chairs, were to be seen the beautiful Yolande de Foix, the Duchesse de Montalban, the Baronne d'Hagemeau, the Marquise de Bruyres, and many other titled dames, resplendent in gorgeous array, and vying with each other in magnificence and beauty. Rich velvets, brilliant satins, cloth of silver and gold, misty laces, gay ribbons, white feathers, tiaras of diamonds, strings of pearls, superb jewels, glittering in delicate shell-like ears, on white necks and rounded arms, were in profusion, and the scene would have graced the court itself. If the surpassingly lovely Yolande de Foix had not been present, several radiant mortal goddesses in the exceptionally brilliant assemblage might have made it difficult for a Paris to decide between their rival claims to the golden apple; but her beauty eclipsed them all, though it was rather that of the haughty Diana than the smiling Venus. Men raved about her, declared her irresistible, worshipped at her shrine, but never dared aspire to her love; one scornful glance from her cold blue eyes effectually extinguished any nascent hope, and the cruel beauty punished presumption as relentlessly, and won and flung away hearts with as much nonchalance, as ever did her immortal prototype, the fair goddess of the chase.

How was this exquisite creature dressed? It would require more sang-froid than we are possessed of to venture upon a description of her perfect toilet; her raiment floated about her graceful form like a luminous cloud, in which one could think only of herself; we believe, however, that there were clusters of pearls nestling amid the bright curls that made an aureola-a veritable golden glory-about her beautiful head.

Behind these fair ladies sat or stood the nobles and gentlemen who had the honour of being their fathers, husbands, and brothers. Some were leaning forward to whisper soft nothings and dainty compliments into willing ears, others lounging and fanning themselves lazily with their broad felt hats, and others still standing in the background looking admiringly at the pretty group before them. The hum of conversation filled the air, and a slight impatience was just beginning to manifest itself among the waiting audience, when the traditional three knocks were heard, and all suddenly subsided into silence.

The curtain rose slowly and revealed a very pretty scene representing a public square where several streets met, surrounded by picturesque houses with small latticed windows, overhanging gables, high peaked roofs, and smoke curling upwards from the slender chimneys against the blue sky.

One of these houses had a practicable door and window, whilst two of those in the side scenes enjoyed equal advantages, and one of them was furnished with a balcony. A few trees were scattered about in front of the houses, and, though the painting was not of the highest order of scenic art, the general effect was very good, and won a round of applause from the aristocratic audience. The piece opens with a quarrel between the testy old bourgeois, Pandolphe, and his daughter, Isabelle, who, being in love with a handsome young suitor, obstinately refuses to obey her father's commands and marry a certain Captain Matamore, with whom he is perfectly infatuated. She is ably supported in her resistance by her pretty maid, Zerbine, who is well paid by Leander, the favoured lover, to espouse his cause. To all the curses and abuse that Pandolphe showers upon her, she answers gaily with the most exasperating and amusing impertinences, advising him to marry this fine captain himself if he is so fond of him; as for her part she will never suffer her dear, beautiful mistress to become the wife of that horrid old codger, that abominable bully, that detestable scarecrow! Whereupon Pandolphe, furiously angry, orders her into the house, so that he may speak to his daughter alone; and when she refuses to obey, and defies him to make her, he takes her by the shoulders and attempts to force her to go, but she, bending forward with admirable elasticity, from the waist only, at each vigorous effort of his, stands her ground and does not budge one inch from her place, breaking into peals of laughter at every fresh attempt, and accompanying it all with an irresistibly saucy, comical by-play, that wins her round after round of enthusiastic applause-whilst the Marquis de Bruyeres, enchanted with her spirited acting, congratulates himself anew upon the happy chance that threw this charming creature in his way.

Another character now enters upon the scene, looking cautiously about him at every step, as if he feared an unpleasant surprise. This is Leander, the horror of fathers, husbands, and guardians, the delight of wives, daughters, and wards-in one word, the lover-the very beau-ideal of a lover; young, handsome, ardent, ready for anything, winning over strict old duennas, bribing pert waiting-maids, climbing up rope-ladders, overcoming every obstacle to reach the fair mistress of his affections, and kneeling at her feet to pour out burning protestations of love and devotion, that no mortal woman could ever resist. Suddenly perceiving that Pandolphe is here, where he only expected to find Isabelle, Leander stops and throws himself into an attitude, which he has frequently practised before the mirror, and which, he flatters himself, shows his handsome person to great advantage; standing with his weight thrown upon the left leg, the right one advanced and slightly bent at the knee; one hand on the hilt of his sword, the other stroking his chin, so as to make the big diamond on his finger flash in the light, and a slight smile playing about his lips. He really did look very handsome as he stood there, and was greatly admired by all the ladies-even the haughty Yolande herself not disdaining to smile upon him approvingly. Profiting by the opportunity that this pause gave him, Leander fixed his eyes upon the Marquise de Bruyeres, with such a look of passionate entreaty and admiration that she blushed crimson in spite of herself under his ardent gaze; then he turned reluctantly towards Isabelle, with an absent, indifferent air, which he intended should indicate to the fair object of his aspirations the difference between real and simulated passion.

When Pandolphe becomes aware of the presence of Leander he is more furious than ever, and hustles his daughter and her maid into the house as quickly as possible, not, however, without Zerbine's finding means to take from Leander a note for Isabelle, which she slips into the pocket of her coquettish little apron. The young man, left alone with the irate father, assures him in the most respectful manner that his intentions are honourable; that he asks the hand of his fair daughter in marriage; that he is of gentle birth, has an ample fortune, and is in high favour at court

; that nothing could ever induce him to give up Isabelle; he is ready to risk everything to win her, for he loves her better than his life-delicious words, which the young girl listens to with rapture from her balcony, whence she makes little signs of approval and encouragement to her lover, quite unknown to the stern father, whose back is turned to her, and who believes her safely locked up in the house. Despite the mellifluous eloquence of the ardent young suitor Pandolphe remains obstinate and unmoved, and swears, by all the gods that either he will have Captain Matamore for his son-in-law, or his refractory daughter shall be shut up in a convent and forced to become a nun. Off he bustles in hot haste to find a notary and have the contract of marriage drawn without further delay.

As soon as he is out of sight Leander tries to persuade Isabelle-who is still in her balcony, her father having carried off the key of the street door in his pocket-to consent to fly from such persecution, and accompany him to the cell of a certain holy hermit whom he knows, and who is always willing and ready to marry runaway couples like themselves, whose loves are thwarted by tyrannical parents. But the young girl answers modestly, yet firmly, that, although she wishes nothing so earnestly as to be permitted to bestow her hand upon her faithful Leander, who already has her heart, she cannot disobey her father, for that she, like all dutiful daughters, is in duty bound to respect and submit to the commands of the author of her being; but she promises never to marry the detested Captain Matamore-she will go into the convent rather than listen to him for a moment. Unable to shake her decision Leander then retires to devise plans, with the aid of his clever valet, to overcome the formidable obstacles in his way-more than ever determined not to give up the fair Isabelle, and promising her to return in the evening and report progress.

Isabelle retires from her balcony and closes her window, and a moment after Captain Matamore strides fiercely upon the stage-his appearance is greeted with peals of laughter-his tall, attenuated figure is encased in an absurd costume, in which the bright red and yellow stripes of his tunic meet in points in front and behind, whilst they run spirally round his long, thin arms and legs, producing the most preposterously comical effect imaginable; a stiffly-starched ruff, immensely broad, encircles his neck, upon which his head seems to be set, like that of John the Baptist on the charger; a large felt hat, turned up at one side, and ornamented with a huge tuft of red and yellow feathers, is stuck jauntily on his head, and a short cloak of the same colour, fastened round his neck and thrown back from his shoulders, floats behind him. He wears an enormous sword, whose heavily weighted hilt keeps the point always raised and standing out prominently behind him, whilst from it dangles a clever imitation of a spider's web-a convincing proof of how much he is in the habit of making use of this formidable weapon. Closely followed by his valet, Scapin, who is in imminent danger of having an eye put out by the end of his master's big sword, he marches several times around the stage, taking preternaturally long strides, rolling his eyes about fiercely, twisting the long ends of his huge mustache, and indulging in a variety of ridiculous gestures indicative of exaggerated rage and fury, which are irresistibly funny-all the more so because there is nothing whatever to provoke this display of ferocity. Finally he stops in front of the footlights, strikes an attitude, and delivers himself thus: "For to-day, Scapin, I am willing to let my man-killer here have a little rest, so that there may be an opportunity to get all its recent victims decently buried, in the cemeteries I contribute so largely towards filling. When a man has performed such feats of courage and carnage as I have-killing my hundreds single-handed, while my dastardly comrades trembled with fear, or turned and fled from the foe-to say nothing of my daily affairs of honour, now that the wars are over-he may assuredly indulge himself occasionally in milder amusements. Besides, the whole civilized world, having now been subjugated by my good sword, no longer offers any resistance to my indomitable arm, and Atropos, the eldest of the dread Parcae sisters, has sent word to me that the fatal scissors, with which she cuts the threads of human lives, have become so dulled by the great amount of work my trusty blade has given her to do with them, that she has been obliged to send them to Vulcan to be sharpened, and she begs for a short respite. So you see, Scapin, I must put force upon myself and restrain my natural ardour-refrain for a time from wars, massacres, sacking of cities, stand-up fights with giants, killing of monsters and dragons, like Theseus and Hercules of glorious memory, and all the other little pastimes which usually occupy my good sword and me. I will take my ease now for a brief period, and Death may enjoy a short rest too. But to whom did my worthy prototype, Mars, the great god of war, devote HIS leisure hours? in whose sweet society did HE find delight? Ask Venus, the immortal goddess of love and beauty, who had the good taste to prefer a warlike man to all others, and lent a willing ear to the suit of my valiant predecessor. So I, following his illustrious example, condescend to turn my attention for the moment to the tender sex, and pay my court to the fair Isabelle, the young and beautiful object of my ardent love. Being aware that Cupid, with all his assurance, would not dare to aim one of his golden-tipped arrows at such an all-conquering hero as my unworthy self, I have given him a little encouragement; and, in order that the shaft may penetrate to the generous lion's heart that beats in this broad breast, I have laid aside the world-famed coat of mail-made of the rings given to me by goddesses, empresses, queens, infantas, princesses, and great ladies of every degree, my illustrious admirers the world over-which is proof against all weapons, and has so often saved my life in my maddest deeds of daring."

"All of which signifies," interrupts the valet, who had listened to this high-blown tirade with ill-concealed impatience, "as far as my feeble intellect can comprehend such magnificent eloquence, that your most redoubtable lordship has fallen in love with some young girl hereabouts, like any ordinary mortal."

"Really, Scapin," says Matamore, with good-humoured condescension, "you have hit the nail upon the head-you are not so stupid after all, for a valet. Yes, I have fallen in love, but do not imagine for a moment that my courage will suffer diminution on that account. It was all very well for Samson to allow his hair to be cut off, and for Alcides to handle the distaff at the bidding of his mistress; but Delilah would not have dared to touch one hair of my head, and Omphale should have pulled off my boots for me-at the least sign of revolt I would have given her worse to do: cleaning the skin of the Nemaean lion, for instance, when I brought it home all fresh and bleeding, just as I had torn it from the quivering carcass. The thought that has lately occurred to me, that I have subjugated only half of the human race, is humiliating. Women, by reason of their weakness, escape me; I cannot treat them as I do my masculine opponents-cut their throats, run them through the body, or hew off their arms and legs; I must lay siege to their hearts, and conquer them in that way. It is true that I have stormed and taken a greater number of such fair citadels than there are drops of water in the ocean, or stars in the sky-why, I sleep on a mattress stuffed with thousands of beautiful curls and tresses of every shade, light and dark, golden and jet-black, which are among my most treasured trophies. Juno herself has made overtures to me, but I turned a deaf ear to her blandishments, finding her charms rather too ripe for my taste; I prefer the first flush of youthful beauty; it is a pure and innocent maiden that I would honour with my notice now, but she repulses me-that I should live to say it!-she dares to repulse me. I cannot permit such an impertinence on her part, and the fair Isabelle must humbly sue to me for pardon, and herself bringing the golden keys of the citadel of her heart, upon a salver of silver, offer them to me upon her bended knees, with streaming eyes and dishevelled tresses, begging for grace and favour in my sight. Go now, and summon the fortress to surrender-this house contains the rebellious fair."

But doors and windows remain inexorably closed, and no notice is taken of the valet's thundering knocks and mocking summons to surrender; secure in the strength of their bolts and bars, the garrison, which consists of Isabelle and her maid, vouchsafes no reply. Matamore, becoming more enraged at each vain attempt to gain a response from his fair enemy, stamps about the stage, roaring out his defiance, threatening to sack and burn the place, pouring out volleys of remarkable oaths, and lashing himself into such a fury that he actually foams at the mouth. When his valet at length, after many vain efforts, is able to gain a hearing, and tells him of his formidable rival, Leander, and how he has already won the lady's heart, all his rage is turned against that fortunate suitor, of whom he vows that he will make mince-meat as soon as he can lay hands on him. At this very moment Leander himself returns, and Scapin points him out to his master as he approaches, adding that he will keep a sharp look-out for the police while Matamore is giving him his quietus. But the cowardly braggadocio would fain withdraw, now that the enemy is actually in sight, and is only restrained from flight by his servant, who pushes him forward directly in Leander's path.

Seeing that escape is impossible, Matamore settles his hat firmly on his head, twists the long ends of his mustache, puts his hand on the hilt of his big sword, and advances threateningly towards Leander-but it is pure bravado, for his teeth are chattering with fear, and his long, thin legs waver and tremble under him visibly, like reeds shaken by the wind. Only one hope remains to him-that of intimidating Leander by loud threats and ferocious gestures, if, by a happy chance, he be a fellow of his own kidney. So in a terrible voice he addresses him thus: "Sir, do you know that I am the great Captain Matamore of the celebrated house of Cuerno de Cornazan, and allied to the no less illustrious family of Escobombardon de la Papirontonda? I am a descendant, on my mother's side, of the famous Antacus, the ancient hero and giant."

"Well, you may be a descendant of the man in the moon for all that I care," answers Leander, with a disdainful shrug of the shoulders; "what the devil have I to do with such absurd stuff and nonsense?"

"Blood and bones! thunder and Mars! You see, sir, you shall see, and that very quickly, what you have to do with it, unless you take yourself off in the twinkling of an eye. I will give you one minute's grace, for your extreme youth touches me, so take to your heels and fly while there is yet time. Observe me well! I am the terror of the whole world-my path is marked with graves-my own shadow scarcely dares to follow me into the perils I delight in. If I enter a besieged city, it is by the breach-when I quit it I pass under a triumphal arch; if I cross a river, it is one of blood, and the bridge is made of the bodies of my adversaries. I can toss a knight and his horse, both, weighted with armour, high into the air. I can snap elephants' bones, as you would pipe-stems. When great Mars himself chances to meet me on the battle-field he turns and flees, dreading the weight of my arm. My prowess is so well known, and the terror I inspire so great, that no one dares to meet me face to face, and I never see anything but the backs of my retreating foes."

"Is it so? well, you shall meet ME face to face. Take THAT, and see how you like it!" says Leander laughing merrily, and giving him a sounding slap on one cheek which almost knocks the poor devil over, and is instantly followed by an equally hearty one on the other, to restore his equilibrium.

During this scene Isabelle and Zerbine come out upon the balcony. The mischievous soubrette goes into convulsions of laughter, whilst her mistress nods encouragingly to Leander. Meantime Pandolphe, accompanied by the notary, turns the corner of one of the streets and enters the square just in time to see Leander's extraordinary exploit, whereat he is horrified and amazed. The valiant captain bellows like a bull, shrieks out the most frightful threats and curses, vowing all sorts of vengeance, and making prodigious efforts to draw his big sword, so that he may forthwith set about cutting up his unmannerly assailant into mince-meat. He tugs and strains until he is red in the face, but his "man-killer" cannot be induced to quit the scabbard and Leander, growing impatient, follows up his first attack with a vigorous, well directed kick, which sends the unlucky bully flying to the other side of the stage, where he falls all in a heap and rolls in the dust. The handsome, young gallant then bows gracefully to Isabelle and retires from the scene.

Captain Matamore meanwhile lies sprawling on the ground, making ludicrous and ineffectual efforts to regain his feet. Pandolphe and Scapin go to his assistance, and when they have hauled him up, and he has made sure that Leander is no longer present, he roars out in a voice of thunder: "Scapin, quick, hoop me with iron bands or I shall burst! I am in such a rage! I shall explode like a bomb! and you, treacherous blade, do YOU play me false at such a moment? Is it thus you reward me for having always tried to slake your insatiable thirst with the blood of the bravest and noblest? I don't know why I have not already broken you into a thousand pieces, as you so richly deserve-false, ungrateful weapon that you are! But stay-was it to teach me that it is unworthy of the true warrior to desert his post?-or forget his sterner duties in the soft delights of love?-was it for that you refused to leap from your scabbard as of old? It is true, alas! that thus far this week I have not defeated a single army-I have killed neither ogre nor dragon-I have not furnished his usual rations to Death-and in consequence my trusty blade has rusted in the scabbard-that I should live to say it! rusted!-and I have been forced to submit to insults, and even blows, before the very eyes of my mistress. What a lesson! Henceforth I shall make it a rule to kill at least three men every morning before I break my fast, so as to be sure that my good sword plays freely-keep me in mind, Scapin, do you hear?"

"Perhaps Leander will return before long," says the valet; "suppose we all help you to draw your 'TRUSTY BLADE,' so that you may be ready for him."

Matamore, accordingly, plants himself firmly, holding the scabbard in both hands, Scapin seizes the handle of the sword, Pandolphe clasps him firmly round the waist, the notary tries to do as much by Pandolphe's stout person, and they all pull and pull. For some time the rusty old sword resists all their efforts, but at last yields suddenly, and the three fall in a confused heap on the ground, with legs and arms waving wildly in the air, while Matamore tumbles the other way, still clinging to the now empty scabbard. Picking himself up as quickly as possible he seizes his big sword, which has dropped from the valet's hand, and waving it triumphantly says with stem emphasis, "Now Leander's fate is sealed! There is but one way for him to escape certain death. He must emigrate to some distant planet. If he be sufficiently fool-hardy to remain on this globe I will find him, no matter in what distant land he strives to hide himself, and transfix him with this good sword-unless indeed he be first turned to stone by the terrible Medusa-like power of my eye."

In spite of all that he has witnessed, the obstinate old father still feels unbounded faith in Matamore's valour, and persists in his lamentable intention to bestow the hand of his fair daughter upon this magnificent hero. Poor Isabelle bursts into tears, and declares that she prefers the convent to such a fate. Zerbine loudly swears that this marriage shall never take place, and tries to console her weeping mistress. Matamore attributes this rather discouraging demonstration on the part of Isabelle to an excess of maidenly modesty, not doubting her penchant for himself, though he acknowledges that he has not yet properly paid his court, nor shown himself in all his glory to her-this last from prudential motives, fearing lest she might be dangerously dazzled and overwhelmed if he should burst upon her too suddenly in the full splendour of his heroic character, remembering, and taking warning by, the sad and terrible fate that befell Semele, when Jupiter, reluctantly yielding to her wishes, appeared before her with all the insignia of his majesty.

Isabelle and her maid withdrew from the balcony, without taking any further notice of the valiant Matamore; but he, undaunted, wishing to play the lover after the most approved fashion, plants himself resolutely under her window and sends Scapin to fetch a guitar; upon which he thrums awkwardly for a while, and then accompanies it with his voice, in an attempt at a Spanish love song, which sounds much like the nocturnal caterwauling of a disconsolate tabby than anything else we can compare it to. A dash of cold water, mischievously thrown down on him by Zerbine under pretext of watering the plants in the balcony, does not extinguish his musical ardour. "A gentle shower from the sweet eyes of my Isabelle, moved to tears by this plaintive melody," says he, "for it is universally conceded that I excel in music as in arms, and wield the lyre as skilfully as the sword."

Unfortunately for him, Leander suddenly reappears, and highly indignant that this miserable rascal should presume to serenade HIS mistress, snatches the guitar from his hands and begins whacking him over the head with it, so furiously that it is quickly broken through, and slipping over the unhappy serenader's head remains fixed round his neck, so that he is completely at the mercy of his assailant. Holding fast to the handle of the guitar, Leander hauls him about the stage, banging him against the side-scenes, dragging him forward to the footlights-making the most absurd scene imaginable-and finally, letting go of him suddenly, sends him sprawling on the ground. Fancy the ridiculous appearance of the unfortunate bully, who looked as if he had put his head through a frying-pan!

But his miseries are not yet at an end. Leander's valet had been arranging a clever little plot to prevent the fulfilment of the proposed marriage between Isabelle and Captain Matamore. At his instigation, a certain Doralice, very pretty and coquettish, makes her appearance, accompanied by a fierce-looking brother-represented by Herode-carrying two immensely long rapiers under his arm, and evidently "spoiling for a fight." The young lady complains that she has been shamefully jilted by Captain Matamore, who has deserted her for Isabelle, the daughter of a certain Pandolphe, and demands instant reparation for this outrage, adding that her brother is ready to exact it at the point of the sword, or avenge the insult by taking the life of the heartless villain who has trifled with her youthful affections.

"Make haste to give this rascal his quietus," says Pandolphe to his future son-in-law; "it will be only child's play for you, who have fearlessly encountered, single-handed, a whole army of Saracens."

Very reluctantly, and after many most absurd grimaces, Matamore crosses swords with Doralice's ferocious brother, but he trembles so that the latter, with one quick movement, sends his weapon flying out of his hand, and chastises him with the flat of his sword until he roars for mercy.

To cap the climax, Mme. Leonarde comes upon the scene, mopping her streaming eyes with an enormous pocket-handkerchief, sighing and sobbing, and bewailing herself. She goes straight to Pandolphe and shows him a written promise of marriage, over Matamore's signature, cleverly counterfeited; whereupon the poor wretch, convicted of such abominable and complicated perfidy, is assailed with a new shower of blows and curses, and finally condemned, by the unanimous vote of all present, to marry old Mme. Leonarde-who has made herself as hideous as possible-as a fitting punishment for all his deviltries, rodomontades, and cowardice. Pandolphe, thoroughly disgusted with Matamore at last, makes no further objections to Leander's suit, and the curtain falls as he gives his consent to the marriage of the two young lovers.

This bouffonnade, being played with great spirit, was enthusiastically applauded. The gentlemen were charmed with the mischievous, coquettish soubrette, who was fairly radiant with beauty that evening; the ladies were greatly pleased with Isabelle's refinement and modesty; whilst Matamore received the well merited encomiums of all. It would have been impossible to find, even in the great Parisian theatres, an actor better fitted for the part he had played so admirably. Leander was much admired by all the younger ladies, but the gentlemen agreed, without a dissenting voice, that he was a horridly conceited coxcomb. Wherever he appeared indeed this was the universal verdict, with which he was perfectly content-caring far more for his handsome person, and the effect it produced upon the fair sex, than for his art; though, to do him justice, he was a very good actor. Serafina's beauty did not fail to find admirers, and more than one young gentleman swore by his mustache that she was an adorable creature-quite regardless of the displeasure of the fair ladies within hearing.

During the play, de Sigognac, hidden in the coulisses, had enjoyed intensely Isabelle's charming rendering of her part, though he was more than a little jealous of the favour she apparently bestowed upon Leander-and especially at the tender tone of her voice whenever she spoke to him-not being yet accustomed to the feigned love-making on the stage, which often covers profound antipathies and real enmity. When the play was over, he complimented the young actress with a constrained, embarrassed air, which she could not help remarking, and perfectly understood.

"You play that part admirably, Isabelle! so well that one might almost think there was some truth in it."

"Is it not my duty to do so?" she asked smilingly, secretly pleased at his displeasure; "did not the manager engage me for that?"

"Doubtless," de Sigognac replied, "but you seemed to be REALLY in love with that conceited fellow, who never thinks of anything but his own good looks, and how to display them to the best advantage."

"But the role required it. You surely would not have had me play it as if he disgusted me! besides, did I not preserve throughout the quiet demeanour of a well-bred, respectable girl? If I failed in that you must tell me how and where, so that I may endeavour to correct it in future."

"Oh no! you appeared from the beginning to the end like a modest, retiring, young lady-no, there is no fault to be found with you in that respect; your acting was inimitable-so graceful, lady-like, and easy-but withal so true to nature that it was almost too real."

"My dear baron, they are putting out the lights; everybody has gone but ourselves, and we shall be left in the dark if we don't make haste. Be good enough to throw this cloak around my shoulders and accompany me to the chateau."

De Sigognac acquitted himself of this novel duty with less awkwardness than might have been expected, though his hands trembled a little, and he felt an almost irresistible desire to take her into his arms as he wrapped the mantle round her slender form; but he restrained himself, and respectfully offering his arm led her out of the orangery, which by this time was entirely deserted. It was, as we have said, at a little distance from the chateau, and on the level of the park, lower than the mansion, which stood on a high terrace, with a handsome stone balustrade at the edge, supporting at regular intervals large vases filled with blooming plants, in the pretty Italian fashion. A broad, easy flight of stone steps led up to the terrace, affording in their ascent a most imposing view of the chateau, which loomed up grandly against the evening sky. Many of the windows on this side were lighted, whilst the others glistened brightly as the silvery moon-beams struck upon them-as did also the dewdrops on the shrubbery and the grass-plots-as if a shower of diamonds had fallen on this favoured spot. Looking towards the park, the long vistas cut through the wood, losing themselves in the hazy blue of the distance, called to mind Breughel's famous picture of Paradise, or else disclosed the far-away gleam of a marble statue, or the spray of a misty fountain sparkling in the moonlight.

Isabelle and de Sigognac slowly ascended the broad steps, pausing frequently to turn and look back at this enchanting scene, and charmed with the beauty of the night walked for a little while to and fro upon the terrace before retiring to their rooms. As they were in full sight of the windows, and it was not yet very late, the modest young girl felt that there could be no impropriety in this little indulgence; and besides, the baron's extreme timidity was very reassuring to her, and she knew that he would not presume upon the favour accorded to him. He had not made a formal avowal of his love to her, but she was as well aware of it as if he had, and also of his profound respect for her, which sentiment is indeed always an accompaniment of a worthy passion. She knew herself beloved-the knowledge was very sweet to her-and she felt herself safe from all fear of offence in the company of this honourable gentleman and true lover. With the delicious embarrassment of nascent, unavowed love, this young couple wandering by moonlight in a lonely garden, side by side, arm in arm, only exchanged the most insignificant, commonplace remarks; but if no undercurrent was betrayed by actual words, the trembling, voices, long pauses, stifled sighs, and low, confidential tones told of strong emotions beneath this quiet surface.

The chamber assigned to the beautiful Yolande de Foix, near that of Mme. la Marquise, was on this side of the chateau, overlooking the park, and after she had dismissed her maid, she went to the window to look out once more upon the exceeding beauty of the night, and caught sight of de Sigognac and Isabelle, pacing slowly back and forth on the terrace below, without any other company than their own shadows. Assuredly the disdainful Yolande, haughty as a goddess, could never have felt anything but scorn for our poor young baron, past whom she had sometimes flashed in a whirlwind of light and noise in the chase, and whom she had so recently cruelly insulted; but still it displeased her to see him devoting himself thus to a beautiful young girl, to whom he was undoubtedly making love at that very moment. She had regarded him as her own humble vassal-for she had not failed to read the passionate admiration in his eyes whenever they met her own-and could not brook his shaking off his allegiance thus; her slaves ought to live and die in her service, even though their fidelity were never rewarded by a single smile. She watched them, with a frowning brow, until they disappeared, and then sought her conch in anything but a tranquil mood, haunted by the lover-like pair that had so roused her wrath, and still kept her long awake.

De Sigognac escorted Isabelle to the door of her chamber, where he bade her good-night, and as he turned away towards his own, saw, at the end of the corridor, a mysterious looking individual closely wrapped in a large cloak, with one end thrown over the shoulder in Spanish fashion, and so drawn up round his face that only the eyes were visible; a slouch hat concealed his forehead, so that he was completely disguised, yet he drew back hurriedly into a dark corner when de Sigognac turned towards him, as if to avoid his notice. The baron knew that the comedians had all gone to their rooms already, and besides, it could not be one of them, for the tyrant was much larger and taller, the pedant a great deal stouter, Leander more slender, Matamore much thinner, and Scapin of quite a different make. Not wishing to appear curious, or to annoy the unknown in any way, de Sigognac hastened to enter his own room-not however without having observed that the door of the tapestry-hung chamber stood ajar. When he had closed his, he heard stealthy footsteps approaching, and presently a bolt shot home softly, then profound silence.

About an hour later, Leander opened his door as quietly as possible, looked carefully to see if the corridor was empty, and then, stepping as lightly and cautiously as a gipsy performing the famous egg-dance, traversed its whole length, reached the staircase, which he descended as noiselessly as the phantoms in a haunted castle, and passed out into the moonlight; he crept along in the shadow of the wall and of some thick shrubbery, went down the steps into the park, and made his way to a sort of bower, where stood a charming statue of the mischievous little god of love, with his finger on his lip-an appropriate presiding genius of a secret rendezvous, as this evidently must be. Here he stopped and waited, anxiously watching the path by which he had come, and listening intently to catch the first sound of approaching footsteps.

We have already related how Leander, encouraged by the smile with which Mme. la Marquise acknowledged his salutation, and convinced that she was smitten with his beauty and grace, had made bold to address a letter to her, which he bribed Jeanne to place secretly upon her mistress's toilet-table, where she would be sure to see it. This letter we copy here at length, so as to give an idea of the style of composition employed by Leander in addressing the great ladies of whose favours he boasted so loudly.

"Madame, or rather fair goddess of beauty, do not blame anything but your own incomparable charms for this intrusion upon you. I am forced by their radiance to emerge from the deep shadow in which I should remain shrouded, and approach their dazzling brilliancy-just as the dolphins are attracted from the depths of ocean, by the brightness of the fisherman's lanterns, though they are, alas! to find destruction there, and perish by the sharp harpoons hurled pitilessly at them with unerring aim. I know but too well that the waves will be reddened by my blood; but as I cannot live without your favour, I do not fear to meet death thus. It may be strangely audacious, on my part to pretend to the privileges of gods and demi-gods-to die by your fair hand-but I dare to aspire to it; being already in despair, nothing worse can come to me, and I would rather incur your wrath than your scorn, or your disdain. In order to direct the fatal blow aright, the executioner must look upon his victim, and I shall have, in yielding up my life under your fair, cruel hand, the supreme delight of being for one blissful moment the object of your regard. Yes, I love you, madame! I adore you! And if it be a crime, I cannot repent of it. God suffers himself to be adored; the stars receive the admiration of the humblest shepherd; it is the fate of all such lofty perfection as yours to, be beloved, adored, only by inferior beings, since it has not its equal upon earth, nor scarcely indeed in heaven. I, alas! am but a poor, wandering actor, yet were I a haughty duke or prince, my head would not be on a level with your beauteous feet, and there would be, all the same, between your heavenly height and my kneeling adoration, as great a distance as from the soaring summit of the loftiest Alp to the yawning abyss far, far below. You must always stoop to reach a heart that adores you. I dare to say, madame, that mine is as proud as it is tender, and she who would deign not to repulse it, would find in it the most ardent love, the most perfect delicacy, the most absolute respect, and unbounded devotion. Besides, if such divine happiness be accorded me, your indulgence would not have to stoop so low as you might fancy. Though reduced by an adverse destiny and the jealous hatred of one of the great ones of the earth, who must be nameless, to the dire necessity of hiding myself under this disguise, I am not what I seem. I do not need to blush for my birth-rather I may glory in it. If I dared to betray the secrecy imposed upon me, for reasons of state, I could prove to you that most illustrious blood runs in my veins. Whoever may love me, noble though she be, will not degrade herself. But I have already said too much-my lips are sealed. I shall never be other than the humblest, most devoted of your slaves; even though, by one of those strange coincidences that happen sometimes in real life, I should come to be recognised by all the world as a king's son. If in your great goodness you will condescend to show me, fair goddess of beauty, by the slightest sign, that my boldness has not angered you, I shall die happy, consumed by the burning brightness of your eyes upon the funeral pyre of my love."

How would Mme. la Marquise have received this ardent epistle? which had perhaps done him good service already more than once. Would she have looked favourably upon her humble suitor?-who can tell?-for the feminine heart is past comprehension. Unfortunately the letter did not reach her. Being entirely taken up with great ladies, Leander overlooked their waiting-maids, and did not trouble himself to show them any attentions or gallantries-wherein he made a sad mistake-for if the pistoles he gave to Jeanne, with his precious epistle, had been supplemented by a few kisses and compliments, she would have taken far more pains to execute his commission. As she held the letter carelessly in her hand, the marquis chanced to pass by, and asked her idly what she had got there.

"Oh! nothing much," she answered scornfully, "only a note from Mr. Leander to Mme. la Marquise."

"From Leander? that jackanapes who plays the lover in the Rodomontades of Captain Matamore? What in the world can HE have to say to Mme. la Marquise? Doubtless he asks for a gratuity!"

"I don't think so," said the spiteful waiting-maid; "when he gave me this letter he sighed, and rolled up his eyes like a love-sick swain."

"Give me the letter," said the marquis, "I will answer it-and don't say anything about it to your mistress. Such chaps are apt to be impertinent-they are spoiled by admiration, and sometimes presume upon it."

The marquis, who dearly loved a joke, amused himself by answering Leander's extraordinary epistle with one in much the same style-written in a delicate, lady-like hand upon perfumed paper, and sealed with a fanciful device-altogether a production well calculated to deceive the poor devil, and confirm him in his ridiculous fancies. Accordingly, when he regained his bed-chamber after the play was over, he found upon his dressing-table a note addressed to himself. He hastened to open it, trembling from head to foot with excitement and delight, and read as follows: "It is true, as you say so eloquently-too eloquently for my peace of mind-that goddesses can only love mortals. At eleven o'clock, when all the world is sunk in slumber, and no prying human eyes open to gaze upon her, Diana will quit her place in the skies above and descend to earth, to visit the gentle shepherd, Endymion-not upon Mount Latmus, but in the park-at the foot of the statue of silent love. The handsome shepherd must be sure to have fallen asleep ere Diana appears, so as not to shock the modesty of the immortal goddess-who will come without her cortege of nymphs, wrapped in a cloud and devoid of her silvery radiance."

We will leave to the reader's imagination the delirious joy that filled to overflowing the foolish heart of the susceptible Leander, who was fooled to the top of his bent, when he read this precious note, which exceeded his wildest hopes. He immediately began his preparations to play the part of Endymion-poured a whole bottle of perfume upon his hair and hands, chewed a flower of mace to make his breath sweet, twisted his glossy curls daintily round his white fingers-though not a hair was awry-and then waited impatiently for the moment when he should set forth to seek the rendezvous at the foot of the statue of silent love-where we left him anxiously awaiting the arrival of his goddess. He shivered nervously from excitement, and the penetrating chilliness of the damp night air, as he stood motionless at the appointed spot. He trembled at the falling of a leaf-the crackling of the gravel under his feet whenever he moved them sounded so loud in his ears that he felt sure it would be heard at the chateau. The mysterious darkness of the wood filled him with awe, and the great, black trees seemed like terrible genii, threatening him. The poor wretch was not exactly frightened, but not very far from it. Mme. la Marquise was tardy-Diana was leaving her faithful Endymion too long cooling his heels in the heavy night dew. At last he thought he heard heavy footsteps approaching,-but they could not be those of his goddess-he must be mistaken-goddesses glide so lightly over the sward that not even a blade of grass is crushed beneath their feet-and, indeed, all was silent again.

"Unless Mme. la Marquise comes quickly, I fear she will find only a half-frozen lover, instead of an ardent, impatient one," murmured Leander with chattering teeth; and even as the words escaped him four dark shadows advanced noiselessly from behind upon the expectant gallant. Two of these shadows, which were the substantial bodies of stout rascals in the service of the Marquis de Bruyeres, seized him suddenly by the arms, which they held pinioned closely to his sides, while the other two proceeded to rain blows alternately upon his back-keeping perfect time as their strokes fell thick and fast. Too proud to run the risk of making his woes public by an outcry, their astonished victim took his punishment bravely-without making a sound. Mutius Scaevola did not bear himself more heroically while his right hand lay among the burning coals upon the altar in the presence of Porsenna, than did Leander under his severe chastisement. When it was finished the two men let go of their prisoner, all four saluted him gravely, and retired as noiselessly as they had come, without a single word being spoken.

What a terrible fall was this! that famous one of Icarus himself, tumbling down headlong from the near neighbourhood of the sun, was not a greater. Battered, bruised, sore and aching all over, poor Leander, crestfallen and forlorn, limping painfully, and suppressing his groans with Spartan resolution, crept slowly back to his own room; but so overweening as his self-conceit that he never even suspected that a trick had been played upon him. He said to himself that without doubt Mme. la Marquise had been watched and followed by her jealous husband, who had overtaken her before she reached the rendezvous in the park, carried her back to the chateau by main strength, and forced her, with a poniard at her throat, to confess all. He pictured her to himself on her knees, with streaming eyes, disordered dress and dishevelled hair, imploring her stem lord and master to be merciful-to have pity upon her and forgive her this once-vowing by all she held sacred never to be faithless to him again, even in thought. Suffering and miserable as he was after his tremendous thrashing, he yet pitied and grieved over the poor lady who had put herself in such peril for his sake, never dreaming that she was in blissful ignorance of the whole affair, and at that very moment sleeping peacefully in her luxurious bed. As the poor fellow crept cautiously and painfully along the corridor leading to his room and to those of the other members of the troupe he had the misfortune to be detected by Scapin, who, evidently on the watch for him, was peeping out of his own half-open door, grinning, grimacing, and gesticulating significantly, as he noted the other's limping gait and drooping figure.

In vain did Leander strive to straighten himself up and assume a gay, careless air; his malicious tormentor was not in the least taken in by it.

The next morning the comedians prepared to resume their journey; no longer, however, in the slow-moving, groaning ox-cart, which they were glad, indeed, to exchange for the more roomy, commodious vehicle that the tyrant had been able to hire for them-thanks to the marquis's liberality-in which they could bestow themselves and their belongings comfortably, and to which was harnessed four stout draught horses.

Leander and Zerbine were both rather late in rising, and the last to make their appearance-the former with a doleful countenance, despite his best efforts to conceal his sufferings under a cheerful exterior, the latter beaming with satisfaction, and with smiles for everybody. She was decidedly inclined to be munificent towards her companions, and bestow upon them some of the rich spoils that had fallen plentifully to her share-taking quite a new position among them-even the duenna treating her with a certain obsequious, wheedling consideration, which she had been far from ever showing her before. Scapin, whose keen observation nothing ever escaped, noticed that her box had suddenly doubled in weight, by some magic or other, and drew his own conclusions therefrom. Zerbine was a universal favourite, and no one begrudged her her good fortune, save Serafina, who bit her lip till it bled, and murmured indignantly, "Shameless creature!" but the soubrette pretended not to hear it, content for the moment with the signal humiliation of the arch-coquette.

At last the new Thespian chariot was ready for a start, and our travellers bade adieu to the hospitable chateau, where they had been so honourably received and so generously treated, and which they all, excepting poor Leander, quitted with regret. The tyrant dwelt upon the bountiful supply of pistoles he had received; the pedant upon the capital wines of which he had drunk his fill; Matamore upon the enthusiastic applause that had been lavished upon him by that aristocratic audience; Zerbine upon the pieces of rich silk, the golden necklaces and other like treasures with which her chest was replete-no wonder that it was heavy-while de Sigognac and Isabelle, thinking only of each other, and happy in being together, did not even turn their heads for one last glimpse of the handsome Chateau de Bruyere.

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