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The uncle of Guadaloupe had, by a clause in his will, enjoined that Edward should bear his name; Edward had subscribed with eagerness to this injunction, which furthered his projects. At first he caused himself to be called Langet de Neuillan, and afterwards he contented himself with signing “L. de Neuillan.” What others do from vanity Edward did from the gravest, and, it must be confessed, from the most culpable motives.
At length he again saw Paris ! After an absence of three years he found himself once more in this city so well furnished with all that is attractive, and so lavish of enjoyments for those who are young and rich: two advantages possessed by EdwardEdward, who was a millionnaire and who counted yet but twentyseven years.
The friends whom he had left young and foolish were still in all their youth and in all their folly. Two or three only had disappeared either under the cloud of ruin or that of matrimony, and these were forgotten. The others gave Edward a joyous reception, especially after learning that he had returned with the gilded spoils of an American uncle.
“I am of you,” said Edward to them ; “I resume my place amongst you; you will include me in your feasts, and you will see that I have lost none of my spirit.” “Bah!” replied they, “ you are rich, and you will marry!
” “Never! I give you my oath of it.”.
When he had renewed his ancient intimacies, Edward hired two apartments; one in the Marais, under the name of M. L. De Neuillan, doctor of medicine, the other in the Rue de Provence, under the name of Edward Langet, fundholder. Be it well understood that he had dropped no hint of De Neuillan to his friends.
From this moment you may perceive Edward had a double part to play; that of a bachelor husband appeared to him too dangerous, and too fecund in disorders and domestic storms to him who ventures to accumulate and bring to light its various attributions by an open practice of it. He had clearly divided it into two, feeling in himself sufficient resolution and sufficient talent to play the parts of two personages on the busy theatre of life.
“Yet a few merry years,” said he to himself, “and then, when satiety comes, I will abdicate this bachelor's throne and dedicate myself entirely to my wife, who will know nothing of my rovings."
Fifteen days had been sufficient for Edward to prepare his batteries and make all his preliminary arrangements. On his return to Havre he announced to Louise that a great misfortune had befallen them.
“The banker to whom I had confided my property," said he, “has just absconded; his failure swallows up nearly the whole of our fortune; we have scarcely more than four or five thousand francs a-year remaining. But be of good cheer; I have resolution, and I shall find the means of contending against adversity. Have I not my diploma ? Well! I will exercise my profession, and I shall find abundant resources in so honourable a career.
Louise, who knew the little inclination Edward had for dry studies, felt her tenderness redouble for so devoted a husband.
The profession of medicine was perfectly adapted to the circumstances; it permitted Edward to absent himself from morning till evening under pretence of visiting his patients: a physician may, more easily than any other individual, without trouble and without scandal play the part of a bachelor husband. Dr. Neuillan inhabited at the extremity of the Marais, the ground floor of an old parliamentary hotel, with the agreeable addition of a vast garden and an isolated pavilion or summer-house opening into a narrow and deserted lane. Edward had appropriated this summer-house to himself, as a private apartment where he might receive the patients who came in the morning to consult him ; and almost every evening he withdrew to it in order to labour at the progress of a great work upon the nervous system, which was to prepare his admission to the Institute, and acquire for him a reputation at once honourable and lucrative.
You may well suppose that the summer-house was but a passage from the conjugal life to that of the bachelor. Scarcely had Edward closed after him the door entering by the garden, than he hastened out by that which opened into the lane, and flew to the Rue de Provence. There, in a delicious little bachelor's apartment, decorated with the most exquisite taste, Langet the dandy, after having thrown aside the heavy envelope of Neuillan and the thoughtful countenance of a husband, appeared to his friends in all the eclat of his luxury and of the most unbridled gaiety. He had a tilbury, horses, a groom; he took his drives in the Bois de Boulogne, and amused himself behind the scenes at the Opera-house. At midnight, a cabriolet called from the stand conveyed him back to the Marais, and he would say to Louise,
“ I am very well pleased with my day's work; I am falling into very good connections; so refuse yourself nothing that you wish for, and do as if we had still twenty thousand francs a-year, for I am sure now of gaining sufficient to make up for what we want of this income."
“But, why then,” Louise would reply, “pass almost all your nights in study?"
These tender reproaches were often interrupted by a ring at the bell—a footman had come in a great hurry to call Dr. Neuillan to a person in imminent danger. These alarms occurred frequently; Dr. Neuillan had a vast number of patients who required his nocturnal attendance: these patients awaited him at the Café Anglais, a ball, or elsewhere.
Louise remained sometimes two or three days without seeing her husband, who was sent for by patients ten miles round.
“The poor man!” said she, “ how he is immolating himself to enrich us!”
Could she complain of his frequent absences ? Had she not a child? And this work which kept Edward at a distance from her, was it not dispensing joy and comfort around their fire-side ? For Edward, with a probité, rare in his situation, and perhaps not often practised anywhere, had divided his fortune into two equal portions; the one of which M. de Neuillan religiously carried the interest to his wife; the other that Langet spent joyously in his bachelor's frolics.
So that during three years passed in this manner, no cloud had troubled the serenity of this sacred union, so unworthily outraged by one of the parties. Louise led a retired life—she had no desire to show herself in the world unaccompanied by her husband, and that she believed the duties of his profession rendered impossible; and her isolation effectually preserved her from all suspicion and from all officious information or counsels. On the other hand, the friends of Edward never conceived the slightest idea of the secret which the elegant Langet concealed in the recesses of the Marais ! What a surprise for them, and what a source of joy, if they had learnt that their fashionable companion, the handsome and dashing Langet, who eclipsed them all so completely by his success in affairs of gallantry, had a lawful wife and legitimate child in the environs of the Place Royale, and was inscribed under the name of Neuillan on the tables of the Faculty of Medicine! Langet, a bachelor by the way of contraband and an imaginary physician by trickery! What a fall! or rather, would not this discovery have put the finishing stroke to his reputation, and crowned him with glory? Was it not the sublime of daring and successful hypocrisy ?
Edward, who cherished his wife almost as much as his free bachelor way of living, had in his perversity found the means of being doubly happy. But it is too much for a single individual to enjoy two separate existences of felicity. All enjoyment which is founded upon disorder and debauchery is fragile, and Edward found it so.
One evening at a bachelor's supper, one of his friends who had accidentally encountered him several times just at the instant that he was about to re-enter the conjugal domicile, and who had made some slight inquiries in the neighbourhood, addressed the company:
Gentlemen, I have news for you; Langet is taking to bad courses, he has an amour in the Marais."
* Very much the same thing as if a modish London husband should conceal his wife in the Borough of Southwark.
“In the Marais !” exclaimed the dandies; “and why not? there are pretty women everywhere."
“In this respect we ought to congratulate our friend; I have seen his conquest—she is charming."
“Do you know her name? demanded a little young man named Henry Ducrest, newly emancipated.
“ It is the wife of a physician.
“Of a physician ! exclaimed Henry, with lively emotion, " her name?
“ Madame de Neuillan."
Edward was confounded, and turned pale at seeing the bloodhounds so close upon the scent; but as the supper had arrived at its conclusion, and as he had already drunk more than he ought to have done, he resumed his customary assurance, and replied,
“You are an indiscreet fellow, Breville, and do not know what you are saying. He who takes upon him the office of a spy ought to be very sure not to make a mistake with respect to the door.”
.“ Very well, very well,” cried the young Ducrest, "you have only now to add, Monsieur, that you do not know Madame de Neuillan."
“ What do you know of her, and in what does that concern
“I know, and I am so much interested in the affair, that I exact from you a formal declaration that you have never had the slightest connection with the lady whose name he has uttered.”
“ Are you then acquainted with the husband, whose honour you seem so anxious to defend ?"
“I do not know M. de Neuillan; I never saw him, which is not surprising, for he is never at home.”
“ Then, it is—it is the wife that you know ?”
“Before interrogating me, Monsieur, give me the satisfaction that I demand of you.
“Halt there, Ducrest,” cried Breville, “the quarrel is mine ; he has called me a spy ; but if he were to say
wish him to say, he would tell a falsehood, for I declare upon my honour that I have seen him enter the house of Madame de Neuillan at midnight, and quit it at eight o'clock in the morning."
“Oh! no, Breville, no; Monsieur would never think of repeating before me what you have just said.”
“ And why not?"
“ Because I love Madame de Neuillan, and I have the right to throw the lie in the teeth of any who dares to slander her.”
“ It is you who slander her, and it is I only who have the right of defending her.”
“ You, miserable impostor!"
Henry had risen from his seat, and a blow from his hand sounded on Edward's cheek. After some moments' tumultuous
altercation the business was arranged, and the joyous companions separated.
Edward after having received this public insult preserved an obstinate silence. “ An explanation,” said he to himself, “ would only serve to render me ridiculous, and would oblige me for ever to give up my double character; the best thing I can do is to finish at once with this disagreeable affair, and to preserve the fact of my being married a strict secret."
The next morning, Edward and Henry, accompanied by their seconds, had a hostile meeting in the plain of Charenton. It had been agreed upon that they should fight with pistols. Edward fired first, and missed his adversary; Henry's fire followed, and Langet fell, the bullet having pierced his heart. An hour afterwards the body of the bachelor husband was transported to the house of his widow.
MARGARET PATRICKSON, Chosen Translator of the Works of M. de Balzac.
SONG FOR ALL SEASONS.
"Tis sweet to walk the fields of spring,