« ZurückWeiter »
of the third day, Hardy suddenly laid down his pen. He took his temperature and marked it in the chart.
'Hagebitter was quite wrong,' be said. "The temperature does rise very suddenly and with abnormal rapidity before there are any traces of inflammation. I am afraid that I shall have lost control of my brain before morning, but my work is almost finished. If ever the epidemic reaches the coast they will have reason to remember my name with yours. You have got to go through with it now. Shake hands and remember your promise. No one, whoever it may be, must see me again.'
"That was the beginning of the end. The next morning two women came into the courtyard. The doctor could hardly prevent one of them from rushing up to the window of the ward. Then I held up the message Hardy had written and signed-he had thought of every contingency, you see—against the pane. The elder one dropped on her knees and was led away. The other, after reading the paper, ceased to struggle to approach the ward, but she refused to leave the courtyard. I believe the doctor, very unwisely, allowed her to bring food and necessaries to the lift. At all hours of the day and night, whenever I looked out, she was standing against the wall of the opposite building, watching my window. Once when I was fetching in something she tried to speak to me up the lift. Though I shut the window down promptly and without answering, I thought for the moment that Hardy must have been disturbed by the sound, or his breathing became more restless. This, however, considering his state of collapse, I now consider to be unlikely. It was not until I pulled the blind down, when all was over, that she slowly went away. Hardy's body, in accordance with the instructions he had left, had then already been cremated. The same day I succumbed to the infection, and
Hagebitter arrived in time to watch my case. To bis ill-concealed disappointment it was a very mild attack. Hagebitter himself had to admit that my serum was a prophylactic of considerable virtue. He had inoculated himself when first I wrote to him, and proved himself to be completely immune. Young Hardy had not died in vain!"
“But-" I began.
“Yes," interrupted the Professor, “I know what you are going to say. It was careless of Hardy to leave that syringe lying about, and it was thoughtless of him not to amputate at the elbow as soon as he felt the prick. But when I think of the devotion of the boy to our common cause, when I remember his high spirit which bore him successfully over so many difficulties, well, I must leave it to you laymen to blame him. To men like myself his memory will always be that of one of the great men of science, one of those brave pioneers who fell in the forefront of the battle."
When the Professor runs away with an idea the lay mind has no choice but to give him his head.
“The question I wanted to ask was this," I interposed, as soon as interpellation was possible. “You said the serum cost two lives. Hardy's was one. The other was,"
"It is curious," observed the Professor, in the tone of one whose interest in the subject under discussion is flickering out, “to note the persistency with which the lay mind fastens on the irrelevant. I was, perhaps, wrong in saying that the serum cost two lives. The connection of the second death with the discovery was remote and indirect. You may, perhaps, remember my reference to a young female who attracted my attention at the hospital. She, it appears, was betrothed to Hardy. She died shortly afterwards. The shock of his death supervening on a disordered nervous system-in short, she died of what you would ineptly call a broken heart. The lay mind cannot appreciate the fact that emotional"
“We will leave it at that,” said the lay mind, perhaps a little rudely.
In the group of brilliant women who "rule Paris through their Salons" there is not one so characteristic of the worst side of that great Eighteenth Century as Madame d'Epinay. In her one sees its sublime self-deceit, after which all sin is easy. She has in full measure its charm, its cleverness and its folly; its fine talk and its mean practice; its feeling for beauty and truth, and its "windy sentimentalism” which leads away from both. From her rooms comes a hot air, feverish with debate. Here it is always candle-light, with no cold, clear morning to search the shams. Here every woman is in love with the wrong man, and every man in love with the wrong woman.
The worst crime is forgiveable if the sinner sins wittily. And out of her portrait the presiding genius of this little world looks down the century with the falsest smiling face that ever woman had. For Madame d'Epinay is light to her soul.
As she is also the friend of the great men of a famous age, listens to Voltaire, Grimm, Galiani, Diderot, Duclos, Holbach, Rousseau, and writes moirs to record what she has heard, she has no slight claim on remembrance.
Louise Florence Pétronille d'Esclavelles is born in 1726. Her father is governor of Valenciennes, and lives there with his wife and child until his death, ten years later. Then Madame brings up the little Louise to Paris for an education; gives her M. d'Affry as a tutor (Louise attaches herself to him
with a charming childish affection) and returns herself to Valenciennes, leaving the little daughter to be brought up with a large party of cousins, by her Aunt and Uncle Bellegarde.
Judiciousness does not seem to be the distinguishing feature of Louise's early training. Madame d'Esclavelles is a severe, righteous woman-hard and fast rules and sharp punishments. She inspires in the little girl the fear which is but too prone to protect itself by white lies. When Louise has been long a married woman, she is still in no small awe of her mother, nay, has, up to the time of Madame's death-though she is a tender daughter and a devoted -the shrinking of the weak nature before the strong.
Uncle Bellegarde seems to be particularly kind, and Aunt Bellegarde distinctly disagreeable. Louise forms devoted youthful friendships with her girl cousins, and writes affectionate, careful letters (careful, remembering he is her dear tutor and won't expect faults of style and expression) to M. d'Affry. Then she goes for a little while to a convent. When she comes out of it she is no longer a child, but a charming girl, not pretty (but then a Frenchwoman does not need beauty to make her attractive), with great, dark eyes in a very pale, thin, animated and expressive face. As there is a boy cousin a good deal at home, Louise, of course, immediately falls in love with him. She confides her passion to his married sisters, who, to do them jus
tice, warn her quite openly of their brightness and vivacity make her more brother's real character of his "rare admired than all the regular, dull beaufacility" for lying, his expensive gay ty in Paris. So they ignore Mama's tastes, and notoriety for worse wick- strictness and presently, and in the edness. Louise is not in the least disil- very greatest excitement, give a ball lusioned, of course. She has the most themselves. obstinate youthful infatuation. To be They have been married about a year sure this delightful M. de la Live does when Louise discovers, what the warnnot at all care for her at present. But ings of her sisters-in-law failed to make he will he must. M. de la Live-he her realize, the true nature of the man presently changes his name to d'Epinay she has married. It difficult to fancy -is, in point of fact, not long proof a more contemptible person than this against the very evident admiration of gay, easy, pleasant, extravagant, selfhis charming little cousin, and having indulgent, light-hearted fermier général. just, and most conveniently, been made M. d'Epinay is never troubled all his fermier général, marries her at St. Roch. life long by a scruple. He has not the Louise is nineteen.
faintest sense of responsibility. He is The young pair continue, after the more cheerfully and good-naturedly French fashion, to live with M. de wicked than any other Frenchman in Bellegarde. Madame Bellegarde is now history. He does not, indeed, plan to dead, so Madame d'Esclavelles has avoid right and practise wrong. He taken her place in the house. The simply sees no
difference between d'Epinays begin their married life with them. that abandon to passion which goes be- As Louise is a very young wife and fore disenchantment more certainly has been, poor soul, happy but such a than pride before a fall. On the very very short time, the shrieks and faintfirst day they have the most charming ings with which she first learns of her coquettish quarrel about rouge. Ig husband's faithlessness
may be well Louise to put it on like other women of forgiven her. M. Jully, her brotherher time, or not? Mama says No. M. in-law, comforts her by saying, "What d'Epinay says Yes. Between these two does it signify?
He won't love you strong-minded people, Louise really any less in his heart.” M. d'Epinay can't tell how to act. She gives the himself also thinks it really does not most vivacious little account of the matter. Louise always ends by sharscene herself. She is in the heyday of ing the opinion of the people she is a very brief delight-young, attractive, with. So she puts on a very pretty beloved. One can read between the lines frock and a little color on to her pale the pleasure of her gay little heart, cheeks, feels quite bright again, and and can't but feel sad for the happiness they all go to a delightful ball at the that has no stamina to keep it alive. ópera.
The pair after a time, and not a little She has a better consolation when, in in opposition to the wishes of Madame the September of 1746, her little son is d'Esclavelles, very naturally like to go born to her. There is a great deal of out and enjoy themselves. M. d'Epinay natural affection in this not very proseems to take possession of Louise's found little heart, it seems. Madame character, as Mama took possession of is delightfully fond and proud of the it in her childhood. She is just now, baby, and wants very much to keep at least, more afraid of him than of her him with her instead of putting him mother and, besides, wants to go to out to be nursed after the unnatural those balls and parties where her fashion of the time. “Que voilà une
de ces folles idées!" writes M. d'Epi- and so abandoned-with her exquisite nay, who is away making his duty complexion of milk and roses, and her “tour en province." So Louise yields girlish airs of timidity-that of all the as she always yields. It is while Mon- base actions of the fermier général's life sieur is on this tour and his wife is still this introduction is, perhaps, the bascalling him her "angel," and finding his est. absence “insupportable,” that she dis- Mademoiselle takes possession of the covers by chance one day at a Paris little Madame immediately. She estabjeweler's that the "angel” has been lishes herself chez Epinay. Monsieur is giving his portrait mounted in pearls away. She sits at work with Louise to Some Other Person. When · she those endless tapestries and embroidertaxes him with this faithlessness when ies which are the fashion of the dayhe comes home, he laughs and stops looks up from the frame, perhaps, with her mouth with a kiss. “What differ- her beautiful false eyes, to see how ence does it make to you?” he says much she may dare to say to this (just as M. Jully has said). “However weaker woman, for how strong a poison fond I am of others, I shall always be the feeble soul is fit. Louise adores fondest of you." It is a fine consola
her and confides in her. (Louise goes tion. There is not a little significance on adoring and confiding in the latest in the fact that as M. d'Epinay, gay, comer nearly all her life.) Mademoi. self-pleased and débonnaire, goes out of selle tells her own shameful history; the room laughing, M. de Francueil, adding, complacently, as comment, "In who is to play so fatal a part in the all that youth and lightness made me wife's life, enters it.
do, there is nothing, thank God, for The whole scene is quite characteris- which I need blush.” tic of that "Age of Persiflage,” which When M. de Francueil calls and is even now rushing drunk with wit bends over Louise's little hand and and pleasure, blinded by its own light- brings to bear upon her very susceptible ness, its specious talking and evil- heart the charms of his cultivated indoing, upon the naked swords of the telligence and of his handsome face, Terror.
the litle devil of the embroidery frame Louise, since that gay, faithless hus- (there is no other word that quite fits band leaves her so much, begins, in a Mademoiselle d'Ette) sees the means sort of self-defence to form friendships to get Madame into her power, and uses on her own account. There is Madame them. The next day, perhaps, she tells d'Arty, who has no reputation to speak Louise the further true story of M. of, and who, one night, takes Louise d'Epinay's infidelities. The wife re(Louise wanting to go, and half afraid, pudiates the insinuations; listens and planning feeble little excuse for
doubts-believes. There seems no very her naughtiness in her own mind all specific
why Mademoiselle the time) to a gay, surreptitious supper
should wish to ruin her friend. That with the aspector of the opera. M.
Madame dares to be still innocent, while d'Epinay is dreadfully angry when he Mademoiselle is corrupt to the core, finds out about the adventure. It is may be reason enough. not wicked. It is worse. It is incon- In June, 1747, Louise has a little venable. Of what can Madame d'Arty daughter. By the time she returns to be thinking? It is Monsieur himself Paris and her husband joins her again, who introduces his wife to the friend- the influence of the friend he has given ship of the notorious Mademoiselle her has sunk deep into her soul. She d'Ette, who is so shameless, so clever complains plaintively of the dreadful
ennui, of having to feign pleasure at The pair are soon vowing an eternal the reunion, when she cannot feel it. "pure” and “disinterested friendship.” Their marriage is stripped of the last They take long walks when they disrag of illusion. From henceforward cuss problems of the heart and soulall intimacy between husband and wife the heart and soul meaning, of course, is at an end.
those particular organs which belong One can well imagine that Louise's to Madame d'Epinay and M. de Franframe of mind when she goes to her cueil. When they come home after husband's place, La Chevrette, with these rambles, half guilty, half happy, her children, her father-in-law and his there is Mademoiselle d'Ette with her household, is not a little dangerous. She evil smile, knowing everything, and is young, deceived, susceptible. She working to the vile end quietly in the is under the influence of a bad woman. background, and M. de Bellegarde goodShe is deplorably weak. When M. de humored and unconscious. Bellegarde invites Francueil to stay
Everything is against them-the danthere with them, it must seem like a de- gerous philosophies both have imbibed, cree of destiny. But then, ever, the low public opinion of their age, "character is destiny," one must re- base friends, bad examples, their own member.
characters. Louise denies herself to Francueil is one of the most brilliant the lover for a day or two, weeps, faints figures of the eighteenth century. He and writes, “Go, go; I will never foris a musician and an actor of no mean give you”-and forgives. It is a very order, and has the finest literary taste
old, shameful story, with the same end and judgment. He is receiver-general, always. has a large fortune, delightful man- There is, perhaps, no worse testimony ners, an agreeable person, and a com- against Madame d'Epinay than the acplete incapacity for any kind of fidelity. count she herself gives of this episode He has, at this time, a wife in the back- in her Memoirs. Her pretty self-comground, but she does not seem to count, placency is just ruffled. It is as if she and is, in fact, dismissed, as it were, would say, “A little imprudent, a little from consideration by a man who is
unwise, but so naïve, so impulsive, 80 once Francueil's secretary, and is to be
warm-hearted!" When M. de Franthe greatest man of his age, in the cueil brings down a little troupe of acwords bien laide, bien douce.
tors to La Chevrette, the charming A very vivid imagination is not need- novelty dismisses from this light soul ed to picture the life at La Chevrette. the last faint shadow of uneasiness Francueil teaches Madame composition which might remain to trouble its and harmony. The bright pupil looks peace. Louise is quickly discovered up into the tutor's handsome face and to be the most piquante of amateur learns there what is not written in text- actresses, with, it is said, something in books. A woman can find, if she likes, her voice, eyes, smile, that moves the a personal application in algebra or in
heart. Madame de Maupeou, her sisGreek roots. One may be sure Louise
ter-in-law, is also delightfully piquante is not long in discovering a very human in the part of a servant, Lisette-so side to the lessons of this brilliant pre
piquante, in fact, that Monsieur de Mauceptor. She tells him presently-with
peou forbids her to act any more. (The bewitching tears, no doubt-the history attitude of most of these wives towards of her husband's falseness. It is hard their husbands is pretty well described to say whether she is more charming
by Francueil when he writes to Louise, when she is softly gay or softly sad. “C'est que votre mari est un monstre et