A Parisian Sultana, Vol. III (of 3)
Project Gutenberg's A Parisian Sultana, Vol. III (of 3), by Adolphe Belot
This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United States and mostother parts of the world at no cost and with almost no restrictionswhatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms ofthe Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online atwww.gutenberg.org. If you are not located in the United States, you'll haveto check the laws of the country where you are located before using this ebook.
Title: A Parisian Sultana, Vol. III (of 3)
Author: Adolphe Belot
Release Date: January 12, 2019 [EBook #58679]
*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK A PARISIAN SULTANA, VOL. III ***
Produced by Douglas Ethington
A PARISIAN SULTANA
A TRANSLATION OF
"La Sultane parisienne"
H. MAINWARING DUNSTAN.
BOOK III.VENUS IN EBONY.
It will not, we trust, have been forgotten that in the month ofMarch, 1873, the Count de Pommerelle paid a visit to Dr. Desrioux,whom he found bowed down with grief, in consequence of the death ofhis mother. To his affection for her the young doctor had sacrificedhis love for Madame de Guéran, his plans for accompanying her in hertravels, and his most cherished hopes. In this state of almostdespair he had begged M. de Pommerelle to take him away anywhere outof Paris.
The two friends met again at the funeral of Madame Desrioux. Prom thehouse of death they proceeded to the church, and thence to Père LaChaise. The Count at first considerately mingled with the crowd ofrelations and friends who had assembled to show the Doctor theirsympathy with him in his distress. But as soon as the mournfulceremony was over, and the concourse of people had taken theirdeparture, some in mourning coaches, and others down the long avenuesof the cemetery, M. de Pommerelle resumed his place at his friend'sside, to which he was entitled by his daily association with theDoctor, by their ties of friendship, drawn closer and closer duringthe few past months, and by the words which had passed between themon the previous evening.
"By virtue of the powers you have yourself given me, I takepossession of you," said the Count.
And, acting up to his words, he put his arm in that of M. Desrioux,and drew his grief-stricken friend away. At the gate of the cemeterythey found a brougham in waiting, which, after half an hour's drive,deposited them in front of a small hotel in the Avenue Montaigne.
M. Desrioux alighted from the vehicle mechanically, ascended thesteps, and, with his friend and host, entered a room on the groundfloor. He appeared quite unconscious of how he had reached the hotel,or what he was doing. It was almost as if his mind, clinging to itsformer companionship with his mother, had sought a voluntary grave byher side, and as if his spirit had ascended to heaven with hers.
The Count felt bound to make an attempt to rouse him from this stateof stupor and mental lethargy, this physical and intellectualprostration, which not unfrequently follows upon excessive fatigueand prolonged experiences of sorrow. Placing himself right in frontof M. Desrioux, and compelling the latter to look up, he said—
"You have fulfilled to the utmost every duty, both as a son and aphysician. You have fought against death, and have been worsted inthe fight. Now, what do you intend doing?"
M. Desrioux looked at him at first without taking in the sense of hiswords, but, on the question being repeated, he exclaimed—
"What am I going to do? I know not—I know not."
"But I do," said the Count, decidedly. "You are going to rejoin herwhom, after your mother, you loved best in the world, by whose side,even if you cannot altogether forget the past, you will at all eventssuffer less acutely. You are going to set out for Africa, andendeavour to rejoin Madame de Guéran."
"No, no I do not let us speak of her now," exclaimed M. Desrioux, "Ihave no right to talk about her. I must devote myself to the memoryof my mother. All my thoughts belong to her, and I cannot turn to anyone else."
"Was not Madame de Guéran a favourite with your mother?" asked the
"Oh! yes, a very great favourite."
"Then," replied M. de Pommerelle, "what wrong can there be in yourdevoting yourself to one who was dear to her whom you have lost? Itis a homage to the dead to think of all they loved here below. Andhave you not also told me that Madame Desrioux regretted your havingremained with her in Paris, and your refusal to accompany Madame deGuéran?"
"Yes, in her thorough unselfishness and self-denial she did her bestto induce me to go, and was never tired of urging me. 'Go, my dearboy,' she would say, 'go with that charming woman. I am not jealous,I love her as a daughter. I will take care of myself during yourabsence, I will not be guilty of any imprudence, but will watch overmyself for your sake. You will find me on your return, sitting by thewindow in my arm chair, waiting for you, and ready to welcome youback with a smile and a kiss.' I did well," continued M. Desrioux,"not to listen to her. I should not have seen her again, and shewould have looked for me at her bedside in vain. Her latest moments,soothed, perhaps, by my presence, would have been sad indeed had Ibeen away."
"Be it so. You did well, I admit, to remain, but now you will bedoing equally well to go away, because in that lies your only meansof assuaging your grief. As a matter of fact, the idea was your own—did you not entreat me to take you away, far away?"
"Yes, that is true; and, possibly, with you, and giving myself upentirely to your guidance, I might carry out the idea, but I have notthe courage, at all events now, to tear myself away from the spotshallowed by her memory, and the tomb in which we have but just laidher."
"Who said anything about your going alone?" asked M. de Pommerelle,
"What makes you think that I intend to give you up?"
"Do you mean to say," said the Doctor, in astonishment, "that youwould go to Africa—you?"
"Yes, I—I will go to Africa. When one has been as far as Monaco, as Ihave been, one is capable of anything. Besides, did we not make upour minds to go, only our plans were nipped in the bud?"
"We certainly did map out a journey one evening, in a fit of passingexcitement, but on the following morning we came to our senses, andreleased each other from the engagement."
"Say rather, my dear fellow, that you released yourself."
"That is true. But, tell me frankly—if I had started would you havecome with me?"
"No, I would not, because for certain reasons, less weighty thanyours, but serious enough from my point of view, I was compelled toremain where I was. These reasons have disappeared, and with themhave vanished all my man-about-town proclivities, as well as thatdislike to travelling which I have so often assumed for the simplepurpose of deceiving myself, and endeavouring to hide the heavy clogsand chains which held me fast, like a convict, in Paris. I will notdo your sorrow the injustice of comparing it to the annoyance I havejust undergone, but you have already experienced your severest shock;if you are destined still to suffer much, you will, at least, admitthat you are not in any danger; neither your future nor your honourare menaced. My annoyance, on the contrary, is mingled with seriousfears; I dread giving way to a ridiculous temptation, and committingan act of downright folly—in short, for I have no secrets from you, Iam afraid of committing matrimony with a charming, but decidedlyineligible woman. Let us be off, then, as soon as ever we can; you,to distract your mind from its sorrow, and I, to run away from my owncowardice, and escape from what would almost amount to dishonour. Letus be off, I say again, in both our interests. I will take you to thewoman you love, and who is worthy of your love; you will take me fromthe one I hate, and love, and, above all, fear. It is not one bit toomuch to put France, the Mediterranean, and the greater portion ofAfrica between her and me, for by so doing I shall be putting awayfrom myself all possibility of return or cowardice. I know that Ishall, perhaps, lose my life where we are going, but that is verylittle in comparison with what I should certainly lose here. Africa,however cruel she may be, will have some consideration for me, andthat is precisely what the fair lady in question has not. I preferbeing physically eaten by the Niam-Niam to being morally devoured bythat she-cannibal of the Boulevard Haussman. In a word, my dearfellow, just as a reformed rake, they say, makes a model husband, soa sedentary being like myself becomes, the very moment he turnswanderer, capable of any eccentricity, gives himself up to everyextravagance, thinks no journey formidable enough, and would scalethe moon, if she had not been for a considerable period placed out ofreach of dilatory, and, for that, very reason, over bold travellerslike your humble servant."
M. de Pommerelle stopped at last, and waited to see the effect of hislong harangue.
M. Desrioux reflected for a moment or two, and then, holding out hishand, he said—
"When shall we start?"
"When you like," replied the Count, "the sooner the better for you,for me, and for our friends, too, in case they should be in dangerand need our assistance."
"I agree with you, but we must make some preparations."
"We can do all that in Africa, at the port of disembarkation. If wetake money, and plenty of it, we shall be able to smooth away everydifficulty. Remember how Stanley, who was not at the time dreaming ofLivingstone, made up his mind in twenty-four hours to join him. Letus show the Americans that, on occasion, we can be quite asexpeditious and determined as they are."
"Very well. Only, it is not enough merely to go to Africa; we must gothere to some purpose. What is to be our starting-point? Shall wefollow the route taken by our friends?"
"That is just what we must avoid," replied M. de Pommerelle. "Itwould be the very way never to find them, seeing that they have sixmonths' start of us. In their last letter, you will remember, theysaid, 'If instead of having received our information about M. deGuéran at Khartoum, we could have been furnished with it in France,our plan of action would have been altered considerably. In fact, ifM. de Guéran has managed to cross the frontier of the Monbuttoos, weare destined simply to follow up his tracks without any chance ofovertaking him. On the other hand, by setting foot in Africa atZanzibar, and taking a north-westerly direction towards the LakesVictoria and Albert, we should have undoubtedly met him, as he wastravelling from a precisely opposite point. If we could start afresh,we should start from Zanzibar.' So, you see, we shall do what ourfriends could not, and we shall profit by their experience. Theirargument about M. de Guéran is equally applicable to themselves,because they have adopted the same route that he did. At Cairo, atKhartoum, in the district watered by the White Nile and the Bahr-el-Gazal,they have been seen, but nobody would be able to tell us whathas become of them. To all our questions we could get but one reply.They were going towards the south-east—and we know that already fromtheir letters. At Zanzibar, on the contrary, we shall either findthem ready to embark on their return to Europe, or, if they are notthere, we can set out to meet them."
"Your reasoning is good," said M. Desrioux, "and I agree to yourplan."
"Do you agree, also, to my making the necessary arrangements for ourvery speedy departure?"
"Certainly. I give you full