Charles James Lever.

Arthur O'Leary : his wanderings and ponderings in many lands (Volume 2) online

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1. TOM BURKE OF OURS. Vol. I., 24 Etchings,

135. cloth. Continued in monthly Numbers, Is. each.


a Portrait, and numerous Illustrations, 145. cloth.


GOON. 2 Vols, with numerous Illustrations, 24s. cloth.


With Illustrations, I2s. cloth.






^^^ ^yu^y^.^l^^yey x^-^^t^^ ^^■


Lonian. Henuj CoHjum.. 1844.















St. Martin's Lanb.

V, 2-


Chapter X.

It was in the month of May — I won^t confess to
the year — that I found myself, after trying various
hotels in the Place Royale, at last deposited at the
door of the Hotel de France. It seemed to me in
my then ignorance, like a pis aller, when the
postillion said, " Let us try The France ;" and little
prepared me for the handsome, but somewhat
small hotel, before me. It was nearly five o^clock
when I arrived, and I had only time to make some
slight change in my dress, when the bell sounded
for table d'hote.

The guests were already seated when I entered^


but a place had been reserved for me, which com-
pleted the table. I was a young — perhaps after
reading a little farther you^U say a " very young'^
traveller at the time, but was soon struck by the
quiet and decorous style in which the dinner was
conducted : the servants were prompt, silent, and
observant; the guests easy and affable; the equi-
page of the table was even elegant; and the
cookery, Biennai's. I was the only Englishman
present, the party seemingly made up of Germans
and French; but all spoke together hke acquaint-
ances, and before the dinner had proceeded far,
were pohte enough to include me in the con-

At the head, sat a large and strikingly hand-
some man, of about eight and thirty or forty years
of age; his dress a dark frock, richly braided,
and ornamented by the decorations of several fo-
reign orders; his forehead was high and narrow,
the temples strongly indented; his nose arched
and thin, and his upper lip covered by a short
black moustache raised at either extremity, and
slightly curled, as we see occasionally in a Van-
dyk picture; indeed, his dark brown features,

somewhat sad in their expression^ his rich hazel
eyes and long waving hair, gave him all the cha-
racter that great artist loved to perpetuate on his
canvas ; he spoke seldom, but when he did, there
was something indescribably pleasing in the low,
mellow tones of his voice ; a slight smile too lit
up his features at these times, and his manner had
in it — I know not what — some strange power it
seemed, that made whoever he addressed feel
pleased and flattered bv his notice of them, just
as we see a few words spoken by a sovereign, caught
up and dwelt upon by those around.

At his side sat a lady, of whom when I first
came into the room I took little notice. Her
features seemed pleasing, but no more ; but gra-
dually, as I watched her, I was struck by the
singular deUcacy of traits that rarely make their
impression at first sight. She was about twenty-
five, perhaps tv\'enty-six, but of a character of
looks that preserves something almost childish
in their beauty. She was pale, and with brown
hair — that light sunny brown that varies in its hue
with every degree of light upon it ; her face oval
and inclined to plumpness ; her eyes large, full,



and lustrous, with an expression of softness and
<jandour, that won on you Avonderfully the longer
you looked at them ; her nose was short, perhaps
faultily so, but beautifully chiselled, and fine as
a Greek statue; her mouth, rather large, dis-
played, however, two rows of teeth beautifully
regular, and of snowy whiteness; while her chin,
rounded and dimpled, glided by an easy transition
into a throat large and most gracefully formed.
Her figure, as well as I could judge, was below
the middle size, and inclined to embonpoint ; and
her dress, denoting some national peculiarity of
which I was ignorant, was a velvet boddice
•laced in front and ornamented with small silver
buttons, which terminated in a white muslin
skirt; a small cap, something like what Mary
Queen of Scots is usually represented in, sat on
. the back of her head and fell in deep lace folds on
her shoulders. Lastly, her hands were small,
white, and dimpled, and displayed on her taper
and rounded fingers several rings of apparently
great value.

I have been somewhat lengthy in my descrip-
tion of these two persons, and can scarcely ask

my reader to accompany me round the circle ;
however^ it is ^^-ith them principally I have to do.
The others at table were still remarkable enough :
there was a leading member of the chamber of
deputies — an ex-minister^ a tall^ dark-browed, ill-
favoured man, with a retiring forehead and coal
black eyes ; he was a man of great cleverness,
spoke eloquently and well, and singularly open
and frank in gi^^ng his opinion on the pohtics of
the time. There was a German or two, from the
grand-duchy of something, somewhat proud, re-
served personages, as all the Germans of petty
states are ; they talked little, and were evidently
impressed vrith the power they possessed of
tantalizing the company, by not divulging the
intention of the ^^ Gross Herzog of Hoch Don-
nerstadt" regarding the present prospects of

There were three Frenchmen and two French
ladies, all pleasant, easy, and conversable people ;
there was a doctor from Louvain, a shrewd intel-
ligent man; a Prussian major and his wife, well-
bred, quiet people, and like all Prussians, polite
without inviting acquaintance; an Austrian secre-

tary of legation; a wine merchant from Bour-
deaux; and a celebrated pianist completed the

I have now put my readers in possession of
information which I only obtained after some days
myself; for though one or other of these person-
ages as occasionally absent from table d'hote, I
soon perceived that they were all frequenters of
the house, and well known there.

If the guests were seated at table wherever
chance or accident might place them, I could per-
ceive that a tone of deference was always used to
the tall man, who invariably maintained his place
at the head; and an air of even greater courtesy
assumed towards the lady beside him, who was his
wife. He was always addressed as Monsieur le
Comte, and her title of Countess never forgotten
in speaking to her. During dinner, whatever
little chit-chat or gossip was the talk of the day,
was specially offered up to her.

The younger guests occasionally ventured to
present a bouquet, and even the rugged minister
himself, accomplished a more polite bow in
accosting her, than he could have summoned up


for his presentation to royalty. To all these little
attentions she returned a smile^ or a look, or a
word, or a gesture with her white hand, never
exciting jealousy by any undue degree of favour,
and distributing her honours vrith. the practised
equanimity of one accustomed to it.

Dinner over and coffee, a handsome britzka,
drawn by two splendid dark bay horses, would
drive up, and Madame la Comtesse, conducted to
the carriage by her husband, would receive the
homage of the whole party, as they stood to let
her pass. The count would then linger some
twenty minutes or so, and take his leave, to
wander for an hour about the park, and afterwards
to the theatre, where I used to see him in a
private box with his wife.

Such was the little party at " The France" when
I took up my residence there in the month of
May, and gradually one dropped off after another
as the summer wore on. The Germans went back to
*^sauer kraut" and ^^kreutzer" whist; the secretary
of legation was on leave; the wine merchant was off
to St. Petersburgh; the pianist was performmg in
London; the ex-minister was made a clerk in the


bureau he once directed; and so on, leaving our
party reduced to the count and madame, a stray
traveller, a deaf abbe, and myself.

The dog days in a continental city are, every
one knows, stupid and tiresome enough. Every
one has taken his departure either to his chateau,
if he has one, or to the watering places; the
theatre has no attraction, even if the heat per-
mitted one to visit it; the streets are empty,
parched, and grass-grown ; and except the arrival
and departure of that incessant locomotive, John
Bull, there is no bustle or stir any where.

Hapless indeed, is the condition then, of the
man who is condemned from any accident to
toil through this dreary season; to wander about
in solitude the places he has seen filled by plea-
sant company; to behold the park and prome-
nades, given up to Flemish bonnes, or Norman
nurses, where he was wont to glad his eye with the
sight of bright eyes and trim shapes, flitting past
in all the tasty elegance of Parisian toilette ; to
see the lazy frotteur sleeping away his hours at
the po'>^te-cochere, which, a month before, thun-
dered with the deep roll of equipage coming and

going — all this is very sad, and disposes one to
become dull and discontented too.

For what reason I was detained at Brussels it is
unnecessary to inquire: some delay in remit-
tances, if I remember aright, had their share in
the cause. Who ever travelled without having
cursed his banker, or his agent, or his uncle, or
his guardian, or somebody in short, who, had a
deal of money belonging to him in his hands, and
would not send it forward? In all my long
experience of travelling, and travellers, I don^t
remember meeting with one person who, if it were
not for such mischances, would not have been
amply supplied with cash. Some with a knowing
wink, throw the blame on the "Governor;"
others, more openly indignant, confound Coutts
and Drummond ; a stray Irishman will now and
then damn the "tenantrj^ that haven^t paid up the
last November;^' but none, no matter how much
their condition bespeaks that out-o'-elbows habit
which a "ways-and-means" style of life contracts,
will ever confess to the fact that their expectations
are as blank as their banker's book, and that the
only land they are ever to pretend to, is a post-


obit right in some six feet by two in a churchyard.
And yet tlie world is full of such people — well-
informed, pleasant, good-looking folk, who inhabit
first-rate hotels — drink, dine, and dress well —
frequent theatres and promenades — spend their
winters at Paris, Florence, or Rome — their sum-
mers at Baden, Ems, or Interlachen; have a
strange half intimacy with men in the higher
circles; occasionally dine with them; are never
heard of in any dubious or unsafe affair; are
reputed safe fellows to talk to : know every one —
from the horse-dealer who will give credit, to the
Jew who will advance cash ; and notwithstanding
that they neither gamble, nor bet, nor speculate,
yet contrive to live — ay, and well too — without
any known resources whatever. If English — and
they are for the most part so — they usually are
called by some well-known name of aristocratic
reputation in England: they are thus, Villiers, or
Paget, or Seymour, or Percy, which on the
Continent is already a kind of half nobility at
once ; and the question which seemingly needs no
reply — Ah, vous etes parent de mi lord! is a
receipt in full for rank any where.


These men — and who that knows anything of
the Continent has not met such eyeiyvs'here ? —
are the great riddles of our century; and I'd rather
give a reward for their secret^ than all the disco-
veries about perpetual motion, or longitude, or
St. John Longism that ever was heard of; and
strange it is too, no one has ever blabbed. Some
have emerged from this misty state to inherit large
fortunes and live in the best style; yet I have
never heard tell of a sins-le man ha^dns; turned
king's e"\adence on his fellows. And yet what a
talent theirs must be, let any man confess who
has waited three posts for a remittance without
any tidings of its arrival; think of the hundred
and one petty annoyances and ironies to vrhich he
is subject: he fancies that the very waiters know
he is '' d sec;" that the landlord looks sour, and
the landlady austere; the very clerk in the post-
office appears to say ^' No letter for you, sir,'' with
a jibing and impertinent tone. From that mo-
ment, too, a dozen expensive tastes that he never
dreamed of before, enter his head : he wants to
purchase a hack, or give a dinner party, or bet at
a race course, principally because he has not got a


SOUS in his pocket, and he is afraid it may be
guessed by others; such is the fatal tendency to
strive or pretend to something, which has no
other value in our eyes than the eflfect it may have
on our acquaintances, regardless of what sacrifices
it may demand the exercise.

Forgive, I pray, this long digression, which
although, I hope, not without its advantages,
should scarcely have been entered into were it not
a-propos to myself: and to go back — I began to
feel excessively uncomfortable at the delay of my
money. My first care every morning was to
repair to the post-office; sometimes I arrived
before it was open, and had to promenade up and
down the gloomy "Rue de TEvecque^^ till the
clock struck; sometimes the mail would be late —
a foreign mail is generally late when the weather
is peculiarly fine and the roads good — ^but always
the same answer came — " Rien pour vous, Monsieur
O^Leary;'' and at last I imagined from the way
the fellow spoke, that he had set the response to
a tune, and sang it.

Beranger has celebrated in one of his very
prettiest lyrics " how happy one is at twenty in a


garret." I have no doubt^ for my part^ that the
vicinity of the slates and the poverty of the
apartment, would have much contributed to my
peace of mind at the time I speak of. The fact
of a magnificently-furnished salon, a splendid
dinner every day, champagne and Seltzer promis-
cuously, cab fares, and theatre tickets innumera-
ble, being all scored against me, were sad dampers
to my happiness ! and from being one of the
cheeriest and most light-hearted of fellows, I sank
into a state of fidgety and restless impatience, the
nearest thing, I ever remember, to low spirits.

Such was I one day when the post, which I
had been watching anxiously from mid-day, had
not arrived at five o^clock. Leaving word with
the commissionaire, to wait and report to me at
the hotel, I turned back to the table d'hote. By
accident, the only guests where the count and
madame; there they were, as accurately dressed
as ever; so handsome and so happy-looking;
so attached, too, in their manner towards each
other — that nice balance between affection and
courtesy, which before the world is so captivat-
ing. Disturbed as were my thoughts, I could


not help feeling struck by their bright and plea-
sant looks.

"Ah, a family party !'^ said the count gaily,
as I entered, while madame bestowed on me one
of her very sweetest smiles.

The restraint of strangers removed, they spoke
as if I had been an old friend — chatting away
about everything and everybody, in a tone of
frank and easy confidence, perfectly delightful;
occasionally deigning to ask if I did not agree
with them in their opinions, and seeming to
enjoy the little I ventured to say, with a pleasure
I felt to be most flattering.

The count's quiet and refined manner — the
easy flow of his conversation, replete as it was
with information and amusement, formed a most
happy contrast with the brilliant sparkle of
madame's lively sallies; for she seemed rather
disposed to indulge a vein of slight satire, but so
tempered with good feeling and kindliness withal,
that you would not for the world forego the plea-
sure it afforded. Long — long before the dessert
appeared, I ceased to think of my letter or my
money, and did not remember that such things


as bankers/ agents^ or stockbrokers^ were in the
universe. Apparently they had been great travel-
lers; had seen every city in Europe, and visited
every court; knew all the most distinguished
people, and many of the sovereigns intimately;
and little stories of Metternich, bon mots of Tal-
leyrand, anecdotes of Goethe and Chateaubriand,
seasoned the conversation with an interest, which
to a young man like myself was all engrossing.
Suddenly the door opened, and the commission-
aire called out — "No letter for Monsieur
O^Leary/' I suddenly became pale and faint;
and though the count was too well bred to take
any direct notice of what he saw was caused by
my disappointment, he contrived adroitly to direct
some observation to madame, which relieved me
from any burden of the conversation.

"What hour did you order the carriage,
Duischkar^^ said he.

^' At half-past six. The forest is so cool, that I
like to go slowly through it.^^

^^ That will give us ample time for a walk, too,-*^
said he: "and if Monsieur O^Leary will join us,
the pleasure will be all the greater.'^


I hesitated, and stammered out an apology
about a head-ache, or something of the sort.

^^ The drive will be the best thing in the world
for you/^ said Madame; "and the strawberries
and cream of Boitsfort will complete the cure.'^

*^ Yes, yes/^ said the count, as I shook my head
half-sadly — "La comtesse is infallible as a

^^And, like all the faculty, very angry when her
skill is called in question,^^ said she.

^^ Go then, and find your shawl, madame,^' said
he, ^^ and, meanwhile, monsieur and I will discuss
our liqueur, and be ready for you.'^

Madame smiled gaily, as if haA^ng carried her
point, and left the room.

The door was scarcely closed, when the count
drew his chair closer to mine, and, with a look of
kindliness and good nature I cannot convey, said:
— "I am going. Monsieur O^Leary, to take a
liberty — a very great liberty indeed — with you, and
perhaps you may not forgive it.^^ He paused for
a minute or two, as if waiting some intimation on
my part. I merely muttered something intended
to express my willingness to accept of what he


hinted, and he resumed. "You are a very young
man; I not a very old, hut a very experienced one.
There are occasions in hfe, in which such know-
ledge as I possess of the world and its Vv'ays, may
be of great service. Now, without for an instant
obtruding myself on your confidence, or inquiring
into aflfairs which are strictly your own, I wish to
say, that my ad\'ice and coimsel, if you need
either, are completely at your service. A few
minutes ago I perceived that you were distressed
at hearing there was no letter for you "

" I know not how to thank you," said I, ^^ for
such kmdness as this; and the best proof of my
sincerity is, to tell you the position in which I am

^* One word first," added he, laying his hand
gently on my arm — "one word. Do you promise
to accept of my advice and assistance when you
have revealed the circumstance you allude to r If
not, I beg I may not hear it."

" Your advice I am most anxious for," said I

" The other was an awkward word, and I see
that your delicacy has taken the alarm. But

VOL. II. c


come, it is spoken now, and can^t be recalled. I
must have my way: so go on.''

I seized his hand with enthusiasm, and shook it
heartily. ^'Yes/^ said I, ^^you shall have your
way. I have neither shame nor concealment
before you." And then, in as few words as I
could explain such tangled and knotted webs as
envelope all matters where legacies, and lawyers,
and settlements, and securities, and mortgages
enter, I put him in possession of the fact, that I
had come abroad with the assurance from my
man of business of a handsome yearly income, to
be increased, after a time, to something very
considerable; that I was now two months in
expectation of remittances, which certain forms
in Chancery had delayed and deferred ; and that
I watched the post each day with an anxious
heart, for means to relieve me from certain
trifling debts I had incurred, and enable me to
proceed on my journey.

The count listened with the most patient atten-
tion to my story, only interfering once or twice,
when some difficulty demanded explanation, and
then suffering me to proceed to the end ; when.


leisurely withdrawing a pocket-book from the
breast of his frock, he opened it slowly. ^'My
dear young friend/'' said he, in a measured and
almost solemn tone, ••even' hour that a man is in
debt, is a year spent in slavery. Your creditor
is your master : it matters not whether a kind or
a severe one, the sense of obligation you incur,
saps the feeling of manly independence which is
the first charm of youth ; and, believe me. it is
always through the rents in moral feehng that
our happiness oozes out quickest. Here are five
thousand francs ; take as much more as you want.
With a friend — and I insist upon your behe^-ing
me to be such — these things have no character of
obligation : you accommodate me to-dav ; I do
the same for you to-morrow. And now, put
these notes in your pocket. I see madame is
waiting for us.'^

For a second or two, I felt so overpowered I
could not speak : the generous confidence and
friendly interest of one so thoroughly a stranger,
were too much for my astonished and gratified
mind. At last I recovered myself enough to
reply, and assuring my worthy friend that when I

c 2


spoke of my debts they were in reality merely
trifling ones ; that I had still ample funds in my
banker's hands for all necessary outlay ; and that
by the next post^ perhaps, my long-wished-for
letter might arrive.

" And if it should not ?" interposed he, smiling.

"Why then the next day "

" And if not then ?" continued he, with a half-
quizzing look at my embarrassment.

^^Then your five thousand francs shall tremble
for it.^'

^^ That's a hearty fellow !" cried he, grasping my
hand in both of his. " And now I feel I was not
deceived in you. My first meeting with Metter-
nich was very like this. I v/as at Presburg, in the
year 1804, just before the campaign of Austerlitz
opened "

^^ You are indeed most gallant, messieurs,'"' said
the countess, opening the door, and peeping in.
" Am I to suppose that cigars and maraschino, are
better company than mine r"

We rose at once to make our excuses ; and thus
I lost the story of Prince Metternich, in which I
already felt an uncommon interest, from the simi-


larity of the adventure to my own, though whether
I was to represent the prince, or the count, I could
not even guess.

I was soon seated beside the countess in the
luxurious britzka ; the count took his place on the
box ; and away we rattled over the pave, through
the Porte de Namur^ and along the pretty suburbs
of Etterbech, where we left the high road, and
entered the Bois de Cambre by that long and
beautiful alUe which runs on for miles, like some
vast aisle in a Gothic cathedral — the branches
above, bending into an arched roof, and the tall
beech stems standing like the pillars.

The pleasant odour of the forest, the tempered
light, the noiseless roll of the carriage, gave a
sense of luxury to the drive, I can remember
\'i\'idly to this hour. Not that my enjoyment of
such w^as my only one ; far from it. The pretty
countess talked away about every thing that came
uppermost, in that strain of spirited and lively
chit-chat, that needs not the sweetest voice and
the most fascinating look, to make it most capti-
vating. I felt like one in a dream; the whole
thing was fairy land; and whether I looked


into the depths of the leafy wood^ where some
horsemen might now and then be seen to pass at
a gallop^ or my eyes fell upon that small and
faultless foot that rested on the velvet cushion in

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Online LibraryCharles James LeverArthur O'Leary : his wanderings and ponderings in many lands (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 15)