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Publié par Moicani

 

   And stepped at once into a cooler clime.



Cowper.

 

   Keats fell by a criticism. Who was it died of
The Andromache?1 Ignoble souls! -- De L'Ome-
lette perished of an ortolan. L'histoire en est brève
-- assist me Spirit of Apicius!

   A golden cage bore the little winged wanderer, ena-
mored, melting, indolent, to the Chaussée D'Antin,

from its home in far Peru. From its queenly pos-
sessor La Bellissima, to the Duc De L'Omelette, six
peers of the empire conveyed the happy bird. It
was "All for Love."

   That night the Duc was to sup alone. In the
privacy of his bureau he reclined languidly on that
ottoman for which he sacrificed his loyalty in out-
bidding his king -- the notorious ottoman of Cadêt.

   He buries his face in the pillow -- the clock
strikes! Unable to restrain his feelings, his Grace
swallows an olive. At this moment the door gently
opens to the sound of soft music, and lo! the most
delicate of birds is before the most enamored of men!
But what inexpressible dismay now overshadows the
countenance of the Duc? -- " Horreur! -- chien!
-- Baptiste! -- l'oiseau! ah, bon Dieu! cet oiseau
modeste que tu as deshabillé de ses plumes, et que tu
as servi sans papier!" It is superfluous to say more
-- the Duc expired in a paroxysm of disgust.

 

 

   "Ha! ha! ha!" -- said his Grace on the third day
after his decease.

   "He! he! he!" -- replied the Devil faintly, draw-
ing himself up with an air of hauteur.

   "Why, surely you are not serious" -- retorted
De L'Omelette. "I have sinned -- c'est vrai -- but,
my good sir, consider! -- you have no actual inten-
tion of putting such -- such -- barbarous threats into
execution."

   "No what?" -- said his Majesty -- "come, sir,
strip!"

   "Strip, indeed! -- very pretty i' faith! -- no, sir, I
shall not strip. Who are you, pray, that I, Duc De
L'Omelette, Prince de Foie-Gras, just come of age,
author of the `Mazurkiad,' and Member of the
Academy, should divest myself at your bidding of
the sweetest pantaloons ever made by Bourdon, the
daintiest robe-de-chambre ever put together by Rom-
bêrt -- to say nothing of the taking my hair out of
paper -- not to mention the trouble I should have in
drawing off my gloves?"

   "Who am I? -- ah, true! I am Baal-Zebub, Prince
of the Fly. I took thee just now from a rose
coffin inlaid with ivory. Thou wast curiously scented,
and labelled as per invoice. Belial sent thee -- my
Inspector of Cemeteries. The pantaloons, which
thou sayest were made by Bourdon, are an excellent
pair of linen drawers, and thy robe-de-chambre is a
shroud of no scanty dimensions."

 

   "Sir!" replied the Duc, "I am not to be insulted
with impunity! -- Sir! I shall take the earliest op-
portunity of avenging this insult! -- Sir! you shall
hear from me! In the meantime au revoir!" -- and
the Duc was bowing himself out of the Satanic
presence, when he was interrupted and brought back
by a gentleman in waiting. Hereupon his Grace
rubbed his eyes, yawned, shrugged his shoulders,
reflected. Having become satisfied of his identity,
he took a bird's eye view of his whereabouts.

   The apartment was superb. Even De L'Ome-
lette pronounced it bien comme il faut. It was not
very long, nor very broad, -- but its height -- ah,
that was appalling! There was no ceiling -- cer-
tainly none -- but a dense whirling mass of fiery-
colored clouds. His Grace's brain reeled as he
glanced upwards. From above, hung a chain of an
unknown blood-red metal -- its upper end lost, like
C -- , parmi les nues. From its nether extremity
hung a large cresset. The Duc knew it to be a
ruby -- but from it there poured a light so intense,
so still, so terrible, Persia never worshipped such
-- Gheber never imagined such -- Mussulman never
dreamed of such when, drugged with opium, he has
tottered to a bed of poppies, his back to the flowers
and his face to the god Apollo! The Duc muttered
a slight oath, decidedly approbatory.

 

   The corners of the room were rounded into niches.
Three of these were filled with statues of gigantic
proportions. Their beauty was Grecian, their de-
formity Egyptian, their tout ensemble French. In
the fourth niche the statue was veiled -- it was not
colossal. But then there was a taper ankle, a
sandalled foot. De L'Omelette laid his hand upon
his heart, closed his eyes, raised them, and caught
his Satanic Majesty -- in a blush.

   But the paintings! -- Kupris! Astarte! Astoreth!
-- a thousand and the same! And Rafaelle has
beheld them! Yes, Rafaelle has been here; for did
he not paint the -- ? and was he not consequently
damned? The paintings! -- the paintings! O luxury!
O love! -- who gazing on those forbidden beauties
shall have eyes for the dainty devices of the golden
frames that lie imbedded and asleep against those
swelling walls of eider down?

   But the Duc's heart is fainting within him. He
is not, however, as you suppose, dizzy with magnifi-
cence, nor drunk with the ecstatic breath of those
innumerable censers. C'est vrai que de toutes ces
choses il a pensé beaucoup -- mais! The Duc De
L'Omelette is terror-stricken; for through the lurid
vista which a single uncurtained window is afford-
ing, lo! gleams the most ghastly of all fires!

   Le pauvre Duc! He could not help imagining
that the glorious, the voluptuous, the never-dying
melodies which pervaded that hall, as they passed
filtered and transmuted through the alchemy of the
enchanted window-panes, were the wailings and the
howlings of the hopeless and the damned! And there,
too -- there -- upon that ottoman! -- who could he
be? -- he, the petit-maitre -- no, the Deity -- who
sat as if carved in marble, et qui sourit, with his pale
countenance, si amerement.

 

 

   Mais il faut agir -- that is to say, a Frenchman
never faints outright. Besides, his Grace hated a
scene -- De L'Omelette is himself again. There
were some foils upon a table -- some points also.
The Duc had studied under B -- , il avait tué ses
six hommes
. Now, then, il peut s'echapper. He
measures two points, and, with a grace inimitable,
offers his Majesty the choice. Horreur! his Majesty
does not fence!

   Mais il joue! -- what a happy thought! But his
Grace had always an excellent memory. He had
dipped in the "Diable" of the Abbé Gualtier. There-
in it is said "que le Diable n'ose pas refuser un jeu
d'Ecarté."

   But the chances -- the chances! True -- desperate:
but not more desperate than the Duc. Besides, was
he not in the secret? -- had he not skimmed over
Père Le Brun? was he not a member of the Club
Vingt-un? "Si je perds," said he, "je serai deux
fois perdu,
I shall be doubly damned -- voila tout!

(Here his Grace shrugged his shoulders) Si je gagne
je serai libre, -- que les cartes soient préparées!


 His Grace was all care, all attention -- his Majesty
all confidence. A spectator would have thought of
Francis and Charles. His Grace thought of his
game. His Majesty did not think -- he shuffled.
The Duc cut.

   The cards are dealt. The trump is turned -- it is
-- it is -- the king! No -- it was the queen. His
Majesty cursed her masculine habiliments. De
L'Omelette laid his hand upon his heart.

   They play. The Duc counts. The hand is out.
His Majesty counts heavily, smiles, and is taking
wine. The Duc slips a card.

   "C'est à vous à faire" -- said his Majesty, cut-
ting. His Grace bowed, dealt, and arose from the
table en presentant le Roi.

   His Majesty looked chagrined.

   Had Alexander not been Alexander, he would
have been Diogenes; and the Duc assured his Majesty
in taking leave "que s'il n'etait pas De L'Omelette
il n'aurait point d'objection d'etre le Diable."



1. Montfleury. The author of the Parnasse Réformé makes
him thus express himself in the shades. "The man then who
would know of what I died, let him not ask if it were of the
fever, the dropsy, or the gout; but let him know that it was of
The Andromache."

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