La partie de trictrac
How he enchanted us the first time he told of his escape from the prison ships of Cadiz! As for the captain, he is usually the least annoying onboard. In his position of despotic commander, he is always secretly hostile to the entire staff; he vexes, he oppresses at times, but they take a certain pleasure in complaining about him.
If he has an obsessive tic, they enjoy seeing their superior appear ridiculous, and that consoles them a bit. Aboard the vessel on which I had embarked, the officers were the best possible men, all good devils, looking out for each other like brothers, but boring each other the best they could. The captain was the gentlest of men, not bothersome a rare quality. When forced to, he used his dictatorial authority with some regret. Even so, the trip seemed long to me! Most of all this calm that struck us just a few days before we were to reach land!
One day, after dinner, which boredom had made us prolong as much as humanly possible, we were all together on the bridge, waiting to see the monotonous, but, when at sea, always majestic setting of the sun. Some smoked, others reread for the twentieth time one of the thirty volumes of our sad library; everyone yawned until tears streaked their faces. An ensign in uniform, sitting next to me, repeatedly threw his knife into the floorboards of the deck as though he were engaged in a most serious task. This is an amusement as good as any other and it requires a certain amount of skill to ensure that the blade sticks straight up and down in the wood.
Wanting to imitate the ensign and having no knife, I asked the captain for his, but he refused. He was strangely attached to it and would have been angry to see it used for such a trivial exercise. I assure you that he was one of the best officers of the navy; moreover, he had an excellent heart, was clever, educated, talented; in a word, a charming young man.
Unfortunately, he was a bit proud and gullible. I think this was because he was an illegitimate child and he feared that knowledge of his birth would make him lose the esteem of his colleagues. But, to tell you the truth, his biggest flaw was his constant desire to be generous in every circumstance.
His father, whom he had never met, gave him a pension that would have been more than sufficient for his needs were Roger not generosity personified. Everything he owned belonged to his friends. A young, pretty actress named Gabrielle came to Brest and soon began to have some success among the sailors and officers stationed there. She was not a perfect beauty, but she was well formed, had beautiful eyes, small feet, and an impudent demeanor: all of which is very attractive when one is between twenty and twenty five years old. They said she was by far the most capricious creature of her sex, and the way she performed did nothing to detract from this reputation.
At times she performed fabulously, like a top tier actress; the next day, in the same play, she was cold and emotionless; she read her lines like a child recites prayers. It seems she was lavishly cared for in Paris by a senator who spared no expense to please her. One day, when this man came to see her, he put on his hat in her presence; she asked him to remove it and complained that he was being disrespectful toward her.
From there, complete break up. Bankers and generals made considerable offers to her but she refused them all and decided to become an actress in order to live, as she said, independently. When Roger saw her and heard this story, he decided that she was meant for him and, with the brutal honesty for which we sailors are criticized, here is how he went about showing her how much he was touched by her charms. I remember accompanying him backstage during intermission. He briefly complimented Gabrielle on how gracefully she wore her costume, gave her the bouquet and asked if he could visit her at her home.
All this was said as succinctly as possible. His face showed the imprints of the bouquet for the next week. The director sounded the curtain call. Gabrielle went on stage and performed poorly. He did not succeed; and, despite feeling anger for being unable to show himself in public due to his black eye, he fell madly in love with the temperamental Gabrielle.
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He wrote her twenty letters a day and what letters! Submissive, tender, respectful: the sort only written to a princess. The first were returned to him unopened; the others were not answered. It was a cruel blow to the pride of our friend. But his passion did not diminish. In the meantime, the officers of an infantry regiment who were temporarily stationed in Brest wanted Gabrielle to perform an encore of a scene from a Vaudeville act. Out of stubborn pride, she refused.
You know what a theater pit is like in a military town. The officers agreed that during all subsequent performances the guilty actress would be booed incessantly and she would not be allowed to perform a single role until she had made honorable amends for her crime. Roger had not attended this show; but that night he learned of the scandal that had thrown the theater into turmoil and of the plans for the following day.
He immediately decided what needed to be done. Roger, who had placed himself near the troublemakers on purpose, rose and addressed the loudest officers in terms so offensive that their anger was immediately redirected towards him. Then, very calmly, he removed a notebook from his pocket and wrote down the names of those who were insulting him; he would have dueled with the entire regiment were it not for several naval officers who, out of a sense of esprit de corps , came to his side and began provoking most of his adversaries. A frightening brawl ensued.
All the soldiers were confined to their barracks for several days; but when we were finally let out, there was hell to pay.
A Game of Trictrac
About sixty of us gathered on the training field. Roger fought against three officers in succession; he killed one and seriously injured two others without receiving so much as a scratch. This duel, or this battle was a beautiful spectacle. The navy came out on top and the infantry regiment was forced to leave Brest.
You can imagine that our superiors did not forget who had started the fight. For two weeks he pulled guard duty. When his extra duty ended, I left the hospital to go see him.
Mateo Falcone by Merimee, Prosper
When I arrived I was surprised to see him eating lunch alone with Gabrielle! It appeared as if they had been a couple for a long time.
They called each other by their first names and even drank out of the same glass. Roger introduced me as his best friend to his mistress and informed her that I had been wounded in the skirmish fought in her defense. That earned me a kiss from this beautiful person. Her affections were based entirely on martial considerations. After nine years of expostulation and entreaty he obtained an interview; and his mysterious friend proved to be a Mademoiselle Jenny Dacquin, the daughter of a notary of Boulogne.
In he was elected to the French Academy. He was appointed life senator in the reconstructed government; and became one of the most familiar members of the new and brilliant court at the Tuileries, and always a conspicuous one. His pleased, tender, sad, gay, and always frank and critical commentary of the court and its circles, forms the interest of his weekly bulletins to the Countess of Montijo.
His coldness, reserve, cynicism, frank speech, and independent political opinions saved him from even a suspicion of being a courtier. He nevertheless lost none of his diligence in literature.
Find a copy in the library
So shrewd an observer of men and politics could not be unprepared for the catastrophe of He had never been free from vague apprehensions, and the acute presentiment overshadows the gayety in his letters. In addition he was growing old, and infirm health drove him during the winter months into annual exile at Cannes. It was there that, in a crisis of his malady, the journals, in anticipation of the end, published his death, and M. Guizot in consequence made official announcement of it at the Academy.
He dragged himself to the Tuileries, had a last interview with his mistress, sat for the last time in his seat in the Senate, and voted for adjournment to a morrow which never came. Four days afterwards he departed for Cannes, where a fortnight later he died. He was buried in the Protestant cemetery. He has been discreetly and intimately enjoyed by delicate tastes. He has not been brutally balloted about in the tumult of scholastic discussions. Please create a new list with a new name; move some items to a new or existing list; or delete some items.
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