|Newspaper Title||Alexandra and Yea Standard, Gobur, Thornton and Acheron Express (Vic. : 1877 - 1908)|
|Trove Title||Un Bal De Mi-Careme|
OnArrBB II, I did not see Miohonnean, as I had expected to do, in any of the haunts we journahlist affect, although there, among friends and fellow workers, be would have been safe from the hand, of the law. Indeed, he ran little risk if the Marquis de Ia Tiumouille had not seen him when hie daughter did : but there was no doubt that, if the Minister had recognisod him, he would use any means, fair or foul, to keep him outof the way till Charlotte a marriage was accomplished. I worried myself thinking of the com plications my friend's presence might bring about at this juncture; and I could foresee nothing but trouble to himself, and possibly to the unfor'unate girl as well. I think it was my discomposure that made me so ready to indulge juat then in dissipations, whichb, as a role, I detested. The insoluble conon drum of Miohonean's futuore troubled me so persistently, when I was not occupied with my work, that I was glad to take refuge from it in any place where I ooould find noise, light and colour. I was thankful for the festival of MI Cas6me, which oame just then to break the chastened gloom of a Parisian Lent, or at least to give spnial .rnuse for some outburst ofBohemian jollity. So, one night I went to a masked ball. I left the peace of the spring night, the silence in which, out in the balf.bullt sub. urb where I lived, one seemed almost to hear the trees bursting into bud and leaf through their hard and gnarled branches, and to inhale, as in a dream of the country, the faint perfume of some brave violet that had not yet fled from the approach of man. I left these to listen to the harsh clanging of dance-mousl, and the still worse discord. ante of soulless, mirthless laughter ; for the glare .f gas, so yellow as to bide the lack of freshtess in the gaudy, farolal costumes, and in the faces-not one of them bright or innocent-looking, though many of them were young-whichb smiled, and leered, and frowned. now beneath a silken mask, and again, hidden by only the almost equally complete protrc ion of paint and powder and natural duplicity. I hated the scene-will you believe this of a Parlesan journallst 7 though I was present at it of my own free wvill. Nevertheless it was, after its fashion, bright and gay enough. I let my imagination wander with my eyes, and taking scrape of overheard conversation for a groundwork, made a hiftory for each bright-clothed figure that passed me. Take, for exemple, that clown and the columbine who leant on his arm. I felt his figure to be dimly familiar. I fancied that could I eo him in some other droes than the scarlet and while of a Pierrot, and undis. guised by the white paint and vermilion triangles on his face, I should know him for an acquaintance ; bt in his marquerado costume I failed to recognise him. His companion was a }retty, though bold. looking girl, who wore no mask to hide a f.ooe that was apparently well known to many present. The two paused foe a minute in a whirling galop, and stopped to rest near the corner where I was standing. ' I suppose,' said the girl, ' that this will be your last dance at a Ml.Oarome bal costame, Monsieur. By this time next year you will be a staid husband, who will frown at the memory of these follies of past days.' 'Not I, ma belle. It Is not written in the marriage service that a man should be trlete for the rest of hie days. To marry is a'duty to society, and one always takes such duties lightly. To he happy is a duty to oneself, and is therefore to be strictly performed. 1 shall not fall in it.' ' Ah I the future Mladame la Vicomlesse will have a voice in deciding wherein your happiness shall lie.' ' Not much. Mademoiselle do Is Tre mouillo seeks neither her own happiness nor mine in beocmnog my wife, and will, therefore, make no effort to control my search for it after I am her husband.' The clue to the identity of the Pierrot, which I' had hitherto failed to catch, was given me by this last remark. It was Bolas olf •So yeu say now,' answered his com., Paoion, hastily *' but believe me, after she is married, a woman claims rights even while she refuses priviliges, Your wife may do nothing to reconoile you to married life ; but, nevertheless, she will object to your continuing the habits of your bachelor life, and you will have to submit to her wishes.' You are wrorg. I promise you that the event will prove it. I will wager a diamond breooh against the knot of ribbons on your shoulder that next year at a MI-Careme hball, I shall be as ready as I am to.niegh to lead the cotillon with you. Will you take the wager ' . Not unless the stakes are placed In my hands at once,' returned the Birl with a light laugh ' But do not lt us stand still any longer. The moeio gets quicker as the and of she dance approaches. We have time for one more turn before it stops.' They whirled away from my sight, and I tried to put them from my mmory also. In a moment I sa'ccerded, for try eye fell on a figure dressed as a brigand-a Fra DIavolo with long closk,kpeaked broad brimmed hat, and a maasthat did moes than pretend to
ounutel the lfoo below. IBuc kauw ~ae mao too well not to reognie who it was that was lounoaig abat the ball-room, keeping, in all his waderings, his eyes steadily fixed on the entance. I went up to him basily. ' Rene,' I ex olaimed In a troubled thisper,' ' why are you here ? D y6o keLov what a risak you run ?' Froidveaux, is it you?' he answered, with some irrita'lot in he tone. ' I thought tel were too gram to tiSt such a rcene. Blat -ince I hove net yiu I will ask your help, for, as you will beieve, I do not wish to show mself note ban tois necessary Keep esar the doorand vatch for a tall 'ady in a blue domim. When she corne.s, addre*o her-arre sill krow your voice, and she is aware that you are mly friend--and bring her to me. I shall be In the alcove at the end of the aells' SDo you mean tkat Mademoiselle-- ' H Iush ! do not mention her name here. Yes, she has prcniecd to meet me once more; and we are tafer from detection hers than in the mosat desrted spot in Paris. there is no solituio like that of a crowd"' I doubted this list proposition, but I had noopportunity of deputing it,for Michonneau turned and taft me and I had no alternative but to repair to ip poet he asslgned to me. I removed my m- k, having no reason of my own to fear reeo nition, and so simplified the seek of wi ileg the confidence of Mademoieolle do a T. mouilla when at last she appeared. I felt her har tremble as it lay on my arm, whale I led er up the room. It was not etrange that the should he afraid. It was long past midnig , and this ball was a plaeo whioh women e her station are not sup posed to visit. H1i parents and her betrothed believed her to bdasteep in her own chember, while she was ste lhng out masked and dim guioed to meet a fobltdden lover Miehonneau saw her agitation and was angered'by it everything angered him now, poor fellow I SYou seem distressed, Mademoisetle,' he said, as he took her hand. 'Can you wonder?' she answered. 'It Is the height of folly in me to come hbre to meet you.' ' Yet it is not the first-no, nor the tenth time, tha, you have left your father's house after nightfall,'to keep a rendezvoou..with me.' 'No, but formerly it was different. 'I en dargered no one but myself, and I even wi bed sometimes that I could be discovered, for then my father would have felt com pe'led to give me to yoou. But now ! You know how I am placed, I am within a few weeks of my marriage-a marriage which is forced upon me, yet from which I dare not wish to escape. On its taking place my father's honour and credit depend. Any chance might b ing the knowledge of what I have ventured to-night to the earsof M. de Boisjtly. Tht n what could I expect but that he would refuse to make me his wife, as hold ing me unfit t, keep his name above soandal. And if he explained bhis reasons-- Ah I' Sihe stopped abruptly, and barely sup. pressed a scream, for Boi joly, passing by the alcove. had glanced at its ooupants, and disentangling flimself from the olinginggrasp of his columbine, had come forward and laid his hand on the blue domino's arm. 'Mademoiselle do la Trnmouileo, do I see you hero-yuau ' he asked Into a low, but furious voice. She trembled so that she could scarcely speak. You retogr oee me I' she faltered. Yes,' he replied. ' Your disguise is admirable, and sofloient for the world in general; but tl~e man who meant to marry you in a fortnight is, as he ought to be, able to recognise you under any mask-even that ol ingenue, which you have hitherto worn,' Michonneao interposed. 'Whatever rela tion this lady may bear to you in future, remember that she is for the moment under my protection, and that whoever fails to address her with respect must answer four it to me.' 'I have no doubt,' ?aid Boisjoly,' that I shall be better able to reply to your demands than you will be to answer mine.' 'The means of settling all questions is easily obtained, nor need we waste much time in argument.' Oh I what do you mean?' cried the frightened girl. :Mademoiselle, this is not a plaoe for you,' said her betrothed, letting the question pace ; ' allow me to conduct you to your carriage.' Again Michonneau interposed .with his now charaoteriltio needless petulance. 'As Mademoiselle came here to meet me and not M. do Boisjoly, I olaim the privi. lege of being her escort.' Charlotte gazed despairingly from one to the other. As the rivals had alrepdy quite sufficient cause of quarrel to satirfy belli. gerent souls, I thought I might venture to make some attempt at calming this petty difference, and offered my services for the trivial task. Mademoiselle de Ia Tr6moolle asoopted my offered arm, and turned from Idea with out farewell. To Boisjoly she said in a trembling volso : My father and mother know nothing of this folly of mine. If il be possihle, spare them.' bse Vioomte bowed. ' I trust to arrang this affair in such a manner as to income mode neither you nor your family.' In any case you may be sure that 1 know how to respect the honour of a noble name.' She must have known that any poseible 'arrangement' moat involve danger to her lover, yet she walked away without even a glance at the man whom love for her had brought to such grevious peril. She had rlskedmuch for Miehonnean, but she oared moot for herself after all. It is true, however, that she asked me in a whirper, as I placed her in one of the fiocren that were waiting outide, 'Moust they fight ? 'I fear it cannot be prevented.' ' Try to do so,' she Implored. 'Besecb them for my sake, to part in peace.' I promied to comply with her requ.st, though I knew it to be hopeless; and, indeed, when I returned to the ball-room neither R6onld nor.Bolsjoly was to be seen. I looked around for them, but vainly, and though I asked thsbe colombine, who had been Boes' joly's partner, if she knew where he had gone, she could give me no information. M. le Pierrot had left bher very abruptly, very rudely; sha- had no further interest in him. And shs added, with a glance that wab meant to be bewitching, ' As both our companions seem to have deserted us, monsieur, shall we not console easob other!' I turned away impatiently and left the place, troubled and Irritated in mind. Nothing seemed left for me but to go home, for I knew not where to ee(k tbo rival lovers, and I wholly despaired of 'influencoing either of them, even if I could finod them. I walked slong, gloomily ravolvieg tha possible issue of Mibohonnean's mad love, until, as the night faded Into grey, and the spring morning dawned chill and draped in mist, the special qoestion in my mind seemed to lore Its sharpness of outline, and blend vaguely with the cloud of sorrow and wrong, whbioh I felt to be overbanging bthe great sleepi g city. I lived, as I have said. in one of thie iifinnilh'slied subourba-a poor one, which Would never be oodupled by any but workmen, tradesmen of the poorer clase, and an oroasional struggling writer like myself. Tbhe blocks of houeos, experi ments of spennlative boilders, loomed gaunt and speatral through the mist; they might have been the rueins of past ages instead of the barely finished erietions of yesterday, as tbey waited till a oonnesotlng row of build loges bould link them together, Between them lay fields-desolato fields, whibh the clty had invaded sad taken possesion of,. as being convenient spots in which to asst refore, or store theb brinks and stones of future walls; but where newly'mated birds still clung to the homes they bad built In their hereditary trees, and familiar floweres made brave efforts to bloom, in spite of the surrounding smeke and grime. Thesm fields always struck me with a petuliar feeling ot deprresion; they were gloomier to me than tha loneliest country lane. A brooding sadness seemed to overhang themas if they were hauntedhby abo prophelflo ghosts of the inmataes of the•dwellings that were tq arise upon them. The very cry,of a bird, too early dislurbed in its neat, seemed to my fretfal ear to bave a buman sound. Was It not' human cry 7 I heard it again, this time it seemed to articulate. ' Help me, for Heaven's sa-s,' I thought it
atj ; Sul at the O.l.mb llLI.iLtut LOaIWas I strained my. eyes to plerse the morning mias, a figure running towards me, doubt. less in search of help for some injured comrade. Yet surely is was the strangest being that ever sought aid for one in danger or pain ! It was a man draped in a long cloak, which, however, floati g behind him as he ran, display ed the piebald searlet and white of his face and garments. II was the Pierrotof the masked ball-theVicomte de Roisjoly. ' Viormte I' I exclaimed as he approached we, and tried to catch him as he psaeed ; but he eluded my hand and fled with a swiftness that defied pursuit. Then I burst through the scant and tattered hedge, and hu.rying onwardafound what I knew must be lying somewhere, the body of my poor friend, R1,4 Mlobooneau. He still lived, but the blood was pouring from a bullet wound in his longs, and the de.th-dew was gathering on his brow. One hand, from which the useless pistol had drrpped, was clutching in agony at the stunted grass ; I took the other in mine, and strove to raise him and to staunch the wound. He seemed to recognise me and to feel no sorprise at my appearing at that moment. 'lJoo late, Georges, too late,' he gasped. Then recurring to the event of the previous boor-' Bhe will get home safely!' he in. quired. * Doubtless,' I answered briefly, feeling at that moment a most bitter inilfference t., the fate of Charlotte de la T, Gmouille. * I have died for her,' he went on-was it madness on my part to think I heard a cortain triumph in his feeble voice? ' It is worth doing, this-to die for love of a woman, and yet-yet-I doubt if she was worth it. Who knows ? Women are weak and selfish, even the best of them ; and sbe will be happier in the future if she has not loved me too well.' His voice died away, as the life.blood ebbed from him. In the last few moments his mind wandered, whether to past or I future, who shall say? For his last words, berore he fell back still and lifeless, were, * Embrasse moi, ma mere,' aoeompanied by an outstretohiog of the arms, as if he, indeed, sought to clasp in them his long. o dead mother, In due course I laid an information against the Vicomte de Boiejoly. It was laughed at. The Vicomte swore that he had gone to bed before midnight on the evening I spoke of, had never stirred till his valet brought him bhis offee at eight o'clook next morning, and had not been at a masked ball since Carnival time. The valet confirmed his r master's statement, and I could not call Mademoiseoll de la Trdmnoillo to witness to t the truth of mine. I knew that, had the choice lain with Idasd, he would rather a thousand times that his death should remain nnavenged than that a shade of scandal hoould fall on her, I submitted to ciroomstances, and so, on interrupted, save by such pangs of memory and consieence as may venture to atttack I personages of the ' grand monde,' a gay wedding took place at the Madeleine, and I flowers were scattered, and opera singers sang, and an Archbishop made Alfred de Boisjoly and Charlotte do la Tr6mooille man and wife. And if the bride looked deadly pale beneath her wreath of flowers, and the bridegroom strove vainly to hide sullenlesa with smiles, the satisfaction that beamed on the countenance of the Marquis Alaln de Is rrsmoollle was perfect and sincere. Do you wish to hear more ? The Vicomteese de Bolejoly, after six months of the most reckless gaiety, extravagant and eccentric even for Paris, suddenly retired to the country, where she has remained ever since. Rumour says that she has gone mad. Meanwhile the Vicomte spends most of his time at Monte Carlo, and is doing his beet to kill bimself with abrinthe. Miohonnean Is not wholly unavenged.