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THE

DESULTORY

MAN.

66

99.66

BY THE AUTHOR OF

99.66

RICHELIEU, DARNLEY," DE L'ORME," "PHILIP AUGUSTUS,"

66

66

'HENRY MASTERTON," MARY OF BURGUNDY,"

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THE

DESULTORY MAN.

LA BREDE.

Tutta fra se di se stessa invaghita.

Bernardo l'Unico.

WHAT the world are accustomed to consider as great and brilliant actions, have very often their origin in pride or ostentation, while home virtues, and less obtrusive qualities, though their motive does not admit of doubt, and their nature is mixed with no evil, are scarcely ranked in the catalogue of good deeds, and even if known are rarely appreciated. The rich man who spends a part of his fortune and bestows a portion of his time on public charities, claims unanimous applause as his just reward, and mankind are willing to grant it without any investigation, either of his actions or their incitements; but the man who, without possessing any wealth to give, delights to see every one cheerful and happy around him, and finds his pleasure in his fellow-creature's peace, receives but small gratitude, and meets with little admiration.

For my own part, I am thankful to every one who gives me happy moments. There was a little circle at Bordeaux, in which I have spent some of the most pleasant hours of my existence. The follies and vices, the turmoil and discontent, of a large city never set foot there. It was composed of a few, that could feel and enjoy all that was beautiful in art or nature, whose native resources were equal to their own contentment, and who, without shunning, required nothing from the world. Time passed not slowly with them; music, and reading, and conversation succeeded, each borrowing a charm from the other, and linking themselves together; so that the evenings flew insensibly; and the hour of our

separation always arrived before we were aware of its approach.

In the mornings, we often left the town and spent the day in the most beautiful parts of the environs; and the scenery was always sure to suggest some new idea, which again called forth a thousand more, and every one, happy themselves, endeavoured to add to the happiness of others. It was in one of these expeditions that we went to visit the little town and château of La Brède, once the residence of the famous Montesquieu. The house is a true old French château, with its turrets, and drawbridges, and garden within the ditch, and loopholes for firing through the walls, and all the little et ceteras, which carry one's mind back to ancient days; but the devil, or some spirit hostile to antiquity, has put it into the proprietor's head to whitewash the towers of La Brède; and there they were, hard at it, trying to metamorphose the old mansion of Montesquieu into the likeness of a cockney cottage on the Hampstead road.

The owner was absent, but we were admitted immediately, and taken, in the first place, into the apartment where Montesquieu had composed his Esprit des Lois. A little more reverence for old times had been shown here; the room was exactly in the state he left it when he died; there was his armchair, and all the rest of the old damask furniture, spotted and stained in a truly classical manner; and there was the hole the sage had worn in the marble by resting his foot with mathematical precision always on one spot. We saw it all-all, which is nothing in itself, but something in its associations. We were then taken through the house, which appeared a large rambling kind of building; but, to tell the truth, I do not recollect much about it, except one large hall of very vast dimensions, where lay an old helmet, which something tempted me to put upon my head, and which I once thought must have remained there for ever, for, as if to punish me for the whim, during some time I could get it off by no manner of means. I have said that I remember little about the house; the reason was this-I was thinking more at the time of the woman who showed it to us than of anything else in it-ay, or of Montesquieu into the bargain. Now there may be many people who would judge from this confession, that she was some pretty soubrette, whose beauty had taken my imagination by the ear.

But no such thing; not that I am not fond of beauty in every shape, but the case was different in the present instance. What or who she was I do not know; but if Dame Fortune had placed her in any other situation than that of a lady, the jade of a goddess ought to be put in the pillory for a cheat and an impostor. Her dress was of that dubious description which gave no information; but her manners-her air-her look-told a great deal. She was grave without being sad. It was a sort of gentle gravity, that seemed to proceed more from a calm, even disposition, than from any grief or sorrow; and when she smiled, there was a ray of pure, warm light came beaming from her eyes, and said that there was much unextinguished within. They were as fine eyes, too, as I ever beheld. Yet she was not handsome; though, if I were to go on with the description, perhaps I should make her out a perfect beauty, for I saw nothing but the expression, and that was beautiful. I could draw her character, I am sure, and would not be mistaken in a single line; for her voice was exactly like her eyes, and when the two go together one cannot be deceived; there was a mild elegance in it that was never harsh, though sometimes it rose a little, and sometimes fell, and gave more melody to the French tongue than ever I had heard before.

Now, reader, for aught I know, you may be as arrant a fool as ever God put breath into-for I hope and trust this book will be read not by the wise part of mankind only-should that be the case, Lord have mercy upon the publisher. But do not be offended. You may,

(under the same restrictive "for aught I know,") be as wise as King Solomon or wiser; but, whatever be your portion of wit, you will have seen, in all probability, long before now, that there was something in this girl that interested me not a little. What that was can be nothing to you, for it proceeded from private feelings and private recollections, which you would make nothing of if you knew them this minute.

However, there was a question which none of us could decide was she one of the family of the château or was she not, and how were we to bestow the little donation usually given to the servants under such circumstances? However, the elder lady of the party took it upon herself; and while I was standing in the garden where Montesquieu used to work with his own hands,

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