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But, permit me-I do know the name quite well Madame Corneuil-is it not Corneuil ? "Extravagant and singular," interrupted Hor- My gentle friend, does it not seem to you that the goddess Sekhet or Bubastis, who represents the solar radiation, fastens her angry glances blazing with indignation upon that purple rose, and curses the rival whom you insolently prefer to her? Take care-roses fade; both roses and givers of them only live for a day, while the goddesses are immortal and their anger also."
dismay into the bosom of your family by a determination-”
"I said I would withdraw both of those words; but, I ask you, does not this project of marriage seem a headstrong thing?"
"Must I answer you proposition by proposition?" exclaimed he, "or would you rather give me your whole speech at one breath?"
"No, that would tire me too much. Answer as I go along."
"Well, dear uncle, let me tell you that you are not at all mistaken in your ideas of me, and that this headstrong act is the most sensible and prudent thing with which my good genius ever inspired me an act which both my heart and reason approve."
Then you forbid my surprise that the heir of a good name and large fortune, that a Count de Penneville, who could choose in his own rank, among fifty young girls really worthy of him, refuses every one whom his mother proposes, and suddenly changes his mind to marry-whom? A -madame-Horace, what is her name? I never can remember her nothing of a name."
"Reassure yourself, uncle," answered Horace with a smile. The goddess Sekhet looks with gentle eyes upon that flower. If you should ask her, she would say: The fifty heiresses which you have proposed for the Count de Penneville are all or nearly all but foolish creatures, with narrow and frivolous minds, caring only for gewgaws and trifles; therefore I approve him decidedly for having disdained these dolls, and for wishing to marry a woman whom there are few like, whose intelligence is as remarkable as her heart is loving; a woman who adores Egypt and who longs to return thither; a woman who will not only be the sweetest companion to your nephew, but who will also be passionately interested in his labors, who will aid him by her counsel, and be the confidante of all his thoughts.'"
"And who will deserve to become a member of the Institute like him," interrupted Monsieur de Miraval. "How charming it will be to see you enter it arm-in-arm! Horace, I will give up reciting the end of my speech to you. Only per
"The deuce! how fast you go! But that is mit me to ask you a question or two. Where not yet the case." did this incomprehensible accident take place? Oh! I remember-your mother told me that it was in a grotto at Memphis."
"My mother was not very prudent," answered Horace; "but let that go! It was in the depths of a grotto. We call it a hypogeum.”
"Confound the hypogeum! My ideas are getting confused. I remember it was in the tomb of the King Ti."
"Ti was not a king, uncle," answered Horace in a tone of mild indulgence. "Ti was one of the great feudal lords, one of the barons of some ruler of the fourth dynasty, which held sway for two hundred and eighty-four years, or perhaps of the fifth, which was also Memphite."
"Her name is Madame Corneuil, at your service," answered Horace in a piqued tone. "I am sorry if her name displeases you, but spare yourself the trouble of fixing it in your memory. In two months from now you can call her the Countess Hortense de Penneville."
"We have exchanged words, uncle. You may as well consider it so, for I defy you to undo it." Monsieur de Miraval filled and emptied his glass anew, then he began again :
"Do not get excited, or lose your temper. I would not offend you for anything, but I am so astonished, so surprised. Tell me, what is that statuette in blue faïence, with a halo round about her head, with such a slender figure and the face of a cat, holding a queer sort of a guitar in her right hand?"
"That is no guitar, uncle, it is a timbrel, a symbol of the harmony of the universe. Do you not recognize the statuette to be that of the goddess Sekhet, the Bubastis of Greek authors, whom they called the great lover of Ptah, a divinity by turn beneficent and revengeful, who, according to all appearances, represents the solar radiation in its twofold office?"
"I beg a thousand pardons, I believe I do remember her, and that rose which she seems to smell of somewhat suspiciously—ah! I think I need not ask whence that rose comes."
"Well, yes! it was given me by the woman whose name you can not possibly remember."
"Heaven keep me from denying it! So you were in the tomb? Inspired by love, Madame Corneuil deciphered fluently a hieroglyphic inscription, and, touched by the beautiful miracle, you fell at her feet."
"Such miracles do not come to pass, uncle. Madame Corneuil does not yet know how to read hieroglyphics, but she will read them some day." "And is that why you love her, unhappy youth?"
"I love her," exclaimed Horace ardently,
"because she is wonderfully beautiful, because she is adorable, because she has every grace, and beside her every other woman seems ugly. Yes, I love her I have given her my heart and my life for ever! So much the worse for those who do not understand me."
So it may be," answered the uncle; "but your mother has made inquiries, and evil tongues say that—”
"Enough!" replied Horace, raising his voice. "If any one else but you ventured to hint in that manner of a woman for whom my respect equals my love, of a woman worthy the regard of every one, he should either have my life or I his!"
"You know that I could not have the slightest desire to fight with my only heir-what would become of the property? Since you say so, I will be convinced that Madame Corneuil is a person absolutely above reproach. But where the deuce did your mother pick up her information? She says plainly that she is an ambitious manœuvrer, and that her dream is-are you really sure that this woman is not one of the cunning ones? Are you very sure that she is sincerely passionately interested in the exploits of the Pharaohs, and in the god Anubis, guide of souls? Are you sure that sometimes the greatest effects are produced with slight effort, and that down in the grotto of Ti she might not have been acting a little farce, to which an Egyptologist of my acquaintance has fallen an easy dupe? For my own part, I believe that if this same handsome fellow had a crooked nose, and dull, squinting eyes, Madame Corneuil would like him just as well, for the excellent reason that Madame Corneuil has got it into her head that some day she will be called the 'Countess of Penneville.'
"Really, you excite my pity, uncle, and it is very good in me to answer you. To ascribe such miserable calculation, self-interest, and vanity to the proudest, noblest, and purest of souls! You ought to blush that you can so lower yourself. She has told me the story of her life, day by day, hour by hour. God knows she has nothing to conceal! Poor saint, married very young and against her will, through the tyranny of her father, to a man who was not worthy to touch the hem of her garment with the tip of his finger-and yet she forgave him all. If you only knew how tenderly she took care of him in his last moments!"
"But it seems to me, my young friend, that she was well rewarded for her trouble, since he left her his fortune."
"And to whom should he have left it? Had he not everything to make amends for? No, never did woman suffer more or was more worthy of happiness. One thing only helped her to bear her heavy weight of grief. She was strong
ly convinced that some day she might meet a man capable of understanding her-whose soul might be on a level with her own. 'Yes,' she said to me the other evening, 'I had faith in him. I was sure of his existence, and the first time I saw you it seemed as if I recognized you, and I said to myself, "May it not be he?""' Yes, uncle, she and I are one and the same, and it will be the greatest honor of my life. She loves me, I tell you, she loves me-you can not change anything; so we might as well end here, if you are willing."
The Marquis passed his hands twice through his white hair, and exclaimed:
"I declare, Horace, you are the frankest of innocents, the most naïve of lovers."
"I assure you, uncle, that you are the most obstinate and incurable of unbelievers."
Horace, I call this sphinx and the nose of the goddess Sehket to witness that poetry is the malady of those who know nothing of life."
"And I, uncle, I call to witness the moon yonder, and this purple rose, which looks at you and laughs, that skepticism is the punishment of those who may have abused their life.”
"And I-I swear to you by that which is most sacred, by the great Sesostris himself—"
"O uncle, what a blunder! I know that you should not be blamed for it, for you have hardly studied the history of Egypt, and it is no business of yours, but know that there has never been so exaggerated and even usurped reputation as that of the man whom you call the great Sesostris, and whose name really was Rameses II. Swear, if you choose, by the King Cheops, conqueror of the Bedouins, swear by Menes, who built Memphis; swear by Amenophis III., called Memnon; or, if you like it better, by Snefrou, last king but one of the third dynasty, who subdued the nomadic tribes of Arabia Petræa; but know that your great Sesostris was at bottom a very modiocre man, of very slight merit, who carried his vanity so far as to have the names of the sovereigns who preceded him erased from the monuments and substituted his own, which had weight with superficial minds, Diodorus Siculus particularly, and introduced thereby the most unfortunate mistakes in history. Your Sesostris, good Heavens! he has only lived upon one exploit of his youth. Either through address or through luck, he managed to get through an ambuscade with life and baggage unharmed. That was the great achievement which he had engraved hundreds and hundreds of times on the walls of all the buildings erected during his reign; that was his eternal Valmy, his everlasting Jemappes. I ask you what were his conquests? He managed to capture negroes because he wanted masons, he hunted down men in Soudan, and his
only claim to glory was in having had one hundred and seventy children, of whom sixty-nine were sons."
"Goodness! that is no small thing; but, after all, what conclusion do you reach from that?"
"I conclude," answered Horace, who had lost sight of the principal topic in this digression-"I conclude that Sesostris-no,” replied he, "I conclude that I adore Madame Corneuil, and that before three months she shall be my wife."
The Marquis rose hastily, exclaiming, "Horace, my heir and my great-nephew, come to my arms!"
And as Horace, immovable, looked at him astonished-" Must I say it again? Come to my arms," continued he. "I am pleased with you. Your passion really makes me young once more. I admire youth, love, and frankness. I thought you only had a fancy for this woman, a whim, but I see your heart is touched, and one can do no better than to listen to the voice of the heart. Forgive my foolish questions and my impertinent objections. What I said was to acquit my conscience. Your mother gave me my lesson, and I repeated it like a parrot. We must not get angry with these poor mothers; their scruples are always to be respected."
"Ah, there you touch a tender and sore point," interrupted the young man, "but I know how to bring her back-I will write her to-morrow."
"Let me say one word more-do not write; your prose has not the power of pleasing her. She has great confidence in me; my words will have weight. My son, I am all ready to go over to the enemy if this lovely woman who lives near you is really what you say. I will be your advocate with your mother, and we will make her listen to reason. Will you introduce me to Madame Corneuil ?"
"Are you really sincere, uncle?" asked Horace, looking at him with mistrust and defiance. "Can I depend upon your loyalty?"
"Upon the faith of an uncle and a gentleman!” interrupted the Marquis in his turn.
"If that be so, we can embrace this time in good earnest," answered Horace, taking the hand held out to him.
"One of my hours. I never work between breakfast and dinner."
"Yes, uncle, at two o'clock precisely." "Is that the hour when you see her?"
"So everything is ruled to order, like musicpaper. You are right; there must be method in all things. Even in love everything must be done by weight, number, and measure. I knew a philosopher once who said that measure was the best definition of God. But, by the way, I took a nap this afternoon, and am not in the least sleepy. Lend me a book for company after I go to bed. You, doubtless, own the writings of Madame Corneuil ?"
"Could you doubt that?"
"Don't give me her novel; I have already read that."
"It is a real masterpiece," said Horace.
"There is rather too much fog in it to suit my taste. There is a rumor that she has published sonnets."
"They are real gems," exclaimed he.
"And an essay upon the apostleship of woman."
'A wonderful book!" exclaimed he again. "Lend me the essay and the sonnets. I will read them to-night, that I may be prepared for to-morrow's interview.”
Horace began at once to search for the two volumes, which he found with great difficulty. By means of rummaging, he discovered them at last under a great pile of quartos, which were crushing them with their terrible weight. He said to his uncle as he gave them to him:
"Keep them as the apple of your eye. For she gave them to me."
Give yourself no uneasiness; I appreciate the preciousness of the treasure," answered the Marquis.
In the same breath he observed that the trea tise was only half cut, and that the volume of sonnets was not cut at all, which gave rise to certain reflections of his own; but he carefully kept them to himself.
THIS world is full of mysterious events, and Hamlet was right in saying that there were more things in heaven and earth than were dreamed of in Horatio's philosophy.
The uncle and nephew staid talking together for some time longer like good friends. It was near midnight when Monsieur de Miraval remembered that his carriage was waiting for him in the road to take him back to his hotel. He rose and said to Horace:
It has been observed that during the time of great wars, when different peoples coming from all parts of a great empire find themselves suddenly brought together in an army to serve a campaign, strange contagions and fatal epidemics spring up among them, and a great thinker has dared to attribute the cause of it to the
"It is settled, then, that you will introduce forced propinquity of men totally unlike in dispome to-morrow?"
sition, in language, and in intellect, who, not having been made to live together, are brought in contact by an evil caprice of destiny. It has
also been remarked that when the crew of the ship which annually brings the necessary provisions for their subsistence to the poor inhabitants of the Shetland Isles land on their shores, they are seized with a spasmodic cough, and do not cease coughing until the ship has again set sail. It is also said that at the approach of a strange vessel the natives of the Faroe Isles are attacked by a catarrhal fever, which it is very difficult to get rid of. Finally, it is stated that sometimes the arrival of a single missionary at one of the South-Sea islands is enough to bring on a dangerous epidemic, to decimate the wretched savages.
This may perhaps explain why, during the night of August 13, 1878, the beautiful Madame Corneuil was greatly disturbed in her sleep, and why on waking the next morning she felt as if her whole body had been bruised. It was not the plague, it was no cholera, no catarrhal fever, no spasmodic cough, but she felt a certain tightness about the head, a disturbance, and a very peculiar nervous irritation; and she had a presentiment that there was danger near, or that an enemy had just landed. Yet she did not know about the Marquis de Miraval, had never even heard of him; she little knew that he was more dangerous than any missionary who ever landed on the islands of the Pacific.
As her mother, who was always the first to enter her chamber to lavish upon her those attentions which she alone knew how to make agreeable, drew near the bed on tiptoe and wished her good morning, Madame Corneuil, out of humor, gave her a rather cool greeting. Madame Véretz readily perceived that her adored angel was out of sorts. This indulgent mother was somewhat accustomed to her whim. She was made for it, and did not mind. Her daughter was her queen, her divinity, her all; she devoted herself entirely to her happiness and her glory; she actually worshiped her with real adoration. She belonged to that race of mothers who are servants and martyrs; but her servitude pleased her, her martyrdom was sweet to her, and the thin little woman, with her quick eye, her serpentine gait, who, like Cato the Censor, whom she resembled in nothing else, had greenish eyes and red hair, always looked pleasantly upon the hardships she had to bear.
dame Corneuil reigned, while really it was Madame Véretz who governed, and it must be said she never had any other end in view but the good fortune of her dear idol. We all have confused ideas of our own which we can hardly unravel, and hidden desires which we dare not confess to ourselves. Madame Véretz had the gift of comprehending her daughter, and reading the inmost recesses of her heart. She undertook to unravel her confused ideas, and to reveal to her her unacknowledged wishes, and took charge of them. That was the secret of her influence, which was considerable. When Madame Corneuil's imagination wandered, her incomparable mother started out as her courier. On reaching the station, the fair traveler found her relays of horses all ready, and she was under great obligations to her mother for arranging many an agreeable surprise for her. She would have taken great care not to embark in any scheme without her courier, to whom she was obliged for never allowing her to rest by the way.
She had her own consolations. She might be snubbed, scolded, and sent off, but it always ended by her being listened to, especially if it was to be of any benefit. It was at her advice that at the propitious moment they quarreled with Monsieur Corneuil, and afterward were reconciled to him. Thanks to her valuable suggestions, they had been able to hold a salon in Paris, and to become of some importance there. Ma
After having sent off her mother, and spent half an hour with her maid, Madame Corneuil took a cup of tea, then seated herself at her secretary. She spent her mornings in writing a book, which was to form a sequel to her treatise upon the "Apostleship," to be called The Position of Woman in Modern Society." To speak plainly, she was merely making the same ideas serve her a second time. Her aim was to show that in democratic society, committed to the worship of the greatest number, the only corrective to coarseness of manners, thought, and interest, would be the sovereignty of woman. "Kings are dying out," she wrote the night before, in a moment of inspiration-"let them go; but we must not let them bear away with them that true kingliness whose benefits are necessary even to republics. Let women sit on the thrones which they leave empty. With them will reign virtue, genius, sublime aspirations, delicacy of heart, disinterested sentiments, noble devotion, and noble scorn." I may have spoiled her phrases, but I think I have given the gist of them all. I think, also, that in the portrait she drew, the superior woman whom she proposed for the worship of human kind resembled astonishingly Madame Corneuil, and she could not think of herself without her splendid hair of golden blonde twisted around her brow like a diadem.
After a bad night one does not feel like writing. That day Madame Corneuil was not in the mood. The pen felt heavy to the pretty hand, with its polished nails; both ideas and expression failed her. In vain she twisted a loose curl over her forefinger, in vain did she look at her rosy finger-tips-nothing came of it; she began to fancy that a shadow of coming misfor
tune fell between her and the paper. Heaven knows that in like cases every pains was taken to save her nerves, to cause her no interruption, such were the orders. During those hours when she was known to be within her sanctum, the most profound silence reigned everywhere. Madame Véretz saw to that. Every one spoke in a whisper and stepped softly; and when Jacquot, who did the errands, crossed the paved courtyard, he took great care to take off his sabots, lest he might be heard. This precaution on his part was the result of sad experience. Jacquot played the horn in his leisure moments. One morning when he took the liberty of playing, Madame Véretz, coming upon him unawares, gave him a vigorous box on the ear, saying to him: "Keep still, you little idiot! don't you know that she is meditating?" Jacquot rubbed his cheek, and took it as it was said. Everybody did the same. So from eight till noon Jacquot whispered to the cook, and the cook told the coachman, and the coachman told the hens in the yard, who repeated it to the sparrows, who repeated it to the swallows, and to all the winds of heaven, “Brothers, let us keep silence-she is meditating!"
When it struck noon, the door of the holy place opened softly, and, as before, Madame Véretz advanced on the tips of her toes, ask ing, "My dear beauty, may I be allowed to enter?"
Madame Corneuil scowled with her beautiful eyebrows, and poutingly placed her papers in the most elegant portfolio, and her portfolio in the depths of her rose-wood secretary, taking care to take out the key, for fear of robbers.
"Orders must have been given," said she, "not to leave me a moment in peace."
"I was obliged to go out this morning," answered Madame Véretz; "did Jacquot happen to take advantage of my absence?”
"Jacquot, or some one else, I do not know whom; but they made a great deal of noise, and moved about the furniture. Was it absolutely necessary for you to go out?"
She did not add that she liked to go to market, which was the truth. Among people who rise from small beginnings, some resent their past, and strive to forget it, while it pleases others to recall it.
"What can you do? Between two evils-" "No," interrupted Madame Corneuil, "I do not wish you to go yourself and bargain for fish; why do you not teach Julia how to select it? You do not know how to order others, and so it ends in your doing everything yourself."
"I will learn, I will try to improve, my darling," answered Madame Véretz, kissing her forehead tenderly.
"What have you there?" exclaimed Madame Corneuil, seeing just then that her mother held a bit of writing in her hand.
"This, my dear, is a note in which Monsieur de Penneville begs me to inform you that his great-uncle, the Marquis de Miraval, arrived yesterday from Paris, and has expressed a desire to be introduced, and that he will bring him here at two o'clock exactly. You know he is a victim to the stroke of the clock."
"What prevented him from coming to tell us himself?"
"Apparently he feared disturbing you, and perhaps he did not care to disarrange his own plans. In all well-ordered lives the first rule is to work until noon."
Madame Corneuil grew impatient.
"Who may this great-uncle be? Horace never told me about him."
"I can easily believe that. He never speaks of anything but you-or himself-or Egypt."
"But if I choose that he should talk to me about him!" answered Madame Corneuil haughtily. "Is that another epigram?"
"Do you think I could make epigrams against that dear, handsome fellow?" hastily answered Madame Véretz. "I already love him like a son."
Madame Corneuil seemed to have grown thoughtful.
"I had bad dreams last night," said she. "You laugh at my dreams, because you like to laugh at my expense. Now see: In coming from Paris, Monsieur de Miraval must have passed through Vichy. This Marquis is dangerous." Dangerous!" exclaimed Madame Véretz; "what danger have you to fear?"
You see Madame de Penneville has sent him here."
"Can you believe that Horace-ah! my poor goose, are you not sure of his heart?"
"Is any one ever sure of a man's heart?" answered she, feigning an anxiety which she was
"Absolutely. You complained yesterday that the fish was not fresh, and that Julia did not understand buying; so henceforth I shall do my own marketing."
“And during that time, then, there must be a far from feeling. fearful racket."
"Perhaps not of any man's," said Madame Véretz, smiling; "but the heart of an Egyptologist is quite another thing, and never changes. As far as sentiment goes, Egyptology is the one unchangeable thing."
"I told you I had bad dreams, and that the Marquis is dangerous to us."
"Here is my reply," was her mother's answer, as she passed her a mirror in such a way as to oblige her to see herself in it.