Obrazy na stronie

sive girl, and spoils what might darkness of the corridors. Sometimes have been a pretty and touching in the distance, at the extremity of a study. Had M. Theuriet posses- the poor man might be seen wiping

lighted by some end window, sed the unspeakable advantage his forehead, stammering a timid of having before his eyes the

question at the door of an anteroom. dread of that Young Person whom Breathless and lost, he toiled up stairour last great British success in case J, hurried along corridor N, then the way of romancers declares to stopped, consulted his notes, and with be the English novelist's bugbear, a gesture of despair went down stairhe might have been preserved from case B, and lost himself again in the destroying a quaint and delightful labyrinth of passages in that great character-piece by this vulgar and at that moment as silent as a deserted

wilderness of the Government office, unutterably tiresome expedient. island." However, L'Affaire Froideville' opens up to us an entirely new This is a simple suitor from the field. French romance of the country, anxious to open again the present moment seems to delight question of the Froideville succesin presenting itself as illustrat- sion, a story of family wrong and ing the life and ways of certain injustice. His wife's mother had classes of society. Mæurs militaires, been the wife of the Marquis de mæurs ouvriers, mæurs d'em- Froideville, one of three brothers, ployés—they abound in all senses. a man of sombre humour, who illIt is at once something more and treated and banished her from his something a great deal less than house, affecting not to acknowthose scenes of the Comédie Hu- ledge her daughter as his own, maine which Balzac set himself to a supposition altogether without expound with force and knowledge foundation. He died some time so tremendous. It is into the in- after, leaving his fortune to the terior of a Government office in State, under the supposition that Paris in the year 1864 that our he left no heir.

The affaire present guide introduces us, at the Froideville is the lawsuit brought mid-day hour of general repose, by the neglected and disowned when all the personnel of the daughter, who has, however, a office, in happy indifference to the strong body of evidence in proof wants of the public, are breakfast- of her identity. It is scarcely ing or resting after the brief necessary to say that the humlabours of the morning. It is ble inquirer is her husband, and possible that in English official that it is in the interests of his lise there may be a similar sacred charming and beautiful young pause consecrated to luncheon. daughter that he wishes to revive At such a moment the applicant the arrested lawsuit. This is the in want of information or of fur- necessary occasion of the story, therance in his affairs appeals to as it is, of course, admiration for the civil servants of their country, the young lady which moves M. it appears, in vain.

Jacques Marly, one of the clerks

(his grade being that of redacteur), “This misfortune befell on an April to overhaul the dust-covered dossier morning an unfortunate stranger, in which all the papers pertaining whose outline might have been seen from time to time appearing at the to the cause are preserved. But head of a stair, stumbling against the the little romance is of no particugreat wooden benches, at obscure lar consequence, and the object of corners, then plunging again into the the book is to set before us the

office, with all its ambitions and in- head with a growl of contempt. This trigues, and the manner in which treatment, which, thanks to their close the representative of the Froide- vicinity, was repeated five or six times ville family, a certain Count

in the day, had the power of exasperd'Entrevernes, counterchecks every and cowardly Couturier. Deshorties

ating to the last degree the nervous movement, and finally attains an had the effect upon him of Medusa's ignoble victory by flattering the head. When he caught a glimpse of ambition and serving the interests him at a distance, he took refuge in of the different officials. Marly, the shadow of a doorway, or in the who takes up the case, and reports room of a colleague. Then Deshorties it favourably to his immediate triumphed." superior, is quite disinterested, or rather he is interested only on be Dubrac, chef du personnel, between

The third chef is a certain half of the young plaintiff whose whom and Perceval there is a rights, and to a certain degree her silent struggle for the office of honour, are involved. But as the sous-directeur (we do not pretend suit proceeds from sous-chef to chef, to understand' nor translate the from hand to hand, it becomes

exact value of these different more and more a question of in

grades), which is supposed likely terest, of flattered vanity, of mutual services. There is a great means of these three chefs that

to be shortly vacant. It is by deal of humour, sometimes grim the affaire Froideville is lost and enough, in the portraiture of the

won. All seems to go well at group of officials. Deshorties,

first. sous-chef aux Instances, is the first for the famous suit enrages. De

The contempt of Couturier presented to us :

shorties, who recommends it to " His horizon was limited to the the consideration of his immediate details of official life. He perceived superior, M. Perceval. nothing outside of those límits, and the little irritations of the existence ".. The Froideville business,' reof the office bore tragic proportions in peated Perceval. Yes, I rememberhis eyes. Although he might have an old affair. The parties themselves been sufficiently accustomed to all the gave it up. Let it drop: the State defects of that career, its injustices has no interest in opening it up still exasperated him beyond measure. again.' Since he had attained the position of "However!' sous-chef two of his subordinates had “No, my friend, I know all about been promoted over his head-Perce- it. Couturier has told me.' val made Chef aux Instances, and Cou- ". Has M. Couturier also told you,' turier Chef aux Epaves et Déshérences. answered Deshorties, emphasising the He pardoned the elevation of Perce- name of his enemy with the most val, whose merit he acknowledged contemptuous tone, that General even while grumbling ; but he could Jametz takes a great interest in it?' not swallow that of Couturier, his com- ". The Senator Jametz!' exrade, originally promoted at the same claimed Perceval, pricking up his time, and who, according to his be- ears. . . . The name of the Senator lief, was a fool (un sot-il prononcait Jametz, thrown in carelessly by his sotte pour donner plus d'énergie à cette subordinate, had modified at once qualification). From the day of Cou- the opinion of the ambitious head of turier's promotion to the head of his the office. At bottom, Perceval had department Deshorties had placed him but one dominant idea, that of rein quarantine. He never addressed placing the sous-directeur Pécoul. nor even recognised him again. When For this reason, his chief object was he met him in the corridor he stared to make friends in the political world, him in the face, then turned away his and secure influential patrons who

would lend him their aid when this taken up, and throws himself at decisive moment came. ". You are right,' he said, after who has the ear of the Empress.

once on the side of the great man looking over the papers. The plain. The other chef, Couturier, is influtiff has certainly some strong arguments which are worth looking into enced in a simpler way. His wife over again.'

is deeply humiliated by the fact "<« That was what I thought,' said that her husband is not yet décoré. Deshorties, adroitly, and if our de. The moment is approaching when partment neglected the matter, Gen- the yearly promotions take place, eral Jametz is quite capable of ad- and poor Deshorties has already dressing himself to M. le DirecteurGeneral through M. Dubrac.'

announced to his friends that he “As Deshorties had foreseen, the is to have the ribbon, by special name of Dubrac, Perceval's rival in recommendation of the Directorrespect to the hoped-for vacancy, at General. But Deshorties knows once fired his chief. He gave a nothing of this little intrigue going nervous start in his chair. " You are right, Deshorties; the is that it is his enemy Couturier,

on underground, the issue of which thing is important, and must not be and not himself, who is décoré, taken out of our office,' he said."

and that the affaire Froideville is By this time young Marly has once more remitted in its dossier managed to interest several jour. to the dust and oblivion of the nalists in the matter, and an article office shelves. There is a moment in one of the newspapers calls forth of despair in the office, where all the Comte d'Entrevernes, the rep- young Marly's friends have ranged resentative of the Froidevilles, in themselves on his side: followed right of his wife, whose fortune by a renewed onslaught from the would be diminished by half if papers (in which they all write she was compelled to acknowledge more or less), which once more Madlle. Sombernon, the young awakes the public attention and plaintiff, as cousin. The Comte that of the Minister; and the descends upon the office, little Comte d'Entrevernes returns andoubting that he will bring its noyed to Perceval, all efforts havhead to reason.

ing thus failed, to threaten and

implore. Perceval defends him"I am myself an official,' he says. self with dignity: he has done all I have the honour to see her Majesty the Empress daily,

he could, but how to succeed in and it has often been my good for face of the clamour of the papers, tune to ask and happily to obtain and the fact that the Minister has for my friends the august support of sent back the dossier to be reher Majesty. She is extremely kind examined. to me, and rarely refuses my requests. But, pardon me, let us go back to the “I look for promotion,' continued real question at issue. All that I the head of the office, and the place would say is, that it lies in your de- of sous-directeur is about to fall vapartment to extinguish in the bud the cant. This is a piece of good fortune unlucky appeal of these Sombernons, which happens seldom, and many and that I come with all frankness to mouths water for it. I have a danask you whether, legally and without gerous competitor, strongly backed in injury to the Government, you could the secretary's office, and if in my not put a stop to it."

wish to please you in respect to the This statement dazzles the am- I put myself in opposition to the

new inquiry into the Froideville case, bitious official. He abandons the Minister, who will defend me?" applicant whose

he had “. I, sir,' the Comte answered coldly,


“ if you will. I can settle the affair noise and gossip, their auxiliary by the aid of her Majesty the Em- professions of pen and pencil-for press.'

half of them write for the news" • Ah, Monsieur le Comte !' murmured Perceval, bowing deeply."

papers, and Marly is an artist ;

the elders, more bitter in their It is not, however, by any open jealousies, on the watch for all betrayal of public duty that the those little preferences and prochief earns his promotion. He motions which are so keenly consuggests, with still more cruel tended for,--is a remarkable study, treachery, to his imperious and and has every appearance of being a powerful visitor another way of true one. Our own officials of the settling the matter, which is to same class are on a higher social threaten the young lady with the level; but one wonders whether instant dismissal and dishonour of perhaps some hapless petitioner's Marly, on the plea that he has plea might not now and then be betrayed the secrets of the office shuffled about from one department to the newspapers, unless she in- to another, stifled by innumerable stantly signs the deed of renuncia- delays, and dropped into hopeless tion. Marly and Thérèse by this oblivion, under the manipulation time, of course, have fallen in love even of their more immaculate with each other, and the high- hands? spirited girl who had rejected with The little thread of story ends scorn the first offer of a compromise, pleasantly enough in the marriage yields in despair to the supposed of Thérèse with Marly, who has danger of her lover. Thus the indignantly thrown up his appointaffaire Froideville comes to an end. ment, while the poor girl is signing The

d'employés thus away her rights (all but two hun. opened up to the world belong to dred thousand francs, which is the the period to which the French- composition offered her) to premen of to-day are delighted to serve him. Two hundred thousand attribute all the corruptions and francs is not a large sum of money, treacheries that can be found in a but French notions are moderate, political system ; and it is neither and it is a respectable dot after chivalrous nor generous to bring all. It is, however, in the inin the name of a lady whose long- trigues of the office, of which we suffering and patient dignity, after have necessarily given but a very her romantic promotion to the un- imperfect sketch, missing out its steady, but for a time splendid, humours and gaieties, that the throne of the Second Empire, has interest of the book lies. procured for the latter part of her • André Cornélis'i is the work of life a more universal respect than a younger man,and one whose literthe glory of such an eminence ary aspirations have not yet settled could attain. But the picture is down into the beaten ways of roextremely curious. The little mance. It is a gloomy but remarkworld of the great office with its able book, full of power, and a crowd of men, from the high offic- sweep and concentration of pasials secretly plotting against each sionate feeling, which will someother, to the garçon de bureau, half times prove almost too much for humble clerk, half porter; the the nerves of a simple reader. The young men with their cheerful severe unity of the subject, and

1 André Cornélis. Par Paul Bourget. Paris : 1887.


the few characters introduced, in- Next day the body of Andre's crease the intensity of the narra- father is found in a room in a tive, the only defective point of hotel where he had gone on leavwhich is the length of the descrip- ing home to keep a business aptions of agonised personal feeling, pointment with a stranger. the cri and tears of which a circumstances are all wrapped in French hero is nowise ashamed. mystery, the murderer having had The hero in this case begins his two days to secure his escape story at a tragical moment when, before the body was found. The being nine years old, an only and horror of this murder, and the much-beloved child, the news of burning desire to bring its perhis father's murder is suddenly petrator to punishment, come over brought to the house. The father, the child's life like a cloud ; but simple, gentle, and kind; the nevertheless he is childishly happy mother, a beautiful, superficial, but with his mother, whom he admires tender creature ; and a friend of as much as he adores her, for the the house, a man superior to both, short period which remains before cultivated and eloquent,-form the she becomes the wife of M. Terparty, fixed in the boy's imagina- monde. Then great change tion, on the occasion of the last comes over his life. He cannot family meal, from which M. Cor- identify in his mind the moment nélis withdraws, saying that he when he begins to suspect and fear has an appointment. He does not this man who had caressed and return for dinner, nor is there petted him from his childhood, but news of him next day.

it is not long before he finds that

his home is no longer his, and that “ The evening came again. My his mother's new husband has no mother and I sat alone at the square table where the empty chair seemed pleasure in seeing him there. The to give a body to our anxiety. M. enmity that grows between the Jacques Termonde, whom she had in- man and the boy, the consciousformed by a letter of what had hap- ness of wrong and dim perception pened, arrived after the meal. I was of an answering jealousy and opposisent away when he came, but not tion which André feels to the botbefore I had time to remark the tom of his heart-yet the strict extraordinary light in this man's eyes justice and apparent care for his -blue eyes which usually shone coldly out of that refined countenance,

wellbeing which actuates his stepframed in light hair, and a beard al- father, are worked out with great most pale in colour. Children collect care and skill. The constant selfthe smallest details, quickly effaced, restraint and calm of Termonde, but which return to the memory later, and the petulant passion, indignain contact with life, as certain in- tion, and strain against an inexor. visible inks show themselves on paper able will that rules him however he when brought near the fire. While I insisted to be allowed to remain in the may resist, in the boy-grow graduroom, I observed mechanically with ally in intensity and concentrated what agitation his fine hands, which bitterness with the progress of the he held behind his back, turned and years.--though there is nothing to re-turned his cane, which was the ob- complain of the action of the ject of my secret envy. If I had not so much admired this cane, and the step-father, nothing that might not

be consistent with an enlightened combat of centaurs in Renaissance work which ornamented its silver desire for the best interests of his head, that sign of extreme motion wife's son. Between the extreme would have me."

self-cominand and power of her hus

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