Imágenes de página

fear of death passes the door of that room, it strikes down the barrier which convalescence makes haste to rebuild. And if from time to time you meet again in the great world the woman who, in her hour of supreme anxiety, flung out wild hands, and wailed to you for rescue, she will henceforth be to you only an apparition in which the arts of the toilet and the lessons of the dancing-master are combined to deceive your penetration, and lend to the body of disease the graceful semblance of a charm whose substantial virtue is only in the gift of health.

In that smiling vision of a pretty woman, bosomed in an airy cloud of palpitating gauze, with brows whereon the diamond lights defiance, and eyes that sparkle with the triumph of an hour, what shows you the cankerous thing that is gnawing at the core of the vital coil-gnawing at the core so fast, that haply from that brilliant apparition of the ballroom to the wretched image on the bed of death there is but a faintingfit, a syncope, a moment's giddy change?

I do protest it amazes me to have seen men whose names it is the pride of science to record-men who, to the patient gasping in the agony of death, have predicted the day and hour of his recovery-stamp their feet with angry impatience as they were leaving the door of some fine lady's boudoir, where, on costly cushions of the softest silk, the delicate migraine had spread its dainty couch.

Oh ye Samsons of science, whose strong hands have broken the jaws of young lions, and beat the baffled fever from his dearly-rescued prey, witless as babies worried by a gnat have I seen you, unable quite, for

all your pains, to stop the small, small noxious humming of that infinitesimal insect commonly called nerves! Have I not heard you loudly denying its existence in the very moment when you were bullied, baffled, beaten by the exasperating buzz of it? And then do you abuse the poor patient for not being able to emancipate herself from a morbid imagination. Emancipate herself? as if to be the emancipator were not specially your business, and this morbid imagination the very disease it behooves you to deal with!

"Don't drink strong tea; don't jade your nerves in crowded rooms; don't tire your strength in the nightlong dance!"

Is that all you have to say to the sufferer?

But they do drink strong tea; they do go to crowded balls; they do dance from morning to night. They do nothing else, indeed.

Well, and what then?

Ether and sal volatile, and you are at the end of your pharmacopoeia.


Sympathizing reader, do you now understand what induced me to seize the favoring chance that offered me admission into favored circles? My object there was two-fold. I wished to rid myself by friction with the brilliant surface of that world of the angularities of professional pedantry which the physician acquires from the habits of the dissecting-room and the hospital ward, where he must harden his susceptibilities against the piteous moan and supplicating look, in order that his steady eye may miss no movement of the hand of the professor who is sawing the hipbone or

sewing the femoral artery of No. 73, and then hurry on to No. 87, without pausing by the bed where they have just thrown the death-sheet over No. 78.

I also wished to acquire and appropriate to my own uses those fine tones and delicate touches of exterior culture which are the art of the higher classes; for let it be fully acknowledged, the Great are artists; artists of the beautiful in common things, artists in the preservation of the graces of daily life. I am thankful to think that in human nature the tendency toward nobility is so ineradicable, that while, on the one hand, vulgarity itself is but a clumsy homage to something above, on the other hand, even there, where nature is most artificial, Beauty receives its ultimate tribute in the perfected amenities of intercourse and purified forms of expression. For this, I faithfully respect those who, as a class, are faithful to the respect of themselves. Greatness is made up of little things greatly treated; and it is no small thing to realize in little matters the large sense of that lofty motto, "Noblesse oblige."

With the result of my attempts to analyze the subtle perfume of that brilliant flower called High Life, in order that in the same corolla which contained the dainty poison I might find the delicate antidote, I have no reason to be dissatisfied. I acquired, indeed-less by any scientific skill than by that tact which is the gift of daily experience-a reputation greater than my deserts.

But throughout this chronicle of fates not mine, I am resolved to speak no more about myself than what absolutely concerns my relation to the life of others.

I am writing, as it were, under a spell; and the ghosts that have set this task upon me are already impatient, as I think; for again I seem to sit before the half-uplifted curtain of the drama of a dream; and again, as long ago, from far away into the hearing of my mind is borne, in warning or in menace, the phantom hautboy's melancholy note. By the side of thee, my Reader, I sit down, glad of thy safe human presence here, confronted as I am by these ghostly memories.

And now of thee also gladly would I know as much as of me thou now knowest, oh my Reader.



In this daily round of trivial circumstance my pleasantest hours were when, alone in the Bois de Boulogne, I let the reins lie idly on my horse's neck, and lazily indulged my own inclinations in suffering him to follow his. I speak of the old Bois de Boulogne, the Bois of many years ago, whose quiet groves were dear to solitude; not the new-made forest of today, which is chiefly dear to Fashion and the Demimonde. Not more pleasant to my horse's feet was the soft, thick-shaded sand along the thousand leafy alleys where he led me at his will and pleasure, than to my heart those many pastoral haunts so near to Paris, so far from the world, along the wooded banks of the Seine-smiling Surène, or Mon Calvaire veiled in soberest autumn air. But chiefly I loved, and oftenest sought, that part of the wood where, as you ride, at intervals behind the warm bird-haunted brakes you see in the pure, clear evening light the gleaming of the quiet Mare d'Auteuil.

There, in true German fashion, I used to dream away the yellow ends of many an idle afternoon. For there, a weeping willow hangs over the glassy water, yearning to some mirrored image which it well knows how to hide. There the tall Italian poplars stand atiptoe, high above the comely trunks of good old oaks

« AnteriorContinuar »