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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Parisians - Book 10 - Chapter 4
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The Parisians - Book 10 - Chapter 4 Post by :Marta Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :2009

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The Parisians - Book 10 - Chapter 4


The next day, Wednesday, July 6th, commenced one of those eras in the world's history in which private life would vainly boast that it overrules Life Public. How many private lives does such a terrible time influence, absorb, darken with sorrow, crush into graves?

It was the day when the Duc de Gramont uttered the fatal speech which determined the die between peace and war. No one not at Paris on that day can conceive the popular enthusiasm with which that speech was hailed--the greater because the warlike tone of it was not anticipated; because there had been a rumour amidst circles the best informed that a speech of pacific moderation was to be the result of the Imperial Council. Rapturous indeed were the applauses with which the sentences that breathed haughty defiance were hailed by the Assembly. The ladies in the tribune rose with one accord, waving their handkerchiefs. Tall, stalwart, dark, with Roman features and lofty presence, the Minister of France seemed to say with Catiline in the fine tragedy: "Lo! where I stand, I am war!"

Paris had been hungering for some hero of the hour--the Duc de Gramont became at once raised to that eminence. All the journals, save the very few which were friendly to peace, because hostile to the Emperor, resounded with praise, not only of the speech, but of the speaker. It is with a melancholy sense of amusement that one recalls now to mind those organs of public opinion--with what romantic fondness they dwelt on the personal graces of the man who had at last given voice to the chivalry of France: "The charming gravity of his countenance--the mysterious expression of his eye!"

As the crowd poured from the Chambers, Victor de Mauleon and Savarin, who had been among the listeners, encountered.

"No chance for my friends the Orleanists now," said Savarin. "You who mock at all parties are, I suppose, at heart for the Republican--small chance, too, for that."

"I do not agree with you. Violent impulses have quick reactions."

"But what reaction could shake the Emperor after he returns a conqueror, bringing in his pocket the left bank of the Rhine?"

"None--when he does that. Will he do it? Does he himself think he will do it? I doubt--"

"Doubt the French army against the Prussian?"

"Against the German people united--yes, very much."

"But war will disunite the German people. Bavaria will surely assist us--Hanover will rise against the spoliator--Austria at our first successes must shake off her present enforced neutrality?"

"You have not been in Germany, and I have. What yesterday was a Prussian army, to-morrow will be a German population; far exceeding our own in numbers, in hardihood of body, in cultivated intellect, in military discipline. But talk of something else. How is my ex-editor--poor Gustave Rameau?"

"Still very weak, but on the mend. You may have him back in his office soon."

"Impossible! even in his sick-bed his vanity was more vigorous than ever. He issued a war-song, which has gone the round of the war journals signed by his own name. He must have known very well that the name of such a Tyrtaeus cannot reappear as the editor of Le Sens Commun; that in launching his little firebrand he burned all vessels that could waft him back to the port he had quitted. But I dare say he has done well for his own interests; I doubt if Le Sens Commun can much longer hold its ground in the midst of the prevalent lunacy."

"What! it has lost subscribers?--gone off in sale already, since it declared for peace?"

"Of course it has; and after the article which, if I live over to-night, will appear to-morrow, I should wonder if it sell enough to cover the cost of the print and paper."

"Martyr to principle! I revere, but I do not envy thee."

"Martyrdom is not my ambition. If Louis Napoleon be defeated, what then? Perhaps he may be the martyr; and the Favres and Gambettas may roast their own eggs on the gridiron they heat for his majesty."

Here an English gentleman, who was the very able correspondent to a very eminent journal, and in that capacity had made acquaintance with De Mauleon, joined the two Frenchmen; Savarin, however, after an exchange of salutations, went his way.

"May I ask a frank answer to a somewhat rude question, M. le Vicomte?" said the Englishman. "Suppose that the Imperial Government had to-day given in their adhesion to the peace party, how long would it have been before their orators in the Chamber and their organs in the press would have said that France was governed by poltrons?"

"Probably for most of the twenty-four hours. But there are a few who are honest in their convictions; of that few I am one."

"And would have supported the Emperor and his Government?"

"No, Monsieur--I do not say that."

"Then the Emperor would have turned many friends into enemies, and no enemies into friends."

"Monsieur--you in England know that a party in opposition is not propitiated when the party in power steals its measures. Ha!--pardon me, who is that gentleman, evidently your countryman, whom I see yonder talking to the Secretary of your Embassy?"

"He.--Mr. Vane-Graham Vane. Do you not know him? He has been much in Paris, attached to our Embassy formerly; a clever man--much is expected from him."

"Ah! I think I have seen him before, but am not quite sure. Did you say Vane? I once knew a Monsieur Vane, a distinguished parliamentary orator."

"That gentleman is his son--would you like to be introduced to him?"

"Not to-day--I am in some hurry." Here Victor lifted his hat in parting salutation, and as he walked away cast at Graham another glance keen and scrutinising. "I have seen that man before," he muttered, "where?--when?--can it be only a family likeness to the father? No, the features are different; the profile is--ha!--Mr. Lamb, Mr. Lamb--but why call himself by that name?--why disguised?--what can he have to do with poor Louise? Bah--these are not questions I can think of now. This war--this war--can it yet be prevented? How it will prostrate all the plans my ambition so carefully schemed! Oh!--at least if I were but in the Chamber. Perhaps I yet may be before the war is ended--the Clavignys have great interest in their department."

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