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The word “ désenchantement" is a sorrowfullysounding word. I know not why it has been coined and incorporated in the French language sooner than in our own, unless it be that that nation have arrived at the melancholy crisis sooner than the English. A recent writer in Paris, contrasting the times in which we live with those of past history, has pronounced this to be emphatically “ le siècle des désenchantements.” The romance of chivalry, the enthusiastic devotion of religious zeal, the prestige of aristocracy, the inviolable sanctity of the throne,-all are probed if not penetrated, discussed if not destroyed by the
cold and cutting weapons of reason. And oh! if in the history of nations, and even of worlds, there seems to be indeed some inevitable point at which this melancholy process is destined to commence, how forcibly and how painfully true is the observation as applied to the individual biographies of each of us! Few have lived to attain the maturity of man's estate without perceiving that the work of disenchantment is begun within them. The thoughts, the feelings, the hopes, the joys, the generous confidence, and the open candour of youth,-above all, the disinterested love which blended and softened passion with the serenest and kindliest affections of the heart," and made a glory in a shady place,” all these are fled. And it is well, perhaps, for the business and the practical affairs of life that it should be so. It is well even in the ordinary and every-day preferences which we are led to form by the attractions of beauty or the fascinations of manner, that the work of “désenchantement" should be almost as easily accomplished as the prepossession conceived.
How many a love-match has been spoiled by the mis-spelling of a single word, or badly turning of a single phrase in the first letter of the heroine ! How
many an incipient flame has been entirely quenched by the simple discovery of the lady's having corns on her toes! Disenchantment again! How many a heart-sick lover has been cured in a country walk by seeing the awkwardness and want of elegance with which the adored one has got over a stile! Disenchantment the third! But it is endless to enumerate instances ;-a look, a laugh, a remark, a gesture, a pimple, a freckle, may do the business. We allude, of course, only to the lighter and more superficial preferences which we are led sometimes to conceive, even at first sight, for one person over another.
Poor Louis Boivin had loved with no common devotedness,-his“ désenchantement” was destined to be proportionably bitter. From the moment at which he made the fatal discovery which we have recorded in the last chapter, his health visibly declined with increasing rapidity. The defeat of his political schemes, the slaughter of some of his friends, and the imprisonment and impending trial of others, all these things contributed, indeed, their share to his disquiet, but were weak in the effect which they produced upon him in comparison with the shock which his heart had received. He became absent and abstracted-a deep melancholy and dejection seemed to weigh him down to the earth.
Lord Fletcher, with his customary amiability, did all in his power to enliven him, and to make him bear up against the severe trial; but he did it with delicacy; for he felt that he himself, although unconsciously, had been the cause, as his rival, of all his present unhappiness. He knew that when a man once discovers, like Marmontel's Alcibiades, that he has never been truly loved, death is sweeter to him afterwards than life, and convinced as he was that his friend could not survive, he interested himself in endeavouring to smooth and lighten for him as much as possible his journey to the grave. To divert his mind and keep up his drooping spirits he led him, much against his inclination, to mix in circles of society where he would not under other circumstances, perhaps, have found so easy an admission.
A party at Mrs. Mac-Rubber's supplied one of these opportunities of amusement, of which Lord Fletcher was glad to avail himself on his friend's account. As the heat of the weather had now driven almost all the English from Paris, the society was scraped together from all the odds and ends which happened to remain in the metropolis.