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- A Modern Telemachus - 5/31 -
capacity he should be named in the passport.
Estelle, who had been listening with all her ears, and trying to find a character in Fenelon's romance to be represented by Arthur Hope, now further heard it explained that the party were to go southward to meet her father at one of the Mediterranean ports, as the English Government were so suspicious of Jacobites that he did not venture on taking the direct route by sea, but meant to travel through Germany. Madame de Bourke expected to meet her brother at Avignon, and to obtain his advice as to her further route.
Estelle heard this with great satisfaction. 'We shall go to the Mediterranean Sea and be in danger,' she said to herself, unfolding the map at the beginning of her Telemaque; 'that is quite right! Perhaps we shall see Calypso's island.'
She begged hard to be allowed to sit up that evening to see the hero of the escape from the Tower of London, as well as the travelling companion destined for her, and she prevailed, for mamma pronounced that she had been very sage and reasonable all day, and the grandmamma, who was so soon to part with her, could refuse her nothing. So she was full dressed, with hair curled, and permitted to stand by the tall high-backed chair where the old lady sat to receive her visitors.
The Marquise de Varennes was a small withered woman, with keen eyes, and a sort of sparkle of manner, and power of setting people at ease, that made her the more charming the older she grew. An experienced eye could detect that she retained the costume of the prime of Louis XIV., when headdresses were less high than that which her daughter was obliged to wear. For the two last mortal hours of that busy day had poor Madame de Bourke been compelled to sit under the hands of the hairdresser, who was building up, with paste and powder and the like, an original conception of his, namely, a northern landscape, with snow- laden trees, drifts of snow, diamond icicles, and even a cottage beside an ice-bound stream. She could ill spare the time, and longed to be excused; but the artist had begged so hard to be allowed to carry out his brilliant and unique idea, this last time of attending on Madame l'Ambassadrice, that there was no resisting him, and perhaps her strange forebodings made her less willing to inflict a disappointment on the poor man. It would have been strange to contrast the fabric of vanity building up outside her head, with the melancholy bodings within it, as she sat motionless under the hairdresser's fingers; but at the end she roused herself to smile gratefully, and give the admiration that was felt to be due to the monstrosity that crowned her. Forbearance and Christian patience may be exercised even on a toilette a la Louis XV. Long practice enabled her to walk about, seat herself, rise and curtsey without detriment to the edifice, or bestowing the powder either on her neighbours or on the richly-flowered white brocade she wore; while she received the compliments, one after another, of ladies in even more gorgeous array, and gentlemen in velvet coats, adorned with gold lace, cravats of exquisite fabric, and diamond shoe buckles.
Phelim Burke, otherwise l'Abbe de St. Eudoce, stood near her. He was a thin, yellow, and freckled youth, with sandy hair and typical Irish features, but without their drollery, and his face was what might have been expected in a half-starved, half-clad gossoon in a cabin, rather than surmounting a silken soutane in a Parisian salon; but he had a pleasant smile when kindly addressed by his friends.
Presently Lady Nithsdale drew near, accompanied by a tall, grave gentleman, and bringing with them a still taller youth, with the stiffest of backs and the longest of legs, who, when presented, made a bow apparently from the end of his spine, like Estelle's lamented Dutch-jointed doll when made to sit down. Moreover, he was more shabbily dressed than any other gentleman present, with a general outgrown look about his coat, and darns in his silk stockings; and though they were made by the hand of a Countess, that did not add to their elegance. And as he stood as stiff as a ramrod or as a sentinel, Estelle's good breeding was all called into play, and her mother's heart quailed as she said to herself, 'A great raw Scot! What can be done with him?
Lord Nithsdale spoke for him, thinking he had better go as secretary, and showing some handwriting of good quality. 'Did he know any languages?' 'French, English, Latin, and some Greek.' 'And, Madame,' added Lord Nithsdale, 'not only is his French much better than mine, as you would hear if the boy durst open his mouth, but our broad Scotch is so like Swedish that he will almost be an interpreter there.'
However hopeless Madame de Bourke felt, she smiled and professed herself rejoiced to hear it, and it was further decided that Arthur Maxwell Hope, aged eighteen, Scot by birth, should be mentioned among those of the Ambassador's household for whom she demanded passports. Her position rendered this no matter of difficulty, and it was wiser to give the full truth to the home authorities; but as it was desirable that it should not be reported to the English Government that Lord Burnside's brother was in the suite of the Jacobite Comte de Bourke, he was only to be known to the public by his first name, which was not much harder to French lips than Maxwell or Hope.
'Tall and black and awkward,' said Estelle, describing him to her brother. 'I shall not like him--I shall call him Phalante instead of Arthur.'
'Arthur,' said Ulysse; 'King Arthur was turned into a crow!'
'Well, this Arthur is like a crow--a great black skinny crow with torn feathers.'
CHAPTER III--ON THE RHONE
'Fairer scenes the opening eye Of the day can scarce descry, Fairer sight he looks not on Than the pleasant banks of Rhone.' ARCHBISHOP TRENCH.
Long legs may be in the abstract an advantage, but scarcely so in what was called in France une grande Berline. This was the favourite travelling carriage of the eighteenth century, and consisted of a close carriage or coach proper, with arrangements on the top for luggage, and behind it another seat open, but provided with a large leathern hood, and in front another place for the coachman and his companions. Each seat was wide enough to hold three persons, and thus within sat Madame de Bourke, her brother-in-law, the two children, Arthur Hope, and Mademoiselle Julienne, an elderly woman of the artisan class, femme de chambre to the Countess. Victorine, who was attendant on the children, would travel under the hood with two more maids; and the front seat would be occupied by the coachman, Laurence Callaghan--otherwise La Jeunesse, and Maitre Hebert, the maitre d'hotel. Fain would Arthur have shared their elevation, so far as ease and comfort of mind and body went, and the Countess's wishes may have gone the same way; but besides that it would have been an insult to class him with the servants, the horses of the home establishment, driven by their own coachman, took the party the first stage out of Paris; and though afterwards the post-horses or mules, six in number, would be ridden by their own postilions, there was such an amount of luggage as to leave little or no space for a third person outside.
It had been a perfect sight to see the carriage packed; when Arthur, convoyed by Lord Nithsdale, arrived in the courtyard of the Hotel de Varennes. Madame de Bourke was taking with her all the paraphernalia of an ambassador--a service of plate, in a huge chest stowed under the seat, a portrait of Philip V., in a gold frame set with diamonds, being included among her jewellery--and Lord Nithsdale, standing by, could not but drily remark, 'Yonder is more than we brought with us, Arthur.'
The two walked up and down the court together, unwilling to intrude on the parting which, as they well knew, would be made in floods of tears. Sad enough indeed it was, for Madame de Varennes was advanced in years, and her daughter had not only to part with her, but with the baby Jacques, for an unknown space of time; but the self-command and restraint of grief for the sake of each other was absolutely unknown. It was a point of honour and sentiment to weep as much as possible, and it would have been regarded as frigid and unnatural not to go on crying too much to eat or speak for a whole day beforehand, and at least two afterwards.
So when the travellers descended the steps to take their seats, each face was enveloped in a handkerchief, and there were passionate embraces, literal pressings to the breast, and violent sobs, as each victim, one after the other, ascended the carriage steps and fell back on the seat; while in the background, Honor Callaghan was uttering Irish wails over the Abbe and Laurence, and the lamentable sound set the little lap-dog and the big watch-dog howling in chorus. Arthur Hope, probably as miserable as any of them in parting with his friend and hero, was only standing like a stake, and an embarrassed stake (if that be possible), and Lord Nithsdale, though anxious for him, heartily pitying all, was nevertheless haunted by a queer recollection of Lance and his dog, and thinking that French dogs were not devoid of sympathy, and that the part of Crab was left for Arthur.
However, the last embrace was given, and the ladies were all packed in, while the Abbe with his breast heaving with sobs, his big hat in one hand, and a huge silk pocket-handkerchief in the other, did not forget his manners, but waved to Arthur to ascend the steps first. 'Secretary, not guest. You must remember that another time,' said Lord Nithsdale. 'God bless you, my dear lad, and bring you safe back to bonny Scotland, a true and leal heart.'
Arthur wrung his friend's hand once more, and disappeared into the vehicle; Nurse Honor made one more rush, and uttered another 'Ohone' over Abbe Phelim, who followed into the carriage; the door was shut; there was a last wail over 'Lanty, the sunbeam of me heart,' as he climbed to the box seat; the harness jingled; coachman and postilions cracked their whips, the impatient horses dashed out at the porte cochere; and Arthur, after endeavouring to dispose of his legs, looked about him, and saw, opposite to him, Madame de Bourke lying back in the corner in a transport of grief, one arm round her daughter, and her little son lying across her lap, both sobbing and crying; and on one side of him the Abbe, sunk in his corner, his yellow silk handkerchief over his face; on the other, Mademoiselle Julienne, who was crying too, but with more moderation, perhaps more out of propriety or from infection than from actual grief: at any rate she had more of her senses about her than any one else, and managed to dispose of the various loose articles that had been thrown after the travellers, in pockets and under cushions. Arthur would have assisted, but only succeeded in treading on various toes and eliciting some small shrieks, which disconcerted him all the more, and made Mademoiselle Julienne look daggers at him, as she relieved her lady of little Ulysse, lifting him to her own knee, where, as he was absolutely exhausted with crying, he fell asleep.
Arthur hoped the others would do the same, and perhaps there was more dozing than they would have confessed; but whenever there was a
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