Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

"Of that enough, sir!" said Monsieur de Gournay, with hauteur; "you, as a servant, obeyed your master's orders."

Louvel's cheek burnt for a moment, but he mastered the angry feeling. "I have your pardon, then, Monsieur le Baron, for what is past ?"

"I make no account of your conduct," said Monsieur de Gournay, in the same distant manner.

There was still a struggle on the part of Louvel. He was piqued by Monsieur de Gournay's contempt, but if he resented it, he threw away the chance on which he reckoned; besides, he remembered his own insolence when he executed the commands of the Marquis de Saverne. Notwithstanding what he had said, the Baron had something to forgive. No, he would make his peace if it were possible.

"Monsieur le Baron," he said, "you formerly, I think, knew a person named Trécourt?"

The abruptness of the inquiry startled Monsieur de Gournay, and he answered hastily :

"Trécourt! Yes! Why do you ask?"

"May I put another question? Did you sustain losses at his hands?" "It was a matter of public notoriety in Paris; I, and many others, suffered severely by his failure as an agent de change; myself, perhaps, more than all the rest."

"In that case, Monsieur le Baron, there is a possibility of your recovering your losses, for the man I speak of is living in affluence here in London."

"Are you speaking the truth, sir?" said Monsieur de Gournay, with some asperity.

"It is as true, Monsieur le Baron, as that I stand here!"

_____"

"I owe you an apology," said Monsieur de Gournay to Hubert, "in permitting my affairs to occupy your attention, but"Make none, I pray," replied Hubert. "What I hear may, I trust,

enable me to be of use."

"Again!" said the Baron. "Well, well. He wrung Hubert's hand as he spoke. said:

If it must be so!"

Then, turning to Bianca, he

66

"I may yet, my child, have a fortune to give you! I have Trécourt's acknowledgments for six hundred thousand francs. I did not think his signature was worth the paper on which it was written!"

"Is he able to pay

"We must take care to make it so," said Hubert. so much ?"

This was addressed to Louvel, who replied that he had reason to believe Monsieur Trécourt was good for twice that amount. Louvel then entered in detail into the position of Monsieur Trécourt, and, placing what he was doing to the score of sincere repentance, told the Baron that he could not rest till he had atoned for the share he had taken in his arrest, and that he had left no means untried to obtain access to him. It was from the turnkey at the prison, to which place he had gone again, that he learnt whither the cabman had driven who conveyed Monsieur de Gournay away, and as soon as he obtained this information he hastened to the spot.

Louvel was then desired to remain in attendance below while the Baron consulted with Hubert on the course which it was necessary to adopt to enforce restitution from the ex-agent de change.

THE OUTREMANCHE CORRESPONDENCE.

No. VIII.

CE QUI VIENT DE FLOT S'EN RETOURNE DE MARÉE.

MON CHER ALFRED,-I make choice of the old Norman proverb prefixed to this letter, for the purpose of illustrating the condition of those affairs which I have been more or less engaged in discussing for some months past. Whichever way I turn, to whatever subject I address myself, I find that like the flood of the sea and its ebb, the progress of events and their retrocession are exactly equal. As the Persian poet says, "All things return to whence they sprang," a little damaged, perhaps, by friction, but substantially the same.

Amongst the numerous original creations of the great English humorist, Charles Dickens, which have supplied so many types of character, the horse of Monsieur Pecksniff occupies a prominent place. This horse, mon cher Alfred, was an animal always occupied in making the most magnificent demonstrations, and always disappointing those who put faith in them. There seemed to be a great deal of what is called "go" in him, but, in reality, there was none, and thus the horse of Monsieur Pecksniff has become the symbol of all who promise and never perform.

To this category essentially belongs the present session of the British Parliament, which will undoubtedly be remembered in future times as the Pecksniff Parliament.

Everything that was to operate for the general weal was predicted for the year 1860.

Public burdens were to be removed, obnoxious taxes suppressed, reforms of law and of representation accomplished-que vous dirai-je ?—a political millennium was at hand. And what has been the result of all these fine flourishes?

Absolute and unmitigated disappointment! Not a single measure has been carried of all that were promised!

I have from time to time made mention of each successive legislative failure, and therefore I spare you a repetition of the details, contenting myself—and you, too, I doubt not-by describing the session, en masse, as the greatest Parliamentary fiasco on record since the days when Parliaments were first invented. Except for the discontent which remainsthe bitter dregs of the ministerial quack medicines so freely administered -the tide of legislation has carried back everything that should have been floated ashore.

It is true, mon cher Alfred, that these things are nothing to either you or I, but when people talk of the value of Parliamentary institutions it is time to ask in what they consist. Monsieur Gladstone seems to think they are not worth much more than the arrangements which pass for legislative proceedings amongst ourselves, when he says:

"Vacillation, uncertainty, costliness, extravagance, meanness, and all

VOL. XLVIII.

Q

the conflicting vices that could be enumerated are united in our present system. There is a total want of authority to direct and guide. . . The public is disappointed, and the money of the country is wasted. I believe such are the evils of the system that nothing short of revolutionary reform will ever be sufficient to rectify it."

We know that Monsieur Gladstone is speaking from the full heart of a man who is disgusted at the sudden extinction of his own popularity, and that when he talks of "revolutionary reform," he is merely making himself the mouthpiece of Monsieur Bright-the only political friend that is left to him; but, notwithstanding the suspicious motive, he is very near the truth. L'âne parle, et même il parle bien! Not that Monsieur Gladstone is for a moment to be classed with the asinine fraternity, of whom the House of Commons contains so many. On the contrary, he is, as Sir James Graham said of Monsieur Disraeli, "too clever by half." Mais cela n'empêche pas quelquefois de faire des bêtises.

But all the world, you will reply, are not wrapped up in the proceedings of the English legislature. What are its mistakes, its stupidities, its inertness to us? Let the House of Commons waste as much time as it pleases on its own interminable debates, let it squander away the public money on Chinese wars or ridiculous home fortifications-let it do any thing, in short, but what it ought, as appears to be its practice-all that is the concern of the English people, not ours. We, Frenchmen, have a policy of progress-that is to say, our Ruler has; we are always advancing that is to say, our Ruler is; where we have set one foot we invariably plant the other that is to say, our Ruler does; never ceasing from our-or his-endeavour until the object in view be attained.

But is this so very certain, mon cher? In spite of our inscrutable ways, in spite of the profundity of our plans, in spite of our tenacious grasp, there is little change in our actual position. Savoy is ours, and Nice-neither of them very honestly come by-mais ça, c'est peu de chose and not worth the loss of character involved in their acquisition. But what of the great objects for which the Italian war was undertaken?

Has the treaty of Villafranca satisfied-I do not say Italy or Austria -but its imperial proposer? Has the meeting at Baden answered the purpose of its projector? The expedition to Sicily and the conference at Töplitz have been the contrecoups of each of those politic movements.

You may say that the end is not yet-that we are all of us crowing before we are out of the wood-that the game is not played out, indeed, only just begun. Granted; but one thing at least is apparent: that we are still travelling in a circle.

Five years ago we prescribed for the sick man in Turkey, and set him, as we supposed, upon his legs again: at the present moment he is sicklier than before, and again we prescribe, balancing in our own minds the advisability of giving him the coup de grace with our own hands-a friendly way of settling the question; but then our friendship is always of that complexion.

Has nothing, then, been done in Italy? Mais, oui, certainement-a great deal; but it is the Italians themselves who have done it. Their success-Garibaldi's success-has been wonderful, but the more wonderful the more dangerous. Italy, excluding the Pontifical wedge and the

Venetian quadrilateral, is about to become a united nation, but at what cost? The renewal of the war with Austria, which brings things to the very point from which they started at the beginning of last year.

For what says the licensed Turin correspondent of the great Grandgousier-pardon me, Grandguillot? "Italy is now entering the most critical and most decisive period of her regeneration. Henceforth she stakes on a single card either her ruin or her salvation. Engaged as she is in the path upon which she has been thrown by the expedition of Garibaldi, Italy will within two months be either free and completely independent, or Austria will again reign, and this time from Messina to Turin."

Were, then, the battles of Magenta and Solferino fought for nothing? Is the "idea" that took us to Italy so vaporous and unsubstantial as to be puffed away like so much idle breath? Is there accommodation between those whose principles are-or ought to be-eternally antagonistic? Is Austria, whom France stepped forward to arrest when Pied. mont was invaded, no longer to be impeded, now that she meditates a wider sweep? From Messina to Turin! Then Piedmont-to say nothing of the rest of Italy, of that Italy which was promised freedom "from the Alps to the Adriatic"-is to be entirely abandoned !

This, indeed, would be a liberal interpretation of the meaning of the peace of Villafranca, which was "to inaugurate”- -so says a certain personage in a certain memorable letter-" a new era of peace," and enable him who wrote that letter "de vivre en bonne intelligence avec tous ses voisins." That same letter also contained this passage: "Je désire que l'Italie se pacifie, n'importe comment, mais sans intervention étrangère;" and Monsieur Grandguillot's correspondent glosses on that text by predicting for Italy-let us rather say by threatening her withthe domination of Austria from Messina to Turin! Que diable! This is a sure mode of pacification, "no matter how!"

Ah, but you forget. Have we not at last seen the necessity of establishing, as a fixed principle, the rigorous law of non-intervention? Before we crossed the Alps and poured our armies into the plains of Lombardy, that doctrine was unknown to us. Our knowledge has been of rapid growth. We acquired it when we learned that Italy was too independent for our purpose. Let her fight her own battle now! We see the issue of the contest. In two months to repeat the words of Monsieur Grandguillot's friend, who utters them upon authority somewhat more decisive than his own-in two months Italy reverts to her former condition, malgré tant de promesses, malgré tant de fracas.

And if Italy be again enslaved, how can we help it? We are acting according to the dictates of our conscience, and does not Pascal tell us: "Jamais on ne fait le mal si pleinement et si gaîment que quand on le fait par conscience"? In point of fact, it is not we who do this evil; we are merely standing aside to let others do it. Even were it otherwise, we might console ourselves with Voltaire's maxim: "On aime le mal pour le mal, à l'imitation d'un plus grand seigneur que les rois, qui s'appelle le Diable!"

We hear, however, that there is a chance for Italy in forbearance, but on which side this forbearance is to be exercised is the enigma.

If Garibaldi be victorious at Naples-and of his success there seems to

be little doubt-what is there to bar his progress towards Venetia, which he has sworn to liberate, save the horde of half-disaffected mercenaries whom the pious Algerine, Lamoricière, has drawn together? And when, having swept those condottieri into the Tiber, he advances towards the Po, will he pause to reconsider his determination?

On the other hand, will Austria, strong in the consciousness of her material force, and sustained by the engagements of Töplitz-will she tamely permit the Liberator to approach her frontier unassailed? With the antecedents of Austria before us- -remembering under what circumstances she crossed the Ticino-and bearing in mind this axiom, that the Hapsburg Kaiser belongs to a race which, like that of the Bourbons, never profits by experience-to forbear to visit on Piedmont vengeance for all her last year's humiliations can scarcely form part of her retaliatory programme.

At the end, then, of little more than a year from the signing of the Treaty of Villafranca, we have another general war in Italy, and "ce qui vient de flot, s'en retourne de marée."

Neither are matters so entirely smoothed over, with respect to the cession of Savoy, as certain personages suppose. It was only last week, a few days before the English parliament was prorogued, that Lord Palmerston expressed himself on this subject in terms which could scarcely be agreeable to notre maître, on his journey to visit the ceded provinces. You, perhaps, may not have seen Lord Palmerston's speech; therefore I cite the identical words he used in replying to a question as to whether the British government recognised the annexation of Savoy and Nice as a valid act, forming part of the public law of Europe. "The cession," said Lord Palmerston, "was objectionable, not only as it affected the neutrality and independence of Switzerland, but on account of the manner in which it was made. All the circumstances connected with it from first to last, the denials at one time and avowals at another, the promises made, as reported, by the President of Switzerland in his message of March, the promises made in January and February by the French government to the minister of Switzerland, that whenever the cession should be completed Faucigny and Chablais should be transferred to Switzerland -a promise afterwards retracted, and apparently never intended to be performed-all these circumstances must produce a most painful impression in the mind of every man in regard to all the parties who were concerned in the transaction. It had certainly produced a painful impression on the minds of all the other states of Europe-an impression showing that they considered that, for the future, forethought and precaution must be the duty of every power." How admirably, in juxtaposition with these words, reads that passage in the letter to "Mon cher Persigny," where the imperial writer says: "Entendons-nous loyalement, comme d'honnêtes gens que nous sommes, et non comme des larrons qui veulent se duper réciproquement." Here, again, the legality of the cession of Savoy not being recognised by Europe, the old ground is once more to be gone over.

But it is not in the field of politics alone that we continue to follow the same route; our other follies pursue a no less monotonous track.

Under the impression that something new engages our attention, we are content to accept a mere réchauffé of the past. We think we cultivate a new religion when we are simply worshipping the old stocks and stones, disguised in newer rags.

« AnteriorContinuar »