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Seamy Side, The..
WALTER BESANT and JAMES RICE... 49, 137,
.H. SUTHERLAND EDWARDS.
He had no trouble with his liver, as had his 1.
niece. Neither that nor his spleen ever disturbed ON
NE evening, at his return from dining at his him in the least. He was in excellent health, his
club, the Marquis de Miraval found at home stomach seemed like iron, his gait was still firm, a letter “from his niece, Madame de Penneville, his sight clear, and he had an income of two hunwho wrote to him from Vichy, thus:
dred thousand livres, which is injurious to no one.
As he always looked at the bright side of things, “MY DEAR UNCLE: The waters here have he congratulated himself upon having reached done me a great deal of good. Until to-day I the age of sixty-five without losing his hair, which had every reason to be entirely satisfied with my was literally white as snow; but he never thought cure; but I am afraid the good result which I of dyeing it. As his mind and character were expected will be undone by a disagreeable bit well balanced, he believed that Nature underof news which I have just received, and which stands the fitness of things, and knows better causes me more trouble and annoyance than I than we what best becomes us; that, after all, she can well express to you. The physicians insist is a kind mistress, and, at all events, an all-powthat the first thing necessary for those who suffer erful one; that it is useless to oppose her, and from chronic liver-trouble is to take no care upon absurd to dispute with her, when, after all, every themselves. I do not take it upon myself, but age has its own pleasures, and, having had a fair others give me enough. My mind is tormented experience of life, good and bad, it is not disawith the thought of a certain Madame Corneuil, greeable to pass ten years or so in watching how for that is the woman's name. I never heard of others live, laughing to one's self at their follies, her, but I detest her without knowing her. You and thinking, “ I am past committing them, but have seen a great deal of the world, and are can comprehend them all.” somewhat inquisitive. I am convinced, my dear As he bore no grudge to age for whitening uncle, that you know all about her. Write me his abundant chestnut locks, of which he used to at once who Madame Corneuil may be. It is a be rather vain, so the Marquis easily forgave the serious question to me. I will explain to you revolutions which so prematurely closed his casome time why it is so."
reer. One has a right to rail against his judge
for twenty-four hours, so, after relieving his anger The Marquis de Miraval was an old diplo- by a few well-directed epigrams, Monsieur de mate, who began his career under Louis Philippe, Miraval soon consoled himself for those events and had likewise filled honorably, under the em- which condemned to be of no importance affairs pire, several second-rate positions, which satisfied of state, but which restored him his independence his ambition. When thrust aside by the revolu- by way of compensation. Liberty had always tion of September 4th, he bore it philosophically. seemed to him the most precious of all posses
sions; he considered that man happy who was * The original title in the French of this story is “Le responsible only to himself, and could order his Roi Apépi."
life as he chose. For that reason he decided to VOL. VIII.-I
remain a widower, after having been married two land of the Pharaohs. He was, it seems, very years. He was urged to marry again in vain, little of a man, of doubtful morality, and of more and answered in the words of a celebrated paint- than equivocal reputation. Monsieur Véretz had er, “Would it be so delightful, then, in going a daughter, eighteen years old, who was behome to find a stranger there?” He was always witchingly pretty. How and where Monsieur well received by women at their own houses, but Corneuil made her acquaintance, the chronicle never thought of them seriously, being somewhat does not say; it tells us merely that this bear skeptical in his real opinion of them. The Mar- was very susceptible, and was determined to purquis de Miraval was a wise man; some called sue his own fancies. From the first meeting him an egotist, a distinction not always easily with this beautiful child he fell desperately in made.
love with her. Fortunately for Mademoiselle Whether sage or egotist, the Marquis de Hortense Véretz, her mother was an excellent Miraval had sincere affection for his niece, the manager—a most fortunate thing for a daughter. Countess of Penneville, and he considered it his After a few weeks of vain endeavor, Monsieur duty to reply to her by return of mail. Those de Corneuil was determined to overcome all obwho have diseased livers should not be kept stacles. The Consul-General, who had a large waiting. His answer ran in these words : fortune, persisted in marrying, for the sake of her
beautiful eyes, a girl who had nothing, and whose “MY DEAR MATHILDE: I regret infinitely father bore a blemished name; still more, he that your cure should be retarded by care and married her without any contract at all, thereby worriment. They are the worst of all diseases, giving her an equal share in his property. The although they kill no one. But what is the mat- matter caused great scandal. People Alung his ter, and what has Madame Corneuil to do with father-in-law at him, and openly brought insinuit? What can there be between this woman, ations against himself as well, so that he was at whom you do not know, and the Countess of last obliged to give in his resignation, and left Penneville ? I ask for a prompt explanation. In Egypt to return to Périgueux, his native town, in waiting for that, since you desire it, I will tell which step his beautiful young wife encouraged you, as best I can, who Madame Corneuil is— him, for she longed to break away for ever from whom, however, I have never seen; but I know a father who so compromised her, and also that well those who do know her.
she might enjoy her new fortune in France. I Can it be possible, dear Mathilde, that you remember hearing the whole story at the Minishave never heard of Madame de Corneuil before try of Foreign Affairs, where they talked of it now? I am sorry; it proves you are no literary for a week, and then they talked of something woman ; in fact, you must be a woman who actu- else. But the ex-Consul was not over his troually never reads not even the Gazette des Tri- bles. Four years later, Madame Corneuil debunaux.' Do not fancy from this sentence that manded a separation. Her mother had accomMadame Corneuil is either a poisoner or a re- panied her to Périgueux : when one is fortunate ceiver of stolen goods, or that she has ever even enough to have a manæuvring mother, it is best appeared before the Court of Assizes; but some never to part with her, and to be governed alseven or eight years ago she separated from ways by her counsel. Monsieur de Corneuil, and the affair created con- "Why did Madame Corneuil separate from siderable talk. Here is the whole story, as well her husband? You must ask the lawyers. They 'as I can remember it :
were admirable on either side, and used all the “Monsieur de Corneuil was formerly Consul- resources of their loquacity. Both pleas, where General from France to Alexandria. He was epigrams alternated with apostrophes, and aposconsidered a good agent, whose only fault was trophes with invectives, were specimens of that that his manner was rather brusque. That is a elevated taste which delights the malice of the slight failing. In the country of the Courbache,' public. one must know how to be brusque with both men “The details escape me. ' I have not the 'Gaand things. When an Oriental is not of your zette des Tribunaux' at hand, but it does not opinion, and sets too high a price upon his own, matter-I am sure of my facts. Papin, the lawthe only way to convince him is to strangle him; yer for the plaintiff, one of the first at the bar, but this has nothing to do with my subject. A protested that Monsieur Corneuil was an ugly chance, fortunate for some and unfortunate for fellow, a downright blockhead; that Madame others, sent one Monsieur Véretz to land on the Corneuil was of a most exquisite nature, an anquays of Alexandria. He was a small business gelic character ; that this monster at first loved agent of Paris, who, not succeeding there, and to this angel to distraction, but soon tired of her, escape from his creditors, came as fast as his and abused her in every way—to all of which legs could bring him to seek his fortune in the Virion, the lawyer for the defense, insisted that,
if his client had occasionally been somewhat stomachs make most excellent heralds, and at all hasty in his manner toward her, he was no mon- events she is rich enough to pay for her own ster, and that in the sweet heart of this angel fame. there was considerable vinegar and a great deal Eighteen months after her establishment in of calculation. He tried to prov to the court Paris she published a romance, which by the that there was every excuse for the behavior of merest of all accidents fell into my hands. I Monsieur Corneuil, but that his wife looked upon confess I did not read it through to the end ; evhis determination to live in Périgueux as a crime, ery variety of courage can not be looked for in for she could not endure the place; and, since one individual. It began with the description of she could not persuade him to change their a mist. At the end of ten pages—Heaven be abode to Paris, which she considered the only praised !--the fog lifted, and a woman in a caspot worthy of her grace and her genius, she had lèche was visible. I remember that the calèche determined to lay a plan to regain her indepen- was bought of Binder; I remember also that the dence, and for that end had applied herself with woman, whose heart was an abyss, wore six and Machiavellian ingenuity to aggravate him; that one-quarter gloves, that she had three freckles she had made his home unbearable by the sharp- on her right temple—just so many, and no more ness of her wit, by every kind of petty persecu- - quivering nostrils, arms inimitably rounded, tion, by all those little pin-prickings of which an- and breathless silences. I do not know if we gels alone have the secret, and which drive to are of the same opinion, but descriptions appall distraction even men who are not monsters! me, and I rush away. Besides, my mind is so Was the unfortunate man to blame for now and poorly constructed that I can not see this woman then asserting himself? I assure you again that with whose description the author has taken so both lawyers did wonderfully well. The great great pains. Good Homer, who does not belong difficulty was to know which was the liar. For to the new school, was satisfied to tell me merely myself, I should have dismissed both. However, that Achilles was fair, and yet I can see him bethe court sided with Papin. The separation was fore me. But what is to be done? It is the granted, and half the fortune adjudged to Ma- fashion of our day; they call it studying—what dame Corneuil. It seemed, however, that Virion is the word ?-studying the human documents, was not entirely wrong, for six months after the and it seems no one ever thought of that till verdict Madame Corneuil left for Paris in com- now, not even my old friend Fielding, whom I pany with her mother.
reread every year. I am not very fond of even “I know beforehand, my dear Mathilde, that serious pedants, but I have a holy horror of you will ask me what became of the beautiful pedantry when applied to the merest trifles. As Madame Corneuil in Paris. I have been out I am no longer young, I agree with Voltaire, who three times this morning for the sole end of find- did not like those subjects seriously discussed ing out-you need not thank me, for I like it. which were not worth being lightly touched upon. Madame de Corneuil has not yet satisfied her The romance of Madame Corneuil, I regret to secret ambition; she can not yet say, 'I have say, fell flat. She strove to recover herself by reached it !' but she is fairly on her way thither. poetry, and published a volume of sonnets, in The butterfly has not entirely cast aside the which there was no allusion whatever to Monchrysalis; but she is patient, and one day will sieur Corneuil. The verses were written with spread her wings and fly in triumph from her rapid pen, but a pen sharpened by an angel, and sheath. Madame Corneuil gives receptions and full of the most exquisitely sweet and refined dinner-parties, and holds a salon. A beautiful sentiment. As a general rule, the sonnets of woman, with a manœuvring mother and a good wives separated from their husbands are always cook, need not fear being left to pine in solitude. sublime. Unfortunately, there is not a great call Formerly there were to be seen at her house a for the sublime. It was a cruel disappointment great many literary men, especially those of the to Madame Corneuil, who suddenly broke with new school-the young men. Great good may her Muse. it do them! There are among them men of “All great artists, Mozart as well as Talleytalent with a future before them, but there are rand, Raphael as well as Bismarck, have their also among them those whose novelties are not different phases. Madame Corneuil thought she new, and whose youth is somewhat rank; but had better change hers: she reformed the whole that is no business of mine. It does not prevent style of her house, her cooking, her furniture, them from dining at Madame Corneuil's. She and her dress. She turned to serious things, and is not merely contented with encouraging litera- suddenly assumed a taste for neutral tints and ture, she also manufactures it, and employs the sober conversations, for metaphysics and feuilleyoung men around her to write little scraps for morte ribbons. This beautiful blonde discovered the lesser journals in praise of her. Grateful that she did not show her right value, except in
being relieved to half-tint against the back- have quarreled, so you must believe neither when
This is all the information I can give you,
has changed her style again, and I begin to think “Charity, my dear Mathilde, is at the same she changes too often. I am afraid she has not time, and according to circumstances, the most that concentrated mind or that persistence which beautiful of all the virtues or the most useful oc- is necessary for great enterprises. I have my cupation. You have your poor, and God alone doubts of those impulsive creatures who go by can tell how much you love them, how you care fits and starts. At my very first words, Papin for them and cherish them; but your left hand bridled up and straightened himself, after the knows naught of what your right hand doeth. manner of lawyers, as if he bore the weight of I do not know if Madame de Corneuil has often the universe on his shoulders, and broadened seen the poor; but, instead of that, she goes and them lest it should fall. As if he were apostrocomes, and agitates and schemes, and preaches. phizing a judge, he exclaimed : “Monsieur le She is on six committees and twelve sub-com- Marquis, that woman is simply a marvel of mittees; she is an incomparable beggar, a very Christian virtue. She heard eighteen months ago expert cashier, an experienced treasurer, and ac- that her husband had a dangerous attack of the complished vice-president. Yes, my dear, they lungs. What did she do? Forgetting her own say no one can preside better than she. It is the wrongs and her justifiable resentment, she rushed very best way to push one's self into society. I to him in Périgueux, and has become reconciled must add that, although she composes poetry to him. Monsieur Corneuil was advised to go to no longer, she has not given up prose. She has Egypt; she left everything to accompany him, to written an eloquent treatise on 'The Apostleship become the nurse of a brute whose harshness of Woman,' which is sold for the benefit of a had endangered her own life. Was I not right new hospital, and which has reached its fifth in affirming to the court that Madame de Coredition. The sonnets were sublime, but the neuil was an angel ?' *There is no need of gettreatise is more than sublime. It is a mixture of ting excited,' said I to him; 'I admire her fine the tenderness of Saint François de Sales and character as well as you, but might it not be that the spirituality of Saint Theresa. Never has the after having obtained, thanks to you, half of the sugar-plum been held so high out of the reach fortune, this angel proposes to secure the other of our poor humanity—it is not even in the air hal as her inheritance ?' which we can breathe, but in pure ether. I am “He made a gesture of indignation, straightcurious to know what Monsieur Corneuil and Péri- ened himself again—Ah! Monsieur le Marquis,' gueux think of it. The young fellow who fur- answered he, ‘you never believed in women ; you nished me with all these details spoke in rather a are a horrible skeptic. I looked at him, he satirical manner; I asked him why, and he contin- looked at me; I laughed, and he began to laugh. ued: “That really few knew her well. My opin- I think we must have resembled the augurs of ion,' he said, “is that she is a cool, calculating Cicero. woman; that she is determined to have a posi- “The good of it all, my dear Mathilde, is that tion, and to satisfy her ambition by fair means or you have no further need of explaining yourself foul. She aspires to become a leader, to have a to me. Listen to me. This is just what has hand in politics, and her dream is to marry some happened: Your son Horace, an Egyptologist great name, or else a deputy.' The young fellow of great promise, who does me the honor of being said all this with a little bitterness. I learned that my great-nephew, has been in Egypt for two for nearly a year he has neither dined nor put his years. There he has met a lovely blonde, and foot in the house of Madame Corneuil. Montes- for the first time his heart has spoken ; he could quieu used to say, “Father Tournemine and I not keep from writing you about it, hence his