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An Historical Romance,














The Paris season of 1846–47 witnessed many remarkable occurrences.

The rupture of the entente cordiale, the opening of the Théâtre Historique, the impeachment of the ex-cabinet ministers, were all exciting affairs ; but none of the events to which that season gave birth, awakened a livelier interest, in the breasts of a certain class of the Parisians, than the marriage which was announced to take place between the Vicomte Hercule Gabriel Dieudonné de Souillac and the lovely and wealthy Clotilde de Kerfilou, the heiress of that distinguished nobleman the Comte de Malendroit, whose ample estates extended-it was said -- from the plains of Plöermel to the very gates of Vannes. Nor was the condition of the Vicomte in any way inferior to that of his destined bride ; for, though a minor, his expectations were unbounded; the riches and antiquity of the family of De Souillac had passed into a proverb, and throughout Limousin it would have been difficult to have found its equal. How many châteaux were destined one day to call him lord, no one exactly knew ; he counted them himself by the score, and his score was always a long one; it was fair, then, to infer that he was no less eligible a partie than the beautiful Breton heiress. So, at least, thought the intelligent Parisians.

The Vicomte Hercule was endowed with too many brilliant qualities, both of mind and person, to admit of his wasting them en province, and those who are acquainted with Limousin, will, at once, admit there was certainly a fairer field in Paris for the exhibition of his great talents and the personal attractions for which he was so conspicuous, than if he had chosen his native soil as the arena in which to display them. The honest, but undeniably dull, denizens of that remote district, were not the people amongst whom the flower of his days ought, he thought, to be spent; he longed to cope with the keen intellects, and gather something from the experience of the lively and acute inhabitants of the most agreeable city on earth,—and accordingly he came to Paris.

How many benisons were showered on his head by his aged parents, how many tears were shed by them and their numerous dependents, as he waved his last farewell to the battlements of his race, it little skills to tell. Throughout his career he never quitted any spot, whether in the crowded city or the secluded hamlet, without leaving sorrowful hearts behind; and it is not to be wondered at, that those allied to him in blood should manifest an equal degree of sensibility with strangers. Feb.- VOL. LXXXII. NO. CCCXXVI.


It would be trifling with the interest which the reader must already feel in the fortunes of this noble damoiseau were I to dwell on the mere detail of how he was furnished forth from the paternal coffers ; let a vivid imagination conceive the splendour of his equipment by recalling the magnificence of that proud noblesse who, like the ancient Rohans, disdaining to be dukes, refused to mix in the gay world of courtiers and parasites, and spent all they had upon those who knew them best. It will be sufficient to say that when he arrived in Paris, Hercule de Souillac was in a position which many might envy-his resources were vast, and his credit unlimited ; Rothschild himself can say no more !

Whether his resources were precisely such as would justify his bidding for a loan may, perhaps, be a question, but they were quite sufficient to insure him success whenever he asked for one ; and touching the extent of his credit, if he did not hawk it about on 'Change, and make himself a world's wonder in the eyes of bankers, it was simply because he preferred a less ostentatious and public mode of doing business.

He had fancies, too, which, for a young man of a rank so exalted as his, were rather unusual. Though cradled in aristocratic prejudices, and accustomed to read the history of his family in the annals of his country, he sedulously avoided the court of his sovereign.

“No man's independence,” he was in the habit of saying, “is safe when once he prostrates himself, though only in courtesy, at the foot of the throne. If the safety of my king and country require it, I shall know how to serve them at a distance ; I could even endure slavery and chains in such a cause !"

These were noble sentiments, and that he might keep them intact and his mind uncontaminated by the example of courtiers, he forbore to swell the crowd that thronged to the Tuileries, or sought the pleasant circles at Neuilly and Compiègne. He even went further, and literally eschewed the whole Faubourg St. Germain ; partly, he said, on account of their antiquated notions, which ill-assorted with modern enterprise, and partly because there was so little left now of the true noblesse de l'épée, the race having become almost identified with the noblesse de la robe, a class which he held in the greatest aversion. So strong, indeed, was this feeling that no persuasion could ever induce him to frequent that central part of Paris called the Ile de la Cité.

“ It is true,” he was wont to observe, “ the chapel of St. Louis, with whom my ancestors bled in Africa, still stands there, but to what uses is it now employed ? It merely serves as an appendage to the Salle des pas perdus,' where the iniquity of the law finds a criminal in spirit who dares to think and act for himself; where a code of opinions is proclaimed to which a slavish subservience is exacted, and in default of its being rendered, opinion demands a victim."

For this reason, and for some others equally cogent, but which need not now be adverted to, the Vicomte Hercule Gabriel Dieudonné de Souillac selected his residence in the quarter of the Chaussée d'Antin, and sought his occupations and amusements in that wealthier and more enjoyable vicinity. How he lived there will presently be stated, but it will be proper in the first instance to say a few words of the charming girl to whom, it was now openly declared, he was shortly to be united.

Clotilde de Kerfilou, who, in feudal times would have borne the appellation of the Châtellaine de Malendroit, was a miracle of wit and beauty.

every bold

So bewitching was her air, and so captivating were her accents, that none who listened to her or came under her influence, but at once surrendered his judgment and free-will, and implicitly obeyed her power. The fables of antiquity and the romances of the middle ages, delight to dwell on the spells and enchantments practised by lovely women; but from the days of Circe and Calypso to those of Morgana and Armida, ay, even down to Ninon de l'Enclos, or Madame Dubarry, there never was seen a creature more thoroughly versed in the art of fascination than Clotilde de Kerfilou. Her honeyed smile, the winning expression of her large black eyes, the soft tones of her sweet voice, aided by an eloquence of the most persuasive nature, were too much for any to resist, and whatever the object sought, she invariably gained it. It was this all-subduing charm which enthralled the heart of the handsome and accomplished Hercule de Souillac, though in this case she gave what she had never done before, a fair equivalent. But, as certain novelists say, “they were formed for each other,” and it was a happy chance that first brought them into contact. It befel something after this fashion.

When the Count de Malendroit died--thus ran the tale as the world received it—his only daughter Clotilde, then but of tender age, was placed under the guardianship of the sole surviving sister of her father, a lady who was in every way calculated to do justice to the charge confided to her. She was the widow of the Marquis de Chenevis, who had spent his life in diplomatic service, a service which, it need scarcely be said, demands from him who professes it, the exercise of the most profound dissimulation, the utmost astuteness, wariness of the most cautious description, and ability to take advantage of every opportunity, all hid beneath the mask of candour and clothed by the garb of sincerity. He was an eminent pupil in the school of the Prince de Talleyrand, and held with him (and the clever fellow who said it for him) that “ language was given to man to enable him to conceal his thoughts.” So silently did the marquis work, that even his most intimate friends were ignorant when he was employed, and inerely knew the fact from its results. Like the familiar of the Inquisition, he acquired the secrets of others by an open denunciation of every body in authority, and when men sought a bosom in which to pour a public or a private grief, their thoughts involuntarily turned to the Marquis de Chenevis. He advised with all, was the recipient of

every man's confidence, and such was the necessity of his position, or the skill with which he extracted its uses, he profited by every turn of the card.

There are two kinds of diplomatists ; the accredited, and those who are not so ; the former have ostensibly the most honourable task, the latter undoubtedly the most difficult. The accredited diplomatist has a declared mission, and all the world knows that whatever the game


appears to play, his avowed object is to win as many tricks as he can. But he who is not accredited, has not only his own ingenuity solely to rely upon but must put such a glose upon his position that all suspicion of its real character shall be completely averted.

It was in this dangerous capacity that the Marquis de Chenevis was constantly employed ; but strange to say, although his abilities were fully recognised, and, in one sense, adequately rewarded, he was more frequently employed on home, than on foreign, missions. This probably arose from some constitutional malady which he could never get the better of ; or, perhaps, from having narrowly escaped, in the early part of the war be

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