Page images

despair. Besides, if necessary, we could procure the acts ; so just listen to me quietly.'

“The rascal finished his second bottle, and continued as follows :

“You can understand that, once upon the straight road, the history of your romance has been very easily made. You put my daughter in the place of yours, and now you have perhaps almost reached the point of persuading yourself that she is indeed your own child.

"Oh, yes,' exclaimed M. de Crivelin, she is my child, my hope, my happiness. Come, what do you wish, what do you demand?'

" Let us first put the question in a correct point of view,' said the visitor, and then, perhaps, we shall be able to come to a proper understanding.

"* First of all, you have stolen my daughter ; that, if I do not mistake, is a crime by no means approved of by law. Afterwards, in order that she might inherit the fortune left her by your brother-in-law, you have produced an extract of birth which you have applied to my daughter, when the proof of your own child's death lies at Ancona. Secundo, in order to publish the banns of the pretended Mademoiselle Ligny de Crivelin, you have made use of a title equally false. These facts are incontestible. Now let us reason :

"* For having affixed a signature not my own at the bottom of a piece of stamped paper, I have been condemned to fifteen years' hard labour at the galleys. I am miserable and dishonoured, and I owe my absence from the bagne at this present moment but to the general supposition that I am dead. You, on the contrary, for having falsely used au authentic act-for having deprived others, the rightful heirs, of an immense succession by means of this act, you are rich, honoured ; you swim in opulence and luxury : this is not just.'

". But what would you do, unhappy man? Would you carry off my Adele and her mother, for my poor wife is a true mother to her? Would you destroy her ? Oh! I would prefer, fifty times over, to tell the truth; for the tribunals would acquit me, I am very sure.'

“ That remains to be seen,” replied the visitor; ' ' but the question is not yet exhausted, and here is an important point ;—the will left by M. de Crivelin is made in favour of Mademoiselle Adéle Ligny. If I prove that the heiress is not the Demoiselle Ligny, I ruin her, I ruin you, I ruin your whole family. This is a piece of folly I have no. desire of committing. Besides, I am too indulgent a father to inflict such useless cruelty for nothing. But you know that it is written in the moral code of all honest men that a benevolent action is never lost; in consequence of this maxim I appoint myself your benefactor. This fortune, which I could snatch from you all, I leave you ; this is just the same as if I bestowed it. This happiness, which, by one word, I could destroy for ever, I respect; it is as if I caused it. Your wife, who would die of this discovery, I let live ; it is precisely the same as if I had saved her life from drowning or fire. This cherished daughter, whose prospects in life I could blast for ever, I permit to marry her lover. What is this I do, then? I make you rich and happy; I save your wife's life; I marry my daughter to a man of honourable name and noble family. Upon my word, one cannot act more virtuously, more benevolently than that. Why, my bounty actually overflows,

and, as it is said that a benevolent action never goes unrewarded, why you shall give me a million of francs.'

" A million ! just Heaven !' cried M. de Crivelin.
""A benevolent action never goes unrewarded,' said the rascal.

“. But you forget,' said M. de Crivelin, 'that I could send you to the Bagné.'

“ The villain rose, his eyes flashing, his mouth foaming with rage.

“No menaces of this kind,' he shouted, or I force you to beg for mercy on your knees; or I compel your wife and my daughter to come here and kiss the dust of my shoes. I give you two hours to make up your mind ; in two hours' time I shall be here.'

“ Thus speaking, M. de Crivelin's visitor quitted the house." “This is a very sad history," said Riponneau.

Oh," said the old gentleman, " this was but the commencement; for in the adjoining room were the mother and daughter, whom one of those good faithful domestics who never fail to tell you whatever is disagreeable, had warned that M. de Crivelin was closeted with a man who had all the appearance of an assassin, and that that circumstance had much alarmed the good people of the antechamber. This charitable intelligence, joined to the agitation which Madame de Crivelin had perceived in her husband's manner, induced her to lend an ear to what was going forward in the neighbouring apartment. On seeing the dreadfully agitated state into which her mother was thrown, on hearing the stifled cries which burst from her overcharged bosom, Adéle listened in her turn, and both learned at the same time the horrible secret which struck them both with an equal blow; the secret which whispered to the mother, This is not thy daughter; to the daughter, This is not thy mother. This was the reason why, on entering his daughter's bed-chamber, M. de Crivelin found them both weeping, sobbing, and holding each other convulsively embraced ; for Madame de Crivelin no longer wept the dead child which she had scarcely known; she wept for the child she had brought up, whose mind, in her divine maternal power, she had fashioned on the model of her own-the child that she had passionately loved, and that had returned her love with an affection no less ardent and sincere.

" It was then above all that the drama began with its anguish, its transports, and its tears; and during the eight days that that has lasted, monsieur, all has been despair, anguish, and terror in this house. And yet, on the following day, they were obliged to go to a magnificent dinner given by the Count de Formont's mother; and, in order that the secret of their misfortune should not transpire out of doors, these three happy persons whom you have envied went there; and, as they were all three more serious than usual, and looked pale and cast down, they were overwhelmed with joyous felicitations upon the fatigue caused by their splendid fête. Their healths were drunk; the future bride and bridegroom were toasted, and these happy people were obliged to smile, and talk, and laugh-tears in their eyes, sobs rising to their throats, and despair and anguish rankling at their hearts."

"But what have they done? what do they mean to do?” enquired Riponneau.

“A large sum of money, has rid them for the present, of their terrible visitor; but he is liable to return again at any moment, and, what is more, in a few year's time, his punishment will be nonsuited, that is to say, that, because he has been enabled to evade the bagne during twenty years, he will be as clear in the eye of the law, as the man who may have remained all that time fastened to his chain; and then he will no longer speak with the moderation of one who is fearful for his own safety-he will be the absolue master of the family."

"In the meantime, impelled by the fallibility of their preceding existence, they live during the day as they ought to live, to prevent suspicions, but they weep at night. It is there, at their melancholy fireside, that all three watch and weep-there pass those long conferences, mingled with bitter tears, and vows never to separate from each other. This is not all, Monsieur, Adéle loves M. de Formont, she loves him because he is brave, generous, and noble-minded-because she is proud of being loved by him; and it is precisely because she is loved with this pure and noble affection, that she is unwilling to deceive him-she is determined that the happiness of this loved being shall never be destroyed by the apparition of that miserable drunkard, who might rush into the presence of her husband, and declare himself the father of his wife. Adéle will not marry the Count de Formont.”.

"But what can we do? what can we say?" liave cried Monsieur and Madame de Crivelin.

And this poor child has replied; “As it is for me that you suffer thus, it is for me to take upon myself the blame and misery of this rupture."

"She has kept her word, Monsieur; during these last eight days, she has endeavoured, by show of affectation and indifference, very foreign to her own naturally open and affectionate manner, to estrange her lover from her side; she endeavours to chill his affection for her by her coldness and reserve; you may judge what this costs her. As I said before, the hour comes when the comedy finishes, and the drama of real life begins, and then the torments she has caused her lover, fall back with agonising power upon herself. In the morning, she weeps for the pain she must cause--in the evening, for that which she has caused. And this is not all; every day M. and Madame de Crivelin behold their child sinking beneath the unequal combat she sustains against herself—against her love-against the misery she causes, and that which she feels within her own heart. This morning, when the physician called, he found her suffering under a violent attack of fever, and there, now she is ill. This is nothing in the eyes of the world -a mere nervous indisposition, which, in a few days, will have altogether disappeared; and the Crivelins are no less a happy family. And you, you, the very first, you must stamp your feet; and beat the walls with your fists, because the pleasures of these happy people importune, and afflict you. Do you desire their pleasures, young man? - Oh! at this very moment, how willingly would they exchange their rich apartments, their sumptuous equipages, and their millions, for your garret, your umbrella, and your cighteen hundred francs a year!"



Our literary friend “The Athenæum's” sympathetic paragraph concerning the death of this gifted lady, has gone the round of the London, as well as the provincial newspapers ; so that we do not lay claim to anything in the shape of early intelligence or news, but simply take up the subject for the purpose of giving a hasty sketch of the life and writings of the departed ; premising, first of all, that it may be interesting to our readers.

Well, then, passing over the early portion of Harriet Downing's life, we find the first evidence of her poetic talent displayed in a work called “Mary,” which was reviewed favourably' by the “Quarterly” contemporaneously with some poems by Mrs. Hemans; and it is singular to perceive the identity of religious feeling as well as of unbounded enthusiasm, which is to be found in the joint writings of these talented ladies. “Mary” received golden opinions from all sorts of people, which was proved by the bright and smiling guineas which came streaming into the lap of the mother of five darling children, who wrote that poem as a means of increasing her independence.

Next we find her name attached to various pieces of poetry which were scattered over the pages of magazines and newspapers, breathing the kindest and holiest aspirations towards the whole human family. Then came “ The Bride of Sicily,” a dramatic poem, which went through two editions and received the encomiums of the press.

Up to this time it must not be supposed that Harriet Downing had not formed many literary attachments; for she not only corresponded with many “ Spirits of the Age,” but had the pleasure of their most intimate society. There was a smile always upon her happy countenance, and wherever she went she carried that smile with her, so as to cheer the wretched by her example, and to stir on various impulses to active and remunerating service. Let an author have a work ready, or an artist a picture, or a poor dressmaker a dress upon her hands, there was sure to be a publisher, or a gallery, or a friend wanting just such a one as that referred to.

The children grew up and had to be educated, fed, and clothed out of the mere profits arising from her pen, and really those children do not now disgrace her memory, but rather reflect some credit upon the industry of her genius. In the after part of her life, Harriett Downing had a settled and positive income, but in the early portion she depended mostly upon the profits arising from

The Life and Writings of the late Mrs. H. Downing. 95 her works, and fortunately they were enough to support her in a very respectable manner.

Next in succession we find her writing prose for “ Fraser's Magazine,” which very soon called forth the especial notice of the critics. “The Remembrances of a Monthly Nurse” had a thousand and one fathers and mothers too as they came out monthly without a name, or even an initial. It was said in one paper that Theodore Hook was the writer, by another, that Dr. Magin created them, and by a third, that the Countess of Blessington was the authoress; whilst all agreed that they were clever - very clever-productions. Harriet Downing enjoyed this amazingly, and never allowed any one to take off her literary mask whilst she continued those papers, no, not even to the day of her death.

It is but justice here to state, that “poor dear Fraser” was the best paymaster in the world, and never sent a cheque without the kindest imaginable note as an accompanyment, which made her love that man—as you must, dearest reader-more and more. It is a fact with re gard to this publisher, that he was a prince when he paid his contributors, for he always took the kindest view of a half page, and many pieces of poetry, by Harriett Downing, such as the “Chained Eagle,” &c., were most liberally dealt with. In an evil hour, however, Harriet Downing wrote one paper of “Remembrances” for “ the Old Monthly,” for the sake of her dearly beloved friend Heraud, and Fraser never forgot it. If she had been guided by interest, there is no doubt she would have kept to Fraser, but somehow an old friend has charms that quite disarm interest, and Heraud was a very old and very worthy one. Besides writing in the “Old Monthly,” Harriet Downing contributed many papers anonymously to the monthly periodicals, one of which will illustrate the peculiar power she had of christening her offspring; “ Three Notches from the Devils Tail:" whilst the Annuals and Books of Beauty contained illustrations of the versatility of her mind. As did also the “Sunbeam,” and the "Psyche,” two short-lived but elegant publications, edited by Mr. Heraud and Mr. Marston. Almost the last effort of her genius was a dramatic poem, called “ Satan in Love,” which was dedicated to Prince Albert, and had for its object the proof that love is universal, and that there is no object that was ever created out of its influence. There were many criticisms of this work at the time, but all appeared to agree that there was the strangeness as well as the strength of genius pervading the whole.

After the publication of “Satan,” the authoress went into partial retirement, left the world and its fantasies, and settled down at Chipping-Norton, in Oxfordshire, where, attended by two of her children, she died. Poor soul! Her last letter was to her youngest son Henry, which was full of affection, as well as

« PreviousContinue »