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 楼主| 发表于 2020-12-13 17:52:07 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式

THE LILY OF THE VALLEY幽谷百合   [复制链接]


Among his own novels this was one of Balzac's favorites. In 1835 he wrote to Madame Hanska: "I am writing a great and beautiful work, entitled Le Lys dens la Vallee, the heroine of which is to represent terrestrial perfection as Seraphita is to represent celestial perfection." A little later he wrote: "But the Lily! If the Lily is not a breviary for women, I am nothing! In it virtue is sublime and not at all tiresome." He also called it "the poetic pendant of The Country Doctor, and in his dedication to Dr. Nacquart he wrote: "Here is one of the most highly wrought stones of the second story of a literary edifice that is being slowly and laboriously constructed." The book was published in 1836, before which time parts of it had appeared in the Revue de Paris. It was not finished in that publication, because it was the occasion of a lawsuit, which Balzac won. An account of this appeared in the first edition. Some of the characters appear in other books: the hero, Felix de Vandenesse, in tine Fate d'Eve (" A Daughter of Eve"); his brother Charles in La Femme de Trente Ans ("The Woman of Thirty"); Madeleine de Mortsauf in Memoires de Deux Jeunes Mariees (" Memoirs of Two Young Wives") and Splendeurs et Miseres (" Splendors and Miseries"); and Natalie de Manerville in Le Contrat de Mariage ("The Marriage Contract"). When writing his introduction to the Comedic Humaine, Balzac remarked: "A sure grasp of the purport of this work will make it clear that I attach to common, daily facts, hidden or patent to the eye, to the acts of individual lives and to their causes and principles, the importance which historians have hitherto ascribed to the events of public national life. The unknown struggle which goes on in a valley of the Indre between Madame de Mortsauf and her passion is perhaps as great as the most famous of battles. In one, the glory of the victor is at stake; in the other, it is heaven."


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 楼主| 发表于 2020-12-13 18:00:33 | 显示全部楼层

1、To Monsieur J. B. Nacquart, Member of the Royal

To Monsieur J. B. Nacquart, Member of the Royal
Academy of Medicine.
Dear Doctor--Here is one of the most carefully hewn stones
in the second course of the foundation of a literary edifice which
  I have slowly and laboriously constructed. I wish to inscribe
  your name upon it, as much to thank the man whose science
  once saved me as to honor the friend of my daily life.
  De Balzac.

THE LILY OF THE VALLEY
  ENVOI
Felix de Vandenesse to Madame la Comtesse Natalie de Manerville:  
I yield to your wishes. It is the privilege of the women
whom we  love more than they love us to make the men who love them
ignore the ordinary rules of common-sense. To smooth the frown upon
their brow, to soften the pout upon their lips, what obstacles we
miraculously overcome! We shed our blood, we risk our future!  You
exact the history of my past life; here it is. But remember this, Natalie;
in obeying you I crush under foot a reluctance  hitherto unconquerable.
Why are you jealous of the sudden reveries  which overtake me in the
midst of our happiness? Why show the pretty anger of a petted woman
when silence grasps me? Could you not play upon the contradictions
of my character without inquiring  into the causes of them? Are there
secrets in your heart which seek absolution through a knowledge of
mine? Ah! Natalie, you have  guessed mine; and it is better you should
know the whole truth.  Yes, my life is shadowed by a phantom; a word
evokes it; it hovers vaguely above me and about me; within my soul
are solemn memories,  buried in its depths like those marine

productions seen in calmest  weather and which the storms of ocean
cast in fragments on the shore.  The mental labor which the
expression of ideas necessitates has revived the old, old feelings which
give me so much pain when they come suddenly; and if in this
confession of my past they break forth in a way that wounds you,
remember that you threatened to  punish me if I did not obey your
wishes, and do not, therefore,  punish my obedience. I would that this,
my confidence, might  increase your love.Until we meet,Felix.
 楼主| 发表于 2020-12-13 19:11:28 | 显示全部楼层

2、Chapter I TWO CHILDHOODS

CHAPTER I
TWO CHILDHOODS
To what genius fed on tears shall we some day owe that most
touching of all elegies,--the tale of tortures borne silently by souls whose
tender roots find stony ground in the domestic soil, whose earliest buds
are torn apart by rancorous hands, whose flowers are touched by frost at
the moment of their blossoming? What poet will sing the sorrows of the
child whose lips must suck a bitter breast, whose smiles are checked by
the cruel fire of a stern eye? The tale that tells of such poor hearts,
oppressed by beings placed about them to promote the development of
their natures, would contain the true history of my childhood.
What vanity could I have wounded,--I a child new-born? What
moral or physical infirmity caused by mother's coldness? Was I the child
of duty, whose birth is a mere chance, or was I one whose very life was a


reproach? Put to nurse in the country and forgotten by my family for over
three years, I was treated with such indifference on my return to the
parental roof that even the servants pitied me. I do not know to what
feeling or happy accident I owed my rescue from this first neglect; as a
child I was ignorant of it, as a man I have not discovered it. Far from
easing my lot, my brother and my two sisters found amusement in
making me suffer. The compact in virtue of which children hide each
other's peccadilloes, and which early teaches them the principles of honor,
was null and void in my case; more than that, I was often punished for my
brother's faults, without being allowed to prove the injustice. The fawning
spirit which seems instinctive in children taught my brother and sisters to
join in the persecutions to which I was subjected, and thus keep in the
good graces of a mother whom they feared as much as I. Was this partly
the effect of a childish love of imitation; was it from a need of testing
their powers; or was it simply through lack of pity? Perhaps these causes
united to deprive me of the sweets of fraternal intercourse. Disinherited of
all affection, I could love nothing; yet nature had made me loving. Is
there an angel who garners the sighs of feeling hearts rebuffed incessantly?
If in many such hearts the crushed feelings turn to hatred, in mine they
condensed and hollowed a depth from which, in after years, they gushed
forth upon my life. In many characters the habit of trembling relaxes the
fibres and begets fear, and fear ends in submission; hence, a weakness


which emasculates a man, and makes him more or less a slave. But in my
case these perpetual tortures led to the development of a certain strength,
which increased through exercise and predisposed my spirit to the habit
of moral resistance. Always in expectation of some new grief--as the
martyrs expected some fresh blow--my whole being expressed, I doubt
not, a sullen resignation which smothered the grace and gaiety of
childhood, and gave me an appearance of idiocy which seemed to justify
my mother's threatening prophecies. The certainty of injustice
prematurely roused my pride--that fruit of reason--and thus, no doubt,
checked the evil tendencies which an education like mine encouraged.
Though my mother neglected me I was sometimes the object of her
solicitude; she occasionally spoke of my education and seemed desirous
of attending to it herself. Cold chills ran through me at such times when I
thought of the torture a daily intercourse with her would inflict upon me. I
blessed the neglect in which I lived, and rejoiced that I could stay alone in
the garden and play with the pebbles and watch the insects and gaze into
the blueness of the sky. Though my loneliness naturally led me to reverie,
my liking for contemplation was first aroused by an incident which will
give you an idea of my early troubles. So little notice was taken of me
that the governess occasionally forgot to send me to bed. One evening I
was peacefully crouching under a fig-tree, watching a star with that
passion of curiosity which takes possession of a child's mind, and to


which my precocious melancholy gave a sort of sentimental intuition. My
sisters were playing about and laughing; I heard their distant chatter like
an accompaniment to my thoughts. After a while the noise ceased and
darkness fell. My mother happened to notice my absence. To escape
blame, our governess, a terrible Mademoiselle Caroline, worked upon my
mother's fears,--told her I had a horror of my home and would long ago
have run away if she had not watched me; that I was not stupid but sullen;
and that in all her experience of children she had never known one of so
bad a disposition as mine. She pretended to search for me. I answered as
soon as I was called, and she came to the fig-tree, where she very well
knew I was. "What are you doing there?" she asked. "Watching a star."
"You were not watching a star," said my mother, who was listening on her
balcony; "children of your age know nothing of astronomy." "Ah,
madame," cried Mademoiselle Caroline, "he has opened the faucet of the
reservoir; the garden is inundated!" Then there was a general excitement.
The fact was that my sisters had amused themselves by turning the cock
to see the water flow, but a sudden spurt wet them all over and frightened
them so much that they ran away without closing it. Accused and
convicted of this piece of mischief and told that I lied when I denied it, I
was severely punished. Worse than all, I was jeered at for my pretended
love of the stars and forbidden to stay in the garden after dark.
Such tyrannical restrains intensify a passion in the hearts of children


even more than in those of men; children think of nothing but the
forbidden thing, which then becomes irresistibly attractive to them. I was
often whipped for my star. Unable to confide in my kind, I told it all my
troubles in that delicious inward prattle with which we stammer our first
ideas, just as once we stammered our first words. At twelve years of age,
long after I was at school, I still watched that star with indescribable
delight,--so deep and lasting are the impressions we receive in the dawn
of life.
  My brother Charles, five years older than I and as handsome a boy
as he now is a man, was the favorite of my father, the idol of my mother,
and consequently the sovereign of the house. He was robust and well-
made, and had a tutor. I, puny and even sickly, was sent at five years of
age as day pupil to a school in the town; taken in the morning and
brought back at night by my father's valet. I was sent with a scanty lunch,
while my school-fellows brought plenty of good food. This trifling
contrast between my privations and their prosperity made me suffer
deeply. The famous potted pork prepared at Tours and called "rillettes"
and "rillons" was the chief feature of their mid-day meal, between the
early breakfast and the parent's dinner, which was ready when we
returned from school. This preparation of meat, much prized by certain
gourmands, is seldom seen at Tours on aristocratic tables; if I had ever
heard of it before I went to school, I certainly had never had the


happiness of seeing that brown mess spread on slices of bread and butter.
Nevertheless, my desire for those "rillons" was so great that it grew to be
a fixed idea, like the longing of an elegant Parisian duchess for the stews
cooked by a porter's wife,--longings which, being a woman, she found
means to satisfy. Children guess each other's covetousness, just as you are
able to read a man's love, by the look in the eyes; consequently I became
an admirable butt for ridicule. My comrades, nearly all belonging to the
lower bourgeoisie, would show me their "rillons" and ask if I knew how
they were made and where they were sold, and why it was that I never
had any. They licked their lips as they talked of them--scraps of pork
pressed in their own fat and looking like cooked truffles; they inspected
my lunch-basket, and finding nothing better than Olivet cheese or dried
fruits, they plagued me with questions: "Is that all you have? have you
really nothing else?"--speeches which made me realize the difference
between my brother and myself.
This contrast between my own abandonment and the happiness of
others nipped the roses of my childhood and blighted my budding youth.
The first time that I, mistaking my comrades' actions for generosity, put
forth my hand to take the dainty I had so long coveted and which was
now hypocritically held out to me, my tormentor pulled back his slice to
the great delight of his comrades who were expecting that result. If noble
and distinguished minds are, as we often find them, capable of vanity, can


we blame the child who weeps when despised and jeered at? Under such
a trial many boys would have turned into gluttons and cringing beggars. I
fought to escape my persecutors. The courage of despair made me
formidable; but I was hated, and thus had no protection against treachery.
One evening as I left school I was struck in the back by a handful of small
stones tied in a handkerchief. When the valet, who punished the
perpetrator, told this to my mother she exclaimed: "That dreadful child!
he will always be a torment to us."
Finding that I inspired in my schoolmates the same repulsion that
was felt for me by my family, I sank into a horrible distrust of myself. A
second fall of snow checked the seeds that were germinating in my soul.
The boys whom I most liked were notorious scamps; this fact roused my
pride and I held aloof. Again I was shut up within myself and had no vent
for the feelings with which my heart was full. The master of the school,
observing that I was gloomy, disliked by my comrades, and always alone,
confirmed the family verdict as to my sulky temper. As soon as I could
read and write, my mother transferred me to Pont-le-Voy, a school in
charge of Oratorians who took boys of my age into a form called the
"class of the Latin steps" where dull lads with torpid brains were apt to
linger.
There I remained eight years without seeing my family; living the
life of a pariah,--partly for the following reason. I received but three


francs a month pocket-money, a sum barely sufficient to buy the pens, ink,
paper, knives, and rules which we were forced to supply ourselves.
Unable to buy stilts or skipping-ropes, or any of the things that were used
in the playground, I was driven out of the games; to gain admission on
suffrage I should have had to toady the rich and flatter the strong of my
division. My heart rose against either of these meannesses, which,
however, most children readily employ. I lived under a tree, lost in
dejected thought, or reading the books distributed to us monthly by the
librarian. How many griefs were in the shadow of that solitude; what
genuine anguish filled my neglected life! Imagine what my sore heart felt
when, at the first distribution of prizes,--of which I obtained the two most
valued, namely, for theme and for translation,--neither my father nor my
mother was present in the theatre when I came forward to receive the
awards amid general acclamations, although the building was filled with
the relatives of all my comrades. Instead of kissing the distributor,
according to custom, I burst into tears and threw myself on his breast.
That night I burned my crowns in the stove. The parents of the other boys
were in town for a whole week preceding the distribution of the prizes,
and my comrades departed joyfully the next day; while I, whose father
and mother were only a few miles distant, remained at the school with the
"outremers,"--a name given to scholars whose families were in the
colonies or in foreign countries.


You will notice throughout how my unhappiness increased in
proportion as the social spheres on which I entered widened. God knows
what efforts I made to weaken the decree which condemned me to live
within myself! What hopes, long cherished with eagerness of soul, were
doomed to perish in a day! To persuade my parents to come and see me, I
wrote them letters full of feeling, too emphatically worded, it may be; but
surely such letters ought not to have drawn upon me my mother's
reprimand, coupled with ironical reproaches for my style. Not
discouraged even then, I implored the help of my sisters, to whom I
always wrote on their birthdays and fete-days with the persistence of a
neglected child; but it was all in vain. As the day for the distribution of
prizes approached I redoubled my entreaties, and told of my expected
triumphs. Misled by my parents' silence, I expected them with a beating
heart. I told my schoolfellows they were coming; and then, when the old
porter's step sounded in the corridors as he called my happy comrades
one by one to receive their friends, I was sick with expectation. Never did
that old man call my name!
One day, when I accused myself to my confessor of having cursed
my life, he pointed to the skies, where grew, he said, the promised palm
for the "Beati qui lugent" of the Saviour. From the period of my first
communion I flung myself into the mysterious depths of prayer, attracted
to religious ideas whose moral fairyland so fascinates young spirits.


Burning with ardent faith, I prayed to God to renew in my behalf the
miracles I had read of in martyrology. At five years of age I fled to my
star; at twelve I took refuge in the sanctuary. My ecstasy brought dreams
unspeakable, which fed my imagination, fostered my susceptibilities, and
strengthened my thinking powers. I have often attributed those sublime
visions to the guardian angel charged with moulding my spirit to its
divine destiny; they endowed my soul with the faculty of seeing the inner
soul of things; they prepared my heart for the magic craft which makes a
man a poet when the fatal power is his to compare what he feels within
him with reality,--the great things aimed for with the small things gained.
Those visions wrote upon my brain a book in which I read that which I
must voice; they laid upon my lips the coal of utterance.
  My father having conceived some doubts as to the tendency of the
Oratorian teachings, took me from Pont-le-Voy, and sent me to Paris to an
institution in the Marais. I was then fifteen. When examined as to my
capacity, I, who was in the rhetoric class at Pont-le-Voy, was pronounced
worthy of the third class. The sufferings I had endured in my family and
in school were continued under another form during my stay at the
Lepitre Academy. My father gave me no money; I was to be fed, clothed,
and stuffed with Latin and Greek, for a sum agreed on. During my school
life I came in contact with over a thousand comrades; but I never met
with such an instance of neglect and indifference as mine. Monsieur


Lepitre, who was fanatically attached to the Bourbons, had had relations
with my father at the time when all devoted royalists were endeavoring to
bring about the escape of Marie Antoinette from the Temple. They had
lately renewed acquaintance; and Monsieur Lepitre thought himself
obliged to repair my father's oversight, and to give me a small sum
monthly. But not being authorized to do so, the amount was small indeed.
The Lepitre establishment was in the old Joyeuse mansion where, as
in all seignorial houses, there was a porter's lodge. During a recess, which
preceded the hour when the man-of-all-work took us to the Charlemagne
Lyceum, the well-to-do pupils used to breakfast with the porter, named
Doisy. Monsieur Lepitre was either ignorant of the fact or he connived at
this arrangement with Doisy, a regular smuggler whom it was the pupils'
interest to protect,--he being the secret guardian of their pranks, the safe
confidant of their late returns and their intermediary for obtaining
forbidden books. Breakfast on a cup of "cafe-au-lait" is an aristocratic
habit, explained by the high prices to which colonial products rose under
Napoleon. If the use of sugar and coffee was a luxury to our parents, with
us it was the sign of self-conscious superiority. Doisy gave credit, for he
reckoned on the sisters and aunts of the pupils, who made it a point of
honor to pay their debts. I resisted the blandishments of his place for a
long time. If my judges knew the strength of its seduction, the heroic
efforts I made after stoicism, the repressed desires of my long resistance,


they would pardon my final overthrow. But, child as I was, could I have
the grandeur of soul that scorns the scorn of others? Moreover, I may
have felt the promptings of several social vices whose power was
increased by my longings.
About the end of the second year my father and mother came to
Paris. My brother had written me the day of their arrival. He lived in Paris,
but had never been to see me. My sisters, he said, were of the party; we
were all to see Paris together. The first day we were to dine in the
Palais-Royal, so as to be near the Theatre-Francais. In spite of the
intoxication such a programme of unhoped-for delights excited, my joy
was dampened by the wind of a coming storm, which those who are used
to unhappiness apprehend instinctively. I was forced to own a debt of a
hundred francs to the Sieur Doisy, who threatened to ask my parents
himself for the money. I bethought me of making my brother the emissary
of Doisy, the mouth-piece of my repentance and the mediator of pardon.
My father inclined to forgiveness, but my mother was pitiless; her dark
blue eye froze me; she fulminated cruel prophecies: "What should I be
later if at seventeen years of age I committed such follies? Was I really a
son of hers? Did I mean to ruin my family? Did I think myself the only
child of the house? My brother Charles's career, already begun, required
large outlay, amply deserved by his conduct which did honor to the family,
while mine would always disgrace it. Did I know nothing of the value of


money, and what I cost them? Of what use were coffee and sugar to my
education? Such conduct was the first step into all the vices."
After enduring the shock of this torrent which rasped my soul, I was
sent back to school in charge of my brother. I lost the dinner at the Freres
Provencaux, and was deprived of seeing Talma in Britannicus. Such was
my first interview with my mother after a separation of twelve years.
When I had finished school my father left me under the guardianship
of Monsieur Lepitre. I was to study the higher mathematics, follow a
course of law for one year, and begin philosophy. Allowed to study in my
own room and released from the classes, I expected a truce with trouble.
But, in spite of my nineteen years, perhaps because of them, my father
persisted in the system which had sent me to school without food, to an
academy without pocket-money, and had driven me into debt to Doisy.
Very little money was allowed to me, and what can you do in Paris
without money? Moreover, my freedom was carefully chained up.
Monsieur Lepitre sent me to the law school accompanied by a man-of-
all-work who handed me over to the professor and fetched me home
again. A young girl would have been treated with less precaution than my
mother's fears insisted on for me. Paris alarmed my parents, and justly.
Students are secretly engaged in the same occupation which fills the
minds of young ladies in their boarding-schools. Do what you will,
nothing can prevent the latter from talking of lovers, or the former of


women. But in Paris, and especially at this particular time, such talk
among young lads was influenced by the oriental and sultanic atmosphere
and customs of the Palais-Royal.
The Palais-Royal was an Eldorado of love where the ingots melted
away in coin; there virgin doubts were over; there curiosity was appeased.
The Palais-Royal and I were two asymptotes bearing one towards the
other, yet unable to meet. Fate miscarried all my attempts. My father had
presented me to one of my aunts who lived in the Ile St. Louis. With her I
was to dine on Sundays and Thursdays, escorted to the house by either
Monsieur or Madame Lepitre, who went out themselves on those days
and were to call for me on their way home. Singular amusement for a
young lad! My aunt, the Marquise de Listomere, was a great lady, of
ceremonious habits, who would never have dreamed of offering me
money. Old as a cathedral, painted like a miniature, sumptuous in dress,
she lived in her great house as though Louis XV. were not dead, and saw
none but old women and men of a past day,--a fossil society which made
me think I was in a graveyard. No one spoke to me and I had not the
courage to speak first. Cold and alien looks made me ashamed of my
youth, which seemed to annoy them. I counted on this indifference to aid
me in certain plans; I was resolved to escape some day directly after
dinner and rush to the Palais-Royal. Once seated at whist my aunt would
pay no attention to me. Jean, the footman, cared little for Monsieur


Lepitre and would have aided me; but on the day I chose for my
adventure that luckless dinner was longer than usual,--either because the
jaws employed were worn out or the false teeth more imperfect. At last,
between eight and nine o'clock, I reached the staircase, my heart beating
like that of Bianca Capello on the day of her flight; but when the porter
pulled the cord I beheld in the street before me Monsieur Lepitre's
hackney-coach, and I heard his pursy voice demanding me!
  Three times did fate interpose between the hell of the Palais-Royal
and the heaven of my youth. On the day when I, ashamed at twenty years
of age of my own ignorance, determined to risk all dangers to put an end
to it, at the very moment when I was about to run away from Monsieur
Lepitre as he got into the coach,--a difficult process, for he was as fat as
Louis XVIII. and club-footed,--well, can you believe it, my mother
arrived in a post-chaise! Her glance arrested me; I stood still, like a bird
before a snake. What fate had brought her there? The simplest thing in the
world. Napoleon was then making his last efforts. My father, who
foresaw the return of the Bourbons, had come to Paris with my mother to
advise my brother, who was employed in the imperial diplomatic service.
My mother was to take me back with her, out of the way of dangers
which seemed, to those who followed the march of events intelligently, to
threaten the capital. In a few minutes, as it were, I was taken out of Paris,
at the very moment when my life there was about to become fatal to me.


The tortures of imagination excited by repressed desires, the
weariness of a life depressed by constant privations had driven me to
study, just as men, weary of fate, confine themselves in a cloister. To me,
study had become a passion, which might even be fatal to my health by
imprisoning me at a period of life when young men ought to yield to the
bewitching activities of their springtide youth.
This slight sketch of my boyhood, in which you, Natalie, can readily
perceive innumerable songs of woe, was needful to explain to you its
influence on my future life. At twenty years of age, and affected by many
morbid elements, I was still small and thin and pale. My soul, filled with
the will to do, struggled with a body that seemed weakly, but which, in
the words of an old physician at Tours, was undergoing its final fusion
into a temperament of iron. Child in body and old in mind, I had read and
thought so much that I knew life metaphysically at its highest reaches at
the moment when I was about to enter the tortuous difficulties of its
defiles and the sandy roads of its plains. A strange chance had held me
long in that delightful period when the soul awakes to its first tumults, to
its desires for joy, and the savor of life is fresh. I stood in the period
between puberty and manhood,--the one prolonged by my excessive study,
the other tardily developing its living shoots. No young man was ever
more thoroughly prepared to feel and to love. To understand my history,
let your mind dwell on that pure time of youth when the mouth is


innocent of falsehood; when the glance of the eye is honest, though veiled
by lids which droop from timidity contradicting desire; when the soul
bends not to worldly Jesuitism, and the heart throbs as violently from
trepidation as from the generous impulses of young emotion.
I need say nothing of the journey I made with my mother from Paris
to Tours. The coldness of her behavior repressed me. At each relay I tried
to speak; but a look, a word from her frightened away the speeches I had
been meditating. At Orleans, where we had passed the night, my mother
complained of my silence. I threw myself at her feet and clasped her
knees; with tears I opened my heart. I tried to touch hers by the eloquence
of my hungry love in accents that might have moved a stepmother. She
replied that I was playing comedy. I complained that she had abandoned
me. She called me an unnatural child. My whole nature was so wrung that
at Blois I went upon the bridge to drown myself in the Loire. The height
of the parapet prevented my suicide.
When I reached home, my two sisters, who did not know me,
showed more surprise than tenderness. Afterwards, however, they seemed,
by comparison, to be full of kindness towards me. I was given a room on
the third story. You will understand the extent of my hardships when I tell
you that my mother left me, a young man of twenty, without other linen
than my miserable school outfit, or any other outside clothes than those I
had long worn in Paris. If I ran from one end of the room to the other to


pick up her handkerchief, she took it with the cold thanks a lady gives to
her footman. Driven to watch her to find if there were any soft spot where
I could fasten the rootlets of affection, I came to see her as she was,--a tall,
spare woman, given to cards, egotistical and insolent, like all the
Listomeres, who count insolence as part of their dowry. She saw nothing
in life except duties to be fulfilled. All cold women whom I have known
made, as she did, a religion of duty; she received our homage as a priest
receives the incense of the mass. My elder brother appeared to absorb the
trifling sentiment of maternity which was in her nature. She stabbed us
constantly with her sharp irony,--the weapon of those who have no
heart,--and which she used against us, who could make her no reply.
  Notwithstanding these thorny hindrances, the instinctive sentiments
have so many roots, the religious fear inspired by a mother whom it is
dangerous to displease holds by so many threads, that the sublime
mistake--if I may so call it--of our love for our mother lasted until the day,
much later in our lives, when we judged her finally. This terrible
despotism drove from my mind all thoughts of the voluptuous enjoyments
I had dreamed of finding at Tours. In despair I took refuge in my father's
library, where I set myself to read every book I did not know. These long
periods of hard study saved me from contact with my mother; but they
aggravated the dangers of my moral condition.
  Sometimes my eldest sister--she who afterwards married our cousin,


the Marquis de Listomere--tried to comfort me, without, however, being
able to calm the irritation to which I was a victim. I desired to die. Great
events, of which I knew nothing, were then in preparation. The Duc
d'Angouleme, who had left Bordeaux to join Louis XVIII. in Paris, was
received in every town through which he passed with ovations inspired
by the enthusiasm felt throughout old France at the return of the
Bourbons. Touraine was aroused for its legitimate princes; the town itself
was in a flutter, every window decorated, the inhabitants in their Sunday
clothes, a festival in preparation, and that nameless excitement in the air
which intoxicates, and which gave me a strong desire to be present at the
ball given by the duke. When I summoned courage to make this request
of my mother, who was too ill to go herself, she became extremely angry.
"Had I come from Congo?" she inquired. "How could I suppose that our
family would not be represented at the ball? In the absence of my father
and brother, of course it was my duty to be present. Had I no mother?
Was she not always thinking of the welfare of her children?"
In a moment the semi-disinherited son had become a personage! I
was more dumfounded by my importance than by the deluge of ironical
reasoning with which my mother received my request. I questioned my
sisters, and then discovered that my mother, who liked such theatrical
plots, was already attending to my clothes. The tailors in Tours were fully
occupied by the sudden demands of their regular customers, and my


mother was forced to employ her usual seamstress, who--according to
provincial custom--could do all kinds of sewing. A bottle-blue coat had
been secretly made for me, after a fashion, and silk stockings and pumps
provided; waistcoats were then worn short, so that I could wear one of my
father's; and for the first time in my life I had a shirt with a frill, the
pleatings of which puffed out my chest and were gathered in to the knot
of my cravat. When dressed in this apparel I looked so little like myself
that my sister's compliments nerved me to face all Touraine at the ball.
But it was a bold enterprise. Thanks to my slimness I slipped into a tent
set up in the gardens of the Papion house, and found a place close to the
armchair in which the duke was seated. Instantly I was suffocated by the
heat, and dazzled by the lights, the scarlet draperies, the gilded ornaments,
the dresses, and the diamonds of the first public ball I had ever witnessed.
I was pushed hither and thither by a mass of men and women, who
hustled each other in a cloud of dust. The brazen clash of military music
was drowned in the hurrahs and acclamations of "Long live the Duc
d'Angouleme! Long live the King! Long live the Bourbons!" The ball was
an outburst of pent-up enthusiasm, where each man endeavored to outdo
the rest in his fierce haste to worship the rising sun,--an exhibition of
partisan greed which left me unmoved, or rather, it disgusted me and
drove me back within myself.
Swept onward like a straw in the whirlwind, I was seized with a


childish desire to be the Duc d'Angouleme himself, to be one of these
princes parading before an awed assemblage. This silly fancy of a
Tourangean lad roused an ambition to which my nature and the
surrounding circumstances lent dignity. Who would not envy such
worship?--a magnificent repetition of which I saw a few months later,
when all Paris rushed to the feet of the Emperor on his return from Elba.
The sense of this dominion exercised over the masses, whose feelings and
whose very life are thus merged into one soul, dedicated me then and
thenceforth to glory, that priestess who slaughters the Frenchmen of
to-day as the Druidess once sacrificed the Gauls.
Suddenly I met the woman who was destined to spur these ambitious
desires and to crown them by sending me into the heart of royalty. Too
timid to ask any one to dance,--fearing, moreover, to confuse the
figures,--I naturally became very awkward, and did not know what to do
with my arms and legs. Just as I was suffering severely from the pressure
of the crowd an officer stepped on my feet, swollen by the new leather of
my shoes as well as by the heat. This disgusted me with the whole affair.
It was impossible to get away; but I took refuge in a corner of a room at
the end of an empty bench, where I sat with fixed eyes, motionless and
sullen. Misled by my puny appearance, a woman--taking me for a sleepy
child--slid softly into the place beside me, with the motion of a bird as
she drops upon her nest. Instantly I breathed the woman-atmosphere,


which irradiated my soul as, in after days, oriental poesy has shone there.
I looked at my neighbor, and was more dazzled by that vision than I had
been by the scene of the fete.
If you have understood this history of my early life you will guess
the feelings which now welled up within me. My eyes rested suddenly on
white, rounded shoulders where I would fain have laid my head,--
shoulders faintly rosy, which seemed to blush as if uncovered for the first
time; modest shoulders, that possessed a soul, and reflected light from
their satin surface as from a silken texture. These shoulders were parted
by a line along which my eyes wandered. I raised myself to see the bust
and was spell-bound by the beauty of the bosom, chastely covered with
gauze, where blue-veined globes of perfect outline were softly hidden in
waves of lace. The slightest details of the head were each and all
enchantments which awakened infinite delights within me; the brilliancy
of the hair laid smoothly above a neck as soft and velvety as a child's, the
white lines drawn by the comb where my imagination ran as along a
dewy path,--all these things put me, as it were, beside myself. Glancing
round to be sure that no one saw me, I threw myself upon those shoulders
as a child upon the breast of its mother, kissing them as I laid my head
there. The woman uttered a piercing cry, which the noise of the music
drowned; she turned, saw me, and exclaimed, "Monsieur!" Ah! had she
said, "My little lad, what possesses you?" I might have killed her; but at


the word "Monsieur!" hot tears fell from my eyes. I was petrified by a
glance of saintly anger, by a noble face crowned with a diadem of golden
hair in harmony with the shoulders I adored. The crimson of offended
modesty glowed on her cheeks, though already it was appeased by the
pardoning instinct of a woman who comprehends a frenzy which she
inspires, and divines the infinite adoration of those repentant tears. She
moved away with the step and carriage of a queen.
I then felt the ridicule of my position; for the first time I realized that
I was dressed like the monkey of a barrel organ. I was ashamed. There I
stood, stupefied,--tasting the fruit that I had stolen, conscious of the
warmth upon my lips, repenting not, and following with my eyes the
woman who had come down to me from heaven. Sick with the first fever
of the heart I wandered through the rooms, unable to find mine Unknown,
until at last I went home to bed, another man. A new soul, a soul with
rainbow wings, had burst its chrysalis.
Descending from the azure wastes where I had long admired her, my
star had come to me a woman, with undiminished lustre and purity. I
loved, knowing naught of love. How strange a thing, this first irruption of
the keenest human emotion in the heart of a man! I had seen pretty
women in other places, but none had made the slightest impression upon
me. Can there be an appointed hour, a conjunction of stars, a union of
circumstances, a certain woman among all others to awaken an exclusive


passion at the period of life when love includes the whole sex? The
thought that my Elect lived in Touraine made the air I breathed delicious;
the blue of the sky seemed bluer than I had ever yet seen it. I raved
internally, but externally I was seriously ill, and my mother had fears, not
unmingled with remorse. Like animals who know when danger is near, I
hid myself away in the garden to think of the kiss that I had stolen. A few
days after this memorable ball my mother attributed my neglect of study,
my indifference to her tyrannical looks and sarcasms, and my gloomy
behavior to the condition of my health. The country, that perpetual
remedy for ills that doctors cannot cure, seemed to her the best means of
bringing me out of my apathy. She decided that I should spend a few
weeks at Frapesle, a chateau on the Indre midway between Montbazon
and Azay-le-Rideau, which belonged to a friend of hers, to whom, no
doubt, she gave private instructions.
  By the day when I thus for the first time gained my liberty I had
swum so vigorously in Love's ocean that I had well-nigh crossed it. I
knew nothing of mine unknown lady, neither her name, nor where to find
her; to whom, indeed, could I speak of her? My sensitive nature so
exaggerated the inexplicable fears which beset all youthful hearts at the
first approach of love that I began with the melancholy which often ends
a hopeless passion. I asked nothing better than to roam about the country,
to come and go and live in the fields. With the courage of a child that


fears no failure, in which there is something really chivalrous, I
determined to search every chateau in Touraine, travelling on foot, and
saying to myself as each old tower came in sight, "She is there!"
Accordingly, of a Thursday morning I left Tours by the barrier of
Saint-Eloy, crossed the bridges of Saint-Sauveur, reached Poncher whose
every house I examined, and took the road to Chinon. For the first time in
my life I could sit down under a tree or walk fast or slow as I pleased
without being dictated to by any one. To a poor lad crushed under all sorts
of despotism (which more or less does weigh upon all youth) the first
employment of freedom, even though it be expended upon nothing, lifts
the soul with irrepressible buoyancy. Several reasons combined to make
that day one of enchantment. During my school years I had never been
taken to walk more than two or three miles from a city; yet there
remained in my mind among the earliest recollections of my childhood
that feeling for the beautiful which the scenery about Tours inspires.
Though quite untaught as to the poetry of such a landscape, I was,
unknown to myself, critical upon it, like those who imagine the ideal of
art without knowing anything of its practice.
To reach the chateau of Frapesle, foot-passengers, or those on
horseback, shorten the way by crossing the Charlemagne moors,--
uncultivated tracts of land lying on the summit of the plateau which
separates the valley of the Cher from that of the Indre, and over which


there is a cross-road leading to Champy. These moors are flat and sandy,
and for more than three miles are dreary enough until you reach, through
a clump of woods, the road to Sache, the name of the township in which
Frapesle stands. This road, which joins that of Chinon beyond Ballan,
skirts an undulating plain to the little hamlet of Artanne. Here we come
upon a valley, which begins at Montbazon, ends at the Loire, and seems
to rise and fall,--to bound, as it were, --beneath the chateaus placed on its
double hillsides,--a splendid emerald cup, in the depths of which flow the
serpentine lines of the river Indre. I gazed at this scene with ineffable
delight, for which the gloomy moor-land and the fatigue of the sandy
walk had prepared me.
"If that woman, the flower of her sex, does indeed inhabit this earth,
she is here, on this spot."
Thus musing, I leaned against a walnut-tree, beneath which I have
rested from that day to this whenever I return to my dear valley. Beneath
that tree, the confidant of my thoughts, I ask myself what changes there
are in me since last I stood there.
My heart deceived me not--she lived there; the first castle that I saw
on the slope of a hill was the dwelling that held her. As I sat beneath my
nut-tree, the mid-day sun was sparkling on the slates of her roof and the
panes of her windows. Her cambric dress made the white line which I
saw among the vines of an arbor. She was, as you know already without


as yet knowing anything, the Lily of this valley, where she grew for
heaven, filling it with the fragrance of her virtues. Love, infinite love,
without other sustenance than the vision, dimly seen, of which my soul
was full, was there, expressed to me by that long ribbon of water flowing
in the sunshine between the grass-green banks, by the lines of the poplars
adorning with their mobile laces that vale of love, by the oak-woods
coming down between the vineyards to the shore, which the river curved
and rounded as it chose, and by those dim varying horizons as they fled
confusedly away. If you would see nature beautiful and virgin as a bride,
go there of a spring morning. If you would still the bleeding wounds of
your heart, return in the last days of autumn. In the spring, Love beats his
wings beneath the broad blue sky; in the autumn, we think of those who
are no more. The lungs diseased breathe in a blessed purity; the eyes will
rest on golden copses which impart to the soul their peaceful stillness. At
this moment, when I stood there for the first time, the mills upon the
brooksides gave a voice to the quivering valley; the poplars were
laughing as they swayed; not a cloud was in the sky; the birds sang, the
crickets chirped,--all was melody. Do not ask me again why I love
Touraine. I love it, not as we love our cradle, not as we love the oasis in a
desert; I love it as an artist loves art; I love it less than I love you; but
without Touraine, perhaps I might not now be living.
Without knowing why, my eyes reverted ever to that white spot, to


the woman who shone in that garden as the bell of a convolvulus shines
amid the underbrush, and wilts if touched. Moved to the soul, I descended
the slope and soon saw a village, which the superabounding poetry that
filled my heart made me fancy without an equal. Imagine three mills
placed among islands of graceful outline crowned with groves of trees
and rising from a field of water,--for what other name can I give to that
aquatic vegetation, so verdant, so finely colored, which carpeted the river,
rose above its surface and undulated upon it, yielding to its caprices and
swaying to the turmoil of the water when the mill-wheels lashed it. Here
and there were mounds of gravel, against which the wavelets broke in
fringes that shimmered in the sunlight. Amaryllis, water-lilies, reeds, and
phloxes decorated the banks with their glorious tapestry. A trembling
bridge of rotten planks, the abutments swathed with flowers, and the
hand-rails green with perennials and velvet mosses drooping to the river
but not falling to it; mouldering boats, fishing-nets; the monotonous sing-
song of a shepherd; ducks paddling among the islands or preening on the
"jard,"--a name given to the coarse sand which the Loire brings down; the
millers, with their caps over one ear, busily loading their mules,--all these
details made the scene before me one of primitive simplicity. Imagine,
also, beyond the bridge two or three farm-houses, a dove-cote,
turtle-doves, thirty or more dilapidated cottages, separated by gardens, by
hedges of honeysuckle, clematis, and jasmine; a dunghill beside each


door, and cocks and hens about the road. Such is the village of
Pont-de-Ruan, a picturesque little hamlet leading up to an old church full
of character, a church of the days of the Crusades, such a one as painters
desire for their pictures. Surround this scene with ancient walnut-trees
and slim young poplars with their pale-gold leaves; dot graceful buildings
here and there along the grassy slopes where sight is lost beneath the
vaporous, warm sky, and you will have some idea of one of the points of
view of this most lovely region.
I followed the road to Sache along the left bank of the river, noticing
carefully the details of the hills on the opposite shore. At length I reached
a park embellished with centennial trees, which I knew to be that of
Frapesle. I arrived just as the bell was ringing for breakfast. After the
meal, my host, who little suspected that I had walked from Tours, carried
me over his estate, from the borders of which I saw the valley on all sides
under its many aspects,--here through a vista, there to its broad extent;
often my eyes were drawn to the horizon along the golden blade of the
Loire, where the sails made fantastic figures among the currents as they
flew before the wind. As we mounted a crest I came in sight of the
chateau d'Azay, like a diamond of many facets in a setting of the Indre,
standing on wooden piles concealed by flowers. Farther on, in a hollow, I
saw the romantic masses of the chateau of Sache, a sad retreat though full
of harmony; too sad for the superficial, but dear to a poet with a soul in


pain. I, too, came to love its silence, its great gnarled trees, and the
nameless mysterious influence of its solitary valley. But now, each time
that we reached an opening towards the neighboring slope which gave to
view the pretty castle I had first noticed in the morning, I stopped to look
at it with pleasure.
  "Hey!" said my host, reading in my eyes the sparkling desires which
youth so ingenuously betrays, "so you scent from afar a pretty woman as
a dog scents game!"
  I did not like the speech, but I asked the name of the castle and of its
owner.
  "It is Clochegourde," he replied; "a pretty house belonging to the
Comte de Mortsauf, the head of an historic family in Touraine, whose
fortune dates from the days of Louis XI., and whose name tells the story
to which they owe their arms and their distinction. Monsieur de Mortsauf
is descended from a man who survived the gallows. The family bear: Or,
a cross potent and counter-potent sable, charged with a fleur-de-lis or; and
'Dieu saulve le Roi notre Sire,' for motto. The count settled here after the
return of the emigration. The estate belongs to his wife, a demoiselle de
Lenoncourt, of the house of Lenoncourt-Givry which is now dying out.
Madame de Mortsauf is an only daughter. The limited fortune of the
family contrasts strangely with the distinction of their names; either from
pride, or, possibly, from necessity, they never leave Clochegourde and see


no company. Until now their attachment to the Bourbons explained this
retirement, but the return of the king has not changed their way of living.
When I came to reside here last year I paid them a visit of courtesy; they
returned it and invited us to dinner; the winter separated us for some
months, and political events kept me away from Frapesle until recently.
Madame de Mortsauf is a woman who would hold the highest position
wherever she might be."
"Does she often come to Tours?"
"She never goes there. However," he added, correcting himself, "she
did go there lately to the ball given to the Duc d'Angouleme, who was
very gracious to her husband."
"It was she!" I exclaimed.
"She! who?"
"A woman with beautiful shoulders."
"You will meet a great many women with beautiful shoulders in
Touraine," he said, laughing. "But if you are not tired we can cross the
river and call at Clochegourde and you shall renew acquaintance with
those particular shoulders."
I agreed, not without a blush of shame and pleasure. About four
o'clock we reached the little chateau on which my eyes had fastened from
the first. The building, which is finely effective in the landscape, is in
reality very modest. It has five windows on the front; those at each end of


the facade, looking south, project about twelve feet,--an architectural
device which gives the idea of two towers and adds grace to the structure.
The middle window serves as a door from which you descend through a
double portico into a terraced garden which joins the narrow strip of
grass-land that skirts the Indre along its whole course. Though this
meadow is separated from the lower terrace, which is shaded by a double
line of acacias and Japanese ailanthus, by the country road, it nevertheless
appears from the house to be a part of the garden, for the road is sunken
and hemmed in on one side by the terrace, on the other side by a Norman
hedge. The terraces being very well managed put enough distance
between the house and the river to avoid the inconvenience of too great
proximity to water, without losing the charms of it. Below the house are
the stables, coach-house, green-houses, and kitchen, the various openings
to which form an arcade. The roof is charmingly rounded at the angles,
and bears mansarde windows with carved mullions and leaden finials on
their gables. This roof, no doubt much neglected during the Revolution, is
stained by a sort of mildew produced by lichens and the reddish moss
which grows on houses exposed to the sun. The glass door of the portico
is surmounted by a little tower which holds the bell, and on which is
carved the escutcheon of the Blamont- Chauvry family, to which Madame
de Mortsauf belonged, as follows: Gules, a pale vair, flanked quarterly by
two hands clasped or, and two lances in chevron sable. The motto, "Voyez


tous, nul ne touche!" struck me greatly. The supporters, a griffin and
dragon gules, enchained or, made a pretty effect in the carving. The
Revolution has damaged the ducal crown and the crest, which was a
palm-tree vert with fruit or. Senart, the secretary of the committee of
public safety was bailiff of Sache before 1781, which explains this
destruction.
These arrangements give an elegant air to the little castle, dainty as a
flower, which seems to scarcely rest upon the earth. Seen from the valley
the ground-floor appears to be the first story; but on the other side it is on
a level with a broad gravelled path leading to a grass-plot, on which are
several flower-beds. To right and left are vineyards, orchards, and a few
acres of tilled land planted with chestnut-trees which surround the house,
the ground falling rapidly to the Indre, where other groups of trees of
variegated shades of green, chosen by Nature herself, are spread along the
shore. I admired these groups, so charmingly disposed, as we mounted
the hilly road which borders Clochegourde; I breathed an atmosphere of
happiness. Has the moral nature, like the physical nature, its own
electrical communications and its rapid changes of temperature? My heart
was beating at the approach of events then unrevealed which were to
change it forever, just as animals grow livelier when foreseeing fine
weather.
This day, so marked in my life, lacked no circumstance that was


needed to solemnize it. Nature was adorned like a woman to meet her
lover. My soul heard her voice for the first time; my eyes worshipped her,
as fruitful, as varied as my imagination had pictured her in those
school-dreams the influence of which I have tried in a few unskilful
words to explain to you, for they were to me an Apocalypse in which my
life was figuratively foretold; each event, fortunate or unfortunate, being
mated to some one of these strange visions by ties known only to the
soul.
We crossed a court-yard surrounded by buildings necessary for the
farm work,--a barn, a wine-press, cow-sheds, and stables. Warned by the
barking of the watch-dog, a servant came to meet us, saying that
Monsieur le comte had gone to Azay in the morning but would soon
return, and that Madame la comtesse was at home. My companion looked
at me. I fairly trembled lest he should decline to see Madame de Mortsauf
in her husband's absence; but he told the man to announce us. With the
eagerness of a child I rushed into the long antechamber which crosses the
whole house.
"Come in, gentlemen," said a golden voice.
Though Madame de Mortsauf had spoken only one word at the ball,
I recognized her voice, which entered my soul and filled it as a ray of
sunshine fills and gilds a prisoner's dungeon. Thinking, suddenly, that she
might remember my face, my first impulse was to fly; but it was too


late,--she appeared in the doorway, and our eyes met. I know not which of
us blushed deepest. Too much confused for immediate speech she
returned to her seat at an embroidery frame while the servant placed two
chairs, then she drew out her needle and counted some stitches, as if to
explain her silence; after which she raised her head, gently yet proudly, in
the direction of Monsieur de Chessel as she asked to what fortunate
circumstance she owed his visit. Though curious to know the secret of my
unexpected appearance, she looked at neither of us,--her eyes were fixed
on the river; and yet you could have told by the way she listened that she
was able to recognize, as the blind do, the agitations of a neighboring soul
by the imperceptible inflexions of the voice.
Monsieur de Chessel gave my name and biography. I had lately
arrived at Tours, where my parents had recalled me when the armies
threatened Paris. A son of Touraine to whom Touraine was as yet
unknown, she would find me a young man weakened by excessive study
and sent to Frapesle to amuse himself; he had already shown me his
estate, which I saw for the first time. I had just told him that I had walked
from Tours to Frapesle, and fearing for my health--which was really
delicate--he had stopped at Clochegourde to ask her to allow me to rest
there. Monsieur de Chessel told the truth; but the accident seemed so
forced that Madame de Mortsauf distrusted us. She gave me a cold,
severe glance, under which my own eyelids fell, as much from a sense of


humiliation as to hide the tears that rose beneath them. She saw the
moisture on my forehead, and perhaps she guessed the tears; for she
offered me the restoratives I needed, with a few kind and consoling words,
which gave me back the power of speech. I blushed like a young girl, and
in a voice as tremulous as that of an old man I thanked her and declined.
"All I ask," I said, raising my eyes to hers, which mine now met for
the second time in a glance as rapid as lightning,--"is to rest here. I am so
crippled with fatigue I really cannot walk farther."
"You must not doubt the hospitality of our beautiful Touraine," she
said; then, turning to my companion, she added: "You will give us the
pleasure of your dining at Clochegourde?"
I threw such a look of entreaty at Monsieur de Chessel that he began
the preliminaries of accepting the invitation, though it was given in a
manner that seemed to expect a refusal. As a man of the world, he
recognized these shades of meaning; but I, a young man without
experience, believed so implicitly in the sincerity between word and
thought of this beautiful woman that I was wholly astonished when my
host said to me, after we reached home that evening, "I stayed because I
saw you were dying to do so; but if you do not succeed in making it all
right, I may find myself on bad terms with my neighbors." That
expression, "if you do not make it all right," made me ponder the matter
deeply. In other words, if I pleased Madame de Mortsauf, she would not


be displeased with the man who introduced me to her. He evidently
thought I had the power to please her; this in itself gave me that power,
and corroborated my inward hope at a moment when it needed some
outward succor.
"I am afraid it will be difficult," he began; "Madame de Chessel
expects us."
  "She has you every day," replied the countess; "besides, we can send
her word. Is she alone?"
  "No, the Abbe de Quelus is there."
  "Well, then," she said, rising to ring the bell, "you really must dine
with us."
  This time Monsieur de Chessel thought her in earnest, and gave me a
congratulatory look. As soon as I was sure of passing a whole evening
under that roof I seemed to have eternity before me. For many miserable
beings to-morrow is a word without meaning, and I was of the number
who had no faith in it; when I was certain of a few hours of happiness I
made them contain a whole lifetime of delight.
  Madame de Mortsauf talked about local affairs, the harvest, the
vintage, and other matters to which I was a total stranger. This usually
argues either a want of breeding or great contempt for the stranger present
who is thus shut out from the conversation, but in this case it was
embarrassment. Though at first I thought she treated me as a child and I


envied the man of thirty to whom she talked of serious matters which I
could not comprehend, I came, a few months later, to understand how
significant a woman's silence often is, and how many thoughts a voluble
conversation masks. At first I attempted to be at my ease and take part in
it, then I perceived the advantages of my situation and gave myself up to
the charm of listening to Madame de Mortsauf's voice. The breath of her
soul rose and fell among the syllables as sound is divided by the notes of
a flute; it died away to the ear as it quickened the pulsation of the blood.
Her way of uttering the terminations in "i" was like a bird's song; the "ch"
as she said it was a kiss, but the "t's" were an echo of her heart's
despotism. She thus extended, without herself knowing that she did so,
the meaning of her words, leading the soul of the listener into regions
above this earth. Many a time I have continued a discussion I could easily
have ended, many a time I have allowed myself to be unjustly scolded
that I might listen to those harmonies of the human voice, that I might
breathe the air of her soul as it left her lips, and strain to my soul that
spoken light as I would fain have strained the speaker to my breast. A
swallow's song of joy it was when she was gay!--but when she spoke of
her griefs, a swan's voice calling to its mates!
  Madame de Mortsauf's inattention to my presence enabled me to
examine her. My eyes rejoiced as they glided over the sweet speaker; they
kissed her feet, they clasped her waist, they played with the ringlets of her


hair. And yet I was a prey to terror, as all who, once in their lives, have
experienced the illimitable joys of a true passion will understand. I feared
she would detect me if I let my eyes rest upon the shoulder I had kissed,
and the fear sharpened the temptation. I yielded, I looked, my eyes tore
away the covering; I saw the mole which lay where the pretty line
between the shoulders started, and which, ever since the ball, had
sparkled in that twilight which seems the region of the sleep of youths
whose imagination is ardent and whose life is chaste.
I can sketch for you the leading features which all eyes saw in
Madame de Mortsauf; but no drawing, however correct, no color,
however warm, can represent her to you. Her face was of those that
require the unattainable artist, whose hand can paint the reflection of
inward fires and render that luminous vapor which defies science and is
not revealable by language--but which a lover sees. Her soft, fair hair
often caused her much suffering, no doubt through sudden rushes of
blood to the head. Her brow, round and prominent like that of Joconda,
teemed with unuttered thoughts, restrained feelings--flowers drowning in
bitter waters. The eyes, of a green tinge flecked with brown, were always
wan; but if her children were in question, or if some keen condition of joy
or suffering (rare in the lives of all resigned women) seized her, those
eyes sent forth a subtile gleam as if from fires that were consuming
her,--the gleam that wrung the tears from mine when she covered me with


her contempt, and which sufficed to lower the boldest eyelid. A Grecian
nose, designed it might be by Phidias, and united by its double arch to
lips that were gracefully curved, spiritualized the face, which was oval
with a skin of the texture of a white camellia colored with soft rose-tints
upon the cheeks. Her plumpness did not detract from the grace of her
figure nor from the rounded outlines which made her shape beautiful
though well developed. You will understand the character of this
perfection when I say that where the dazzling treasures which had so
fascinated me joined the arm there was no crease or wrinkle. No hollow
disfigured the base of her head, like those which make the necks of some
women resemble trunks of trees; her muscles were not harshly defined,
and everywhere the lines were rounded into curves as fugitive to the eye
as to the pencil. A soft down faintly showed upon her cheeks and on the
outline of her throat, catching the light which made it silken. Her little
ears, perfect in shape, were, as she said herself, the ears of a mother and a
slave. In after days, when our hearts were one, she would say to me,
"Here comes Monsieur de Mortsauf"; and she was right, though I, whose
hearing is remarkably acute, could hear nothing. Her arms were beautiful.
The curved fingers of the hand were long, and the flesh projected at the
side beyond the finger-nails, like those of antique statues. I should
displease you, I know, if you were not yourself an exception to my rule,
when I say that flat waists should have the preference over round ones.


The round waist is a sign of strength; but women thus formed are
imperious, self-willed, and more voluptuous than tender. On the other
hand, women with flat waists are devoted in soul, delicately perceptive,
inclined to sadness, more truly woman than the other class. The flat waist
is supple and yielding; the round waist is inflexible and jealous.
You now know how she was made. She had the foot of a well-bred
woman, --the foot that walks little, is quickly tired, and delights the eye
when it peeps beneath the dress. Though she was the mother of two
children, I have never met any woman so truly a young girl as she. Her
whole air was one of simplicity, joined to a certain bashful dreaminess
which attracted others, just as a painter arrests our steps before a figure
into which his genius has conveyed a world of sentiment. If you recall the
pure, wild fragrance of the heath we gathered on our return from the Villa
Diodati, the flower whose tints of black and rose you praised so warmly,
you can fancy how this woman could be elegant though remote from the
social world, natural in expression, fastidious in all things which became
part of herself,--in short, like the heath of mingled colors. Her body had
the freshness we admire in the unfolding leaf; her spirit the clear
conciseness of the aboriginal mind; she was a child by feeling, grave
through suffering, the mistress of a household, yet a maiden too.
Therefore she charmed artlessly and unconsciously, by her way of sitting
down or rising, of throwing in a word or keeping silence. Though


habitually collected, watchful as the sentinel on whom the safety of others
depends and who looks for danger, there were moments when smiles
would wreathe her lips and betray the happy nature buried beneath the
saddened bearing that was the outcome of her life. Her gift of attraction
was mysterious. Instead of inspiring the gallant attentions which other
women seek, she made men dream, letting them see her virginal nature of
pure flame, her celestial visions, as we see the azure heavens through rifts
in the clouds. This involuntary revelation of her being made others
thoughtful. The rarity of her gestures, above all, the rarity of her
glances--for, excepting her children, she seldom looked at any one--gave
a strange solemnity to all she said and did when her words or actions
seemed to her to compromise her dignity.
On this particular morning Madame de Mortsauf wore a
rose-colored gown patterned in tiny stripes, a collar with a wide hem, a
black belt, and little boots of the same hue. Her hair was simply twisted
round her head, and held in place by a tortoise-shell comb. Such, my dear
Natalie, is the imperfect sketch I promised you. But the constant
emanation of her soul upon her family, that nurturing essence shed in
floods around her as the sun emits its light, her inward nature, her
cheerfulness on days serene, her resignation on stormy ones,--all those
variations of expression by which character is displayed depend, like the
effects in the sky, on unexpected and fugitive circumstances, which have


no connection with each other except the background against which they
rest, though all are necessarily mingled with the events of this
history,--truly a household epic, as great to the eyes of a wise man as a
tragedy to the eyes of the crowd, an epic in which you will feel an interest,
not only for the part I took in it, but for the likeness that it bears to the
destinies of so vast a number of women. Everything at Clochegourde bore
signs of a truly English cleanliness. The room in which the countess
received us was panelled throughout and painted in two shades of gray.
The mantelpiece was ornamented with a clock inserted in a block of
mahogany and surmounted with a tazza, and two large vases of white
porcelain with gold lines, which held bunches of Cape heather. A lamp
was on a pier-table, and a backgammon board on legs before the fireplace.
Two wide bands of cotton held back the white cambric curtains, which
had no fringe. The furniture was covered with gray cotton bound with a
green braid, and the tapestry on the countess's frame told why the
upholstery was thus covered. Such simplicity rose to grandeur. No
apartment, among all that I have seen since, has given me such fertile,
such teeming impressions as those that filled my mind in that salon of
Clochegourde, calm and composed as the life of its mistress, where the
conventual regularity of her occupations made itself felt. The greater part
of my ideas in science or politics, even the boldest of them, were born in
that room, as perfumes emanate from flowers; there grew the mysterious


plant that cast upon my soul its fructifying pollen; there glowed the solar
warmth which developed my good and shrivelled my evil qualities.
Through the windows the eye took in the valley from the heights of
Pont-de-Ruan to the chateau d'Azay, following the windings of the further
shore, picturesquely varied by the towers of Frapesle, the church, the
village, and the old manor-house of Sache, whose venerable pile looked
down upon the meadows.
In harmony with this reposeful life, and without other excitements to
emotion than those arising in the family, this scene conveyed to the soul
its own serenity. If I had met her there for the first time, between the
count and her two children, instead of seeing her resplendent in a ball
dress, I should not have ravished that delirious kiss, which now filled me
with remorse and with the fear of having lost the future of my love. No;
in the gloom of my unhappy life I should have bent my knee and kissed
the hem of her garment, wetting it with tears, and then I might have flung
myself into the Indre. But having breathed the jasmine perfume of her
skin and drunk the milk of that cup of love, my soul had acquired the
knowledge and the hope of human joys; I would live and await the
coming of happiness as the savage awaits his hour of vengeance; I longed
to climb those trees, to creep among the vines, to float in the river; I
wanted the companionship of night and its silence, I needed lassitude of
body, I craved the heat of the sun to make the eating of the delicious


apple into which I had bitten perfect. Had she asked of me the singing
flower, the riches buried by the comrades of Morgan the destroyer, I
would have sought them, to obtain those other riches and that mute
flower for which I longed.
When my dream, the dream into which this first contemplation of
my idol plunged me, came to an end and I heard her speaking of
Monsieur de Mortsauf, the thought came that a woman must belong to
her husband, and a raging curiosity possessed me to see the owner of this
treasure. Two emotions filled my mind, hatred and fear,--hatred which
allowed of no obstacles and measured all without shrinking, and a vague,
but real fear of the struggle, of its issue, and above all of HER.
"Here is Monsieur de Mortsauf," she said.
I sprang to my feet like a startled horse. Though the movement was
seen by Monsieur de Chessel and the countess, neither made any
observation, for a diversion was effected at this moment by the entrance
of a little girl, whom I took to be about six years old, who came in
exclaiming, "Here's papa!"
"Madeleine?" said her mother, gently.
The child at once held out her hand to Monsieur de Chessel, and
looked attentively at me after making a little bow with an air of
astonishment.
"Are you more satisfied about her health?" asked Monsieur de


Chessel. "She is better," replied the countess, caressing the little head
which was already nestling in her lap.
The next question of Monsieur de Chessel let me know that
Madeleine was nine years old; I showed great surprise, and immediately
the clouds gathered on the mother's brow. My companion threw me a
significant look,--one of those which form the education of men of the
world. I had stumbled no doubt upon some maternal wound the covering
of which should have been respected. The sickly child, whose eyes were
pallid and whose skin was white as a porcelain vase with a light within it,
would probably not have lived in the atmosphere of a city.
Country air and her mother's brooding care had kept the life in that
frail body, delicate as a hot-house plant growing in a harsh and foreign
climate. Though in nothing did she remind me of her mother, Madeleine
seemed to have her soul, and that soul held her up. Her hair was scanty
and black, her eyes and cheeks hollow, her arms thin, her chest narrow,
showing a battle between life and death, a duel without truce in which the
mother had so far been victorious. The child willed to live,--perhaps to
spare her mother, for at times, when not observed, she fell into the
attitude of a weeping-willow. You might have thought her a little gypsy
dying of hunger, begging her way, exhausted but always brave and
dressed up to play her part.
"Where have you left Jacques?" asked the countess, kissing the


white line which parted the child's hair into two bands that looked like a
crow's wings.
"He is coming with papa."
Just then the count entered, holding his son by the hand. Jacques, the
image of his sister, showed the same signs of weakness. Seeing these
sickly children beside a mother so magnificently healthy it was
impossible not to guess at the causes of the grief which clouded her brow
and kept her silent on a subject she could take to God only. As he bowed,
Monsieur de Mortsauf gave me a glance that was less observing than
awkwardly uneasy,--the glance of a man whose distrust grows out of his
inability to analyze. After explaining the circumstances of our visit, and
naming me to him, the countess gave him her place and left the room.
The children, whose eyes were on those of their mother as if they drew
the light of theirs from hers, tried to follow her; but she said, with a finger
on her lips, "Stay dears!" and they obeyed, but their eyes filled. Ah! to
hear that one word "dears" what tasks they would have undertaken!
Like the children, I felt less warm when she had left us. My name
seemed to change the count's feeling toward me. Cold and supercilious in
his first glance, he became at once, if not affectionate, at least politely
attentive, showing me every consideration and seeming pleased to receive
me as a guest. My father had formerly done devoted service to the
Bourbons, and had played an important and perilous, though secret part.


When their cause was lost by the elevation of Napoleon, he took refuge in
the quietude of the country and domestic life, accepting the unmerited
accusations that followed him as the inevitable reward of those who risk
all to win all, and who succumb after serving as pivot to the political
machine. Knowing nothing of the fortunes, nor of the past, nor of the
future of my family, I was unaware of this devoted service which the
Comte de Mortsauf well remembered. Moreover, the antiquity of our
name, the most precious quality of a man in his eyes, added to the warmth
of his greeting. I knew nothing of these reasons until later; for the time
being the sudden transition to cordiality put me at my ease. When the two
children saw that we were all three fairly engaged in conversation,
Madeleine slipped her head from her father's hand, glanced at the open
door, and glided away like an eel, Jacques following her. They rejoined
their mother, and I heard their voices and their movements, sounding in
the distance like the murmur of bees about a hive.
I watched the count, trying to guess his character, but I became so
interested in certain leading traits that I got no further than a superficial
examination of his personality. Though he was only forty- five years old,
he seemed nearer sixty, so much had the great shipwreck at the close of
the eighteenth century aged him. The crescent of hair which monastically
fringed the back of his head, otherwise completely bald, ended at the ears
in little tufts of gray mingled with black. His face bore a vague


resemblance to that of a white wolf with blood about its muzzle, for his
nose was inflamed and gave signs of a life poisoned at its springs and
vitiated by diseases of long standing. His flat forehead, too broad for the
face beneath it, which ended in a point, and transversely wrinkled in
crooked lines, gave signs of a life in the open air, but not of any mental
activity; it also showed the burden of constant misfortunes, but not of any
efforts made to surmount them. His cheekbones, which were brown and
prominent amid the general pallor of his skin, showed a physical structure
which was likely to ensure him a long life. His hard, light- yellow eye fell
upon mine like a ray of wintry sun, bright without warmth, anxious
without thought, distrustful without conscious cause. His mouth was
violent and domineering, his chin flat and long. Thin and very tall, he had
the bearing of a gentleman who relies upon the conventional value of his
caste, who knows himself above others by right, and beneath them in fact.
The carelessness of country life had made him neglect his external
appearance. His dress was that of a country-man whom peasants and
neighbors no longer considered except for his territorial worth. His brown
and wiry hands showed that he wore no gloves unless he mounted a horse,
or went to church, and his shoes were thick and common.
Though ten years of emigration and ten years more of farm-life had
changed his physical condition, he still retained certain vestiges of
nobility. The bitterest liberal (a term not then in circulation) would readily


have admitted his chivalric loyalty and the imperishable convictions of
one who puts his faith to the "Quotidienne"; he would have felt respect
for the man religiously devoted to a cause, honest in his political
antipathies, incapable of serving his party but very capable of injuring it,
and without the slightest real knowledge of the affairs of France. The
count was in fact one of those upright men who are available for nothing,
but stand obstinately in the way of all; ready to die under arms at the post
assigned to them, but preferring to give their life rather than to give their
money.
During dinner I detected, in the hanging of his flaccid cheeks and the
covert glances he cast now and then upon his children, the traces of some
wearing thought which showed for a moment upon the surface. Watching
him, who could fail to understand him? Who would not have seen that he
had fatally transmitted to his children those weakly bodies in which the
principle of life was lacking. But if he blamed himself he denied to others
the right to judge him. Harsh as one who knows himself in fault, yet
without greatness of soul or charm to compensate for the weight of
misery he had thrown into the balance, his private life was no doubt the
scene of irascibilities that were plainly revealed in his angular features
and by the incessant restlessness of his eye. When his wife returned,
followed by the children who seemed fastened to her side, I felt the
presence of unhappiness, just as in walking over the roof of a vault the


feet become in some way conscious of the depths below. Seeing these
four human beings together, holding them all as it were in one glance,
letting my eye pass from one to the other, studying their countenances
and their respective attitudes, thoughts steeped in sadness fell upon my
heart as a fine gray rain dims a charming landscape after the sun has risen
clear.
When the immediate subject of conversation was exhausted the
count told his wife who I was, and related certain circumstances
connected with my family that were wholly unknown to me. He asked me
my age. When I told it, the countess echoed my own exclamation of
surprise at her daughter's age. Perhaps she had thought me fifteen. Later
on, I discovered that this was still another tie which bound her strongly to
me. Even then I read her soul. Her motherhood quivered with a tardy ray
of hope. Seeing me at over twenty years of age so slight and delicate and
yet so nervously strong, a voice cried to her, "They too will live!" She
looked at me searchingly, and in that moment I felt the barriers of ice
melting between us. She seemed to have many questions to ask, but
uttered none.
"If study has made you ill," she said, "the air of our valley will soon
restore you."
"Modern education is fatal to children," remarked the count. "We
stuff them with mathematics and ruin their health with sciences, and


make them old before their time. You must stay and rest here," he added,
turning to me. "You are crushed by the avalanche of ideas that have rolled
down upon you. What sort of future will this universal education bring
upon us unless we prevent its evils by replacing public education in the
hands of the religious bodies?"
These words were in harmony with a speech he afterwards made at
the elections when he refused his support to a man whose gifts would
have done good service to the royalist cause. "I shall always distrust men
of talent," he said.
Presently the count proposed that we should make the tour of the
gardens.
"Monsieur--" said his wife.
"Well, what, my dear?" he said, turning to her with an arrogant
harshness which showed plainly enough how absolute he chose to be in
his own home.
"Monsieur de Vandenesse walked from Tours this morning and
Monsieur de Chessel, not aware of it, has already taken him on foot over
Frapesle."
"Very imprudent of you," the count said, turning to me; "but at your
age--" and he shook his head in sign of regret.
The conversation was resumed. I soon saw how intractable his
royalism was, and how much care was needed to swim safely in his


waters. The man-servant, who had now put on his livery, announced
dinner. Monsieur de Chessel gave his arm to Madame de Mortsauf, and
the count gaily seized mine to lead me into the dining-room, which was
on the ground- floor facing the salon.
This room, floored with white tiles made in Touraine, and
wainscoted to the height of three feet, was hung with a varnished paper
divided into wide panels by wreaths of flowers and fruit; the windows
had cambric curtains trimmed with red, the buffets were old pieces by
Boulle himself, and the woodwork of the chairs, which were covered by
hand-made tapestry, was carved oak. The dinner, plentifully supplied, was
not luxurious; family silver without uniformity, Dresden china which was
not then in fashion, octagonal decanters, knives with agate handles, and
lacquered trays beneath the wine-bottles, were the chief features of the
table, but flowers adorned the porcelain vases and overhung the gilding of
their fluted edges. I delighted in these quaint old things. I thought the
Reveillon paper with its flowery garlands beautiful. The sweet content
that filled my sails hindered me from perceiving the obstacles which a life
so uniform, so unvarying in solitude of the country placed between her
and me. I was near her, sitting at her right hand, serving her with wine.
Yes, unhoped-for joy! I touched her dress, I ate her bread. At the end of
three hours my life had mingled with her life! That terrible kiss had
bound us to each other in a secret which inspired us with mutual shame. A


glorious self-abasement took possession of me. I studied to please the
count, I fondled the dogs, I would gladly have gratified every desire of
the children, I would have brought them hoops and marbles and played
horse with them; I was even provoked that they did not already fasten
upon me as a thing of their own. Love has intuitions like those of genius;
and I dimly perceived that gloom, discontent, hostility would destroy my
footing in that household.
  The dinner passed with inward happiness on my part. Feeling that I
was there, under her roof, I gave no heed to her obvious coldness, nor to
the count's indifference masked by his politeness. Love, like life, has an
adolescence during which period it suffices unto itself. I made several
stupid replies induced by the tumults of passion, but no one perceived
their cause, not even SHE, who knew nothing of love. The rest of my
visit was a dream, a dream which did not cease until by moonlight on that
warm and balmy night I recrossed the Indre, watching the white visions
that embellished meadows, shores, and hills, and listening to the clear
song, the matchless note, full of deep melancholy and uttered only in still
weather, of a tree-frog whose scientific name is unknown to me. Since
that solemn evening I have never heard it without infinite delight. A sense
came to me then of the marble wall against which my feelings had
hitherto dashed themselves. Would it be always so? I fancied myself
under some fatal spell; the unhappy events of my past life rose up and


struggled with the purely personal pleasure I had just enjoyed. Before
reaching Frapesle I turned to look at Clochegourde and saw beneath its
windows a little boat, called in Touraine a punt, fastened to an ash-tree
and swaying on the water. This punt belonged to Monsieur de Mortsauf,
who used it for fishing.
"Well," said Monsieur de Chessel, when we were out of ear-shot. "I
needn't ask if you found those shoulders; I must, however, congratulate
you on the reception Monsieur de Mortsauf gave you. The devil! you
stepped into his heart at once."
These words followed by those I have already quoted to you raised
my spirits. I had not as yet said a word, and Monsieur de Chessel may
have attributed my silence to happiness.
"How do you mean?" I asked.
"He never, to my knowledge, received any one so well."
"I will admit that I am rather surprised myself," I said, conscious of
a certain bitterness underlying my companion's speech.
Though I was too inexpert in social matters to understand its cause, I
was much struck by the feeling Monsieur de Chessel betrayed. His real
name was Durand, but he had had the weakness to discard the name of a
worthy father, a merchant who had made a large fortune under the
Revolution. His wife was sole heiress of the Chessels, an old
parliamentary family under Henry IV., belonging to the middle classes, as


did most of the Parisian magistrates. Ambitious of higher flights
Monsieur de Chessel endeavored to smother the original Durand. He first
called himself Durand de Chessel, then D. de Chessel, and that made him
Monsieur de Chessel. Under the Restoration he entailed an estate with the
title of count in virtue of letters-patent from Louis XVIII. His children
reaped the fruits of his audacity without knowing what it cost him in
sarcastic comments. Parvenus are like monkeys, whose cleverness they
possess; we watch them climbing, we admire their agility, but once at the
summit we see only their absurd and contemptible parts. The reverse side
of my host's character was made up of pettiness with the addition of envy.
The peerage and he were on diverging lines. To have an ambition and
gratify it shows merely the insolence of strength, but to live below one's
avowed ambition is a constant source of ridicule to petty minds. Monsieur
de Chessel did not advance with the straightforward step of a strong man.
Twice elected deputy, twice defeated; yesterday director-general, to-day
nothing at all, not even prefect, his successes and his defeats had injured
his nature, and given him the sourness of invalided ambition. Though a
brave man and a witty one and capable of great things, envy, which is the
root of existence in Touraine, the inhabitants of which employ their native
genius in jealousy of all things, injured him in upper social circles, where
a dissatisfied man, frowning at the success of others, slow at compliments
and ready at epigram, seldom succeeds. Had he sought less he might


perhaps have obtained more; but unhappily he had enough genuine
superiority to make him wish to advance in his own way.
At this particular time Monsieur de Chessel's ambition had a second
dawn. Royalty smiled upon him, and he was now affecting the grand
manner. Still he was, I must say, most kind to me, and he pleased me for
the very simple reason that with him I had found peace and rest for the
first time. The interest, possibly very slight, which he showed in my
affairs, seemed to me, lonely and rejected as I was, an image of paternal
love. His hospitable care contrasted so strongly with the neglect to which
I was accustomed, that I felt a childlike gratitude to the home where no
fetters bound me and where I was welcomed and even courted.
The owners of Frapesle are so associated with the dawn of my life's
happiness that I mingle them in all those memories I love to revive. Later,
and more especially in connection with his letters-patent, I had the
pleasure of doing my host some service. Monsieur de Chessel enjoyed his
wealth with an ostentation that gave umbrage to certain of his neighbors.
He was able to vary and renew his fine horses and elegant equipages; his
wife dressed exquisitely; he received on a grand scale; his servants were
more numerous than his neighbors approved; for all of which he was said
to be aping princes. The Frapesle estate is immense. Before such luxury
as this the Comte de Mortsauf, with one family cariole,--which in
Touraine is something between a coach without springs and a


post-chaise,--forced by limited means to let or farm Clochegourde, was
Tourangean up to the time when royal favor restored the family to a
distinction possibly unlooked for. His greeting to me, the younger son of
a ruined family whose escutcheon dated back to the Crusades, was
intended to show contempt for the large fortune and to belittle the
possessions, the woods, the arable lands, the meadows, of a neighbor who
was not of noble birth. Monsieur de Chessel fully understood this. They
always met politely; but there was none of that daily intercourse or that
agreeable intimacy which ought to have existed between Clochegourde
and Frapesle, two estates separated only by the Indre, and whose
mistresses could have beckoned to each other from their windows.
Jealousy, however, was not the sole reason for the solitude in which the
Count de Mortsauf lived. His early education was that of the children of
great families,--an incomplete and superficial instruction as to knowledge,
but supplemented by the training of society, the habits of a court life, and
the exercise of important duties under the crown or in eminent offices.
Monsieur de Mortsauf had emigrated at the very moment when the
second stage of his education was about to begin, and accordingly that
training was lacking to him. He was one of those who believed in the
immediate restoration of the monarchy; with that conviction in his mind,
his exile was a long and miserable period of idleness. When the army of
Conde, which his courage led him to join with the utmost devotion, was


disbanded, he expected to find some other post under the white flag, and
never sought, like other emigrants, to take up an industry. Perhaps he had
not the sort of courage that could lay aside his name and earn his living in
the sweat of a toil he despised. His hopes, daily postponed to the morrow,
and possibly a scruple of honor, kept him from offering his services to
foreign powers. Trials undermined his courage. Long tramps afoot on
insufficient nourishment, and above all, on hopes betrayed, injured his
health and discouraged his mind. By degrees he became utterly destitute.
If to some men misery is a tonic, on others it acts as a dissolvent; and the
count was of the latter.
  Reflecting on the life of this poor Touraine gentleman, tramping and
sleeping along the highroads of Hungary, sharing the mutton of Prince
Esterhazy's shepherds, from whom the foot-worn traveller begged the
food he would not, as a gentleman, have accepted at the table of the
master, and refusing again and again to do service to the enemies of
France, I never found it in my heart to feel bitterness against him, even
when I saw him at his worst in after days. The natural gaiety of a
Frenchman and a Tourangean soon deserted him; he became morose, fell
ill, and was charitably cared for in some German hospital. His disease
was an inflammation of the mesenteric membrane, which is often fatal,
and is liable, even if cured, to change the constitution and produce
hypochondria. His love affairs, carefully buried out of sight and which I


alone discovered, were low-lived, and not only destroyed his health but
ruined his future.
After twelve years of great misery he made his way to France, under
the decree of the Emperor which permitted the return of the emigrants. As
the wretched wayfarer crossed the Rhine and saw the tower of Strasburg
against the evening sky, his strength gave way. "'France! France!' I cried.
'I see France!'" (he said to me) "as a child cries 'Mother!' when it is hurt."
Born to wealth, he was now poor; made to command a regiment or
govern a province, he was now without authority and without a future;
constitutionally healthy and robust, he returned infirm and utterly worn
out. Without enough education to take part among men and affairs, now
broadened and enlarged by the march of events, necessarily without
influence of any kind, he lived despoiled of everything, of his moral
strength as well as his physical. Want of money made his name a burden.
His unalterable opinions, his antecedents with the army of Conde, his
trials, his recollections, his wasted health, gave him susceptibilities which
are but little spared in France, that land of jest and sarcasm. Half dead he
reached Maine, where, by some accident of the civil war, the
revolutionary government had forgotten to sell one of his farms of
considerable extent, which his farmer had held for him by giving out that
he himself was the owner of it.
When the Lenoncourt family, living at Givry, an estate not far from


this farm, heard of the arrival of the Comte de Mortsauf, the Duc de
Lenoncourt invited him to stay at Givry while a house was being prepared
for him. The Lenoncourt family were nobly generous to him, and with
them he remained some months, struggling to hide his sufferings during
that first period of rest. The Lenoncourts had themselves lost an immense
property. By birth Monsieur de Mortsauf was a suitable husband for their
daughter. Mademoiselle de Lenoncourt, instead of rejecting a marriage
with a feeble and worn-out man of thirty-five, seemed satisfied to accept
it. It gave her the opportunity of living with her aunt, the Duchesse de
Verneuil, sister of the Prince de Blamont-Chauvry, who was like a mother
to her. Madame de Verneuil, the intimate friend of the Duchesse de
Bourbon, was a member of the devout society of which Monsieur
Saint-Martin (born in Touraine and called the Philosopher of Mystery)
was the soul. The disciples of this philosopher practised the virtues taught
them by the lofty doctrines of mystical illumination. These doctrines hold
the key to worlds divine; they explain existence by reincarnations through
which the human spirit rises to its sublime destiny; they liberate duty
from its legal degradation, enable the soul to meet the trials of life with
the unalterable serenity of the Quaker, ordain contempt for the sufferings
of this life, and inspire a fostering care of that angel within us who allies
us to the divine. It is stoicism with an immortal future. Active prayer and
pure love are the elements of this faith, which is born of the Roman


Church but returns to the Christianity of the primitive faith.
Mademoiselle de Lenoncourt remained, however, in the Catholic
communion, to which her aunt was equally bound. Cruelly tried by
revolutionary horrors, the Duchesse de Verneuil acquired in the last years
of her life a halo of passionate piety, which, to use the phraseology of
Saint-Martin, shed the light of celestial love and the chrism of inward joy
upon the soul of her cherished niece.
After the death of her aunt, Madame de Mortsauf received several
visits at Clochegourde from Saint-Martin, a man of peace and of virtuous
wisdom. It was at Clochegourde that he corrected his last books, printed
at Tours by Letourmy. Madame de Verneuil, wise with the wisdom of an
old woman who has known the stormy straits of life, gave Clochegourde
to the young wife for her married home; and with the grace of old age, so
perfect where it exists, the duchess yielded everything to her niece,
reserving for herself only one room above the one she had always
occupied, and which she now fitted up for the countess. Her sudden death
threw a gloom over the early days of the marriage, and connected
Clochegourde with ideas of sadness in the sensitive mind of the bride.
The first period of her settlement in Touraine was to Madame de
Mortsauf, I cannot say the happiest, but the least troubled of her life.
After the many trials of his exile, Monsieur de Mortsauf, taking
comfort in the thought of a secure future, had a certain recovery of mind;


he breathed anew in this sweet valley the intoxicating essence of revived
hope. Compelled to husband his means, he threw himself into agricultural
pursuits and began to find some happiness in life. But the birth of his first
child, Jacques, was a thunderbolt which ruined both the past and the
future. The doctor declared the child had not vitality enough to live. The
count concealed this sentence from the mother; but he sought other
advice, and received the same fatal answer, the truth of which was
confirmed at the subsequent birth of Madeleine. These events and a
certain inward consciousness of the cause of this disaster increased the
diseased tendencies of the man himself. His name doomed to extinction, a
pure and irreproachable young woman made miserable beside him and
doomed to the anguish of maternity without its joys--this uprising of his
former into his present life, with its growth of new sufferings, crushed his
spirit and completed its destruction.
The countess guessed the past from the present, and read the future.
Though nothing is so difficult as to make a man happy when he knows
himself to blame, she set herself to that task, which is worthy of an angel.
She became stoical. Descending into an abyss, whence she still could see
the sky, she devoted herself to the care of one man as the sister of charity
devotes herself to many. To reconcile him with himself, she forgave him
that for which he had no forgiveness. The count grew miserly; she
accepted the privations he imposed. Like all who have known the world


only to acquire its suspiciousness, he feared betrayal; she lived in solitude
and yielded without a murmur to his mistrust. With a woman's tact she
made him will to do that which was right, till he fancied the ideas were
his own, and thus enjoyed in his own person the honors of a superiority
that was never his. After due experience of married life, she came to the
resolution of never leaving Clochegourde; for she saw the hysterical
tendencies of the count's nature, and feared the outbreaks which might be
talked of in that gossipping and jealous neighborhood to the injury of her
children. Thus, thanks to her, no one suspected Monsieur de Mortsauf's
real incapacity, for she wrapped his ruins in a mantle of ivy. The fickle,
not merely discontented but embittered nature of the man found rest and
ease in his wife; his secret anguish was lessened by the balm she shed
upon it.
This brief history is in part a summary of that forced from Monsieur
de Chessel by his inward vexation. His knowledge of the world enabled
him to penetrate several of the mysteries of Clochegourde. But the
prescience of love could not be misled by the sublime attitude with which
Madame de Mortsauf deceived the world. When alone in my little
bedroom, a sense of the full truth made me spring from my bed; I could
not bear to stay at Frapesle when I saw the lighted windows of
Clochegourde. I dressed, went softly down, and left the chateau by the
door of a tower at the foot of a winding stairway. The coolness of the


night calmed me. I crossed the Indre by the bridge at the Red Mill, took
the ever-blessed punt, and rowed in front of Clochegourde, where a
brilliant light was streaming from a window looking towards Azay. Again
I plunged into my old meditations; but they were now peaceful,
intermingled with the love-note of the nightingale and the solitary cry of
the sedge-warbler. Ideas glided like fairies through my mind, lifting the
black veil which had hidden till then the glorious future. Soul and senses
were alike charmed. With what passion my thoughts rose to her! Again
and again I cried, with the repetition of a madman, "Will she be mine?"
During the preceding days the universe had enlarged to me, but now in a
single night I found its centre. On her my will and my ambition
henceforth fastened; I desired to be all in all to her, that I might heal and
fill her lacerated heart. Beautiful was that night beneath her windows,
amid the murmur of waters rippling through the sluices, broken only by a
voice that told the hours from the clock-tower of Sache. During those
hours of darkness bathed in light, when this sidereal flower illumined my
existence, I betrothed to her my soul with the faith of the poor Castilian
knight whom we laugh at in the pages of Cervantes,--a faith, nevertheless,
with which all love begins.
  At the first gleam of day, the first note of the waking birds, I fled
back among the trees of Frapesle and reached the house; no one had seen
me, no one suspected by absence, and I slept soundly until the bell rang


for breakfast. When the meal was over I went down, in spite of the heat,
to the meadow-lands for another sight of the Indre and its isles, the valley
and its slopes, of which I seemed so passionate an admirer. But once there,
thanks to a swiftness of foot like that of a loose horse, I returned to my
punt, the willows, and Clochegourde. All was silent and palpitating, as a
landscape is at midday in summer. The still foliage lay sharply defined on
the blue of the sky; the insects that live by light, the dragon-flies, the
cantharides, were flying among the reeds and the ash-trees; cattle chewed
the cud in the shade, the ruddy earth of the vineyards glowed, the adders
glided up and down the banks. What a change in the sparkling and
coquettish landscape while I slept! I sprang suddenly from the boat and
ran up the road which went round Clochegourde for I fancied that I saw
the count coming out. I was not mistaken; he was walking beside the
hedge, evidently making for a gate on the road to Azay which followed
the bank of the river.
"How are you this morning, Monsieur le comte?"
He looked at me pleasantly, not being used to hear himself thus
addressed.
"Quite well," he answered. "You must love the country, to be
rambling about in this heat!"
"I was sent here to live in the open air."
"Then what do you say to coming with me to see them cut my rye?"


"Gladly," I replied. "I'll own to you that my ignorance is past belief;
I don't know rye from wheat, nor a poplar from an aspen; I know nothing
of farming, nor of the various methods of cultivating the soil."
"Well, come and learn," he cried gaily, returning upon his steps.
"Come in by the little gate above."
The count walked back along the hedge, he being within it and I
without.
"You will learn nothing from Monsieur de Chessel," he remarked;
"he is altogether too fine a gentleman to do more than receive the reports
of his bailiff."
The count then showed me his yards and the farm buildings, the
pleasure-grounds, orchards, vineyards, and kitchen garden, until we
finally came to the long alley of acacias and ailanthus beside the river, at
the end of which I saw Madame de Mortsauf sitting on a bench, with her
children. A woman is very lovely under the light and quivering shade of
such foliage. Surprised, perhaps, at my prompt visit, she did not move,
knowing very well that we should go to her. The count made me admire
the view of the valley, which at this point is totally different from that
seen from the heights above. Here I might have thought myself in a
corner of Switzerland. The meadows, furrowed with little brooks which
flow into the Indre, can be seen to their full extent till lost in the misty
distance. Towards Montbazon the eye ranges over a vast green plain; in


all other directions it is stopped by hills, by masses of trees, and rocks.
We quickened our steps as we approached Madame de Mortsauf, who
suddenly dropped the book in which Madeleine was reading to her and
took Jacques upon her knees, in the paroxysms of a violent cough.
"What's the matter?" cried the count, turning livid.
"A sore throat," answered the mother, who seemed not to see me;
"but it is nothing serious."
She was holding the child by the head and body, and her eyes
seemed to shed two rays of life into the poor frail creature.
"You are so extraordinarily imprudent," said the count, sharply; "you
expose him to the river damps and let him sit on a stone bench."
"Why, papa, the stone is burning hot," cried Madeleine.
"They were suffocating higher up," said the countess.
"Women always want to prove they are right," said the count,
turning to me.
To avoid agreeing or disagreeing with him by word or look I
watched Jacques, who complained of his throat. His mother carried him
away, but as she did so she heard her husband say:--
"When they have brought such sickly children into the world they
ought to learn how to take care of them."
Words that were cruelly unjust; but his self-love drove him to defend
himself at the expense of his wife. The countess hurried up the steps and


across the portico, and I saw her disappear through the glass door.
Monsieur de Mortsauf seated himself on the bench, his head bowed in
gloomy silence. My position became annoying; he neither spoke nor
looked at me. Farewell to the walk he had proposed, in the course of
which I had hoped to fathom him. I hardly remember a more unpleasant
moment. Ought I to go away, or should I not go? How many painful
thoughts must have arisen in his mind, to make him forget to follow
Jacques and learn how he was! At last however he rose abruptly and came
towards me. We both turned and looked at the smiling valley. "We will
put off our walk to another day, Monsieur le comte," I said gently.
"No, let us go," he replied. "Unfortunately, I am accustomed to such
scenes--I, who would give my life without the slightest regret to save that
of the child."
"Jacques is better, my dear; he has gone to sleep," said a golden
voice. Madame de Mortsauf suddenly appeared at the end of the path. She
came forward, without bitterness or ill-will, and bowed to me. "I am glad
to see that you like Clochegourde," she said.
"My dear, should you like me to ride over and fetch Monsieur
Deslandes?" said the count, as if wishing her to forgive his injustice.
"Don't be worried," she said. "Jacques did not sleep last night, that's
all. The child is very nervous; he had a bad dream, and I told him stories
all night to keep him quiet. His cough is purely nervous; I have stilled it


with a lozenge, and he has gone to sleep."
"Poor woman!" said her husband, taking her hand in his and giving
her a tearful look, "I knew nothing of it."
"Why should you be troubled when there is no occasion?" she
replied. "Now go and attend to the rye. You know if you are not there the
men will let the gleaners of the other villages get into the field before the
sheaves are carried away."
"I am going to take a first lesson in agriculture, madame," I said to
her.
"You have a very good master," she replied, motioning towards the
count, whose mouth screwed itself into that smile of satisfaction which is
vulgarly termed a "bouche en coeur."
Two months later I learned she had passed that night in great anxiety,
fearing that her son had the croup; while I was in the boat, rocked by
thoughts of love, imagined that she might see me from her window
adoring the gleam of the candle which was then lighting a forehead
furrowed by fears! The croup prevailed at Tours, and was often fatal.
When we were outside the gate, the count said in a voice of emotion,
"Madame de Mortsauf is an angel!" The words staggered me. As yet I
knew but little of the family, and the natural conscience of a young soul
made me exclaim inwardly: "What right have I to trouble this perfect
peace?"


Glad to find a listener in a young man over whom he could lord it so
easily, the count talked to me of the future which the return of the
Bourbons would secure to France. We had a desultory conversation, in
which I listened to much childish nonsense which positively amazed me.
He was ignorant of facts susceptible of proof that might be called
geometric; he feared persons of education; he rejected superiority, and
scoffed, perhaps with some reason, at progress. I discovered in his nature
a number of sensitive fibres which it required the utmost caution not to
wound; so that a conversation with him of any length was a positive
strain upon the mind. When I had, as it were, felt of his defects, I
conformed to them with the same suppleness that his wife showed in
soothing him. Later in life I should certainly have made him angry, but
now, humble as a child, supposing that I knew nothing and believing that
men in their prime knew all, I was genuinely amazed at the results
obtained at Clochegourde by this patient agriculturist. I listened
admiringly to his plans; and with an involuntary flattery which won his
good-will, I envied him the estate and its outlook--a terrestrial paradise, I
called it, far superior to Frapesle.
"Frapesle," I said, "is a massive piece of plate, but Clochegourde is a
jewel-case of gems,"--a speech which he often quoted, giving credit to its
author.
"Before we came here," he said, "it was desolation itself."


I was all ears when he told of his seed-fields and nurseries. New to
country life, I besieged him with questions about prices, means of
preparing and working the soil, etc., and he seemed glad to answer all in
detail.
"What in the world do they teach you in your colleges?" he
exclaimed at last in astonishment.
On this first day the count said to his wife when he reached home,
"Monsieur Felix is a charming young man."
That evening I wrote to my mother and asked her to send my clothes
and linen, saying that I should remain at Frapesle. Ignorant of the great
revolution which was just taking place, and not perceiving the influence it
was to have upon my fate, I expected to return to Paris to resume my
legal studies. The Law School did not open till the first week in
November; meantime I had two months and a half before me. The first
part of my stay, while I studied to understand the count, was a period of
painful impressions to me. I found him a man of extreme irascibility
without adequate cause; hasty in action in hazardous cases to a degree
that alarmed me. Sometimes he showed glimpses of the brave gentleman
of Conde's army, parabolic flashes of will such as may, in times of
emergency, tear through politics like bomb-shells, and may also, by virtue
of honesty and courage, make a man condemned to live buried on his
property an Elbee, a Bonchamp, or a Charette. In presence of certain


ideas his nostril contracted, his forehead cleared, and his eyes shot
lightnings, which were soon quenched. Sometimes I feared he might
detect the language of my eyes and kill me. I was young then and merely
tender. Will, that force that alters men so strangely, had scarcely dawned
within me. My passionate desires shook me with an emotion that was like
the throes of fear. Death I feared not, but I would not die until I knew the
happiness of mutual love--But how tell of what I felt! I was a prey to
perplexity; I hoped for some fortunate chance; I watched; I made the
children love me; I tried to identify myself with the family.
Little by little the count restrained himself less in my presence. I
came to know his sudden outbreaks of temper, his deep and ceaseless
melancholy, his flashes of brutality, his bitter, cutting complaints, his cold
hatreds, his impulses of latent madness, his childish moans, his cries of a
man's despair, his unexpected fury. The moral nature differs from the
physical nature inasmuch as nothing is absolute in it. The force of effects
is in direct proportion to the characters or the ideas which are grouped
around some fact. My position at Clochegourde, my future life, depended
on this one eccentric will. I cannot describe to you the distress that filled
my soul (as quick in those days to expand as to contract), whenever I
entered Clochegourde, and asked myself, "How will he receive me?"
With what anxiety of heart I saw the clouds collecting on that stormy
brow. I lived in a perpetual "qui-vive." I fell under the dominion of that


man; and the sufferings I endured taught me to understand those of
Madame de Mortsauf. We began by exchanging looks of comprehension;
tried by the same fire, how many discoveries I made during those first
forty days! --of actual bitterness, of tacit joys, of hopes alternately
submerged and buoyant. One evening I found her pensively watching a
sunset which reddened the summits with so ravishing a glow that it was
impossible not to listen to that voice of the eternal Song of Songs by
which Nature herself bids all her creatures love. Did the lost illusions of
her girlhood return to her? Did the woman suffer from an inward
comparison? I fancied I perceived a desolation in her attitude that was
favorable to my first appeal, and I said, "Some days are hard to bear."
  "You read my soul," she answered; "but how have you done so?"
  "We touch at many points," I replied. "Surely we belong to the small
number of human beings born to the highest joys and the deepest sorrows;
whose feeling qualities vibrate in unison and echo each other inwardly;
whose sensitive natures are in harmony with the principle of things. Put
such beings among surroundings where all is discord and they suffer
horribly, just as their happiness mounts to exaltation when they meet
ideas, or feelings, or other beings who are congenial to them. But there is
still a third condition, where sorrows are known only to souls affected by
the same distress; in this alone is the highest fraternal comprehension. It
may happen that such souls find no outlet either for good or evil. Then


the organ within us endowed with expression and motion is exercised in a
void, expends its passion without an object, utters sounds without melody,
and cries that are lost in solitude,--terrible defeat of a soul which revolts
against the inutility of nothingness. These are struggles in which our
strength oozes away without restraint, as blood from an inward wound.
The sensibilities flow to waste and the result is a horrible weakening of
the soul; an indescribable melancholy for which the confessional itself
has no ears. Have I not expressed our mutual sufferings?" She shuddered,
and then without removing her eyes from the setting sun, she said, "How
is it that, young as you are, you know these things? Were you once a
woman?"
"Ah!" I replied, "my childhood was like a long illness--"
"I hear Madeleine coughing," she cried, leaving me abruptly.
The countess showed no displeasure at my constant visits, and for
two reasons. In the first place she was pure as a child, and her thoughts
wandered into no forbidden regions; in the next I amused the count and
made a sop for that lion without claws or mane. I found an excuse for my
visits which seemed plausible to every one. Monsieur de Mortsauf
proposed to teach me backgammon, and I accepted; as I did so the
countess was betrayed into a look of compassion, which seemed to say,
"You are flinging yourself into the jaws of the lion." If I did not
understand this at the time, three days had not passed before I knew what


I had undertaken. My patience, which nothing exhausts, the fruit of my
miserable childhood, ripened under this last trial. The count was delighted
when he could jeer at me for not putting in practice the principles or the
rules he had explained; if I reflected before I played he complained of my
slowness; if I played fast he was angry because I hurried him; if I forgot
to mark my points he declared, making his profit out of the mistake, that I
was always too rapid. It was like the tyranny of a schoolmaster, the
despotism of the rod, of which I can really give you no idea unless I
compare myself to Epictetus under the yoke of a malicious child. When
we played for money his winnings gave him the meanest and most abject
delight. A word from his wife was enough to console me, and it
frequently recalled him to a sense of politeness and good-breeding. But
before long I fell into the furnace of an unexpected misery. My money
was disappearing under these losses. Though the count was always
present during my visits until I left the house, which was sometimes very
late, I cherished the hope of finding some moment when I might say a
word that would reach my idol's heart; but to obtain that moment, for
which I watched and waited with a hunter's painful patience, I was forced
to continue these weary games, during which my feelings were lacerated
and my money lost. Still, there were moments when we were silent, she
and I, looking at the sunlight on the meadows, the clouds in a gray sky,
the misty hills, or the quivering of the moon on the sandbanks of the river;


saying only, "Night is beautiful!"
"Night is woman, madame."
"What tranquillity!"
"Yes, no one can be absolutely wretched here."
Then she would return to her embroidery frame. I came at last to
hear the inward beatings of an affection which sought its object. But the
fact remained--without money, farewell to these evenings. I wrote to my
mother to send me some. She scolded me and sent only enough to last a
week. Where could I get more? My life depended on it. Thus it happened
that in the dawn of my first great happiness I found the same sufferings
that assailed me elsewhere; but in Paris, at college, at school I evaded
them by abstinence; there my privations were negative, at Frapesle they
were active; so active that I was possessed by the impulse to theft, by
visions of crime, furious desperations which rend the soul and must be
subdued under pain of losing our self-respect. The memory of what I
suffered through my mother's parsimony taught me that indulgence for
young men which one who has stood upon the brink of the abyss and
measured its depths, without falling into them, must inevitably feel.
Though my own rectitude was strengthened by those moments when life
opened and let me see the rocks and quicksands beneath the surface, I
have never known that terrible thing called human justice draw its blade
through the throat of a criminal without saying to myself: "Penal laws are


made by men who have never known misery."
At this crisis I happened to find a treatise on backgammon in
Monsieur de Chessel's library, and I studied it. My host was kind enough
to give me a few lessons; less harshly taught by the count I made good
progress and applied the rules and calculations I knew by heart. Within a
few days I was able to beat Monsieur de Mortsauf; but no sooner had I
done so and won his money for the first time than his temper became
intolerable; his eyes glittered like those of tigers, his face shrivelled, his
brows knit as I never saw brows knit before or since. His complainings
were those of a fretful child. Sometimes he flung down the dice, quivered
with rage, bit the dice-box, and said insulting things to me. Such violence,
however, came to an end. When I had acquired enough mastery of the
game I played it to suit me; I so managed that we were nearly equal up to
the last moment; I allowed him to win the first half and made matters
even during the last half. The end of the world would have surprised him
less than the rapid superiority of his pupil; but he never admitted it. The
unvarying result of our games was a topic of discourse on which he
fastened. "My poor head," he would say, "is fatigued; you manage to win
the last of the game because by that time I lose my skill."
The countess, who knew backgammon, understood my manoeuvres
from the first, and gave me those mute thanks which swell the heart of a
young man; she granted me the same look she gave to her children. From


that ever-blessed evening she always looked at me when she spoke. I
cannot explain to you the condition I was in when I left her. My soul had
annihilated my body; it weighed nothing; I did not walk, I flew. That look
I carried within me; it bathed me with light just as her last words, "Adieu,
monsieur," still sounded in my soul with the harmonies of "O filii, o
filioe" in the paschal choir. I was born into a new life, I was something to
her! I slept on purple and fine linen. Flames darted before my closed
eyelids, chasing each other in the darkness like threads of fire in the ashes
of burned paper. In my dreams her voice became, though I cannot
describe it, palpable, an atmosphere of light and fragrance wrapping me, a
melody enfolding my spirit. On the morrow her greeting expressed the
fulness of feelings that remained unuttered, and from that moment I was
initiated into the secrets of her voice.
That day was to be one of the most decisive of my life. After dinner
we walked on the heights across a barren plain where no herbage grew;
the ground was stony, arid, and without vegetable soil of any kind;
nevertheless a few scrub oaks and thorny bushes straggled there, and in
place of grass, a carpet of crimped mosses, illuminated by the setting sun
and so dry that our feet slipped upon it. I held Madeleine by the hand to
keep her up. Madame de Mortsauf was leading Jacques. The count, who
was in front, suddenly turned round and striking the earth with his cane
said to me in a dreadful tone: "Such is my life!-- but before I knew you,"


he added with a look of penitence at his wife. The reparation was tardy,
for the countess had turned pale; what woman would not have staggered
as she did under the blow?
"But what delightful scenes are wafted here, and what a view of the
sunset!" I cried. "For my part I should like to own this barren moor; I
fancy there may be treasures if we dig for them. But its greatest wealth is
that of being near you. Who would not pay a great cost for such a
view?--all harmony to the eye, with that winding river where the soul
may bathe among the ash-trees and the alders. See the difference of taste!
To you this spot of earth is a barren waste; to me, it is paradise."
She thanked me with a look.
"Bucolics!" exclaimed the count, with a bitter look. "This is no life
for a man who bears your name." Then he suddenly changed his tone--
"The bells!" he cried, "don't you hear the bells of Azay? I hear them
ringing."
Madame de Mortsauf gave me a frightened look. Madeleine clung to
my hand.
"Suppose we play a game of backgammon?" I said. "Let us go back;
the rattle of the dice will drown the sound of the bells."
We returned to Clochegourde, conversing by fits and starts. Once in
the salon an indefinable uncertainty and dread took possession of us. The
count flung himself into an armchair, absorbed in reverie, which his wife,


who knew the symptoms of his malady and could foresee an outbreak,
was careful not to interrupt. I also kept silence. As she gave me no hint to
leave, perhaps she thought backgammon might divert the count's mind
and quiet those fatal nervous susceptibilities, the excitements of which
were killing him. Nothing was ever harder than to make him play that
game, which, however, he had a great desire to play. Like a pretty woman,
he always required to be coaxed, entreated, forced, so that he might not
seem the obliged person. If by chance, being interested in the
conversation, I forgot to propose it, he grew sulky, bitter, insulting, and
spoiled the talk by contradicting everything. If, warned by his ill-humor, I
suggested a game, he would dally and demur. "In the first place, it is too
late," he would say; "besides, I don't care for it." Then followed a series
of affectations like those of women, which often leave you in ignorance
of their real wishes.
On this occasion I pretended a wild gaiety to induce him to play. He
complained of giddiness which hindered him from calculating; his brain,
he said, was squeezed into a vice; he heard noises, he was choking; and
thereupon he sighed heavily. At last, however, he consented to the game.
Madame de Mortsauf left us to put the children to bed and lead the
household in family prayers. All went well during her absence; I allowed
Monsieur de Mortsauf to win, and his delight seemed to put him beside
himself. This sudden change from a gloom that led him to make the


darkest predictions to the wild joy of a drunken man, expressed in a crazy
laugh and without any adequate motive, distressed and alarmed me. I had
never seen him in quite so marked a paroxysm. Our intimacy had borne
fruits in the fact that he no longer restrained himself before me. Day by
day he had endeavored to bring me under his tyranny, and obtain fresh
food, as it were, for his evil temper; for it really seems as though moral
diseases were creatures with appetites and instincts, seeking to enlarge
the boundaries of their empire as a landowner seeks to increase his
domain.
  Presently the countess came down, and sat close to the backgammon
table, apparently for better light on her embroidery, though the anxiety
which led her to place her frame was ill-concealed. A piece of fatal
ill-luck which I could not prevent changed the count's face; from gaiety it
fell to gloom, from purple it became yellow, and his eyes rolled. Then
followed worse ill-luck, which I could neither avert nor repair. Monsieur
de Mortsauf made a fatal throw which decided the game. Instantly he
sprang up, flung the table at me and the lamp on the floor, struck the
chimney-piece with his fist and jumped, for I cannot say he walked, about
the room. The torrent of insults, imprecations, and incoherent words
which rushed from his lips would have made an observer think of the old
tales of satanic possession in the Middle Ages. Imagine my position!
  "Go into the garden," said the countess, pressing my hand.


I left the room before the count could notice my disappearance. On
the terrace, where I slowly walked about, I heard his shouts and then his
moans from the bedroom which adjoined the dining-room. Also I heard at
intervals through that tempest of sound the voice of an angel, which rose
like the song of a nightingale as the rain ceases. I walked about under the
acacias in the loveliest night of the month of August, waiting for the
countess to join me. I knew she would come; her gesture promised it. For
several days an explanation seemed to float between us; a word would
suffice to send it gushing from the spring, overfull, in our souls. What
timidity had thus far delayed a perfect understanding between us?
Perhaps she loved, as I did, these quiverings of the spirit which resembled
emotions of fear and numbed the sensibilities while we held our life
unuttered within us, hesitating to unveil its secrets with the modesty of
the young girl before the husband she loves. An hour passed. I was sitting
on the brick balustrade when the sound of her footsteps blending with the
undulating ripple of her flowing gown stirred the calm air of the night.
These are sensations to which the heart suffices not.
"Monsieur de Mortsauf is sleeping," she said. "When he is thus I
give him an infusion of poppies, a cup of water in which a few poppies
have been steeped; the attacks are so infrequent that this simple remedy
never loses its effect--Monsieur," she continued, changing her tone and
using the most persuasive inflexion of her voice, "this most unfortunate


accident has revealed to you a secret which has hitherto been sedulously
kept; promise me to bury the recollection of that scene. Do this for my
sake, I beg of you. I don't ask you to swear it; give me your word of
honor and I shall be content."
"Need I give it to you?" I said. "Do we not understand each other?"
"You must not judge unfavorably of Monsieur de Mortsauf; you see the
effects of his many sufferings under the emigration," she went on.
"To-morrow he will entirely forget all that he has said and done; you will
find him kind and excellent as ever."
"Do not seek to excuse him, madame," I replied. "I will do all you
wish. I would fling myself into the Indre at this moment if I could restore
Monsieur de Mortsauf's health and ensure you a happy life. The only
thing I cannot change is my opinion. I can give you my life, but not my
convictions; I can pay no heed to what he says, but can I hinder him from
saying it? No, in my opinion Monsieur de Mortsauf is--"
"I understand you," she said, hastily interrupting me; "you are right.
The count is as nervous as a fashionable woman," she added, as if to
conceal the idea of madness by softening the word. "But he is only so at
intervals, once a year, when the weather is very hot. Ah, what evils have
resulted from the emigration! How many fine lives ruined! He would
have been, I am sure of it, a great soldier, an honor to his country--"
"I know," I said, interrupting in my turn to let her see that it was


useless to attempt to deceive me.
She stopped, laid one hand lightly on my brow, and looked at me.
"Who has sent you here," she said, "into this home? Has God sent me
help, a true friendship to support me?" She paused, then added, as she
laid her hand firmly upon mine, "For you are good and generous--" She
raised her eyes to heaven, as if to invoke some invisible testimony to
confirm her thought, and then let them rest upon me. Electrified by the
look, which cast a soul into my soul, I was guilty, judging by social laws,
of a want of tact, though in certain natures such indelicacy really means a
brave desire to meet danger, to avert a blow, to arrest an evil before it
happens; oftener still, an abrupt call upon a heart, a blow given to learn if
it resounds in unison with ours. Many thoughts rose like gleams within
my mind and bade me wash out the stain that blotted my conscience at
this moment when I was seeking a complete understanding.
"Before we say more," I said in a voice shaken by the throbbings of
my heart, which could be heard in the deep silence that surrounded us,
"suffer me to purify one memory of the past."
"Hush!" she said quickly, touching my lips with a finger which she
instantly removed. She looked at me haughtily, with the glance of a
woman who knows herself too exalted for insult to reach her. "Be silent; I
know of what you are about to speak,--the first, the last, the only outrage
ever offered to me. Never speak to me of that ball. If as a Christian I have


forgiven you, as a woman I still suffer from your act."
"You are more pitiless than God himself," I said, forcing back the
tears that came into my eyes.
"I ought to be so, I am more feeble," she replied.
"But," I continued with the persistence of a child, "listen to me now
if only for the first, the last, the only time in your life."
"Speak, then," she said; "speak, or you will think I dare not hear
you."
Feeling that this was the turning moment of our lives, I spoke to her
in the tone that commands attention; I told her that all women whom I
had ever seen were nothing to me; but when I met her, I, whose life was
studious, whose nature was not bold, I had been, as it were, possessed by
a frenzy that no one who once felt it could condemn; that never heart of
man had been so filled with the passion which no being can resist, which
conquers all things, even death-
"And contempt?" she asked, stopping me.
"Did you despise me?" I exclaimed.
"Let us say no more on this subject," she replied.
"No, let me say all!" I replied, in the excitement of my intolerable
pain. "It concerns my life, my whole being, my inward self; it contains a
secret you must know or I must die in despair. It also concerns you, who,
unawares, are the lady in whose hand is the crown promised to the victor


in the tournament!"
Then I related to her my childhood and youth, not as I have told it to
you, judged from a distance, but in the language of a young man whose
wounds are still bleeding. My voice was like the axe of a woodsman in
the forest. At every word the dead years fell with echoing sound, bristling
with their anguish like branches robbed of their foliage. I described to her
in feverish language many cruel details which I have here spared you. I
spread before her the treasure of my radiant hopes, the virgin gold of my
desires, the whole of a burning heart kept alive beneath the snow of these
Alps, piled higher and higher by perpetual winter. When, bowed down by
the weight of these remembered sufferings, related as with the live coal of
Isaiah, I awaited the reply of the woman who listened with a bowed head,
she illumined the darkness with a look, she quickened the worlds
terrestrial and divine with a single sentence.
"We have had the same childhood!" she said, turning to me a face on
which the halo of the martyrs shone.
After a pause, in which our souls were wedded in the one consoling
thought, "I am not alone in suffering," the countess told me, in the voice
she kept for her little ones, how unwelcome she was as a girl when sons
were wanted. She showed me how her troubles as a daughter bound to her
mother's side differed from those of a boy cast out upon the world of
school and college life. My desolate neglect seemed to me a paradise


compared to that contact with a millstone under which her soul was
ground until the day when her good aunt, her true mother, had saved her
from this misery, the ever-recurring pain of which she now related to me;
misery caused sometimes by incessant faultfinding, always intolerable to
high-strung natures which do not shrink before death itself but die
beneath the sword of Damocles; sometimes by the crushing of generous
impulses beneath an icy hand, by the cold rebuffal of her kisses, by a
stern command of silence, first imposed and then as often blamed; by
inward tears that dared not flow but stayed within the heart; in short, by
all the bitterness and tyranny of convent rule, hidden to the eyes of the
world under the appearance of an exalted motherly devotion. She
gratified her mother's vanity before strangers, but she dearly paid in
private for this homage. When, believing that by obedience and
gentleness she had softened her mother's heart, she opened hers, the
tyrant only armed herself with the girl's confidence. No spy was ever
more traitorous and base. All the pleasures of girlhood, even her fete days,
were dearly purchased, for she was scolded for her gaiety as much as for
her faults. No teaching and no training for her position had been given in
love, always with sarcastic irony. She was not angry against her mother;
in fact she blamed herself for feeling more terror than love for her.
"Perhaps," she said, dear angel, "these severities were needful; they had
certainly prepared her for her present life." As I listened it seemed to me


that the harp of Job, from which I had drawn such savage sounds, now
touched by the Christian fingers gave forth the litanies of the Virgin at the
foot of the cross.
"We lived in the same sphere before we met in this," I said; "you
coming from the east, I from the west."
She shook her head with a gesture of despair.
"To you the east, to me the west," she replied. "You will live happy, I
must die of pain. Life is what we make of it, and mine is made forever.
No power can break the heavy chain to which a woman is fastened by this
ring of gold--the emblem of a wife's purity." We knew we were twins of
one womb; she never dreamed of a half- confidence between brothers of
the same blood. After a short sigh, natural to pure hearts when they first
open to each other, she told me of her first married life, her deceptions
and disillusions, the rebirth of her childhood's misery. Like me, she had
suffered under trifles; mighty to souls whose limpid substance quivers to
the least shock, as a lake quivers on the surface and to its utmost depths
when a stone is flung into it. When she married she possessed some
girlish savings; a little gold, the fruit of happy hours and repressed fancies.
These, in a moment when they were needed, she gave to her husband, not
telling him they were gifts and savings of her own. He took no account of
them, and never regarded himself her debtor. She did not even obtain the
glance of thanks that would have paid for all. Ah! how she went from trial


to trial! Monsieur de Mortsauf habitually neglected to give her money for
the household. When, after a struggle with her timidity, she asked him for
it, he seemed surprised and never once spared her the mortification of
petitioning for necessities. What terror filled her mind when the real
nature of the ruined man's disease was revealed to her, and she quailed
under the first outbreak of his mad anger! What bitter reflections she had
made before she brought herself to admit that her husband was a wreck!
What horrible calamities had come of her bearing children! What anguish
she felt at the sight of those infants born almost dead! With what courage
had she said in her heart: "I will breathe the breath of life into them; I will
bear them anew day by day!" Then conceive the bitterness of finding her
greatest obstacle in the heart and hand from which a wife should draw her
greatest succor! She saw the untold disaster that threatened him. As each
difficulty was conquered, new deserts opened before her, until the day
when she thoroughly understood her husband's condition, the constitution
of her children, and the character of the neighborhood in which she lived;
a day when (like the child taken by Napoleon from a tender home) she
taught her feet to trample through mud and snow, she trained her nerves
to bullets and all her being to the passive obedience of a soldier.
  These things, of which I here make a summary, she told me in all
their dark extent, with every piteous detail of conjugal battles lost and
fruitless struggles.


"You would have to live here many months," she said, in conclusion,
"to understand what difficulties I have met with in improving
Clochegourde; what persuasions I have had to use to make him do a thing
which was most important to his interests. You cannot imagine the
childish glee he has shown when anything that I advised was not at once
successful. All that turned out well he claimed for himself. Yes, I need an
infinite patience to bear his complaints when I am half- exhausted in the
effort to amuse his weary hours, to sweeten his life and smooth the paths
which he himself has strewn with stones. The reward he gives me is that
awful cry: 'Let me die, life is a burden to me!' When visitors are here and
he enjoys them, he forgets his gloom and is courteous and polite. You ask
me why he cannot be so to his family. I cannot explain that want of
loyalty in a man who is truly chivalrous. He is quite capable of riding at
full speed to Paris to buy me a set of ornaments, as he did the other day
before the ball. Miserly in his household, he would be lavish upon me if I
wished it. I would it were reversed; I need nothing for myself, but the
wants of the household are many. In my strong desire to make him happy,
and not reflecting that I might be a mother, I began my married life by
letting him treat me as a victim, I, who at that time by using a few
caresses could have led him like a child--but I was unable to play a part I
should have thought disgraceful. Now, however, the welfare of my family
requires me to be as calm and stern as the figure of Justice --and yet, I too


have a heart that overflows with tenderness."
  "But why," I said, "do you not use this great influence to master him
and govern him?"
  "If it concerned myself only I should not attempt either to overcome
the dogged silence with which for days together he meets my arguments,
nor to answer his irrational remarks, his childish reasons. I have no
courage against weakness, any more than I have against childhood; they
may strike me as they will, I cannot resist. Perhaps I might meet strength
with strength, but I am powerless against those I pity. If I were required to
coerce Madeleine in some matter that would save her life, I should die
with her. Pity relaxes all my fibres and unstrings my nerves. So it is that
the violent shocks of the last ten years have broken me down; my feelings,
so often battered, are numb at times; nothing can revive them; even the
courage with which I once faced my troubles begins to fail me. Yes,
sometimes I am beaten. For want of rest--I mean repose--and sea-baths by
which to recover my nervous strength, I shall perish. Monsieur de
Mortsauf will have killed me, and he will die of my death."
  "Why not leave Clochegourde for a few months? Surely you could
take your children and go to the seashore."
  "In the first place, Monsieur de Mortsauf would think he were lost if
I left him. Though he will not admit his condition he is well aware of it.
He is both sane and mad, two natures in one man, a contradiction which


explains many an irrational action. Besides this, he would have good
reason for objecting. Nothing would go right here if I were absent. You
may have seen in me the mother of a family watchful to protect her young
from the hawk that is hovering over them; a weighty task, indeed, but
harder still are the cares imposed upon me by Monsieur de Mortsauf,
whose constant cry, as he follows me about is, 'Where is Madame?' I am
Jacques' tutor and Madeleine's governess; but that is not all, I am bailiff
and steward too. You will understand what that means when you come to
see, as you will, that the working of an estate in these parts is the most
fatiguing of all employments. We get small returns in money; the farms
are cultivated on shares, a system which needs the closest supervision.
We are obliged ourselves to sell our own produce, our cattle and harvests
of all kinds. Our competitors in the markets are our own farmers, who
meet consumers in the wine-shops and determine prices by selling first. I
should weary you if I explained the many difficulties of agriculture in this
region. No matter what care I give to it, I cannot always prevent our
tenants from putting our manure upon their ground, I cannot be ever on
the watch lest they take advantage of us in the division of the crops;
neither can I always know the exact moment when sales should be made.
So, if you think of Monsieur de Mortsauf's defective memory, and the
difficulty you have seen me have in persuading him to attend to business,
you can understand the burden that is on my shoulders, and the


impossibility of my laying it down for a single day. If I were absent we
should be ruined. No one would obey Monsieur de Mortsauf. In the first
place his orders are conflicting; then no one likes him; he finds incessant
fault, and he is very domineering. Moreover, like all men of feeble mind,
he listens too readily to his inferiors. If I left the house not a servant
would be in it in a week's time. So you see I am attached to Clochegourde
as those leaden finals are to our roof. I have no reserves with you. The
whole country-side is still ignorant of the secrets of this house, but you
know them, you have seen them. Say nothing but what is kind and
friendly, and you shall have my esteem-- my gratitude," she added in a
softer voice. "On those terms you are welcome at Clochegourde, where
you will find friends."
"Ah!" I exclaimed, "I see that I have never really suffered, while
you--"
"No, no!" she exclaimed, with a smile, that smile of all resigned
women which might melt a granite rock. "Do not be astonished at my
frank confidence; it shows you life as it is, not as your imagination
pictures it. We all have our defects and our good qualities. If I had
married a spendthrift he would have ruined me. If I had given myself to
an ardent and pleasure-loving young man, perhaps I could not have
retained him; he might have left me, and I should have died of jealousy.
For I am jealous!" she said, in a tone of excitement, which was like the


thunderclap of a passing storm. "But Monsieur de Mortsauf loves me as
much as he is capable of loving; all that his heart contains of affection he
pours at my feet, like the Magdalen's cup of ointment. Believe me, a life
of love is an exception to the laws of this earth; all flowers fade; great
joys and emotions have a morrow of evil--if a morrow at all. Real life is a
life of anguish; its image is in that nettle growing there at the foot of the
wall,--no sun can reach it and it keeps green. Yet, here, as in parts of the
North, there are smiles in the sky, few to be sure, but they compensate for
many a grief. Moreover, women who are naturally mothers live and love
far more through sacrifices than through pleasures. Here I draw upon
myself the storms I fear may break upon my children or my people; and
in doing so I feel a something I cannot explain, which gives me secret
courage. The resignation of the night carries me through the day that
follows. God does not leave me comfortless. Time was when the
condition of my children filled me with despair; to-day as they advance in
life they grow healthier and stronger. And then, after all, our home is
improved and beautified, our means are improving also. Who knows but
Monsieur de Mortsauf's old age may be a blessing to me? Ah, believe me!
those who stand before the Great Judge with palms in their hands, leading
comforted to Him the beings who cursed their lives, they, they have
turned their sorrows into joy. If my sufferings bring about the happiness
of my family, are they sufferings at all?"


"Yes," I said, "they are; but they were necessary, as mine have been,
to make us understand the true flavor of the fruit that has ripened on our
rocks. Now, surely, we shall taste it together; surely we may admire its
wonders, the sweetness of affection it has poured into our souls, that
inward sap which revives the searing leaves--Good God! do you not
understand me?" I cried, falling into the mystical language to which our
religious training had accustomed us. "See the paths by which we have
approached each other; what magnet led us through that ocean of
bitterness to these springs of running water, flowing at the foot of those
hills above the shining sands and between their green and flowery
meadows? Have we not followed the same star? We stand before the
cradle of a divine child whose joyous carol will renew the world for us,
teach us through happiness a love of life, give to our nights their long-lost
sleep, and to the days their gladness. What hand is this that year by year
has tied new cords between us? Are we not more than brother and sister?
That which heaven has joined we must not keep asunder. The sufferings
you reveal are the seeds scattered by the sower for the harvest already
ripening in the sunshine. Shall we not gather it sheaf by sheaf? What
strength is in me that I dare address you thus! Answer, or I will never
again recross that river!" "You have spared me the word LOVE," she said,
in a stern voice, "but you have spoken of a sentiment of which I know
nothing and which is not permitted to me. You are a child; and again I


pardon you, but for the last time. Endeavor to understand, Monsieur, that
my heart is, as it were, intoxicated with motherhood. I love Monsieur de
Mortsauf neither from social duty nor from a calculated desire to win
eternal blessings, but from an irresistible feeling which fastens all the
fibres of my heart upon him. Was my marriage a mistake? My sympathy
for misfortune led to it. It is the part of women to heal the woes caused by
the march of events, to comfort those who rush into the breach and return
wounded. How shall I make you understand me? I have felt a selfish
pleasure in seeing that you amused him; is not that pure motherhood? Did
I not make you see by what I owned just now, the THREE children to
whom I am bound, to whom I shall never fail, on whom I strive to shed a
healing dew and the light of my own soul without withdrawing or
adulterating a single particle? Do not embitter the mother's milk! though
as a wife I am invulnerable, you must never again speak thus to me. If
you do not respect this command, simple as it is, the door of this house
will be closed to you. I believed in pure friendship, in a voluntary
brotherhood, more real, I thought, than the brotherhood of blood. I was
mistaken. I wanted a friend who was not a judge, a friend who would
listen to me in those moments of weakness when reproof is killing, a
sacred friend from whom I should have nothing to fear. Youth is noble,
truthful, capable of sacrifice, disinterested; seeing your persistency in
coming to us, I believed, yes, I will admit that I believed in some divine


purpose; I thought I should find a soul that would be mine, as the priest is
the soul of all; a heart in which to pour my troubles when they deluged
mine, a friend to hear my cries when if I continued to smother them they
would strangle me. Could I but have this friend, my life, so precious to
these children, might be prolonged until Jacques had grown to manhood.
But that is selfish! The Laura of Petrarch cannot be lived again. I must die
at my post, like a soldier, friendless. My confessor is harsh, austere,
and--my aunt is dead."
Two large tears filled her eyes, gleamed in the moonlight, and rolled
down her cheeks; but I stretched my hand in time to catch them, and I
drank them with an avidity excited by her words, by the thought of those
ten years of secret woe, of wasted feelings, of constant care, of ceaseless
dread--years of the lofty heroism of her sex. She looked at me with gentle
stupefaction.
"It is the first communion of love," I said. "Yes, I am now a sharer of
your sorrows. I am united to your soul as our souls are united to Christ in
the sacrament. To love, even without hope, is happiness. Ah! what woman
on earth could give me a joy equal to that of receiving your tears! I accept
the contract which must end in suffering to myself. I give myself to you
with no ulterior thought. I will be to you that which you will me to be--"
She stopped me with a motion of her hand, and said in her deep
voice, "I consent to this agreement if you will promise never to tighten


the bonds which bind us together."
"Yes," I said; "but the less you grant the more evidence of possession
I ought to have."
"You begin by distrusting me," she replied, with an expression of
melancholy doubt. "No, I speak from pure happiness. Listen; give me a
name by which no one calls you; a name to be ours only, like the feeling
which unites us." "That is much to ask," she said, "but I will show you
that I am not petty. Monsieur de Mortsauf calls me Blanche. One only
person, the one I have most loved, my dear aunt, called me Henriette. I
will be Henriette once more, to you."
I took her hand and kissed it. She left it in mine with the trustfulness
that makes a woman so far superior to men; a trustfulness that shames us.
She was leaning on the brick balustrade and gazing at the river.
"Are you not unwise, my friend, to rush at a bound to the extremes
of friendship? You have drained the cup, offered in all sincerity, at a
draught. It is true that a real feeling is never piecemeal; it must be whole,
or it does not exist. Monsieur de Mortsauf," she added after a short
silence, "is above all things loyal and brave. Perhaps for my sake you will
forget what he said to you to-day; if he has forgotten it to-morrow, I will
myself tell him what occurred. Do not come to Clochegourde for a few
days; he will respect you more if you do not. On Sunday, after church, he
will go to you. I know him; he will wish to undo the wrong he did, and he


will like you all the better for treating him as a man who is responsible
for his words and actions." "Five days without seeing you, without
hearing your voice!"
  "Do not put such warmth into your manner of speaking to me," she
said. We walked twice round the terrace in silence. Then she said, in a
tone of command which proved to me that she had taken possession of
my soul, "It is late; we will part."
  I wished to kiss her hand; she hesitated, then gave it to me, and said
in a voice of entreaty: "Never take it unless I give it to you; leave me my
freedom; if not, I shall be simply a thing of yours, and that ought not to
be."
  "Adieu," I said.
  I went out by the little gate of the lower terrace, which she opened
for me. Just as she was about to close it she opened it again and offered
me her hand, saying: "You have been truly good to me this evening; you
have comforted my whole future; take it, my friend, take it."
  I kissed her hand again and again, and when I raised my eyes I saw
the tears in hers. She returned to the upper terrace and I watched her for a
moment from the meadow. When I was on the road to Frapesle I again
saw her white robe shimmering in a moonbeam; then, a few moments
later, a light was in her bedroom.
  "Oh, my Henriette!" I cried, "to you I pledge the purest love that


ever shone upon this earth."
I turned at every step as I regained Frapesle. Ineffable contentment
filled my mind. A way was open for the devotion that swells in all
youthful hearts and which in mine had been so long inert. Like the priest
who by one solemn step enters a new life, my vows were taken; I was
consecrated. A simple "Yes" had bound me to keep my love within my
soul and never to abuse our friendship by leading this woman step by step
to love. All noble feelings were awakened within me, and I heard the
murmur of their voices. Before confining myself within the narrow walls
of a room, I stopped beneath the azure heavens sown with stars, I listened
to the ring-dove plaints of my own heart, I heard again the simple tones
of that ingenuous confidence, I gathered in the air the emanations of that
soul which henceforth must ever seek me. How grand that woman
seemed to me, with her absolute forgetfulness of self, her religion of
mercy to wounded hearts, feeble or suffering, her declared allegiance to
her legal yoke. She was there, serene upon her pyre of saint and martyr. I
adored her face as it shone to me in the darkness. Suddenly I fancied I
perceived a meaning in her words, a mysterious significance which made
her to my eyes sublime. Perhaps she longed that I should be to her what
she was to the little world around her. Perhaps she sought to draw from
me her strength and consolation, putting me thus within her sphere, her
equal, or perhaps above her. The stars, say some bold builders of the


universe, communicate to each other light and motion. This thought lifted
me to ethereal regions. I entered once more the heaven of my former
visions; I found a meaning for the miseries of my childhood in the
illimitable happiness to which they had led me.
Spirits quenched by tears, hearts misunderstood, saintly Clarissa
Harlowes forgotten or ignored, children neglected, exiles innocent of
wrong, all ye who enter life through barren ways, on whom men's faces
everywhere look coldly, to whom ears close and hearts are shut, cease
your complaints! You alone can know the infinitude of joy held in that
moment when one heart opens to you, one ear listens, one look answers
yours. A single day effaces all past evil. Sorrow, despondency, despair,
and melancholy, passed but not forgotten, are links by which the soul then
fastens to its mate. Woman falls heir to all our past, our sighs, our lost
illusions, and gives them back to us ennobled; she explains those former
griefs as payment claimed by destiny for joys eternal, which she brings to
us on the day our souls are wedded. The angels alone can utter the new
name by which that sacred love is called, and none but women, dear
martyrs, truly know what Madame de Mortsauf now became to me--to me,
poor and desolate.
 楼主| 发表于 2020-12-13 19:14:02 | 显示全部楼层

3、CHAPTER II FIRST LOVE

FIRST LOVE
This scene took place on a Tuesday. I waited until Sunday and did


not cross the river. During those five days great events were happening at
Clochegourde. The count received his brevet as general of brigade, the
cross of Saint Louis, and a pension of four thousand francs. The Duc de
Lenoncourt-Givry, made peer of France, recovered possession of two
forests, resumed his place at court, and his wife regained all her unsold
property, which had been made part of the imperial crown lands. The
Comtesse de Mortsauf thus became an heiress. Her mother had arrived at
Clochegourde, bringing her a hundred thousand francs economized at
Givry, the amount of her dowry, still unpaid and never asked for by the
count in spite of his poverty. In all such matters of external life the
conduct of this man was proudly disinterested. Adding to this sum his
own few savings he was able to buy two neighboring estates, which
would yield him some nine thousand francs a year. His son would of
course succeed to the grandfather's peerage, and the count now saw his
way to entail the estate upon him without injury to Madeleine, for whom
the Duc de Lenoncourt would no doubt assist in promoting a good
marriage.
These arrangements and this new happiness shed some balm upon
the count's sore mind. The presence of the Duchesse de Lenoncourt at
Clochegourde was a great event to the neighborhood. I reflected gloomily
that she was a great lady, and the thought made me conscious of the spirit
of caste in the daughter which the nobility of her sentiments had hitherto


hidden from me. Who was I--poor, insignificant, and with no future but
my courage and my faculties? I did not then think of the consequences of
the Restoration either for me or for others. On Sunday morning, from the
private chapel where I sat with Monsieur and Madame de Chessel and the
Abbe de Quelus, I cast an eager glance at another lateral chapel occupied
by the duchess and her daughter, the count and his children. The large
straw hat which hid my idol from me did not tremble, and this
unconsciousness of my presence seemed to bind me to her more than all
the past. This noble Henriette de Lenoncourt, my Henriette, whose life I
longed to garland, was praying earnestly; faith gave to her figure an
abandonment, a prosternation, the attitude of some religious statue, which
moved me to the soul.
  According to village custom, vespers were said soon after mass.
Coming out of church Madame de Chessel naturally proposed to her
neighbors to pass the intermediate time at Frapesle instead of crossing the
Indre and the meadows twice in the great heat. The offer was accepted.
Monsieur de Chessel gave his arm to the duchess, Madame de Chessel
took that of the count. I offered mine to the countess, and felt, for the first
time, that beautiful arm against my side. As we walked from the church to
Frapesle by the woods of Sache, where the light, filtering down through
the foliage, made those pretty patterns on the path which seem like
painted silk, such sensations of pride, such ideas took possession of me


that my heart beat violently.
"What is the matter?" she said, after walking a little way in a silence
I dared not break. "Your heart beats too fast--"
"I have heard of your good fortune," I replied, "and, like all others
who love truly, I am beset with vague fears. Will your new dignities
change you and lessen your friendship?"
"Change me!" she said; "oh, fie! Another such idea and I shall--not
despise you, but forget you forever."
I looked at her with an ecstasy which should have been contagious.
"We profit by the new laws which we have neither brought about nor
demanded," she said; "but we are neither place-hunters nor beggars;
besides, as you know very well, neither Monsieur de Mortsauf nor I can
leave Clochegourde. By my advice he has declined the command to
which his rank entitled him at the Maison Rouge. We are quite content
that my father should have the place. This forced modesty," she added
with some bitterness, "has already been of service to our son. The king, to
whose household my father is appointed, said very graciously that he
would show Jacques the favor we were not willing to accept. Jacques'
education, which must now be thought of, is already being discussed. He
will be the representative of two houses, the Lenoncourt and the Mortsauf
families. I can have no ambition except for him, and therefore my
anxieties seem to have increased. Not only must Jacques live, but he must


be made worthy of his name; two necessities which, as you know, conflict.
And then, later, what friend will keep him safe for me in Paris, where all
things are pitfalls for the soul and dangers for the body? My friend," she
said, in a broken voice, "who could not see upon your brow and in your
eyes that you are one who will inhabit heights? Be some day the guardian
and sponsor of our boy. Go to Paris; if your father and brother will not
second you, our family, above all my mother, who has a genius for the
management of life, will help you. Profit by our influence; you will never
be without support in whatever career you choose; put the strength of
your desires into a noble ambition--"
"I understand you," I said, interrupting her; "ambition is to be my
mistress. I have no need of that to be wholly yours. No, I will not be
rewarded for my obedience here by receiving favors there. I will go; I
will make my own way; I will rise alone. From you I would accept
everything, from others nothing."
"Child!" she murmured, ill-concealing a smile of pleasure.
"Besides, I have taken my vows," I went on. "Thinking over our
situation I am resolved to bind myself to you by ties that never can be
broken."
She trembled slightly and stopped short to look at me.
"What do you mean?" she asked, letting the couples who preceded
us walk on, and keeping the children at her side.


  "This," I said; "but first tell me frankly how you wish me to love
you."
  "Love me as my aunt loved me; I gave you her rights when I
permitted you to call me by the name which she chose for her own among
my others."
  "Then I am to love without hope and with an absolute devotion. Well,
yes; I will do for you what some men do for God. I shall feel that you
have asked it. I will enter a seminary and make myself a priest, and then I
will educate your son. Jacques shall be myself in his own form; political
conceptions, thoughts, energy, patience, I will give him all. In that way I
shall live near to you, and my love, enclosed in religion as a silver image
in a crystal shrine, can never be suspected of evil. You will not have to
fear the undisciplined passions which grasp a man and by which already I
have allowed myself to be vanquished. I will consume my own being in
the flame, and I will love you with a purified love."
  She turned pale and said, hurrying her words: "Felix, do not put
yourself in bonds that might prove an obstacle to our happiness. I should
die of grief for having caused a suicide like that. Child, do you think
despairing love a life's vocation? Wait for life's trials before you judge of
life; I command it. Marry neither the Church nor a woman; marry not at
all,--I forbid it. Remain free. You are twenty-one years old--My God! can
I have mistaken him? I thought two months sufficed to know some


souls."
"What hope have you?" I cried, with fire in my eyes.
"My friend, accept our help, rise in life, make your way and your
fortune and you shall know my hope. And," she added, as if she were
whispering a secret, "never release the hand you are holding at this
moment."
She bent to my ear as she said these words which proved her deep
solicitude for my future.
"Madeleine!" I exclaimed "never!"
We were close to a wooden gate which opened into the park of
Frapesle; I still seem to see its ruined posts overgrown with climbing
plants and briers and mosses. Suddenly an idea, that of the count's death,
flashed through my brain, and I said, "I understand you."
"I am glad of it," she answered in a tone which made me know I had
supposed her capable of a thought that could never be hers.
Her purity drew tears of admiration from my eyes which the
selfishness of passion made bitter indeed. My mind reacted and I felt that
she did not love me enough even to wish for liberty. So long as love
recoils from a crime it seems to have its limits, and love should be infinite.
A spasm shook my heart.
"She does not love me," I thought.
To hide what was in my soul I stooped over Madeleine and kissed


her hair.
"I am afraid of your mother," I said to the countess presently, to
renew the conversation.
"So am I," she answered with a gesture full of childlike gaiety.
"Don't forget to call her Madame la duchesse, and to speak to her in the
third person. The young people of the present day have lost these polite
manners; you must learn them; do that for my sake. Besides, it is such
good taste to respect women, no matter what their age may be, and to
recognize social distinctions without disputing them. The respect shown
to established superiority is guarantee for that which is due to you.
Solidarity is the basis of society. Cardinal Della Rovere and Raffaelle
were two powers equally revered. You have sucked the milk of the
Revolution in your academy and your political ideas may be influenced
by it; but as you advance in life you will find that crude and ill-defined
principles of liberty are powerless to create the happiness of the people.
Before considering, as a Lenoncourt, what an aristocracy ought to be, my
common-sense as a woman of the people tells me that societies can exist
only through a hierarchy. You are now at a turning-point in your life,
when you must choose wisely. Be on our side,--especially now," she
added, laughing, "when it triumphs."
I was keenly touched by these words, in which the depth of her
political feeling mingled with the warmth of affection,--a combination


which gives to women so great a power of persuasion; they know how to
give to the keenest arguments a tone of feeling. In her desire to justify all
her husband's actions Henriette had foreseen the criticisms that would rise
in my mind as soon as I saw the servile effects of a courtier's life upon
him. Monsieur de Mortsauf, king in his own castle and surrounded by an
historic halo, had, to my eyes, a certain grandiose dignity. I was therefore
greatly astonished at the distance he placed between the duchess and
himself by manners that were nothing less than obsequious. A slave has
his pride and will only serve the greatest despots. I confess I was
humiliated at the degradation of one before whom I trembled as the
power that ruled my love. This inward repulsion made me understand the
martyrdom of women of generous souls yoked to men whose meannesses
they bury daily.
Respect is a safeguard which protects both great and small alike;
each side can hold its own. I was respectful to the duchess because of my
youth; but where others saw only a duchess I saw the mother of my
Henriette, and that gave sanctity to my homage.
We reached the great court-yard of Frapesle, where we found the
others. The Comte de Mortsauf presented me very gracefully to the
duchess, who examined me with a cold and reserved air. Madame de
Lenoncourt was then a woman fifty-six years of age, wonderfully well
preserved and with grand manners. When I saw the hard blue eyes, the


hollow temples, the thin emaciated face, the erect, imposing figure slow
of movement, and the yellow whiteness of the skin (reproduced with such
brilliancy in the daughter), I recognized the cold type to which my own
mother belonged, as quickly as a mineralogist recognizes Swedish iron.
Her language was that of the old court; she pronounced the "oit" like
"ait," and said "frait" for "froid," "porteux" for "porteurs." I was not a
courtier, neither was I stiff-backed in my manner to her; in fact I behaved
so well that as I passed the countess she said in a low voice, "You are
perfect."
  The count came to me and took my hand, saying: "You are not angry
with me, Felix, are you? If I was hasty you will pardon an old soldier? We
shall probably stay here to dinner, and I invite you to dine with us on
Thursday, the evening before the duchess leaves. I must go to Tours
to-morrow to settle some business. Don't neglect Clochegourde. My
mother-in-law is an acquaintance I advise you to cultivate. Her salon will
set the tone for the faubourg St. Germain. She has all the traditions of the
great world, and possesses an immense amount of social knowledge; she
knows the blazon of the oldest as well as the newest family in Europe."
  The count's good taste, or perhaps the advice of his domestic genius,
appeared under his altered circumstances. He was neither arrogant nor
offensively polite, nor pompous in any way, and the duchess was not
patronizing. Monsieur and Madame de Chessel gratefully accepted the


invitation to dinner on the following Thursday. I pleased the duchess, and
by her glance I knew she was examining a man of whom her daughter
had spoken to her. As we returned from vespers she questioned me about
my family, and asked if the Vandenesse now in diplomacy was my
relative. "He is my brother," I replied. On that she became almost
affectionate. She told me that my great-aunt, the old Marquise de
Listomere, was a Grandlieu. Her manners were as cordial as those of
Monsieur de Mortsauf the day he saw me for the first time; the haughty
glance with which these sovereigns of the earth make you measure the
distance that lies between you and them disappeared. I knew almost
nothing of my family. The duchess told me that my great-uncle, an old
abbe whose very name I did not know, was to be member of the privy
council, that my brother was already promoted, and also that by a
provision of the Charter, of which I had not yet heard, my father became
once more Marquis de Vandenesse.
"I am but one thing, the serf of Clochegourde," I said in a low voice
to the countess.
The transformation scene of the Restoration was carried through
with a rapidity which bewildered the generation brought up under the
imperial regime. To me this revolution meant nothing. The least word or
gesture from Madame de Mortsauf were the sole events to which I
attached importance. I was ignorant of what the privy council was, and


knew as little of politics as of social life; my sole ambition was to love
Henriette better than Petrarch loved Laura. This indifference made the
duchess take me for a child. A large company assembled at Frapesle and
we were thirty at table. What intoxication it is for a young man unused to
the world to see the woman he loves more beautiful than all others around
her, the centre of admiring looks; to know that for him alone is reserved
the chaste fire of those eyes, that none but he can discern in the tones of
that voice, in the words it utters, however gay or jesting they may be, the
proofs of unremitting thought. The count, delighted with the attentions
paid to him, seemed almost young; his wife looked hopeful of a change; I
amused myself with Madeleine, who, like all children with bodies weaker
than their minds, made others laugh with her clever observations, full of
sarcasm, though never malicious, and which spared no one. It was a
happy day. A word, a hope awakened in the morning illumined nature.
Seeing me so joyous, Henriette was joyful too.
"This happiness smiling on my gray and cloudy life seems good,"
she said to me the next day.
That day I naturally spent at Clochegourde. I had been banished for
five days, I was athirst for life. The count left at six in the morning for
Tours. A serious disagreement had arisen between mother and daughter.
The duchess wanted the countess to move to Paris, where she promised
her a place at court, and where the count, reconsidering his refusal, might


obtain some high position. Henriette, who was thought happy in her
married life, would not reveal, even to her mother, her tragic sufferings
and the fatal incapacity of her husband. It was to hide his condition from
the duchess that she persuaded him to go to Tours and transact business
with his notaries. I alone, as she had truly said, knew the dark secret of
Clochegourde. Having learned by experience how the pure air and the
blue sky of the lovely valley calmed the excitements and soothed the
morbid griefs of the diseased mind, and what beneficial effect the life at
Clochegourde had upon the health of her children, she opposed her
mother's desire that she should leave it with reasons which the
overbearing woman, who was less grieved than mortified by her
daughter's bad marriage, vigorously combated.
Henriette saw that the duchess cared little for Jacques and Madeleine,
--a terrible discovery! Like all domineering mothers who expect to
continue the same authority over their married daughters that they
maintained when they were girls, the duchess brooked no opposition;
sometimes she affected a crafty sweetness to force her daughter to
compliance, at other times a cold severity, intending to obtain by fear
what gentleness had failed to win; then, when all means failed, she
displayed the same native sarcasm which I had often observed in my own
mother. In those ten days Henriette passed through all the contentions a
young woman must endure to establish her independence. You, who for


your happiness have the best of mothers, can scarcely comprehend such
trials. To gain a true idea of the struggle between that cold, calculating,
ambitious woman and a daughter abounding in the tender natural
kindness that never faileth, you must imagine a lily, to which my heart
has always compared her, bruised beneath the polished wheels of a steel
car. That mother had nothing in common with her daughter; she was
unable even to imagine the real difficulties which hindered her from
taking advantage of the Restoration and forced her to continue a life of
solitude. Though families bury their internal dissensions with the utmost
care, enter behind the scenes, and you will find in nearly all of them deep,
incurable wounds, which lessen the natural affections. Sometimes these
wounds are given by passions real and most affecting, rendered eternal by
the dignity of those who feel them; sometimes by latent hatreds which
slowly freeze the heart and dry all tears when the hour of parting comes.
Tortured yesterday and to-day, wounded by all, even by the suffering
children who were guiltless of the ills they endured, how could that poor
soul fail to love the one human being who did not strike her, who would
fain have built a wall of defence around her to guard her from storms,
from harsh contacts and cruel blows? Though I suffered from a
knowledge of these debates, there were moments when I was happy in the
sense that she rested upon my heart; for she told me of these new troubles.
Day by day I learned more fully the meaning of her words,-- "Love me as


my aunt loved me."
"Have you no ambition?" the duchess said to me at dinner, with a
stern air.
"Madame," I replied, giving her a serious look, "I have enough in me
to conquer the world; but I am only twenty-one, and I am all alone." She
looked at her daughter with some astonishment. Evidently she believed
that Henriette had crushed my ambition in order to keep me near her. The
visit of Madame de Lenoncourt was a period of unrelieved constraint.
The countess begged me to be cautious; she was frightened by the least
kind word; to please her I wore the harness of deceit. The great Thursday
came; it was a day of wearisome ceremonial,--one of those stiff days
which lovers hate, when their chair is no longer in its place, and the
mistress of the house cannot be with them. Love has a horror of all that
does not concern itself. But the duchess returned at last to the pomps and
vanities of the court, and Clochegourde recovered its accustomed order.
My little quarrel with the count resulted in making me more at home
in the house than ever; I could go there at all times without hindrance;
and the antecedents of my life inclined me to cling like a climbing plant
to the beautiful soul which had opened to me the enchanting world of
shared emotions. Every hour, every minute, our fraternal marriage,
founded on trust, became a surer thing; each of us settled firmly into our
own position; the countess enfolded me with her nurturing care, with the


white draperies of a love that was wholly maternal; while my love for her,
seraphic in her presence, seared me as with hot irons when away from her.
I loved her with a double love which shot its arrows of desire, and then
lost them in the sky, where they faded out of sight in the impermeable
ether. If you ask me why, young and ardent, I continued in the deluding
dreams of Platonic love, I must own to you that I was not yet man enough
to torture that woman, who was always in dread of some catastrophe to
her children, always fearing some outburst of her husband's stormy
temper, martyrized by him when not afflicted by the illness of Jacques or
Madeleine, and sitting beside one or the other of them when her husband
allowed her a little rest. The mere sound of too warm a word shook her
whole being; a desire shocked her; what she needed was a veiled love,
support mingled with tenderness,--that, in short, which she gave to others.
Then, need I tell you, who are so truly feminine? this situation brought
with it hours of delightful languor, moments of divine sweetness and
content which followed by secret immolation. Her conscience was, if I
may call it so, contagious; her self-devotion without earthly recompense
awed me by its persistence; the living, inward piety which was the bond
of her other virtues filled the air about her with spiritual incense. Besides,
I was young,--young enough to concentrate my whole being on the kiss
she allowed me too seldom to lay upon her hand, of which she gave me
only the back, and never the palm, as though she drew the line of sensual


emotions there.
No two souls ever clasped each other with so much ardor, no
bodies were ever more victoriously annihilated. Later I understood the
cause of this sufficing joy. At my age no worldly interests distracted my
heart; no ambitions blocked the stream of a love which flowed like a
torrent, bearing all things on its bosom. Later, we love the woman in a
woman; but the first woman we love is the whole of womanhood; her
children are ours, her interests are our interests, her sorrows our greatest
sorrow; we love her gown, the familiar things about her; we are more
grieved by a trifling loss of hers than if we knew we had lost everything.
This is the sacred love that makes us live in the being of another; whereas
later, alas! we draw another life into ours, and require a woman to enrich
our pauper spirit with her young soul.
  I was now one of the household, and I knew for the first time an
infinite sweetness, which to a nature bruised as mine was like a bath to a
weary body; the soul is refreshed in every fibre, comforted to its very
depths. You will hardly understand me, for you are a woman, and I am
speaking now of a happiness women give but do not receive. A man alone
knows the choice happiness of being, in the midst of a strange household,
the privileged friend of its mistress, the secret centre of her affections. No
dog barks at you; the servants, like the dogs, recognize your rights; the
children (who are never misled, and know that their power cannot be


lessened, and that you cherish the light of their life), the children possess
the gift of divination, they play with you like kittens and assume the
friendly tyranny they show only to those they love; they are full of
intelligent discretion and come and go on tiptoe without noise. Every one
hastens to do you service; all like you, and smile upon you. True passions
are like beautiful flowers all the more charming to the eye when they
grow in a barren soil.
But if I enjoyed the delightful benefits of naturalization in a family
where I found relations after my own heart, I had also to pay some costs
for it. Until then Monsieur de Mortsauf had more or less restrained
himself before me. I had only seen his failings in the mass; I was now to
see the full extent of their application and discover how nobly charitable
the countess had been in the account she had given me of these daily
struggles. I learned now all the angles of her husband's intolerable nature;
I heard his perpetual scolding about nothing, complaints of evils of which
not a sign existed; I saw the inward dissatisfaction which poisoned his life,
and the incessant need of his tyrannical spirit for new victims. When we
went to walk in the evenings he selected the way; but whichever direction
we took he was always bored; when we reached home he blamed others;
his wife had insisted on going where she wanted; why was he governed
by her in all the trifling things of life? was he to have no will, no thought
of his own? must he consent to be a cipher in his own house? If his


harshness was to be received in patient silence he was angry because he
felt a limit to his power; he asked sharply if religion did not require a wife
to please her husband, and whether it was proper to despise the father of
her children? He always ended by touching some sensitive chord in his
wife's mind; and he seemed to find a domineering pleasure in making it
sound. Sometimes he tried gloomy silence and a morbid depression,
which always alarmed his wife and made her pay him the most tender
attentions. Like petted children, who exercise their power without
thinking of the distress of their mother, he would let her wait upon him as
upon Jacques and Madeleine, of whom he was jealous.
I discovered at last that in small things as well as in great ones the
count acted towards his servants, his children, his wife, precisely as he
had acted to me about the backgammon. The day when I understood, root
and branch, these difficulties, which like a rampant overgrowth repressed
the actions and stifled the breathing of the whole family, hindered the
management of the household and retarded the improvement of the estate
by complicating the most necessary acts, I felt an admiring awe which
rose higher than my love and drove it back into my heart. Good God!
what was I? Those tears that I had taken on my lips solemnized my spirit;
I found happiness in wedding the sufferings of that woman. Hitherto I
had yielded to the count's despotism as the smuggler pays his fine;
henceforth I was a voluntary victim that I might come the nearer to her.


The countess understood me, allowed me a place beside her, and gave me
permission to share her sorrows; like the repentant apostate, eager to rise
to heaven with his brethren, I obtained the favor of dying in the arena.
"Were it not for you I must have succumbed under this life,"
Henriette said to me one evening when the count had been, like the flies
on a hot day, more stinging, venomous, and persistent than usual.
He had gone to bed. Henriette and I remained under the acacias; the
children were playing about us, bathed in the setting sun. Our few
exclamatory words revealed the mutuality of the thoughts in which we
rested from our common sufferings. When language failed silence as
faithfully served our souls, which seemed to enter one another without
hindrance; together they luxuriated in the charms of pensive languor, they
met in the undulations of the same dream, they plunged as one into the
river and came out refreshed like two nymphs as closely united as their
souls could wish, but with no earthly tie to bind them. We entered the
unfathomable gulf, we returned to the surface with empty hands, asking
each other by a look, "Among all our days on earth will there be one for
us?"
In spite of the tranquil poetry of evening which gave to the bricks of
the balustrade their orange tones, so soothing and so pure; in spite of the
religious atmosphere of the hour, which softened the voices of the
children and wafted them towards us, desire crept through my veins like


the match to the bonfire. After three months of repression I was unable to
content myself with the fate assigned me. I took Henriette's hand and
softly caressed it, trying to convey to her the ardor that invaded me. She
became at once Madame de Mortsauf, and withdrew her hand; tears
rolled from my eyes, she saw them and gave me a chilling look, as she
offered her hand to my lips.
"You must know," she said, "that this will cause me grief. A
friendship that asks so great a favor is dangerous."
Then I lost my self-control; I reproached her, I spoke of my
sufferings, and the slight alleviation that I asked for them. I dared to tell
her that at my age, if the senses were all soul still the soul had a sex; that I
could meet death, but not with closed lips. She forced me to silence with
her proud glance, in which I seemed to read the cry of the Mexican: "And
I, am I on a bed of roses?" Ever since that day by the gate of Frapesle,
when I attributed to her the hope that our happiness might spring from a
grave, I had turned with shame from the thought of staining her soul with
the desires of a brutal passion. She now spoke with honeyed lip, and told
me that she never could be wholly mine, and that I ought to know it. As
she said the words I know that in obeying her I dug an abyss between us.
I bowed my head. She went on, saying she had an inward religious
certainty that she might love me as a brother without offending God or
man; such love was a living image of the divine love, which her good


Saint-Martin told her was the life of the world. If I could not be to her
somewhat as her old confessor was, less than a lover yet more than a
brother, I must never see her again. She could die and take to God her
sheaf of sufferings, borne not without tears and anguish.
"I gave you," she said in conclusion, "more than I ought to have
given, so that nothing might be left to take, and I am punished."
I was forced to calm her, to promise never to cause her pain, and to
love her at twenty-one years of age as old men love their youngest child.
The next day I went early. There were no flowers in the vases of her
gray salon. I rushed into the fields and vineyards to make her two
bouquets; but as I gathered the flowers, one by one, cutting their long
stalks and admiring their beauty, the thought occurred to me that the
colors and foliage had a poetry, a harmony, which meant something to the
understanding while they charmed the eye; just as musical melodies
awaken memories in hearts that are loving and beloved. If color is light
organized, must it not have a meaning of its own, as the combinations of
the air have theirs? I called in the assistance of Jacques and Madeleine,
and all three of us conspired to surprise our dear one. I arranged, on the
lower steps of the portico, where we established our floral headquarters,
two bouquets by which I tried to convey a sentiment. Picture to yourself a
fountain of flowers gushing from the vases and falling back in curving
waves; my message springing from its bosom in white roses and lilies


with their silver cups. All the blue flowers, harebells, forget-me-nots, and
ox-tongues, whose tines, caught from the skies, blended so well with the
whiteness of the lilies, sparkled on this dewy texture; were they not the
type of two purities, the one that knows nothing, the other that knows all;
an image of the child, an image of the martyr? Love has its blazon, and
the countess discerned it inwardly. She gave me a poignant glance which
was like the cry of a soldier when his wound is touched; she was humbled
but enraptured too. My reward was in that glance; to refresh her heart, to
have given her comfort, what encouragement for me! Then it was that I
pressed the theories of Pere Castel into the service of love, and recovered
a science lost to Europe, where written pages have supplanted the flowery
missives of the Orient with their balmy tints. What charm in expressing
our sensations through these daughters of the sun, sisters to the flowers
that bloom beneath the rays of love!
Before long I communed with the flora of the fields, as a man whom
I met in after days at Grandlieu communed with his bees.
Twice a week during the remainder of my stay at Frapesle I
continued the slow labor of this poetic enterprise, for the ultimate
accomplishment of which I needed all varieties of herbaceous plants;
into these I made a deep research, less as a botanist than as a poet,
studying their spirit rather than their form. To find a flower in its native
haunts I walked enormous distances, beside the brooklets, through the


valleys, to the summit of the cliffs, across the moorland, garnering
thoughts even from the heather. During these rambles I initiated myself
into pleasures unthought of by the man of science who lives in meditation,
unknown to the horticulturist busy with specialities, to the artisan fettered
to a city, to the merchant fastened to his desk, but known to a few
foresters, to a few woodsmen, and to some dreamers. Nature can show
effects the significations of which are limitless; they rise to the grandeur
of the highest moral conceptions--be it the heather in bloom, covered with
the diamonds of the dew on which the sunlight dances; infinitude decked
for the single glance that may chance to fall upon it:--be it a corner of the
forest hemmed in with time-worn rocks crumbling to gravel and clothed
with mosses overgrown with juniper, which grasps our minds as
something savage, aggressive, terrifying as the cry of the kestrel issuing
from it:--be it a hot and barren moor without vegetation, stony, rigid, its
horizon like those of the desert, where once I gathered a sublime and
solitary flower, the anemone pulsatilla, with its violet petals opening for
the golden stamens; affecting image of my pure idol alone in her
valley:--be it great sheets of water, where nature casts those spots of
greenery, a species of transition between the plant and animal, where life
makes haste to come in flowers and insects, floating there like worlds in
ether:--be it a cottage with its garden of cabbages, its vineyards, its
hedges overhanging a bog, surrounded by a few sparse fields of rye; true


image of many humble existences:-- be it a forest path like some
cathedral nave, where the trees are columns and their branches arch the
roof, at the far end of which a light breaks through, mingled with
shadows or tinted with sunset reds athwart the leaves which gleam like
the colored windows of a chancel: --then, leaving these woods so cool
and branchy, behold a chalk-land lying fallow, where among the warm
and cavernous mosses adders glide to their lairs, or lift their proud slim
heads. Cast upon all these pictures torrents of sunlight like beneficent
waters, or the shadow of gray clouds drawn in lines like the wrinkles of
an old man's brow, or the cool tones of a sky faintly orange and streaked
with lines of a paler tint; then listen--you will hear indefinable harmonies
amid a silence which blends them all.
During the months of September and October I did not make a single
bouquet which cost me less than three hours search; so much did I admire,
with the real sympathy of a poet, these fugitive allegories of human life,
that vast theatre I was about to enter, the scenes of which my memory
must presently recall. Often do I now compare those splendid scenes with
memories of my soul thus expending itself on nature; again I walk that
valley with my sovereign, whose white robe brushed the coppice and
floated on the green sward, whose spirit rose, like a promised fruit, from
each calyx filled with amorous stamens. No declaration of love, no vows
of uncontrollable passion ever conveyed more than these symphonies of


flowers; my baffled desires impelled me to efforts of expression through
them like those of Beethoven through his notes, to the same bitter
reactions, to the same mighty bounds towards heaven. In their presence
Madame de Mortsauf was my Henriette. She looked at them constantly;
they fed her spirit, she gathered all the thoughts I had given them, saying,
as she raised her head from the embroidery frame to receive my gift, "Ah,
how beautiful!"
Natalie, you will understand this delightful intercourse through the
details of a bouquet, just as you would comprehend Saadi from a
fragment of his verse. Have you ever smelt in the fields in the month of
May the perfume that communicates to all created beings the intoxicating
sense of a new creation; the sense that makes you trail your hand in the
water from a boat, and loosen your hair to the breeze while your mind
revives with the springtide greenery of the trees? A little plant, a species
of vernal grass, is a powerful element in this veiled harmony; it cannot be
worn with impunity; take into your hand its shining blade, striped green
and white like a silken robe, and mysterious emotions will stir the
rosebuds your modesty keeps hidden in the depths of your heart. Round
the neck of a porcelain vase imagine a broad margin of the gray-white
tufts peculiar to the sedum of the vineyards of Touraine, vague image of
submissive forms; from this foundation come tendrils of the bind-weed
with its silver bells, sprays of pink rest-barrow mingled with a few young


shoots of oak- leaves, lustrous and magnificently colored; these creep
forth prostrate, humble as the weeping-willow, timid and supplicating as
prayer. Above, see those delicate threads of the purple amoret, with its
flood of anthers that are nearly yellow; the snowy pyramids of the
meadow-sweet, the green tresses of the wild oats, the slender plumes of
the agrostis, which we call wind-ear; roseate hopes, decking love's
earliest dream and standing forth against the gray surroundings. But
higher still, remark the Bengal roses, sparsely scattered among the laces
of the daucus, the plumes of the linaria, the marabouts of the
meadow-queen; see the umbels of the myrrh, the spun glass of the
clematis in seed, the dainty petals of the cross-wort, white as milk, the
corymbs of the yarrow, the spreading stems of the fumitory with their
black and rosy blossoms, the tendrils of the grape, the twisted shoots of
the honeysuckle; in short, all the innocent creatures have that is most
tangled, wayward, wild,--flames and triple darts, leaves lanceolated or
jagged, stalks convoluted like passionate desires writhing in the soul.
From the bosom of this torrent of love rises the scarlet poppy, its tassels
about to open, spreading its flaming flakes above the starry jessamine,
dominating the rain of pollen--that soft mist fluttering in the air and
reflecting the light in its myriad particles. What woman intoxicated with
the odor of the vernal grasses would fail to understand this wealth of
offered thoughts, these ardent desires of a love demanding the happiness


refused in a hundred struggles which passion still renews, continuous,
unwearying, eternal! Put this speech of the flowers in the light of a
window to show its crisp details, its delicate contrasts, its arabesques of
color, and allow the sovereign lady to see a tear upon some petal more
expanded than the rest. What do we give to God? perfumes, light, and
song, the purest expression of our nature. Well, these offerings to God,
are they not likewise offered to love in this poem of luminous flowers
murmuring their sadness to the heart, cherishing its hidden transports, its
unuttered hopes, its illusions which gleam and fall to fragments like the
gossamer of a summer's night?
Such neutral pleasures help to soothe a nature irritated by long
contemplation of the person beloved. They were to me, I dare not say to
her, like those fissures in a dam through which the water finds a vent and
avoids disaster. Abstinence brings deadly exhaustion, which a few crumbs
falling from heaven like manna in the desert, suffices to relieve.
Sometimes I found my Henriette standing before these bouquets with
pendant arms, lost in agitated reverie, thoughts swelling her bosom,
illumining her brow as they surged in waves and sank again, leaving
lassitude and languor behind them. Never again have I made a bouquet
for any one. When she and I had created this language and formed it to
our uses, a satisfaction filled our souls like that of a slave who escapes his
masters.


During the rest of this month as I came from the meadows through
the gardens I often saw her face at the window, and when I reached the
salon she was ready at her embroidery frame. If I did not arrive at the
hour expected (though never appointed), I saw a white form wandering
on the terrace, and when I joined her she would say, "I came to meet you;
I must show a few attentions to my youngest child." The miserable games
of backgammon had come to end. The count's late purchases took all his
time in going hither and thither about the property, surveying, examining,
and marking the boundaries of his new possessions. He had orders to give,
rural works to overlook which needed a master's eye,--all of them
planned and decided on by his wife and himself. We often went to meet
him, the countess and I, with the children, who amused themselves on the
way by running after insects, stag-beetles, darning-needles, they too
making their bouquets, or to speak more truly, their bundles of flowers.
To walk beside the woman we love, to take her on our arm, to guide her
steps,--these are illimitable joys that suffice a lifetime. Confidence is then
complete. We went alone, we returned with the "general," a title given to
the count when he was good-humored. These two ways of taking the
same path gave light and shade to our pleasure, a secret known only to
hearts debarred from union. Our talk, so free as we went, had hidden
significations as we returned, when either of us gave an answer to some
furtive interrogation, or continued a subject, already begun, in the


enigmatic phrases to which our language lends itself, and which women
are so ingenious in composing. Who has not known the pleasure of such
secret understandings in a sphere apart from those about us, a sphere
where spirits meet outside of social laws?
One day a wild hope, quickly dispelled, took possession of me, when
the count, wishing to know what we were talking of, put the inquiry, and
Henriette answered in words that allowed another meaning, which
satisfied him. This amused Madeleine, who laughed; after a moment her
mother blushed and gave me a forbidding look, as if to say she might still
withdraw from me her soul as she had once withdrawn her hand. But our
purely spiritual union had far too many charms, and on the morrow it
continued as before.
The hours, days, and weeks fled by, filled with renascent joys. Grape
harvest, the festal season in Touraine, began. Toward the end of
September the sun, less hot than during the wheat harvest, allows of our
staying in the vineyards without danger of becoming overheated. It is
easier to gather grapes than to mow wheat. Fruits of all kinds are ripe,
harvests are garnered, bread is less dear; the sense of plenty makes the
country people happy. Fears as to the results of rural toil, in which more
money than sweat is often spent, vanish before a full granary and cellars
about to overflow. The vintage is then like a gay dessert after the dinner is
eaten; the skies of Touraine, where the autumns are always magnificent,


smile upon it. In this hospitable land the vintagers are fed and lodged in
the master's house. The meals are the only ones throughout the year when
these poor people taste substantial, well-cooked food; and they cling to
the custom as the children of patriarchal families cling to anniversaries.
As the time approaches they flock in crowds to those houses where the
masters are known to treat the laborers liberally. The house is full of
people and of provisions. The presses are open. The country is alive with
the coming and going of itinerant coopers, of carts filled with laughing
girls and joyous husbandmen, who earn better wages than at any other
time during the year, and who sing as they go. There is also another cause
of pleasurable content: classes and ranks are equal; women, children,
masters, and men, all that little world, share in the garnering of the divine
hoard. These various elements of satisfaction explain the hilarity of the
vintage, transmitted from age to age in these last glorious days of autumn,
the remembrance of which inspired Rabelais with the bacchic form of his
great work.
The children, Jacques and Madeleine, had never seen a vintage; I
was like them, and they were full of infantine delight at finding a sharer
of their pleasure; their mother, too, promised to accompany us. We went
to Villaines, where baskets are manufactured, in quest of the prettiest that
could be bought; for we four were to cut certain rows reserved for our
scissors; it was, however, agreed that none of us were to eat too many


grapes. To eat the fat bunches of Touraine in a vineyard seemed so
delicious that we all refused the finest grapes on the dinner-table. Jacques
made me swear I would go to no other vineyard, but stay closely at
Clochegourde. Never were these frail little beings, usually pallid and
smiling, so fresh and rosy and active as they were this morning. They
chattered for chatter's sake, and trotted about without apparent object;
they suddenly seemed, like other children, to have more life than they
needed; neither Monsieur nor Madame de Mortsauf had ever seen them
so before. I became a child again with them, more of a child than either of
them, perhaps; I, too, was hoping for my harvest. It was glorious weather
when we went to the vineyard, and we stayed there half the day. How we
disputed as to who had the finest grapes and who could fill his basket
quickest! The little human shoots ran to and fro from the vines to their
mother; not a bunch could be cut without showing it to her. She laughed
with the good, gay laugh of her girlhood when I, running up with my
basket after Madeleine, cried out, "Mine too! See mine, mamma!" To
which she answered: "Don't get overheated, dear child." Then passing her
hand round my neck and through my hair, she added, giving me a little
tap on the cheek, "You are melting away." It was the only caress she ever
gave me. I looked at the pretty line of purple clusters, the hedges full of
haws and blackberries; I heard the voices of the children; I watched the
trooping girls, the cart loaded with barrels, the men with the panniers. Ah,


it is all engraved on my memory, even to the almond- tree beside which
she stood, girlish, rosy, smiling, beneath the sunshade held open in her
hand. Then I busied myself in cutting the bunches and filling my basket,
going forward to empty it in the vat, silently, with measured bodily
movement and slow steps that left my spirit free. I discovered then the
ineffable pleasure of an external labor which carries life along, and thus
regulates the rush of passion, often so near, but for this mechanical
motion, to kindle into flame. I learned how much wisdom is contained in
uniform labor; I understood monastic discipline.
  For the first time in many days the count was neither surly nor cruel.
His son was so well; the future Duc de Lenoncourt-Mortsauf, fair and
rosy and stained with grape-juice, rejoiced his heart. This day being the
last of the vintage, he had promised a dance in front of Clochegourde in
honor of the return of the Bourbons, so that our festival gratified
everybody. As we returned to the house, the countess took my arm and
leaned upon it, as if to let my heart feel the weight of hers,--the instinctive
movement of a mother who seeks to convey her joy. Then she whispered
in my ear, "You bring us happiness."
  Ah, to me, who knew her sleepless nights, her cares, her fears, her
former existence, in which, although the hand of God sustained her, all
was barren and wearisome, those words uttered by that rich voice brought
pleasures no other woman in the world could give me.


"The terrible monotony of my life is broken, all things are radiant
with hope," she said after a pause. "Oh, never leave me! Do not despise
my harmless superstitions; be the elder son, the protector of the younger."
In this, Natalie, there is nothing romantic. To know the infinite of
our deepest feelings, we must in youth cast our lead into those great lakes
upon whose shores we live. Though to many souls passions are lava
torrents flowing among arid rocks, other souls there be in whom passion,
restrained by insurmountable obstacles, fills with purest water the crater
of the volcano.
We had still another fete. Madame de Mortsauf, wishing to accustom
her children to the practical things of life, and to give them some
experience of the toil by which men earn their living, had provided each
of them with a source of income, depending on the chances of agriculture.
To Jacques she gave the produce of the walnut-trees, to Madeleine that of
the chestnuts. The gathering of the nuts began soon after the
vintage,--first the chestnuts, then the walnuts. To beat Madeleine's trees
with a long pole and hear the nuts fall and rebound on the dry, matted
earth of a chestnut-grove; to see the serious gravity of the little girl as she
examined the heaps and estimated their probable value, which to her
represented many pleasures on which she counted; the congratulations of
Manette, the trusted servant who alone supplied Madame de Mortsauf's
place with the children; the explanations of the mother, showing the


necessity of labor to obtain all crops, so often imperilled by the
uncertainties of climate,--all these things made up a charming scene of
innocent, childlike happiness amid the fading colors of the late autumn.
Madeleine had a little granary of her own, in which I was to see her
brown treasure garnered and share her delight. Well, I quiver still when I
recall the sound of each basketful of nuts as it was emptied on the mass of
yellow husks, mixed with earth, which made the floor of the granary. The
count bought what was needed for the household; the farmers and tenants,
indeed, every one around Clochegourde, sent buyers to the Mignonne, a
pet name which the peasantry give even to strangers, but which in this
case belonged exclusively to Madeleine. Jacques was less fortunate in
gathering his walnuts. It rained for several days; but I consoled him with
the advice to hold back his nuts and sell them a little later. Monsieur de
Chessel had told me that the walnut-trees in the Brehemont, also those
about Amboise and Vouvray, were not bearing. Walnut oil is in great
demand in Touraine. Jacques might get at least forty sous for the product
of each tree, and as he had two hundred the amount was considerable; he
intended to spend it on the equipment of a pony. This wish led to a
discussion with his father, who bade him think of the uncertainty of such
returns, and the wisdom of creating a reserve fund for the years when the
trees might not bear, and so equalizing his resources. I felt what was
passing through the mother's mind as she sat by in silence; she rejoiced in


the way Jacques listened to his father, the father seeming to recover the
paternal dignity that was lacking to him, thanks to the ideas which she
herself had prompted in him. Did I not tell you truly that in picturing this
woman earthly language was insufficient to render either her character or
her spirit. When such scenes occurred my soul drank in their delights
without analyzing them; but now, with what vigor they detach themselves
on the dark background of my troubled life! Like diamonds they shine
against the settling of thoughts degraded by alloy, of bitter regrets for a
lost happiness. Why do the names of the two estates purchased after the
Restoration, and in which Monsieur and Madame de Mortsauf both took
the deepest interest, the Cassine and the Rhetoriere, move me more than
the sacred names of the Holy Land or of Greece? "Who loves, knows!"
cried La Fontaine. Those names possess the talismanic power of words
uttered under certain constellations by seers; they explain magic to me;
they awaken sleeping forms which arise and speak to me; they lead me to
the happy valley; they recreate skies and landscape. But such evocations
are in the regions of the spiritual world; they pass in the silence of my
own soul. Be not surprised, therefore, if I dwell on all these homely
scenes; the smallest details of that simple, almost common life are ties
which, frail as they may seem, bound me in closest union to the countess.
The interests of her children gave Madame de Mortsauf almost as
much anxiety as their health. I soon saw the truth of what she had told me


as to her secret share in the management of the family affairs, into which
I became slowly initiated. After ten years' steady effort Madame de
Mortsauf had changed the method of cultivating the estate. She had "put
it in fours," as the saying is in those parts, meaning the new system under
which wheat is sown every four years only, so as to make the soil produce
a different crop yearly. To evade the obstinate unwillingness of the
peasantry it was found necessary to cancel the old leases and give new
ones, to divide the estate into four great farms and let them on equal
shares, the sort of lease that prevails in Touraine and its neighborhood.
The owner of the estate gives the house, farm-buildings, and seed-grain to
tenants-at-will, with whom he divides the costs of cultivation and the
crops. This division is superintended by an agent or bailiff, whose
business it is to take the share belonging to the owner; a costly system,
complicated by the market changes of values, which alter the character of
the shares constantly. The countess had induced Monsieur de Mortsauf to
cultivate a fifth farm, made up of the reserved lands about Clochegourde,
as much to occupy his mind as to show other farmers the excellence of
the new method by the evidence of facts. Being thus, in a hidden way, the
mistress of the estate, she had slowly and with a woman's persistency
rebuilt two of the farm-houses on the principle of those in Artois and
Flanders. It is easy to see her motive. She wished, after the expiration of
the leases on shares, to relet to intelligent and capable persons for rental


in money, and thus simplify the revenues of Clochegourde. Fearing to die
before her husband, she was anxious to secure for him a regular income,
and to her children a property which no incapacity could jeopardize. At
the present time the fruit-trees planted during the last ten years were in
full bearing; the hedges, which secured the boundaries from dispute, were
in good order; the elms and poplars were growing well. With the new
purchases and the new farming system well under way, the estate of
Clochegourde, divided into four great farms, two of which still needed
new houses, was capable of bringing in forty thousand francs a year, ten
thousand for each farm, not counting the yield of the vineyards, and the
two hundred acres of woodland which adjoined them, nor the profits of
the model home-farm. The roads to the great farms all opened on an
avenue which followed a straight line from Clochegourde to the main
road leading to Chinon. The distance from the entrance of this avenue to
Tours was only fifteen miles; tenants would never be wanting, especially
now that everybody was talking of the count's improvements and the
excellent condition of his land.
The countess wished to put some fifteen thousand francs into each of
the estates lately purchased, and to turn the present dwellings into two
large farm-houses and buildings, in order that the property might bring in
a better rent after the ground had been cultivated for a year or two. These
ideas, so simple in themselves, but complicated with the thirty odd


thousand francs it was necessary to expend upon them, were just now the
topic of many discussions between herself and the count, sometimes
amounting to bitter quarrels, in which she was sustained by the thought of
her children's interests. The fear, "If I die to-morrow what will become of
them?" made her heart beat. The gentle, peaceful hearts to whom anger is
an impossibility, and whose sole desire is to shed on those about them
their own inward peace, alone know what strength is needed for such
struggles, what demands upon the spirit must be made before beginning
the contest, what weariness ensues when the fight is over and nothing has
been won. At this moment, just as her children seemed less anemic, less
frail, more active (for the fruit season had had its effect on them), and her
moist eyes followed them as they played about her with a sense of
contentment which renewed her strength and refreshed her heart, the poor
woman was called upon to bear the sharp sarcasms and attacks of an
angry opposition. The count, alarmed at the plans she proposed, denied
with stolid obstinacy the advantages of all she had done and the
possibility of doing more. He replied to conclusive reasoning with the
folly of a child who denies the influence of the sun in summer. The
countess, however, carried the day. The victory of commonsense over
insanity so healed her wounds that she forgot the battle. That day we all
went to the Cassine and the Rhetoriere, to decide upon the buildings. The
count walked alone in front, the children went next, and we ourselves


followed slowly, for she was speaking in a low, gentle tone, which made
her words like the murmur of the sea as it ripples on a smooth beach.
She was, she said, certain of success. A new line of communication
between Tours and Chinon was to be opened by an active man, a carrier, a
cousin of Manette's, who wanted a large farm on the route. His family
was numerous; the eldest son would drive the carts, the second could
attend to the business, the father living half-way along the road, at
Rabelaye, one of the farms then to let, would look after the relays and
enrich his land with the manure of the stables. As to the other farm, la
Baude, the nearest to Clochegourde, one of their own people, a worthy,
intelligent, and industrious man, who saw the advantages of the new
system of agriculture, was ready to take a lease on it. The Cassine and the
Rhetoriere need give no anxiety; their soil was the very best in the
neighborhood; the farm-houses once built, and the ground brought into
cultivation, it would be quite enough to advertise them at Tours; tenants
would soon apply for them. In two years' time Clochegourde would be
worth at least twenty-four thousand francs a year. Gravelotte, the farm in
Maine, which Monsieur de Mortsauf had recovered after the emigration,
was rented for seven thousand francs a year for nine years; his pension
was four thousand. This income might not be a fortune, but it was
certainly a competence. Later, other additions to it might enable her to go
to Paris and attend to Jacques' education; in two years, she thought, his


health would be established.
With what feeling she uttered the word "Paris!" I knew her thought;
she wished to be as little separated as possible from her friend. On that I
broke forth; I told her that she did not know me; that without talking of it,
I had resolved to finish my education by working day and night so as to
fit myself to be Jacques' tutor. She looked grave. "No, Felix," she said,
"that cannot be, any more than your priesthood. I thank you from my
heart as a mother, but as a woman who loves you sincerely I can never
allow you to be the victim of your attachment to me. Such a position
would be a social discredit to you, and I could not allow it. No! I cannot
be an injury to you in any way. You, Vicomte de Vandenesse, a tutor! You,
whose motto is 'Ne se vend!' Were you Richelieu himself it would bar
your way in life; it would give the utmost pain to your family. My friend,
you do not know what insult women of the world, like my mother, can
put into a patronizing glance, what degradation into a word, what
contempt into a bow."
"But if you love me, what is the world to me?"
She pretended not to hear, and went on:--
"Though my father is most kind and desirous of doing all I ask, he
would never forgive your taking so humble a position; he would refuse
you his protection. I could not consent to your becoming tutor to the
Dauphin even. You must accept society as it is; never commit the fault of


flying in the face of it. My friend, this rash proposal of--"
"Love," I whispered.
"No, charity," she said, controlling her tears, "this wild idea
enlightens me as to your character; your heart will be your bane. I shall
claim from this moment the right to teach you certain things. Let my
woman's eye see for you sometimes. Yes, from the solitudes of
Clochegourde I mean to share, silently, contentedly, in your successes. As
to a tutor, do not fear; we shall find some good old abbe, some learned
Jesuit, and my father will gladly devote a handsome sum to the education
of the boy who is to bear his name. Jacques is my pride. He is, however,
eleven years old," she added after a pause. "But it is with him as with you;
when I first saw you I took you to be about thirteen."
We now reached the Cassine, where Jacques, Madeleine, and I
followed her about as children follow a mother; but we were in her way; I
left her presently and went into the orchard where Martineau the elder,
keeper of the place, was discussing with Martineau the younger, the
bailiff, whether certain trees ought or ought not to be taken down; they
were arguing the matter as if it concerned their own property. I then saw
how much the countess was beloved. I spoke of it to a poor laborer, who,
with one foot on his spade and an elbow on its handle, stood listening to
the two doctors of pomology.
"Ah, yes, monsieur," he answered, "she is a good woman, and not


haughty like those hussies at Azay, who would see us die like dogs sooner
than yield us one penny of the price of a grave! The day when that
woman leaves these parts the Blessed Virgin will weep, and we too. She
knows what is due to her, but she knows our hardships, too, and she puts
them into the account."
With what pleasure I gave that man all the money I had.
A few days later a pony arrived for Jacques, his father, an excellent
horseman, wishing to accustom the child by degrees to the fatigues of
such exercise. The boy had a pretty riding-dress, bought with the product
of the nuts. The morning when he took his first lesson accompanied by
his father and by Madeleine, who jumped and shouted about the lawn
round which Jacques was riding, was a great maternal festival for the
countess. The boy wore a blue collar embroidered by her, a little sky-blue
overcoat fastened by a polished leather belt, a pair of white trousers
pleated at the waist, and a Scotch cap, from which his fair hair flowed in
heavy locks. He was charming to behold. All the servants clustered round
to share the domestic joy. The little heir smiled at his mother as he passed
her, sitting erect, and quite fearless. This first manly act of a child to
whom death had often seemed so near, the promise of a sound future
warranted by this ride which showed him so handsome, so fresh, so
rosy,--what a reward for all her cares! Then too the joy of the father, who
seemed to renew his youth, and who smiled for the first time in many


long months; the pleasure shown on all faces, the shout of an old
huntsman of the Lenoncourts, who had just arrived from Tours, and who,
seeing how the boy held the reins, shouted to him, "Bravo, monsieur le
vicomte!"--all this was too much for the poor mother, and she burst into
tears; she, so calm in her griefs, was too weak to bear the joy of admiring
her boy as he bounded over the gravel, where so often she had led him in
the sunshine inwardly weeping his expected death. She leaned upon my
arm unreservedly, and said: "I think I have never suffered. Do not leave
us to-day."
The lesson over, Jacques jumped into his mother's arms; she caught
him and held him tightly to her, kissing him passionately. I went with
Madeleine to arrange two magnificent bouquets for the dinner-table in
honor of the young equestrian. When we returned to the salon the
countess said: "The fifteenth of October is certainly a great day with me.
Jacques has taken his first riding lesson, and I have just set the last stitch
in my furniture cover."
"Then, Blanche," said the count, laughing, "I must pay you for it."
He offered her his arm and took her to the first courtyard, where stood an
open carriage which her father had sent her, and for which the count had
purchased two English horses. The old huntsman had prepared the
surprise while Jacques was taking his lesson. We got into the carriage,
and went to see where the new avenue entered the main road towards


Chinon. As we returned, the countess said to me in an anxious tone, "I am
too happy; to me happiness is like an illness,--it overwhelms me; I fear it
may vanish like a dream."
I loved her too passionately not to feel jealous,--I who could give her
nothing! In my rage against myself I longed for some means of dying for
her. She asked me to tell her the thoughts that filled my eyes, and I told
her honestly. She was more touched than by all her presents; then taking
me to the portico, she poured comfort into my heart. "Love me as my
aunt loved me," she said, "and that will be giving me your life; and if I
take it, must I not ever be grateful to you?
"It was time I finished my tapestry," she added as we re-entered the
salon, where I kissed her hand as if to renew my vows. "Perhaps you do
not know, Felix, why I began so formidable a piece of work. Men find the
occupations of life a great resource against troubles; the management of
affairs distracts their mind; but we poor women have no support within
ourselves against our sorrows. To be able to smile before my children and
my husband when my heart was heavy I felt the need of controlling my
inward sufferings by some physical exercise. In this way I escaped the
depression which is apt to follow a great strain upon the moral strength,
and likewise all outbursts of excitement. The mere action of lifting my
arm regularly as I drew the stitches rocked my thoughts and gave to my
spirit when the tempest raged a monotonous ebb and flow which seemed


to regulate its emotions. To every stitch I confided my secrets,--you
understand me, do you not? Well, while doing my last chair I have
thought much, too much, of you, dear friend. What you have put into
your bouquets I have said in my embroidery."
The dinner was lovely. Jacques, like all children when you take
notice of them, jumped into my arms when he saw the flowers I had
arranged for him as a garland. His mother pretended to be jealous; ah,
Natalie, you should have seen the charming grace with which the dear
child offered them to her. In the afternoon we played a game of
backgammon, I alone against Monsieur and Madame de Mortsauf, and
the count was charming. They accompanied me along the road to
Frapesle in the twilight of a tranquil evening, one of those harmonious
evenings when our feelings gain in depth what they lose in vivacity. It
was a day of days in this poor woman's life; a spot of brightness which
often comforted her thoughts in painful hours.
Soon, however, the riding lessons became a subject of contention.
The countess justly feared the count's harsh reprimands to his son.
Jacques grew thin, dark circles surrounded his sweet blue eyes; rather
than trouble his mother, he suffered in silence. I advised him to tell his
father he was tired when the count's temper was violent; but that
expedient proved unavailing, and it became necessary to substitute the
old huntsman as a teacher in place of the father, who could with difficulty


be induced to resign his pupil. Angry reproaches and contentions began
once more; the count found a text for his continual complaints in the base
ingratitude of women; he flung the carriage, horses, and liveries in his
wife's face twenty times a day. At last a circumstance occurred on which a
man with his nature and his disease naturally fastened eagerly. The cost of
the buildings at the Cassine and the Rhetoriere proved to be half as much
again as the estimate. This news was unfortunately given in the first
instance to Monsieur de Mortsauf instead of to his wife. It was the ground
of a quarrel, which began mildly but grew more and more embittered
until it seemed as though the count's madness, lulled for a short time, was
demanding its arrearages from the poor wife.
That day I had started from Frapesle at half-past ten to search for
flowers with Madeleine. The child had brought the two vases to the
portico, and I was wandering about the gardens and adjoining meadows
gathering the autumn flowers, so beautiful, but too rare. Returning from
my final quest, I could not find my little lieutenant with her white cape
and broad pink sash; but I heard cries within the house, and Madeleine
presently came running out.
"The general," she said, crying (the term with her was an expression
of dislike), "the general is scolding mamma; go and defend her." I sprang
up the steps of the portico and reached the salon without being seen by
either the count or his wife. Hearing the madman's sharp cries I first shut


all the doors, then I returned and found Henriette as white as her dress.
"Never marry, Felix," said the count as soon as he saw me; "a
woman is led by the devil; the most virtuous of them would invent evil if
it did not exist; they are all vile."
Then followed arguments without beginning or end. Harking back to
the old troubles, Monsieur de Mortsauf repeated the nonsense of the
peasantry against the new system of farming. He declared that if he had
had the management of Clochegourde he should be twice as rich as he
now was. He shouted these complaints and insults, he swore, he sprang
around the room knocking against the furniture and displacing it; then in
the middle of a sentence he stopped short, complained that his very
marrow was on fire, his brains melting away like his money, his wife had
ruined him! The countess smiled and looked upward. "Yes, Blanche," he
cried, "you are my executioner; you are killing me; I am in your way; you
want to get rid of me; you are monster of hypocrisy. She is smiling! Do
you know why she smiles, Felix?" I kept silence and looked down.
"That woman," he continued, answering his own question, "denies
me all happiness; she is no more to me than she is to you, and yet she
pretends to be my wife! She bears my name and fulfils none of the duties
which all laws, human and divine, impose upon her; she lies to God and
man. She obliges me to go long distances, hoping to wear me out and
make me leave her to herself; I am displeasing to her, she hates me; she


puts all her art into keeping me away from her; she has made me mad
through the privations she imposes on me--for everything flies to my poor
head; she is killing me by degrees, and she thinks herself a saint and takes
the sacrament every month!"
  The countess was weeping bitterly, humiliated by the degradation of
the man, to whom she kept saying for all answer, "Monsieur! monsieur!
monsieur!"
  Though the count's words made me blush, more for him than for
Henriette, they stirred my heart violently, for they appealed to the sense
of chastity and delicacy which is indeed the very warp and woof of first
love.
  "She is virgin at my expense," cried the count.
  At these words the countess cried out, "Monsieur!"
  "What do you mean with your imperious 'Monsieur!'" he shouted.
"Am I not your master? Must I teach you that I am?"
  He came towards her, thrusting forward his white wolf's head, now
hideous, for his yellow eyes had a savage expression which made him
look like a wild beast rushing out of a wood. Henriette slid from her chair
to the ground to avoid a blow, which however was not given; she lay at
full length on the floor and lost consciousness, completely exhausted. The
count was like a murderer who feels the blood of his victim spurting in
his face; he stopped short, bewildered. I took the poor woman in my arms,


and the count let me take her, as though he felt unworthy to touch her; but
he went before me to open the door of her bedroom next the salon,--a
sacred room I had never entered. I put the countess on her feet and held
her for a moment in one arm, passing the other round her waist, while
Monsieur de Mortsauf took the eider- down coverlet from the bed; then
together we lifted her and laid her, still dressed, on the bed. When she
came to herself she motioned to us to unfasten her belt. Monsieur de
Mortsauf found a pair of scissors, and cut through it; I made her breathe
salts, and she opened her eyes. The count left the room, more ashamed
than sorry. Two hours passed in perfect silence. Henriette's hand lay in
mine; she pressed it to mine, but could not speak. From time to time she
opened her eyes as if to tell me by a look that she wished to be still and
silent; then suddenly, for an instant, there seemed a change; she rose on
her elbow and whispered, "Unhappy man!--ah! if you did but know--"
She fell back upon the pillow. The remembrance of her past
sufferings, joined to the present shock, threw her again into the nervous
convulsions I had just calmed by the magnetism of love,--a power then
unknown to me, but which I used instinctively. I held her with gentle
force, and she gave me a look which made me weep. When the nervous
motions ceased I smoothed her disordered hair, the first and only time
that I ever touched it; then I again took her hand and sat looking at the
room, all brown and gray, at the bed with its simple chintz curtains, at the


toilet table draped in a fashion now discarded, at the commonplace sofa
with its quilted mattress. What poetry I could read in that room! What
renunciations of luxury for herself; the only luxury being its spotless
cleanliness. Sacred cell of a married nun, filled with holy resignation; its
sole adornments were the crucifix of her bed, and above it the portrait of
her aunt; then, on each side of the holy water basin, two drawings of the
children made by herself, with locks of their hair when they were little.
What a retreat for a woman whose appearance in the great world of
fashion would have made the handsomest of her sex jealous! Such was
the chamber where the daughter of an illustrious family wept out her days,
sunken at this moment in anguish, and denying herself the love that might
have comforted her. Hidden, irreparable woe! Tears of the victim for her
slayer, tears of the slayer for his victim! When the children and
waiting-woman came at length into the room I left it. The count was
waiting for me; he seemed to seek me as a mediating power between
himself and his wife. He caught my hands, exclaiming, "Stay, stay with us,
Felix!"
"Unfortunately," I said, "Monsieur de Chessel has a party, and my
absence would cause remark. But after dinner I will return."
He left the house when I did, and took me to the lower gate without
speaking; then he accompanied me to Frapesle, seeming not to know
what he was doing. At last I said to him, "For heaven's sake, Monsieur le


comte, let her manage your affairs if it pleases her, and don't torment her."
  "I have not long to live," he said gravely; "she will not suffer long
through me; my head is giving way."
  He left me in a spasm of involuntary self-pity. After dinner I
returned for news of Madame de Mortsauf, who was already better. If
such were the joys of marriage, if such scenes were frequent, how could
she survive them long? What slow, unpunished murder was this? During
that day I understood the tortures by which the count was wearing out his
wife. Before what tribunal can we arraign such crimes? These thoughts
stunned me; I could say nothing to Henriette by word of mouth, but I
spent the night in writing to her. Of the three or four letters that I wrote I
have kept only the beginning of one, with which I was not satisfied. Here
it is, for though it seems to me to express nothing, and to speak too much
of myself when I ought only to have thought of her, it will serve to show
you the state my soul was in:--
To Madame de Mortsauf:
How many things I had to say to you when I reached the house! I
thought of them on the way, but I forgot them in your presence. Yes,
when I see you, dear Henriette, I find my thoughts no longer  in
keeping with the light from your soul which heightens your beauty;
then, too, the happiness of being near you is so ineffable  as to efface
all other feelings. Each time we meet I am born into a broader life; I


am like the traveller who climbs a rock and sees before him a new
horizon. Each time you talk with me I add new  treasures to my
treasury. There lies, I think, the secret of long  and inexhaustible
affections. I can only speak to you of yourself  when away from you. In
your presence I am too dazzled to see, too  happy to question my
happiness, too full of you to be myself, too eloquent through you to
speak, too eager in seizing the present moment to remember the past.
You must think of this state of  intoxication and forgive me its
consequent mistakes.
When near you I can only feel. Yet, I have courage to say, dear
Henriette, that never, in all the many joys you have given me, never
did I taste such joy as filled my soul when, after that dreadful storm
through which you struggled with superhuman courage, you came to
yourself alone with me, in the twilight of your chamber where that
unhappy scene had brought me. I alone know the light that shines from
a woman when through the portals of death she re-enters life with the
dawn of a rebirth tinting her brow. What harmonies were in your voice!
How words, even your words, seemed paltry when the sound of that
adored voice--in itself the echo of past pains mingled with divine
consolations--  blessed me with the gift of your first thought. I knew
you were brilliant with all human splendor, but yesterday I found a
new  Henriette, who might be mine if God so willed; I beheld a spirit


freed from the bodily trammels which repress the ardors of the soul.
Ah! thou wert beautiful indeed in thy weakness, majestic in thy
prostration. Yesterday I found something more beautiful than  thy
beauty, sweeter than thy voice; lights more sparkling than the  light of
thine eyes, perfumes for which there are no words--  yesterday thy soul
was visible and palpable. Would I could have opened my heart and
made thee live there! Yesterday I lost the respectful timidity with
which thy presence inspires me; thy  weakness brought us nearer
together. Then, when the crisis passed  and thou couldst bear our
atmosphere once more, I knew what it was  to breathe in unison with
thy breath. How many prayers rose up to heaven in that moment!
Since I did not die as I rushed through  space to ask of God that he
would leave thee with me, no human creature can die of joy nor yet of
sorrow. That moment has left  memories buried in my soul which never
again will reappear upon  its surface and leave me tearless. Yes, the
fears with which my  soul was tortured yesterday are incomparably
greater than all  sorrows that the future can bring upon me, just as the
joys which  thou hast given me, dear eternal thought of my life! will be
forever greater than any future joy God may be pleased to grant me.
Thou hast made me comprehend the love divine, that sure love,  sure in
strength and in duration, that knows no doubt or jealousy. Deepest
melancholy gnawed my soul; the glimpse into that hidden life was


agonizing to a young heart new to social emotions; it was an awful thing
to find this abyss at the opening of life,--a bottomless abyss, a Dead Sea.
This dreadful aggregation of misfortunes suggested many thoughts; at my
first step into social life I found a standard of comparison by which all
other events and circumstances must seem petty.
  The next day when I entered the salon she was there alone. She
looked at me for a moment, held out her hand, and said, "My friend is
always too tender." Her eyes grew moist; she rose, and then she added, in
a tone of desperate entreaty, "Never write thus to me again."
  Monsieur de Mortsauf was very kind. The countess had recovered
her courage and serenity; but her pallor betrayed the sufferings of the
previous night, which were calmed, but not extinguished. That evening
she said to me, as she paced among the autumn leaves which rustled
beneath our footsteps, "Sorrow is infinite; joys are limited,"--words
which betrayed her sufferings by the comparison she made with the
fleeting delights of the previous week.
  "Do not slander life," I said to her. "You are ignorant of love; love
gives happiness which shines in heaven."
  "Hush!" she said. "I wish to know nothing of it. The Icelander would
die in Italy. I am calm and happy beside you; I can tell you all my
thoughts; do not destroy my confidence. Why will you not combine the
virtue of the priest with the charm of a free man."


  "You make me drink the hemlock!" I cried, taking her hand and
laying it on my heart, which was beating fast.
  "Again!" she said, withdrawing her hand as if it pained her. "Are you
determined to deny me the sad comfort of letting my wounds be stanched
by a friendly hand? Do not add to my sufferings; you do not know them
all; those that are hidden are the worst to bear. If you were a woman you
would know the melancholy disgust that fills her soul when she sees
herself the object of attentions which atone for nothing, but are thought to
atone for all. For the next few days I shall be courted and caressed, that I
may pardon the wrong that has been done. I could then obtain consent to
any wish of mine, however unreasonable. I am humiliated by his humility,
by caresses which will cease as soon as he imagines that I have forgotten
that scene. To owe our master's good graces to his faults--"
  "His crimes!" I interrupted quickly.
  "Is not that a frightful condition of existence?" she continued, with a
sad smile. "I cannot use this transient power. At such times I am like the
knights who could not strike a fallen adversary. To see in the dust a man
whom we ought to honor, to raise him only to enable him to deal other
blows, to suffer from his degradation more than he suffers himself, to feel
ourselves degraded if we profit by such influence for even a useful end, to
spend our strength, to waste the vigor of our souls in struggles that have
no grandeur, to have no power except for a moment when a fatal crisis


comes--ah, better death! If I had no children I would let myself drift on
the wretched current of this life; but if I lose my courage, what will
become of them? I must live for them, however cruel this life may be.
You talk to me of love. Ah! my dear friend, think of the hell into which I
should fling myself if I gave that pitiless being, pitiless like all weak
creatures, the right to despise me. The purity of my conduct is my
strength. Virtue, dear friend, is holy water in which we gain fresh strength,
from which we issue renewed in the love of God."
  "Listen to me, dear Henriette; I have only another week to stay here,
and I wish--"
  "Ah, you mean to leave us!" she exclaimed.
  "You must know what my father intends to do with me," I replied.
"It is now three months--"
  "I have not counted the days," she said, with momentary self-
abandonment. Then she checked herself and cried, "Come, let us go to
Frapesle."
  She called the count and the children, sent for a shawl, and when all
were ready she, usually so calm and slow in all her movements, became
as active as a Parisian, and we started in a body to pay a visit at Frapesle
which the countess did not owe. She forced herself to talk to Madame de
Chessel, who was fortunately discursive in her answers. The count and
Monsieur de Chessel conversed on business. I was afraid the former


might boast of his carriage and horses; but he committed no such
solecisms. His neighbor questioned him about his projected
improvements at the Cassine and the Rhetoriere. I looked at the count,
wondering if he would avoid a subject of conversation so full of painful
memories to all, so cruelly mortifying to him. On the contrary, he
explained how urgent a duty it was to better the agricultural condition of
the canton, to build good houses and make the premises salubrious; in
short, he glorified himself with his wife's ideas. I blushed as I looked at
her. Such want of scruple in a man who, on certain occasions, could be
scrupulous enough, this oblivion of the dreadful scene, this adoption of
ideas against which he had fought so violently, this confident belief in
himself, petrified me.
When Monsieur de Chessel said to him, "Do you expect to recover
your outlay?"
"More than recover it!" he exclaimed, with a confident gesture.
Such contradictions can be explained only by the word "insanity."
Henriette, celestial creature, was radiant. The count was appearing to
be a man of intelligence, a good administrator, an excellent agriculturist;
she played with her boy's curly head, joyous for him, happy for herself.
What a comedy of pain, what mockery in this drama; I was horrified by it.
Later in life, when the curtain of the world's stage was lifted before me,
how many other Mortsaufs I saw without the loyalty and the religious


faith of this man. What strange, relentless power is it that perpetually
awards an angel to a madman; to a man of heart, of true poetic passion, a
base woman; to the petty, grandeur; to this demented brain, a beautiful,
sublime being; to Juana, Captain Diard, whose history at Bordeaux I have
told you; to Madame de Beauseant, an Ajuda; to Madame d'Aiglemont,
her husband; to the Marquis d'Espard, his wife! Long have I sought the
meaning of this enigma. I have ransacked many mysteries, I have
discovered the reason of many natural laws, the purport of some divine
hieroglyphics; of the meaning of this dark secret I know nothing. I study
it as I would the form of an Indian weapon, the symbolic construction of
which is known only to the Brahmans. In this dread mystery the spirit of
Evil is too visibly the master; I dare not lay the blame to God. Anguish
irremediable, what power finds amusement in weaving you? Can
Henriette and her mysterious philosopher be right? Does their mysticism
contain the explanation of humanity?
  The autumn leaves were falling during the last few days which I
passed in the valley, days of lowering clouds, which do sometimes
obscure the heaven of Touraine, so pure, so warm at that fine season. The
evening before my departure Madame de Mortsauf took me to the terrace
before dinner.
  "My dear Felix," she said, after we had taken a turn in silence under
the leafless trees, "you are about to enter the world, and I wish to go with


you in thought. Those who have suffered much have lived and known
much. Do not think that solitary souls know nothing of the world; on the
contrary, they are able to judge it. Hear me: If I am to live in and for my
friend I must do what I can for his heart and for his conscience. When the
conflict rages it is hard to remember rules; therefore let me give you a
few instructions, the warnings of a mother to her son. The day you leave
us I shall give you a letter, a long letter, in which you will find my
woman's thoughts on the world, on society, on men, on the right methods
of meeting difficulty in this great clash of human interests. Promise me
not to read this letter till you reach Paris. I ask it from a fanciful sentiment,
one of those secrets of womanhood not impossible to understand, but
which we grieve to find deciphered; leave me this covert way where as a
woman I wish to walk alone."
  "Yes, I promise it," I said, kissing her hand.
  "Ah," she added, "I have one more promise to ask of you; but grant
it first."
  "Yes, yes!" I cried, thinking it was surely a promise of fidelity.
  "It does not concern myself," she said smiling, with some bitterness.
  "Felix, do not gamble in any house, no matter whose it be; I except
none."
  "I will never play at all," I replied.
  "Good," she said. "I have found a better use for your time than to


waste it on cards. The end will be that where others must sooner or later
be losers you will invariably win."
"How so?"
"The letter will tell you," she said, with a playful smile, which took
from her advice the serious tone which might certainly have been that of
a grandfather.
The countess talked to me for an hour, and proved the depth of her
affection by the study she had made of my nature during the last three
months. She penetrated the recesses of my heart, entering it with her own;
the tones of her voice were changeful and convincing; the words fell from
maternal lips, showing by their tone as well as by their meaning how
many ties already bound us to each other.
"If you knew," she said in conclusion, "with what anxiety I shall
follow your course, what joy I shall feel if you walk straight, what tears I
must shed if you strike against the angles! Believe that my affection has
no equal; it is involuntary and yet deliberate. Ah, I would that I might see
you happy, powerful, respected,--you who are to me a living dream."
She made me weep, so tender and so terrible was she. Her feelings
came boldly to the surface, yet they were too pure to give the slightest
hope even to a young man thirsting for pleasure. Ignoring my tortured
flesh, she shed the rays, undeviating, incorruptible, of the divine love,
which satisfies the soul only. She rose to heights whither the prismatic


pinions of a love like mine were powerless to bear me. To reach her a
man must needs have won the white wings of the seraphim. "In all that
happens to me I will ask myself," I said, "'What would my Henriette
say?'"
"Yes, I will be the star and the sanctuary both," she said, alluding to
the dreams of my childhood.
"You are my light and my religion," I cried; "you shall be my all."
"No," she answered; "I can never be the source of your pleasures."
She sighed; the smile of secret pain was on her lips, the smile of the
slave who momentarily revolts. From that day forth she was to me, not
merely my beloved, but my only love; she was not IN my heart as a
woman who takes a place, who makes it hers by devotion or by excess of
pleasure given; but she was my heart itself,--it was all hers, a something
necessary to the play of my muscles. She became to me as Beatrice to the
Florentine, as the spotless Laura to the Venetian, the mother of great
thoughts, the secret cause of resolutions which saved me, the support of
my future, the light shining in the darkness like a lily in a wood. Yes, she
inspired those high resolves which pass through flames, which save the
thing in peril; she gave me a constancy like Coligny's to vanquish
conquerors, to rise above defeat, to weary the strongest wrestler.
The next day, having breakfasted at Frapesle and bade adieu to my
kind hosts, I went to Clochegourde. Monsieur and Madame de Mortsauf


had arranged to drive with me to Tours, whence I was to start the same
night for Paris. During the drive the countess was silent; she pretended at
first to have a headache; then she blushed at the falsehood, and expiated it
by saying that she could not see me go without regret. The count invited
me to stay with them whenever, in the absence of the Chessels, I might
long to see the valley of the Indre once more. We parted heroically,
without apparent tears, but Jacques, who like other delicate children was
quickly touched, began to cry, while Madeleine, already a woman,
pressed her mother's hand. "Dear little one!" said the countess, kissing
Jacques passionately. When I was alone at Tours after dinner a wild,
inexplicable desire known only to young blood possessed me. I hired a
horse and rode from Tours to Pont-de-Ruan in an hour and a quarter.
There, ashamed of my folly, I dismounted, and went on foot along the
road, stepping cautiously like a spy till I reached the terrace. The countess
was not there, and I imagined her ill; I had kept the key of the little gate,
by which I now entered; she was coming down the steps of the portico
with the two children to breathe in sadly and slowly the tender
melancholy of the landscape, bathed at that moment in the setting sun.
"Mother, here is Felix," said Madeleine.
  "Yes," I whispered; "it is I. I asked myself why I should stay at Tours
while I still could see you; why not indulge a desire that in a few days
more I could not gratify."


"He won't leave us again, mother," cried Jacques, jumping round me.
"Hush!" said Madeleine; "if you make such a noise the general will
come."
"It is not right," she said. "What folly!"
The tears in her voice were the payment of what must be called a
usurious speculation of love.
"I had forgotten to return this key," I said smiling.
"Then you will never return," she said.
"Can we ever be really parted?" I asked, with a look which made her
drop her eyelids for all answer.
I left her after a few moments passed in that happy stupor of the
spirit where exaltation ends and ecstasy begins. I went with lagging step,
looking back at every minute. When, from the summit of the hill, I saw
the valley for the last time I was struck with the contrast it presented to
what it was when I first came there. Then it was verdant, then it glowed,
glowed and blossomed like my hopes and my desires. Initiated now into
the gloomy secrets of a family, sharing the anguish of a Christian Niobe,
sad with her sadness, my soul darkened, I saw the valley in the tone of
my own thoughts. The fields were bare, the leaves of the poplars falling,
the few that remained were rusty, the vine-stalks were burned, the tops of
the trees were tan-colored, like the robes in which royalty once clothed
itself as if to hide the purple of its power beneath the brown of grief. Still


in harmony with my thoughts, the valley, where the yellow rays of the
setting sun were coldly dying, seemed to me a living image of my heart.
To leave a beloved woman is terrible or natural, according as the
mind takes it. For my part, I found myself suddenly in a strange land of
which I knew not the language. I was unable to lay hold of things to
which my soul no longer felt attachment. Then it was that the height and
the breadth of my love came before me; my Henriette rose in all her
majesty in this desert where I existed only through thoughts of her. That
form so worshipped made me vow to keep myself spotless before my
soul's divinity, to wear ideally the white robe of the Levite, like Petrarch,
who never entered Laura's presence unless clothed in white. With what
impatience I awaited the first night of my return to my father's roof, when
I could read the letter which I felt of during the journey as a miser fingers
the bank-bills he carries about him. During the night I kissed the paper on
which my Henriette had manifested her will; I sought to gather the
mysterious emanations of her hand, to recover the intonations of her
voice in the hush of my being. Since then I have never read her letters
except as I read that first letter; in bed, amid total silence. I cannot
understand how the letters of our beloved can be read in any other way;
yet there are men, unworthy to be loved, who read such letters in the
turmoil of the day, laying them aside and taking them up again with
odious composure. Here, Natalie, is the voice which echoed through the


silence of that night. Behold the noble figure which stood before me and
pointed to the right path among the cross-ways at which I stood.
  To Monsieur le Vicomte Felix de Vandenesse:
  What happiness for me, dear friend, to gather the scattered
elements of my experience that I may arm you against the dangers of
the world, through which I pray that you pass scatheless. I have felt
the highest pleasures of maternal love as night after night I have
thought of these things. While writing this letter, sentence by sentence,
projecting my thoughts into the life you are  about to lead, I went often
to my window. Looking at the towers of  Frapesle, visible in the
moonlight, I said to myself, "He sleeps,  I wake for him." Delightful
feelings! which recall the happiest of  my life, when I watched Jacques
sleeping in his cradle and waited  till he wakened, to feed him with my
milk. You are the man-child  whose soul must now be strengthened by
precepts never taught in schools, but which we women have the
privilege of inculcating. These precepts will influence your success;
they prepare the way for it, they will secure it. Am I not exercising a
spiritual motherhood in giving you a standard by which to judge the
actions  of your life; a motherhood comprehended, is it not, by the
child? Dear Felix, let me, even though I may make a few mistakes, let
me  give to our friendship a proof of the disinterestedness which
sanctifies it.


  In yielding you to the world I am renouncing you; but I love you
too well not to sacrifice my happiness to your welfare. For the last
four months you have made me reflect deeply on the laws and customs
which regulate our epoch. The conversations I have had with my aunt,
well-known to you who have replaced her, the events  of Monsieur de
Mortsauf's life, which he has told me, the tales related by my father, to
whom society and the court are familiar  in their greatest as well as in
their smallest aspects, all these have risen in my memory for the
benefit of my adopted child at the  moment when he is about to be
launched, well-nigh alone, among  men; about to act without adviser in
a world where many are  wrecked by their own best qualities
thoughtlessly displayed, while others succeed through a judicious use
of their worst.
  I ask you to ponder this statement of my opinion of society as a
whole; it is concise, for to you a few words are sufficient.
  I do not know whether societies are of divine origin or whether
they were invented by man. I am equally ignorant of the direction in
which they tend. What I do know certainly is the fact of their existence.
No sooner therefore do you enter society, instead of living a life apart,
than you are bound to consider its conditions binding; a contract is
signed between you. Does society in these days gain more from a man
than it returns to him? I think so; but as to whether the individual man


finds more cost than profit, or  buys too dear the advantages he obtains,
concerns the legislator only; I have nothing to say to that. In my
judgment you are bound to obey in all things the general law, without
discussion, whether it injures or benefits your personal interests. This
principle may  seem to you a very simple one, but it is difficult of
application; it is like sap, which must infiltrate the smallest of the
capillary tubes to stir the tree, renew its verdure, develop its flowers,
and ripen fruit. Dear, the laws of society are not all written in a book;
manners and customs create laws, the more important of which are
often the least known. Believe me, there  are neither teachers, nor
schools, nor text-books for the laws that are now to regulate your
actions, your language, your visible life, the manner of your
presentation to the world, and your quest  of fortune. Neglect those
secret laws or fail to understand them, and you stay at the foot of the
social system instead of looking down upon it. Even though this letter
may seem to you diffuse,  telling you much that you have already
thought, let me confide to  you a woman's ethics.
  To explain society on the theory of individual happiness adroitly
won at the cost of the greater number is a monstrous doctrine, which
in its strict application leads men to believe that all they can secretly
lay hold of before the law or society or other individuals condemn it as
a wrong is honestly and fairly theirs. Once admit that claim and the


clever thief goes free; the woman  who violates her marriage vow
without the knowledge of the world is virtuous and happy; kill a man,
leaving no proof for justice,  and if, like Macbeth, you win a crown you
have done wisely; your selfish interests become the higher law; the
only question then is how to evade, without witnesses or proof, the
obstacles which law and morality place between you and your
self-indulgence. To those who hold this view of society, the problem
of making their fortune, my dear friend, resolves itself into playing a
game where  the stakes are millions or the galleys, political triumphs or
dishonor. Still, the green cloth is not long enough for all the players,
and a certain kind of genius is required to play the game. I say nothing
of religious beliefs, nor yet of feelings;  what concerns us now is the
running-gear of the great machine of gold and iron, and its practical
results with which men's lives  are occupied. Dear child of my heart, if
you share my horror at  this criminal theory of the world, society will
present to your  mind, as it does to all sane minds, the opposite theory
of duty.  Yes, you will see that man owes himself to man in a thousand
differing ways. To my mind, the duke and peer owe far more to the
workman and the pauper than the pauper and the workman owe to the
duke. The obligations of duty enlarge in proportion to the benefits
which society bestows on men; in accordance with the maxim, as true
in social politics as in business, that the burden of care and vigilance is


everywhere in proportion to profits. Each  man pays his debt in his own
way. When our poor toiler at the Rhetoriere comes home weary with
his day's work has he not done  his duty? Assuredly he has done it
better than many in the ranks above him.
  If you take this view of society, in which you are about to seek a
place in keeping with your intellect and your faculties, you must set
before you as a generating principle and mainspring, this maxim:
never permit yourself to act against either your own conscience or the
public conscience. Though my entreaty may seem  to you superfluous,
yet I entreat, yes, your Henriette implores you to ponder the meaning
of that rule. It seems simple but, dear, it means that integrity, loyalty,
honor, and courtesy are the  safest and surest instruments for your
success. In this selfish  world you will find many to tell you that a man
cannot make his  way by sentiments, that too much respect for moral
considerations  will hinder his advance. It is not so; you will see men
ill-  trained, ill-taught, incapable of measuring the future, who are
rough to a child, rude to an old woman, unwilling to be irked by  some
worthy old man on the ground that they can do nothing for him; later,
you will find the same men caught by the thorns which  they might
have rendered pointless, and missing their triumph for some trivial
reason; whereas the man who is early trained to a  sense of duty does
not meet the same obstacles; he may attain success less rapidly, but


when attained it is solid and does not crumble like that of others.
  When I show you that the application of this doctrine demands in
the first place a mastery of the science of manners, you may think my
jurisprudence has a flavor of the court and of the training I received as
a Lenoncourt. My dear friend, I do attach great importance to that
training, trifling as it seems. You will find that the habits of the great
world are as important to you as the  wide and varied knowledge that
you possess. Often they take the  place of such knowledge; for some
really ignorant men, born with  natural gifts and accustomed to give
connection to their ideas,  have been known to attain a grandeur never
reached by others far more worthy of it. I have studied you thoroughly,
Felix, wishing  to know if your education, derived wholly from schools,
has injured your nature. God knows the joy with which I find you fit
for that further education of which I speak.
  The manners of many who are brought up in the traditions of the
great world are purely external; true politeness, perfect manners, come
from the heart, and from a deep sense of personal dignity. This is why
some men of noble birth are, in spite of their training, ill-mannered,
while others, among the middle classes, have instinctive good taste
and only need a few lessons to give them excellent manners without
any signs of awkward imitation.  Believe a poor woman who no longer
leaves her valley when she tells you that this dignity of tone, this


courteous simplicity in  words, in gesture, in bearing, and even in the
character of the home, is a living and material poem, the charm of
which is  irresistible; imagine therefore what it is when it takes its
inspiration from the heart. Politeness, dear, consists in seeming to
forget ourselves for others; with many it is social cant, laid  aside when
personal self-interest shows its cloven-foot; a noble  then becomes
ignoble. But--and this is what I want you to practise, Felix--true
politeness involves a Christian principle; it is the flower of Love, it
requires that we forget ourselves  really. In memory of your Henriette,
for her sake, be not a fountain without water, have the essence and the
form of true courtesy. Never fear to be the dupe and victim of this
social virtue; you will some day gather the fruit of seeds scattered
apparently to the winds.
My father used to say that one of the great offences of sham
politeness was the neglect of promises. When anything is demanded of
you that you cannot do, refuse positively and leave no loopholes for
false hopes; on the other hand, grant at once whatever you are willing
to bestow. Your prompt refusal will make you friends as well as your
prompt benefit, and your character will stand the higher; for it is hard
to say whether a promise forgotten, a hope deceived does not make us
more enemies than a  favor granted brings us friends.
Dear friend, there are certain little matters on which I may


dwell, for I know them, and it comes within my province to impart
them. Be not too confiding, nor frivolous, nor over enthusiastic,
--three rocks on which youth often strikes. Too confiding a nature
loses respect, frivolity brings contempt, and others take advantage of
excessive enthusiasm. In the first place, Felix, you  will never have
more than two or three friends in the course of your life. Your entire
confidence is their right; to give it to  many is to betray your real
friends. If you are more intimate with some men than with others keep
guard over yourself; be as cautious as though you knew they would
one day be your rivals, or your enemies; the chances and changes of
life require this. Maintain an attitude which is neither cold nor hot;
find the medium point at which a man can safely hold intercourse with
others without  compromising himself. Yes, believe me, the honest man
is as far from the base cowardice of Philinte as he is from the harsh
virtue of Alceste. The genius of the poet is displayed in the mind of
this true medium; certainly all minds do enjoy more the ridicule of
virtue than the sovereign contempt of easy-going selfishness which
underlies that picture of it; but all, nevertheless, are prompted to keep
themselves from either extreme.
  As to frivolity, if it causes fools to proclaim you a charming
man, others who are accustomed to judge of men's capacities and
fathom character, will winnow out your tare and bring you to disrepute,


for frivolity is the resource of weak natures, and  weakness is soon
appraised in a society which regards its members as nothing more than
organs--and perhaps justly, for nature  herself puts to death imperfect
beings. A woman's protecting instincts may be roused by the pleasure
she feels in supporting  the weak against the strong, and in leading the
intelligence of the heart to victory over the brutality of matter; but
society, less a mother than a stepmother, adores only the children who
flatter her vanity.
  As to ardent enthusiasm, that first sublime mistake of youth,
which finds true happiness in using its powers, and begins by being its
own dupe before it is the dupe of others, keep it within the region of
the heart's communion, keep it for woman and for God. Do not hawk
its treasures in the bazaars of society or of politics, where trumpery
will be offered in exchange for them. Believe the voice which
commands you to be noble in all things when it also prays you not to
expend your forces uselessly. Unhappily, men will rate you according
to your usefulness, and not according to your worth. To use an image
which I think will strike  your poetic mind, let a cipher be what it may,
immeasurable in  size, written in gold, or written in pencil, it is only a
cipher  after all. A man of our times has said, "No zeal, above all, no
zeal!" The lesson may be sad, but it is true, and it saves the soul from
wasting its bloom. Hide your pure sentiments, or put  them in regions


inaccessible, where their blossoms may be passionately admired,
where the artist may dream amorously of his master-piece. But duties,
my friend, are not sentiments. To do what we ought is by no means to
do what we like. A man who would  give his life enthusiastically for a
woman must be ready to die coldly for his country.
  One of the most important rules in the science of manners is that
of almost absolute silence about ourselves. Play a little comedy for
your own instruction; talk of yourself to acquaintances, tell  them about
your sufferings, your pleasures, your business, and you  will see how
indifference succeeds pretended interest; then annoyance follows, and
if the mistress of the house does not find some civil way of stopping
you the company will disappear under  various pretexts adroitly seized.
Would you, on the other hand, gather sympathies about you and be
spoken of as amiable and witty, and a true friend? talk to others of
themselves, find a way to bring them forward, and brows will clear,
lips will smile, and  after you leave the room all present will praise you.
Your  conscience and the voice of your own heart will show you the
line  where the cowardice of flattery begins and the courtesy of
intercourse ceases.
  One word more about a young man's demeanor in public. My dear
friend, youth is always inclined to a rapidity of judgment which does it
honor, but also injury. This was why the old system of education


obliged young people to keep silence and study life in a probationary
period beside their elders. Formerly, as you know,  nobility, like art,
had its apprentices, its pages, devoted body and soul to the masters
who maintained them. To-day youth is forced in a hot-house; it is
trained to judge of thoughts, actions, and writings with biting severity;
it slashes with a  blade that has not been fleshed. Do not make this
mistake. Such  judgments will seem like censures to many about you,
who would sooner pardon an open rebuke than a secret wound. Young
people are  pitiless because they know nothing of life and its
difficulties. The old critic is kind and considerate, the young critic is
implacable; the one knows nothing, the other knows all. Moreover,  at
the bottom of all human actions there is a labyrinth of determining
reasons on which God reserves for himself the final  judgment. Be
severe therefore to none but yourself.
  Your future is before you; but no one in the world can make his
way unaided. Therefore, make use of my father's house; its doors are
open to you; the connections that you will create for yourself under his
roof will serve you in a hundred ways. But do not yield  an inch of
ground to my mother; she will crush any one who gives up to her, but
she will admire the courage of whoever resists her.  She is like iron,
which if beaten, can be fused with iron, but when cold will break
everything less hard than itself. Cultivate  my mother; for if she thinks


well of you she will introduce you into certain houses where you can
acquire the fatal science of the  world, the art of listening, speaking,
answering, presenting yourself to the company and taking leave of it;
the precise use of  language, the something--how shall I explain
it?--which is no more  superiority than the coat is the man, but without
which the  highest talent in the world will never be admitted within
those portals.
  I know you well enough to be quite sure I indulge no illusion
when  I imagine that I see you as I wish you to be; simple in manners,
gentle in tone, proud without conceit, respectful to the old, courteous
without servility, above all, discreet. Use your wit but  never display it
for the amusement of others; for be sure that if  your brilliancy annoys
an inferior man, he will retire from the field and say of you in a tone of
contempt, "He is very amusing." Let your superiority be leonine.
Moreover, do not be always seeking to please others. I advise a certain
coldness in your relations with men, which may even amount to
indifference; this  will not anger others, for all persons esteem those
who slight  them; and it will win you the favor of women, who will
respect you  for the little consequence that you attach to men. Never
remain in  company with those who have lost their reputation, even
though  they may not have deserved to do so; for society holds us
responsible for our friendships as well as for our enmities. In  this


matter let your judgments be slowly and maturely weighed, but see
that they are irrevocable. When the men whom you have repulsed
justify the repulsion, your esteem and regard will be all the more
sought after; you have inspired the tacit respect which raises a  man
among his peers. I behold you now armed with a youth that pleases,
grace which attracts, and wisdom with which to preserve  your
conquests. All that I have now told you can be summed up in two
words, two old-fashioned words, "Noblesse oblige."
  Now apply these precepts to the management of life. You will
hear many persons say that strategy is the chief element of success;
that the best way to press through the crowd is to set some men  against
other men and so take their places. That was a good system for the
Middle Ages, when princes had to destroy their rivals by  pitting one
against the other; but in these days, all things being  done in open day, I
am afraid it would do you ill-service. No, you  must meet your
competitors face to face, be they loyal and true  men, or traitorous
enemies whose weapons are calumny, evil-  speaking, and fraud. But
remember this, you have no more powerful auxiliaries than these men
themselves; they are their own enemies;  fight them with honest
weapons, and sooner or later they are  condemned. As to the first of
them, loyal men and true, your straightforwardness will obtain their
respect, and the differences  between you once settled (for all things


can be settled), these men will serve you. Do not be afraid of making
enemies; woe to him who has none in the world you are about to enter;
but try to give no handle for ridicule or disparagement. I say TRY, for
in Paris a  man cannot always belong solely to himself; he is
sometimes at the  mercy of circumstances; you will not always be able
to avoid the mud in the gutter nor the tile that falls from the roof. The
moral  world has gutters where persons of no reputation endeavor to
splash the mud in which they live upon men of honor. But you can
always compel respect by showing that you are, under all
circumstances, immovable in your principles. In the conflict of
opinions, in the midst of quarrels and cross-purposes, go straight to the
point, keep resolutely to the question; never fight except for the
essential thing, and put your whole strength into that. You know how
Monsieur de Mortsauf hates Napoleon, how he curses him and pursues
him as justice does a criminal; demanding  punishment day and night
for the death of the Duc d'Enghien, the  only death, the only misfortune,
that ever brought the tears to  his eyes; well, he nevertheless admired
him as the greatest of captains, and has often explained to me his
strategy. May not the same tactics be applied to the war of human
interests; they would  economize time as heretofore they economized
men and space. Think  this over, for as a woman I am liable to be
mistaken on such points which my sex judges only by instinct and


sentiment. One point, however, I may insist on; all trickery, all
deception, is certain to be discovered and to result in doing harm;
whereas every situation presents less danger if a man plants himself
firmly on his own truthfulness. If I may cite my own case, I can  tell
you that, obliged as I am by Monsieur de Mortsauf's condition to
avoid litigation and to bring to an immediate settlement all  difficulties
which arise in the management of Clochegourde, and which would
otherwise cause him an excitement under which his mind  would
succumb, I have invariably settled matters promptly by  taking hold of
the knot of the difficulty and saying to our opponents: "We will either
untie it or cut it!"
  It will often happen that you do a service to others and find
yourself ill-rewarded; I beg you not to imitate those who complain of
men and declare them to be all ungrateful. That is putting themselves
on a pedestal indeed! and surely it is somewhat silly to admit their lack
of knowledge of the world. But you, I trust, will not do good as a
usurer lends his money; you will do it--will  you not?--for good's sake.
Noblesse oblige. Nevertheless, do not bestow such services as to force
others to ingratitude, for if you  do, they will become your most
implacable enemies; obligations  sometimes lead to despair, like the
despair of ruin itself, which is capable of very desperate efforts. As for
yourself, accept as little as you can from others. Be no man's vassal;


and bring yourself out of your own difficulties.
You see, dear friend, I am advising you only on the lesser points
of life. In the world of politics things wear a different aspect;  the rules
which are to guide your individual steps give way before  the national
interests. If you reach that sphere where great men revolve you will be,
like God himself, the sole arbiter of your determinations. You will no
longer be a man, but law, the living law; no longer an individual, you
are then the Nation incarnate.  But remember this, though you judge,
you will yourself be judged;  hereafter you will be summoned before
the ages, and you know  history well enough to be fully informed as to
what deeds and what  sentiments have led to true grandeur.
I now come to a serious matter, your conduct towards women.
Wherever you visit make it a principle not to fritter yourself  away in a
petty round of gallantry. A man of the last century who had great
social success never paid attention to more than one woman of an
evening, choosing the one who seemed the most neglected. That man,
my dear child, controlled his epoch. He  wisely reckoned that by a
given time all women would speak well of him. Many young men
waste their most precious possession, namely,  the time necessary to
create connections which contribute more than all else to social
success. Your springtime is short,  endeavor to make the most of it.
Cultivate influential women.  Influential women are old women; they


will teach you the  intermarriages and the secrets of all the families of
the great world; they will show you the cross-roads which will bring
you soonest to your goal. They will be fond of you. The bestowal of
protection is their last form of love--when they are not devout. They
will do you innumerable good services; sing your praises and make
you desirable to society. Avoid young women. Do not think I  say this
from personal self-interest. The woman of fifty will do  all for you, the
woman of twenty will do nothing; she wants your  whole life while the
other asks only a few attentions. Laugh with  the young women, meet
them for pastime merely; they are incapable  of serious thought. Young
women, dear friend, are selfish, vain, petty, ignorant of true friendship;
they love no one but themselves; they would sacrifice you to an
evening's success.  Besides, they all want absolute devotion, and your
present  situation requires that devotion be shown to you; two
irreconcilable needs! None of these young women would enter into
your interests; they would think of themselves and not of you; they
would injure you more by their emptiness and frivolity than they could
serve you by their love; they will waste your time unscrupulously,
hinder your advance to fortune, and end by destroying your future
with the best grace possible. If you complain, the silliest of them will
make you think that her glove is more precious than fortune, and that
nothing is so glorious as to be her slave. They will all tell you that they


bestow  happiness, and thus lull you to forget your nobler destiny.
Believe me, the happiness they give is transitory; your great  career
will endure. You know not with what perfidious cleverness  they
contrive to satisfy their caprices, nor the art with which they will
convert your passing fancy into a love which ought to be eternal. The
day when they abandon you they will tell you that the words, "I no
longer love you," are a full justification of their conduct, just as the
words, "I love," justified their winning you; they will declare that love
is involuntary and not to be coerced. Absurd! Believe me, dear, true
love is eternal, infinite, always  like unto itself; it is equable, pure,
without violent demonstration; white hair often covers the head but the
heart that  holds it is ever young. No such love is found among the
women of  the world; all are playing comedy; this one will interest you
by her misfortunes; she seems the gentlest and least exacting of her
sex, but when once she is necessary to you, you will feel the  tyranny
of weakness and will do her will; you may wish to be a  diplomat, to go
and come, and study men and interests,--no, you  must stay in Paris, or
at her country-place, sewn to her  petticoat, and the more devotion you
show the more ungrateful and exacting she will be. Another will
attract you by her  submissiveness; she will be your attendant, follow
you  romantically about, compromise herself to keep you, and be the
millstone about your neck. You will drown yourself some day, but  the


woman will come to the surface.
  The least manoeuvring of these women of the world have many
nets. The silliest triumph because too foolish to excite distrust. The
one to be feared least may be the woman of gallantry whom you love
without exactly knowing why; she will leave you for no motive and go
back to you out of vanity. All these women will injure you,  either in
the present or the future. Every young woman who enters society and
lives a life of pleasure and of gratified vanity is semi-corrupt and will
corrupt you. Among them you will not find the chaste and tranquil
being in whom you may forever reign. Ah! she who loves you will
love solitude; the festivals of her heart  will be your glances; she will
live upon your words. May she be all the world to you, for you will be
all in all to her. Love her well; give her neither griefs nor rivals; do not
rouse her  jealousy. To be loved, dear, to be comprehended, is the
greatest of all joys; I pray that you may taste it! But run no risk of
injuring the flower of your soul; be sure, be very sure of the heart in
which you place your affections. That woman will never be  her own
self; she will never think of herself, but of you. She  will never oppose
you, she will have no interests of her own; for you she will see a
danger where you can see none and where she  would be oblivious of
her own. If she suffers it will be in  silence; she will have no personal
vanity, but deep reverence for whatever in her has won your love.


Respond to such a love by  surpassing it. If you are fortunate enough to
find that which I,  your poor friend, must ever be without, I mean a
love mutually inspired, mutually felt, remember that in a valley lives a
mother  whose heart is so filled with the feelings you have put there
that  you can never sound its depths. Yes, I bear you an affection which
you will never know to its full extent; before it could show  itself for
what it is you would have to lose your mind and intellect, and then you
would be unable to comprehend the length and breadth of my
devotion.
Shall I be misunderstood in bidding you avoid young women (all
more or less artful, satirical, vain, frivolous, and extravagant) and
attach yourself to influential women, to those imposing  dowagers full
of excellent good-sense, like my aunt, who will help your career,
defend you from attacks, and say for you the things that you cannot
say for yourself? Am I not, on the contrary, generous in bidding you
reserve your love for the coming angel  with the guileless heart? If the
motto Noblesse oblige sums up the advice I gave you just now, my
further advice on your relations to women is based upon that other
motto of chivalry, "Serve all, love  one!"
Your educational knowledge is immense; your heart, saved by
early suffering, is without a stain; all is noble, all is well with you.
Now, Felix, WILL! Your future lies in that one word, that word of


great men. My child, you will obey your Henriette, will you not?  You
will permit her to tell you from time to time the thoughts  that are in
her mind of you and of your relations to the world? I have an eye in
my soul which sees the future for you as for my  children; suffer me to
use that faculty for your benefit; it is a  faculty, a mysterious gift
bestowed by my lonely life; far from  its growing weaker, I find it
strengthened and exalted by solitude and silence.
I ask you in return to bestow a happiness on me; I desire to see
you becoming more and more important among men, without one single
success that shall bring a line of shame upon my brow; I desire that
you may quickly bring your fortunes to the level of your noble name,
and be able to tell me I have contributed to your advancement by
something better than a wish. This secret co-operation in your future is
the only pleasure I can allow myself. For it, I will wait and hope.
I do not say farewell. We are separated; you cannot put my hand
to your lips, but you must surely know the place you hold in the
heart of your Henriette.
As I read this letter I felt the maternal heart beating beneath my
fingers which held the paper while I was still cold from the harsh greeting
of my own mother. I understood why the countess had forbidden me to
open it in Touraine; no doubt she feared that I would fall at her feet and
wet them with my tears.


  I now made the acquaintance of my brother Charles, who up to this
time had been a stranger to me. But in all our intercourse he showed a
haughtiness which kept us apart and prevented brotherly affection. Kindly
feelings depend on similarity of soul, and there was no point of touch
between us. He preached to me dogmatically those social trifles which
head or heart can see without instruction; he seemed to mistrust me. If I
had not had the inward support of my great love he would have made me
awkward and stupid by affecting to believe that I knew nothing of life. He
presented me in society under the expectation that my dulness would be a
foil to his qualities. Had I not remembered the sorrows of my childhood I
might have taken his protecting vanity for brotherly affection; but inward
solitude produces the same effects as outward solitude; silence within our
souls enables us to hear the faintest sound; the habit of taking refuge
within ourselves develops a perception which discerns every quality of
the affections about us. Before I knew Madame de Mortsauf a hard look
grieved me, a rough word wounded me to the heart; I bewailed these
things without as yet knowing anything of a life of tenderness; whereas
now, since my return from Clochegourde, I could make comparisons
which perfected my instinctive perceptions. All deductions derived only
from sufferings endured are incomplete. Happiness has a light to cast. I
now allowed myself the more willingly to be kept under the heel of
primogeniture because I was not my brother's dupe.


I always went alone to the Duchesse de Lenoncourt's, where
Henriette's name was never mentioned; no one, except the good old duke,
who was simplicity itself, ever spoke of her to me; but by the way he
welcomed me I guessed that his daughter had privately commended me to
his care. At the moment when I was beginning to overcome the foolish
wonder and shyness which besets a young man at his first entrance into
the great world, and to realize the pleasures it could give through the
resources it offers to ambition, just, too, as I was beginning to make use
of Henriette's maxims, admiring their wisdom, the events of the 20th of
March took place.
My brother followed the court to Ghent; I, by Henriette's advice (for
I kept up a correspondence with her, active on my side only), went there
also with the Duc de Lenoncourt. The natural kindness of the old duke
turned to a hearty and sincere protection as soon as he saw me attached,
body and soul, to the Bourbons. He himself presented me to his Majesty.
Courtiers are not numerous when misfortunes are rife; but youth is gifted
with ingenuous admiration and uncalculating fidelity. The king had the
faculty of judging men; a devotion which might have passed unobserved
in Paris counted for much at Ghent, and I had the happiness of pleasing
Louis XVIII.
A letter from Madame de Mortsauf to her father, brought with
despatches by an emissary of the Vendeens, enclosed a note to me by


which I learned that Jacques was ill. Monsieur de Mortsauf, in despair at
his son's ill-health, and also at the news of a second emigration, added a
few words which enabled me to guess the situation of my dear one.
Worried by him, no doubt, when she passed all her time at Jacques'
bedside, allowed no rest either day or night, superior to annoyance, yet
unable always to control herself when her whole soul was given to the
care of her child, Henriette needed the support of a friendship which
might lighten the burden of her life, were it only by diverting her
husband's mind. Though I was now most impatient to rival the career of
my brother, who had lately been sent to the Congress of Vienna, and was
anxious at any risk to justify Henriette's appeal and become a man myself,
freed from all vassalage, nevertheless my ambition, my desire for
independence, the great interest I had in not leaving the king, all were of
no account before the vision of Madame de Mortsauf's sad face. I
resolved to leave the court at Ghent and serve my true sovereign. God
rewarded me. The emissary sent by the Vendeens was unable to return.
The king wanted a messenger who would faithfully carry back his
instructions. The Duc de Lenoncourt knew that the king would never
forget the man who undertook so perilous an enterprise; he asked for the
mission without consulting me, and I gladly accepted it, happy indeed to
be able to return to Clochegourde employed in the good cause.
After an audience with the king I returned to France, where, both in


Paris and in Vendee, I was fortunate enough to carry out his Majesty's
instructions. Towards the end of May, being tracked by the Bonapartist
authorities to whom I was denounced, I was obliged to fly from place to
place in the character of a man endeavoring to get back to his estate. I
went on foot from park to park, from wood to wood, across the whole of
upper Vendee, the Bocage and Poitou, changing my direction as danger
threatened.
I reached Saumur, from Saumur I went to Chinon, and from Chinon
I reached, in a single night, the woods of Nueil, where I met the count on
horseback; he took me up behind him and we reached Clochegourde
without passing any one who recognized me.
"Jacques is better," were the first words he said to me.
I explained to him my position of diplomatic postman, hunted like a
wild beast, and the brave gentleman in his quality of royalist claimed the
danger over Chessel of receiving me. As we came in sight of
Clochegourde the past eight months rolled away like a dream. When we
entered the salon the count said: "Guess whom I bring you?--Felix!" "Is it
possible!" she said, with pendant arms and a bewildered face. I showed
myself and we both remained motionless; she in her armchair, I on the
threshold of the door; looking at each other with that hunger of the soul
which endeavors to make up in a single glance for the lost months. Then,
recovering from a surprise which left her heart unveiled, she rose and I


went up to her.
"I have prayed for your safety," she said, giving me her hand to kiss.
She asked news of her father; then she guessed my weariness and
went to prepare my room, while the count gave me something to eat, for I
was dying of hunger. My room was the one above hers, her aunt's room;
she requested the count to take me there, after setting her foot on the first
step of the staircase, deliberating no doubt whether to accompany me; I
turned my head, she blushed, bade me sleep well, and went away. When I
came down to dinner I heard for the first time of the disasters at Waterloo,
the flight of Napoleon, the march of the Allies to Paris, and the probable
return of the Bourbons. These events were all in all to the count; to us
they were nothing. What think you was the great event I was to learn,
after kissing the children?--for I will not dwell on the alarm I felt at
seeing the countess pale and shrunken; I knew the injury I might do by
showing it and was careful to express only joy at seeing her. But the great
event for us was told in the words, "You shall have ice to-day!" She had
often fretted the year before that the water was not cold enough for me,
who, never drinking anything else, liked it iced. God knows how many
entreaties it had cost her to get an ice-house built. You know better than
any one that a word, a look, an inflection of the voice, a trifling attention,
suffices for love; love's noblest privilege is to prove itself by love. Well,
her words, her look, her pleasure, showed me her feelings, as I had


formerly shown her mine by that first game of backgammon. These
ingenuous proofs of her affection were many; on the seventh day after my
arrival she recovered her freshness, she sparkled with health and youth
and happiness; my lily expanded in beauty just as the treasures of my
heart increased. Only in petty minds or in common hearts can absence
lessen love or efface the features or diminish the beauty of our dear one.
To ardent imaginations, to all beings through whose veins enthusiasm
passes like a crimson tide, and in whom passion takes the form of
constancy, absence has the same effect as the sufferings of the early
Christians, which strengthened their faith and made God visible to them.
In hearts that abound in love are there not incessant longings for a desired
object, to which the glowing fire of our dreams gives higher value and a
deeper tint? Are we not conscious of instigations which give to the
beloved features the beauty of the ideal by inspiring them with thought?
The past, dwelt on in all its details becomes magnified; the future teems
with hope. When two hearts filled with these electric clouds meet each
other, their interview is like the welcome storm which revives the earth
and stimulates it with the swift lightnings of the thunderbolt. How many
tender pleasures came to me when I found these thoughts and these
sensations reciprocal! With what glad eyes I followed the development of
happiness in Henriette! A woman who renews her life from that of her
beloved gives, perhaps, a greater proof of feeling than she who dies killed


by a doubt, withered on her stock for want of sap; I know not which of
the two is the more touching.
The revival of Madame de Mortsauf was wholly natural, like the
effects of the month of May upon the meadows, or those of the sun and of
the brook upon the drooping flowers. Henriette, like our dear valley of
love, had had her winter; she revived like the valley in the springtime.
Before dinner we went down to the beloved terrace. There, with one hand
stroking the head of her son, who walked feebly beside her, silent, as
though he were breeding an illness, she told me of her nights beside his
pillow.
For three months, she said, she had lived wholly within herself,
inhabiting, as it were, a dark palace; afraid to enter sumptuous rooms
where the light shone, where festivals were given, to her denied, at the
door of which she stood, one glance turned upon her child, another to a
dim and distant figure; one ear listening for moans, another for a voice.
She told me poems, born of solitude, such as no poet ever sang; but all
ingenuously, without one vestige of love, one trace of voluptuous thought,
one echo of a poesy orientally soothing as the rose of Frangistan. When
the count joined us she continued in the same tone, like a woman secure
within herself, able to look proudly at her husband and kiss the forehead
of her son without a blush. She had prayed much; she had clasped her
hands for nights together over her child, refusing to let him die.


"I went," she said, "to the gate of the sanctuary and asked his life of
God."
She had had visions, and she told them to me; but when she said, in
that angelic voice of hers, these exquisite words, "While I slept my heart
watched," the count harshly interrupted her.
"That is to say, you were half crazy," he cried.
She was silent, as deeply hurt as though it were a first wound;
forgetting that for thirteen years this man had lost no chance to shoot his
arrows into her heart. Like a soaring bird struck on the wing by vulgar
shot, she sank into a dull depression; then she roused herself.
"How is it, monsieur," she said, "that no word of mine ever finds
favor in your sight? Have you no indulgence for my weakness,--no
comprehension of me as a woman?"
She stopped short. Already she regretted the murmur, and measured
the future by the past; how could she expect comprehension? Had she not
drawn upon herself some virulent attack? The blue veins of her temples
throbbed; she shed no tears, but the color of her eyes faded. Then she
looked down, that she might not see her pain reflected on my face, her
feelings guessed, her soul wooed by my soul; above all, not see the
sympathy of young love, ready like a faithful dog to spring at the throat
of whoever threatened his mistress, without regard to the assailant's
strength or quality. At such cruel moments the count's air of superiority


was supreme. He thought he had triumphed over his wife, and he pursued
her with a hail of phrases which repeated the one idea, and were like the
blows of an axe which fell with unvarying sound. "Always the same?" I
said, when the count left us to follow the huntsman who came to speak to
him.
"Always," answered Jacques.
"Always excellent, my son," she said, endeavoring to withdraw
Monsieur de Mortsauf from the judgment of his children. "You see only
the present, you know nothing of the past; therefore you cannot criticise
your father without doing him injustice. But even if you had the pain of
seeing that your father was to blame, family honor requires you to bury
such secrets in silence."
"How have the changes at the Cassine and the Rhetoriere
answered?" I asked, to divert her mind from bitter thoughts.
"Beyond my expectations," she replied. "As soon as the buildings
were finished we found two excellent farmers ready to hire them; one at
four thousand five hundred francs, taxes paid; the other at five thousand;
both leases for fifteen years. We have already planted three thousand
young trees on the new farms. Manette's cousin is delighted to get the
Rabelaye; Martineau has taken the Baude. All OUR efforts have been
crowned with success. Clochegourde, without the reserved land which we
call the home-farm, and without the timber and vineyards, brings in


nineteen thousand francs a year, and the plantations are becoming
valuable. I am battling to let the home-farm to Martineau, the keeper,
whose eldest son can now take his place. He offers three thousand francs
if Monsieur de Mortsauf will build him a farm-house at the Commanderie.
We might then clear the approach to Clochegourde, finish the proposed
avenue to the main road, and have only the woodland and the vineyards
to take care of ourselves. If the king returns, OUR pension will be
restored; WE shall consent after clashing a little with OUR wife's
common-sense. Jacques' fortune will then be permanently secured. That
result obtained, I shall leave monsieur to lay by as much as he likes for
Madeleine, though the king will of course dower her, according to custom.
My conscience is easy; I have all but accomplished my task. And you?"
she said.
I explained to her the mission on which the king had sent me, and
showed her how her wise counsel had borne fruit. Was she endowed with
second sight thus to foretell events?
"Did I not write it to you?" she answered. "For you and for my
children alone I possess a remarkable faculty, of which I have spoken
only to my confessor, Monsieur de la Berge; he explains it by divine
intervention. Often, after deep meditation induced by fears about the
health of my children, my eyes close to the things of earth and see into
another region; if Jacques and Madeleine there appear to me as two


luminous figures they are sure to have good health for a certain period of
time; if wrapped in mist they are equally sure to fall ill soon after. As for
you, I not only see you brilliantly illuminated, but I hear a voice which
explains to me without words, by some mental communication, what you
ought to do. Does any law forbid me to use this wonderful gift for my
children and for you?" she asked, falling into a reverie. Then, after a
pause, she added, "Perhaps God wills to take the place of their father."
"Let me believe that my obedience is due to none but you," I cried.
She gave me one of her exquisitely gracious smiles, which so exalted my
heart that I should not have felt a death-blow if given at that moment.
"As soon as the king returns to Paris, go there; leave Clochegourde,"
she said. "It may be degrading to beg for places and favors, but it would
be ridiculous to be out of the way of receiving them. Great changes will
soon take place. The king needs capable and trustworthy men; don't fail
him. It is well for you to enter young into the affairs of the nation and
learn your way; for statesmen, like actors, have a routine business to
acquire, which genius does not reveal, it must be learnt. My father heard
the Duc de Choiseul say this. Think of me," she said, after a pause; "let
me enjoy the pleasures of superiority in a soul that is all my own; for are
you not my son?" "Your son?" I said, sullenly.
"Yes, my son!" she cried, mocking me; "is not that a good place in
my heart?"


The bell rang for dinner; she took my arm and leaned contentedly
upon it.
"You have grown," she said, as we went up the steps. When we
reached the portico she shook my arm a little, as if my looks were
importunate; for though her eyes were lowered she knew that I saw only
her. Then she said, with a charming air of pretended impatience, full of
grace and coquetry, "Come, why don't you look at our dear valley?" She
turned, held her white silk sun-shade over our heads and drew Jacques
closely to her side. The motion of her head as she looked towards the
Indre, the punt, the meadows, showed me that in my absence she had
come to many an understanding with those misty horizons and their
vaporous outline. Nature was a mantle which sheltered her thoughts. She
now knew what the nightingale was sighing the livelong night, what the
songster of the sedges hymned with his plaintive note. At eight o'clock
that evening I was witness of a scene which touched me deeply, and
which I had never yet witnessed, for in my former visits I had played
backgammon with the count while his wife took the children into the
dining-room before their bedtime. The bell rang twice, and all the
servants of the household entered the room. "You are now our guest and
must submit to convent rule," said the countess, leading me by the hand
with that air of innocent gaiety which distinguishes women who are
naturally pious.


  The count followed. Masters, children, and servants knelt down, all
taking their regular places. It was Madeleine's turn to read the prayers.
The dear child said them in her childish voice, the ingenuous tones of
which rose clear in the harmonious silence of the country, and gave to the
words the candor of holy innocence, the grace of angels. It was the most
affecting prayer I ever heard. Nature replied to the child's voice with the
myriad murmurs of the coming night, like the low accompaniment of an
organ lightly touched, Madeleine was on the right of the countess,
Jacques on her left. The graceful curly heads, between which rose the
smooth braids of the mother, and above all three the perfectly white hair
and yellow cranium of the father, made a picture which repeated, in some
sort, the ideas aroused by the melody of the prayer. As if to fulfil all
conditions of the unity which marks the sublime, this calm and collected
group were bathed in the fading light of the setting sun; its red tints
coloring the room, impelling the soul--be it poetic or superstitious--to
believe that the fires of heaven were visiting these faithful servants of
God as they knelt there without distinction of rank, in the equality which
heaven demands. Thinking back to the days of the patriarchs my mind
still further magnified this scene, so grand in its simplicity.
  The children said good-night, the servants bowed, the countess went
away holding a child by each hand, and I returned to the salon with the
count.


  "We provide you with salvation there, and hell here," he said,
pointing to the backgammon-board.
  The countess returned in half an hour, and brought her frame near
the table.
  "This is for you," she said, unrolling the canvas; "but for the last
three months it has languished. Between that rose and this heartsease my
poor child was ill."
  "Come, come," said Monsieur de Mortsauf, "don't talk of that any
more. Six--five, emissary of the king!"
  When alone in my room I hushed my breathing that I might hear her
passing to and fro in hers. She was calm and pure, but I was lashed with
maddening ideas. "Why should she not be mine?" I thought; "perhaps she
is, like me, in this whirlwind of agitation." At one o'clock, I went down,
walking noiselessly, and lay before her door. With my ear pressed to a
chink I could hear her equable, gentle breathing, like that of a child.
When chilled to the bone I went back to bed and slept tranquilly till
morning. I know not what prenatal influence, what nature within me,
causes the delight I take in going to the brink of precipices, sounding the
gulf of evil, seeking to know its depths, feeling its icy chill, and retreating
in deep emotion. That hour of night passed on the threshold of her door
where I wept with rage,--though she never knew that on the morrow her
foot had trod upon my tears and kisses, on her virtue first destroyed and


then respected, cursed and adored,--that hour, foolish in the eyes of many,
was nevertheless an inspiration of the same mysterious impulse which
impels the soldier. Many have told me they have played their lives upon it,
flinging themselves before a battery to know if they could escape the shot,
happy in thus galloping into the abyss of probabilities, and smoking like
Jean Bart upon the gunpowder. The next day I went to gather flowers and
made two bouquets. The count admired them, though generally nothing
of the kind appealed to him. The clever saying of Champcenetz, "He
builds dungeons in Spain," seemed to have been made for him.
I spent several days at Clochegourde, going but seldom to Frapesle,
where, however, I dined three times. The French army now occupied
Tours. Though my presence was health and strength to Madame de
Mortsauf, she implored me to make my way to Chateauroux, and so
round by Issoudun and Orleans to Paris with what haste I could. I tried to
resist; but she commanded me, saying that my guardian angel spoke. I
obeyed. Our farewell was, this time, dim with tears; she feared the
allurements of the life I was about to live. Is it not a serious thing to enter
the maelstrom of interests, passions, and pleasures which make Paris a
dangerous ocean for chaste love and purity of conscience? I promised to
write to her every night, relating the events and thoughts of the day, even
the most trivial. When I gave the promise she laid her head on my
shoulder and said: "Leave nothing out; everything will interest me."


She gave me letters for the duke and duchess, which I delivered the
second day after my return.
"You are in luck," said the duke; "dine here to-day, and go with me
this evening to the Chateau; your fortune is made. The king spoke of you
this morning, and said, 'He is young, capable, and trustworthy.' His
Majesty added that he wished he knew whether you were living or dead,
and in what part of France events had thrown you after you had executed
your mission so ably."
That night I was appointed master of petitions to the council of State,
and I also received a private and permanent place in the employment of
Louis XVIII. himself,--a confidential position, not highly distinguished,
but without any risks, a position which put me at the very heart of the
government and has been the source of all my subsequent prosperity.
Madame de Mortsauf had judged rightly. I now owed everything to her;
power and wealth, happiness and knowledge; she guided and encouraged
me, purified my heart, and gave to my will that unity of purpose without
which the powers of youth are wasted. Later I had a colleague; we each
served six months. We were allowed to supply each other's place if
necessary; we had rooms at the Chateau, a carriage, and large allowances
for travelling when absent on missions. Strange position! We were the
secret disciples of a monarch in a policy to which even his enemies have
since done signal justice; alone with us he gave judgment on all things,


foreign and domestic, yet we had no legitimate influence; often we were
consulted like Laforet by Moliere, and made to feel that the hesitations of
long experience were confirmed or removed by the vigorous perceptions
of youth.
In other respects my future was secured in a manner to satisfy
ambition. Beside my salary as master of petitions, paid by the budget of
the council of State, the king gave me a thousand francs a month from his
privy purse, and often himself added more to it. Though the king knew
well that no young man of twenty-three could long bear up under the
labors with which he loaded me, my colleague, now a peer of France, was
not appointed till August, 1817. The choice was a difficult one; our
functions demanded so many capabilities that the king was long in
coming to a decision. He did me the honor to ask which of the young men
among whom he was hesitating I should like for an associate. Among
them was one who had been my school-fellow at Lepitre's; I did not
select him. His Majesty asked why.
"The king," I replied, "chooses men who are equally faithful, but
whose capabilities differ. I choose the one whom I think the most able,
certain that I shall always be able to get on with him." My judgment
coincided with that of the king, who was pleased with the sacrifice I had
made. He said on this occasion, "You are to be the chief"; and he related
these circumstances to my colleague, who became, in return for the


service I had done him, my good friend. The consideration shown to me
by the Duc de Lenoncourt set the tone of that which I met with in society.
To have it said, "The king takes an interest in the young man; that young
man has a future, the king likes him," would have served me in place of
talents; and it now gave to the kindly welcome accorded to youth a
certain respect that is only given to power. In the salon of the Duchesse
de Lenoncourt and also at the house of my sister who had just married the
Marquis de Listomere, son of the old lady in the Ile St. Louis, I gradually
came to know the influential personages of the Faubourg St. Germain.
Henriette herself put me at the heart of the circle then called "le Petit
Chateau" by the help of her great-aunt, the Princesse de Blamont-Chauvry,
to whom she wrote so warmly in my behalf that the princess immediately
sent for me. I cultivated her and contrived to please her, and she became,
not my protectress but a friend, in whose kindness there was something
maternal. The old lady took pains to make me intimate with her daughter
Madame d'Espard, with the Duchesse de Langeais, the Vicomtesse de
Beauseant, and the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, women who held the
sceptre of fashion, and who were all the more gracious to me because I
made no pretensions and was always ready to be useful and agreeable to
them. My brother Charles, far from avoiding me, now began to lean upon
me; but my rapid success roused a secret jealousy in his mind which in
after years caused me great vexation. My father and mother, surprised by


a triumph so unexpected, felt their vanity flattered, and received me at
last as a son. But their feeling was too artificial, I might say false, to let
their present treatment have much influence upon a sore heart.
Affectations stained with selfishness win little sympathy; the heart abhors
calculations and profits of all kinds.
I wrote regularly to Henriette, who answered by two letters a month.
Her spirit hovered over me, her thoughts traversed space and made the
atmosphere around me pure. No woman could captivate me. The king
noticed my reserve, and as, in this respect, he belonged to the school of
Louis XV., he called me, in jest, Mademoiselle de Vandenesse; but my
conduct pleased him. I am convinced that the habit of patience I acquired
in my childhood and practised at Clochegourde had much to do in my
winning the favor of the king, who was always most kind to me. He no
doubt took a fancy to read my letters, for he soon gave up his notion of
my life as that of a young girl. One day when the duke was on duty, and I
was writing at the king's dictation, the latter suddenly remarked, in that
fine, silvery voice of his, to which he could give, when he chose, the
biting tone of epigram:--
"So that poor devil of a Mortsauf persists in living?"
"Yes," replied the duke.
"Madame de Mortsauf is an angel, whom I should like to see at my
court," continued the king; "but if I cannot manage it, my chancellor


here," turning to me, "may be more fortunate. You are to have six months'
leave; I have decided on giving you the young man we spoke of yesterday
as colleague. Amuse yourself at Clochegourde, friend Cato!" and he
laughed as he had himself wheeled out of the room.
I flew like a swallow to Touraine. For the first time I was to show
myself to my beloved, not merely a little less insignificant, but actually in
the guise of an elegant young man, whose manners had been formed in
the best salons, his education finished by gracious women; who had
found at last a compensation for all his sufferings, and had put to use the
experience given to him by the purest angel to whom heaven had ever
committed the care of a child. You know how my mother had equipped
me for my three months' visit at Frapesle. When I reached Clochegourde
after fulfilling my mission in Vendee, I was dressed like a huntsman; I
wore a jacket with white and red buttons, striped trousers, leathern gaiters
and shoes. Tramping through underbrush had so injured my clothes that
the count was obliged to lend me linen. On the present occasion, two
years' residence in Paris, constant intercourse with the king, the habits of
a life at ease, my completed growth, a youthful countenance, which
derived a lustre from the placidity of the soul within magnetically united
with the pure soul that beamed on me from Clochegourde,--all these
things combined had transformed me. I was self-possessed without
conceit, inwardly pleased to find myself, in spite of my years, at the


summit of affairs; above all, I had the consciousness of being secretly the
support and comfort of the dearest woman on earth, and her unuttered
hope. Perhaps I felt a flutter of vanity as the postilions cracked their
whips along the new avenue leading from the main road to Clochegourde
and through an iron gate I had never seen before, which opened into a
circular enclosure recently constructed. I had not written to the countess
of my coming, wishing to surprise her. For this I found myself doubly in
fault: first, she was overwhelmed with the excitement of a pleasure long
desired, but supposed to be impossible; and secondly, she proved to me
that all such deliberate surprises are in bad taste.
When Henriette saw a young man in him who had hitherto seemed
but a child to her, she lowered her eyes with a sort of tragic slowness. She
allowed me to take and kiss her hand without betraying her inward
pleasure, which I nevertheless felt in her sensitive shiver. When she
raised her face to look at me again, I saw that she was pale.
"Well, you don't forget your old friends?" said Monsieur de Mortsauf,
who had neither changed nor aged.
The children sprang upon me. I saw them behind the grave face of
the Abbe Dominis, Jacques' tutor.
"No," I replied, "and in future I am to have six months' leave, which
will always be spent here--Why, what is the matter?" I said to the
countess, putting my arm round her waist and holding her up in presence


of them all.
"Oh, don't!" she said, springing away from me; "it is nothing."
I read her mind, and answered to its secret thought by saying, "Am I
not allowed to be your faithful slave?"
She took my arm, left the count, the children, and the abbe, and led
me to a distance on the lawn, though still within sight of the others; then,
when sure that her voice could not be heard by them, she spoke. "Felix,
my dear friend," she said, "forgive my fears; I have but one thread by
which to guide me in the labyrinth of life, and I dread to see it broken.
Tell me that I am more than ever Henriette to you, that you will never
abandon me, that nothing shall prevail against me, that you will ever be
my devoted friend. I have suddenly had a glimpse into my future, and you
were not there, as hitherto, your eyes shining and fixed upon me--"
"Henriette! idol whose worship is like that of the Divine,--lily,
flower of my life, how is it that you do not know, you who are my
conscience, that my being is so fused with yours that my soul is here
when my body is in Paris? Must I tell you that I have come in seventeen
hours, that each turn of the wheels gathered thoughts and desires in my
breast, which burst forth like a tempest when I saw you?"
"Yes, tell me! tell me!" she cried; "I am so sure of myself that I can
hear you without wrong. God does not will my death. He sends you to me
as he sends his breath to his creatures; as he pours the rain of his clouds


upon a parched earth,--tell me! tell me! Do you love me sacredly?"
"Sacredly."
"For ever?"
"For ever."
"As a virgin Mary, hidden behind her veil, beneath her white
crown."
"As a virgin visible."
"As a sister?"
"As a sister too dearly loved."
"With chivalry and without hope?"
"With chivalry and with hope."
"As if you were still twenty years of age, and wearing that absurd
blue coat?"
"Oh better far! I love you thus, and I also love you"--she looked at
me with keen apprehension--"as you loved your aunt."
"I am happy! You dispel my terrors," she said, returning towards the
family, who were surprised at our private conference. "Be still a child at
Clochegourde--for you are one still. It may be your policy to be a man
with the king, but here, let me tell you, monsieur, your best policy is to
remain a child. As a child you shall be loved. I can resist a man, but to a
child I can refuse nothing, nothing! He can ask for nothing I will not give
him.--Our secrets are all told," she said, looking at the count with a


mischievous air, in which her girlish, natural self reappeared. "I leave you
now; I must go and dress."
  Never for three years had I heard her voice so richly happy. For the
first time I heard those swallow cries, the infantile notes of which I told
you. I had brought Jacques a hunting outfit, and for Madeleine a
work-box--which her mother afterwards used. The joy of the two children,
delighted to show their presents to each other, seemed to annoy the count,
always dissatisfied when attention was withdrawn from himself. I made a
sign to Madeleine and followed her father, who wanted to talk to me of
his ailments.
  "My poor Felix," he said, "you see how happy and well they all are.
I am the shadow on the picture; all their ills are transferred to me, and I
bless God that it is so. Formerly I did not know what was the matter with
me; now I know. The orifice of my stomach is affected; I can digest
nothing."
  "How do you come to be as wise as the professor of a medical
school?" I asked, laughing. "Is your doctor indiscreet enough to tell you
such things?"
  "God forbid I should consult a doctor," he cried, showing the
aversion most imaginary invalids feel for the medical profession.
  I now listened to much crazy talk, in the course of which he made
the most absurd confidences,--complained of his wife, of the servants, of


the children, of life, evidently pleased to repeat his daily speeches to a
friend who, not having heard them daily, might be alarmed, and who at
any rate was forced to listen out of politeness. He must have been
satisfied, for I paid him the utmost attention, trying to penetrate his
inconceivable nature, and to guess what new tortures he had been
inflicting on his wife, of which she had not written to me. Henriette
presently put an end to the monologue by appearing in the portico. The
count saw her, shook his head, and said to me: "You listen to me, Felix;
but here no one pities me."
He went away, as if aware of the constraint he imposed on my
intercourse with Henriette, or perhaps from a really chivalrous
consideration for her, knowing he could give her pleasure by leaving us
alone. His character exhibited contradictions that were often inexplicable;
he was jealous, like all weak beings, but his confidence in his wife's
sanctity was boundless. It may have been the sufferings of his own
self-esteem, wounded by the superiority of that lofty virtue, which made
him so eager to oppose every wish of the poor woman, whom he braved
as children brave their masters or their mothers.
Jacques was taking his lessons, and Madeleine was being dressed; I
had therefore a whole hour to walk with the countess alone on the terrace.
"Dear angel!" I said, "the chains are heavier, the sands hotter, the thorns
grow apace."


"Hush!" she said, guessing the thoughts my conversation with the
count had suggested. "You are here, and all is forgotten! I don't suffer; I
have never suffered."
She made a few light steps as if to shake her dress and give to the
breeze its ruches of snowy tulle, its floating sleeves and fresh ribbons, the
laces of her pelerine, and the flowing curls of her coiffure a la Sevigne; I
saw her for the first time a young girl,--gay with her natural gaiety, ready
to frolic like a child. I knew then the meaning of tears of happiness; I
knew the joy a man feels in bringing happiness to another.
"Sweet human flower, wooed by my thought, kissed by my soul, oh
my lily!" I cried, "untouched, untouchable upon thy stem, white, proud,
fragrant, and solitary--"
"Enough, enough," she said, smiling. "Speak to me of yourself; tell
me everything."
Then, beneath the swaying arch of quivering leaves, we had a long
conversation, filled with interminable parentheses, subjects taken,
dropped, and retaken, in which I told her my life and my occupations; I
even described my apartment in Paris, for she wished to know everything;
and (happiness then unappreciated) I had nothing to conceal. Knowing
thus my soul and all the details of a daily life full of incessant toil,
learning the full extent of my functions, which to any one not sternly
upright offered opportunities for deception and dishonest gains, but which


I had exercised with such rigid honor that the king, I told her, called me
Mademoiselle de Vandenesse, she seized my hand and kissed it, and
dropped a tear, a tear of joy, upon it. This sudden transposition of our
roles, this homage, coupled with the thought--swiftly expressed but as
swiftly comprehended--"Here is the master I have sought, here is my
dream embodied!" all that there was of avowal in the action, grand in its
humility, where love betrayed itself in a region forbidden to the
senses,--this whirlwind of celestial things fell on my heart and crushed it.
I felt myself too small; I wished to die at her feet.
  "Ah!" I said, "you surpass us in all things. Can you doubt me?--for
you did doubt me just now, Henriette."
  "Not now," she answered, looking at me with ineffable tenderness,
which, for a moment, veiled the light of her eyes. "But seeing you so
changed, so handsome, I said to myself, 'Our plans for Madeleine will be
defeated by some woman who will guess the treasures in his heart; she
will steal our Felix, and destroy all happiness here.'"
  "Always Madeleine!" I replied. "Is it Madeleine to whom I am
faithful?"
  We fell into a silence which Monsieur de Mortsauf inconveniently
interrupted. I was forced to keep up a conversation bristling with
difficulties, in which my honest replies as to the king's policy jarred with
the count's ideas, and he forced me to explain again and again the king's


intentions. In spite of all my questions as to his horses, his agricultural
affairs, whether he was satisfied with his five farms, whether he meant to
cut the timber of the old avenue, he returned to the subject of politics with
the pestering faculty of an old maid and the persistency of a child. Minds
like his prefer to dash themselves against the light; they return again and
again and hum about it without ever getting into it, like those big flies
which weary our ears as they buzz upon the glass.
Henriette was silent. To stop the conversation, in which I feared my
young blood might take fire, I answered in monosyllables, mostly
acquiescent, avoiding discussion; but Monsieur de Mortsauf had too
much sense not to perceive the meaning of my politeness. Presently he
was angry at being always in the right; he grew refractory, his eyebrows
and the wrinkles of his forehead worked, his yellow eyes blazed, his
rufous nose grew redder, as it did on the day I first witnessed an attack of
madness. Henriette gave me a supplicating look, making me understand
that she could not employ on my behalf an authority to which she had
recourse to protect her children. I at once answered the count seriously,
taking up the political question, and managing his peevish spirit with the
utmost care.
"Poor dear! poor dear!" she murmured two or three times; the words
reaching my ear like a gentle breeze. When she could intervene with
success she said, interrupting us, "Let me tell you, gentlemen, that you


are very dull company."
Recalled by this conversation to his chivalrous sense of what was
due to a woman, the count ceased to talk politics, and as we bored him in
our turn by commonplace matters, he presently left us to continue our
walk, declaring that it made his head spin to go round and round on the
same path.
My sad conjectures were true. The soft landscape, the warm
atmosphere, the cloudless skies, the soothing poetry of this valley, which
for fifteen years had calmed the stinging fancies of that diseased mind,
were now impotent. At a period of life when the asperities of other men
are softened and their angles smoothed, the disposition of this man
became more and more aggressive. For the last few months he had taken
a habit of contradicting for the sake of contradiction, without reason,
without even trying to justify his opinions; he insisted on knowing the
why and the wherefore of everything; grew restless under a delay or an
omission; meddled with every item of the household affairs, and
compelled his wife and the servants to render him the most minute and
fatiguing account of all that was done; never allowing them the slightest
freedom of action. Formerly he did not lose his temper except for some
special reason; now his irritation was constant. Perhaps the care of his
farms, the interests of agriculture, an active out-door life had formerly
soothed his atrabilious temper by giving it a field for its uneasiness, and


by furnishing employment for his activity. Possibly the loss of such
occupation had allowed his malady to prey upon itself; no longer
exercised on matters without, it was showing itself in more fixed ideas;
the moral being was laying hold of the physical being. He had lately
become his own doctor; he studied medical books, fancied he had the
diseases he read of, and took the most extraordinary and unheard of
precautions about his health,--precautions never the same, impossible to
foresee, and consequently impossible to satisfy. Sometimes he wanted no
noise; then, when the countess had succeeded in establishing absolute
silence, he would declare he was in a tomb, and blame her for not finding
some medium between incessant noise and the stillness of La Trappe.
Sometimes he affected a perfect indifference for all earthly things. Then
the whole household breathed freely; the children played; family affairs
went on without criticism. Suddenly he would cry out lamentably, "They
want to kill me!--My dear," he would say to his wife, increasing the
injustice of his words by the aggravating tones of his sharp voice, "if it
concerned your children you would know very well what was the matter
with them."
He dressed and re-dressed himself incessantly, watching every
change of temperature, and doing nothing without consulting the
barometer. Notwithstanding his wife's attentions, he found no food to suit
him, his stomach being, he said, impaired, and digestion so painful as to


keep him awake all night. In spite of this he ate, drank, digested, and slept,
in a manner to satisfy any doctor. His capricious will exhausted the
patience of the servants, accustomed to the beaten track of domestic
service and unable to conform to the requirements of his conflicting
orders. Sometimes he bade them keep all the windows open, declaring
that his health required a current of fresh air; a few days later the fresh air,
being too hot or too damp, as the case might be, became intolerable; then
he scolded, quarrelled with the servants, and in order to justify himself,
denied his former orders. This defect of memory, or this bad faith, call it
which you will, always carried the day against his wife in the arguments
by which she tried to pit him against himself. Life at Clochegourde had
become so intolerable that the Abbe Dominis, a man of great learning,
took refuge in the study of scientific problems, and withdrew into the
shelter of pretended abstraction. The countess had no longer any hope of
hiding the secret of these insane furies within the circle of her own home;
the servants had witnessed scenes of exasperation without exciting cause,
in which the premature old man passed the bounds of reason. They were,
however, so devoted to the countess that nothing so far had transpired
outside; but she dreaded daily some public outburst of a frenzy no longer
controlled by respect for opinion.
Later I learned the dreadful details of the count's treatment of his
wife. Instead of supporting her when the children were ill, he assailed her


with dark predictions and made her responsible for all future illnesses,
because she refused to let the children take the crazy doses which he
prescribed. When she went to walk with them the count would predict a
storm in the face of a clear sky; if by chance the prediction proved true,
the satisfaction he felt made him quite indifferent to any harm to the
children. If one of them was ailing, the count gave his whole mind to
fastening the cause of the illness upon the system of nursing adopted by
his wife, whom he carped at for every trifling detail, always ending with
the cruel words, "If your children fall ill again you have only yourself to
thank for it."
He behaved in the same way in the management of the household,
seeing the worst side of everything, and making himself, as his old
coachman said, "the devil's own advocate." The countess arranged that
Jacques and Madeleine should take their meals alone at different hours
from the family, so as to save them from the count's outbursts and draw
all the storms upon herself. In this way the children now saw but little of
their father. By one of the hallucinations peculiar to selfish persons, the
count had not the slightest idea of the misery he caused. In the
confidential communication he made to me on my arrival he particularly
dwelt on his goodness to his family. He wielded the flail, beat, bruised,
and broke everything about him as a monkey might have done. Then,
having half-destroyed his prey, he denied having touched it. I now


understood the lines on Henriette's forehead,--fine lines, traced as it were
with the edge of a razor, which I had noticed the moment I saw her. There
is a pudicity in noble minds which withholds them from speaking of their
personal sufferings; proudly they hide the extent of their woes from
hearts that love them, feeling a merciful joy in doing so. Therefore in
spite of my urgency, I did not immediately obtain the truth from Henriette.
She feared to grieve me; she made brief admissions, and then blushed for
them; but I soon perceived myself the increase of trouble which the
count's present want of regular occupation had brought upon the
household.
"Henriette," I said, after I had been there some days, "don't you think
you have made a mistake in so arranging the estate that the count has no
longer anything to do?"
"Dear," she said, smiling, "my situation is critical enough to take all
my attention; believe me, I have considered all my resources, and they are
now exhausted. It is true that the bickerings are getting worse and worse.
As Monsieur de Mortsauf and I are always together, I cannot lessen them
by diverting his attention in other directions; in fact the pain would be the
same to me in any case. I did think of advising him to start a nursery for
silk-worms at Clochegourde, where we have many mulberry-trees,
remains of the old industry of Touraine. But I reflected that he would still
be the same tyrant at home, and I should have many more annoyances


through the enterprise. You will learn, my dear observer, that in youth a
man's ill qualities are restrained by society, checked in their swing by the
play of passions, subdued under the fear of public opinion; later, a
middle-aged man, living in solitude, shows his native defects, which are
all the more terrible because so long repressed. Human weaknesses are
essentially base; they allow of neither peace nor truce; what you yield to
them to-day they exact to-morrow, and always; they fasten on
concessions and compel more of them. Power, on the other hand, is
merciful; it conforms to evidence, it is just and it is peaceable. But the
passions born of weakness are implacable. Monsieur de Mortsauf takes
an absolute pleasure in getting the better of me; and he who would
deceive no one else, deceives me with delight."
One morning as we left the breakfast table, about a month after my
arrival, the countess took me by the arm, darted through an iron gate
which led into the vineyard, and dragged me hastily among the vines. "He
will kill me!" she cried. "And I want to live--for my children's sake. But
oh! not a day's respite! Always to walk among thorns! to come near
falling every instant! every instant to have to summon all my strength to
keep my balance! No human being can long endure such strain upon the
system. If I were certain of the ground I ought to take, if my resistance
could be a settled thing, then my mind might concentrate upon it--but no,
every day the attacks change character and leave me without defence; my


sorrows are not one, they are manifold. Ah! my friend--" she cried,
leaning her head upon my shoulder, and not continuing her confidence.
"What will become of me? Oh, what shall I do?" she said presently,
struggling with thoughts she did not express. "How can I resist? He will
kill me! No, I will kill myself--but that would be a crime! Escape? yes,
but my children! Separate from him? how, after fifteen years of marriage,
how could I ever tell my parents that I will not live with him? for if my
father and mother came here he would be calm, polite, intelligent,
judicious. Besides, can married women look to fathers or mothers? Do
they not belong body and soul to their husbands? I could live tranquil if
not happy--I have found strength in my chaste solitude, I admit it; but if I
am deprived of this negative happiness I too shall become insane. My
resistance is based on powerful reasons which are not personal to myself.
It is a crime to give birth to poor creatures condemned to endless
suffering. Yet my position raises serious questions, so serious that I dare
not decide them alone; I cannot be judge and party both. To-morrow I
will go to Tours and consult my new confessor, the Abbe Birotteau--for
my dear and virtuous Abbe de la Berge is dead," she said, interrupting
herself. "Though he was severe, I miss and shall always miss his
apostolic power. His successor is an angel of goodness, who pities but
does not reprimand. Still, all courage draws fresh life from the heart of
religion; what soul is not strengthened by the voice of the Holy Spirit?


My God," she said, drying her tears and raising her eyes to heaven, "for
what sin am I thus punished?--I believe, yes, Felix, I believe it, we must
pass through a fiery furnace before we reach the saints, the just made
perfect of the upper spheres. Must I keep silence? Am I forbidden, oh, my
God, to cry to the heart of a friend? Do I love him too well?" She pressed
me to her heart as though she feared to lose me. "Who will solve my
doubts? My conscience does not reproach me. The stars shine from above
on men; may not the soul, the human star, shed its light upon a friend, if
we go to him with pure thoughts?"
  I listened to this dreadful cry in silence, holding her moist hand in
mine that was still more moist. I pressed it with a force to which
Henriette replied with an equal pressure.
  "Where are you?" cried the count, who came towards us, bareheaded.
Ever since my return he had insisted on sharing our interviews,-- either
because he wanted amusement, or feared the countess would tell me her
sorrows and complain to me, or because he was jealous of a pleasure he
did not share.
  "How he follows me!" she cried, in a tone of despair. "Let us go into
the orchard, we shall escape him. We can stoop as we run by the hedge,
and he will not see us."
  We made the hedge a rampart and reached the enclosure, where we
were soon at a good distance from the count in an alley of almond-trees.


"Dear Henriette," I then said to her, pressing her arm against my heart and
stopping to contemplate her in her sorrow, "you have guided me with true
knowledge along the perilous ways of the great world; let me in return
give you some advice which may help you to end this duel without
witnesses, in which you must inevitably be worsted, for you are fighting
with unequal weapons. You must not struggle any longer with a
madman--"
"Hush!" she said, dashing aside the tears that rolled from her eyes.
"Listen to me, dear," I continued. "After a single hour's talk with the
count, which I force myself to endure for love of you, my thoughts are
bewildered, my head heavy; he makes me doubtful of my own intellect;
the same ideas repeated over and over again seem to burn themselves on
my brain. Well-defined monomanias are not communicated; but when the
madness consists in a distorted way of looking at everything, and when it
lurks under all discussions, then it can and does injure the minds of those
who live with it. Your patience is sublime, but will it not end in
disordering you? For your sake, for that of your children, change your
system with the count. Your adorable kindness has made him selfish; you
have treated him as a mother treats the child she spoils; but now, if you
want to live--and you do want it," I said, looking at her, "use the control
you have over him. You know what it is; he loves you and he fears you;
make him fear you more; oppose his erratic will with your firm will.


Extend your power over him, confine his madness to a moral sphere just
as we lock maniacs in a cell."
"Dear child," she said, smiling bitterly, "a woman without a heart
might do it. But I am a mother; I should make a poor jailer. Yes, I can
suffer, but I cannot make others suffer. Never!" she said, "never! not even
to obtain some great and honorable result. Besides, I should have to lie in
my heart, disguise my voice, lower my head, degrade my gesture--do not
ask of me such falsehoods. I can stand between Monsieur de Mortsauf
and his children, I willingly receive his blows that they may not fall on
others; I can do all that, and will do it to conciliate conflicting interests,
but I can do no more."
"Let me worship thee, O saint, thrice holy!" I exclaimed, kneeling at
her feet and kissing her robe, with which I wiped my tears. "But if he kills
you?" I cried.
She turned pale and said, lifting her eyes to heaven:
"God's will be done!"
"Do you know that the king said to your father, 'So that devil of a
Mortsauf is still living'?"
"A jest on the lips of the king," she said, "is a crime when repeated
here."
In spite of our precautions the count had tracked us; he now arrived,
bathed in perspiration, and sat down under a walnut-tree where the


countess had stopped to give me that rebuke. I began to talk about the
vintage; the count was silent, taking no notice of the dampness under the
tree. After a few insignificant remarks, interspersed with pauses that were
very significant, he complained of nausea and headache; but he spoke
gently, and did not appeal to our pity, or describe his sufferings in his
usual exaggerated way. We paid no attention to him. When we reached
the house, he said he felt worse and should go to bed; which he did, quite
naturally and with much less complaint than usual. We took advantage of
the respite and went down to our dear terrace accompanied by Madeleine.
  "Let us get that boat and go upon the river," said the countess after
we had made a few turns. "We might go and look at the fishing which is
going on to-day."
  We went out by the little gate, found the punt, jumped into it and
were presently paddling up the Loire. Like three children amused with
trifles, we looked at the sedges along the banks and the blue and green
dragon-flies; the countess wondered perhaps that she was able to enjoy
such peaceful pleasures in the midst of her poignant griefs; but Nature's
calm, indifferent to our struggles, has a magic gift of consolation. The
tumults of a love full of restrained desires harmonize with the wash of the
water; the flowers that the hand of man has never wilted are the voice of
his secret dreams; the voluptuous swaying of the boat vaguely responds
to the thoughts that are floating in his soul. We felt the languid influence


of this double poesy. Words, tuned to the diapason of nature, disclosed
mysterious graces; looks were impassioned rays sharing the light shed
broadcast by the sun on the glowing meadows. The river was a path along
which we flew. Our spirit, no longer kept down by the measured tread of
our footsteps, took possession of the universe. The abounding joy of a
child at liberty, graceful in its motions, enticing in its play, is the living
expression of two freed souls, delighting themselves by becoming ideally
the wondrous being dreamed of by Plato and known to all whose youth
has been filled with a blessed love. To describe to you that hour, not in its
indescribable details but in its essence, I must say to you that we loved
each other in all the creations animate and inanimate which surrounded us;
we felt without us the happiness our own hearts craved; it so penetrated
our being that the countess took off her gloves and let her hands float in
the water as if to cool an inward ardor. Her eyes spoke; but her mouth,
opening like a rose to the breeze, gave voice to no desire. You know the
harmony of deep tones mingling perfectly with high ones? Ever, when I
hear it now, it recalls to me the harmony of our two souls in this one hour,
which never came again.
"Where do you fish?" I asked, "if you can only do so from the banks
you own?"
"Near Pont-de-Ruan," she replied. "Ah! we now own the river from
Pont- de-Ruan to Clochegourde; Monsieur de Mortsauf has lately bought


forty acres of the meadow lands with the savings of two years and the
arrearage of his pension. Does that surprise you?"
"Surprise me?" I cried; "I would that all the valley were yours." She
answered me with a smile. Presently we came below the bridge to a place
where the Indre widens and where the fishing was going on. "Well,
Martineau?" she said.
"Ah, Madame la comtesse, such bad luck! We have fished up from
the mill the last three hours, and have taken nothing."
We landed near them to watch the drawing in of the last net, and all
three of us sat down in the shade of a "bouillard," a sort of poplar with a
white bark, which grows on the banks of the Danube and the Loire
(probably on those of other large rivers), and sheds, in the spring of the
year, a white and silky fluff, the covering of its flower. The countess had
recovered her august serenity; she half regretted the unveiling of her
griefs, and mourned that she had cried aloud like Job, instead of weeping
like the Magdalen,--a Magdalen without loves, or galas, or prodigalities,
but not without beauty and fragrance. The net came in at her feet full of
fish; tench, barbels, pike, perch, and an enormous carp, which floundered
about on the grass.
"Madame brings luck!" exclaimed the keeper.
All the laborers opened their eyes as they looked with admiration at
the woman whose fairy wand seemed to have touched the nets. Just then


the huntsman was seen urging his horse over the meadows at a full gallop.
Fear took possession of her. Jacques was not with us, and the mother's
first thought, as Virgil so poetically says, is to press her children to her
breast when danger threatens.
  "Jacques! Where is Jacques? What has happened to my boy?"
  She did not love me! If she had loved me I should have seen upon
her face when confronted with my sufferings that expression of a lioness
in despair.
  "Madame la comtesse, Monsieur le comte is worse."
  She breathed more freely and started to run towards Clochegourde,
followed by me and by Madeleine.
  "Follow me slowly," she said, looking back; "don't let the dear child
overheat herself. You see how it is; Monsieur de Mortsauf took that walk
in the sun which put him into a perspiration, and sitting under the
walnut-tree may be the cause of a great misfortune."
  The words, said in the midst of her agitation, showed plainly the
purity of her soul. The death of the count a misfortune! She reached
Clochegourde with great rapidity, passing through a gap in the wall and
crossing the fields. I returned slowly. Henriette's words lighted my mind,
but as the lightning falls and blasts the gathered harvest. On the river I
had fancied I was her chosen one; now I felt bitterly the sincerity of her
words. The lover who is not everything is nothing. I loved with the desire


of a love that knows what it seeks; which feeds in advance on coming
transports, and is content with the pleasures of the soul because it mingles
with them others which the future keeps in store. If Henriette loved, it
was certain that she knew neither the pleasures of love nor its tumults.
She lived by feelings only, like a saint with God. I was the object on
which her thoughts fastened as bees swarm upon the branch of a
flowering tree. In my mad jealousy I reproached myself that I had dared
nothing, that I had not tightened the bonds of a tenderness which seemed
to me at that moment more subtile than real, by the chains of positive
possession.
The count's illness, caused perhaps by a chill under the walnut-tree,
became alarming in a few hours. I went to Tours for a famous doctor
named Origet, but was unable to find him until evening. He spent that
night and the next day at Clochegourde. We had sent the huntsman in
quest of leeches, but the doctor, thinking the case urgent, wished to bleed
the count immediately, but had brought no lancet with him. I at once
started for Azay in the midst of a storm, roused a surgeon, Monsieur
Deslandes, and compelled him to come with the utmost celerity to
Clochegourde. Ten minutes later and the count would have died; the
bleeding saved him. But in spite of this preliminary success the doctor
predicted an inflammatory fever of the worst kind. The countess was
overcome by the fear that she was the secret cause of this crisis. Two


weak to thank me for my exertions, she merely gave me a few smiles, the
equivalent of the kiss she had once laid upon my hand. Fain would I have
seen in those haggard smiles the remorse of illicit love; but no, they were
only the act of contrition of an innocent repentance, painful to see in one
so pure, the expression of admiring tenderness for me whom she regarded
as noble while reproaching herself for an imaginary wrong. Surely she
loved as Laura loved Petrarch, and not as Francesca da Rimini loved
Paolo,--a terrible discovery for him who had dreamed the union of the
two loves.
The countess half lay, her body bent forwards, her arms hanging, in
a soiled armchair in a room that was like the lair of a wild boar. The next
evening before the doctor departed he said to the countess, who had sat
up the night before, that she must get a nurse, as the illness would be a
long one.
"A nurse!" she said; "no, no! We will take care of him," she added,
looking at me; "we owe it to ourselves to save him."
The doctor gave us both an observing look full of astonishment. The
words were of a nature to make him suspect an atonement. He promised
to come twice a week, left directions for the treatment with Monsieur
Deslandes, and pointed out the threatening symptoms that might oblige us
to send for him. I asked the countess to let me sit up the alternate nights
and then, not without difficulty, I persuaded her to go to bed on the third


night. When the house was still and the count sleeping I heard a groan
from Henriette's room. My anxiety was so keen that I went to her. She
was kneeling before the crucifix bathed in tears. "My God!" she cried; "if
this be the cost of a murmur, I will never complain again."
"You have left him!" she said on seeing me.
"I heard you moaning, and I was frightened."
"Oh, I!" she said; "I am well."
Wishing to be certain that Monsieur de Mortsauf was asleep she
came down with me; by the light of the lamp we looked at him. The count
was weakened by the loss of blood and was more drowsy than asleep; his
hands picked the counterpane and tried to draw it over him.
"They say the dying do that," she whispered. "Ah! if he were to die
of this illness, that I have caused, never will I marry again, I swear it," she
said, stretching her hand over his head with a solemn gesture.
"I have done all I could to save him," I said.
"Oh, you!" she said, "you are good; it is I who am guilty."
She stooped to that discolored brow, wiped the perspiration from it
and laid a kiss there solemnly; but I saw, not without joy, that she did it as
an expiation.
"Blanche, I am thirsty," said the count in a feeble voice.
"You see he knows me," she said giving him to drink.
Her accent, her affectionate manner to him seemed to me to take the


feelings that bound us together and immolate them to the sick man.
"Henriette," I said, "go and rest, I entreat you."
"No more Henriette," she said, interrupting me with imperious haste.
"Go to bed if you would not be ill. Your children, HE HIMSELF would
order you to be careful; it is a case where selfishness becomes a virtue."
"Yes," she said.
She went away, recommending her husband to my care by a gesture
which would have seemed like approaching delirium if childlike grace
had not been mingled with the supplicating forces of repentance. But the
scene was terrible, judged by the habitual state of that pure soul; it
alarmed me; I feared the exaltation of her conscience. When the doctor
came again, I revealed to him the nature of my pure Henriette's self-
reproach. This confidence, made discreetly, removed Monsieur Origet's
suspicions, and enabled him to quiet the distress of that noble soul by
telling her that in any case the count had to pass through this crisis, and
that as for the nut-tree, his remaining there had done more good than
harm by developing the disease.
For fifty-two days the count hovered between life and death.
Henriette and I each watched twenty-six nights. Undoubtedly, Monsieur
de Mortsauf owed his life to our nursing and to the careful exactitude
with which we carried out the orders of Monsieur Origet. Like all
philosophical physicians, whose sagacious observation of what passes


before them justifies many a doubt of noble actions when they are only
the accomplishment of a duty, this man, while assisting the countess and
me in our rivalry of devotion, could not help watching us, with
scrutinizing glances, so afraid was he of being deceived in his admiration.
  "In diseases of this nature," he said to me at his third visit, "death has
a powerful auxiliary in the moral nature when that is seriously disturbed,
as it is in this case. The doctor, the family, the nurses hold the patient's
life in their hands; sometimes a single word, a fear expressed by a gesture,
has the effect of poison."
  As he spoke Origet studied my face and expression; but he saw in
my eyes the clear look of an honest soul. In fact during the whole course
of this distressing illness there never passed through my mind a single
one of the involuntary evil thoughts which do sometimes sear the
consciences of the innocent. To those who study nature in its grandeur as
a whole all tends to unity through assimilation. The moral world must
undoubtedly be ruled by an analogous principle. In an pure sphere all is
pure. The atmosphere of heaven was around my Henriette; it seemed as
though an evil desire must forever part me from her. Thus she not only
stood for happiness, but for virtue; she WAS virtue.
  Finding us always equally careful and attentive, the doctor's words
and manners took a tone of respect and even pity; he seemed to say to
himself, "Here are the real sufferers; they hide their ills, and forget them."


By a fortunate change, which, according to our excellent doctor, is
common enough in men who are completely shattered, Monsieur de
Mortsauf was patient, obedient, complained little, and showed surprising
docility,--he, who when well never did the simplest thing without
discussion. The secret of this submission to medical care, which he
formerly so derided, was an innate dread of death; another contradiction
in a man of tried courage. This dread may perhaps explain several other
peculiarities in the character which the cruel years of exile had developed.
  Shall I admit to you, Natalie, and will you believe me? these fifty
days and the month that followed them were the happiest moments of my
life. Love, in the celestial spaces of the soul is like a noble river flowing
through a valley; the rains, the brooks, the torrents hie to it, the trees fall
upon its surface, so do the flowers, the gravel of its shores, the rocks of
the summits; storms and the loitering tribute of the crystal streams alike
increase it. Yes, when love comes all comes to love!
  The first great danger over, the countess and I grew accustomed to
illness. In spite of the confusion which the care of the sick entails, the
count's room, once so untidy, was now clean and inviting. Soon we were
like two beings flung upon a desert island, for not only do anxieties
isolate, but they brush aside as petty the conventions of the world. The
welfare of the sick man obliged us to have points of contact which no
other circumstances would have authorized. Many a time our hands, shy


or timid formerly, met in some service that we rendered to the count--was
I not there to sustain and help my Henriette? Absorbed in a duty
comparable to that of a soldier at the pickets, she forgot to eat; then I
served her, sometimes on her lap, a hasty meal which necessitated a
thousand little attentions. We were like children at a grave. She would
order me sharply to prepare whatever might ease the sick man's suffering;
she employed me in a hundred petty ways. During the time when actual
danger obscured, as it does during the battle, the subtile distinctions
which characterize the facts of ordinary life, she necessarily laid aside the
reserve which all women, even the most unconventional, preserve in their
looks and words and actions before the world or their own family. At the
first chirping of the birds she would come to relieve my watch, wearing a
morning garment which revealed to me once more the dazzling treasures
that in my folly I had treated as my own. Always dignified, nay imposing,
she could still be familiar.
  Thus it came to pass that we found ourselves unconsciously intimate,
half-married as it were. She showed herself nobly confiding, as sure of
me as she was of herself. I was thus taken deeper and deeper into her
heart. The countess became once more my Henriette, Henriette
constrained to love with increasing strength the friend who endeavored to
be her second soul. Her hand unresistingly met mine at the least
solicitation; my eyes were permitted to follow with delight the lines of


her beauty during the long hours when we listened to the count's
breathing, without driving her from their sight. The meagre pleasures
which we allowed ourselves--sympathizing looks, words spoken in
whispers not to wake the count, hopes and fears repeated and again
repeated, in short, the thousand incidents of the fusion of two hearts long
separated--stand out in bright array upon the sombre background of the
actual scene. Our souls knew each other to their depths under this test,
which many a warm affection is unable to bear, finding life too heavy or
too flimsy in the close bonds of hourly intercourse. You know what
disturbance follows the illness of a master; how the affairs of life seem to
come to a standstill. Though the real care of the family and estate fell
upon Madame de Mortsauf, the count was useful in his way; he talked
with the farmers, transacted business with his bailiff, and received the
rents; if she was the soul, he was the body. I now made myself her
steward so that she could nurse the count without neglecting the property.
She accepted this as a matter of course, in fact without thanking me. It
was another sweet communion to share her family cares, to transmit her
orders. In the evenings we often met in her room to discuss these interests
and those of her children. Such conversations gave one semblance the
more to our transitory marriage. With what delight she encouraged me to
take a husband's place, giving me his seat at table, sending me to talk
with the bailiff,--all in perfect innocence, yet not without that inward


pleasure the most virtuous woman in the world will feel when she finds a
course where strict obedience to duty and the satisfaction of her wishes
are combined.
Nullified, as it were, by illness, the count no longer oppressed his
wife or his household, the countess then became her natural self; she
busied herself with my affairs and showed me a thousand kindnesses.
With what joy I discovered in her mind a thought, vaguely conceived
perhaps, but exquisitely expressed, namely, to show me the full value of
her person and her qualities and make me see the change that would come
over her if she lived understood. This flower, kept in the cold atmosphere
of such a home, opened to my gaze, and to mine only; she took as much
delight in letting me comprehend her as I felt in studying her with the
searching eyes of love. She proved to me in all the trifling things of daily
life how much I was in her thoughts. When, after my turn of watching, I
went to bed and slept late, Henriette would keep the house absolutely
silent near me; Jacques and Madeleine played elsewhere, though never
ordered to do so; she invented excuses to serve my breakfast herself--ah,
with what sparkling pleasure in her movements, what swallow-like
rapidity, what lynx-eyed perception! and then! what carnation on her
cheeks, what quiverings in her voice!
Can such expansions of the soul be described in words?
Often she was wearied out; but if, at such moments of lassitude my


welfare came in question, for me, as for her children, she found fresh
strength and sprang up eagerly and joyfully. How she loved to shed her
tenderness like sunbeams in the air! Ah, Natalie, some women share the
privileges of angels here below; they diffuse that light which Saint-
Martin, the mysterious philosopher, declared to be intelligent, melodious,
and perfumed. Sure of my discretion, Henriette took pleasure in raising
the curtain which hid the future and in showing me two women in
her,--the woman bound hand and foot who had won me in spite of her
severity, and the woman freed, whose sweetness should make my love
eternal! What a difference. Madame de Mortsauf was the skylark of
Bengal, transported to our cold Europe, mournful on its perch, silent and
dying in the cage of a naturalist; Henriette was the singing bird of oriental
poems in groves beside the Ganges, flying from branch to branch like a
living jewel amid the roses of a volkameria that ever blooms. Her beauty
grew more beautiful, her mind recovered strength. The continual sparkle
of this happiness was a secret between ourselves, for she dreaded the eye
of the Abbe Dominis, the representative of the world; she masked her
contentment with playfulness, and covered the proofs of her tenderness
with the banner of gratitude.
"We have put your friendship to a severe test, Felix; we may give
you the same rights we give to Jacques, may we not, Monsieur l'abbe?"
she said one day.


  The stern abbe answered with the smile of a man who can read the
human heart and see its purity; for the countess he always showed the
respect mingled with adoration which the angels inspire. Twice during
those fifty days the countess passed beyond the limits in which we held
our affection. But even these infringements were shrouded in a veil, never
lifted until the final hour when avowal came. One morning, during the
first days of the count's illness, when she repented her harsh treatment in
withdrawing the innocent privileges she had formerly granted me, I was
expecting her to relieve my watch. Much fatigued, I fell asleep, my head
against the wall. I wakened suddenly at the touch of something cool upon
my forehead which gave me a sensation as if a rose had rested there. I
opened my eyes and saw the countess, standing a few steps distant, who
said, "I have just come." I rose to leave the room, but as I bade her
good-bye I took her hand; it was moist and trembling.
  "Are you ill?" I said.
  "Why do you ask that question?" she replied.
  I looked at her blushing and confused. "I was dreaming," I replied.
Another time, when Monsieur Origet had announced positively that the
count was convalescent, I was lying with Jacques and Madeleine on the
step of the portico intent on a game of spillikins which we were playing
with bits of straw and hooks made of pins; Monsieur de Mortsauf was
asleep. The doctor, while waiting for his horse to be harnessed, was


talking with the countess in the salon. Monsieur Origet went away
without my noticing his departure. After he left, Henriette leaned against
the window, from which she watched us for some time without our seeing
her. It was one of those warm evenings when the sky is copper-colored
and the earth sends up among the echoes a myriad mingling noises. A last
ray of sunlight was leaving the roofs, the flowers in the garden perfumed
the air, the bells of the cattle returning to their stalls sounded in the
distance. We were all conforming to the silence of the evening hour and
hushing our voices that we might not wake the count. Suddenly, I heard
the guttural sound of a sob violently suppressed; I rushed into the salon
and found the countess sitting by the window with her handkerchief to
her face. She heard my step and made me an imperious gesture,
commanding me to leave her. I went up to her, my heart stabbed with fear,
and tried to take her handkerchief away by force. Her face was bathed in
tears and she fled into her room, which she did not leave again until the
hour for evening prayer. When that was over, I led her to the terrace and
asked the cause of her emotion; she affected a wild gaiety and explained
it by the news Monsieur Origet had given her.
"Henriette, Henriette, you knew that news when I saw you weeping.
Between you and me a lie is monstrous. Why did you forbid me to dry
your tears? were they mine?"
"I was thinking," she said, "that for me this illness has been a halt in


pain. Now that I no longer fear for Monsieur de Mortsauf I fear for
myself."
She was right. The count's recovery was soon attested by the return
of his fantastic humor. He began by saying that neither the countess, nor I,
nor the doctor had known how to take care of him; we were ignorant of
his constitution and also of his disease; we misunderstood his sufferings
and the necessary remedies. Origet, infatuated with his own doctrines,
had mistaken the case, he ought to have attended only to the pylorus. One
day he looked at us maliciously, with an air of having guessed our
thoughts, and said to his wife with a smile, "Now, my dear, if I had died
you would have regretted me, no doubt, but pray admit you would have
been quite resigned."
"Yes, I should have mourned you in pink and black, court
mourning," she answered laughing, to change the tone of his remarks.
But it was chiefly about his food, which the doctor insisted on
regulating, that scenes of violence and wrangling now took place, unlike
any that had hitherto occurred; for the character of the count was all the
more violent for having slumbered. The countess, fortified by the doctor's
orders and the obedience of her servants, stimulated too by me, who
thought this struggle a good means to teach her to exercise authority over
the count, held out against his violence. She showed a calm front to his
demented cries, and even grew accustomed to his insulting epithets,


taking him for what he was, a child. I had the happiness of at last seeing
her take the reins in hand and govern that unsound mind. The count cried
out, but he obeyed; and he obeyed all the better when he had made an
outcry. But in spite of the evidence of good results, Henriette often wept
at the spectacle of this emaciated, feeble old man, with a forehead
yellower than the falling leaves, his eyes wan, his hands trembling. She
blamed herself for too much severity, and could not resist the joy she saw
in his eyes when, in measuring out his food, she gave him more than the
doctor allowed. She was even more gentle and gracious to him than she
had been to me; but there were differences here which filled my heart
with joy. She was not unwearying, and she sometimes called her servants
to wait upon the count when his caprices changed too rapidly, and he
complained of not being understood.
The countess wished to return thanks to God for the count's recovery;
she directed a mass to be said, and asked if I would take her to church. I
did so, but I left her at the door, and went to see Monsieur and Madame
Chessel. On my return she reproached me.
"Henriette," I said, "I cannot be false. I will throw myself into the
water to save my enemy from drowning, and give him my coat to keep
him warm; I will forgive him, but I cannot forget the wrong."
She was silent, but she pressed my arm.
"You are an angel, and you were sincere in your thanksgiving," I


said, continuing. "The mother of the Prince of the Peace was saved from
the hands of an angry populace who sought to kill her, and when the
queen asked, 'What did you do?' she answered, 'I prayed for them.'
Women are ever thus. I am a man, and necessarily imperfect."
"Don't calumniate yourself," she said, shaking my arm, "perhaps you
are more worthy than I."
"Yes," I replied, "for I would give eternity for a day of happiness,
and you--"
"I!" she said haughtily.
I was silent and lowered my eyes to escape the lightning of hers.
"There is many an I in me," she said. "Of which do you speak?
Those children," pointing to Jacques and Madeleine, "are one--Felix," she
cried in a heartrending voice, "do you think me selfish? Ought I to
sacrifice eternity to reward him who devotes to me his life? The thought
is dreadful; it wounds every sentiment of religion. Could a woman so
fallen rise again? Would her happiness absolve her? These are questions
you force me to consider.--Yes, I betray at last the secret of my
conscience; the thought has traversed my heart; often do I expiate it by
penance; it caused the tears you asked me to account for yesterday--"
"Do you not give too great importance to certain things which
common women hold at a high price, and--"
"Oh!" she said, interrupting me; "do you hold them at a lower?"


  This logic stopped all argument.
  "Know this," she continued. "I might have the baseness to abandon
that poor old man whose life I am; but, my friend, those other feeble
creatures there before us, Madeleine and Jacques, would remain with
their father. Do you think, I ask you do you think they would be alive in
three months under the insane dominion of that man? If my failure of
duty concerned only myself--" A noble smile crossed her face. "But shall
I kill my children! My God!" she exclaimed. "Why speak of these things?
Marry, and let me die!"
  She said the words in a tone so bitter, so hollow, that they stifled the
remonstrances of my passion.
  "You uttered cries that day beneath the walnut-tree; I have uttered
my cries here beneath these alders, that is all," I said; "I will be silent
henceforth."
  "Your generosity shames me," she said, raising her eyes to heaven.
  We reached the terrace and found the count sitting in a chair, in the
sun. The sight of that sunken face, scarcely brightened by a feeble smile,
extinguished the last flames that came from the ashes. I leaned against the
balustrade and considered the picture of that poor wreck, between his
sickly children and his wife, pale with her vigils, worn out by extreme
fatigue, by the fears, perhaps also by the joys of these terrible months, but
whose cheeks now glowed from the emotions she had just passed through.


At the sight of that suffering family beneath the trembling leafage
through which the gray light of a cloudy autumn sky came dimly, I felt
within me a rupture of the bonds which hold the body to the spirit. There
came upon me then that moral spleen which, they say, the strongest
wrestlers know in the crisis of their combats, a species of cold madness
which makes a coward of the bravest man, a bigot of an unbeliever, and
renders those it grasps indifferent to all things, even to vital sentiments, to
honor, to love--for the doubt it brings takes from us the knowledge of
ourselves and disgusts us with life itself. Poor, nervous creatures, whom
the very richness of your organization delivers over to this mysterious,
fatal power, who are your peers and who your judges? Horrified by the
thoughts that rose within me, and demanding, like the wicked man,
"Where is now thy God?" I could not restrain the tears that rolled down
my cheeks. "What is it, dear Felix?" said Madeleine in her childish voice.
Then Henriette put to flight these dark horrors of the mind by a look of
tender solicitude which shone into my soul like a sunbeam. Just then the
old huntsman brought me a letter from Tours, at sight of which I made a
sudden cry of surprise, which made Madame de Mortsauf tremble. I saw
the king's signet and knew it contained my recall. I gave her the letter and
she read it at a glance.
"What will become of me?" she murmured, beholding her desert
sunless. We fell into a stupor of thought which oppressed us equally;


never had we felt more strongly how necessary we were to one another.
The countess, even when she spoke indifferently of other things, seemed
to have a new voice, as if the instrument had lost some chords and others
were out of tune. Her movements were apathetic, her eyes without light. I
begged her to tell me her thoughts.
"Have I any?" she replied in a dazed way.
She drew me into her chamber, made me sit upon the sofa, took a
package from the drawer of her dressing-table, and knelt before me,
saying: "This hair has fallen from my head during the last year; take it, it
is yours; you will some day know how and why."
Slowly I bent to meet her brow, and she did not avoid my lips. I
kissed her sacredly, without unworthy passion, without one impure
impulse, but solemnly, with tenderness. Was she willing to make the
sacrifice; or did she merely come, as I did once, to the verge of the
precipice? If love were leading her to give herself could she have worn
that calm, that holy look; would she have asked, in that pure voice of hers,
"You are not angry with me, are you?"
I left that evening; she wished to accompany me on the road to
Frapesle; and we stopped under my walnut-tree. I showed it to her, and
told her how I had first seen her four years earlier from that spot. "The
valley was so beautiful then!" I cried.
"And now?" she said quickly.


"You are beneath my tree, and the valley is ours!"
She bowed her head and that was our farewell; she got into her
carriage with Madeleine, and I into mine alone.
On my return to Paris I was absorbed in pressing business which
took all my time and kept me out of society, which for a while forgot me.
I corresponded with Madame de Mortsauf, and sent her my journal once a
week. She answered twice a month. It was a life of solitude yet teeming,
like those sequestered spots, blooming unknown, which I had sometimes
found in the depths of woods when gathering the flowers for my poems.
Oh, you who love! take these obligations on you; accept these daily
duties, like those the Church imposes upon Christians. The rigorous
observances of the Roman faith contain a great idea; they plough the
furrow of duty in the soul by the daily repetition of acts which keep alive
the sense of hope and fear. Sentiments flow clearer in furrowed channels
which purify their stream; they refresh the heart, they fertilize the life
from the abundant treasures of a hidden faith, the source divine in which
the single thought of a single love is multiplied indefinitely.
My love, an echo of the Middle Ages and of chivalry, was known, I
know not how; possibly the king and the Duc de Lenoncourt had spoken
of it. From that upper sphere the romantic yet simple story of a young
man piously adoring a beautiful woman remote from the world, noble in
her solitude, faithful without support to duty, spread, no doubt quickly,


through the faubourg St. Germain. In the salons I was the object of
embarrassing notice; for retired life has advantages which if once
experienced make the burden of a constant social intercourse
insupportable. Certain minds are painfully affected by violent contrasts,
just as eyes accustomed to soft colors are hurt by glaring light. This was
my condition then; you may be surprised at it now, but have patience; the
inconsistencies of the Vandenesse of to-day will be explained to you.
I found society courteous and women most kind. After the marriage
of the Duc de Berry the court resumed its former splendor and the glory
of the French fetes revived. The Allied occupation was over, prosperity
reappeared, enjoyments were again possible. Noted personages,
illustrious by rank, prominent by fortune, came from all parts of Europe
to the capital of the intellect, where the merits and the vices of other
countries were found magnified and whetted by the charms of French
intellect.
Five months after leaving Clochegourde my good angel wrote me, in
the middle of the winter, a despairing letter, telling me of the serious
illness of her son. He was then out of danger, but there were many fears
for the future; the doctor said that precautions were necessary for his
lungs--the suggestion of a terrible idea which had put the mother's heart
in mourning. Hardly had Jacques begun to convalesce, and she could
breathe again, when Madeleine made them all uneasy. That pretty plant,


whose bloom had lately rewarded the mother's culture, was now frail and
pallid and anemic. The countess, worn-out by Jacques' long illness, found
no courage, she said, to bear this additional blow, and the ever present
spectacle of these two dear failing creatures made her insensible to the
redoubled torment of her husband's temper. Thus the storms were again
raging; tearing up by the roots the hopes that were planted deepest in her
bosom. She was now at the mercy of the count; weary of the struggle, she
allowed him to regain all the ground he had lost.
"When all my strength is employed in caring for my children," she
wrote, "how is it possible to employ it against Monsieur de Mortsauf;
how can I struggle against his aggressions when I am fighting against
death? Standing here to-day, alone and much enfeebled, between these
two young images of mournful fate, I am overpowered with disgust,
invincible disgust for life. What blow can I feel, to what affection can I
answer, when I see Jacques motionless on the terrace, scarcely a sign of
life about him, except in those dear eyes, large by emaciation, hollow as
those of an old man and, oh, fatal sign, full of precocious intelligence
contrasting with his physical debility. When I look at my pretty
Madeleine, once so gay, so caressing, so blooming, now white as death,
her very hair and eyes seem to me to have paled; she turns a languishing
look upon me as if bidding me farewell; nothing rouses her, nothing
tempts her. In spite of all my efforts I cannot amuse my children; they


smile at me, but their smile is only in answer to my endearments, it does
not come from them. They weep because they have no strength to play
with me. Suffering has enfeebled their whole being, it has loosened even
the ties that bound them to me.
"Thus you can well believe that Clochegourde is very sad. Monsieur
de Mortsauf now rules everything--Oh my friend! you, my glory!" she
wrote, farther on, "you must indeed love me well to love me still; to love
me callous, ungrateful, turned to stone by grief."
 楼主| 发表于 2020-12-13 19:27:20 | 显示全部楼层

4、CHAPTER III THE TWO WOMEN

CHAPTER III
THE TWO WOMEN
It was at this time, when I was never more deeply moved in my
whole being, when I lived in that soul to which I strove to send the
luminous breeze of the mornings and the hope of the crimsoned evenings,
that I met, in the salons of the Elysee-Bourbon, one of those illustrious
ladies who reign as sovereigns in society. Immensely rich, born of a
family whose blood was pure from all misalliance since the Conquest,
married to one of the most distinguished old men of the British peerage, it
was nevertheless evident that these advantages were mere accessories
heightening this lady's beauty, graces, manners, and wit, all of which had
a brilliant quality which dazzled before it charmed. She was the idol of
the day; reigning the more securely over Parisian society because she
possessed the quality most necessary to success,--the hand of iron in the


velvet glove spoken of by Bernadotte.
You know the singular characteristics of English people, the distance
and coldness of their own Channel which they put between them and
whoever has not been presented to them in a proper manner. Humanity
seems to be an ant-hill on which they tread; they know none of their
species except the few they admit into their circle; they ignore even the
language of the rest; tongues may move and eyes may see in their
presence but neither sound nor look has reached them; to them, the
people are as if they were not. The British present an image of their own
island, where law rules everything, where all is automatic in every station
of life, where the exercise of virtue appears to be the necessary working
of a machine which goes by clockwork. Fortifications of polished steel
rise around the Englishwoman behind the golden wires of her household
cage (where the feed-box and the drinking-cup, the perches and the food
are exquisite in quality), but they make her irresistibly attractive. No
people ever trained married women so carefully to hypocrisy by holding
them rigidly between the two extremes of death or social station; for them
there is no middle path between shame and honor; either the wrong is
completed or it does not exist; it is all or nothing,--Hamlet's "To be or not
to be." This alternative, coupled with the scorn to which the customs of
her country have trained her, make an Englishwoman a being apart in the
world. She is a helpless creature, forced to be virtuous yet ready to yield,


condemned to live a lie in her heart, yet delightful in outward
appearance--for these English rest everything on appearances. Hence the
special charms of their women: the enthusiasm for a love which is all
their life; the minuteness of their care for their persons; the delicacy of
their passion, so charmingly rendered in the famous scene of Romeo and
Juliet in which, with one stroke, Shakespeare's genius depicted his
country-women.
You, who envy them so many things, what can I tell you that you do
not know of these white sirens, impenetrable apparently but easily
fathomed, who believe that love suffices love, and turn enjoyments to
satiety by never varying them; whose soul has one note only, their voice
one syllable--an ocean of love in themselves, it is true, and he who has
never swum there misses part of the poetry of the senses, as he who has
never seen the sea has lost some strings of his lyre. You know the why
and wherefore of these words. My relations with the Marchioness of
Dudley had a disastrous celebrity. At an age when the senses have
dominion over our conduct, and when in my case they had been violently
repressed by circumstances, the image of the saint bearing her slow
martyrdom at Clochegourde shone so vividly before my mind that I was
able to resist all seductions. It was the lustre of this fidelity which
attracted Lady Dudley's attention. My resistance stimulated her passion.
What she chiefly desired, like many Englishwoman, was the spice of


singularity; she wanted pepper, capsicum, with her heart's food, just as
Englishmen need condiments to excite their appetite. The dull languor
forced into the lives of these women by the constant perfection of
everything about them, the methodical regularity of their habits, leads
them to adore the romantic and to welcome difficulty. I was wholly
unable to judge of such a character. The more I retreated to a cold
distance the more impassioned Lady Dudley became. The struggle, in
which she gloried, excited the curiosity of several persons, and this in
itself was a form of happiness which to her mind made ultimate triumph
obligatory. Ah! I might have been saved if some good friend had then
repeated to me her cruel comment on my relations with Madame de
Mortsauf. "I am wearied to death," she said, "of these turtle-dove
sighings." Without seeking to justify my crime, I ask you to observe,
Natalie, that a man has fewer means of resisting a woman than she has of
escaping him. Our code of manners forbids the brutality of repressing a
woman, whereas repression with your sex is not only allurement to ours,
but is imposed upon you by conventions. With us, on the contrary, some
unwritten law of masculine self-conceit ridicules a man's modesty; we
leave you the monopoly of that virtue, that you may have the privilege of
granting us favors; but reverse the case, and man succumbs before
sarcasm.
Though protected by my love, I was not of an age to be wholly


insensible to the triple seductions of pride, devotion, and beauty. When
Arabella laid at my feet the homage of a ball-room where she reigned a
queen, when she watched by glance to know if my taste approved of her
dress, and when she trembled with pleasure on seeing that she pleased me,
I was affected by her emotion. Besides, she occupied a social position
where I could not escape her; I could not refuse invitations in the
diplomatic circle; her rank admitted her everywhere, and with the
cleverness all women display to obtain what pleases them, she often
contrived that the mistress of the house should place me beside her at
dinner. On such occasions she spoke in low tones to my ear. "If I were
loved like Madame de Mortsauf," she said once, "I should sacrifice all."
She did submit herself with a laugh in many humble ways; she promised
me a discretion equal to any test, and even asked that I would merely
suffer her to love me. "Your friend always, your mistress when you will,"
she said. At last, after an evening when she had made herself so beautiful
that she was certain to have excited my desires, she came to me. The
scandal resounded through England, where the aristocracy was horrified
like heaven itself at the fall of its highest angel. Lady Dudley abandoned
her place in the British empyrean, gave up her wealth, and endeavored to
eclipse by her sacrifices HER whose virtue had been the cause of this
great disaster. She took delight, like the devil on the pinnacle of the
temple, in showing me all the riches of her passionate kingdom. Read me,


I pray you, with indulgence. The matter concerns one of the most
interesting problems of human life,--a crisis to which most men are
subjected, and which I desire to explain, if only to place a warning light
upon the reef. This beautiful woman, so slender, so fragile, this
milk-white creature, so yielding, so submissive, so gentle, her brow so
endearing, the hair that crowns it so fair and fine, this tender woman,
whose brilliancy is phosphorescent and fugitive, has, in truth, an iron
nature. No horse, no matter how fiery he may be, can conquer her
vigorous wrist, or strive against that hand so soft in appearance, but never
tired. She has the foot of a doe, a thin, muscular little foot, indescribably
graceful in outline. She is so strong that she fears no struggle; men cannot
follow her on horseback; she would win a steeple-chase against a centaur;
she can bring down a stag without stopping her horse. Her body never
perspires; it inhales the fire of the atmosphere, and lives in water under
pain of not living at all. Her love is African; her desires are like the
whirlwinds of the desert--the desert, whose torrid expanse is in her eyes,
the azure, love-laden desert, with its changeless skies, its cool and starry
nights. What a contrast to Clochegourde! the east and the west! the one
drawing into her every drop of moisture for her own nourishment, the
other exuding her soul, wrapping her dear ones in her luminous
atmosphere; the one quick and slender; the other slow and massive.
Have you ever reflected on the actual meaning of the manners and


customs and morals of England? Is it not the deification of matter? a
well-defined, carefully considered Epicureanism, judiciously applied? No
matter what may be said against the statement, England is
materialist,--possibly she does not know it herself. She lays claim to
religion and morality, from which, however, divine spirituality, the
catholic soul, is absent; and its fructifying grace cannot be replaced by
any counterfeit, however well presented it may be. England possesses in
the highest degree that science of existence which turns to account every
particle of materiality; the science that makes her women's slippers the
most exquisite slippers in the world, gives to their linen ineffable
fragrance, lines their drawers with cedar, serves tea carefully drawn, at a
certain hour, banishes dust, nails the carpets to the floors in every corner
of the house, brushes the cellar walls, polishes the knocker of the front
door, oils the springs of the carriage,--in short, makes matter a nutritive
and downy pulp, clean and shining, in the midst of which the soul expires
of enjoyment and the frightful monotony of comfort in a life without
contrasts, deprived of spontaneity, and which, to sum all in one word,
makes a machine of you.
Thus I suddenly came to know, in the bosom of this British luxury, a
woman who is perhaps unique among her sex; who caught me in the nets
of a love excited by my indifference, and to the warmth of which I
opposed a stern continence,--one of those loves possessed of


overwhelming charm, an electricity of their own, which lead us to the
skies through the ivory gates of slumber, or bear us thither on their
powerful pinions. A love monstrously ungrateful, which laughs at the
bodies of those it kills; love without memory, a cruel love, resembling the
policy of the English nation; a love to which, alas, most men yield. You
understand the problem? Man is composed of matter and spirit; animality
comes to its end in him, and the angel begins in him. There lies the
struggle we all pass through, between the future destiny of which we are
conscious and the influence of anterior instincts from which we are not
wholly detached,--carnal love and divine love. One man combines them,
another abstains altogether; some there are who seek the satisfaction of
their anterior appetites from the whole sex; others idealize their love in
one woman who is to them the universe; some float irresolutely between
the delights of matter and the joys of soul, others spiritualize the body,
requiring of it that which it cannot give.
If, thinking over these leading characteristics of love, you take into
account the dislikes and the affinities which result from the diversity of
organisms, and which sooner or later break all ties between those who
have not fully tried each other; if you add to this the mistakes arising
from the hopes of those who live more particularly either by their minds,
or by their hearts, or by action, who either think, or feel, or act, and
whose tendency is misunderstood in the close association in which two


persons, equal counterparts, find themselves, you will have great
indulgence for sorrows to which the world is pitiless. Well, Lady Dudley
gratified the instincts, organs, appetites, the vices and virtues of the
subtile matter of which we are made; she was the mistress of the body;
Madame de Mortsauf was the wife of the soul. The love which the
mistress satisfies has its limits; matter is finite, its inherent qualities have
an ascertained force, it is capable of saturation; often I felt a void even in
Paris, near Lady Dudley. Infinitude is the region of the heart, love had no
limits at Clochegourde. I loved Lady Dudley passionately; and certainly,
though the animal in her was magnificent, she was also superior in mind;
her sparkling and satirical conversation had a wide range. But I adored
Henriette. At night I wept with happiness, in the morning with remorse.
Some women have the art to hide their jealousy under a tone of
angelic kindness; they are, like Lady Dudley, over thirty years of age.
Such women know how to feel and how to calculate; they press out the
juices of to-day and think of the future also; they can stifle a moan, often
a natural one, with the will of a huntsman who pays no heed to a wound
in the ardor of the chase. Without ever speaking of Madame de Mortsauf,
Arabella endeavored to kill her in my soul, where she ever found her, her
own passion increasing with the consciousness of that invincible love.
Intending to triumph by comparisons which would turn to her advantage,
she was never suspicious, or complaining, or inquisitive, as are most


young women; but, like a lioness who has seized her prey and carries it to
her lair to devour, she watched that nothing should disturb her feast, and
guarded me like a rebellious captive. I wrote to Henriette under her very
eyes, but she never read a line of my letters; she never sought in any way
to know to whom they were addressed. I had my liberty; she seemed to
say to herself, "If I lose him it shall be my own fault," and she proudly
relied on a love that would have given me her life had I asked for it,--in
fact she often told me that if I left her she would kill herself. I have heard
her praise the custom of Indian widows who burn themselves upon their
husband's grave. "In India that is a distinction reserved for the higher
classes," she said, "and is very little understood by Europeans, who are
incapable of understanding the grandeur of the privilege; you must admit,
however, that on the dead level of our modern customs aristocracy can
rise to greatness only through unparalleled devotions. How can I prove to
the middle classes that the blood in my veins is not the same as theirs,
unless I show them that I can die as they cannot? Women of no birth can
have diamonds and satins and horses--even coats-of-arms, which ought to
be sacred to us, for any one can buy a name. But to love, with our heads
up, in defiance of law; to die for the idol we have chosen, with the sheets
of our bed for a shroud; to lay earth and heaven at his feet, robbing the
Almighty of his right to make a god, and never to betray that man, never,
never, even for virtue's sake,--for, to refuse him anything in the name of


duty is to devote ourselves to something that is not HE, and let that
something be a man or an idea, it is betrayal all the same,--these are
heights to which common women cannot attain; they know but two
matter-of-fact ways; the great high-road of virtue, or the muddy path of
the courtesan."
Pride, you see, was her instrument; she flattered all vanities by
deifying them. She put me so high that she might live at my feet; in fact,
the seductions of her spirit were literally expressed by an attitude of
subserviency and her complete submission. In what words shall I describe
those first six months when I was lost in enervating enjoyments, in the
meshes of a love fertile in pleasures and knowing how to vary them with
a cleverness learned by long experience, yet hiding that knowledge
beneath the transports of passion. These pleasures, the sudden revelation
of the poetry of the senses, constitute the powerful tie which binds young
men to women older than they. It is the chain of the galley-slave; it leaves
an ineffaceable brand upon the soul, filling it with disgust for pure and
innocent love decked with flowers only, which serves no alcohol in
curiously chased cups inlaid with jewels and sparkling with unquenchable
fires. Recalling my early dreams of pleasures I knew nothing of,
expressed at Clochegourde in my "selams," the voice of my flowers,
pleasures which the union of souls renders all the more ardent, I found
many sophistries by which I excused to myself the delight with which I


drained that jewelled cup. Often, when, lost in infinite lassitude, my soul
disengaged itself from the body and floated far from earth, I thought that
these pleasures might be the means of abolishing matter and of rendering
to the spirit its power to soar. Sometimes Lady Dudley, like other women,
profited by the exaltation in which I was to bind me by promises; under
the lash of a desire she wrung blasphemies from my lips against the angel
at Clochegourde. Once a traitor I became a scoundrel. I continued to write
to Madame de Mortsauf, in the tone of the lad she had first known in his
strange blue coat; but, I admit it, her gift of second-sight terrified me
when I thought what ruin the indiscretion of a word might bring to the
dear castle of my hopes. Often, in the midst of my pleasure a sudden
horror seized me; I heard the name of Henriette uttered by a voice above
me, like that in the Scriptures, demanding: "Cain, where is thy brother
Abel?"
At last my letters remained unanswered. I was seized with horrible
anxiety and wished to leave for Clochegourde. Arabella did not oppose it,
but she talked of accompanying me to Touraine. Her woman's wit told her
that the journey might be a means of finally detaching me from her rival;
while I, blind with fear and guilelessly unsuspicious, did not see the trap
she set for me. Lady Dudley herself proposed the humblest concessions.
She would stay near Tours, at a little country- place, alone, disguised; she
would refrain from going out in the day- time, and only meet me in the


evening when people were not likely to be about. I left Tours on
horseback. I had my reasons for this; my evening excursions to meet her
would require a horse, and mine was an Arab which Lady Hester
Stanhope had sent to the marchioness, and which she had lately
exchanged with me for that famous picture of Rembrandt which I
obtained in so singular a way, and which now hangs in her drawing-room
in London. I took the road I had traversed on foot six years earlier and
stopped beneath my walnut-tree. From there I saw Madame de Mortsauf
in a white dress standing at the edge of the terrace. Instantly I rode
towards her with the speed of lightning, in a straight line and across
country. She heard the stride of the swallow of the desert and when I
pulled him up suddenly at the terrace, she said to me: "Oh, you here!"
Those three words blasted me. She knew my treachery. Who had
told her? her mother, whose hateful letter she afterwards showed me. The
feeble, indifferent voice, once so full of life, the dull pallor of its tones
revealed a settled grief, exhaling the breath of flowers cut and left to
wither. The tempest of infidelity, like those freshets of the Loire which
bury the meadows for all time in sand, had torn its way through her soul,
leaving a desert where once the verdure clothed the fields. I led my horse
through the little gate; he lay down on the grass at my command and the
countess, who came forward slowly, exclaimed, "What a fine animal!"
She stood with folded arms lest I should try to take her hand; I guessed


her meaning.
"I will let Monsieur de Mortsauf know you are here," she said,
leaving me.
I stood still, confounded, letting her go, watching her, always noble,
slow, and proud,--whiter than I had ever seen her; on her brow the yellow
imprint of bitterest melancholy, her head bent like a lily heavy with rain.
"Henriette!" I cried in the agony of a man about to die.
She did not turn or pause; she disdained to say that she withdrew
from me that name, but she did not answer to it and continued on. I may
feel paltry and small in this dreadful vale of life where myriads of human
beings now dust make the surface of the globe, small indeed among that
crowd, hurrying beneath the luminous spaces which light them; but what
sense of humiliation could equal that with which I watched her calm
white figure inflexibly mounting with even steps the terraces of her
chateau of Clochegourde, the pride and the torture of that Christian Dido?
I cursed Arabella in a single imprecation which might have killed her had
she heard it, she who had left all for me as some leave all for God. I
remained lost in a world of thought, conscious of utter misery on all sides.
Presently I saw the whole family coming down; Jacques, running with the
eagerness of his age. Madeleine, a gazelle with mournful eyes, walked
with her mother. Monsieur de Mortsauf came to me with open arms,
pressed me to him and kissed me on both cheeks crying out, "Felix, I


know now that I owed you my life."
  Madame de Mortsauf stood with her back towards me during this
little scene, under pretext of showing the horse to Madeleine.
  "Ha, the devil! that's what women are," cried the count; "admiring
your horse!"
  Madeleine turned, came up to me, and I kissed her hand, looking at
the countess, who colored.
  "Madeleine seems much better," I said.
  "Poor little girl!" said the countess, kissing her on her forehead. "Yes,
for the time being they are all well," answered the count. "Except me,
Felix; I am as battered as an old tower about to fall." "The general is still
depressed," I remarked to Madame de Mortsauf. "We all have our blue
devils--is not that the English term?" she replied.
  The whole party walked on towards the vineyard with the feeling
that some serious event had happened. She had no wish to be alone with
me. Still, I was her guest.
  "But about your horse? why isn't he attended to?" said the count.
"You see I am wrong if I think of him, and wrong if I do not," remarked
the countess.
  "Well, yes," said her husband; "there is a time to do things, and a
time not to do them."
  "I will attend to him," I said, finding this sort of greeting intolerable.


"No one but myself can put him into his stall; my groom is coming by the
coach from Chinon; he will rub him down."
"I suppose your groom is from England," she said.
"That is where they all come from," remarked the count, who grew
cheerful in proportion as his wife seemed depressed. Her coldness gave
him an opportunity to oppose her, and he overwhelmed me with
friendliness.
"My dear Felix," he said, taking my hand, and pressing it
affectionately, "pray forgive Madame de Mortsauf; women are so
whimsical. But it is owing to their weakness; they cannot have the
evenness of temper we owe to our strength of character. She really loves
you, I know it; only--"
While the count was speaking Madame de Mortsauf gradually
moved away from us so as to leave us alone.
"Felix," said the count, in a low voice, looking at his wife, who was
now going up to the house with her two children, "I don't know what is
going on in Madame de Mortsauf's mind, but for the last six weeks her
disposition has completely changed. She, so gentle, so devoted hitherto, is
now extraordinarily peevish."
Manette told me later that the countess had fallen into a state of
depression which made her indifferent to the count's provocations. No
longer finding a soft substance in which he could plant his arrows, the


man became as uneasy as a child when the poor insect it is tormenting
ceases to move. He now needed a confidant, as the hangman needs a
helper.
  "Try to question Madame de Mortsauf," he said after a pause, "and
find out what is the matter. A woman always has secrets from her husband;
but perhaps she will tell you what troubles her. I would sacrifice
everything to make her happy, even to half my remaining days or half my
fortune. She is necessary to my very life. If I have not that angel at my
side as I grow old I shall be the most wretched of men. I do desire to die
easy. Tell her I shall not be here long to trouble her. Yes, Felix, my poor
friend, I am going fast, I know it. I hide the fatal truth from every one;
why should I worry them beforehand? The trouble is in the orifice of the
stomach, my friend. I have at last discovered the true cause of this disease;
it is my sensibility that is killing me. Indeed, all our feelings affect the
gastric centre." "Then do you mean," I said, smiling, "that the
best-hearted people die of their stomachs?"
  "Don't laugh, Felix; nothing is more absolutely true. Too keen a
sensibility increases the play of the sympathetic nerve; these excitements
of feeling keep the mucous membrane of the stomach in a state of
constant irritation. If this state continues it deranges, at first insensibly,
the digestive functions; the secretions change, the appetite is impaired,
and the digestion becomes capricious; sharp pains are felt; they grow


worse day by day, and more frequent; then the disorder comes to a crisis,
as if a slow poison were passing the alimentary canal; the mucous
membrane thickens, the valve of the pylorus becomes indurated and
forms a scirrhus, of which the patient dies. Well, I have reached that point,
my dear friend. The induration is proceeding and nothing checks it. Just
look at my yellow skin, my feverish eyes, my excessive thinness. I am
withering away. But what is to be done? I brought the seeds of the disease
home with me from the emigration; heaven knows what I suffered then!
My marriage, which might have repaired the wrong, far from soothing
my ulcerated mind increased the wound. What did I find? ceaseless fears
for the children, domestic jars, a fortune to remake, economies which
required great privations, which I was obliged to impose upon my wife,
but which I was the one to suffer from; and then,--I can tell this to none
but you, Felix,--I have a worse trouble yet. Though Blanche is an angel,
she does not understand me; she knows nothing of my sufferings and she
aggravates them; but I forgive her. It is a dreadful thing to say, my friend,
but a less virtuous woman might have made me more happy by lending
herself to consolations which Blanche never thinks of, for she is as silly
as a child. Moreover my servants torment me; blockheads who take my
French for Greek! When our fortune was finally remade inch by inch, and
I had some relief from care, it was too late, the harm was done; I had
reached the period when the appetite is vitiated. Then came my severe


illness, so ill-managed by Origet. In short, I have not six months to live."
I listened to the count in terror. On meeting the countess I had been
struck with her yellow skin and the feverish brilliancy of her eyes. I led
the count towards the house while seeming to listen to his complaints and
his medical dissertations; but my thoughts were all with Henriette, and I
wanted to observe her. We found her in the salon, where she was listening
to a lesson in mathematics which the Abbe Dominis was giving Jacques,
and at the same time showing Madeleine a stitch of embroidery. Formerly
she would have laid aside every occupation the day of my arrival to be
with me. But my love was so deeply real that I drove back into my heart
the grief I felt at this contrast between the past and the present, and
thought only of the fatal yellow tint on that celestial face, which
resembled the halo of divine light Italian painters put around the faces of
their saints. I felt the icy wind of death pass over me. Then when the fire
of her eyes, no longer softened by the liquid light in which in former
times they moved, fell upon me, I shuddered; I noticed several changes,
caused by grief, which I had not seen in the open air. The slender lines
which, at my last visit, were so lightly marked upon her forehead had
deepened; her temples with their violet veins seemed burning and
concave; her eyes were sunk beneath the brows, their circles
browned;--alas! she was discolored like a fruit when decay is beginning
to show upon the surface, or a worm is at the core. I, whose whole


ambition had been to pour happiness into her soul, I it was who
embittered the spring from which she had hoped to refresh her life and
renew her courage. I took a seat beside her and said in a voice filled with
tears of repentance, "Are you satisfied with your own health?" "Yes," she
answered, plunging her eyes into mine. "My health is there," she added,
motioning to Jacques and Madeleine.
The latter, just fifteen, had come victoriously out of her struggle with
anaemia, and was now a woman. She had grown tall; the Bengal roses
were blooming in her once sallow cheeks. She had lost the unconcern of a
child who looks every one in the face, and now dropped her eyes; her
movements were slow and infrequent, like those of her mother; her figure
was slim, but the gracefulness of the bust was already developing; already
an instinct of coquetry had smoothed the magnificent black hair which
lay in bands upon her Spanish brow. She was like those pretty statuettes
of the Middle Ages, so delicate in outline, so slender in form that the eye
as it seizes their charm fears to break them. Health, the fruit of untold
efforts, had made her cheeks as velvety as a peach and given to her throat
the silken down which, like her mother's, caught the light. She was to live!
God had written it, dear bud of the loveliest of human flowers, on the
long lashes of her eyelids, on the curve of those shoulders which gave
promise of a development as superb as her mother's! This brown young
girl, erect as a poplar, contrasted with Jacques, a fragile youth of


seventeen, whose head had grown immensely, causing anxiety by the
rapid expansion of the forehead, while his feverish, weary eyes were in
keeping with a voice that was deep and sonorous. The voice gave forth
too strong a volume of tone, the eye too many thoughts. It was Henriette's
intellect and soul and heart that were here devouring with swift flames a
body without stamina; for Jacques had the milk-white skin and high color
which characterize young English women doomed sooner or later to the
consumptive curse,--an appearance of health that deceives the eye.
Following a sign by which Henriette, after showing me Madeleine, made
me look at Jacques drawing geometrical figures and algebraic
calculations on a board before the Abbe Dominis, I shivered at the sight
of death hidden beneath the roses, and was thankful for the self-deception
of his mother.
"When I see my children thus, happiness stills my griefs--just as
those griefs are dumb, and even disappear, when I see them failing. My
friend," she said, her eyes shining with maternal pleasure, "if other
affections fail us, the feelings rewarded here, the duties done and
crowned with success, are compensation enough for defeat elsewhere.
Jacques will be, like you, a man of the highest education, possessed of the
worthiest knowledge; he will be, like you, an honor to his country, which
he may assist in governing, helped by you, whose standing will be so
high; but I will strive to make him faithful to his first affections.


Madeleine, dear creature, has a noble heart; she is pure as the snows on
the highest Alps; she will have a woman's devotion and a woman's
graceful intellect. She is proud; she is worthy of being a Lenoncourt. My
motherhood, once so tried, so tortured, is happy now, happy with an
infinite happiness, unmixed with pain. Yes, my life is full, my life is rich.
You see, God makes my joy to blossom in the heart of these sanctified
affections, and turns to bitterness those that might have led me astray--"
"Good!" cried the abbe, joyfully. "Monsieur le vicomte begins to
know as much as I--"
Just then Jacques coughed.
"Enough for to-day, my dear abbe," said the countess, "above all, no
chemistry. Go for a ride on horseback, Jacques," she added, letting her
son kiss her with the tender and yet dignified pleasure of a mother. "Go,
dear, but take care of yourself."
"But," I said, as her eyes followed Jacques with a lingering look,
"you have not answered me. Do you feel ill?"
"Oh, sometimes, in my stomach. If I were in Paris I should have the
honors of gastritis, the fashionable disease."
"My mother suffers very much and very often," said Madeleine.
"Ah!" she said, "does my health interest you?"
Madeleine, astonished at the irony of these words, looked from one
to the other; my eyes counted the roses on the cushion of the gray and


green sofa which was in the salon.
"This situation is intolerable," I whispered in her ear.
"Did I create it?" she asked. "Dear child," she said aloud, with one of
those cruel levities by which women point their vengeance, "don't you
read history? France and England are enemies, and ever have been.
Madeleine knows that; she knows that a broad sea, and a cold and stormy
one, separates them."
The vases on the mantelshelf had given place to candelabra, no
doubt to deprive me of the pleasure of filling them with flowers; I found
them later in my own room. When my servant arrived I went out to give
him some orders; he had brought me certain things I wished to place in
my room.
"Felix," said the countess, "do not make a mistake. My aunt's old
room is now Madeleine's. Yours is over the count's."
Though guilty, I had a heart; those words were dagger thrusts coldly
given at its tenderest spot, for which she seemed to aim. Moral sufferings
are not fixed quantities; they depend on the sensitiveness of souls. The
countess had trod each round of the ladder of pain; but, for that very
reason, the kindest of women was now as cruel as she was once
beneficent. I looked at Henriette, but she averted her head. I went to my
new room, which was pretty, white and green. Once there I burst into
tears. Henriette heard me as she entered with a bunch of flowers in her


hand.
  "Henriette," I said, "will you never forgive a wrong that is indeed
excusable?"
  "Do not call me Henriette," she said. "She no longer exists, poor soul;
but you may feel sure of Madame de Mortsauf, a devoted friend, who will
listen to you and who will love you. Felix, we will talk of these things
later. If you have still any tenderness for me let me grow accustomed to
seeing you. Whenever words will not rend my heart, if the day should
ever come when I recover courage, I will speak to you, but not till then.
Look at the valley," she said, pointing to the Indre, "it hurts me, I love it
still."
  "Ah, perish England and all her women! I will send my resignation
to the king; I will live and die here, pardoned."
  "No, love her; love that woman! Henriette is not. This is no play, and
you should know it."
  She left the room, betraying by the tone of her last words the extent
of her wounds. I ran after her and held her back, saying, "Do you no
longer love me?"
  "You have done me more harm than all my other troubles put
together. To-day I suffer less, therefore I love you less. Be kind; do not
increase my pain; if you suffer, remember that--I--live."
  She withdrew her hand, which I held, cold, motionless, but moist, in


mine, and darted like an arrow through the corridor in which this scene of
actual tragedy took place.
At dinner, the count subjected me to a torture I had little expected.
"So the Marchioness of Dudley is not in Paris?" he said.
I blushed excessively, but answered, "No."
"She is not in Tours," continued the count.
"She is not divorced, and she can go back to England. Her husband
would be very glad if she would return to him," I said, eagerly. "Has she
children?" asked Madame de Mortsauf, in a changed voice. "Two sons," I
replied.
"Where are they?"
"In England, with their father."
"Come, Felix," interposed the count; "be frank; is she as handsome
as they say?"
"How can you ask him such a question?" cried the countess. "Is not
the woman you love always the handsomest of women?"
"Yes, always," I said, firmly, with a glance which she could not
sustain.
"You are a happy fellow," said the count; "yes, a very happy one. Ha!
in my young days, I should have gone mad over such a conquest--"
"Hush!" said Madame de Mortsauf, reminding the count of
Madeleine by a look.


"I am not a child," he said.
When we left the table I followed the countess to the terrace. When
we were alone she exclaimed, "How is it possible that some women can
sacrifice their children to a man? Wealth, position, the world, I can
conceive of; eternity? yes, possibly; but children! deprive one's self of
one's children!"
"Yes, and such women would give even more if they had it; they
sacrifice everything."
The world was suddenly reversed before her, her ideas became
confused. The grandeur of that thought struck her; a suspicion entered her
mind that sacrifice, immolation justified happiness; the echo of her own
inward cry for love came back to her; she stood dumb in presence of her
wasted life. Yes, for a moment horrible doubts possessed her; then she
rose, grand and saintly, her head erect.
"Love her well, Felix," she said, with tears in her eyes; "she shall be
my happy sister. I will forgive her the harm she has done me if she gives
you what you could not have here. You are right; I have never told you
that I loved you, and I never have loved you as the world loves. But if she
is a mother how can she love you so?"
"Dear saint," I answered, "I must be less moved than I am now,
before I can explain to you how it is that you soar victoriously above her.
She is a woman of earth, the daughter of decaying races; you are the child


of heaven, an angel worthy of worship; you have my heart, she my flesh
only. She knows this and it fills her with despair; she would change parts
with you even though the cruellest martyrdom were the price of the
change. But all is irremediable. To you the soul, to you the thoughts, the
love that is pure, to you youth and old age; to her the desires and joys of
passing passion; to you remembrance forever, to her oblivion--"
"Tell me, tell me that again, oh, my friend!" she turned to a bench
and sat down, bursting into tears. "If that be so, Felix, virtue, purity of life,
a mother's love, are not mistakes. Oh, pour that balm upon my wounds!
Repeat the words which bear me back to heaven, where once I longed to
rise with you. Bless me by a look, by a sacred word, --I forgive you for
the sufferings you have caused me the last two months."
"Henriette, there are mysteries in the life of men of which you know
nothing. I met you at an age when the feelings of the heart stifle the
desires implanted in our nature; but many scenes, the memory of which
will kindle my soul to the hour of death, must have told you that this age
was drawing to a close, and it was your constant triumph still to prolong
its mute delights. A love without possession is maintained by the
exasperation of desire; but there comes a moment when all is suffering
within us--for in this we have no resemblance to you. We possess a power
we cannot abdicate, or we cease to be men. Deprived of the nourishment
it needs, the heart feeds upon itself, feeling an exhaustion which is not


death, but which precedes it. Nature cannot long be silenced; some
trifling accident awakens it to a violence that seems like madness. No, I
have not loved, but I have thirsted in the desert."
  "The desert!" she said bitterly, pointing to the valley. "Ah!" she
exclaimed, "how he reasons! what subtle distinctions! Faithful hearts are
not so learned."
  "Henriette," I said, "do not quarrel with me for a chance expression.
No, my soul has not vacillated, but I have not been master of my senses.
That woman is not ignorant that you are the only one I ever loved. She
plays a secondary part in my life; she knows it and is resigned. I have the
right to leave her as men leave courtesans." "And then?"
  "She tells me that she will kill herself," I answered, thinking that this
resolve would startle Henriette. But when she heard it a disdainful smile,
more expressive than the thoughts it conveyed, flickered on her lips. "My
dear conscience," I continued, "if you would take into account my
resistance and the seductions that led to my fall you would understand the
fatal--"
  "Yes, fatal!" she cried. "I believed in you too much. I believed you
capable of the virtue a priest practises. All is over," she continued, after a
pause. "I owe you much, my friend; you have extinguished in me the fires
of earthly life. The worst of the way is over; age is coming on. I am ailing
now, soon I may be ill; I can never be the brilliant fairy who showers you


with favors. Be faithful to Lady Dudley.
Madeleine, whom I was training to be yours, ah! who will have her
now? Poor Madeleine, poor Madeleine!" she repeated, like the mournful
burden of a song. "I would you had heard her say to me when you came:
'Mother, you are not kind to Felix!' Dear creature!"
She looked at me in the warm rays of the setting sun as they glided
through the foliage. Seized with compassion for the shipwreck of our
lives she turned back to memories of our pure past, yielding to
meditations which were mutual. We were silent, recalling past scenes; our
eyes went from the valley to the fields, from the windows of
Clochegourde to those of Frapesle, peopling the dream with my bouquets,
the fragrant language of our desires. It was her last hour of pleasure,
enjoyed with the purity of her Catholic soul. This scene, so grand to each
of us, cast its melancholy on both. She believed my words, and saw
where I placed her--in the skies.
"My friend," she said, "I obey God, for his hand is in all this." I did
not know until much later the deep meaning of her words. We slowly
returned up the terraces. She took my arm and leaned upon it resignedly,
bleeding still, but with a bandage on her wound.
"Human life is thus," she said. "What had Monsieur de Mortsauf
done to deserve his fate? It proves the existence of a better world. Alas,
for those who walk in happier ways!"


  She went on, estimating life so truly, considering its diverse aspects
so profoundly that these cold judgments revealed to me the disgust that
had come upon her for all things here below. When we reached the
portico she dropped my arm and said these last words: "If God has given
us the sentiment and the desire for happiness ought he not to take charge
himself of innocent souls who have found sorrow only in this low world?
Either that must be so, or God is not, and our life is no more than a cruel
jest."
  She entered and turned the house quickly; I found her on the sofa,
crouching, as though blasted by the voice which flung Saul to the ground.
  "What is the matter?" I asked.
  "I no longer know what is virtue," she replied; "I have no
consciousness of my own."
  We were silent, petrified, listening to the echo of those words which
fell like a stone cast into a gulf.
  "If I am mistaken in my life SHE is right in HERS," Henriette said at
last.
  Thus her last struggle followed her last happiness. When the count
came in she complained of illness, she who never complained. I conjured
her to tell me exactly where she suffered; but she refused to explain and
went to bed, leaving me a prey to unending remorse. Madeleine went
with her mother, and the next day I heard that the countess had been


seized with nausea, caused, she said, by the violent excitements of that
day. Thus I, who longed to give my life for hers, I was killing her.
"Dear count," I said to Monsieur de Mortsauf, who obliged me to
play backgammon, "I think the countess very seriously ill. There is still
time to save her; pray send for Origet, and persuade her to follow his
advice."
"Origet, who half killed me?" cried the count. "No, no; I'll consult
Carbonneau."
During this week, especially the first days of it, everything was
anguish to me--the beginning of paralysis of the heart--my vanity was
mortified, my soul rent. One must needs have been the centre of all looks
and aspirations, the mainspring of the life about him, the torch from
which all others drew their light, to understand the horror of the void that
was now about me. All things were there, the same, but the spirit that
gave life to them was extinct, like a blown-out flame. I now understood
the desperate desire of lovers never to see each other again when love has
flown. To be nothing where we were once so much! To find the chilling
silence of the grave where life so lately sparkled! Such comparisons are
overwhelming. I came at last to envy the dismal ignorance of all
happiness which had darkened my youth. My despair became so great
that the countess, I thought, felt pity for it. One day after dinner as we
were walking on the meadows beside the river I made a last effort to


obtain forgiveness. I told Jacques to go on with his sister, and leaving the
count to walk alone, I took Henriette to the punt.
"Henriette," I said; "one word of forgiveness, or I fling myself into
the Indre! I have sinned,--yes, it is true; but am I not like a dog in his
faithful attachments? I return like him, like him ashamed. If he does
wrong he is struck, but he loves the hand that strikes him; strike me,
bruise me, but give me back your heart."
"Poor child," she said, "are you not always my son?"
She took my arm and silently rejoined her children, with whom she
returned to Clochegourde, leaving me to the count, who began to talk
politics apropos of his neighbors.
"Let us go in," I said; "you are bare-headed, and the dew may do you
an injury."
"You pity me, my dear Felix," he answered; "you understand me, but
my wife never tries to comfort me,--on principle, perhaps."
Never would she have left me to walk home with her husband; it
was now I who had to find excuses to join her. I found her with her
children, explaining the rules of backgammon to Jacques.
"See there," said the count, who was always jealous of the affection
she showed for her children; "it is for them that I am neglected. Husbands,
my dear Felix, are always suppressed. The most virtuous woman in the
world has ways of satisfying her desire to rob conjugal affection."


She said nothing and continued as before.
"Jacques," he said, "come here."
Jacques objected slightly.
"Your father wants you; go at once, my son," said his mother,
pushing him.
"They love me by order," said the old man, who sometimes
perceived his situation.
"Monsieur," she answered, passing her hand over Madeleine's
smooth tresses, which were dressed that day "a la belle Ferronniere"; "do
not be unjust to us poor women; life is not so easy for us to bear.
Perhaps the children are the virtues of a mother."
"My dear," said the count, who took it into his head to be logical,
"what you say signifies that women who have no children would have no
virtue, and would leave their husbands in the lurch."
The countess rose hastily and took Madeleine to the portico. "That's
marriage, my dear fellow," remarked the count to me. "Do you mean to
imply by going off in that manner that I am talking nonsense?" he cried to
his wife, taking his son by the hand and going to the portico after her with
a furious look in his eyes.
"On the contrary, Monsieur, you frightened me. Your words hurt me
cruelly," she added, in a hollow voice. "If virtue does not consist in
sacrificing everything to our children and our husband, what is virtue?"


"Sac-ri-ficing!" cried the count, making each syllable the blow of a
sledge-hammer on the heart of his victim. "What have you sacrificed to
your children? What do you sacrifice to me? Speak! what means all this?
Answer. What is going on here? What did you mean by what you said?"
"Monsieur," she replied, "would you be satisfied to be loved for love
of God, or to know your wife virtuous for virtue's sake?"
"Madame is right," I said, interposing in a shaken voice which
vibrated in two hearts; "yes, the noblest privilege conferred by reason is
to attribute our virtues to the beings whose happiness is our work, and
whom we render happy, not from policy, nor from duty, but from an
inexhaustible and voluntary affection--"
A tear shone in Henriette's eyes.
"And, dear count," I continued, "if by chance a woman is
involuntarily subjected to feelings other than those society imposes on her,
you must admit that the more irresistible that feeling is, the more virtuous
she is in smothering it, in sacrificing herself to her husband and children.
This theory is not applicable to me who unfortunately show an example
to the contrary, nor to you whom it will never concern."
"You have a noble soul, Felix," said the count, slipping his arm, not
ungracefully, round his wife's waist and drawing her towards him to say:
"Forgive a poor sick man, dear, who wants to be loved more than he
deserves."


  "There are some hearts that are all generosity," she said, resting her
head upon his shoulder. The scene made her tremble to such a degree that
her comb fell, her hair rolled down, and she turned pale. The count,
holding her up, gave a sort of groan as he felt her fainting; he caught her
in his arms as he might a child, and carried her to the sofa in the salon,
where we all surrounded her. Henriette held my hand in hers as if to tell
me that we two alone knew the secret of that scene, so simple in itself, so
heart-rending to her.
  "I do wrong," she said to me in a low voice, when the count left the
room to fetch a glass of orange-flower water. "I have many wrongs to
repent of towards you; I wished to fill you with despair when I ought to
have received you mercifully. Dear, you are kindness itself, and I alone
can appreciate it. Yes, I know there is a kindness prompted by passion.
Men have various ways of being kind; some from contempt, others from
impulse, from calculation, through indolence of nature; but you, my
friend, you have been absolutely kind."
  "If that be so," I replied, "remember that all that is good or great in
me comes through you. You know well that I am of your making." "That
word is enough for any woman's happiness," she said, as the count
re-entered the room. "I feel better," she said, rising; "I want air."
  We went down to the terrace, fragrant with the acacias which were
still in bloom. She had taken my right arm, and pressed it against her


heart, thus expressing her sad thoughts; but they were, she said, of a
sadness dear to her. No doubt she would gladly have been alone with me;
but her imagination, inexpert in women's wiles, did not suggest to her any
way of sending her children and the count back to the house. We
therefore talked on indifferent subjects, while she pondered a means of
pouring a few last thoughts from her heart to mine. "It is a long time since
I have driven out," she said, looking at the beauty of the evening.
"Monsieur, will you please order the carriage that I may take a turn?"
She knew that after evening prayer she could not speak with me, for
the count was sure to want his backgammon. She might have returned to
the warm and fragrant terrace after her husband had gone to bed, but she
feared, perhaps, to trust herself beneath those shadows, or to walk by the
balustrade where our eyes could see the course of the Indre through the
dear valley. As the silent and sombre vaults of a cathedral lift the soul to
prayer, so leafy ways, lighted by the moon, perfumed with penetrating
odors, alive with the murmuring noises of the spring-tide, stir the fibres
and weaken the resolves of those who love. The country calms the old,
but excites the young. We knew it well. Two strokes of the bell
announced the hour of prayer. The countess shivered.
"Dear Henriette, are you ill?"
"There is no Henriette," she said. "Do not bring her back. She was
capricious and exacting; now you have a friend whose courage has been


strengthened by the words which heaven itself dictated to you. We will
talk of this later. We must be punctual at prayers, for it is my day to lead
them."
As Madame de Mortsauf said the words in which she begged the
help of God through all the adversities of life, a tone came into her voice
which struck all present. Did she use her gift of second sight to foresee
the terrible emotion she was about to endure through my forgetfulness of
an engagement made with Arabella?
"We have time to make three kings before the horses are harnessed,"
said the count, dragging me back to the salon. "You can go and drive with
my wife, and I'll go to bed."
The game was stormy, like all others. The countess heard the count's
voice either from her room or from Madeleine's.
"You show a strange hospitality," she said, re-entering the salon. I
looked at her with amazement; I could not get accustomed to the change
in her; formerly she would have been most careful not to protect me
against the count; then it gladdened her that I should share her sufferings
and bear them with patience for love of her. "I would give my life," I
whispered in her ear, "if I could hear you say again, as you once said,
'Poor dear, poor dear!'" She lowered her eyes, remembering the moment
to which I alluded, yet her glance turned to me beneath her eyelids,
expressing the joy of a woman who finds the mere passing tones from her


heart preferred to the delights of another love. The count was losing the
game; he said he was tired, as an excuse to give it up, and we went to
walk on the lawn while waiting for the carriage. When the count left us,
such pleasure shone on my face that Madame de Mortsauf questioned me
by a look of surprise and curiosity.
"Henriette does exist," I said. "You love me still. You wound me
with an evident intention to break my heart. I may yet be happy!" "There
was but a fragment of that poor woman left, and you have now destroyed
even that," she said. "God be praised; he gives me strength to bear my
righteous martyrdom. Yes, I still love you, and I might have erred; the
English woman shows me the abyss."
We got into the carriage and the coachman asked for orders.
"Take the road to Chinon by the avenue, and come back by the
Charlemagne moor and the road to Sache."
"What day is it?" I asked, with too much eagerness.
"Saturday."
"Then don't go that way, madame, the road will be crowded with
poultry-men and their carts returning from Tours."
"Do as I told you," she said to the coachman. We knew the tones of
our voices too well to be able to hide from each other our least emotion.
Henriette understood all.
"You did not think of the poultry-men when you appointed this


evening," she said with a tinge of irony. "Lady Dudley is at Tours, and
she is coming here to meet you; do not deny it. 'What day is it?--the
poultry-men--their carts!' Did you ever take notice of such things in our
old drives?"
  "It only shows that at Clochegourde I forget everything," I answered,
simply.
  "She is coming to meet you?"
  "Yes."
  "At what hour?"
  "Half-past eleven."
  "Where?"
  "On the moor."
  "Do not deceive me; is it not at the walnut-tree?"
  "On the moor."
  "We will go there," she said, "and I shall see her."
  When I heard these words I regarded my future life as settled. I at
once resolved to marry Lady Dudley and put an end to the miserable
struggle which threatened to exhaust my sensibilities and destroy by these
repeated shocks the delicate delights which had hitherto resembled the
flower of fruits. My sullen silence wounded the countess, the grandeur of
whose mind I misjudged.
"Do not be angry with me," she said, in her golden voice. "This, dear,


is my punishment. You can never be loved as you are here," she
continued, laying my hand upon her heart. "I now confess it; but Lady
Dudley has saved me. To her the stains,--I do not envy them,--to me the
glorious love of angels! I have traversed vast tracts of thought since you
returned here. I have judged life. Lift up the soul and you rend it; the
higher we go the less sympathy we meet; instead of suffering in the valley,
we suffer in the skies, as the soaring eagle bears in his heart the arrow of
some common herdsman. I comprehend at last that earth and heaven are
incompatible. Yes, to those who would live in the celestial sphere God
must be all in all. We must love our friends as we love our children,--for
them, not for ourselves. Self is the cause of misery and grief. My soul is
capable of soaring higher than the eagle; there is a love which cannot fail
me. But to live for this earthly life is too debasing,--here the selfishness
of the senses reigns supreme over the spirituality of the angel that is
within us. The pleasures of passion are stormy, followed by enervating
anxieties which impair the vigor of the soul. I came to the shores of the
sea where such tempests rage; I have seen them too near; they have
wrapped me in their clouds; the billows did not break at my feet, they
caught me in a rough embrace which chilled my heart. No! I must escape
to higher regions; I should perish on the shores of this vast sea. I see in
you, as in all others who have grieved me, the guardian of my virtue. My
life has been mingled with anguish, fortunately proportioned to my


strength; it has thus been kept free from evil passions, from seductive
peace, and ever near to God. Our attachment was the mistaken attempt,
the innocent effort of two children striving to satisfy their own hearts,
God, and men--folly, Felix! Ah," she said quickly, "what does that woman
call you?"
"'Amedee,'" I answered, "'Felix' is a being apart, who belongs to
none but you."
"'Henriette' is slow to die," she said, with a gentle smile, "but die she
will at the first effort of the humble Christian, the self- respecting mother;
she whose virtue tottered yesterday and is firm to-day. What may I say to
you? This. My life has been, and is, consistent with itself in all its
circumstances, great and small. The heart to which the rootlets of my first
affection should have clung, my mother's heart, was closed to me, in spite
of my persistence in seeking a cleft through which they might have
slipped. I was a girl; I came after the death of three boys; and I vainly
strove to take their place in the hearts of my parents; the wound I gave to
the family pride was never healed. When my gloomy childhood was over
and I knew my aunt, death took her from me all too soon. Monsieur de
Mortsauf, to whom I vowed myself, has repeatedly, nay without respite,
smitten me, not being himself aware of it, poor man! His love has the
simple- minded egotism our children show to us. He has no conception of
the harm he does me, and he is heartily forgiven for it. My children, those


dear children who are bound to my flesh through their sufferings, to my
soul by their characters, to my nature by their innocent happiness,--those
children were surely given to show me how much strength and patience a
mother's breast contains. Yes, my children are my virtues. You know how
my heart has been harrowed for them, by them, in spite of them. To be a
mother was, for me, to buy the right to suffer. When Hagar cried in the
desert an angel came and opened a spring of living water for that poor
slave; but I, when the limpid stream to which (do you remember?) you
tried to guide me flowed past Clochegourde, its waters changed to
bitterness for me. Yes, the sufferings you have inflicted on my soul are
terrible. God, no doubt, will pardon those who know affection only
through its pains. But if the keenest of these pains has come to me
through you, perhaps I deserved them. God is not unjust. Ah, yes, Felix, a
kiss furtively taken may be a crime. Perhaps it is just that a woman
should harshly expiate the few steps taken apart from husband and
children that she might walk alone with thoughts and memories that were
not of them, and so walking, marry her soul to another. Perhaps it is the
worst of crimes when the inward being lowers itself to the region of
human kisses. When a woman bends to receive her husband's kiss with a
mask upon her face, that is a crime! It is a crime to think of a future
springing from a death, a crime to imagine a motherhood without terrors,
handsome children playing in the evening with a beloved father before


the eyes of a happy mother. Yes, I sinned, sinned greatly. I have loved the
penances inflicted by the Church,--which did not redeem the faults, for
the priest was too indulgent. God has placed the punishment in the faults
themselves, committing the execution of his vengeance to the one for
whom the faults were committed. When I gave my hair, did I not give
myself? Why did I so often dress in white? because I seemed the more
your lily; did you not see me here, for the first time, all in white? Alas! I
have loved my children less, for all intense affection is stolen from the
natural affections. Felix, do you not see that all suffering has its meaning.
Strike me, wound me even more than Monsieur de Mortsauf and my
children's state have wounded me. That woman is the instrument of God's
anger; I will meet her without hatred; I will smile upon her; under pain of
being neither Christian, wife, nor mother, I ought to love her. If, as you
tell me, I contributed to keep your heart unsoiled by the world, that
Englishwoman ought not to hate me. A woman should love the mother of
the man she loves, and I am your mother. What place have I sought in
your heart? that left empty by Madame de Vandenesse. Yes, yes, you have
always complained of my coldness; yes, I am indeed your mother only.
Forgive me therefore the involuntary harshness with which I met you on
your return; a mother ought to rejoice that her son is so well loved--"
She laid her head for a moment on my breast, repeating the words,
"Forgive me! oh, forgive me!" in a voice that was neither her girlish voice


with its joyous notes, nor the woman's voice with despotic endings; not
the sighing sound of the mother's woe, but an agonizing new voice for
new sorrows.
"You, Felix," she presently continued, growing animated; "you are
the friend who can do no wrong. Ah! you have lost nothing in my heart;
do not blame yourself, do not feel the least remorse. It was the height of
selfishness in me to ask you to sacrifice the joys of life to an impossible
future; impossible, because to realize it a woman must abandon her
children, abdicate her position, and renounce eternity. Many a time I have
thought you higher than I; you were great and noble, I, petty and criminal.
Well, well, it is settled now; I can be to you no more than a light from
above, sparkling and cold, but unchanging. Only, Felix, let me not love
the brother I have chosen without return. Love me, cherish me! The love
of a sister has no dangerous to-morrow, no hours of difficulty. You will
never find it necessary to deceive the indulgent heart which will live in
future within your life, grieve for your griefs, be joyous with your joys,
which will love the women who make you happy, and resent their
treachery. I never had a brother to love in that way. Be noble enough to
lay aside all self-love and turn our attachment, hitherto so doubtful and
full of trouble, into this sweet and sacred love. In this way I shall be
enabled to still live. I will begin to-night by taking Lady Dudley's hand."
She did not weep as she said these words so full of bitter knowledge,


by which, casting aside the last remaining veil which hid her soul from
mine, she showed by how many ties she had linked herself to me, how
many chains I had hewn apart. Our emotions were so great that for a time
we did not notice it was raining heavily.
"Will Madame la comtesse wait here under shelter?" asked the
coachman, pointing to the chief inn of Ballan.
She made a sign of assent, and we stayed nearly half an hour under
the vaulted entrance, to the great surprise of the inn-people who
wondered what brought Madame de Mortsauf on that road at eleven
o'clock at night. Was she going to Tours? Had she come from there?
When the storm ceased and the rain turned to what is called in Touraine a
"brouee," which does not hinder the moon from shining through the
higher mists as the wind with its upper currents whirls them away, the
coachman drove from our shelter, and, to my great delight, turned to go
back the way we came.
"Follow my orders," said the countess, gently.
We now took the road across the Charlemagne moor, where the rain
began again. Half-way across I heard the barking of Arabella's dog; a
horse came suddenly from beneath a clump of oaks, jumped the ditch
which owners of property dig around their cleared lands when they
consider them suitable for cultivation, and carried Lady Dudley to the
moor to meet the carriage.


"What pleasure to meet a love thus if it can be done without sin,"
said Henriette.
The barking of the dog had told Lady Dudley that I was in the
carriage. She thought, no doubt, that I had brought it to meet her on
account of the rain. When we reached the spot where she was waiting,
she urged her horse to the side of the road with the equestrian dexterity
for which she was famous, and which to Henriette seemed marvellous.
"Amedee," she said, and the name in her English pronunciation had
a fairy-like charm.
"He is here, madame," said the countess, looking at the fantastic
creature plainly visible in the moonlight, whose impatient face was oddly
swathed in locks of hair now out of curl.
You know with what swiftness two women examine each other. The
Englishwoman recognized her rival, and was gloriously English; she gave
us a look full of insular contempt, and disappeared in the underbrush with
the rapidity of an arrow.
"Drive on quickly to Clochegourde," cried the countess, to whom
that cutting look was like the blow of an axe upon her heart.
The coachman turned to get upon the road to Chinon which was
better than that to Sache. As the carriage again approached the moor we
heard the furious galloping of Arabella's horse and the steps of her dog.
All three were skirting the wood behind the bushes.


  "She is going; you will lose her forever," said Henriette.
  "Let her go," I answered, "and without a regret."
  "Oh, poor woman!" cried the countess, with a sort of compassionate
horror. "Where will she go?"
  "Back to La Grenadiere,--a little house near Saint-Cyr," I said,
"where she is staying."
  Just as we were entering the avenue of Clochegourde Arabella's dog
barked joyfully and bounded up to the carriage.
  "She is here before us!" cried the countess; then after a pause she
added, "I have never seen a more beautiful woman. What a hand and
what a figure! Her complexion outdoes the lily, her eyes are literally
bright as diamonds. But she rides too well; she loves to display her
strength; I think her violent and too active,--also too bold for our
conventions. The woman who recognizes no law is apt to listen only to
her caprices. Those who seek to shine, to make a stir, have not the gift of
constancy. Love needs tranquillity; I picture it to myself like a vast lake in
which the lead can find no bottom; where tempests may be violent, but
are rare and controlled within certain limits; where two beings live on a
flowery isle far from the world whose luxury and display offend them.
Still, love must take the imprint of the character. Perhaps I am wrong. If
nature's elements are compelled to take certain forms determined by
climate, why is it not the same with the feelings of individuals? No doubt


sentiments, feelings, which hold to the general law in the mass, differ in
expression only. Each soul has its own method. Lady Dudley is the strong
woman who can traverse distances and act with the vigor of a man; she
would rescue her lover and kill jailers and guards; while other women can
only love with their whole souls; in moments of danger they kneel down
to pray, and die. Which of the two women suits you best? That is the
question. Yes, yes, Lady Dudley must surely love; she has made many
sacrifices. Perhaps she will love you when you have ceased to love her!"
"Dear angel," I said, "let me ask the question you asked me; how is it that
you know these things?"
"Every sorrow teaches a lesson, and I have suffered on so many
points that my knowledge is vast."
My servant had heard the order given, and thinking we should return
by the terraces he held my horse ready for me in the avenue. Arabella's
dog had scented the horse, and his mistress, drawn by very natural
curiosity, had followed the animal through the woods to the avenue. "Go
and make your peace," said Henriette, smiling without a tinge of sadness.
"Say to Lady Dudley how much she mistakes my intention; I wished to
show her the true value of the treasure which has fallen to her; my heart
holds none but kind feelings, above all neither anger nor contempt.
Explain to her that I am her sister, and not her rival." "I shall not go," I
said.


"Have you never discovered," she said with lofty pride, "that certain
propitiations are insulting? Go!"
I rode towards Lady Dudley wishing to know the state of her mind.
"If she would only be angry and leave me," I thought, "I could return to
Clochegourde."
The dog led me to an oak, from which, as I came up, Arabella
galloped crying out to me, "Come! away! away!" All that I could do was
to follow her to Saint Cyr, which we reached about midnight.
"That lady is in perfect health," said Arabella as she dismounted.
Those who know her can alone imagine the satire contained in that
remark, dryly said in a tone which meant, "I should have died!" "I forbid
you to utter any of your sarcasms about Madame de Mortsauf," I said.
"Do I displease your Grace in remarking upon the perfect health of
one so dear to your precious heart? Frenchwomen hate, so I am told, even
their lover's dog. In England we love all that our masters love; we hate all
they hate, because we are flesh of their flesh. Permit me therefore to love
this lady as much as you yourself love her. Only, my dear child," she
added, clasping me in her arms which were damp with rain, "if you betray
me, I shall not be found either lying down or standing up, not in a
carriage with liveried lackeys, nor on horseback on the moors of
Charlemagne, nor on any other moor beneath the skies, nor in my own
bed, nor beneath a roof of my forefathers; I shall not be anywhere, for I


will live no longer. I was born in Lancashire, a country where women die
for love. Know you, and give you up? I will yield you to none, not even
to Death, for I should die with you."
She led me to her rooms, where comfort had already spread its
charms. "Love her, dear," I said warmly. "She loves you sincerely, not in
jest."
"Sincerely! you poor child!" she said, unfastening her habit.
With a lover's vanity I tried to exhibit Henriette's noble character to
this imperious creature. While her waiting-woman, who did not
understand a word of French, arranged her hair I endeavored to picture
Madame de Mortsauf by sketching her life; I repeated many of the great
thoughts she had uttered at a crisis when nearly all women become either
petty or bad. Though Arabella appeared to be paying no attention she did
not lose a single word.
"I am delighted," she said when we were alone, "to learn your taste
for pious conversation. There's an old vicar on one of my estates who
understands writing sermons better than any one I know; the country-
people like him, for he suits his prosing to his hearers. I'll write to my
father to-morrow and ask him to send the good man here by steamboat;
you can meet him in Paris, and when once you have heard him you will
never wish to listen to any one else,--all the more because his health is
perfect. His moralities won't give you shocks that make you weep; they


flow along without tempests, like a limpid stream, and will send you to
sleep. Every evening you can if you like satisfy your passion for sermons
by digesting one with your dinner. English morality, I do assure you, is as
superior to that of Touraine as our cutlery, our plate, and our horses are to
your knives and your turf. Do me the kindness to listen to my vicar;
promise me. I am only a woman, my dearest; I can love, I can die for you
if you will; but I have never studied at Eton, or at Oxford, or in
Edinburgh. I am neither a doctor of laws nor a reverend; I can't preach
morality; in fact, I am altogether unfit for it, I should be awkward if I
tried. I don't blame your tastes; you might have others more depraved,
and I should still endeavor to conform to them, for I want you to find near
me all you like best,--pleasures of love, pleasures of food, pleasures of
piety, good claret, and virtuous Christians. Shall I wear hair- cloth
to-night? She is very lucky, that woman, to suit you in morality. From
what college did she graduate? Poor I, who can only give you myself,
who can only be your slave--"
"Then why did you rush away when I wanted to bring you
together?" "Are you crazy, Amedee? I could go from Paris to Rome
disguised as a valet; I would do the most unreasonable thing for your sake;
but how can you expect me to speak to a woman on the public roads who
has never been presented to me,--and who, besides, would have preached
me a sermon under three heads? I speak to peasants, and if I am hungry I


would ask a workman to share his bread with me and pay him in guineas,
--that is all proper enough; but to stop a carriage on the highway, like the
gentlemen of the road in England, is not at all within my code of manners.
You poor child, you know only how to love; you don't know how to live.
Besides, I am not like you as yet, dear angel; I don't like morality. Still, I
am capable of great efforts to please you. Yes, I will go to work; I will
learn how to preach; you shall have no more kisses without verses of the
Bible interlarded."
  She used her power and abused it as soon as she saw in my eyes the
ardent expression which was always there when she began her sorceries.
She triumphed over everything, and I complacently told myself that the
woman who loses all, sacrifices the future, and makes love her only virtue,
is far above Catholic polemics.
  "So she loves herself better than she loves you?" Arabella went on.
"She sets something that is not you above you. Is that love? how can we
women find anything to value in ourselves except that which you value in
us? No woman, no matter how fine a moralist she may be, is the equal of
a man. Tread upon us, kill us; never embarrass your lives on our account.
It is for us to die, for you to live, great and honored. For us the dagger in
your hand; for you our pardoning love. Does the sun think of the gnats in
his beams, that live by his light? they stay as long as they can and when
he withdraws his face they die--"


"Or fly somewhere else," I said interrupting her.
"Yes, somewhere else," she replied, with an indifference that would
have piqued any man into using the power with which she invested him.
"Do you really think it is worthy of womanhood to make a man eat his
bread buttered with virtue, and to persuade him that religion is
incompatible with love? Am I a reprobate? A woman either gives herself
or she refuses. But to refuse and moralize is a double wrong, and is
contrary to the rule of the right in all lands. Here, you will get only
excellent sandwiches prepared by the hand of your servant Arabella,
whose sole morality is to imagine caresses no man has yet felt and which
the angels inspire."
I know nothing more destructive than the wit of an Englishwoman;
she gives it the eloquent gravity, the tone of pompous conviction with
which the British hide the absurdities of their life of prejudice. French wit
and humor, on the other hand, is like a lace with which our women adorn
the joys they give and the quarrels they invent; it is a mental jewelry, as
charming as their pretty dresses. English wit is an acid which corrodes all
those on whom it falls until it bares their bones, which it scrapes and
polishes. The tongue of a clever Englishwoman is like that of a tiger
tearing the flesh from the bone when he is only in play. All-powerful
weapon of a sneering devil, English satire leaves a deadly poison in the
wound it makes. Arabella chose to show her power like the sultan who, to


prove his dexterity, cut off the heads of unoffending beings with his own
scimitar.
"My angel," she said, "I can talk morality too if I choose. I have
asked myself whether I commit a crime in loving you; whether I violate
the divine laws; and I find that my love for you is both natural and pious.
Why did God create some beings handsomer than others if not to show us
that we ought to adore them? The crime would be in not loving you. This
lady insults you by confounding you with other men; the laws of morality
are not applicable to you; for God has created you above them. Am I not
drawing nearer to divine love in loving you? will God punish a poor
woman for seeking the divine? Your great and luminous heart so
resembles the heavens that I am like the gnats which flutter about the
torches of a fete and burn themselves; are they to be punished for their
error? besides, is it an error? may it not be pure worship of the light?
They perish of too much piety,--if you call it perishing to fling one's self
on the breast of him we love. I have the weakness to love you, whereas
that woman has the strength to remain in her Catholic shrine. Now, don't
frown. You think I wish her ill. No, I do not. I adore the morality which
has led her to leave you free, and enables me to win you and hold you
forever--for you are mine forever, are you not?"
"Yes."
"Forever and ever?"


"Yes."
"Ah! I have found favor in my lord! I alone have understood his
worth! She knows how to cultivate her estate, you say. Well, I leave that
to farmers; I cultivate your heart."
I try to recall this intoxicating babble, that I may picture to you the
woman as she is, confirm all I have said of her, and let you into the secret
of what happened later. But how shall I describe the accompaniment of
the words? She sought to annihilate by the passion of her impetuous love
the impressions left in my heart by the chaste and dignified love of my
Henriette. Lady Dudley had seen the countess as plainly as the countess
had seen her; each had judged the other. The force of Arabella's attack
revealed to me the extent of her fear, and her secret admiration for her
rival. In the morning I found her with tearful eyes, complaining that she
had not slept.
"What troubles you?" I said.
"I fear that my excessive love will ruin me," she answered; "I have
given all. Wiser than I, that woman possesses something that you still
desire. If you prefer her, forget me; I will not trouble you with my
sorrows, my remorse, my sufferings; no, I will go far away and die, like a
plant deprived of the life-giving sun."
She was able to wring protestations of love from my reluctant lips,
which filled her with joy.


"Ah!" she exclaimed, drying her eyes, "I am happy. Go back to her; I
do not choose to owe you to the force of my love, but to the action of
your own will. If you return here I shall know that you love me as much
as I love you, the possibility of which I have always doubted." She
persuaded me to return to Clochegourde. The false position in which I
thus placed myself did not strike me while still under the influence of her
wiles. Yet, had I refused to return I should have given Lady Dudley a
triumph over Henriette. Arabella would then have taken me to Paris. To
go now to Clochegourde was an open insult to Madame de Mortsauf; in
that case Arabella was sure of me. Did any woman ever pardon such
crimes against love? Unless she were an angel descended from the skies,
instead of a purified spirit ascending to them, a loving woman would
rather see her lover die than know him happy with another. Thus, look at
it as I would, my situation, after I had once left Clochegourde for the
Grenadiere, was as fatal to the love of my choice as it was profitable to
the transient love that held me. Lady Dudley had calculated all this with
consummate cleverness. She owned to me later that if she had not met
Madame de Mortsauf on the moor she had intended to compromise me by
haunting Clochegourde until she did so.
When I met the countess that morning, and found her pale and
depressed like one who has not slept all night, I was conscious of
exercising the instinctive perception given to hearts still fresh and


generous to show them the true bearing of actions little regarded by the
world at large, but judged as criminal by lofty spirits. Like a child going
down a precipice in play and gathering flowers, who sees with dread that
it can never climb that height again, feels itself alone, with night
approaching, and hears the howls of animals, so I now knew that she and
I were separated by a universe. A wail arose within our souls like an echo
of that woeful "Consummatum est" heard in the churches on Good Friday
at the hour the Saviour died,--a dreadful scene which awes young souls
whose first love is religion. All Henriette's illusions were killed at one
blow; her heart had endured its passion. She did not look at me; she
refused me the light that for six long years had shone upon my life. She
knew well that the spring of the effulgent rays shed by our eyes was in
our souls, to which they served as pathways to reach each other, to blend
them in one, meeting, parting, playing, like two confiding women who
tell each other all. Bitterly I felt the wrong of bringing beneath this roof,
where pleasure was unknown, a face on which the wings of pleasure had
shaken their prismatic dust. If, the night before, I had allowed Lady
Dudley to depart alone, if I had then returned to Clochegourde, where, it
may be, Henriette awaited me, perhaps--perhaps Madame de Mortsauf
might not so cruelly have resolved to be my sister. But now she paid me
many ostentatious attentions,--playing her part vehemently for the very
purpose of not changing it. During breakfast she showed me a thousand


civilities, humiliating attentions, caring for me as though I were a sick
man whose fate she pitied.
"You were out walking early," said the count; "I hope you have
brought back a good appetite, you whose stomach is not yet destroyed."
This remark, which brought the smile of a sister to Henriette's lips,
completed my sense of the ridicule of my position. It was impossible to
be at Clochegourde by day and Saint-Cyr by night. During the day I felt
how difficult it was to become the friend of a woman we have long loved.
The transition, easy enough when years have brought it about, is like an
illness in youth. I was ashamed; I cursed the pleasure Lady Dudley gave
me; I wished that Henriette would demand my blood. I could not tear her
rival in pieces before her, for she avoided speaking of her; indeed, had I
spoken of Arabella, Henriette, noble and sublime to the inmost recesses
of her heart, would have despised my infamy. After five years of
delightful intercourse we now had nothing to say to each other; our words
had no connection with our thoughts; we were hiding from each other our
intolerable pain,--we, whose mutual sufferings had been our first
interpreter.
Henriette assumed a cheerful look for me as for herself, but she was
sad. She spoke of herself as my sister, and yet found no ground on which
to converse; and we remained for the greater part of the time in
constrained silence. She increased my inward misery by feigning to


believe that she was the only victim.
"I suffer more than you," I said to her at a moment when my self-
styled sister was betrayed into a feminine sarcasm.
"How so?" she said haughtily.
"Because I am the one to blame."
At last her manner became so cold and indifferent that I resolved to
leave Clochegourde. That evening, on the terrace, I said farewell to the
whole family, who were there assembled. They all followed me to the
lawn where my horse was waiting. The countess came to me as I took the
bridle in my hand.
"Let us walk down the avenue together, alone," she said.
I gave her my arm, and we passed through the courtyard with slow
and measured steps, as though our rhythmic movement were consoling to
us. When we reached the grove of trees which forms a corner of the
boundary she stopped.
"Farewell, my friend," she said, throwing her head upon my breast
and her arms around my neck, "Farewell, we shall never meet again. God
has given me the sad power to look into the future. Do you remember the
terror that seized me the day you first came back, so young, so handsome!
and I saw you turn your back on me as you do this day when you are
leaving Clochegourde and going to Saint-Cyr? Well, once again, during
the past night I have seen into the future. Friend, we are speaking together


for the last time. I can hardly now say a few words to you, for it is but a
part of me that speaks at all. Death has already seized on something in me.
You have taken the mother from her children, I now ask you to take her
place to them. You can; Jacques and Madeleine love you--as if you had
always made them suffer." "Death!" I cried, frightened as I looked at her
and beheld the fire of her shining eyes, of which I can give no idea to
those who have never known their dear ones struck down by her fatal
malady, unless I compare those eyes to balls of burnished silver. "Die!" I
said.
"Henriette, I command you to live. You used to ask an oath of me, I
now ask one of you. Swear to me that you will send for Origet and obey
him in everything."
"Would you oppose the mercy of God?" she said, interrupting me
with a cry of despair at being thus misunderstood.
"You do not love me enough to obey me blindly, as that miserable
Lady Dudley does?"
"Yes, yes, I will do all you ask," she cried, goaded by jealousy.
"Then I stay," I said, kissing her on the eyelids.
Frightened at the words, she escaped from my arms and leaned
against a tree; then she turned and walked rapidly homeward without
looking back. But I followed her; she was weeping and praying. When we
reached the lawn I took her hand and kissed it respectfully. This


submission touched her.
"I am yours--forever, and as you will," I said; "for I love you as your
aunt loved you."
She trembled and wrung my hand.
"One look," I said, "one more, one last of our old looks! The woman
who gives herself wholly," I cried, my soul illumined by the glance she
gave me, "gives less of life and soul than I have now received. Henriette,
thou art my best-beloved--my only love."
"I shall live!" she said; "but cure yourself as well."
That look had effaced the memory of Arabella's sarcasms. Thus I
was the plaything of the two irreconcilable passions I have now described
to you; I was influenced by each alternately. I loved an angel and a
demon; two women equally beautiful,--one adorned with all the virtues
which we decry through hatred of our own imperfections, the other with
all the vices which we deify through selfishness. Returning along that
avenue, looking back again and again at Madame de Mortsauf, as she
leaned against a tree surrounded by her children who waved their
handkerchiefs, I detected in my soul an emotion of pride in finding
myself the arbiter of two such destinies; the glory, in ways so different, of
women so distinguished; proud of inspiring such great passions that death
must come to whichever I abandoned. Ah! believe me, that passing
conceit has been doubly punished!


I know not what demon prompted me to remain with Arabella and
await the moment when the death of the count might give me Henriette;
for she would ever love me. Her harshness, her tears, her remorse, her
Christian resignation, were so many eloquent signs of a sentiment that
could no more be effaced from her heart than from mine. Walking slowly
down that pretty avenue and making these reflections, I was no longer
twenty-five, I was fifty years old. A man passes in a moment, even more
quickly than a woman, from youth to middle age. Though long ago I
drove these evil thoughts away from me, I was then possessed by them, I
must avow it. Perhaps I owed their presence in my mind to the Tuileries,
to the king's cabinet. Who could resist the polluting spirit of Louis
XVIII.?
When I reached the end of the avenue I turned and rushed back in
the twinkling of an eye, seeing that Henriette was still there, and alone! I
went to bid her a last farewell, bathed in repentant tears, the cause of
which she never knew. Tears sincere indeed; given, although I knew it not,
to noble loves forever lost, to virgin emotions--those flowers of our life
which cannot bloom again. Later, a man gives nothing, he receives; he
loves himself in his mistress; but in youth he loves his mistress in himself.
Later, we inoculate with our tastes, perhaps our vices, the woman who
loves us; but in the dawn of life she whom we love conveys to us her
virtues, her conscience. She invites us with a smile to the noble life; from


her we learn the self-devotion which she practises. Woe to the man who
has not had his Henriette. Woe to that other one who has never known a
Lady Dudley. The latter, if he marries, will not be able to keep his wife;
the other will be abandoned by his mistress. But joy to him who can find
the two women in one woman; happy the man, dear Natalie, whom you
love.
  After my return to Paris Arabella and I became more intimate than
ever. Soon we insensibly abandoned all the conventional restrictions I had
carefully imposed, the strict observance of which often makes the world
forgive the false position in which Lady Dudley had placed herself.
Society, which delights in looking behind appearances, sanctions much as
soon as it knows the secrets they conceal. Lovers who live in the great
world make a mistake in flinging down these barriers exacted by the law
of salons; they do wrong not to obey scrupulously all conventions which
the manners and customs of a community impose,--less for the sake of
others than for their own. Outward respect to be maintained, comedies to
play, concealments to be managed; all such strategy of love occupies the
life, renews desire, and protects the heart against the palsy of habit. But
all young passions, being, like youth itself, essentially spendthrift, raze
their forests to the ground instead of merely cutting the timber. Arabella
adopted none of these bourgeois ideas, and yielded to them only to please
me; she wished to exhibit me to the eyes of all Paris as her "sposo." She


employed her powers of seduction to keep me under her roof, for she was
not content with a rumored scandal which, for want of proof, was only
whispered behind the fans. Seeing her so happy in committing an
imprudence which frankly admitted her position, how could I help
believing in her love?
But no sooner was I plunged into the comforts of illegal marriage
than despair seized upon me; I saw my life bound to a course in direct
defiance of the ideas and the advice given me by Henriette.
Thenceforth I lived in the sort of rage we find in consumptive
patients who, knowing their end is near, cannot endure that their lungs
should be examined. There was no corner in my heart where I could fly to
escape suffering; an avenging spirit filled me incessantly with thoughts
on which I dared not dwell. My letters to Henriette depicted this moral
malady and did her infinite harm. "At the cost of so many treasures lost, I
wished you to be at least happy," she wrote in the only answer I received.
But I was not happy. Dear Natalie, happiness is absolute; it allows of no
comparisons. My first ardor over, I necessarily compared the two
women,--a contrast I had never yet studied. In fact, all great passions
press so strongly on the character that at first they check its asperities and
cover the track of habits which constitute our defects and our better
qualities. But later, when two lovers are accustomed to each other, the
features of their moral physiognomies reappear; they mutually judge each


other, and it often happens during this reaction of the character after
passion, that natural antipathies leading to disunion (which superficial
people seize upon to accuse the human heart of instability) come to the
surface. This period now began with me. Less blinded by seductions, and
dissecting, as it were, my pleasure, I undertook, without perhaps
intending to do so, a critical examination of Lady Dudley which resulted
to her injury.
In the first place, I found her wanting in the qualities of mind which
distinguish Frenchwomen and make them so delightful to love; as all
those who have had the opportunity of loving in both countries declare.
When a Frenchwoman loves she is metamorphosed; her noted coquetry is
used to deck her love; she abandons her dangerous vanity and lays no
claim to any merit but that of loving well. She espouses the interests, the
hatreds, the friendships, of the man she loves; she acquires in a day the
experience of a man of business; she studies the code, she comprehends
the mechanism of credit, and could manage a banker's office; naturally
heedless and prodigal, she will make no mistakes and waste not a single
louis. She becomes, in turn, mother, adviser, doctor, giving to all her
transformations a grace of happiness which reveals, in its every detail, her
infinite love. She combines the special qualities of the women of other
countries and gives unity to the mixture by her wit, that truly French
product, which enlivens, sanctions, justifies, and varies all, thus relieving


the monotony of a sentiment which rests on a single tense of a single verb.
The Frenchwoman loves always, without abatement and without fatigue,
in public or in solitude. In public she uses a tone which has meaning for
one only; she speaks by silence; she looks at you with lowered eyelids. If
the occasion prevents both speech and look she will use the sand and
write a word with the point of her little foot; her love will find expression
even in sleep; in short, she bends the world to her love. The
Englishwoman, on the contrary, makes her love bend to the world.
Educated to maintain the icy manners, the Britannic and egotistic
deportment which I described to you, she opens and shuts her heart with
the ease of a British mechanism. She possesses an impenetrable mask,
which she puts on or takes off phlegmatically. Passionate as an Italian
when no eye sees her, she becomes coldly dignified before the world. A
lover may well doubt his empire when he sees the immobility of face, the
aloofness of countenance, and hears the calm voice, with which an
Englishwoman leaves her boudoir. Hypocrisy then becomes indifference;
she has forgotten all.
Certainly the woman who can lay aside her love like a garment may
be thought to be capable of changing it. What tempests arise in the heart
of a man, stirred by wounded self-love, when he sees a woman taking and
dropping and again picking up her love like a piece of embroidery. These
women are too completely mistresses of themselves ever to belong


wholly to you; they are too much under the influence of society ever to let
you reign supreme. Where a Frenchwoman comforts by a look, or betrays
her impatience with visitors by witty jests, an Englishwoman's silence is
absolute; it irritates the soul and frets the mind. These women are so
constantly, and, under all circumstances, on their dignity, that to most of
them fashion reigns omnipotent even over their pleasures. An
Englishwoman forces everything into form; though in her case the love of
form does not produce the sentiment of art. No matter what may be said
against it, Protestantism and Catholicism explain the differences which
make the love of Frenchwomen so far superior to the calculating,
reasoning love of Englishwomen.
Protestantism doubts, searches, and kills belief; it is the death of art
and love. Where worldliness is all in all, worldly people must needs obey;
but passionate hearts flee from it; to them its laws are insupportable.
You can now understand what a shock my self-love received when I
found that Lady Dudley could not live without the world, and that the
English system of two lives was familiar to her. It was no sacrifice she
felt called upon to make; on the contrary she fell naturally into two forms
of life that were inimical to each other. When she loved she loved
madly,--no woman of any country could be compared to her; but when
the curtain fell upon that fairy scene she banished even the memory of it.
In public she never answered to a look or a smile; she was neither


mistress nor slave; she was like an ambassadress, obliged to round her
phrases and her elbows; she irritated me by her composure, and outraged
my heart with her decorum. Thus she degraded love to a mere need,
instead of raising it to an ideal through enthusiasm. She expressed neither
fear, nor regrets, nor desire; but at a given hour her tenderness reappeared
like a fire suddenly lighted.
In which of these two women ought I to believe? I felt, as it were by
a thousand pin-pricks, the infinite differences between Henriette and
Arabella. When Madame de Mortsauf left me for a while she seemed to
leave to the air the duty of reminding me of her; the folds of her gown as
she went away spoke to the eye, as their undulating sound to the ear when
she returned; infinite tenderness was in the way she lowered her eyelids
and looked on the ground; her voice, that musical voice, was a continual
caress; her words expressed a constant thought; she was always like unto
herself; she did not halve her soul to suit two atmospheres, one ardent, the
other icy. In short, Madame de Mortsauf reserved her mind and the flower
of her thought to express her feelings; she was coquettish in ideas with
her children and with me. But Arabella's mind was never used to make
life pleasant; it was never used at all for my benefit; it existed only for the
world and by the world, and it was spent in sarcasm. She loved to rend, to
bite, as it were,--not for amusement but to satisfy a craving. Madame de
Mortsauf would have hidden her happiness from every eye, Lady Dudley


chose to exhibit hers to all Paris; and yet with her impenetrable English
mask she kept within conventions even while parading in the Bois with
me. This mixture of ostentation and dignity, love and coldness, wounded
me constantly; for my soul was both virgin and passionate, and as I could
not pass from one temperature to the other, my temper suffered. When I
complained (never without precaution), she turned her tongue with its
triple sting against me; mingling boasts of her love with those cutting
English sarcasms. As soon as she found herself in opposition to me, she
made it an amusement to hurt my feelings and humiliate my mind; she
kneaded me like dough. To any remark of mine as to keeping a medium
in all things, she replied by caricaturing my ideas and exaggerating them.
When I reproached her for her manner to me, she asked if I wished her to
kiss me at the opera before all Paris; and she said it so seriously that I,
knowing her desire to make people talk, trembled lest she should execute
her threat. In spite of her real passion she was never meditative, self-
contained, or reverent, like Henriette; on the contrary she was insatiable
as a sandy soil. Madame de Mortsauf was always composed, able to feel
my soul in an accent or a glance. Lady Dudley was never affected by a
look, or a pressure of the hand, nor yet by a tender word. No proof of love
surprised her. She felt so strong a necessity for excitement, noise,
celebrity, that nothing attained to her ideal in this respect; hence her
violent love, her exaggerated fancy,-- everything concerned herself and


not me.
  The letter you have read from Madame de Mortsauf (a light which
still shone brightly on my life), a proof of how the most virtuous of
women obeyed the genius of a Frenchwoman, revealing, as it did, her
perpetual vigilance, her sound understanding of all my prospects--that
letter must have made you see with what care Henriette had studied my
material interests, my political relations, my moral conquests, and with
what ardor she took hold of my life in all permissible directions. On such
points as these Lady Dudley affected the reticence of a mere acquaintance.
She never informed herself about my affairs, nor of my likings or
dislikings as a man. Prodigal for herself without being generous, she
separated too decidedly self-interest and love. Whereas I knew very well,
without proving it, that to save me a pang Henriette would have sought
for me that which she would never seek for herself. In any great and
overwhelming misfortune I should have gone for counsel to Henriette,
but I would have let myself be dragged to prison sooner than say a word
to Lady Dudley.
  Up to this point the contrast relates to feelings; but it was the same in
outward things. In France, luxury is the expression of the man, the
reproduction of his ideas, of his personal poetry; it portrays the character,
and gives, between lovers, a precious value to every little attention by
keeping before them the dominant thought of the being loved. But


English luxury, which at first allured me by its choiceness and delicacy,
proved to be mechanical also. The thousand and one attentions shown me
at Clochegourde Arabella would have considered the business of servants;
each one had his own duty and speciality. The choice of the footman was
the business of her butler, as if it were a matter of horses. She never
attached herself to her servants; the death of the best of them would not
have affected her, for money could replace the one lost by another equally
efficient. As to her duty towards her neighbor, I never saw a tear in her
eye for the misfortunes of another; in fact her selfishness was so naively
candid that it absolutely created a laugh. The crimson draperies of the
great lady covered an iron nature. The delightful siren who sounded at
night every bell of her amorous folly could soon make a young man
forget the hard and unfeeling Englishwoman, and it was only step by step
that I discovered the stony rock on which my seeds were wasted, bringing
no harvest. Madame de Mortsauf had penetrated that nature at a glance in
their brief encounter. I remembered her prophetic words. She was right;
Arabella's love became intolerable to me. I have since remarked that most
women who ride well on horseback have little tenderness. Like the
Amazons, they lack a breast; their hearts are hard in some direction, but I
do not know in which.
At the moment when I begin to feel the burden of the yoke, when
weariness took possession of soul and body too, when at last I


comprehended the sanctity that true feeling imparts to love, when
memories of Clochegourde were bringing me, in spite of distance, the
fragrance of the roses, the warmth of the terrace, and the warble of the
nightingales,--at this frightful moment, when I saw the stony bed beneath
me as the waters of the torrent receded, I received a blow which still
resounds in my heart, for at every hour its echo wakes. I was working in
the cabinet of the king, who was to drive out at four o'clock. The Duc de
Lenoncourt was on service. When he entered the room the king asked
him news of the countess. I raised my head hastily in too eager a manner;
the king, offended by the action, gave me the look which always preceded
the harsh words he knew so well how to say. "Sire, my poor daughter is
dying," replied the duke.
"Will the king deign to grant me leave of absence?" I cried, with
tears in my eyes, braving the anger which I saw about to burst.
"Go, MY LORD," he answered, smiling at the satire in his words,
and withholding his reprimand in favor of his own wit.
More courtier than father, the duke asked no leave but got into the
carriage with the king. I started without bidding Lady Dudley good- bye;
she was fortunately out when I made my preparations, and I left a note
telling her I was sent on a mission by the king. At the Croix de Berny I
met his Majesty returning from Verrieres. He threw me a look full of his
royal irony, always insufferable in meaning, which seemed to say: "If you


mean to be anything in politics come back; don't parley with the dead."
The duke waved his hand to me sadly. The two pompous equipages with
their eight horses, the colonels and their gold lace, the escort and the
clouds of dust rolled rapidly away, to cries of "Vive le Roi!" It seemed to
me that the court had driven over the dead body of Madame de Mortsauf
with the utter insensibility which nature shows for our catastrophes.
Though the duke was an excellent man he would no doubt play whist
with Monsieur after the king had retired. As for the duchess, she had long
ago given her daughter the first stab by writing to her of Lady Dudley.
My hurried journey was like a dream,--the dream of a ruined
gambler; I was in despair at having received no news. Had the confessor
pushed austerity so far as to exclude me from Clochegourde? I accused
Madeleine, Jacques, the Abbe Dominis, all, even Monsieur de Mortsauf.
Beyond Tours, as I came down the road bordered with poplars which
leads to Poncher, which I so much admired that first day of my search for
mine Unknown, I met Monsieur Origet. He guessed that I was going to
Clochegourde; I guessed that he was returning. We stopped our carriages
and got out, I to ask for news, he to give it.
"How is Madame de Mortsauf?" I said.
"I doubt if you find her living," he replied. "She is dying a frightful
death--of inanition. When she called me in, last June, no medical power
could control the disease; she had the symptoms which Monsieur de


Mortsauf has no doubt described to you, for he thinks he has them
himself. Madame la comtesse was not in any transient condition of
ill-health, which our profession can direct and which is often the cause of
a better state, nor was she in the crisis of a disorder the effects of which
can be repaired; no, her disease had reached a point where science is
useless; it is the incurable result of grief, just as a mortal wound is the
result of a stab. Her physical condition is produced by the inertia of an
organ as necessary to life as the action of the heart itself. Grief has done
the work of a dagger. Don't deceive yourself; Madame de Mortsauf is
dying of some hidden grief."
"Hidden!" I exclaimed. "Her children have not been ill?"
"No," he said, looking at me significantly, "and since she has been so
seriously attacked Monsieur de Mortsauf has ceased to torment her. I am
no longer needed; Monsieur Deslandes of Azay is all-sufficient; nothing
can be done; her sufferings are dreadful. Young, beautiful, and rich, to die
emaciated, shrunken with hunger--for she dies of hunger! During the last
forty days the stomach, being as it were closed up, has rejected all
nourishment, under whatever form we attempt to give it."
Monsieur Origet pressed my hand with a gesture of respect.
"Courage, monsieur," he said, lifting his eyes to heaven.
The words expressed his compassion for sufferings he thought
shared; he little suspected the poisoned arrow which they shot into my


heart. I sprang into the carriage and ordered the postilion to drive on,
promising a good reward if I arrived in time.
Notwithstanding my impatience I seemed to do the distance in a few
minutes, so absorbed was I in the bitter reflections that crowded upon my
soul. Dying of grief, yet her children were well? then she died through me!
My conscience uttered one of those arraignments which echo throughout
our lives and sometimes beyond them. What weakness, what impotence
in human justice, which avenges none but open deeds! Why shame and
death to the murderer who kills with a blow, who comes upon you
unawares in your sleep and makes it last eternally, who strikes without
warning and spares you a struggle? Why a happy life, an honored life, to
the murderer who drop by drop pours gall into the soul and saps the body
to destroy it? How many murderers go unpunished! What indulgence for
fashionable vice! What condoning of the homicides caused by moral
wrongs! I know not whose avenging hand it was that suddenly, at that
moment, raised the painted curtain that reveals society. I saw before me
many victims known to you and me,-- Madame de Beauseant, dying, and
starting for Normandy only a few days earlier; the Duchesse de Langeais
lost; Lady Brandon hiding herself in Touraine in the little house where
Lady Dudley had stayed two weeks, and dying there, killed by a frightful
catastrophe,--you know it. Our period teems with such events. Who does
not remember that poor young woman who poisoned herself, overcome


by jealousy, which was perhaps killing Madame de Mortsauf? Who has
not shuddered at the fate of that enchanting young girl who perished after
two years of marriage, like a flower torn by the wind, the victim of her
chaste ignorance, the victim of a villain with whom Ronquerolles,
Montriveau, and de Marsay shake hands because he is useful to their
political projects? What heart has failed to throb at the recital of the last
hours of the woman whom no entreaties could soften, and who would
never see her husband after nobly paying his debts? Madame d'Aiglemont
saw death beside her and was saved only by my brother's care. Society
and science are accomplices in crimes for which there are no assizes. The
world declares that no one dies of grief, or of despair; nor yet of love, of
anguish hidden, of hopes cultivated yet fruitless, again and again
replanted yet forever uprooted. Our new scientific nomenclature has
plenty of words to explain these things; gastritis, pericarditis, all the
thousand maladies of women the names of which are whispered in the ear,
all serve as passports to the coffin followed by hypocritical tears that are
soon wiped by the hand of a notary. Can there be at the bottom of this
great evil some law which we do not know? Must the centenary pitilessly
strew the earth with corpses and dry them to dust about him that he may
raise himself, as the millionaire battens on a myriad of little industries? Is
there some powerful and venomous life which feasts on these gentle,
tender creatures? My God! do I belong to the race of tigers?


Remorse gripped my heart in its scorching fingers, and my cheeks
were furrowed with tears as I entered the avenue of Clochegourde on a
damp October morning, which loosened the dead leaves of the poplars
planted by Henriette in the path where once she stood and waved her
handkerchief as if to recall me. Was she living? Why did I feel her two
white hands upon my head laid prostrate in the dust? In that moment I
paid for all the pleasures that Arabella had given me, and I knew that I
paid dearly. I swore not to see her again, and a hatred of England took
possession of me. Though Lady Dudley was only a variety of her species,
I included all Englishwomen in my judgment.
I received a fresh shock as I neared Clochegourde. Jacques,
Madeleine, and the Abbe Dominis were kneeling at the foot of a wooden
cross placed on a piece of ground that was taken into the enclosure when
the iron gate was put up, which the count and countess had never been
willing to remove. I sprang from the carriage and went towards them, my
heart aching at the sight of these children and that grave old man
imploring the mercy of God. The old huntsman was there too, with bared
head, standing a little apart.
I stooped to kiss Jacques and Madeleine, who gave me a cold look
and continued praying. The abbe rose from his knees; I took him by the
arm to support myself, saying, "Is she still alive?" He bowed his head
sadly and gently. "Tell me, I implore you for Christ's sake, why are you


praying at the foot of this cross? Why are you here, and not with her?
Why are the children kneeling here this chilly morning? Tell me all, that I
may do no harm through ignorance."
"For the last few days Madame le comtesse has been unwilling to
see her children except at stated times.--Monsieur," he continued after a
pause, "perhaps you had better wait a few hours before seeing Madame
de Mortsauf; she is greatly changed. It is necessary to prepare her for this
interview, or it might cause an increase in her sufferings-- death would be
a blessed release from them."
I wrung the hand of the good man, whose look and voice soothed the
pangs of others without sharpening them.
"We are praying God to help her," he continued; "for she, so saintly,
so resigned, so fit to die, has shown during the last few weeks a horror of
death; for the first time in her life she looks at others who are full of
health with gloomy, envious eyes. This aberration comes less, I think,
from the fear of death than from some inward intoxication,--from the
flowers of her youth which ferment as they wither. Yes, an evil angel is
striving against heaven for that glorious soul. She is passing through her
struggle on the Mount of Olives; her tears bathe the white roses of her
crown as they fall, one by one, from the head of this wedded Jephtha.
Wait; do not see her yet. You would bring to her the atmosphere of the
court; she would see in your face the reflection of the things of life, and


you would add to the bitterness of her regret. Have pity on a weakness
which God Himself forgave to His Son when He took our nature upon
Him. What merit would there be in conquering if we had no adversary?
Permit her confessor or me, two old men whose worn-out lives cause her
no pain, to prepare her for this unlooked-for meeting, for emotions which
the Abbe Birotteau has required her to renounce. But, in the things of this
world there is an invisible thread of divine purpose which religion alone
can see; and since you have come perhaps you are led by some celestial
star of the moral world which leads to the tomb as to the manger--"
He then told me, with that tempered eloquence which falls like dew
upon the heart, that for the last six months the countess had suffered daily
more and more, in spite of Monsieur Origet's care. The doctor had come
to Clochegourde every evening for two months, striving to rescue her
from death; for her one cry had been, "Oh, save me!" "To heal the body
the heart must first be healed," the doctor had exclaimed one day.
"As the illness increased, the words of this poor woman, once so
gentle, have grown bitter," said the Abbe. "She calls on earth to keep her,
instead of asking God to take her; then she repents these murmurs against
the divine decree. Such alternations of feeling rend her heart and make
the struggle between body and soul most horrible. Often the body
triumphs. 'You have cost me dear,' she said one day to Jacques and
Madeleine; but in a moment, recalled to God by the look on my face, she


turned to Madeleine with these angelic words, 'The happiness of others is
the joy of those who cannot themselves be happy,'--and the tone with
which she said them brought tears to my eyes. She falls, it is true, but
each time that her feet stumble she rises higher towards heaven."
Struck by the tone of the successive intimations chance had sent me,
and which in this great concert of misfortunes were like a prelude of
mournful modulations to a funereal theme, the mighty cry of expiring
love, I cried out: "Surely you believe that this pure lily cut from earth will
flower in heaven?"
"You left her still a flower," he answered, "but you will find her
consumed, purified by the forces of suffering, pure as a diamond buried
in the ashes. Yes, that shining soul, angelic star, will issue glorious from
the clouds and pass into the kingdom of the Light." As I pressed the hand
of the good evangelist, my heart overflowing with gratitude, the count put
his head, now entirely white, out of the door and immediately sprang
towards me with signs of surprise. "She was right! He is here! 'Felix,
Felix, Felix has come!' she kept crying. My dear friend," he continued,
beside himself with terror, "death is here. Why did it not take a poor
madman like me with one foot in the grave?"
I walked towards the house summoning my courage, but on the
threshold of the long antechamber which crossed the house and led to the
lawn, the Abbe Birotteau stopped me.


"Madame la comtesse begs you will not enter at present," he said to
me.
Giving a glance within the house I saw the servants coming and
going, all busy, all dumb with grief, surprised perhaps by the orders
Manette gave them.
"What has happened?" cried the count, alarmed by the commotion,
as much from fear of the coming event as from the natural uneasiness of
his character.
"Only a sick woman's fancy," said the abbe. "Madame la comtesse
does not wish to receive monsieur le vicomte as she now is. She talks of
dressing; why thwart her?"
Manette came in search of Madeleine, whom I saw leave the house a
few moments after she had entered her mother's room. We were all,
Jacques and his father, the two abbes and I, silently walking up and down
the lawn in front of the house. I looked first at Montbazon and then at
Azay, noticing the seared and yellow valley which answered in its
mourning (as it ever did on all occasions) to the feelings of my heart.
Suddenly I beheld the dear "mignonne" gathering the autumn flowers, no
doubt to make a bouquet at her mother's bidding. Thinking of all which
that signified, I was so convulsed within me that I staggered, my sight
was blurred, and the two abbes, between whom I walked, led me to the
wall of a terrace, where I sat for some time completely broken down but


not unconscious.
  "Poor Felix," said the count, "she forbade me to write to you. She
knew how much you loved her."
  Though prepared to suffer, I found I had no strength to bear a scene
which recalled my memories of past happiness. "Ah!" I thought, "I see it
still, that barren moor, dried like a skeleton, lit by a gray sky, in the centre
of which grew a single flowering bush, which again and again I looked at
with a shudder,--the forecast of this mournful hour!"
  All was gloom in the little castle, once so animated, so full of life.
The servants were weeping; despair and desolation everywhere. The
paths were not raked, work was begun and left undone, the workmen
standing idly about the house. Though the grapes were being gathered in
the vineyard, not a sound reached us. The place seemed uninhabited, so
deep the silence! We walked about like men whose grief rejects all
ordinary topics, and we listened to the count, the only one of us who
spoke.
  After a few words prompted by the mechanical love he felt for his
wife he was led by the natural bent of his mind to complain of her. She
had never, he said, taken care of herself or listened to him when he gave
her good advice. He had been the first to notice the symptoms of her
illness, for he had studied them in his own case; he had fought them and
cured them without other assistance than careful diet and the avoidance of


all emotion. He could have cured the countess, but a husband ought not to
take so much responsibility upon himself, especially when he has the
misfortune of finding his experience, in this as in everything, despised. In
spite of all he could say, the countess insisted on seeing Origet,--Origet,
who had managed his case so ill, was now killing his wife. If this disease
was, as they said, the result of excessive grief, surely he was the one who
had been in a condition to have it. What griefs could the countess have
had? She was always happy; she had never had troubles or annoyances.
Their fortune, thanks to his care and to his sound ideas, was now in a
most satisfactory state; he had always allowed Madame de Mortsauf to
reign at Clochegourde; her children, well trained and now in health, gave
her no anxiety,--where, then, did this grief they talked of come from?
Thus he argued and discussed the matter, mingling his expressions of
despair with senseless accusations. Then, recalled by some sudden
memory to the admiration which he felt for his wife, tears rolled from his
eyes which had been dry so long.
Madeleine came to tell me that her mother was ready. The Abbe
Birotteau followed me. Madeleine, now a grave young girl, stayed with
her father, saying that the countess desired to be alone with me, and also
that the presence of too many persons would fatigue her. The solemnity
of this moment gave me that sense of inward heat and outward cold
which overcomes us often in the great events of life. The Abbe Birotteau,


one of those men whom God marks for his own by investing them with
sweetness and simplicity, together with patience and compassion, took
me aside.
  "Monsieur," he said, "I wish you to know that I have done all in my
power to prevent this meeting. The salvation of this saint required it. I
have considered her only, and not you. Now that you are about to see her
to whom access ought to have been denied you by the angels, let me say
that I shall be present to protect you against yourself and perhaps against
her. Respect her weakness. I do not ask this of you as a priest, but as a
humble friend whom you did not know you had, and who would fain save
you from remorse. Our dear patient is dying of hunger and thirst. Since
morning she is a victim to the feverish irritation which precedes that
horrible death, and I cannot conceal from you how deeply she regrets life.
The cries of her rebellious flesh are stifled in my heart--where they wake
echoes of a wound still tender. But Monsieur de Dominis and I accept this
duty that we may spare the sight of this moral anguish to her family; as it
is, they no longer recognize their star by night and by day in her; they all,
husband, children, servants, all are asking, 'Where is she?'--she is so
changed! When she sees you, her regrets will revive. Lay aside your
thoughts as a man of the world, forget its vanities, be to her the auxiliary
of heaven, not of earth. Pray God that this dear saint die not in a moment
of doubt, giving voice to her despair."


I did not answer. My silence alarmed the poor confessor. I saw, I
heard, I walked, and yet I was no longer on the earth. The thought, "In
what state shall I find her? Why do they use these precautions?" gave rise
to apprehensions which were the more cruel because so indefinite; all
forms of suffering crowded my mind.
We reached the door of the chamber and the abbe opened it. I then
saw Henriette, dressed in white, sitting on her little sofa which was placed
before the fireplace, on which were two vases filled with flowers; flowers
were also on a table near the window. The expression of the abbe's face,
which was that of amazement at the change in the room, now restored to
its former state, showing me that the dying woman had sent away the
repulsive preparations which surround a sick- bed. She had spent the last
waning strength of fever in decorating her room to receive him whom in
that final hour she loved above all things else. Surrounded by clouds of
lace, her shrunken face, which had the greenish pallor of a magnolia
flower as it opens, resembled the first outline of a cherished head drawn
in chalks upon the yellow canvas of a portrait. To feel how deeply the
vulture's talons now buried themselves in my heart, imagine the eyes of
that outlined face finished and full of life,--hollow eyes which shone with
a brilliancy unusual in a dying person. The calm majesty given to her in
the past by her constant victory over sorrow was there no longer. Her
forehead, the only part of her face which still kept its beautiful


proportions, wore an expression of aggressive will and covert threats. In
spite of the waxy texture of her elongated face, inward fires were issuing
from it like the fluid mist which seems to flame above the fields of a hot
day. Her hollow temples, her sunken cheeks showed the interior
formation of the face, and the smile upon her whitened lips vaguely
resembled the grin of death. Her robe, which was folded across her breast,
showed the emaciation of her beautiful figure. The expression of her head
said plainly that she knew she was changed, and that the thought filled
her with bitterness. She was no longer the arch Henriette, nor the sublime
and saintly Madame de Mortsauf, but the nameless something of Bossuet
struggling against annihilation, driven to the selfish battle of life against
death by hunger and balked desire. I took her hand, which was dry and
burning, to kiss it, as I seated myself beside her. She guessed my
sorrowful surprise from the very effort that I made to hide it. Her
discolored lips drew up from her famished teeth trying to form a
smile,--the forced smile with which we strive to hide either the irony of
vengeance, the expectation of pleasure, the intoxication of our souls, or
the fury of disappointment.
"Ah, my poor Felix, this is death," she said, "and you do not like
death; odious death, of which every human creature, even the boldest
lover, feels a horror. This is the end of love; I knew it would be so. Lady
Dudley will never see you thus surprised at the change in her. Ah! why


have I so longed for you, Felix? You have come at last, and I reward your
devotion by the same horrible sight that made the Comte de Rance a
Trappist. I, who hoped to remain ever beautiful and noble in your
memory, to live there eternally a lily, I it is who destroy your illusions!
True love cannot calculate. But stay; do not go, stay. Monsieur Origet
said I was much better this morning; I shall recover. Your looks will bring
me back to life. When I regain a little strength, when I can take some
nourishment, I shall be beautiful again. I am scarcely thirty-five, there are
many years of happiness before me,--happiness renews our youth; yes, I
must know happiness! I have made delightful plans,--we will leave
Clochegourde and go to Italy."
Tears filled my eyes and I turned to the window as if to look at the
flowers. The abbe followed me hastily, and bending over the bouquet
whispered, "No tears!"
"Henriette, do you no longer care for our dear valley," I said, as if to
explain my sudden movement.
"Oh, yes!" she said, turning her forehead to my lips with a fond
motion. "But without you it is fatal to me,--without THEE," she added,
putting her burning lips to my ear and whispering the words like a sigh.
I was horror-struck at the wild caress, and my will was not strong
enough to repress the nervous agitation I felt throughout this scene. I
listened without reply; or rather I replied by a fixed smile and signs of


comprehension; wishing not to thwart her, but to treat her as a mother
does a child. Struck at first with the change in her person, I now
perceived that the woman, once so dignified in her bearing, showed in her
attitude, her voice, her manners, in her looks and her ideas, the naive
ignorance of a child, its artless graces, its eager movements, its careless
indifference to everything that is not its own desire,--in short all the
weaknesses which commend a child to our protection. Is it so with all
dying persons? Do they strip off social disguises till they are like children
who have never put them on? Or was it that the countess feeling herself
on the borders of eternity, rejected every human feeling except love?
"You will bring me health as you used to do, Felix," she said, "and
our valley will still be my blessing. How can I help eating what you will
give me? You are such a good nurse. Besides, you are so rich in health
and vigor that life is contagious beside you. My friend, prove to me that I
need not die--die blighted. They think my worst suffering is thirst. Oh,
yes, my thirst is great, dear friend. The waters of the Indre are terrible to
see; but the thirst of my heart is greater far. I thirsted for thee," she said in
a smothered voice, taking my hands in hers, which were burning, and
drawing me close that she might whisper in my ear. "My anguish has
been in not seeing thee! Did you not bid me live? I will live; I too will
ride on horseback; I will know life, Paris, fetes, pleasures, all!"
Ah! Natalie, that awful cry--which time and distance render


cold--rang in the ears of the old priest and in mine; the tones of that
glorious voice pictured the battles of a lifetime, the anguish of a true love
lost. The countess rose with an impatient movement like that of a child
which seeks a plaything. When the confessor saw her thus the poor man
fell upon his knees and prayed with clasped hands.
"Yes, to live!" she said, making me rise and support her; "to live
with realities and not with delusions. All has been delusions in my life; I
have counted them up, these lies, these impostures! How can I die, I who
have never lived? I who have never roamed a moor to meet him!" She
stopped, seemed to listen, and to smell some odor through the walls.
"Felix, the vintagers are dining, and I, I," she said, in the voice of a child,
"I, the mistress, am hungry. It is so in love,-- they are happy, they,
they!--"
"Kyrie eleison!" said the poor abbe, who with clasped hands and
eyes raised to heaven was reciting his litanies.
She flung an arm around my neck, kissed me violently, and pressed
me to her, saying, "You shall not escape me now!" She gave the little nod
with which in former days she used, when leaving me for an instant, to
say she would return. "We will dine together," she said; "I will go and tell
Manette." She turned to go, but fainted; and I laid her, dressed as she was,
upon the bed.
"You carried me thus before," she murmured, opening her eyes.


She was very light, but burning; as I took her in my arms I felt the
heat of her body. Monsieur Deslandes entered and seemed surprised at the
decoration of the room; but seeing me, all was explained to him. "We
must suffer much to die," she said in a changed voice. The doctor sat
down and felt her pulse, then he rose quickly and said a few words in a
low voice to the priest, who left the room beckoning me to follow him.
"What are you going to do?" I said to the doctor.
"Save her from intolerable agony," he replied. "Who could have
believed in so much strength? We cannot understand how she can have
lived in this state so long. This is the forty-second day since she has either
eaten or drunk."
Monsieur Deslandes called for Manette. The Abbe Birotteau took me
to the gardens.
"Let us leave her to the doctor," he said; "with Manette's help he will
wrap her in opium. Well, you have heard her now--if indeed it is she
herself."
"No," I said, "it is not she."
I was stupefied with grief. I left the grounds by the little gate of the
lower terrace and went to the punt, in which I hid to be alone with my
thoughts. I tried to detach myself from the being in which I lived,--a
torture like that with which the Tartars punish adultery by fastening a
limb of the guilty man in a piece of wood and leaving him with a knife to


cut it off if he would not die of hunger. My life was a failure, too! Despair
suggested many strange ideas to me. Sometimes I vowed to die beside her;
sometimes to bury myself at Meilleraye among the Trappists. I looked at
the windows of the room where Henriette was dying, fancying I saw the
light that was burning there the night I betrothed my soul to hers. Ah!
ought I not to have followed the simple life she had created for me,
keeping myself faithfully to her while I worked in the world? Had she not
bidden me become a great man expressly that I might be saved from base
and shameful passions? Chastity! was it not a sublime distinction which I
had not know how to keep? Love, as Arabella understood it, suddenly
disgusted me. As I raised my humbled head asking myself where, in
future, I could look for light and hope, what interest could hold me to life,
the air was stirred by a sudden noise. I turned to the terrace and there saw
Madeleine walking alone, with slow steps. During the time it took me to
ascend the terrace, intending to ask the dear child the reason of the cold
look she had given me when kneeling at the foot of the cross, she had
seated herself on the bench. When she saw me approach her, she rose,
pretending not to have seen me, and returned towards the house in a
significantly hasty manner. She hated me; she fled from her mother's
murderer.
When I reached the portico I saw Madeleine like a statue, motionless
and erect, evidently listening to the sound of my steps. Jacques was


sitting in the portico. His attitude expressed the same insensibility to what
was going on about him that I had noticed when I first saw him; it
suggested ideas such as we lay aside in some corner of our mind to take
up and study at our leisure. I have remarked that young persons who carry
death within them are usually unmoved at funerals. I longed to question
that gloomy spirit. Had Madeleine kept her thoughts to herself, or had she
inspired Jacques with her hatred?
"You know, Jacques," I said, to begin the conversation, "that in me
you have a most devoted brother."
"Your friendship is useless to me; I shall follow my mother," he said,
giving me a sullen look of pain.
"Jacques!" I cried, "you, too, against me?"
He coughed and walked away; when he returned he showed me his
handkerchief stained with blood.
"Do you understand that?" he said.
Thus they had each of them a fatal secret. I saw before long that the
brother and sister avoided each other. Henriette laid low, all was in ruins
at Clochegourde.
"Madame is asleep," Manette came to say, quite happy in knowing
that the countess was out of pain.
In these dreadful moments, though each person knows the inevitable
end, strong affections fasten on such minor joys. Minutes are centuries


which we long to make restorative; we wish our dear ones to lie on roses,
we pray to bear their sufferings, we cling to the hope that their last
moment may be to them unexpected.
"Monsieur Deslandes has ordered the flowers taken away; they
excited Madame's nerves," said Manette.
Then it was the flowers that caused her delirium; she herself was not
a part of it.
"Come, Monsieur Felix," added Manette, "come and see Madame;
she is beautiful as an angel."
I returned to the dying woman just as the setting sun was gilding the
lace-work on the roofs of the chateau of Azay. All was calm and pure. A
soft light lit the bed on which my Henriette was lying, wrapped in opium.
The body was, as it were, annihilated; the soul alone reigned on that face,
serene as the skies when the tempest is over. Blanche and Henriette, two
sublime faces of the same woman, reappeared; all the more beautiful
because my recollection, my thought, my imagination, aiding nature,
repaired the devastation of each dear feature, where now the soul
triumphant sent its gleams through the calm pulsations of her breathing.
The two abbes were sitting at the foot of the bed. The count stood, as
though stupefied by the banners of death which floated above that adored
being. I took her seat on the sofa. We all four turned to each other looks
in which admiration for that celestial beauty mingled with tears of


mourning. The lights of thought announced the return of the Divine Spirit
to that glorious tabernacle.
The Abbe Dominis and I spoke in signs, communicating to each
other our mutual ideas. Yes, the angels were watching her! yes, their
flaming swords shone above that noble brow, which the august
expression of her virtue made, as it were, a visible soul conversing with
the spirits of its sphere. The lines of her face cleared; all in her was
exalted and became majestic beneath the unseen incense of the seraphs
who guarded her. The green tints of bodily suffering gave place to pure
white tones, the cold wan pallor of approaching death. Jacques and
Madeleine entered. Madeleine made us quiver by the adoring impulse
which flung her on her knees beside the bed, crying out, with clasped
hand: "My mother! here is my mother!" Jacques smiled; he knew he
would follow her where she went.
"She is entering the haven," said the Abbe Birotteau.
The Abbe Dominis looked at me as if to say: "Did I not tell you the
star would rise in all its glory?"
Madeleine knelt with her eyes fixed on her mother, breathing when
she breathed, listening to the soft breath, the last thread by which she held
to life, and which we followed in terror, fearing that every effort of
respiration might be the last. Like an angel at the gates of the sanctuary,
the young girl was eager yet calm, strong but reverent. At that moment


the Angelus rang from the village clock-tower. Waves of tempered air
brought its reverberations to remind us that this was the sacred hour when
Christianity repeats the words said by the angel to the woman who has
redeemed the faults of her sex. "Ave Maria!"-- surely, at this moment the
words were a salutation from heaven. The prophecy was so plain, the
event so near that we burst into tears. The murmuring sounds of evening,
melodious breezes in the leafage, last warbling of the birds, the hum and
echo of the insects, the voices of the waters, the plaintive cry of the
tree-frog,--all country things were bidding farewell to the loveliest lily of
the valley, to her simple, rural life. The religious poesy of the hour, now
added to that of Nature, expressed so vividly the psalm of the departing
soul that our sobs redoubled.
Though the door of the chamber was open we were all so plunged in
contemplation of the scene, as if to imprint its memories forever on our
souls, that we did not notice the family servants who were kneeling as a
group and praying fervently. These poor people, living on hope, had
believed their mistress might be spared, and this plain warning overcame
them. At a sign from the Abbe Birotteau the old huntsman went to fetch
the curate of Sache. The doctor, standing by the bed, calm as science, and
holding the hand of the still sleeping woman, had made the confessor a
sign to say that this sleep was the only hour without pain which remained
for the recalled angel. The moment had come to administer the last


sacraments of the Church. At nine o'clock she awoke quietly, looked at us
with surprised but gentle eyes, and we beheld our idol once more in all
the beauty of former days.
"Mother! you are too beautiful to die--life and health are coming
back to you!" cried Madeleine.
"Dear daughter, I shall live--in thee," she answered, smiling.
Then followed heart-rending embraces of the mother and her
children. Monsieur de Mortsauf kissed his wife upon her brow. She
colored when she saw me.
"Dear Felix," she said, "this is, I think, the only grief that I shall ever
have caused you. Forget all that I may have said,--I, a poor creature much
beside myself." She held out her hand; I took it and kissed it. Then she
said, with her chaste and gracious smile, "As in the old days, Felix?"
We all left the room and went into the salon during the last
confession. I approached Madeleine. In presence of others she could not
escape me without a breach of civility; but, like her mother, she looked at
no one, and kept silence without even once turning her eyes in my
direction.
"Dear Madeleine," I said in a low voice, "What have you against
me?
Why do you show such coldness in the presence of death, which
ought to reconcile us all?"


  "I hear in my heart what my mother is saying at this moment," she
replied, with a look which Ingres gave to his "Mother of God,"--that
virgin, already sorrowful, preparing herself to protect the world for which
her son was about to die.
  "And you condemn me at the moment when your mother absolves
me,--if indeed I am guilty."
  "You, YOU," she said, "always YOUR SELF!"
  The tones of her voice revealed the determined hatred of a Corsican,
implacable as the judgments of those who, not having studied life, admit
of no extenuation of faults committed against the laws of the heart.
  An hour went by in deepest silence. The Abbe Birotteau came to us
after receiving the countess's general confession, and we followed him
back to the room where Henriette, under one of those impulses which
often come to noble minds, all sisters of one intent, had made them dress
her in the long white garment which was to be her shroud. We found her
sitting up; beautiful from expiation, beautiful in hope. I saw in the
fireplace the black ashes of my letters which had just been burned, a
sacrifice which, as her confessor afterwards told me, she had not been
willing to make until the hour of her death. She smiled upon us all with
the smile of other days. Her eyes, moist with tears, gave evidence of
inward lucidity; she saw the celestial joys of the promised land.
"Dear Felix," she said, holding out her hand and pressing mine, "stay


with us. You must be present at the last scene of my life, not the least
painful among many such, but one in which you are concerned." She
made a sign and the door was closed. At her request the count sat down;
the Abbe Birotteau and I remained standing. Then with Manette's help the
countess rose and knelt before the astonished count, persisting in
remaining there. A moment after, when Manette had left the room, she
raised her head which she had laid upon her husband's knees.
"Though I have been a faithful wife to you," she said, in a faint voice,
"I have sometimes failed in my duty. I have just prayed to God to give me
strength to ask your pardon. I have given to a friendship outside of my
family more affectionate care than I have shown to you. Perhaps I have
sometimes irritated you by the comparisons you may have made between
these cares, these thoughts, and those I gave to you. I have had," she said,
in a sinking voice, "a deep friendship, which no one, not even he who has
been its object, has fully known. Though I have continued virtuous
according to all human laws, though I have been a irreproachable wife to
you, still other thoughts, voluntary or involuntary, have often crossed my
mind and, in this hour, I fear I have welcomed them too warmly. But as I
have tenderly loved you, and continued to be your submissive wife, and
as the clouds passing beneath the sky do not alter its purity, I now pray
for your blessing with a clean heart. I shall die without one bitter thought
if I can hear from your lips a tender word for your Blanche, for the


mother of your children,--if I know that you forgive her those things for
which she did not forgive herself till reassured by the great tribunal which
pardons all."
"Blanche, Blanche!" cried the broken man, shedding tears upon his
wife's head, "Would you kill me?" He raised her with a strength unusual
to him, kissed her solemnly on the forehead, and thus holding her
continued: "Have I no forgiveness to ask of you? Have I never been harsh?
Are you not making too much of your girlish scruples?" "Perhaps," she
said. "But, dear friend, indulge the weakness of a dying woman;
tranquillize my mind. When you reach this hour you will remember that I
left you with a blessing. Will you grant me permission to leave to our
friend now here that pledge of my affection?" she continued, showing a
letter that was on the mantelshelf. "He is now my adopted son, and that is
all. The heart, dear friend, makes its bequests; my last wishes impose a
sacred duty on that dear Felix. I think I do not put too great a burden on
him; grant that I do not ask too much of you in desiring to leave him these
last words. You see, I am always a woman," she said, bending her head
with mournful sweetness; "after obtaining pardon I ask a gift--Read this,"
she added, giving me the letter; "but not until after my death."
The count saw her color change: he lifted her and carried her himself
to the bed, where we all surrounded her.
"Felix," she said, "I may have done something wrong to you. Often I


gave you pain by letting you hope for that I could not give you; but see, it
was that very courage of wife and mother that now enables me to die
forgiven of all. You will forgive me too; you who have so often blamed
me, and whose injustice was so dear--"
The Abbe Birotteau laid a finger on his lips. At that sign the dying
woman bowed her head, faintness overcame her; presently she waved her
hands as if summoning the clergy and her children and the servants to her
presence, and then, with an imploring gesture, she showed me the
desolate count and the children beside him. The sight of that father, the
secret of whose insanity was known to us alone, now to be left sole
guardian of those delicate beings, brought mute entreaties to her face,
which fell upon my heart like sacred fire. Before receiving extreme
unction she asked pardon of her servants if by a hasty word she had
sometimes hurt them; she asked their prayers and commended each one,
individually, to the count; she nobly confessed that during the last two
months she had uttered complaints that were not Christian and might
have shocked them; she had repulsed her children and clung to life
unworthily; but she attributed this failure of submission to the will of God
to her intolerable sufferings. Finally, she publicly thanked the Abbe
Birotteau with heartfelt warmth for having shown her the illusion of all
earthly things.
When she ceased to speak, prayers were said again, and the curate of


Sache gave her the viaticum. A few moments later her breathing became
difficult; a film overspread her eyes, but soon they cleared again; she
gave me a last look and died to the eyes of earth, hearing perhaps the
symphony of our sobs. As her last sigh issued from her lips,--the effort of
a life that was one long anguish,--I felt a blow within me that struck on all
my faculties. The count and I remained beside the bier all night with the
two abbes and the curate, watching, in the glimmer of the tapers, the body
of the departed, now so calm, laid upon the mattress of her bed, where
once she had suffered cruelly. It was my first communion with death. I
remained the whole of that night with my eyes fixed on Henriette,
spell-bound by the pure expression that came from the stilling of all
tempests, by the whiteness of that face where still I saw the traces of her
innumerable affections, although it made no answer to my love. What
majesty in that silence, in that coldness! How many thoughts they
expressed! What beauty in that cold repose, what power in that
immobility! All the past was there and futurity had begun. Ah! I loved her
dead as much as I had loved her living. In the morning the count went to
bed; the three wearied priests fell asleep in that heavy hour of dawn so
well known to those who watch. I could then, without witnesses, kiss that
sacred brow with all the love I had never been allowed to utter.
The third day, in a cool autumn morning, we followed the countess
to her last home. She was carried by the old huntsman, the two


Martineaus, and Manette's husband. We went down by the road I had so
joyously ascended the day I first returned to her. We crossed the valley of
the Indre to the little cemetery of Sache--a poor village graveyard, placed
behind the church on the slope of the hill, where with true humility she
had asked to be buried beneath a simple cross of black wood, "like a poor
country-woman," she said. When I saw, from the centre of the valley, the
village church and the place of the graveyard a convulsive shudder seized
me. Alas! we have all our Golgothas, where we leave the first thirty-three
years of our lives, with the lance-wound in our side, the crown of thorns
and not of roses on our brow--that hill-slope was to me the mount of
expiation.
We were followed by an immense crowd, seeking to express the
grief of the valley where she had silently buried so many noble actions.
Manette, her faithful woman, told me that when her savings did not
suffice to help the poor she economized upon her dress. There were babes
to be provided for, naked children to be clothed, mothers succored in their
need, sacks of flour brought to the millers in winter for helpless old men,
a cow sent to some poor home,--deeds of a Christian woman, a mother,
and the lady of the manor. Besides these things, there were dowries paid
to enable loving hearts to marry; substitutes bought for youths to whom
the draft had brought despair, tender offerings of the loving woman who
had said: "The happiness of others is the consolation of those who cannot


themselves be happy." Such things, related at the "veillees," made the
crowd immense. I walked with Jacques and the two abbes behind the
coffin. According to custom neither the count nor Madeleine were present;
they remained alone at Clochegourde. But Manette insisted in coming
with us. "Poor madame! poor madame! she is happy now," I heard her
saying to herself amid her sobs.
As the procession left the road to the mills I heard a simultaneous
moan and a sound of weeping as though the valley were lamenting for its
soul. The church was filled with people. After the service was over we
went to the graveyard where she wished to be buried near the cross.
When I heard the pebbles and the gravel falling upon the coffin my
courage gave way; I staggered and asked the two Martineaus to steady me.
They took me, half-dead, to the chateau of Sache, where the owners very
kindly invited me to stay, and I accepted. I will own to you that I dreaded
a return to Clochegourde, and it was equally repugnant to me to go to
Frapesle, where I could see my Henriette's windows. Here, at Sache, I
was near her. I lived for some days in a room which looked on the
tranquil, solitary valley I have mentioned to you. It is a deep recess
among the hills, bordered by oaks that are doubly centenarian, through
which a torrent rushes after rain. The scene was in keeping with the stern
and solemn meditations to which I desired to abandon myself.
I had perceived, during the day which followed the fatal night, how


unwelcome my presence might be at Clochegourde. The count had gone
through violent emotions at the death of his wife; but he had expected the
event; his mind was made up to it in a way that was something like
indifference. I had noticed this several times, and when the countess gave
me that letter (which I still dared not read) and when she spoke of her
affection for me, I remarked that the count, usually so quick to take
offence, made no sign of feeling any. He attributed Henriette's wording to
the extreme sensitiveness of a conscience which he knew to be pure. This
selfish insensibility was natural to him. The souls of these two beings
were no more married than their bodies; they had never had the intimate
communion which keeps feeling alive; they had shared neither pains nor
pleasures, those strong links which tear us by a thousand edges when
broken, because they touch on all our fibers, and are fastened to the
inmost recesses of our hearts.
Another consideration forbade my return to
Clochegourde,--Madeleine's hostility. That hard young girl was not
disposed to modify her hatred beside her mother's coffin. Between the
count, who would have talked to me incessantly of himself, and the new
mistress of the house, who would have shown me invincible dislike, I
should have found myself horribly annoyed. To be treated thus where
once the very flowers welcomed me, where the steps of the portico had a
voice, where my memory clothed with poetry the balconies, the fountains,


the balustrades, the trees, the glimpses of the valleys! to be hated where I
once was loved--the thought was intolerable to me. So, from the first, my
mind was made up.
  Alas! alas! was this the end of the keenest love that ever entered the
heart of man? To the eyes of strangers my conduct might be reprehensible,
but it had the sanction of my own conscience. It is thus that the noblest
feelings, the sublimest dramas of our youth must end. We start at dawn,
as I from Tours to Clochegourde, we clutch the world, our hearts hungry
for love; then, when our treasure is in the crucible, when we mingle with
men and circumstances, all becomes gradually debased and we find but
little gold among the ashes. Such is life! life as it is; great pretensions,
small realities. I meditated long about myself, debating what I could do
after a blow like this which had mown down every flower of my soul. I
resolved to rush into the science of politics, into the labyrinth of ambition,
to cast woman from my life and to make myself a statesman, cold and
passionless, and so remain true to the saint I loved. My thoughts
wandered into far-off regions while my eyes were fastened on the
splendid tapestry of the yellowing oaks, the stern summits, the bronzed
foothills. I asked myself if Henriette's virtue were not, after all, that of
ignorance, and if I were indeed guilty of her death. I fought against
remorse. At last, in the sweetness of an autumn midday, one of those last
smiles of heaven which are so beautiful in Touraine, I read the letter


which at her request I was not to open before her death. Judge of my
feelings as I read it.
  Madame de Mortsauf to the Vicomte Felix de Vandenesse:
  Felix, friend, loved too well, I must now lay bare my heart to
you,--not so much to prove my love as to show you the weight of
obligation you have incurred by the depth and gravity of the wounds
you have inflicted on it. At this moment, when I sink exhausted by the
toils of life, worn out by the shocks of its  battle, the woman within me
is, mercifully, dead; the mother alone survives. Dear, you are now to
see how it was that you were the original cause of all my sufferings.
Later, I willingly received your blows; to-day I am dying of the final
wound your hand has given,--but there is joy, excessive joy in feeling
myself destroyed by him I love.
  My physical sufferings will soon put an end to my mental strength;
I therefore use the last clear gleams of intelligence to implore you to
befriend my children and replace the heart of which you have deprived
them. I would solemnly impose this duty upon you if  I loved you less;
but I prefer to let you choose it for yourself as an act of sacred
repentance, and also in faithful continuance of your love--love, for us,
was ever mingled with repentant  thoughts and expiatory fears! but--I
know it well--we shall forever love each other. Your wrong to me was
not so fatal an act in itself as the power which I let it have within me.


Did I not tell you I was jealous, jealous unto death? Well, I die of it.
But, be comforted, we have kept all human laws. The Church has  told
me, by one of her purest voices, that God will be forgiving  to those
who subdue their natural desires to His commandments. My beloved,
you are now to know all, for I would not leave you in  ignorance of any
thought of mine. What I confide to God in my last hour you, too, must
know,--you, king of my heart as He is King of Heaven.
Until the ball given to the Duc d'Angouleme (the only ball at
which I was ever present), marriage had left me in that ignorance
which gives to the soul of a young girl the beauty of the angels.  True, I
was a mother, but love had never surrounded me with its permitted
pleasures. How did this happen? I do not know; neither  do I know by
what law everything within me changed in a moment. You remember
your kisses? they have mastered my life, they have furrowed my soul;
the ardor of your blood awoke the ardor of mine; your youth entered
my youth, your desires my soul. When I rose and  left you proudly I
was filled with an emotion for which I know no  name in any
language--for children have not yet found a word to express the
marriage of their eyes with light, nor the kiss of  life laid upon their lips.
Yes, it was sound coming in the echo,  light flashing through the
darkness, motion shaking the universe; at least, it was rapid like all
these things, but far more  beautiful, for it was the birth of the soul! I


comprehended then  that something, I knew not what, existed for me in
the world,--a force nobler than thought; for it was all thoughts, all
forces, it was the future itself in a shared emotion. I felt I was but half
a mother. Falling thus upon my heart this thunderbolt awoke desires
which slumbered there without my knowledge; suddenly I divined all
that my aunt had meant when she kissed my forehead, murmuring,
"Poor Henriette!"
  When I returned to Clochegourde, the springtime, the first leaves,
the fragrance of the flowers, the white and fleecy clouds, the Indre, the
sky, all spoke to me in a language till then unknown. If you have
forgotten those terrible kisses, I have never been able to efface them
from my memory,--I am dying of them! Yes, each time that I have met
you since, their impress is revived. I was  shaken from head to foot
when I first saw you; the mere  presentiment of your coming overcame
me. Neither time nor my firm will has enabled me to conquer that
imperious sense of pleasure. I asked myself involuntarily, "What must
be such joys?" Our mutual looks, the respectful kisses you laid upon
my hand, the pressure of my arm on yours, your voice with its tender
tones,--all, even  the slightest things, shook me so violently that clouds
obscured my sight; the murmur of rebellious senses filled my ears. Ah!
if  in those moments when outwardly I increased my coldness you had
taken me in your arms I should have died of happiness. Sometimes I


desired it, but prayer subdued the evil thought. Your name uttered  by
my children filled my heart with warmer blood, which gave color  to
my cheeks; I laid snares for my poor Madeleine to induce her to  say it,
so much did I love the tumults of that sensation. Ah! what  shall I say
to you? Your writing had a charm; I gazed at your  letters as we look at
a portrait.
  If on that first day you obtained some fatal power over me,
conceive, dear friend, how infinite that power became when it was
given to me to read your soul. What delights filled me when I found
you so pure, so absolutely truthful, gifted with noble qualities, capable
of noblest things, and already so tried! Man and child, timid yet brave!
What joy to find we both were consecrated by a common grief! Ever
since that evening when we  confided our childhoods to each other, I
have known that to lose you would be death,--yes, I have kept you by
me selfishly. The  certainty felt by Monsieur de la Berge that I should
die if I lost you touched him deeply, for he read my soul. He knew
how necessary I was to my children and the count; he did not
command me to forbid you my house, for I promised to continue pure
in deed and thought. "Thought," he said to me, "is involuntary, but it
can be  watched even in the midst of anguish." "If I think," I replied,
"all will be lost; save me from myself. Let him remain beside me and
keep me pure!" The good old man, though stern, was moved by my


sincerity. "Love him as you would a son, and give him your
daughter," he said. I accepted bravely that life of suffering that I might
not lose you, and I suffered joyfully, seeing that we were called to bear
the same yoke--My God! I have been firm, faithful to my husband; I
have given you no foothold, Felix, in your  kingdom. The grandeur of
my passion has reacted on my character; I have regarded the tortures
Monsieur de Mortsauf has inflicted on  me as expiations; I bore them
proudly in condemnation of my faulty  desires. Formerly I was
disposed to murmur at my life, but since you entered it I have
recovered some gaiety, and this has been the better for the count.
Without this strength, which I derived  through you, I should long since
have succumbed to the inward life  of which I told you.
  If you have counted for much in the exercise of my duty so have
my children also. I felt I had deprived them of something, and I
feared I could never do enough to make amends to them; my life was
thus a continual struggle which I loved. Feeling that I was less a
mother, less an honest wife, remorse entered my heart; fearing to fail
in my obligations, I constantly went beyond them. Often have  I put
Madeleine between you and me, giving you to each other,  raising
barriers between us,--barriers that were powerless! for what could
stifle the emotions which you caused me? Absent or present, you had
the same power. I preferred Madeleine to Jacques  because Madeleine


was sometime to be yours. But I did not yield  you to my daughter
without a struggle. I told myself that I was only twenty-eight when I
first met you, and you were nearly twenty-two; I shortened the
distance between us; I gave myself up to delusive hopes. Oh, Felix! I
tell you these things to save you  from remorse; also, perhaps, to show
you that I was not cold and insensible, that our sufferings were cruelly
mutual; that Arabella had no superiority of love over mine. I too am
the daughter of a  fallen race, such as men love well.
There came a moment when the struggle was so terrible that I
wept  the long nights through; my hair fell off,--you have it! Do you
remember the count's illness? Your nobility of soul far from  raising my
soul belittled it. Alas! I dreamed of giving myself to you some day as
the reward of so much heroism; but the folly was a  brief one. I laid it
at the feet of God during the mass that day  when you refused to be
with me. Jacques' illness and Madeleine's  sufferings seemed to me the
warnings of God calling back to Him His lost sheep.
Then your love--which is so natural--for that Englishwoman
revealed to me secrets of which I had no knowledge. I loved you better
than I knew. The constant emotions of this stormy life, the efforts that
I made to subdue myself with no other succor than that religion gave
me, all, all has brought about the malady of which I die. The terrible
shocks I have undergone brought on attacks about which I kept silence.


I saw in death the sole solution of this hidden tragedy. A lifetime of
anger, jealousy, and rage lay in those two months between the time my
mother told  me of your relations with Lady Dudley, and your return to
Clochegourde. I wished to go to Paris; murder was in my heart; I
desired that woman's death; I was indifferent to my children. Prayer,
which had hitherto been to me a balm, was now without influence on
my soul. Jealousy made the breach through which death  has entered.
And yet I have kept a placid brow. Yes, that period  of struggle was a
secret between God and myself. After your return  and when I saw that
I was loved, even as I loved you, that nature  had betrayed me and not
your thought, I wished to live,--it was then too late! God had taken me
under His protection, filled no  doubt with pity for a being true with
herself, true with Him,  whose sufferings had often led her to the gates
of the sanctuary. My beloved! God has judged me, Monsieur de
Mortsauf will pardon  me, but you--will you be merciful? Will you
listen to this voice  which now issues from my tomb? Will you repair
the evils of which  we are equally guilty?--you, perhaps, less than I.
You know what I wish to ask of you. Be to Monsieur de Mortsauf
what a sister of charity is to a sick man; listen to him, love him--no
one loves  him. Interpose between him and his children as I have done.
Your  task will not be a long one. Jacques will soon leave home to be in
Paris near his grandfather, and you have long promised me to guide


him through the dangers of that life. As for Madeleine, she will  marry;
I pray that you may please her. She is all myself, but stronger; she has
the will in which I am lacking; the energy  necessary for the
companion of a man whose career destines him to the storms of
political life; she is clever and perceptive. If  your lives are united she
will be happier than her mother. By acquiring the right to continue my
work at Clochegourde you will  blot out the faults I have not
sufficiently expiated, though they  are pardoned in heaven and also on
earth, for HE is generous and will forgive me. You see I am ever
selfish; is it not the proof of  a despotic love? I wish you to still love
me in mine. Unable to be yours in life, I bequeath to you my thoughts
and also my duties. If you do not wish to marry Madeleine you will at
least seek the  repose of my soul by making Monsieur de Mortsauf as
happy as he ever can be.
  Farewell, dear child of my heart; this is the farewell of a mind
absolutely sane, still full of life; the farewell of a spirit on which thou
hast shed too many and too great joys to suffer thee to feel remorse for
the catastrophe they have caused. I use that word  "catastrophe"
thinking of you and how you love me; as for me, I  reach the haven of
my rest, sacrificed to duty and not without  regret--ah! I tremble at that
thought. God knows better than I whether I have fulfilled his holy laws
in accordance with their  spirit. Often, no doubt, I have tottered, but I


have not fallen; the most potent cause of my wrong-doing lay in the
grandeur of the  seductions that encompassed me. The Lord will behold
me trembling when I enter His presence as though I had succumbed.
Farewell  again, a long farewell like that I gave last night to our dear
valley, where I soon shall rest and where you will often--will you
not?--return.
 楼主| 发表于 2020-12-13 19:28:52 | 显示全部楼层

5、Henriette.

Henriette.

I fell into an abyss of terrible reflections, as I perceived the depths unknown of the life now lighted up by this expiring flame. The clouds of my egotism rolled away. She had suffered as much as I--more than I, for she was dead. She believed that others would be kind to her friend; she was so blinded by love that she had never so much as suspected the enmity of her daughter. That last proof of her tenderness pained me terribly. Poor Henriette wished to give me Clochegourde and her daughter.

Natalie, from that dread day when first I entered a graveyard following the remains of my noble Henriette, whom now you know, the sun has been less warm, less luminous, the nights more gloomy, movement less agile, thought more dull. There are some departed whom we bury in the earth, but there are others more deeply loved for whom our souls are winding-sheets, whose memory mingles daily with our heart-beats; we think of them as we breathe; they are in us by the tender  law of a metempsychosis special to love. A soul is within my soul. When some good thing is done by me, when some true word is spoken, that soul acts and speaks. All that is good within me issues from that grave, as the fragrance of a lily fills the air; sarcasm, bitterness, all that you blame in me is mine. Natalie, when next my eyes are darkened by a cloud or raised to heaven after long contemplation of earth, when my lips make no reply to your words or your devotion, do not ask me again, "Of what are you thinking?"

Dear Natalie, I ceased to write some days ago; these memories were too bitter for me. Still, I owe you an account of the events which followed this catastrophe; they need few words. When a life is made up of action and movement it is soon told, but when it passes in the higher regions of the soul its story becomes diffuse. Henriette's letter put the star of hope before my eyes. In this great shipwreck I saw an isle on which I might be rescued. To live at Clochegourde with Madeleine, consecrating my life to hers, was a fate which satisfied the ideas of which my heart was full. But it was necessary to know the truth as to her real feelings. As I was bound to bid the count farewell, I went to Clochegourde to see him, and met him on the terrace. We walked up and down for some time. At first he spoke of the countess like a man who knew the extent of his loss, and all the injury it was doing to his inner self. But after the first outbreak of his grief was over he seemed more concerned about the future than the present. He feared his daughter, who, he told me, had not her mother's gentleness. Madeleine's firm character, in which there was something heroic blending with her mother's gracious nature, alarmed the old man, used to Henriette's tenderness, and he now foresaw the power of a will that never yielded. His only consolation for his irreparable loss, he said, was the certainty of soon rejoining his wife; the agitations, the griefs of these last few weeks had increased his illness and brought back all his former pains; the struggle which he foresaw between his authority as a father and that of his daughter, now mistress of the house, would end his days in bitterness; for though he should have struggled against his wife, he should, he knew, be forced to give way before his child. Besides, his son was soon to leave him; his daughter would marry, and what sort of son-in-law was he likely to have? Though he thus talked of dying, his real distress was in feeling himself alone for many years to come without sympathy. During this hour when he spoke only of himself, and asked for my friendship in his wife's name, he completed a picture in my mind of the remarkable figure of the Emigre,--one of the most imposing types of our period.

In appearance he was frail and broken, but life seemed persistent in him because of his sober habits and his country avocations. He is still living.  Though Madeleine could see me on the terrace, she did not come down. Several times she came out upon the portico and went back in again, as if to signify her contempt. I seized a moment when she appeared to beg the count to go to the house and call her, saying I had a last wish of her mother to convey to her, and this would be my only opportunity of doing so. The count brought her, and left us alone together on the terrace.  "Dear Madeleine," I said, "if I am to speak to you, surely it should be here where your mother listened to me when she felt she had less reason to complain of me than of the circumstances of life. I know your thoughts; but are you not condemning me without a knowledge of the facts? My life and happiness are bound up in this place; you know that, and yet you seek to banish me by the coldness you show, in place of the brotherly affection which has always united us, and which death should have strengthened by the bonds of a common grief. Dear Madeleine, you for whom I would gladly give my life without hope of recompense, without your even knowing it,--so deeply do we love the children of those who have succored us,--you are not aware of the project your adorable mother cherished during the last seven years. If you knew it your feelings would doubtless soften towards me; but I do not wish to take advantage of you now. All that I ask is that you do not deprive me of the right to come here, to breathe the air on this terrace, and to wait until time has changed your ideas of social life. At this moment I desire not to ruffle them; I respect a grief which misleads you, for it takes even from me the power of judging soberly the circumstances in which I find myself. The saint who now looks down upon us will approve the reticence with which I simply ask that you stand neutral between your present feelings and my wishes. I love you too well, in spite of the aversion you are showing me, to say one word to the count of a proposal he would welcome eagerly. Be free. Later, remember that you know no one in the world as you know me, that no man will ever have more devoted feelings--"

Up to this moment Madeleine had listened with lowered eyes; now she stopped me by a gesture.

"Monsieur," she said, in a voice trembling with emotion. "I know all your thoughts; but I shall not change my feelings towards you. I would rather fling myself into the Indre than ally myself to you. I will not speak to you of myself, but if my mother's name still possesses any power over you, in her name I beg you never to return to Clochegourde so long as I am in it. The mere sight of you causes me a repugnance I cannot express, but which I shall never overcome."

She bowed to me with dignity, and returned to the house without looking back, impassible as her mother had been for one day only, but more pitiless. The searching eye of that young girl had discovered, though tardily, the secrets of her mother's heart, and her hatred to the man whom she fancied fatal to her mother's life may have been increased by a sense of her innocent complicity.

All before me was now chaos. Madeleine hated me, without considering whether I was the cause or the victim of these misfortunes. She might have hated us equally, her mother and me, had we been happy. Thus it was that the edifice of my happiness fell in ruins. I alone knew the life of that unknown, noble woman. I alone had entered every region of her soul; neither mother, father, husband, nor children had ever known her.--Strange truth! I stir this heap of ashes and take pleasure in spreading them before you; all hearts may find something in them of their closest experience. How many families have had their Henriette! How many noble feelings have left this earth with no historian to fathom their hearts, to measure the depth and breadth of their spirits. Such is human life in all its truth! Often mothers know their children as little as their children know them. So it is with husbands, lovers, brothers. Did I imagine that one day, beside my father's coffin, I should contend with my brother Charles, for whose advancement I had done so much? Good God! how many lessons in the simplest history.

When Madeleine disappeared into the house, I went away with a broken heart. Bidding farewell to my host at Sache, I started for Paris, following the right bank of the Indre, the one I had taken when I entered the valley for the first time. Sadly I drove through the pretty village of Pont-de-Ruan. Yet I was rich, political life courted me; I was not the weary plodder of 1814. Then my heart was full of eager desires, now my eyes were full of tears; once my life was all before me to fill as I could, now I knew it to be a desert. I was still young,--only twenty-nine,--but my heart was withered. A few years had sufficed to despoil that landscape of its early glory, and to disgust me with life. You can imagine my feelings when, on turning round, I saw Madeleine on the terrace.

A prey to imperious sadness, I gave no thought to the end of my journey. Lady Dudley was far, indeed, from my mind, and I entered the zcourtyard of her house without reflection. The folly once committed, I was forced to carry it out. My habits were conjugal in her house, and I went upstairs thinking of the annoyances of a rupture. If you have fully understood the character and manners of Lady Dudley, you can imagine my discomfiture when her majordomo ushered me, still in my travelling dress, into a salon where I found her sumptuously dressed and surrounded by four persons. Lord Dudley, one of the most distinguished old statesmen of England, was standing with his back to the fireplace, stiff, haughty, frigid, with the sarcastic air he doubtless wore in parliament; he smiled when he heard my name.

Arabella's two children, who were amazingly like de Marsay (a natural son of the old lord), were near their mother; de Marsay himself was on the sofa beside her. As soon as Arabella saw me she assumed a distant air, and glanced at my travelling cap as if to ask what brought me there. She looked me over from head to foot, as though I were some country gentlemen just presented to her. As for our intimacy, that eternal passion, those vows of suicide if I ceased to love her, those visions of Armida, all had vanished like a dream. I had never clasped her hand; I was a stranger; she knew me not. In spite of the diplomatic self-possession to which I was gradually being trained, I was confounded; and all others in my place would have felt the same. De Marsay smiled at his boots, which he examined with remarkable interest. I decided at once upon my course. From any other woman I should modestly have accepted my defeat; but, outraged at the glowing appearance of the heroine who had vowed to die for love, and who had scoffed at the woman who was really dead, I resolved to meet insolence with insolence. She knew very well the misfortunes of Lady Brandon; to remind her of them was to send a dagger to her heart, though the weapon might be blunted by the blow.

"Madame," I said, "I am sure you will pardon my unceremonious entrance, when I tell you that I have just arrived from Touraine, and that Lady Brandon has given me a message for you which allows of no delay. I feared you had already started for Lancashire, but as you are still in Paris I will await your orders at any hour you may be pleased to appoint."

She bowed, and I left the room. Since that day I have only met her in society, where we exchange a friendly bow, and occasionally a sarcasm. I talk to her of the inconsolable women of Lancashire; she makes allusion to Frenchwomen who dignify their gastric troubles by calling them despair. Thanks to her, I have a mortal enemy in de Marsay, of whom she

is very fond. In return, I call her the wife of two generations.

So my disaster was complete; it lacked nothing. I followed the plan I had laid out for myself during my retreat at Sache; I plunged into work and gave myself wholly to science, literature, and politics. I entered the diplomatic service on the accession of Charles X., who suppressed the employment I held under the late king. From that moment I was firmly resolved to pay no further attention to any woman, no matter how beautiful, witty, or loving she might be. This determination succeeded admirably; I obtained a really marvellous tranquillity of mind, and great powers of work, and I came to understand how much these women waste our lives, believing, all the while, that a few gracious words will repay us.

But--all my resolutions came to naught; you know how and why. Dear Natalie, in telling you my life, without reserve, without concealment, precisely as I tell it to myself, in relating to you feelings in which you have had no share, perhaps I have wounded some corner of your sensitive and jealous heart. But that which might anger a common woman will be to you--I feel sure of it--an additional reason for loving me. Noble women have indeed a sublime mission to fulfil to suffering and sickened hearts,--the mission of the sister of charity who stanches the wound, of the mother who forgives a child. Artists and poets are not the only ones who suffer; men who work for their country, for the future destiny of the nations, enlarging thus the circle of their passions and their thoughts,

often make for themselves a cruel solitude. They need a pure, devoted love beside them,--believe me, they understand its grandeur and its worth.

To-morrow I shall know if I have deceived myself in loving you. Felix.

ANSWER TO THE ENVOI

Madame la Comtesse Natalie de Manerville to Monsieur le Comte Felix de Vandenesse.

Dear Count,--You received a letter from poor Madame de Mortsauf,  which, you say, was of use in guiding you through the world,--a letter to which you owe your distinguished career. Permit me to finish your education.

Give up, I beg of you, a really dreadful habit; do not imitate certain widows who talk of their first husband and throw the virtues of the deceased in the face of their second. I am a  Frenchwoman, dear count; I wish to marry the whole of the man I love, and I really cannot marry Madame de Mortsauf too. Having read your tale with all the attention it deserves,--and you know  the interest I feel in you,--it seems to me that you must have  wearied Lady Dudley with the perfections of Madame de Mortsauf,  and done great harm to the countess by overwhelming her with the  experiences of your English love. Also you have failed in tact to me, poor creature without other merit than that of pleasing you;  you have given me to understand that I

cannot love as Henriette or Arabella loved you. I acknowledge my imperfections; I know them; but why so roughly make me feel them?

Shall I tell you whom I pity?--the fourth woman whom you love. She  will be forced to struggle against three others. Therefore, in your interests as well as in hers, I must warn you against the dangers of your tale. For myself, I renounce the laborious glory of loving you,--it needs too many virtues, Catholic or Anglican,  and I have no fancy for rivalling phantoms. The virtues of the  virgin of Clochegourde would dishearten any woman, however sure of  herself she might be, and your intrepid English amazon discourages  even a wish for that sort of happiness. No matter what a poor  woman may do, she can never hope to give you the joys she will  aspire to give. Neither heart nor senses can triumph against these  memories of yours. I own that I have never been able to warm the  sunshine chilled for you by the death of your sainted Henriette. I have felt you shuddering beside me.

My friend,--for you will always be my friend,--never make such confidences again; they lay bare your disillusions; they  discourage love, and compel a woman to feel doubtful of herself.  Love, dear count, can only live on trustfulness. The woman who  before she says a word or mounts her horse, must ask herself whether a celestial Henriette might not have spoken better, whether a rider like Arabella was not more graceful, that woman you may be very sure, will tremble

in all her members. You  certainly have given me a desire to receive a few of those intoxicating bouquets--but you say you will make no more. There are many other things you dare no longer do; thoughts and  enjoyments you can never reawaken. No woman, and you ought to know this, will be willing to elbow in your heart the phantom whom you  hold there.

You ask me to love you out of Christian charity. I could do much, I candidly admit, for charity; in fact I could do all--except love. You are sometimes wearisome and wearied; you call your dulness melancholy. Very good,--so be it; but all the same it is  intolerable, and causes much cruel anxiety to one who loves you. I have often found the grave of that saint between us. I have searched my own heart, I know myself, and I own I do not wish to  die as she did. If you tired out Lady Dudley, who is a very  distinguished woman, I, who have not her passionate desires,  should, I fear, turn coldly against you even sooner than she did. Come, let us suppress love between us, inasmuch as you can find  happiness only with the dead, and let us be merely friends--I wish  it.

Ah! my dear count, what a history you have told me! At your entrance into life you found an adorable woman, a perfect  mistress, who thought of your future, made you a peer, loved you  to distraction, only asked that you would be faithful to her, and you killed her! I

know nothing more monstrous. Among all the  passionate and unfortunate young men who haunt the streets of  Paris, I doubt if there is one who would not stay virtuous ten  years to obtain one half of the favors you did not know how to  value! When a man is loved like that how can he ask more? Poor woman! she suffered indeed; and after you have written a few sentimental phrases you think you have balanced your account with  her coffin. Such, no doubt, is the end that awaits my tenderness for you. Thank you, dear count, I will have no rival on either  side of the grave. When a man has such a crime upon his conscience, at least he ought not to tell of it. I made you an  imprudent request; but I was true to my woman's part as a daughter of Eve,--it was your part to estimate the effect of the answer.  You ought to have deceived me; later I should have thanked you. Is  it possible that you have never understood the special virtue of lovers? Can you not feel how generous they are in swearing that they have never loved before, and love at last for the first time? No, your programme cannot be carried out. To attempt to be both Madame de Mortsauf and Lady Dudley,--why, my dear friend, it would  be trying to unite fire and water within me! Is it possible that you don't know women? Believe me, they are what they are, and they have therefore the defects of their virtues. You met Lady Dudley  too early in life to appreciate her, and the harm you say of her seems to me the revenge of your wounded

vanity. You understood  Madame de Mortsauf too late; you punished one for not being the  other,--what would happen to me if I were neither the one nor the  other? I love you enough to have thought deeply about your future; in fact, I really care for you a great deal. Your air of the Knight of the Sad Countenance has always deeply interested me; I  believed in the constancy of melancholy men; but I little thought that you had killed the loveliest and the most virtuous of women  at the opening of your life.

Well, I ask myself, what remains for you to do? I have thought it over carefully. I think, my friend, that you will have to marry a  Mrs. Shandy, who will know nothing of love or of passion, and will not trouble herself about Madame de Mortsauf or Lady Dudley; who will be wholly indifferent to those moments of ennui which you call melancholy, during which you are as lively as a rainy day,--a wife who will be to you, in short, the excellent sister of charity  whom you are seeking. But as for loving, quivering at a word, anticipating happiness, giving it, receiving it, experiencing all  the tempests of passion, cherishing the little weaknesses of a beloved woman--my dear count, renounce it all! You have followed  the advice of your good angel about young women too closely; you have avoided them so carefully that now you know nothing about them. Madame de Mortsauf was right to place you high in life at the start; otherwise all women would

have been against you, and you never would have risen in society.

It is too late now to begin your training over again; too late to learn to tell us what we long to hear; to be superior to us at the right moment, or to worship our pettiness when it pleases us to be petty. We are not so silly as you think us. When we love we place  the man of our choice above all else. Whatever shakes our faith in our supremacy shakes our love. In flattering us men flatter themselves. If you intend to remain in society, to enjoy an intercourse with women, you must carefully conceal from them all  that you have told me; they will not be willing to sow the flowers of their love upon the rocks or lavish their caresses to soothe a  sickened spirit. Women will discover the barrenness of your heart  and you will be ever more and more unhappy. Few among them would be frank enough to tell you what I have told you, or sufficiently good-natured to leave you without rancor, offering their  friendship, like the woman who now subscribes herself

Your devoted friend,

Natalie de Manerville . ADDENDUM

The following personages appear in other stories of the Human Comedy. Birotteau, Abbe Francois

Cesar Birotteau

The Vicar of Tours

Blamont-Chauvry, Princesse de

The Thirteen

Madame Firmiani Brandon, Lady Marie Augusta

The Member for Arcis

La Grenadiere Chessel, Madame de

The Government Clerks Dudley, Lord

The Thirteen

A Man of Business

Another Study of Woman

A Daughter of Eve Dudley, Lady Arabella

The Ball at Sceaux

The Magic Skin

The Secrets of a Princess

A Daughter of Eve

Letters of Two Brides Givry

Letters of Two Brides

Scenes from a Courtesan's Life Lenoncourt, Duc de

  Cesar Birotteau

Jealousies of a Country Town

The Gondreville Mystery

Beatrix Lenoncourt-Givry, Duchesse de

Letters of Two Brides

Scenes from a Courtesan's Life Listomere, Marquis de

A Distinguished Provincial at Paris

A Study of Woman Listomere, Marquise de

Lost Illusions

A Distinguished Provincial at Paris

A Study of Woman

A Daughter of Eve Louis XVIII., Louis-Stanislas-Xavier

The Chouans

The Seamy Side of History

The Gondreville Mystery

Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

The Ball at Sceaux

Colonel Chabert

  The Government Clerks Manerville, Comtesse Paul de

A Marriage Settlement

A Daughter of Eve Marsay, Henri de

The Thirteen

The Unconscious Humorists

Another Study of Woman

Father Goriot

Jealousies of a Country Town

Ursule Mirouet

A Marriage Settlement

Lost Illusions

A Distinguished Provincial at Paris

Letters of Two Brides

The Ball at Sceaux

Modeste Mignon

The Secrets of a Princess

The Gondreville Mystery

A Daughter of Eve Stanhope, Lady Esther

Lost Illusions

Vandenesse, Comte Felix de

Lost Illusions

A Distinguished Provincial at Paris

Cesar Birotteau

Letters of Two Brides

A Start in Life

The Marriage Settlement

The Secrets of a Princess

Another Study of Woman

The Gondreville Mystery

A Daughter of Eve End


发表于 2020-7-21 17:58:37 | 显示全部楼层
好资料,一定要分享的。
发表于 2020-6-6 10:35:41 | 显示全部楼层
好啊楼主,没想到啊,太好了
发表于 2020-6-6 18:32:56 | 显示全部楼层
想污染一个地方有两种方法:垃圾,或是钞票!

感谢党和人民的关爱~~~
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