Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

“Three lines suffice to explain the object of this letter. Though no sentiment of honour can inhabit a breast like yours, I will not imagine your degradation so complete as to think it has deprived you of the consciousness of what my honour—no less than my personal wrong-demands. You have been ill, I hear; but this is a summons which gives health to the sick. Therefore I expect your immediate answer to fix the time and place of that meeting which one of us, at least, shall not survive. Two days I remain here to receive your reply. On the morning of the third I proceed to the rendez-vous appointed. Till then may God have you in his holy keeping.

“ BERNARD DE GOURNAY.”

" I will kill him,” said Monsieur de Gournay, “ with his own weapon -no other !” But fate was stronger than even the determined purpose of revenge.

On the morning of the third day two letters reached Monsieur de Gournay. Both were from France, but neither from his cousin, and the superscription of each was in a handwriting unknown to him.

But the contents of the first he opened speedily made him aware of the reason for Monsieur de Saverne's silence. The hand was motionless for ever that should have replied.

“MONSIEUR LE BARON”—so ran the letter—"I humbly beg pardon for the liberty I take in addressing you; but it is not in the power of my master to do so, as he died yesterday morning. He had been ill for some days, but when I carried him his letters, with the chocolate which he always took the first thing after he woke, he said he felt a good deal better, and hoped in a short time to be quite well again. He then drank his chocolate, and when he had finished I handed his letters and left him, according to my usual custom. I had not, however, been in my own room more than a quarter of an hour when I heard his bell ringing violently, and I hurried back as fast as I could. I found Monsieur le Marquis sitting up in bed, with his mouth open, breathing very hard, and looking very strangely about the eyes : all his letters were scattered on the floor, with the exception of one, which I perceived crumpled up in his left hand. On seeing me he made a strong effort, and, after gasping once or twice, said he had been suddenly seized with spasms; in fact, he was suffering from them at the time. I gave him a violet tisane, which he swallowed, and I was in hopes it had done him good, for he told me, with a singular smile, that he meant to get up directly, but first of all he wanted his desk and writing things. I did as Monsieur le Marquis ordered, and then began to prepare his toilet; but while I was airing his linen, ready to put on, I heard a deep groan, and looking round, I saw my master fall back on his pillow and close his eyes. I dropped what I held and ran to the bed. I was too late, Monsieur le Baron: he was no more. The physicians, when they came, said that his death was caused by hypertrophy, which means, I believe, an affection of the heart, and often accompanies the disease by which Monsieur le Marquis had already been attacked. It was my task to lay my master out, and I had great difficulty in unclenching his left hand.' When I succeeded at last in doing so, the crumpled letter fell out. I smoothed it straight, and in doing so saw, Monsieur le Baron, that it was written by you. I did not presume to read it, but when I had copied your address, in order that I might communicate the above distressing intelligence, I took the liberty of putting it in the fire, in doing which I trust I have not exceeded my duty, which is, and ever will be, to place myself, Monsieur le Baron, at

your commands.

“"I have the honour to be, Monsieur le Baron,
“ With profound respect,
« Your most obedient humble servant,

“ BAPTISTE LEBRUN.

“I have omitted to say that the funeral of Monsieur le Marquis takes place to-morrow morning, at eleven o'clock, at the church of the Madeleine."

“ Bianca,” said Monsieur de Gournay to his daughter, who had eagerly watched him while he read this letter, our enemy is gone to his account. My cousin Astolphe is dead !”

“ And you, then, my father,” cried Bianca, clasping her hands fervently, “ you are safe ! Thank God! Thank God! I cannot weep

for him!”

Monsieur de Gournay sat silent for some moments, communing with his own thoughts; his eyes rested unconsciously on the second letter; at last it attracted his attention.

“ Who,” he said, “ can my other correspondent be?”

He opened the letter, and a thin piece of paper, wafted by a gust of air, Auttered across the table to where Bianca sat. She took it up, and found, to her surprise, that it was a French billet de banque for five hundred francs.

The letter consisted of only a single line; yet it was plain, from the spelling, how much trouble it had given the writer. “Dela part d'un serviteure fidelle,” was all it said.

It was a distraction from painful reflections to guess by whom this money could have been sent, but all Monsieur de Gournay's conjectures were made in vain, nor was it till some months afterwards that he discovered the sender to be no other than Jean Lalouette, the landlord of the Coq d'Or, at Amiens, who had taken the first opportunity in his power of fulfilling his intention of continuing to pay his rent.

How Jean Lalouette had learned Monsieur de Gournay's address remains to be explained. It was he whom Hubert, when he left Paris, had written to, to carry on the negotiation for the purchase of the Château de Gournay; and in his first communication from London Hubert gave him news of his old master, naming the place where he was staying, but not discussing Monsieur de Gournay's affairs, which Lalouette consequently supposed were still in a depressed condition.

If Hubert had been anxious to possess the Château de Gournay before he became acquainted with its former owner, that anxiety was not diminished when, in answer to his eloquent pleading, on the day that saw Monsieur Trécourt disgorge his fraudulent gains, Monsieur de Gournay consented to bestow upon him Bianca's hand-her heart, by her own confession, being already his : on one condition, however, that the full

concurrence of Hubert's father was obtained. This was accomplished with little difficulty, for no sooner had Sir Richard Gournay, in compliance with his son's urgent message, arrived in London, than Hubert at once exposed the actual state of the case. Though the description which Hubert gave of Bianca's beauty, character, and accomplishments might of itself have failed to move Sir Richard, the proud old English baronet was not proof against the charm of illustrious birth, and when he found that it was with the identical Norman family from which his own was descended that Hubert sought to ally himself, he set aside every pecuniary consideration, and declared his prompt acquiescence in his desire. That readiness received a fresh impulse when he became personally acquainted with Monsieur de Gournay and his daughter, whom he immediately invited to Loxwood Abbey; nor is it any disparagement to Sir Richard to say that, indifferent as he might be to money, he was, after all, not sorry to learn that Bianca was a wealthy heiress, Monsieur de Gournay being able, within a few days after becoming his guest, to communicate the fact that although the Marquis de Saverne had disposed of all his personal property in the manner we have already seen, much of his real estate was inalienable, and devolved upon his cousin as nearest of kin.

Arrived at this part of our narrative, we suppress the details of the marriage, which once more united the long-separated branches of the House of De Gournay; but as the reader may wish to know something more concerning one or two other persons who have figured in this history, we transcribe the following letter from Paris, which Hubert received a few hours before his departure with his bride, to pass their honeymoon at the Château de Gournay: “CHER AMI,— Mon bonheur est parfait !

Je viens de faire comme vous. Je me marie! Vous allez demander avec qui? Ah, vous ne la connaissez pas encore; c'est dommage. C'est une femme adorable, avec trente mille livres de rente. Elle raffole de moi ! Mon scélérat d'oncle -passez-moi le mot-s'est enfin conduit en honnête homme. Il a tant gagné par la vente du château que vous venez d'acheter, qu'il a consenti à délier un peu sa bourse. Nous partons incessamment pour la Suisse. Là, aux bords de ces lacs enchanteurs, aux pieds de ces montagnes sublimes, en vue de ces neiges éternelles, dans les profondeurs de ces bois sauvages, nous allons oublier le monde. J'ai d'excellents cigares, et ma Julie chante comme un ange. A notre retour, à quinze jours d'ici, nous espérons vous faire visite. Adieu, cher ami. Ma Julie m'appelle. Je vous em. brasse de cæur, eu vous priant de déposer mes hommages aux pieds de Miladi, votre aimable épouse.

“ ANATOLE Duval.”

283

THE BRITISH ASSOCIATION AT OXFORD.

I roamed
Delighted through the motley spectacle;-
Gowns grave or gaudy, doctors, students, streets,
Courts, cloisters, flocks of churches, gateways, towers.

THE British Association for the Advancement of Science, which held at Oxford, in June, 1832, the first annual meeting after its birth at York, returned in June, 1860, to that venerable seat of learning, in full maturity of vigour, to hold its thirtieth annual meeting. The cultivators of natural science, whose motto is “ Progress," again met in the time-honoured University, whose traditions are so peculiarly classic, ecclesiastical, and retrospective, and whose genius, while looking to the future, seems ever mindful of the past. The students of nature assembled not only amidst objects of natural beauty, amidst libraries, museums, and collections illustrative of natural history, and among professors and scholars, but were surrounded by such buildings of historic grandeur, such objects of artistic grace, and such treasures of fine art, as can be found only in the queen of English cities. And the Oxford meeting had the added charm of contrast and variety, inasmuch as the Association met last year beyond the Grampians, in the remote capital of Northern Scotland. Aberdeen has likewise, as everybody knows, its University and its Highstreet to boast, and it rejoices in those lions of the modern town, if it is not so proud as it ought to be of the religious and regal memories that cluster round the quaint half-deserted adjacent town of Old Aberdeen, once famous for scholars and salmon, and still dignified by the remains of the cathedral and the buildings of King's College, with their unique coronal spire. But the characteristic features of the past have yielded to the prosaic sights and sounds of commercial industry in the granite city of the Dee, whereas at Oxford the romantic character of the middle ages seems even now to pervade the buildings which have there “ been sheltered under the wings of Time," and, lingering amidst the graceful monuments of pious zeal and religious learning, still to throw a magic influence upon the scene.

In the aspect of the great city of Aberdeen there is nothing distinctively academical : Marischal College certainly cannot be called collegiate in its aspect; and instead of the grey pinnacles of shapely stone that have been raised at Oxford amidst venerable trees, " into the midst of sailing birds and silent air," the modern pile is closely surrounded by the buildings of a busy and prosperous seaport. The High-street of Aberdeen may undoubtedly boast the impressiveness of two very long parallel lines of granite houses, grey, cold, and uniform; but the Highstreet of Oxford presents a matchless variety of architecture, and a succession of buildings adorned with the graces of art and endowed with the claims of age, all differing in form and character, but all picturesque and beautiful, and presenting a tout ensemble which has no parallel in the world.

Towers and spires and domes rising amidst clusters of foliage, seem (as Dr. Waagen, the art-critic of Berlin, observes) to proclaim from afar the Gothic glories of Oxford; and a first view of its buildings undoubtedly

VOL, XLVIII.

produces, as he has remarked, an impression that is ineffaceable. The preponderance and profusion of artistic beauty and sumptuous architecture give to its aspect such a peculiar character that the spirit of the middle ages might well seem to dwell spell-bound there, and to be still living power.

We propose to give a résumé of the pleasant week which began with the speech of the Prince Consort and closed under the presidency of Lord Wrottesley; and to any readers unacquainted with Oxford, it may be acceptable if we introduce our sketch of the scientific business of the meeting by glancing at the collegiate and other antiquities which brought the votaries of science in the year 1860 face to face, as it were, with the art, and learning, and piety of the past. And perhaps no monument of former days at Oxford can place the present in more striking contrast with the past, than that chief, if not sole relic of what Oxford's noble Chancellor might call “pre-scientific” times, the old royal castle, which dates from the reign of William Rufus. “ The massive arches broad and round,” that remain in what was probably the crypt of the great hall, are characteristic of Anglo-Norman days; and from the existing tower --remarkable for its rude construction and peculiar form the Empress Matilda is said to have escaped when besieged by Stephen, but the mound on which the castle stands is perhaps as old as the days of the Mercian kings. The adjacent locality of Beaumont, however, was the seat of royalty down to the time of the Plantagenets, and in it Richard Cæur de Lion was born, but no fragment of the palace remains. So likewise have disappeared the various other buildings once enclosed by the walls of Oxford Castle ; among the historic associations of which it is memorable that in 1258 the barons here exacted from Henry III. those celebrated “ Provisions” which, however objectionable on the score of unconstitutional encroachment on royal prerogative and abuse of power by the nobles, ultimately extended the constitutional liberties of England, and that in a parliament held (probably in the great hall of this castle) in 1264, the custom originated of choosing knights of the shire by assent of the county instead of the nomination of the crown. It is characteristic of the times, that on one of the earliest parliaments (or councils of the realm) held at Oxford (A.D. 1189), advantage was taken of the presence of the king and several bishops to disinter the remains of St. Frideswide, “ the fair and perhaps fabled” inhabitant of the bowers of Woodstock in days of Mercian rule, and translate them to a shrine in the then new priory church, now the cathedral. In remembrance of what befel the Saxon prince who pursued the saint herself into Oxford, it had been for centuries forbidden for any monarch to approach her relics, and the humiliation of Henry III. by the barons at Lewes, was superstitiously attributed to his indiscreet devotion in approaching the shrine.

But the latter part of Henry's reign saw at Oxford the rise of buildings and the establishment of societies that were destined to survive the edifices of feudal power, and to enshrine there for all future time the light of religion and learning. The latter half of the thirteenth century was an age of great activity and zeal in the foundation of halls of learning at Oxford, and saw the beginning of the great and venerable institution which has been for centuries so famous throughout the world. Most

« AnteriorContinuar »