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Blond, Pimental, and Le Marquis de la Tour le Colombier." Then there are the vocal and instrumental performers—”.
“Ay,” said Madame Perpignan, “ and I shall astonish them all. I have engaged (but I confide it to you alone, Justine) Monsieur Dominique, the celebrated harlequin, to amuse us ; and I have asked him to come from Paris early, as the commencement of a masked ball is always insufferably dull.”
Justine was delighted with this information, as she had often laughed, as she said, until her sides ached, at Dominique's wit and drollery.
“ Yes,” replied Madame Perpignan, “ Dominique is very pleasant on the stage, Justine ; but I, who am a constant attendant at the theatre, know that off the stage there is not so melancholy a wretch in existence as your lively harlequin. In short, he is a victim to hypochondria.”
At length Tuesday arrived, the natal day of Madame Perpignan. The festive arrangements were all made, and very much to the discomfiture of Perpignan, as they had hung up artificial garlands, illumination-lamps, and Chinese lanterns on his natural trees; so he secretly determined to elude the ribaldry of a masquerade, and retire to bed as early as he could sneak off to avoid it. But he still recollected that it was the birthday of his wife, and he walked into her boudoir to congratulate her, and gallantly to make her a present on the occasion. He had his old gardening coat on, and had a scythe over his shoulder, (with which he had been mowing a grass-plot.) and he looked like Time dressed and shaved. Justine gently reminded her master of his absence of mind in bringing such an instrument as a scythe into a lady's boudoir, and took it from him.
“ My dear wife, permit me to congratulate you on your natal day,”—and he kissed her hand. “ You have, I think, on this happy occasion completed your fifty-f—”
“ Forty-fifth, Monsieur Perpignan.”
“ Well,” said Perpignan, “ I declare I could have sworn that it was fifty-four, instead of forty-five ; but, as you avow it, it would be unpolite to contradict. I have, my love, a trilling gift for you, on thus entering your fifty-fourth—"
“ Forty-fifth, if you please, Monsieur."
“ Forty-fifth year,” said Perpignan. “ This little gift, — the greatest I can offer, — the pride of my heart, the fondly-cherished object of my hopes, has been beheld by no inortal eye but mine."
“ I die with curiosity,” replied Madame.
“ My dear, I trust that it will be as fully appreciated by you as it has been by me.”
He then went out at the door, leaving his wife in the greatest wonder as to her forthcoming birth-day present. Perpignan reentered, looking very mysterious, and with a large basket covered with a cloth.
“ Carefully, and under my own immediate inspection, has this specimen been produced.” And here he took an enormous pumpkin out of the basket and presented it to Madame, who exclaimed,
“ Mercy on us! Perpignan, what is that?”
“ And I wish it had remained there," replied Madame Perpignan, and here she shrieked loudly.
“ What is the matter, Madame ? ” cried Justine, who ran into the boudoir.
“ It is full of wasps !-away with it, for Heaven's sake!”
Perpignan was confused, and thought that he had been stirring up the wasps to some purpose. Justine contrived to roll the pumpkin out at the door, when, to the mortification of its grower, it reached the head of the stairs, and bumped down every step, with the wasps buzzing in all directions, madame's pet dog barking at it shrilly, until everybody was deafened.
“ Upon my word, Monsieur Perpignan,” said his spouse, “ your gardening mania renders you perfectly absurd.”
« My sweet love, did I not, to please you, purchase this villa? You knew I was partial to horticultural pursuits, and you promised to share in my little domestic toils.”
“ And so I did,” replied Madame; “I assisted you in your garden.”
“ Considerably-very considerably,” said Perpignan. “ I remember once you threw a snail over the wall.”
“ Sir, you are only fit to rear cauliflowers.”
Madame Perpignan, somewhat mollified, thought he was about to compliment her, and uttered, simpering, “My love, you are making some allusion to the modest rose ?"
“ No, my dear,” replied Perpignan, piqued ; « at that moment I was thinking of a painted lady."
They parted sulkily from each other; and this was rather an ominous commencement of the fête.
Now, we must be made aware in the domain of the Château Perpignan there were two buildings detached from the villa itself. The first was a cottage surrounded with large old trees, and which had formerly been occupied as the original tenement of the little estate ; but, as times altered, the present château was built, and the cottage became a receptacle for fruit and vegetables, and on times of an extraordinary number of visitors it received an occasional spare bed, as the rooms were still airy and cheerful. The other building of which we speak was a dwelling of a still more humble character. It had been erected as a porter's lodge, and consisted of two rooms, which humble apartments were occupied by a servant of the family, an old woman, who had seen her best days and seventy summers. Yet Jaquelette still possessed sufficient powers to officiate as porteress, and she was a particular favourite of Monsieur Perpignan, because she loved and enjoyed the garden. Indeed, more than once she had excited the jealousy of Madame Perpignan, who told her meek and simple helpmate that she thought " that he was much more enamoured of the conversation of old Jaquelette than he ever had been with that of his lawful wife.”
Whenever Monsieur Perpignan was in a perplexity, he habitually sought his daughter Sophia, whose calm and sweet manner never failed to glide him again into serenity. And what a happy state of existence between father and child ! Perpignan knew that he must have recourse to her to accomplish many of his wishes; while Sophia was hardly conscious that by her quiet arrangement they were always gratified
“ Sophia,” said Perpignan, “this masquerade annoys me very much. It is not the expense of it; but I lose my night's rest, and I have to get up early to-morrow morning to sow some capers, — the genuine seed from our correspondent in the Mediterranean. I shall leave you all to your enjoyment. As for sleeping in my own bed, that is quite out of the question ; for every room in the château will be thrown open until the party have dispersed ; and our bed-room has at this moment the card-tables set out in it.”
“ Papa," replied Sophia, “ I could not avoid it. Madame Perpignan
« I know, my dear; but I tell you what I shall do, Sophia, and you can give the order for it. I will go and pass the night for once and a way, at the empty cottage in the shrubbery.”
Sophia turned deadly pale, and hastily said, “ Pass the night THERE ?-It is impossible!”
Justine, who had a moment previous popped into the room, thought to herself, “What is it that thus seriously discomposes young Madame?”
Sophia stammered out, “ Dear sir, the old cottage has not been occupied for a considerable time. You cannot think of sleeping there ?"
« Oh, the moths and mildew will not touch me. Don't notice my absence from the masquerade, and I hope your guests will be delighted with the entertainment; so I will go and water the mignionette.”
Sophia told Justine that Monsieur Perpignan could not sleep at the empty cottage ; but that old Jaquelette, the porteress, might contrive a bed for him in the little lodge at the garden entrance. Justine was to undertake to see this done, and was also to apprise her master of it. Justine was all curiosity about this mystery of the cottage; but she could not penetrate it; and Mademoiselle Sophia had the key of the premises.
Sophia pondered in perplexity, and inwardly ejaculated, “ Should they discover the hidden spot, my fatal secret — life-a beloved being, are at stake, and my honour risked !” At this moment, to the infinite joy of Sophia, she saw Auguste le Blond coming up the garden-walk, and she ran out to meet him. “ Your presence is welcome indeed, Auguste. How anxiously have I been expecting you all day! She has arrived."
Le Blond cried, “ Is it possible? - Thank God!”
Sophia proceeded. — “ She arrived here safely in disguise at daybreak. I have concealed her.”
“ My wife !-my dear wife !-instantly conduct me to her.”
“ Not for the world at the present moment. You must have patience until night.”
“ I have been concerting for some days,” said Le Blond, “ measures for our escape to Holland, to avoid this dreadful and intolerant persecution.
“ Alas ! Auguste, our poor Emilie, because she has remained firm in her religious faith, has seen her father imprisoned, the family estates confiscated.—Ah! that terrible edict of Nantz!”
Le Blond said, “ My excellent Sophia, though betrothed from an early age by our parents to you, what can you say to my gallantry in becoming the husband of another?”
“ I can only say, Auguste, that your gallantry was of the most exalted order. I can forgive your neglect, when your motive was so pure, so disinterested.”
We must now claim a little patience to explain the incidents that had preceded all this. It appears that Auguste le Blond was with his regiment at St. Foy, a town of Agenois and Guienne, and which had become the seat of religious persecution, under the mild direction of Madame de Maintenon. Monsieur le Blond one day saw a crowd before a respectable-looking house, and inquiring the cause, was informed that it was only the arrest of a Hugonot, and immediately a young lady of great beauty was dragged from the portal. As she struggled, she perceived Le Blond in his uniform, and she implored his assistance. He, highly interested with her inisfortune, and struck with her charms, determined to save her. He rushed to the authorities with all the ardour of youth. He was a Catholic, a sol. dier, and powerfully protected by his superior officers, and he spoke with great warmth and boldness in favour of the prisoner. He was asked what right he had to claim her,—whether she was his mistress or his wife? He took advantage of this question; and feeling that artifice was necessary, and without thinking to engage himself, he said that she had his promise of marriage,-although at that moment he positively did not know her name." We will prove your sincerity,” said one of the bigoted magistrates empowered to enforce the edict of Nantz. “Come to the prison to-morrow, - marry the heretic in our presence, - see that she becomes a good Catholic, and for your sake we will grant her life and liberty.”
Le Blond married her, saved her life, and conferred a lasting blessing on his own; for the fair Hugonot was as good as she was lovely. They lived for some months in happy seclusion, when the regiment was ordered to Valenciennes, and Auguste was compelled to take a temporary farewell of poor Emilie. During his absence she was one day discovered in a prohibited Protestant assembly, and again exposed to persecution. Auguste le Blond had already found means to make these facts known to his cousin Sophia, and entreated her influence in protecting his wife. Emilie made her escape from St. Foy, and, although pursued, was fortunate enough to reach St. Cloud, where Sophia received her with affection. Sophia had also, through the interest of an old nobleman, an acquaintance, the Mar. quis de la Tour le Colombier, applied to the Père la Chaise for "a protection and pardon for her friend.
While Sophia and Auguste le Blond were in deep conversation as to that which was best to be done, Gaston du Plessis entered the garden unseen by them. He had his arm tied up from the effect of his wound, — and judge of his jealous feeling when he stepped behind a laurel tree, which effectually concealed him, and overheard the following dialogue between Sophia and Auguste.
“ My betrothed, you look more charming than ever. What would poor Gaston give to see you now, — your countenance radiant with happiness at the idea of having so essentially favoured me.”
« Poor Du Plessis,” replied Sophia. “I'may venture to tell you, my dear friend, that he has been very particular to me lately ;-and yet, under existing circumstances, how can I act? Can I betray your secret, Le Blond? The difficulty, too, will be to break the matter to my father. It is a most perplexing situation. At any rate,
Auguste, you must meet me to-night at the door of the empty cottage in the shrubbery; we will then concert measures for the departure of one you hold so dear. For the present it is unavoidable; but we must keep Du Plessis in the dark.”
« Perhaps this masked ball will aid us," said Le Blond.
“ I trust it will,” replied Sophia. “I will contrive to steal away at twelve o'clock from the dancers, when you must also be sure to be at the cottage door — I keep the key. I need not ask you to be discreet for all our sakes-for all we love.”
Le Blond uttered in a lower tone, “Dearest, kindest Sophia, the hours will appear an age until I dare again see my beloved my wife. Sophia, you have been my preserver.”
Here Sophia and Le Blond walked towards the château, whilst Du Plessis remained almost petrified. He felt himself at the moment to be merely an object of derision; and though the duplicity of Sophia ought to have made him despise her, yet the recollection of her charms still swayed over his heart and imagination; but his ire was raised against Le Blond, who, under the mask of friendship, had made an amusement of his credulity. He then reverted to Sophia. Had he not seen her turn pale?-he had read in her eyes the passion which he himself had felt. He then determined not to be driven away in despair—to stay the masked fête—to watch their midnight appointment at the empty cottage — and then to confront and confound them.
[In our next we shall give the conclusion of this eventful history.]
Tell me the hour—the sacred hour,
J. AUGUSTINE Wade.