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know; nor what ailed him, — for though he was always complaining, yet he grew neither better nor worse, never consulted the physician, and ate voraciously three times a day. At table he was rather peevish, troubled his neighbors with his elbows, and uttered the monosyllable pouah! rather oftener than goodbreeding and a due deference to the opinions of others seemed to justify. As soon as he seated himself at table, he breathed into his tumbler, and wiped it out with a napkin ; then wiped his plate, his spoon, his knife and fork in succession, and each with great care. After this he placed the napkin under his chin ; and, these preparations being completed, gave full swing to an appetite which was not inappropriately denominated, by one of our guests, "une faim canine."
The old gentleman's weak side was an affectation of youth and gallantry. Though “ written down old, with all the characters of age," yet at times he seemed to think himself in the heyday of life; and the assiduous court he paid to a fair countess, who was passing the summer at the maison de santé, was the source of no little merriment to all but himself. He loved, too, to recall the golden age of his amours; and would discourse with prolix eloquence, and a faint twinkle in his watery eye, of his bonnes fortunes in times of old, and the rigors that many a fair dame had suffered on his account. Indeed, his chief pride seemed to be to make his hearers believe that he had been a dangerous man in his youth, and was not yet quite safe.
As I also was a peripatetic of the garden, we encountered each other at every turn. At first our conversation was limited to the usual salutations of the day ; but erelong our casual acquaintance ripened into a kind of intimacy. Step by step I won my way, - first into his society, — then into his snuff-box, — and then into his heart. He was a great talker, and he found in me what he found in no other inmate of the house, - a good listener, who never interrupted his long stories, nor contradicted his opinions. So he talked down one alley and up another, — from breakfast till dinner, - from dinner till midnight, - at all times and in all places, when he could catch me by the button,
till at last he had confided to my ear all the important and unimportant events of a life of sixty years.
Monsieur d'Argentville was a shoot from a wealthy family of Nantes. Just before the Revolution, he went up to Paris to study law at the University, and, like many other wealthy scholars of his age, was soon involved in the intrigues and dissipation of the metropolis. He first established himself in the Rue de l'Université; but a roguish pair of eyes at an opposite window soon drove from the field such heavy tacticians as Hugues Doneau and Gui Coquille.
A flirtation was commenced in due form ; and a flag of truce, offering to capitulate, was sent in the shape of a billet-doux. In the mean time he regularly amused his leisure hours by blowing kisses across the street with an old pair of bellows. One afternoon, as he was occupied in this way, a tall gentleman with whiskers stepped into the room, just as he had charged the bellows to the muzzle. He muttered something about an explanation, – his sister, — marriage, - and the satisfaction of a gentleman! Perhaps there is no situation in life so awkward to a man of real sensibility as that of being awed into matrimony or a duel by the whiskers of a tall brother. There was but one alternative; and the next morning a placard at the window of the Bachelor of Love, with the words “ Furnished Apartment to let,” showed that the former occupant had found it convenient to change lodgings.
He next appeared in the Chaussée-d’Antin, where he assiduously prepared himself for future exigencies by a course of daily lessons in the use of the small-sword. He soon after quarrelled with his best friend about a little actress on the Boulevard, and had the satisfaction of being jilted, and then run through the body at the Bois de Boulogne. This gave him new éclat in the fashionable world, and consequently he pursued pleasure with a keener relish than ever.
He next had the grande passion, and narrowly escaped marrying an heiress of great expectations and a countless number of châteaux. Just before the catastrophe, however, he had the good fortune to discover that the lady's expectations were limited to his own pocket, and that, as for her châteaux, they were all Châteaux en Espagne.
About this time his father died ; and the hopeful son was hardly well established in his inheritance when the Revolution broke out. Unfortunately he was a firm upholder of the divine right of kings, and had the honor of being among the first of the proscribed. He narrowly escaped the guillotine by jumping on board a vessel bound for America, and arrived at Boston with only a few francs in his pocket; but as he knew how to accommodate himself to circumstances, he contrived to live by teaching fencing and French, and keeping a dancing-school.
At the restoration of the Bourbons, he returned to France; and from that time to the day of our acquaintance had been engaged in a series of vexatious lawsuits, in the hope of recovering a portion of his property, which had been intrusted to a friend for safe-keeping at the commencement of the Revolution. His friend, however, denied all knowledge of the transaction, and the assignment was very diffi
cult to prove. Twelve years of unsuccessful litigation had completely soured the old gentleman's temper, and made him peevish and misanthropic; and he had come to Auteuil merely to escape the noise of the city, and to brace his shattered nerves with pure air and quiet amusements. There he idled the time away, sauntering about the garden of the maison de santé, talking to himself when he could get no other listener, and occasionally reinforcing his misanthropy with a dose of the Maxims of La Rochefoucauld, or a visit to the scene of his duel in the Bois de Boulogne.
Poor Monsieur d'Argentville! What a miserable life he led, - or rather dragged on, from day to day! A petulant broken - down old man, who had outlived his fortune, and his friends, and his hopes, -- yea, everything but the sting of bad passions and the recollection of a life ill-spent! Whether he still walks the the earth or slumbers in its bosom, I know not; but a lively recollection of him will always mingle with my reminiscences of Auteuil.
PÈRE LA CHAISE.
Our fathers find their graves in our short memories, and sadly tell us how we may be buried in our survivors.
Oblivion is not to be hired. The greater part must be content to be as though they had not been, — to be found in the register of God, not in the record of man.
SIR THOMAS BROWNE's URN BURIAL.
The cemetery of Père la Chaise is the Westminster Abbey of Paris. Both are the dwellings of the dead; but in one they repose in green alleys and beneath the open sky, — in the other their resting-place is in the shadowy aisle, and beneath the dim arches of an ancient abbey. One is a temple of nature; the other a temple of art. In one, the soft melancholy of the scene is rendered still more touching by the warble of birds and the shade of trees, and the grave receives the gentle visit of the sunshine and the shower : in the other, no sound but the passing footfall breaks the silence of the place; the twilight steals in through high and dusky windows ; and the damps of the gloomy vault lie heavy on the heart, and leave their stain upon the mouldering tracery of the tomb.
Père la Chaise stands just beyond the Barrière d'Aulney, on a hill-side looking towards
Numerous gravel - walks, winding through shady avenues and between marble monuments, lead up from the principal entrance to a chapel on the summit. There is hardly a grave that has not its little enclosure planted with shrubbery; and a thick mass of foliage half conceals each funeral stone. The sighing of the wind, as the branches rise and fall upon it, the occasional note of a bird among the trees, and the shifting of light and shade upon the tombs beneath, have a soothing effect upon the mind; and I doubt whether any one can enter that enclosure, where repose the dust and ashes of so many great and good men, without feeling the religion of the place steal over him, and seeing something of
the dark and gloomy expression pass off from the stern countenance of death.
It was near the close of a bright summer afternoon that I visited this celebrated spot for the first time. The first object that arrested my attention, on entering, was a monument in the form of a small Gothic chapel, which stands near the entrance, in the avenue leading to the right hand. On the marble couch within are stretched two figures, carved in stone and dressed in the antique garb of the Middle Ages. It is the tomb of Abélard and Héloïse. The history of these unfortunate lovers is too well known to need recapitulation ; but perhaps it is not so well known how often their ashes were disturbed in the slumber of the grave. Abélard died in the monastery of Saint Marcel, and was buried in the vaults of the church. His body afterwards was removed to the convent of the Paraclet, at the request of Héloïse, and at her death her own was deposited in the same tomb. Three centuries they reposed together; after which they were separated to different sides of the church, to calm the delicate scruples of the lady-abbess of the convent. More than a century afterward, they were again united in the same tomb; and when at length the Paraclet was destroyed, these mouldering remains transported to the church of Nogent-sur-Seine. They were next deposited in an ancient cloister at Paris; and now repose near the gateway of the cemetery of Père la Chaise. What a singular destiny was theirs ! that, after a life of such passionate and disastrous love, - such sorrows, and tears, and penitence, — their very dust should not be suffered to rest quietly in the grave ! - that their death should so much resemble their life in its changes and vicissitudes, its partings and its meetings, its inquietudes and its persecutions ! — that mistaken zeal should follow them down to the very tomb, -as if earthly passion could glimmer, like a funeral lamp, amid the damps of the charnel-house, and “even in their ashes burn their wonted fires !”
As I gazed on the sculptured forms before me, and the little chapel, whose Gothic roof seemed to protect their marble sleep, my busy memory swung back the dark portals of the
past, and the picture of their sad and eventful lives came up before me in the gloomy distance. What a lesson for those who are endowed with the fatal gift of genius! It would seem, indeed, that He who “ tempers the wind to the shorn lamb” tempers also his chastisements to the errors and infirmities of a weak and simple mind, — while the trangressions of him upon whose nature are more strongly marked the intellectual attributes of the Deity are followed, even upon earth, by severer tokens of the Divine displeasure. He who sins in the darkness of a benighted intellect sees not so clearly, through the shadows that surround him, the countenance of an offended God; but he who sins in the broad noonday of a clear and radiant mind, when at length the delirium of passion has subsided, and the cloud flits away from before the sun, trembles beneath the searching eye of that accusing power which is strong in the strength of a godlike intellect. Thus the mind and the heart are closely linked together, and the errors of genius bear with them their own chastisement, even upon earth. The history of Abélard and Héloïse is an illustration of this truth. But at length they sleep well. Their lives are like a tale that is told ; their errors are 6 folded
up like a book;" and what mortal hand shall break the seal that death has set
them? Leaving this interesting tomb behind me, I took a pathway to the left, which conducted me up the hill-side. I soon found myself in the deep shade of heavy foliage, where the branches of the yew and willow mingled, interwoven with the tendrils and blossoms of the honeysuckle. I now stood in the most populous part of this city of tombs. Every step awakened a new train of thrilling recollections; for at every step my eye caught the name of some one whose glory had exalted the character of his native land, and resounded across the waters of the Atlantic. Philosophers, historians, musicians, warriors, and poets slept side by side around me ; some beneath the gorgeous monument, and some beneath the simple headstone. But the political intrigue, the dream of science, the historical research, the ravishing harmony of sound, the tried courage, the inspiration of the lyre, — where are
they ? With the living, and not with the dead! The right hand has lost its cunning in the grave; but the soul, whose high volitions it obeyed, still lives to reproduce itself in ages yet to come.
Among these graves of genius I observed here and there a splendid monument, which had been raised by the pride of family over the dust of men who could lay no claim either to the gratitude or remembrance of posterity. Their presence seemed like an intrusion into the sanctuary of genius. What had wealth to do there? Why should it crowd the dust of the great? That was no thoroughfare of business, — no mart of gain! There were no costly banquets there ; no silken garments, nor gaudy liveries, nor obsequious attendants ! "What servants,” says Jeremy Taylor, “ shall we have to wait upon us in the grave? what friends to visit us? what officious people to cleanse away the moist and unwholesome cloud reflected upon our faces from the sides of the
weeping vaults, which are the longest weepers for our funerals ? " Material wealth gives a factitious superiority to the living, but the treasures of intellect give a real superiority to the dead; and the rich man, who would not deign to walk the street with the starving and penniless man of genius, deems it an honor, when death has redeemed the fame of the neglected, to have his own ashes laid beside him, and to claim with him the silent companionship of the grave.
I continued my walk through the numerous winding paths, as chance or curiosity directed me. Now I was lost in a little green hollow, overhung with thick-leaved shrubbery, and then came out upon an elevation, from which, through an opening in the trees, the eye caught glimpses of the city, and the little esplanade, at the foot of the hill, where the poor lie buried. There poverty hires its grave, and takes but a short lease of the narrow house. At the end of a few months, or at most of a
few years, the tenant is dislodged to give place to another, and he in turn to a third. Who," says Sir Thomas Browne, “knows the fate of his bones, or how often he is to be buried ? Who hath the oracle of his ashes, or whither they are to be scattered ?”
Yet, even in that neglected corner, the hand of affection had been busy in decorating the hired house. Most of the graves were surrounded with a slight wooden paling, to secure them from the passing footstep; there was hardly one so deserted as not to be marked with its little wooden cross, and decorated with a garland of flowers; and here and there I could perceive a solitary mourner, clothed in black, stooping to plant a shrub on the grave, or sitting in a motionless sorrow beside it.
As I passed on, amid the shadowy avenues of the cemetery, I could not help comparing my own impressions with those which others have felt when walking alone among the dwellings of the dead. Are, then, the sculptured urn and storied monument nothing more than symbols of family pride ? Is all I see around me a memorial of the living more than of the dead, - an empty show of sorrow, which thus vaunts itself in mournful pageant and funeral parade ? Is it indeed true, as some have said, that the simple wild-flower, which springs spontaneously upon the grave, and the rose, which the hand of affection plants there, are fitter objects wherewith to adorn the narrow house? No! I feel that it is not so ! Let the good and the great be honored even in the grave. Let the sculptured marble direct our footsteps to the scene of their long sleep; let the chiselled epitaph repeat their names, and tell us where repose the nobly good and wise ! It is not true that all are equal in the grave. There is no equality even there.
The mere handful of dust and ashes, — the mere distinction of prince and beggar, — of a rich windingsheet and a shroudless burial, — of a solitary grave and a family vault, — were this all, — then, indeed, it would be true that death is a common leveller. Such paltry distinctions as those of wealth and poverty are soon levelled by the spade and mattock; the damp breath of the grave blots them out forever. But there are other distinctions which even the mace of
death cannot level or obliterate. Can it break down the distinction of virtue and vice? Can it confound the good with the bad ? the noble with the base ? all that is truly great, and pure, and godlike, with all that is scorned, and sinful, and degraded ? No! Then death is not a common leveller! Are all alike beloved in death and honored in their burial? Is that ground holy where the bloody hand of the murderer sleeps from crime ? grave awaken the same emotions in our hearts ? and do the footsteps of the stranger pause as long beside each funeral-stone ? No! Then all are not equal in the grave! And as long as the good and evil deeds of men live after them, so long will there be distinctions even in
The superiority of one over another is in the nobler and better emotions which it excites; in its more fervent admonitions to virtue; in the livelier recollections which it awakens of the good and the great, whose bodies are crumbling to dust beneath our feet!
If, then, there are distinctions in the grave, surely it is not unwise to designate them by the external marks of honor. These outward appliances and memorials of respect, — the mourn
the sculptured bust, the epitaph eloquent in praise, — cannot indeed create these distinctions, but they serve to mark them. It is only when pride or wealth builds them to honor the slave of mammon or the slave of appetite, when the voice from the grave rebukes the false and pompous epitaph, and the dust and ashes of the tomb seem struggling to maintain the superiority of mere worldly rank, and to carry into the grave the bawbles of earthly vanity, - it is then, and then only, that we feel how utterly worthless are all the devices of sculpture, and the empty pomp of monumental brass !
After rambling leisurely about for some time, reading the inscriptions on the various monuments which attracted my curiosity, and giving way to the different reflections they suggested, I sat down to rest myself on a sunken tombstone. A winding gravel-walk, overshaded by an avenue of trees, and lined on both sides with richly sculpt'ıred monuments, had gradually conducted me to the summit of the hill, upon