Graham's Magazine, Vol. XXXI, No. 4, October 1847
Vol. XXXI. October, 1847. No. 4.
|Fiction, Literature and Articles|
|The Village Doctor|
|The General Court and Jane Andrews’ Firkin of Butter|
|Was She a Coquette?|
|An Indian Legend|
|The Islets of the Gulf (continued)|
|The Man with the Big Box|
|Review of New Books|
Transcriber’s Notes can be found at the end of this eBook.
Boulevart St. Martin, 61
Coiffure de F. Hamelin, pass. du Saumon, 21—Chapeau de Mme. Baudry, r. Richelieu, 87;
Plumes et fleurs de Chagot—Robes de Palmyre—Dentelles de Violard, r. Choiseul, 2bis;
Mouchoirs de L. Chapron & Dubois, r. de la Paix, 7;
Eventail de Vagneur Dupré, r. de la Paix, 19—Chaussures de Baptiste, bt. St. Denis, 4.
Vol. XXXI. PHILADELPHIA, OCTOBER, 1847. No. 4.
A ROMANCE OF REAL LIFE.
TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH BY LEONARD MYERS.
“Heavens! what is this?” exclaimed, with oneaccord, several personages who were assembled inthe dining-room of the castle of Burcy.
The Countess de Moncar had just inherited—bythe death of an uncle, who had lived at a great distance,and was little regretted by her—an old castlewhich she had never even seen, although it wasscarcely fifteen leagues from her own summer residence.Madame de Moncar, one of the most elegant,perhaps one of the prettiest women in Paris,was not very fond of the country. Leaving Parisin the end of June and returning in the beginning ofOctober, she usually took with her to Morvan someof the companions of her winter amusements, andsome gallants chosen from the most attentive of herpartners in the dance. Madame de Moncar wasmarried to a man much older than herself, and onewho very seldom favored her with his company.Without abusing the liberty allowed her, she wascharmingly coquettish; could trifle admirably, andbe made happy by a compliment, a tender word, orthe success of an hour; loving the dance for thepleasure of making herself agreeable, loving thevery love she inspired, to see the flower which hadfallen from her bouquet handed to her, and whenoccasionally some sober old relation mildly remonstratedwith her, “Mon dieu,” she would reply, “letme laugh and live gayly, it is at least less dangerousthan to remain in solitude listening to the beatings ofone’s own heart—as for me, I scarcely know whetherI possess one.” The fact is, the Countess deMoncar had never thought about the matter at all;it was all important for her that she should remainin doubt on the subject, and she found the mostprudent method was never to allow herself time forreflection.
One beautiful morning, then, in the month of September,she and her guests started on a visit to theunknown castle, intending to spend the day. Across-road, which had been represented to them aspassable, would reduce their journey to twelveleagues, and was therefore resolved on. The cross-roadwas shockingly bad, they lost their way in thewoods, one of the coaches broke down, and it wasnot until mid-day that our travelers, overcome withfatigue, and little enraptured with the picturesquebeauties of the route, reached the castle of Burcy,the appearance of which was not calculated to consolethem for the troubles of their journey.
It was a large structure, with blackened walls, infront of the steps a kitchen-garden, then uncultivated,sloped from terrace to terrace, for the castle beingalmost buried in the sides of a wooded hill had nolevel space around it. Craggy mountains begirt iton every side, and the trees springing up amid therocks lent a sombre verdure that was sad to lookupon. Its forsaken condition added still more tothe disorder of its natural wildness. Madame deMoncar stood riveted in amazement on the thresholdof this old castle.
“This looks very little like a party of pleasure,”said she. “I could weep at the melancholy aspectof the place. Nevertheless, here we have fine trees,stupendous rocks, and a roaring torrent—there isno doubt a degree of beauty in all this, but it is alltoo serious for me,” she added, smiling. “Let usenter and look at the interior.”
“Yes, yes,” replied the hungry guests, “let us seeif the cook, who left yesterday to prepare for us, hasarrived more successfully than ourselves.”
They were soon made aware of the joyful factthat a plentiful breakfast would be served in allhaste, and meanwhile set about reconnoitering thecastle. The antiquated furniture, with well-wornlinen covers, chairs with only three feet, ricketytables, and the discordant sounds of a piano whichhad lain neglected for twenty years, furnished athousand subjects for pleasant jokes. Their gayetyreturned, and it was agreed that instead of frettingat the inconveniences of their uncomfortable abode,they would laugh and joke at every thing. Besides,for this young and thoughtless company, this daywas an event, a campaign, almost a perilous one,the originality of which began to appeal to the imagination.A fagot had been lighted in the large hallchimney, but puffs of smoke filling every nook, theymade their escape into the garden. Here, too, theaspect was strange: the stone seats were coveredwith moss, the walls of the terraces in many placescrumbling in, had left space between the ill-joinedstones, where a thousand wild plants were growing,now shooting up straight and tall, now bendingover to the ground like flexible vines; the walkswere hidden beneath the green turf, and the parterresreserved for cultivated flowers had been invadedby wild ones, which spring up wherever theskies let fall one drop of rain or the sun sheds aray. The white convolvulus twined round andchoked up the monthly rose, the wild mulberrymingled with the red fruit of the currant, and thelong fern, the sweet-scented mint, and the pricklythistle grew by the side of some long forgotten lilies.The minute the party entered the garden, innumerablelittle insects, frightened at the unusual noise,took refuge under the grass, and birds quitting theirnests flew from branch to branch. The silencewhich had reigned for so many years in this peacefulspot gave place to the hum of voices and merrybursts of laughter. None of them appreciated thissolitude, none even meditated on it, it was disturbed,profaned without respect. Numerous anecdoteswere related of the different episodes of the most pleasantof their winter soirées, anecdotes mingled withagreeable allusions, expressive glances, hidden compliments;in fine, with all those thousand nothingsthat accompany the conversation of such as seek tobe pleased, not yet claiming the right to be serious.
The steward, after having vainly searched highand low through the whole castle to find a bellwhich might be heard at some distance, at last decidedon calling out from the top of the steps, thatbreakfast was served up, while the half smile accompanyinghis words, showed that he, as well ashis superiors, had made up his mind for that day atleast to dispense with his ordinary habits of etiquetteand propriety. They sat gayly down to table. Theold castle was forgotten, the deserted condition inwhich they had found it, and the sadness that reignedaround. All spoke at the same time, and theydrank to the health of their hostess, or rather of thefairy whose presence alone made of that decayedhabitation an enchanted palace. Suddenly everyeye was turned toward the dining-room window.
“Heavens! what is this?” they exclaimed.
Before the castle windows a small cariole of osier,painted green, with large wheels, as high as thebody of the vehicle itself, was seen to drive up andstop; it was drawn by a short gray horse, whoseeyes seemed to be endangered by the shafts of thecabriolet, and were constantly turned upward. Thedrawn curtains of the cabriolet only disclosed apair of arms covered with the sleeves of a blue surtout,and a whip that tickled the ears of the grayhorse.
It was this singular arrival which caused the exclamationof surprise related in the commencementof our story.
“Gracious! ladies,” said Madame de Moncar, “Ihad forgotten to tell you that I was absolutely forcedto invite the village doctor to breakfast with us; heis an old man who formerly rendered services tomy uncle’s family, and whom I have seen once ortwice. But be not alarmed at this new guest, he isvery silent. After a few words of common politenesswe may act as though he were not here—besides,I do not think he will stay long.”
At this period the door opened and Doctor Barnabéentered. He was a little feeble old man, witha mild and calm countenance. His white hair wastied behind in a queue of the old style. A sprinklingof powder covered his temples as well as hisforehead, which was furrowed with wrinkles. Hewore a black coat, and breeches with steel buckles.On one arm hung a great-coat, lined with pucecolored taffeta. The other hand held a large caneand his hat. The toute-ensemble of the toilette of thevillage doctor gave evidence that he had that daytaken great pains with his dress; but his blackstockings and coat were covered with large splashesof mud, as though the poor old man had fallen intosome ditch. He stopped short on the threshold ofthe door, astonished at finding himself in so large acompany. A slight embarrassment was depictedfor a moment on his features, but he recovered himselfand bowed without speaking. At this strangeentrance the guests were seized with a great desireto laugh, which they repressed as well as they could.Madame de Moncar alone, who could not, as themistress of the house, be wanting in politeness, remainedserious.
“Goodness! doctor, have you been upset?” sheasked.
Doctor Barnabé, before answering, glanced at thecompany around him, and however plain and naïvehis countenance might be, it was impossible for himnot to detect the hilarity caused by his arrival. Heanswered tranquilly,
“I was not upset. A poor wagoner had fallenunder the wheels of his car, I was passing by andassisted him.”
And the doctor made toward the chair which hadbeen left empty for him. He took his napkin, unfoldedit, passed one end through the button-hole ofhis coat, and spread the rest over his breast andknees.
At this début, numerous smiles played on thelips of the guests, and some titters broke the silence.This time the doctor did not raise his eyes, perchancedid not notice.
“Are there many sick in the village?” said Madamede Moncar, whilst the new comer was beinghelped.
“Yes, madame, many.”
“The country, then, is unhealthy?”
“But from what do these diseases proceed, then?”
“From the great heat during the harvests, andthe cold and damp in winter.”
Here one of the guests, assuming great gravity,mingled in the conversation. “Then, sir, in thishealthy place they are sick all the year round?”
The doctor raised his eyes to his questioner,looked at him, hesitated, and seemed to be suppressingor seeking for