Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

Felix and Juliet looked up to Edmond as to a superior being. His information was extraordinary in one so young. His nature was ambitious, his understanding keen, and his enthusiasm quickly excited by whatever presented itself before him in the form of a duty.

Devotedly attached to these little ones, he could not bear the thought of their education being intrusted to strange hands. And he contrived so well to convince his father of his vocation and ability to become their teacher, that the pride of the old count was flattered by the consent which he felt himself unable to withhold from the serious charge thus enthusiastically assumed by his first-born and favorite child. This somewhat strange position which Edmond henceforth occupied between his parents and these two children seemed to result so naturally from the precocious maturity of his character, that it did not involve any apparent assumption on his part, nor any conscious. weakness on the part of his father. He exerted no pressure upon those around him; they exerted no pressure upon him. Thus his rarely-gifted nature harmoniously and equably developed itself without experiencing any external restraint, but also without the inward incentive of any strong passion. Felix was passionately proud of his brother. Juliet looked up to Edmond with all the romantic ardor of an enthusiastic girl. But in this life, so free from struggle and contrariety, the weapons of the will rested unused, and the vigilant eye of mistrustful Reason closed, well pleased and self-assured, upon the peace of a hap py soul.

Thus the days passed by. At last the career chosen by Felix for himself rendered necessary his entry into a military school. The times were troubled; but without this circumstance, family necessities and the disposition of the boy himself would, in any case, have decided Felix to enter the army.

This change in the customary life at L induced Edmond to think of completing his own education by travel and intercourse with the life of foreign countries. His first journey was to England. Early initiated, as he had been, into the business of country life and the management of a great property, this country had peculiar attractions for the young count. His time there was not misspent. He made himself acquainted with various agricultural improvements, which he was afterward enabled to introduce with great advantage into the cultivation of the Lestate. But he only came into contact with that external and superficial aspect of English life which was most consonant to his own disposition, viz., that sort of methodic reticence of manner which constitutes the English notion of Becomingness. In England, the betrayal of emotion beyond a certain limit laid down by commune consensus and general authority is, under all circumstances, unbecoming. Let the heart bleed, let the soul exult, let the breast feel ready to burst, when all the arms of Briareus seem insufficient to clasp to the beating heart what it yearns to embrace, and for all this, ay, and yet more, there is, by public permission, only one set tone of voice and only one gesture -that invariable shake-hands.

It was not, therefore, by his superficial and passing

intercourse with a nation which is perhaps the most earnest and impassioned in the world, that Edmond suspected even the existence of what was as yet unknown to his experience of himself those internal hurricanes and tornadoes, which sleep perhaps unroused for years in the heart of man, but which, when once let loose, are all the more violent and destructive in proportion as the will may have neglected the foundation and enlargement of those bulwarks which are unconsciously built up by men who in early life have had to struggle with the storms of a tempestuous childhood.

`Of all the wonders of London, none more fascinated the attention of the young count than that magnifi cent collection of objects of interest which the English need of inquiry, seeking to satisfy itself with acquisition, not only in all ages of the past, but in all parts of the world, has amassed in the metropolis within the walls of the British Museum.

The marvels of the East were then barely opened to the curiosity of the West. And here, for the first time in his life, Edmond found himself confronted with the mystic memorials of a wonderful world long since disappeared from the face of the earth, and the unintelligible but suggestive symbols of a vast and vanished epoch of human culture. His ardent desire to visit Egypt (perhaps the cradle of all our knowledge) ripened with each visit to those treasures. He commenced with zeal the preliminary studies necessary for such an enterprise.

Subsequently he went to Paris, and visited with Champollion himself the various monuments brought there by Napoleon.

Full of impatience, he set out for Marseilles, and thence embarked for the East. Well provided with letters of credit and all necessary recommendations, he reached Cairo, that nonchalant sentry-box before the fairy palace of the Orient which the Turks have established on the ruins of Memphis. There he hired and equipped a boat for the journey up the Nile, engaged a dragoman recommended by the English consul, and, taking with him his Herodotus, his Strabo, and a firman from Constantinople, he set forth to traverse that antique road on which the human intellect has marched for a thousand centuries, and reach the immortal ruins that yet retain the world's last traces of that Pythagorean Mind which darkly, faintly meets us in the remote and glimmering avenues of the Greek philosophy.

Various pages of the journal placed in my hands by the count indicate the interest and ardor with which he prosecuted his Oriental researches; but the scientific journal of this expedition was not confided to me with the other papers contained in the packet. Of the events of that journey only a single episode is recorded in those papers. The results of it in the subsequent life of Count Edmond were far more important than he could possibly have anticipated when this journal was written.

CHAPTER V.

A MUMMY THAT FINDS MEANS TO MAKE ITSELF

UNDERSTOOD.

IT was at Thebes.

The archæological researches of Count Edmond had brought him to that antique seat of the three last dynasties, under whose sceptre, after the expulsion of the alien conquerors, the arts and sciences of Egypt attained so vast a development, that one can not but admire as almost miraculous the destruction by Cambyses of a fabric so colossal as that of which no more than the meagre and broken outlines are revealed in the enor mous magnitude of its monumental remains.

Pitching his tent from spot to spot, now amid the ruins of Luxor, now near the village of Carnac, Edmond could not reconcile himself to leave this land of marvel and of mystery till his imagination had exhausted every tangible material from which to reconstruct that hundred-gated wonder of the ancient world.

And thus, in the record now submitted to my inspection of those wandering but not unlaborious days passed by the count among the tombs, I seemed to see him, often surprised by the great sunrise of the Orient in the prosecution of his indefatigable excavations, while the bright and dewless dawn of the Desert is enlarging its noiseless light over that vast plain which, stretched broad on either side of the Nile, unites with

« AnteriorContinuar »