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Title: Letters of Two Brides
Author: Balzac, Honoré de, 1799-1850
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                       LETTERS OF TWO BRIDES

                                 BY

                          HONORE DE BALZAC


                           Translated by
                            R. S. Scott



                             DEDICATION

  To George Sand

  Your name, dear George, while casting a reflected radiance on my
  book, can gain no new glory from this page. And yet it is neither
  self-interest nor diffidence which has led me to place it there,
  but only the wish that it should bear witness to the solid
  friendship between us, which has survived our wanderings and
  separations, and triumphed over the busy malice of the world. This
  feeling is hardly likely now to change. The goodly company of
  friendly names, which will remain attached to my works, forms an
  element of pleasure in the midst of the vexation caused by their
  increasing number. Each fresh book, in fact, gives rise to fresh
  annoyance, were it only in the reproaches aimed at my too prolific
  pen, as though it could rival in fertility the world from which I
  draw my models! Would it not be a fine thing, George, if the
  future antiquarian of dead literatures were to find in this
  company none but great names and generous hearts, friends bound by
  pure and holy ties, the illustrious figures of the century? May I
  not justly pride myself on this assured possession, rather than on
  a popularity necessarily unstable? For him who knows you well, it
  is happiness to be able to sign himself, as I do here,

                                                    Your friend,
                                                         DE BALZAC.

PARIS, June 1840.



                        LETTERS OF TWO BRIDES



                             FIRST PART



                                 I

LOUISE DE CHAULIEU TO RENEE DE MAUCOMBE.
PARIS, September.

Sweetheart, I too am free! And I am the first too, unless you have
written to Blois, at our sweet tryst of letter-writing.

Raise those great black eyes of yours, fixed on my opening sentence,
and keep this excitement for the letter which shall tell you of my
first love. By the way, why always "first?" Is there, I wonder, a
second love?

Don't go running on like this, you will say, but tell me rather how
you made your escape from the convent where you were to take your
vows. Well, dear, I don't know about the Carmelites, but the miracle
of my own deliverance was, I can assure you, most humdrum. The cries
of an alarmed conscience triumphed over the dictates of a stern policy
--there's the whole mystery. The sombre melancholy which seized me
after you left hastened the happy climax, my aunt did not want to see
me die of a decline, and my mother, whose one unfailing cure for my
malady was a novitiate, gave way before her.

So I am in Paris, thanks to you, my love! Dear Renee, could you have
seen me the day I found myself parted from you, well might you have
gloried in the deep impression you had made on so youthful a bosom. We
had lived so constantly together, sharing our dreams and letting our
fancy roam together, that I verily believe our souls had become welded
together, like those two Hungarian girls, whose death we heard about
from M. Beauvisage--poor misnamed being! Never surely was man better
cut out by nature for the post of convent physician!

Tell me, did you not droop and sicken with your darling?

In my gloomy depression, I could do nothing but count over the ties
which bind us. But it seemed as though distance had loosened them; I
wearied of life, like a turtle-dove widowed of her mate. Death smiled
sweetly on me, and I was proceeding quietly to die. To be at Blois, at
the Carmelites, consumed by dread of having to take my vows there, a
Mlle. de la Valliere, but without her prelude, and without my Renee!
How could I not be sick--sick unto death?

How different it used to be! That monotonous existence, where every
hour brings its duty, its prayer, its task, with such desperate
regularity that you can tell what a Carmelite sister is doing in any
place, at any hour of the night or day; that deadly dull routine,
which crushes out all interest in one's surroundings, had become for
us two a world of life and movement. Imagination had thrown open her
fairy realms, and in these our spirits ranged at will, each in turn
serving as magic steed to the other, the more alert quickening the
drowsy; the world from which our bodies were shut out became the
playground of our fancy, which reveled there in frolicsome adventure.
The very _Lives of the Saints_ helped us to understand what was so
carefully left unsaid! But the day when I was reft of your sweet
company, I became a true Carmelite, such as they appeared to us, a
modern Danaid, who, instead of trying to fill a bottomless barrel,
draws every day, from Heaven knows what deep, an empty pitcher,
thinking to find it full.

My aunt knew nothing of this inner life. How could she, who has made a
paradise for herself within the two acres of her convent, understand
my revolt against life? A religious life, if embraced by girls of our
age, demands either an extreme simplicity of soul, such as we,
sweetheart, do not possess, or else an ardor for self-sacrifice like
that which makes my aunt so noble a character. But she sacrificed
herself for a brother to whom she was devoted; to do the same for an
unknown person or an idea is surely more than can be asked of mortals.

For the last fortnight I have been gulping down so many reckless
words, burying so many reflections in my bosom, and accumulating such
a store of things to tell, fit for your ear alone, that I should
certainly have been suffocated but for the resource of letter-writing
as a sorry substitute for our beloved talks. How hungry one's heart
gets! I am beginning my journal this morning, and I picture to myself
that yours is already started, and that, in a few days, I shall be at
home in your beautiful Gemenos valley, which I know only through your
descriptions, just as you will live that Paris life, revealed to you
hitherto only in our dreams.

Well, then, sweet child, know that on a certain morning--a red-letter
day in my life--there arrived from Paris a lady companion and
Philippe, the last remaining of my grandmother's valets, charged to
carry me off. When my aunt summoned me to her room and told me the
news, I could not speak for joy, and only gazed at her stupidly.

"My child," she said, in her guttural voice, "I can see that you leave
me without regret, but this farewell is not the last; we shall meet
again. God has placed on your forehead the sign of the elect. You have
the pride which leads to heaven or to hell, but your nature is too
noble to choose the downward path. I know you better than you know
yourself; with you, passion, I can see, will be very different from
what it is with most women."

She drew me gently to her and kissed my forehead. The kiss made my
flesh creep, for it burned with that consuming fire which eats away
her life, which has turned to black the azure of her eyes, and
softened the lines about them, has furrowed the warm ivory of her
temples, and cast a sallow tinge over the beautiful face.

Before replying, I kissed her hands.

"Dear aunt," I said, "I shall never forget your kindness; and if it
has not made your nunnery all that it ought to be for my health of
body and soul, you may be sure nothing short of a broken heart will
bring me back again--and that you would not wish for me. You will not
see me here again till my royal lover has deserted me, and I warn you
that if I catch him, death alone shall tear him from me. I fear no
Montespan."

She smiled and said:

"Go, madcap, and take your idle fancies with you. There is certainly
more of the bold Montespan in you than of the gentle la Valliere."

I threw my arms round her. The poor lady could not refrain from
escorting me to the carriage. There her tender gaze was divided
between me and the armorial bearings.

At Beaugency night overtook me, still sunk in a stupor of the mind
produced by these strange parting words. What can be awaiting me in
this world for which I have so hungered?

To begin with, I found no one to receive me; my heart had been
schooled in vain. My mother was at the Bois de Boulogne, my father at
the Council; my brother, the Duc de Rhetore, never comes in, I am
told, till it is time to dress for dinner. Miss Griffith (she is not
unlike a griffin) and Philippe took me to my rooms.

The suite is the one which belonged to my beloved grandmother, the
Princess de Vauremont, to whom I owe some sort of a fortune which no
one has ever told me about. As you read this, you will understand the
sadness which came over me as I entered a place sacred to so many
memories, and found the rooms just as she had left them! I was to
sleep in the bed where she died.

Sitting down on the edge of the sofa, I burst into tears, forgetting I
was not alone, and remembering only how often I had stood there by her
knees, the better to hear her words. There I had gazed upon her face,
buried in its brown laces, and worn as much by age as by the pangs of
approaching death. The room seemed to me still warm with the heat
which she kept up there. How comes it that Armande-Louise-Marie de
Chaulieu must be like some peasant girl, who sleeps in her mother's
bed the very morrow of her death? For to me it was as though the
Princess, who died in 1817, had passed away but yesterday.

I saw many things in the room which ought to have been removed. Their
presence showed the carelessness with which people, busy with the
affairs of state, may treat their own, and also the little thought
which had been given since her death to this grand old lady, who will
always remain one of the striking figures of the eighteenth century.
Philippe seemed to divine something of the cause of my tears. He told
me that the furniture of the Princess had been left to me in her will
and that my father had allowed all the larger suites to remain
dismantled, as the Revolution had left them. On hearing this I rose,
and Philippe opened the door of the small drawing-room which leads
into the reception-rooms.

In these I found all the well-remembered wreckage; the panels above
the doors, which had contained valuable pictures, bare of all but
empty frames; broken marbles, mirrors carried off. In old days I was
afraid to go up the state staircase and cross these vast, deserted
rooms; so I used to get to the Princess' rooms by a small staircase
which runs under the arch of the larger one and leads to the secret
door of her dressing-room.

My suite, consisting of a drawing-room, bedroom, and the pretty
morning-room in scarlet and gold, of which I have told you, lies in
the wing on the side of the Invalides. The house is only separated
from the boulevard by a wall, covered with creepers, and by a splendid
avenue of trees, which mingle their foliage with that of the young
elms on the sidewalk of the boulevard. But for the blue-and-gold dome
of the Invalides and its gray stone mass, you might be in a wood.

The style of decoration in these rooms, together with their situation,
indicates that they were the old show suite of the duchesses, while
the dukes must have had theirs in the wing opposite. The two suites
are decorously separated by the two main blocks, as well as by the
central one, which contained those vast, gloomy, resounding halls
shown me by Philippe, all despoiled of their splendor, as in the days
of my childhood.

Philippe grew quite confidential when he saw the surprise depicted on
my countenance. For you must know that in this home of diplomacy the
very servants have a reserved and mysterious air. He went on to tell
me that it was expected a law would soon be passed restoring to the
fugitives of the Revolution the value of their property, and that my
father is waiting to do up his house till this restitution is made,
the king's architect having estimated the damage at three hundred
thousand livres.

This piece of news flung me back despairing on my drawing-room sofa.
Could it be that my father, instead of spending this money in
arranging a marriage for me, would have left me to die in the convent?
This was the first thought to greet me on the threshold of my home.

Ah! Renee, what would I have given then to rest my head upon your
shoulder, or to transport myself to the days when my grandmother made
the life of these rooms? You two in all the world have been alone in
loving me--you away at Maucombe, and she who survives only in my
heart, the dear old lady, whose still youthful eyes used to open from
sleep at my call. How well we understood each other!

These memories suddenly changed my mood. What at first had seemed
profanation, now breathed of holy association. It was sweet to inhale
the faint odor of the powder she loved still lingering in the room;
sweet to sleep beneath the shelter of those yellow damask curtains
with their white pattern, which must have retained something of the
spirit emanating from her eyes and breath. I told Philippe to rub up
the old furniture and make the rooms look as if they were lived in; I
explained to him myself how I wanted everything arranged, and where to
put each piece of furniture. In this way I entered into possession,
and showed how an air of youth might be given to the dear old things.

The bedroom is white in color, a little dulled with time, just as the
gilding of the fanciful arabesques shows here and there a patch of
red; but this effect harmonizes well with the faded colors of the
Savonnerie tapestry, which was presented to my grandmother by Louis
XV. along with his portrait. The timepiece was a gift from the
Marechal de Saxe, and the china ornaments on the mantelpiece came from
the Marechal de Richelieu. My grandmother's portrait, painted at the
age of twenty-five, hangs in an oval frame opposite that of the King.
The Prince, her husband, is conspicuous by his absence. I like this
frank negligence, untinged by hypocrisy--a characteristic touch which
sums up her charming personality. Once when my grandmother was
seriously ill, her confessor was urgent that the Prince, who was
waiting in the drawing-room, should be admitted.

"He can come in with the doctor and his drugs," was the reply.

The bed has a canopy and well-stuffed back, and the curtains are
looped up with fine wide bands. The furniture is of gilded wood,
upholstered in the same yellow damask with white flowers which drapes
the windows, and which is lined there with a white silk that looks as
though it were watered. The panels over the doors have been painted,
by what artist I can't say, but they represent one a sunrise, the
other a moonlight scene.

The fireplace is a very interesting feature in the room. It is easy to
see that life in the last century centered largely round the hearth,
where great events were enacted. The copper gilt grate is a marvel of
workmanship, and the mantelpiece is most delicately finished; the
fire-irons are beautifully chased; the bellows are a perfect gem. The
tapestry of the screen comes from the Gobelins and is exquisitely
mounted; charming fantastic figures run all over the frame, on the
feet, the supporting bar, and the wings; the whole thing is wrought
like a fan.

Dearly should I like to know who was the giver of this dainty work of
art, which was such a favorite with her. How often have I seen the old
lady, her feet upon the bar, reclining in the easy-chair, with her
dress half raised in front, toying with the snuff-box, which lay upon
the ledge between her box of pastilles and her silk mits. What a
coquette she was! to the day of her death she took as much pains with
her appearance as though the beautiful portrait had been painted only
yesterday, and she were waiting to receive the throng of exquisites
from the Court! How the armchair recalls to me the inimitable sweep of
her skirts as she sank back in it!

These women of a past generation have carried off with them secrets
which are very typical of their age. The Princess had a certain turn
of the head, a way of dropping her glance and her remarks, a choice of
words, which I look for in vain, even in my mother. There was subtlety
in it all, and there was good-nature; the points were made without any
affectation. Her talk was at once lengthy and concise; she told a good
story, and could put her meaning in three words. Above all, she was
extremely free-thinking, and this has undoubtedly had its effect on my
way of looking at things.

From seven years old till I was ten, I never left her side; it pleased
her to attract me as much as it pleased me to go. This preference was
the cause of more than one passage at arms between her and my mother,
and nothing intensifies feeling like the icy breath of persecution.
How charming was her greeting, "Here you are, little rogue!" when
curiosity had taught me how to glide with stealthy snake-like
movements to her room. She felt that I loved her, and this childish
affection was welcome as a ray of sunshine in the winter of her life.

I don't know what went on in her rooms at night, but she had many
visitors; and when I came on tiptoe in the morning to see if she were
awake, I would find the drawing-room furniture disarranged, the
card-tables set out, and patches of snuff scattered about.

This drawing-room is furnished in the same style as the bedroom. The
chairs and tables are oddly shaped, with claw feet and hollow
mouldings. Rich garlands of flowers, beautifully designed and carved,
wind over the mirrors and hang down in festoons. On the consoles are
fine china vases. The ground colors are scarlet and white. My
grandmother was a high-spirited, striking brunette, as might be
inferred from her choice of colors. I have found in the drawing-room a
writing-table I remember well; the figures on it used to fascinate me;
it is plaited in graven silver, and was a present from one of the
Genoese Lomellini. Each side of the table represents the occupations
of a different season; there are hundreds of figures in each picture,
and all in relief.

I remained alone for two hours, while old memories rose before me, one
after another, on this spot, hallowed by the death of a woman most
remarkable even among the witty and beautiful Court ladies of Louis
XV.'s day.

You know how abruptly I was parted from her, at a day's notice, in
1816.

"Go and bid good-bye to your grandmother," said my mother.

The Princess received me as usual, without any display of feeling, and
expressed no surprise at my departure.

"You are going to the convent, dear," she said, "and will see your
aunt there, who is an excellent woman. I shall take care, though, that
they don't make a victim of you; you shall be independent, and able to
marry whom you please."

Six months later she died. Her will had been given into the keeping of
the Prince de Talleyrand, the most devoted of all her old friends. He
contrived, while paying a visit to Mlle. de Chargeboeuf, to intimate
to me, through her, that my grandmother forbade me to take the vows. I
hope, sooner or later, to meet the Prince, and then I shall doubtless
learn more from him.

Thus, sweetheart, if I have found no one in flesh and blood to meet
me, I have comforted myself with the shade of the dear Princess, and
have prepared myself for carrying out one of our pledges, which was,
as you know, to keep each other informed of the smallest details in
our homes and occupations. It makes such a difference to know where
and how the life of one we love is passed. Send me a faithful picture
of the veriest trifles around you, omitting nothing, not even the
sunset lights among the tall trees.

October 19th.

It was three in the afternoon when I arrived. About half-past five,
Rose came and told me that my mother had returned, so I went
downstairs to pay my respects to her.

My mother lives in a suite on the ground floor, exactly corresponding
to mine, and in the same block. I am just over her head, and the same
secret staircase serves for both. My father's rooms are in the block
opposite, but are larger by the whole of the space occupied by the
grand staircase on our side of the building. These ancestral mansions
are so spacious, that my father and mother continue to occupy the
ground-floor rooms, in spite of the social duties which have once more
devolved on them with the return of the Bourbons, and are even able to
receive in them.

I found my mother, dressed for the evening, in her drawing-room, where
nothing is changed. I came slowly down the stairs, speculating with
every step how I should be met by this mother who had shown herself so
little of a mother to me, and from whom, during eight years, I had
heard nothing beyond the two letters of which you know. Judging it
unworthy to simulate an affection I could not possibly feel, I put on
the air of a pious imbecile, and entered the room with many inward
qualms, which however soon disappeared. My mother's tack was equal to
the occasion. She made no pretence of emotion; she neither held me at
arm's-length nor hugged me to her bosom like a beloved daughter, but
greeted me as though we had parted the evening before. Her manner was
that of the kindliest and most sincere friend, as she addressed me
like a grown person, first kissing me on the forehead.

"My dear little one," she said, "if you were to die at the convent, it
is much better to live with your family. You frustrate your father's
plans and mine; but the age of blind obedience to parents is past. M.
de Chaulieu's intention, and in this I am quite at one with him, is to
lose no opportunity of making your life pleasant and of letting you
see the world. At your age I should have thought as you do, therefore
I am not vexed with you; it is impossible you should understand what
we expected from you. You will not find any absurd severity in me; and
if you have ever thought me heartless, you will soon find out your
mistake. Still, though I wish you to feel perfectly free, I think
that, to begin with, you would do well to follow the counsels of a
mother, who wishes to be a sister to you."

I was quite charmed by the Duchess, who talked in a gentle voice,
straightening my convent tippet as she spoke. At the age of
thirty-eight she is still exquisitely beautiful. She has dark-blue eyes,
with silken lashes, a smooth forehead, and a complexion so pink and
white that you might think she paints. Her bust and shoulders are
marvelous, and her waist is as slender as yours. Her hand is milk-white
and extraordinarily beautiful; the nails catch the light in their
perfect polish, the thumb is like ivory, the little finger stands just
a little apart from the rest, and the foot matches the hand; it is the
Spanish foot of Mlle. de Vandenesse. If she is like this at forty, at
sixty she will still be a beautiful woman.

I replied, sweetheart, like a good little girl. I was as nice to her
as she to me, nay, nicer. Her beauty completely vanquished me; it
seemed only natural that such a woman should be absorbed in her regal
part. I told her this as simply as though I had been talking to you. I
daresay it was a surprise to her to hear words of affection from her
daughter's mouth, and the unfeigned homage of my admiration evidently
touched her deeply. Her manner changed and became even more engaging;
she dropped all formality as she said:

"I am much pleased with you, and I hope we shall remain good friends."

The words struck me as charmingly naive, but I did not let this
appear, for I saw at once that the prudent course was to allow her to
believe herself much deeper and cleverer than her daughter. So I only
stared vacantly and she was delighted. I kissed her hands repeatedly,
telling her how happy it made me to be so treated and to feel at my
ease with her. I even confided to her my previous tremors. She smiled,
put her arm round my neck, and drawing me towards her, kissed me on
the forehead most affectionately.

"Dear child," she said, "we have people coming to dinner to-day.
Perhaps you will agree with me that it is better for you not to make
your first appearance in society till you have been in the
dressmaker's hands; so, after you have seen your father and brother,
you can go upstairs again."

I assented most heartily. My mother's exquisite dress was the first
revelation to me of the world which our dreams had pictured; but I did
not feel the slightest desire to rival her.

My father now entered, and the Duchess presented me to him.

He became all at once most affectionate, and played the father's part
so well, that I could not but believe his heart to be in it. Taking my
two hands in his, and kissing them, with more of the lover than the
father in his manner, he said:

"So this is my rebel daughter!"

And he drew me towards him, with his arm passed tenderly round my
waist, while he kissed me on the cheeks and forehead.

"The pleasure with which we shall watch your success in society will
atone for the disappointment we felt at your change of vocation," he
said. Then, turning to my mother, "Do you know that she is going to
turn out very pretty, and you will be proud of her some day?--Here is
your brother, Rhetore.--Alphonse," he said to a fine young man who
came in, "here is your convent-bred sister, who threatens to send her
nun's frock to the deuce."

My brother came up in a leisurely way and took my hand, which he
pressed.

"Come, come, you may kiss her," said my father.

And he kissed me on both cheeks.

"I am delighted to see you," he said, "and I take your side against my
father."

I thanked him, but could not help thinking he might have come to Blois
when he was at Orleans visiting our Marquis brother in his quarters.

Fearing the arrival of strangers, I now withdrew. I tidied up my
rooms, and laid out on the scarlet velvet of my lovely table all the
materials necessary for writing to you, meditating all the while on my
new situation.

This, my fair sweetheart, is a true and veracious account of the
return of a girl of eighteen, after an absence of nine years, to the
bosom of one of the noblest families in the kingdom. I was tired by
the journey as well as by all the emotions I had been through, so I
went to bed in convent fashion, at eight o'clock after supper. They
have preserved even a little Saxe service which the dear Princess used
when she had a fancy for taking her meals alone.



                                 II

THE SAME TO THE SAME
November 25th.

Next day I found my rooms done out and dusted, and even flowers put in
the vases, by old Philippe. I began to feel at home. Only it didn't
occur to anybody that a Carmelite schoolgirl has an early appetite,
and Rose had no end of trouble in getting breakfast for me.

"Mlle. goes to bed at dinner-time," she said to me, "and gets up when
the Duke is just returning home."

I began to write. About one o'clock my father knocked at the door of
the small drawing-room and asked if he might come in. I opened the
door; he came in, and found me writing to you.

"My dear," he began, "you will have to get yourself clothes, and to
make these rooms comfortable. In this purse you will find twelve
thousand francs, which is the yearly income I purpose allowing you for
your expenses. You will make arrangements with your mother as to some
governess whom you may like, in case Miss Griffith doesn't please you,
for Mme. de Chaulieu will not have time to go out with you in the
mornings. A carriage and man-servant shall be at your disposal."

"Let me keep Philippe," I said.

"So be it," he replied. "But don't be uneasy; you have money enough of
your own to be no burden either to your mother or me."

"May I ask how much I have?"

"Certainly, my child," he said. "Your grandmother left you five
hundred thousand francs; this was the amount of her savings, for she
would not alienate a foot of land from the family. This sum has been
placed in Government stock, and, with the accumulated interest, now
brings in about forty thousand francs a year. With this I had purposed
making an independence for your second brother, and it is here that
you have upset my plans. Later, however, it is possible that you may
fall in with them. It shall rest with yourself, for I have confidence
in your good sense far more than I had expected.

"I do not need to tell you how a daughter of the Chaulieus ought to
behave. The pride so plainly written in your features is my best
guarantee. Safeguards, such as common folk surround their daughters
with, would be an insult in our family. A slander reflecting on your
name might cost the life of the man bold enough to utter it, or the
life of one of your brothers, if by chance the right should not
prevail. No more on this subject. Good-bye, little one."

He kissed me on the forehead and went out. I cannot understand the
relinquishment of this plan after nine years' persistence in it. My
father's frankness is what I like. There is no ambiguity about his
words. My money ought to belong to his Marquis son. Who, then, has had
bowels of mercy? My mother? My father? Or could it be my brother?

I remained sitting on my grandmother's sofa, staring at the purse
which my father had left on the mantelpiece, at once pleased and vexed
that I could not withdraw my mind from the money. It is true, further
speculation was useless. My doubts had been cleared up and there was
something fine in the way my pride was spared.

Philippe has spent the morning rushing about among the various shops
and workpeople who are to undertake the task of my metamorphosis. A
famous dressmaker, by name Victorine, has come, as well as a woman for
underclothing, and a shoemaker. I am as impatient as a child to know
what I shall be like when I emerge from the sack which constituted the
conventual uniform; but all these tradespeople take a long time; the
corset-maker requires a whole week if my figure is not to be spoilt.
You see, I have a figure, dear; this becomes serious. Janssen, the
Operatic shoemaker, solemnly assures me that I have my mother's foot.
The whole morning has gone in these weighty occupations. Even a
glovemaker has come to take the measure of my hand. The underclothing
woman has got my orders.

At the meal which I call dinner, and the others lunch, my mother told
me that we were going together to the milliner's to see some hats, so
that my taste should be formed, and I might be in a position to order
my own.

This burst of independence dazzles me. I am like a blind man who has
just recovered his sight. Now I begin to understand the vast interval
which separates a Carmelite sister from a girl in society. Of
ourselves we could never have conceived it.

During this lunch my father seemed absent-minded, and we left him to
his thoughts; he is deep in the King's confidence. I was entirely
forgotten; but, from what I have seen, I have no doubt he will
remember me when he has need of me. He is a very attractive man in
spite of his fifty years. His figure is youthful; he is well made,
fair, and extremely graceful in his movements. He has a diplomatic
face, at once dumb and expressive; his nose is long and slender, and
he has brown eyes.

What a handsome pair! Strange thoughts assail me as it becomes plain
to me that these two, so perfectly matched in birth, wealth, and
mental superiority, live entirely apart, and have nothing in common
but their name. The show of unity is only for the world.

The cream of the Court and diplomatic circles were here last night.
Very soon I am going to a ball given by the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse,
and I shall be presented to the society I am so eager to know. A
dancing-master is coming every morning to give me lessons, for I must
be able to dance in a month, or I can't go to the ball.

Before dinner, my mother came to talk about the governess with me. I
have decided to keep Miss Griffith, who was recommended by the English
ambassador. Miss Griffith is the daughter of a clergyman; her mother
was of good family, and she is perfectly well bred. She is thirty-six,
and will teach me English. The good soul is quite handsome enough to
have ambitions; she is Scotch--poor and proud--and will act as my
chaperon. She is to sleep in Rose's room. Rose will be under her
orders. I saw at a glance that my governess would be governed by me.
In the six days we have been together, she has made very sure that I
am the only person likely to take an interest in her; while, for my
part, I have ascertained that, for all her statuesque features, she
will prove accommodating. She seems to me a kindly soul, but cautious.
I have not been able to extract a word of what passed between her and
my mother.

Another trifling piece of news! My father has this morning refused the
appointment as Minister of State which was offered him. This accounts
for his preoccupied manner last night. He says he would prefer an
embassy to the worries of public debate. Spain in especial attracts
him.

This news was told me at lunch, the one moment of the day when my
father, mother, and brother see each other in an easy way. The
servants then only come when they are rung for. The rest of the day my
brother, as well as my father, spends out of the house. My mother has
her toilet to make; between two and four she is never visible; at four
o'clock she goes out for an hour's drive; when she is not dining out,
she receives from six to seven, and the evening is given to
entertainments of various kinds--theatres, balls, concerts, at homes.
In short, her life is so full, that I don't believe she ever has a
quarter of an hour to herself. She must spend a considerable time
dressing in the morning; for at lunch, which takes place between
eleven and twelve, she is exquisite. The meaning of the things that
are said about her is dawning on me. She begins the day with a bath
barely warmed, and a cup of cold coffee with cream; then she dresses.
She is never, except on some great emergency, called before nine
o'clock. In summer there are morning rides, and at two o'clock she
receives a young man whom I have never yet contrived to see.

Behold our family life! We meet at lunch and dinner, though often I am
alone with my mother at this latter meal, and I foresee that still
oftener I shall take it in my own rooms (following the example of my
grandmother) with only Miss Griffith for company, for my mother
frequently dines out. I have ceased to wonder at the indifference my
family have shown to me. In Paris, my dear, it is a miracle of virtue
to love the people who live with you, for you see little enough of
them; as for the absent--they do not exist!

Knowing as this may sound, I have not yet set foot in the streets, and
am deplorably ignorant. I must wait till I am less of the country
cousin and have brought my dress and deportment into keeping with the
society I am about to enter, the whirl of which amazes me even here,
where only distant murmurs reach my ear. So far I have not gone beyond
the garden; but the Italian opera opens in a few days, and my mother
has a box there. I am crazy with delight at the thought of hearing
Italian music and seeing French acting.

Already I begin to drop convent habits for those of society. I spend
the evening writing to you till the moment for going to bed arrives.
This has been postponed to ten o'clock, the hour at which my mother
goes out, if she is not at the theatre. There are twelve theatres in
Paris.

I am grossly ignorant and I read a lot, but quite indiscriminately,
one book leading to another. I find the names of fresh books on the
cover of the one I am reading; but as I have no one to direct me, I
light on some which are fearfully dull. What modern literature I have
read all turns upon love, the subject which used to bulk so largely in
our thoughts, because it seemed that our fate was determined by man
and for man. But how inferior are these authors to two little girls,
known as Sweetheart and Darling--otherwise Renee and Louise. Ah! my
love, what wretched plots, what ridiculous situations, and what
poverty of sentiment! Two books, however, have given me wonderful
pleasure--_Corinne_ and _Adolphe_. Apropos of this, I asked my father
one day whether it would be possible for me to see Mme. de Stael. My
father, mother, and Alphonse all burst out laughing, and Alphonse
said:

"Where in the world has she sprung from?"

To which my father replied:

"What fools we are! She springs from the Carmelites."

"My child, Mme. de Stael is dead," said my mother gently.

When I finished _Adolphe_, I asked Miss Griffith how a woman could be
betrayed.

"Why, of course, when she loves," was her reply.

Renee, tell me, do you think we could be betrayed by a man?

Miss Griffith has at last discerned that I am not an utter ignoramus,
that I have somewhere a hidden vein of knowledge, the knowledge we
learned from each other in our random arguments. She sees that it is
only superficial facts of which I am ignorant. The poor thing has
opened her heart to me. Her curt reply to my question, when I compare
it with all the sorrows I can imagine, makes me feel quite creepy.
Once more she urged me not to be dazzled by the glitter of society, to
be always on my guard, especially against what most attracted me. This
is the sum-total of her wisdom, and I can get nothing more out of her.
Her lectures, therefore, become a trifle monotonous, and she might be
compared in this respect to the bird which has only one cry.



                                III

THE SAME TO THE SAME
December.

My Darling,--Here I am ready to make my bow to the world. By way of
preparation I have been trying to commit all the follies I could think
of before sobering down for my entry. This morning, I have seen
myself, after many rehearsals, well and duly equipped--stays, shoes,
curls, dress, ornaments,--all in order. Following the example of
duelists before a meeting, I tried my arms in the privacy of my
chamber. I wanted to see how I would look, and had no difficulty in
discovering a certain air of victory and triumph, bound to carry all
before it. I mustered all my forces, in accordance with that splendid
maxim of antiquity, "Know thyself!" and boundless was my delight in
thus making my own acquaintance. Griffith was the sole spectator of
this doll's play, in which I was at once doll and child. You think you
know me? You are hugely mistaken.

Here is a portrait, then, Renee, of your sister, formerly disguised as
a Carmelite, now brought to life again as a frivolous society girl.
She is one of the greatest beauties in France--Provence, of course,
excepted. I don't see that I can give a more accurate summary of this
interesting topic.

True, I have my weak points; but were I a man, I should adore them.
They arise from what is most promising in me. When you have spent a
fortnight admiring the exquisite curves of your mother's arms, and
that mother the Duchesse de Chaulieu, it is impossible, my dear, not
to deplore your own angular elbows. Yet there is consolation in
observing the fineness of the wrist, and a certain grace of line in
those hollows, which will yet fill out and show plump, round, and well
modeled, under the satiny skin. The somewhat crude outline of the arms
is seen again in the shoulders. Strictly speaking, indeed, I have no
shoulders, but only two bony blades, standing out in harsh relief. My
figure also lacks pliancy; there is a stiffness about the side lines.

Poof! There's the worst out. But then the contours are bold and
delicate, the bright, pure flame of health bites into the vigorous
lines, a flood of life and of blue blood pulses under the transparent
skin, and the fairest daughter of Eve would seem a Negress beside me!
I have the foot of a gazelle! My joints are finely turned, my features
of a Greek correctness. It is true, madame, that the flesh tints do
not melt into each other; but, at least, they stand out clear and
bright. In short, I am a very pretty green fruit, with all the charm
of unripeness. I see a great likeness to the face in my aunt's old
missal, which rises out of a violet lily.

There is no silly weakness in the blue of my insolent eyes; the white
is pure mother-of-pearl, prettily marked with tiny veins, and the
thick, long lashes fall like a silken fringe. My forehead sparkles,
and the hair grows deliciously; it ripples into waves of pale gold,
growing browner towards the centre, whence escape little rebel locks,
which alone would tell that my fairness is not of the insipid and
hysterical type. I am a tropical blonde, with plenty of blood in my
veins, a blonde more apt to strike than to turn the cheek. What do you
think the hairdresser proposed? He wanted, if you please, to smooth my
hair into two bands, and place over my forehead a pearl, kept in place
by a gold chain! He said it would recall the Middle Ages.

I told him I was not aged enough to have reached the middle, or to
need an ornament to freshen me up!

The nose is slender, and the well-cut nostrils are separated by a
sweet little pink partition--an imperious, mocking nose, with a tip
too sensitive ever to grow fat or red. Sweetheart, if this won't find
a husband for a dowerless maiden, I'm a donkey. The ears are daintily
curled, a pearl hanging from either lobe would show yellow. The neck
is long, and has an undulating motion full of dignity. In the shade
the white ripens to a golden tinge. Perhaps the mouth is a little
large. But how expressive! what a color on the lips! how prettily the
teeth laugh!

Then, dear, there is a harmony running through all. What a gait! what
a voice! We have not forgotten how our grandmother's skirts fell into
place without a touch. In a word, I am lovely and charming. When the
mood comes, I can laugh one of our good old laughs, and no one will
think the less of me; the dimples, impressed by Comedy's light fingers
on my fair cheeks, will command respect. Or I can let my eyes fall and
my heart freeze under my snowy brows. I can pose as a Madonna with
melancholy, swan-like neck, and the painters' virgins will be nowhere;
my place in heaven would be far above them. A man would be forced to
chant when he spoke to me.

So, you see, my panoply is complete, and I can run the whole gamut of
coquetry from deepest bass to shrillest treble. It is a huge advantage
not to be all of one piece. Now, my mother is neither playful nor
virginal. Her only attitude is an imposing one; when she ceases to be
majestic, she is ferocious. It is difficult for her to heal the wounds
she makes, whereas I can wound and heal together. We are absolutely
unlike, and therefore there could not possibly be rivalry between us,
unless indeed we quarreled over the greater or less perfection of our
extremities, which are similar. I take after my father, who is shrewd
and subtle. I have the manner of my grandmother and her charming
voice, which becomes falsetto when forced, but is a sweet-toned chest
voice at the ordinary pitch of a quiet talk.

I feel as if I had left the convent to-day for the first time. For
society I do not yet exist; I am unknown to it. What a ravishing
moment! I still belong only to myself, like a flower just blown,
unseen yet of mortal eye.

In spite of this, my sweet, as I paced the drawing-room during my
self-inspection, and saw the poor cast-off school-clothes, a queer
feeling came over me. Regret for the past, anxiety about the future,
fear of society, a long farewell to the pale daisies which we used to
pick and strip of their petals in light-hearted innocence, there was
something of all that; but strange, fantastic visions also rose, which
I crushed back into the inner depths, whence they had sprung, and
whither I dared not follow them.

My Renee, I have a regular trousseau! It is all beautifully laid away
and perfumed in the cedar-wood drawers with lacquered front of my
charming dressing-table. There are ribbons, shoes, gloves, all in
lavish abundance. My father has kindly presented me with the pretty
gewgaws a girl loves--a dressing-case, toilet service, scent-box, fan,
sunshade, prayer-book, gold chain, cashmere shawl. He has also
promised to give me riding lessons. And I can dance! To-morrow, yes,
to-morrow evening, I come out!

My dress is white muslin, and on my head I wear a garland of white
roses in Greek style. I shall put on my Madonna face; I mean to play
the simpleton, and have all the women on my side. My mother is miles
away from any idea of what I write to you. She believes me quite
destitute of mind, and would be dumfounded if she read my letter. My
brother honors me with a profound contempt, and is uniformly and
politely indifferent.

He is a handsome young fellow, but melancholy, and given to moods. I
have divined his secret, though neither the Duke nor Duchess has an
inkling of it. In spite of his youth and his title, he is jealous of
his father. He has no position in the State, no post at Court, he
never has to say, "I am going to the Chamber." I alone in the house
have sixteen hours for meditation. My father is absorbed in public
business and his own amusements; my mother, too, is never at leisure;
no member of the household practises self-examination, they are
constantly in company, and have hardly time to live.

I should immensely like to know what is the potent charm wielded by
society to keep people prisoner from nine every evening till two or
three in the morning, and force them to be so lavish alike of strength
and money. When I longed for it, I had no idea of the separations it
brought about, or its overmastering spell. But, then, I forget, it is
Paris which does it all.

It is possible, it seems, for members of one family to live side by
side and know absolutely nothing of each other. A half-fledged nun
arrives, and in a couple of weeks has grasped domestic details, of
which the master diplomatist at the head of the house is quite
ignorant. Or perhaps he _does_ see, and shuts his eyes deliberately,
as part of the father's _role_. There is a mystery here which I must
plumb.



                                 IV

THE SAME TO THE SAME
December 15th.

Yesterday, at two o'clock, I went to drive in the Champs-Elysees and
the Bois de Boulogne. It was one of those autumn days which we used to
find so beautiful on the banks of the Loire. So I have seen Paris at
last! The Place Louis XV. is certainly very fine, but the beauty is
that of man's handiwork.

I was dressed to perfection, pensive, with set face (though inwardly
much tempted to laugh), under a lovely hat, my arms crossed. Would you
believe it? Not a single smile was thrown at me, not one poor youth
was struck motionless as I passed, not a soul turned to look again;
and yet the carriage proceeded with a deliberation worthy of my pose.

No, I am wrong, there was one--a duke, and a charming man--who
suddenly reined in as we went by. The individual who thus saved
appearances for me was my father, and he proclaimed himself highly
gratified by what he saw. I met my mother also, who sent me a
butterfly kiss from the tips of her fingers. The worthy Griffith, who
fears no man, cast her glances hither and thither without
discrimination. In my judgment, a young woman should always know
exactly what her eye is resting on.

I was mad with rage. One man actually inspected my carriage without
noticing me. This flattering homage probably came from a
carriage-maker. I have been quite out in the reckoning of my forces.
Plainly, beauty, that rare gift which comes from heaven, is commoner
in Paris than I thought. I saw hats doffed with deference to simpering
fools; a purple face called forth murmurs of, "It is she!" My mother
received an immense amount of admiration. There is an answer to this
problem, and I mean to find it.

The men, my dear, seemed to me generally very ugly. The very few
exceptions are bad copies of us. Heaven knows what evil genius has
inspired their costume; it is amazingly inelegant compared with those
of former generations. It has no distinction, no beauty of color or
romance; it appeals neither to the senses, nor the mind, nor the eye,
and it must be very uncomfortable. It is meagre and stunted. The hat,
above all, struck me; it is a sort of truncated column, and does not
adapt itself in the least to the shape of the head; but I am told it
is easier to bring about a revolution than to invent a graceful hat.
Courage in Paris recoils before the thought of appearing in a round
felt; and for lack of one day's daring, men stick all their lives to
this ridiculous headpiece. And yet Frenchmen are said to be fickle!

The men are hideous anyway, whatever they put on their heads. I have
seen nothing but worn, hard faces, with no calm nor peace in the
expression; the harsh lines and furrows speak of foiled ambition and
smarting vanity. A fine forehead is rarely seen.

"And these are the product of Paris!" I said to Miss Griffith.

"Most cultivated and pleasant men," she replied.

I was silent. The heart of a spinster of thirty-six is a well of
tolerance.

In the evening I went to the ball, where I kept close to my mother's
side. She gave me her arm with a devotion which did not miss its
reward. All the honors were for her; I was made the pretext for
charming compliments. She was clever enough to find me fools for my
partners, who one and all expatiated on the heat and the beauty of the
ball, till you might suppose I was freezing and blind. Not one failed
to enlarge on the strange, unheard-of, extraordinary, odd, remarkable
fact--that he saw me for the first time.

My dress, which dazzled me as I paraded alone in my white-and-gold
drawing-room, was barely noticeable amidst the gorgeous finery of most
of the married women. Each had her band of faithful followers, and
they all watched each other askance. A few were radiant in triumphant
beauty, and amongst these was my mother. A girl at a ball is a mere
dancing-machine--a thing of no consequence whatever.

The men, with rare exceptions, did not impress me more favorably here
than at the Champs-Elysees. They have a used-up look; their features
are meaningless, or rather they have all the same meaning. The proud,
stalwart bearing which we find in the portraits of our ancestors--men
who joined moral to physical vigor--has disappeared. Yet in this
gathering there was one man of remarkable ability, who stood out from
the rest by the beauty of his face. But even he did not rouse in me
the feeling which I should have expected. I do not know his works, and
he is a man of no family. Whatever the genius and the merits of a
plebeian or a commoner, he could never stir my blood. Besides, this
man was obviously so much more taken up with himself than with anybody
else, that I could not but think these great brain-workers must look
on us as things rather than persons. When men of intellectual power
love, they ought to give up writing, otherwise their love is not the
real thing. The lady of their heart does not come first in all their
thoughts. I seemed to read all this in the bearing of the man I speak
of. I am told he is a professor, orator, and author, whose ambition
makes him the slave of every bigwig.

My mind was made up on the spot. It was unworthy of me, I determined,
to quarrel with society for not being impressed by my merits, and I
gave myself up to the simple pleasure of dancing, which I thoroughly
enjoyed. I heard a great deal of inept gossip about people of whom I
know nothing; but perhaps it is my ignorance on many subjects which
prevents me from appreciating it, as I saw that most men and women
took a lively pleasure in certain remarks, whether falling from their
own lips or those of others. Society bristles with enigmas which look
hard to solve. It is a perfect maze of intrigue. Yet I am fairly quick
of sight and hearing, and as to my wits, Mlle. de Maucombe does not
need to be told!

I returned home tired with a pleasant sort of tiredness, and in all
innocence began describing my sensations to my mother, who was with
me. She checked me with the warning that I must never say such things
to any one but her.

"My dear child," she added, "it needs as much tact to know when to be
silent as when to speak."

This advice brought home to me the nature of the sensations which
ought to be concealed from every one, not excepting perhaps even a
mother. At a glance I measured the vast field of feminine duplicity. I
can assure you, sweetheart, that we, in our unabashed simplicity,
would pass for two very wide-awake little scandal-mongers. What
lessons may be conveyed in a finger on the lips, in a word, a look!
All in a moment I was seized with excessive shyness. What! may I never
again speak of the natural pleasure I feel in the exercise of dancing?
"How then," I said to myself, "about the deeper feelings?"

I went to bed sorrowful, and I still suffer from the shock produced by
this first collision of my frank, joyous nature with the harsh laws of
society. Already the highway hedges are flecked with my white wool!
Farewell, beloved.



                                 V

RENEE DE MAUCOMBE TO LOUISE DE CHAULIEU
October.

How deeply your letter moved me; above all, when I compare our widely
different destinies! How brilliant is the world you are entering, how
peaceful the retreat where I shall end my modest career!

In the Castle of Maucombe, which is so well known to you by
description that I shall say no more of it, I found my room almost
exactly as I left it; only now I can enjoy the splendid view it gives
of the Gemenos valley, which my childish eyes used to see without
comprehending. A fortnight after my arrival, my father and mother took
me, along with my two brothers, to dine with one of our neighbors, M.
de l'Estorade, an old gentleman of good family, who has made himself
rich, after the provincial fashion, by scraping and paring.

M. de l'Estorade was unable to save his only son from the clutches of
Bonaparte; after successfully eluding the conscription, he was forced
to send him to the army in 1813, to join the Emperor's bodyguard.
After Leipsic no more was heard of him. M. de Montriveau, whom the
father interviewed in 1814, declared that he had seen him taken by the
Russians. Mme. de l'Estorade died of grief whilst a vain search was
being made in Russia. The Baron, a very pious old man, practised that
fine theological virtue which we used to cultivate at Blois--Hope!
Hope made him see his son in dreams. He hoarded his income for him,
and guarded carefully the portion of inheritance which fell to him
from the family of the late Mme. de l'Estorade, no one venturing to
ridicule the old man.

At last it dawned upon me that the unexpected return of this son was
the cause of my own. Who could have imagined, whilst fancy was leading
us a giddy dance, that my destined husband was slowly traveling on
foot through Russia, Poland, and Germany? His bad luck only forsook
him at Berlin, where the French Minister helped his return to his
native country. M. de l'Estorade, the father, who is a small landed
proprietor in Provence, with an income of about ten thousand livres,
has not sufficient European fame to interest the world in the
wandering Knight de l'Estorade, whose name smacks of his adventures.

The accumulated income of twelve thousand livres from the property of
Mme. de l'Estorade, with the addition of the father's savings,
provides the poor guard of honor with something like two hundred and
fifty thousand livres, not counting house and lands--quite a
considerable fortune in Provence. His worthy father had bought, on the
very eve of the Chevalier's return, a fine but badly-managed estate,
where he designs to plant ten thousand mulberry-trees, raised in his
nursery with a special view to this acquisition. The Baron, having
found his long-lost son, has now but one thought, to marry him, and
marry him to a girl of good family.

My father and mother entered into their neighbor's idea with an eye to
my interests so soon as they discovered that Renee de Maucombe would
be acceptable without a dowry, and that the money the said Renee ought
to inherit from her parents would be duly acknowledged as hers in the
contract. In a similar way, my younger brother, Jean de Maucombe, as
soon as he came of age, signed a document stating that he had received
from his parents an advance upon the estate equal in amount to
one-third of whole. This is the device by which the nobles of Provence
elude the infamous Civil Code of M. de Bonaparte, a code which will
drive as many girls of good family into convents as it will find
husbands for. The French nobility, from the little I have been able to
gather, seem to be divided on these matters.

The dinner, darling, was a first meeting between your sweetheart and
the exile. The Comte de Maucombe's servants donned their old laced
liveries and hats, the coachman his great top-boots; we sat five in
the antiquated carriage, and arrived in state about two o'clock--the
dinner was for three--at the grange, which is the dwelling of the
Baron de l'Estorade.

My father-in-law to be has, you see, no castle, only a simple country
house, standing beneath one of our hills, at the entrance of that
noble valley, the pride of which is undoubtedly the Castle of
Maucombe. The building is quite unpretentious: four pebble walls
covered with a yellowish wash, and roofed with hollow tiles of a good
red, constitute the grange. The rafters bend under the weight of this
brick-kiln. The windows, inserted casually, without any attempt at
symmetry, have enormous shutters, painted yellow. The garden in which
it stands is a Provencal garden, enclosed by low walls, built of big
round pebbles set in layers, alternately sloping or upright, according
to the artistic taste of the mason, which finds here its only outlet.
The mud in which they are set is falling away in places.

Thanks to an iron railing at the entrance facing the road, this simple
farm has a certain air of being a country-seat. The railing, long
sought with tears, is so emaciated that it recalled Sister Angelique
to me. A flight of stone steps leads to the door, which is protected
by a pent-house roof, such as no peasant on the Loire would tolerate
for his coquettish white stone house, with its blue roof, glittering
in the sun. The garden and surrounding walks are horribly dusty, and
the trees seem burnt up. It is easy to see that for years the Baron's
life has been a mere rising up and going to bed again, day after day,
without a thought beyond that of piling up coppers. He eats the same
food as his two servants, a Provencal lad and the old woman who used
to wait on his wife. The rooms are scantily furnished.

Nevertheless, the house of l'Estorade had done its best; the cupboards
had been ransacked, and its last man beaten up for the dinner, which
was served to us on old silver dishes, blackened and battered. The
exile, my darling pet, is like the railing, emaciated! He is pale and
silent, and bears traces of suffering. At thirty-seven he might be
fifty. The once beautiful ebon locks of youth are streaked with white
like a lark's wing. His fine blue eyes are cavernous; he is a little
deaf, which suggests the Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance.

Spite of all this, I have graciously consented to become Mme. de
l'Estorade and to receive a dowry of two hundred and fifty thousand
livres, but only on the express condition of being allowed to work my
will upon the grange and make a park there. I have demanded from my
father, in set terms, a grant of water, which can be brought thither
from Maucombe. In a month I shall be Mme. de l'Estorade; for, dear, I
have made a good impression. After the snows of Siberia a man is ready
enough to see merit in those black eyes, which according to you, used
to ripen fruit with a look. Louis de l'Estorade seems well content to
marry the _fair Renee de Maucombe_--such is your friend's splendid
title.

Whilst you are preparing to reap the joys of that many-sided existence
which awaits a young lady of the Chaulieu family, and to queen it in
Paris, your poor little sweetheart, Renee, that child of the desert,
has fallen from the empyrean, whither together we had soared, into the
vulgar realities of a life as homely as a daisy's. I have vowed to
myself to comfort this young man, who has never known youth, but
passed straight from his mother's arms to the embrace of war, and from
the joys of his country home to the frosts and forced labor of
Siberia.

Humble country pleasures will enliven the monotony of my future. It
shall be my ambition to enlarge the oasis round my house, and to give
it the lordly shade of fine trees. My turf, though Provencal, shall be
always green. I shall carry my park up the hillside and plant on the
highest point some pretty kiosque, whence, perhaps, my eyes may catch
the shimmer of the Mediterranean. Orange and lemon trees, and all
choicest things that grow, shall embellish my retreat; and there will
I be a mother among my children. The poetry of Nature, which nothing
can destroy, shall hedge us round; and standing loyally at the post of
duty, we need fear no danger. My religious feelings are shared by my
father-in-law and by the Chevalier.

Ah! darling, my life unrolls itself before my eyes like one of the
great highways of France, level and easy, shaded with evergreen trees.
This century will not see another Bonaparte; and my children, if I
have any, will not be rent from me. They will be mine to train and
make men of--the joy of my life. If you also are true to your destiny,
you who ought to find your mate amongst the great ones of the earth,
the children of your Renee will not lack a zealous protectress.

Farewell, then, for me at least, to the romances and thrilling
adventures in which we used ourselves to play the part of heroine. The
whole story of my life lies before me now; its great crises will be
the teething and nutrition of the young Masters de l'Estorade, and the
mischief they do to my shrubs and me. To embroider their caps, to be
loved and admired by a sickly man at the mouth of the Gemenos valley
--there are my pleasures. Perhaps some day the country dame may go and
spend a winter in Marseilles; but danger does not haunt the purlieus
of a narrow provincial stage. There will be nothing to fear, not even
an admiration such as could only make a woman proud. We shall take a
great deal of interest in the silkworms for whose benefit our
mulberry-leaves will be sold! We shall know the strange vicissitudes
of life in Provence, and the storms that may attack even a peaceful
household. Quarrels will be impossible, for M. de l'Estorade has
formally announced that he will leave the reins in his wife's hands;
and as I shall do nothing to remind him of this wise resolve, it is
likely he may persevere in it.

You, my dear Louise, will supply the romance of my life. So you must
narrate to me in full all your adventures, describe your balls and
parties, tell me what you wear, what flowers crown your lovely golden
locks, and what are the words and manners of the men you meet. Your
other self will be always there--listening, dancing, feeling her
finger-tips pressed--with you. If only I could have some fun in Paris
now and then, while you played the house-mother at La Crampade! such
is the name of our grange. Poor M. de l'Estorade, who fancies he is
marrying one woman! Will he find out there are two?

I am writing nonsense now, and as henceforth I can only be foolish by
proxy, I had better stop. One kiss, then, on each cheek--my lips are
still virginal, he has only dared to take my hand. Oh! our deference
and propriety are quite disquieting, I assure you. There, I am off
again. . . . Good-bye, dear.

_P. S._--I have just opened your third letter. My dear, I have about
one thousand livres to dispose of; spend them for me on pretty things,
such as we can't find here, nor even at Marseilles. While speeding on
your own business, give a thought to the recluse of La Crampade.
Remember that on neither side have the heads of the family any people
of taste in Paris to make their purchases. I shall reply to your
letter later.



                                 VI

DON FELIPE HENAREZ TO DON FERNAND
PARIS, September.

The address of this letter, my brother, will show you that the head of
your house is out of reach of danger. If the massacre of our ancestors
in the Court of Lions made Spaniards and Christians of us against our
will, it left us a legacy of Arab cunning; and it may be that I owe my
safety to the blood of the Abencerrages still flowing in my veins.

Fear made Ferdinand's acting so good, that Valdez actually believed in
his protestations. But for me the poor Admiral would have been done
for. Nothing, it seems, will teach the Liberals what a king is. This
particular Bourbon has been long known to me; and the more His Majesty
assured me of his protection, the stronger grew my suspicions. A true
Spaniard has no need to repeat a promise. A flow of words is a sure
sign of duplicity.

Valdez took ship on an English vessel. For myself, no sooner did I see
the cause of my beloved Spain wrecked in Andalusia, than I wrote to
the steward of my Sardinian estate to make arrangements for my escape.
Some hardy coral fishers were despatched to wait for me at a point on
the coast; and when Ferdinand urged the French to secure my person, I
was already in my barony of Macumer, amidst brigands who defy all law
and all avengers.

The last Hispano-Moorish family of Granada has found once more the
shelter of an African desert, and even a Saracen horse, in an estate
which comes to it from Saracens. How the eyes of these brigands--who
but yesterday had dreaded my authority--sparkled with savage joy and
pride when they found they were protecting against the King of Spain's
vendetta the Duc de Soria, their master and a Henarez--the first who
had come to visit them since the time when the island belonged to the
Moors. More than a score of rifles were ready to point at Ferdinand of
Bourbon, son of a race which was still unknown when the Abencerrages
arrived as conquerors on the banks of the Loire.

My idea had been to live on the income of these huge estates, which,
unfortunately, we have so greatly neglected; but my stay there
convinced me that this was impossible, and that Queverdo's reports
were only too correct. The poor man had twenty-two lives at my
disposal, and not a single _real_; prairies of twenty thousand acres,
and not a house; virgin forests, and not a stick of furniture! A
million piastres and a resident master for half a century would be
necessary to make these magnificent lands pay. I must see to this.

The conquered have time during their flight to ponder their own case
and that of their vanquished party. At the spectacle of my noble
country, a corpse for monks to prey on, my eyes filled with tears; I
read in it the presage of Spain's gloomy future.

At Marseilles I heard of Riego's end. Painfully did it come home to me
that my life also would henceforth be a martyrdom, but a martyrdom
protracted and unnoticed. Is existence worthy the name, when a man can
no longer die for his country or live for a woman? To love, to
conquer, this twofold form of the same thought, is the law graven on
our sabres, emblazoned on the vaulted roofs of our palaces,
ceaselessly whispered by the water, which rises and falls in our
marble fountains. But in vain does it nerve my heart; the sabre is
broken, the palace in ashes, the living spring sucked up by the barren
sand.

Here, then, is my last will and testament.

Don Fernand, you will understand now why I put a check upon your ardor
and ordered you to remain faithful to the _rey netto_. As your brother
and friend, I implore you to obey me; as your master, I command. You
will go to the King and will ask from him the grant of my dignities
and property, my office and titles. He will perhaps hesitate, and may
treat you to some regal scowls; but you must tell him that you are
loved by Marie Heredia, and that Marie can marry none but a Duc de
Soria. This will make the King radiant. It is the immense fortune of
the Heredia family which alone has stood between him and the
accomplishment of my ruin. Your proposal will seem to him, therefore,
to deprive me of a last resource, and he will gladly hand over to you
my spoils.

You will then marry Marie. The secret of the mutual love against which
you fought was no secret to me, and I have prepared the old Count to
see you take my place. Marie and I were merely doing what was expected
of us in our position and carrying out the wishes of our fathers;
everything else is in your favor. You are beautiful as a child of
love, and are possessed of Marie's heart. I am an ill-favored Spanish
grandee, for whom she feels an aversion to which she will not confess.
Some slight reluctance there may be on the part of the noble Spanish
girl on account of my misfortunes, but this you will soon overcome.

Duc de Soria, your predecessor would neither cost you a regret nor rob
you of a maravedi. My mother's diamonds, which will suffice to make me
independent, I will keep, because the gap caused by them in the family
estate can be filled by Marie's jewels. You can send them, therefore,
by my nurse, old Urraca, the only one of my servants whom I wish to
retain. No one can prepare my chocolate as she does.

During our brief revolution, my life of unremitting toil was reduced
to the barest necessaries, and these my salary was sufficient to
provide. You will therefore find the income of the last two years in
the hands of your steward. This sum is mine; but a Duc de Soria cannot
marry without a large expenditure of money, therefore we will divide
it. You will not refuse this wedding-present from your brigand
brother. Besides, I mean to have it so.

The barony of Macumer, not being Spanish territory, remains to me.
Thus I have still a country and a name, should I wish to take up a
position in the world again.

Thank Heaven, this finishes our business, and the house of Soria is
saved!

At the very moment when I drop into simple Baron de Macumer, the
French cannon announce the arrival of the Duc d'Angouleme. You will
understand why I break off. . . .

October.

When I arrived here I had not ten doubloons in my pocket. He would
indeed be a poor sort of leader who, in the midst of calamities he has
not been able to avert, has found means to feather his own nest. For
the vanquished Moor there remains a horse and the desert; for the
Christian foiled of his hopes, the cloister and a few gold pieces.

But my present resignation is mere weariness. I am not yet so near the
monastery as to have abandoned all thoughts of life. Ozalga had given
me several letters of introduction to meet all emergencies, amongst
these one to a bookseller, who takes with our fellow-countrymen the
place which Galignani holds with the English in Paris. This man has
found eight pupils for me at three francs a lesson. I go to my pupils
every alternate day, so that I have four lessons a day and earn twelve
francs, which is more than I require. When Urraca comes I shall make
some Spanish exile happy by passing on to him my connection.

I lodge in the Rue Hillerin-Bertin with a poor widow, who takes
boarders. My room faces south and looks out on a little garden. It is
perfectly quiet; I have green trees to look upon, and spend the sum of
one piastre a day. I am amazed at the amount of calm, pure pleasure
which I enjoy in this life, after the fashion of Dionysius at Corinth.
From sunrise until ten o'clock I smoke and take my chocolate, sitting
at my window and contemplating two Spanish plants, a broom which rises
out of a clump of jessamine--gold on a white ground, colors which must
send a thrill through any scion of the Moors. At ten o'clock I start
for my lessons, which last till four, when I return for dinner.
Afterwards I read and smoke till I go to bed.

I can put up for a long time with a life like this, compounded of work
and meditation, of solitude and society. Be happy, therefore, Fernand;
my abdication has brought no afterthoughts; I have no regrets like
Charles V., no longing to try the game again like Napoleon. Five days
and nights have passed since I wrote my will; to my mind they might
have been five centuries. Honor, titles, wealth, are for me as though
they had never existed.

Now that the conventional barrier of respect which hedged me round has
fallen, I can open my heart to you, dear boy. Though cased in the
armor of gravity, this heart is full of tenderness and devotion, which
have found no object, and which no woman has divined, not even she
who, from her cradle, has been my destined bride. In this lies the
secret of my political enthusiasm. Spain has taken the place of a
mistress and received the homage of my heart. And now Spain, too, is
gone! Beggared of all, I can gaze upon the ruin of what once was me
and speculate over the mysteries of my being.

Why did life animate this carcass, and when will it depart? Why has
that race, pre-eminent in chivalry, breathed all its primitive virtues
--its tropical love, its fiery poetry--into this its last offshoot, if
the seed was never to burst its rugged shell, if no stem was to spring
forth, no radiant flower scatter aloft its Eastern perfumes? Of what
crime have I been guilty before my birth that I can inspire no love?
Did fate from my very infancy decree that I should be stranded, a
useless hulk, on some barren shore! I find in my soul the image of the
deserts where my fathers ranged, illumined by a scorching sun which
shrivels up all life. Proud remnant of a fallen race, vain force, love
run to waste, an old man in the prime of youth, here better than
elsewhere shall I await the last grace of death. Alas! under this
murky sky no spark will kindle these ashes again to flame. Thus my
last words may be those of Christ, _My God, Thou hast forsaken me!_
Cry of agony and terror, to the core of which no mortal has ventured
yet to penetrate!

You can realize now, Fernand, what a joy it is to me to live afresh in
you and Marie. I shall watch you henceforth with the pride of a
creator satisfied in his work. Love each other well and go on loving
if you would not give me pain; any discord between you would hurt me
more than it would yourselves.

Our mother had a presentiment that events would one day serve her
wishes. It may be that the longing of a mother constitutes a pact
between herself and God. Was she not, moreover, one of those
mysterious beings who can hold converse with Heaven and bring back
thence a vision of the future? How often have I not read in the lines
of her forehead that she was coveting for Fernand the honors and the
wealth of Felipe! When I said so to her, she would reply with tears,
laying bare the wounds of a heart, which of right was the undivided
property of both her sons, but which an irresistible passion gave to
you alone.

Her spirit, therefore, will hover joyfully above your heads as you bow
them at the altar. My mother, have you not a caress for your Felipe
now that he has yielded to your favorite even the girl whom you
regretfully thrust into his arms? What I have done is pleasing to our
womankind, to the dead, and to the King; it is the will of God. Make
no difficulty then, Fernand; obey, and be silent.

_P. S._ Tell Urraca to be sure and call me nothing but M. Henarez.
Don't say a word about me to Marie. You must be the one living soul to
know the secrets of the last Christianized Moor, in whose veins runs
the blood of a great family, which took its rise in the desert and is
now about to die out in the person of a solitary exile.

Farewell.



                                VII

LOUISE DE CHAULIEU TO RENEE DE MAUCOMBE

WHAT! To be married so soon. But this is unheard of. At the end of a
month you become engaged to a man who is a stranger to you, and about
whom you know nothing. The man may be deaf--there are so many kinds of
deafness!--he may be sickly, tiresome, insufferable!

Don't you see, Renee, what they want with you? You are needful for
carrying on the glorious stock of the l'Estorades, that is all. You
will be buried in the provinces. Are these the promises we made each
other? Were I you, I would sooner set off to the Hyeres islands in a
caique, on the chance of being captured by an Algerian corsair and
sold to the Grand Turk. Then I should be a Sultana some day, and
wouldn't I make a stir in the harem while I was young--yes, and
afterwards too!

You are leaving one convent to enter another. I know you; you are a
coward, and you will submit to the yoke of family life with a lamblike
docility. But I am here to direct you; you must come to Paris. There
we shall drive the men wild and hold a court like queens. Your
husband, sweetheart, in three years from now may become a member of
the Chamber. I know all about members now, and I will explain it to
you. You will work that machine very well; you can live in Paris, and
become there what my mother calls a woman of fashion. Oh! you needn't
suppose I will leave you in your grange!

Monday.

For a whole fortnight now, my dear, I have been living the life of
society; one evening at the Italiens, another at the Grand Opera, and
always a ball afterwards. Ah! society is a witching world. The music
of the Opera enchants me; and whilst my soul is plunged in divine
pleasure, I am the centre of admiration and the focus of all the
opera-glasses. But a single glance will make the boldest youth drop
his eyes.

I have seen some charming young men there; all the same, I don't care
for any of them; not one has roused in me the emotion which I feel
when I listen to Garcia in his splendid duet with Pellegrini in
_Otello_. Heavens! how jealous Rossini must have been to express
jealousy so well! What a cry in "Il mio cor si divide!" I'm speaking
Greek to you, for you never heard Garcia, but then you know how
jealous I am!

What a wretched dramatist Shakespeare is! Othello is in love with
glory; he wins battles, he gives orders, he struts about and is all
over the place while Desdemona sits at home; and Desdemona, who sees
herself neglected for the silly fuss of public life, is quite meek all
the time. Such a sheep deserves to be slaughtered. Let the man whom I
deign to love beware how he thinks of anything but loving me!

For my part, I like those long trials of the old-fashioned chivalry.
That lout of a young lord, who took offence because his sovereign-lady
sent him down among the lions to fetch her glove, was, in my opinion,
very impertinent, and a fool too. Doubtless the lady had in reserve
for him some exquisite flower of love, which he lost, as he well
deserved--the puppy!

But here am I running on as though I had not a great piece of news to
tell you. My father is certainly going to represent our master the
King at Madrid. I say _our_ master, for I shall make part of the
embassy. My mother wishes to remain here, and my father will take me
so as to have some woman with him.

My dear, this seems to you, no doubt, very simple, but there are
horrors behind it, all the same: in a fortnight I have probed the
secrets of the house. My mother would accompany my father to Madrid if
he would take M. de Canalis as a secretary to the embassy. But the
King appoints the secretaries; the Duke dare neither annoy the King,
who hates to be opposed, nor vex my mother; and the wily diplomat
believes he has cut the knot by leaving the Duchess here. M. de
Canalis, who is the great poet of the day, is the young man who
cultivates my mother's society, and who no doubt studies diplomacy
with her from three o'clock to five. Diplomacy must be a fine subject,
for he is as regular as a gambler on the Stock Exchange.

The Duc de Rhetore, our elder brother, solemn, cold, and whimsical,
would be extinguished by his father at Madrid, therefore he remains in
Paris. Miss Griffith has found out also that Alphonse is in love with
a ballet-girl at the Opera. How is it possible to fall in love with
legs and pirouettes? We have noticed that my brother comes to the
theatre only when Tullia dances there; he applauds the steps of this
creature, and then goes out. Two ballet-girls in a family are, I
fancy, more destructive than the plague. My second brother is with his
regiment, and I have not yet seen him. Thus it comes about that I have
to act as the Antigone of His Majesty's ambassador. Perhaps I may get
married in Spain, and perhaps my father's idea is a marriage there
without dowry, after the pattern of yours with this broken-down guard
of honor. My father asked if I would go with him, and offered me the
use of his Spanish master.

"Spain, the country for castles in the air!" I cried. "Perhaps you
hope that it may mean marriages for me!"

For sole reply he honored me with a meaning look. For some days he has
amused himself with teasing me at lunch; he watches me, and I
dissemble. In this way I have played with him cruelly as father and
ambassador _in petto_. Hadn't he taken me for a fool? He asked me what
I thought of this and that young man, and of some girls whom I had met
in several houses. I replied with quite inane remarks on the color of
their hair, their faces, and the difference in their figures. My
father seemed disappointed at my crassness, and inwardly blamed
himself for having asked me.

"Still, father," I added, "don't suppose I am saying what I really
think: mother made me afraid the other day that I had spoken more
frankly than I ought of my impressions."

"With your family you can speak quite freely," my mother replied.

"Very well, then," I went on. "The young men I have met so far strike
me as too self-centered to excite interest in others; they are much
more taken up with themselves than with their company. They can't be
accused of lack of candor at any rate. They put on a certain
expression to talk to us, and drop it again in a moment, apparently
satisfied that we don't use our eyes. The man as he converses is the
lover; silent, he is the husband. The girls, again, are so artificial
that it is impossible to know what they really are, except from the
way they dance; their figures and movements alone are not a sham. But
what has alarmed me most in this fashionable society is its brutality.
The little incidents which take place when supper is announced give
one some idea--to compare small things with great--of what a popular
rising might be. Courtesy is only a thin veneer on the general
selfishness. I imagined society very different. Women count for little
in it; that may perhaps be a survival of Bonapartist ideas."

"Armande is coming on extraordinarily," said my mother.

"Mother, did you think I should never get beyond asking to see Mme. de
Stael?"

My father smiled, and rose from the table.

Saturday.

My dear, I have left one thing out. Here is the tidbit I have reserved
for you. The love which we pictured must be extremely well hidden; I
have seen not a trace of it. True, I have caught in drawing-rooms now
and again a quick exchange of glances, but how colorless it all is!
Love, as we imagined it, a world of wonders, of glorious dreams, of
charming realities, of sorrows that waken sympathy, and smiles that
make sunshine, does not exist. The bewitching words, the constant
interchange of happiness, the misery of absence, the flood of joy at
the presence of the beloved one--where are they? What soil produces
these radiant flowers of the soul? Which is wrong? We or the world?

I have already seen hundreds of men, young and middle-aged; not one
has stirred the least feeling in me. No proof of admiration and
devotion on their part, not even a sword drawn in my behalf, would
have moved me. Love, dear, is the product of such rare conditions that
it is quite possible to live a lifetime without coming across the
being on whom nature has bestowed the power of making one's happiness.
The thought is enough to make one shudder; for if this being is found
too late, what then?

For some days I have begun to tremble when I think of the destiny of
women, and to understand why so many wear a sad face beneath the flush
brought by the unnatural excitement of social dissipation. Marriage is
a mere matter of chance. Look at yours. A storm of wild thoughts has
passed over my mind. To be loved every day the same, yet with a
difference, to be loved as much after ten years of happiness as on the
first day!--such a love demands years. The lover must be allowed to
languish, curiosity must be piqued and satisfied, feeling roused and
responded to.

Is there, then, a law for the inner fruits of the heart, as there is
for the visible fruits of nature? Can joy be made lasting? In what
proportion should love mingle tears with pleasures? The cold policy of
the funereal, monotonous, persistent routine of the convent seemed to
me at these moments the only real life; while the wealth, the
splendor, the tears, the delights, the triumph, the joy, the
satisfaction, of a love equal, shared, and sanctioned, appeared a mere
idle vision.

I see no room in this city for the gentle ways of love, for precious
walks in shady alleys, the full moon sparkling on the water, while the
suppliant pleads in vain. Rich, young, and beautiful, I have only to
love, and love would become my sole occupation, my life; yet in the
three months during which I have come and gone, eager and curious,
nothing has appealed to me in the bright, covetous, keen eyes around
me. No voice has thrilled me, no glance has made the world seem
brighter.

Music alone has filled my soul, music alone has at all taken the place
of our friendship. Sometimes, at night, I will linger for an hour by
my window, gazing into the garden, summoning the future, with all it
brings, out of the mystery which shrouds it. There are days too when,
having started for a drive, I get out and walk in the Champs-Elysees,
and picture to myself that the man who is to waken my slumbering soul
is at hand, that he will follow and look at me. Then I meet only
mountebanks, vendors of gingerbread, jugglers, passers-by hurrying to
their business, or lovers who try to escape notice. These I am tempted
to stop, asking them, "You who are happy, tell me what is love."

But the impulse is repressed, and I return to my carriage, swearing to
die an old maid. Love is undoubtedly an incarnation, and how many
conditions are needful before it can take place! We are not certain of
never quarreling with ourselves, how much less so when there are two?
This is a problem which God alone can solve.

I begin to think that I shall return to the convent. If I remain in
society, I shall do things which will look like follies, for I cannot
possibly reconcile myself to what I see. I am perpetually wounded
either in my sense of delicacy, my inner principles, or my secret
thoughts.

Ah! my mother is the happiest of women, adored as she is by Canalis,
her great little man. My love, do you know I am seized sometimes with
a horrible craving to know what goes on between my mother and that
young man? Griffith tells me she has gone through all these moods; she
has longed to fly at women, whose happiness was written in their face;
she has blackened their character, torn them to pieces. According to
her, virtue consists in burying all these savage instincts in one's
innermost heart. But what then of the heart? It becomes the sink of
all that is worst in us.

It is very humiliating that no adorer has yet turned up for me. I am a
marriageable girl, but I have brothers, a family, relations, who are
sensitive on the point of honor. Ah! if that is what keeps men back,
they are poltroons.

The part of Chimene in the _Cid_ and that of the Cid delight me. What
a marvelous play! Well, good-bye.



                                VIII

THE SAME TO THE SAME
January.

Our master is a poor refugee, forced to keep in hiding on account of
the part he played in the revolution which the Duc d'Angouleme has
just quelled--a triumph to which we owe some splendid fetes. Though a
Liberal, and doubtless a man of the people, he has awakened my
interest: I fancy that he must have been condemned to death. I make
him talk for the purpose of getting at his secret; but he is of a
truly Castilian taciturnity, proud as though he were Gonsalvo di
Cordova, and nevertheless angelic in his patience and gentleness. His
pride is not irritable like Miss Griffith's, it belongs to his inner
nature; he forces us to civility because his own manners are so
perfect, and holds us at a distance by the respect he shows us. My
father declares that there is a great deal of the nobleman in Senor
Henarez, whom, among ourselves, he calls in fun Don Henarez.

A few days ago I took the liberty of addressing him thus. He raised
his eyes, which are generally bent on the ground, and flashed a look
from them that quite abashed me; my dear, he certainly has the most
beautiful eyes imaginable. I asked him if I had offended him in any
way, and he said to me in his grand, rolling Spanish:

"I am here only to teach you Spanish."

I blushed and felt quite snubbed. I was on the point of making some
pert answer, when I remembered what our dear mother in God used to say
to us, and I replied instead:

"It would be a kindness to tell me if you have anything to complain
of."

A tremor passed through him, the blood rose in his olive cheeks; he
replied in a voice of some emotion:

"Religion must have taught you, better than I can, to respect the
unhappy. Had I been a _don_ in Spain, and lost everything in the
triumph of Ferdinand VII., your witticism would be unkind; but if I am
only a poor teacher of languages, is it not a heartless satire?
Neither is worthy of a young lady of rank."

I took his hand, saying:

"In the name of religion also, I beg you to pardon me."

He bowed, opened my _Don Quixote_, and sat down.

This little incident disturbed me more than the harvest of
compliments, gazing and pretty speeches on my most successful evening.
During the lesson I watched him attentively, which I could do the more
safely, as he never looks at me.

As the result of my observations, I made out that the tutor, whom we
took to be forty, is a young man, some years under thirty. My
governess, to whom I had handed him over, remarked on the beauty of
his black hair and of his pearly teeth. As to his eyes, they are
velvet and fire; but he is plain and insignificant. Though the
Spaniards have been described as not a cleanly people, this man is
most carefully got up, and his hands are whiter than his face. He
stoops a little, and has an extremely large, oddly-shaped head. His
ugliness, which, however, has a dash of piquancy, is aggravated by
smallpox marks, which seam his face. His forehead is very prominent,
and the shaggy eyebrows meet, giving a repellent air of harshness.
There is a frowning, plaintive look on his face, reminding one of a
sickly child, which owes its life to superhuman care, as Sister Marthe
did. As my father observed, his features are a shrunken reproduction
of those of Cardinal Ximenes. The natural dignity of our tutor's
manners seems to disconcert the dear Duke, who doesn't like him, and
is never at ease with him; he can't bear to come in contact with
superiority of any kind.

As soon as my father knows enough Spanish, we start for Madrid. When
Henarez returned, two days after the reproof he had given me, I
remarked by way of showing my gratitude:

"I have no doubt that you left Spain in consequence of political
events. If my father is sent there, as seems to be expected, we shall
be in a position to help you, and might be able to obtain your pardon,
in case you are under sentence."

"It is impossible for any one to help me," he replied.

"But," I said, "is that because you refuse to accept any help, or
because the thing itself is impossible?"

"Both," he said, with a bow, and in a tone which forbade continuing
the subject.

My father's blood chafed in my veins. I was offended by this haughty
demeanor, and promptly dropped Senor Henarez.

All the same, my dear, there is something fine in this rejection of
any aid. "He would not accept even our friendship," I reflected,
whilst conjugating a verb. Suddenly I stopped short and told him what
was in my mind, but in Spanish. Henarez replied very politely that
equality of sentiment was necessary between friends, which did not
exist in this case, and therefore it was useless to consider the
question.

"Do you mean equality in the amount of feeling on either side, or
equality in rank?" I persisted, determined to shake him out of this
provoking gravity.

He raised once more those awe-inspiring eyes, and mine fell before
them. Dear, this man is a hopeless enigma. He seemed to ask whether my
words meant love; and the mixture of joy, pride, and agonized doubt in
his glance went to my heart. It was plain that advances, which would
be taken for what they were worth in France, might land me in
difficulties with a Spaniard, and I drew back into my shell, feeling
not a little foolish.

The lesson over, he bowed, and his eyes were eloquent of the humble
prayer: "Don't trifle with a poor wretch."

This sudden contrast to his usual grave and dignified manner made a
great impression on me. It seems horrible to think and to say, but I
can't help believing that there are treasures of affection in that
man.



                                 IX

MME. DE L'ESTORADE TO MLLE. DE CHAULIEU.
December.

All is over, my dear child, and it is Mme. de l'Estorade who writes to
you. But between us there is no change; it is only a girl the less.

Don't be troubled; I did not give my consent recklessly or without
much thought. My life is henceforth mapped out for me, and the freedom
from all uncertainty as to the road for me to follow suits my mind and
disposition. A great moral power has stepped in, and once for all
swept what we call chance out of my life. We have the property to
develop, our home to beautify and adorn; for me there is also a
household to direct and sweeten and a husband to reconcile to life. In
all probability I shall have a family to look after, children to
educate.

What would you have? Everyday life cannot be cast in heroic mould. No
doubt there seems, at any rate at first sight, no room left in this
scheme of life for that longing after the infinite which expands the
mind and soul. But what is there to prevent me from launching on that
boundless sea our familiar craft? Nor must you suppose that the humble
duties to which I dedicate my life give no scope for passion. To
restore faith in happiness to an unfortunate, who has been the sport
of adverse circumstances, is a noble work, and one which alone may
suffice to relieve the monotony of my existence. I can see no opening
left for suffering, and I see a great deal of good to be done. I need
not hide from you that the love I have for Louis de l'Estorade is not
of the kind which makes the heart throb at the sound of a step, and
thrills us at the lightest tones of a voice, or the caress of a
burning glance; but, on the other hand, there is nothing in him which
offends me.

What am I to do, you will ask, with that instinct for all which is
great and noble, with those mental energies, which have made the link
between us, and which we still possess? I admit that this thought has
troubled me. But are these faculties less ours because we keep them
concealed, using them only in secret for the welfare of the family, as
instruments to produce the happiness of those confided to our care, to
whom we are bound to give ourselves without reserve? The time during
which a woman can look for admiration is short, it will soon be past;
and if my life has not been a great one, it will at least have been
calm, tranquil, free from shocks.

Nature has favored our sex in giving us a choice between love and
motherhood. I have made mine. My children shall be my gods, and this
spot of earth my Eldorado.

I can say no more to-day. Thank you much for all the things you have
sent me. Give a glance at my needs on the enclosed list. I am
determined to live in an atmosphere of refinement and luxury, and to
take from provincial life only what makes its charm. In solitude a
woman can never be vulgarized--she remains herself. I count greatly on
your kindness for keeping me up to the fashion. My father-in-law is so
delighted that he can refuse me nothing, and turns his house upside
down. We are getting workpeople from Paris and renovating everything.



                                 X

MLLE. DE CHAULIEU TO MME. DE L'ESTORADE
January.

Oh! Renee, you have made me miserable for days! So that bewitching
body, those beautiful proud features, that natural grace of manner,
that soul full of priceless gifts, those eyes, where the soul can
slake its thirst as at a fountain of love, that heart, with its
exquisite delicacy, that breadth of mind, those rare powers--fruit of
nature and of our interchange of thought--treasures whence should
issue a unique satisfaction for passion and desire, hours of poetry to
outweigh years, joys to make a man serve a lifetime for one gracious
gesture,--all this is to be buried in the tedium of a tame,
commonplace marriage, to vanish in the emptiness of an existence which
you will come to loath! I hate your children before they are born.
They will be monsters!

So you know all that lies before you; you have nothing left to hope,
or fear, or suffer? And supposing the glorious morning rises which
will bring you face to face with the man destined to rouse you from
the sleep into which you are plunging! . . . Ah! a cold shiver goes
through me at the thought!

Well, at least you have a friend. You, it is understood, are to be the
guardian angel of your valley. You will grow familiar with its
beauties, will live with it in all its aspects, till the grandeur of
nature, the slow growth of vegetation, compared with the lightning
rapidity of thought, become like a part of yourself; and as your eye
rests on the laughing flowers, you will question your own heart. When
you walk between your husband, silent and contented, in front, and
your children screaming and romping behind, I can tell you beforehand
what you will write to me. Your misty valley, your hills, bare or
clothed with magnificent trees, your meadow, the wonder of Provence,
with its fresh water dispersed in little runlets, the different
effects of the atmosphere, this whole world of infinity which laps you
round, and which God has made so various, will recall to you the
infinite sameness of your soul's life. But at least I shall be there,
my Renee, and in me you will find a heart which no social pettiness
shall ever corrupt, a heart all your own.

Monday.

My dear, my Spaniard is quite adorably melancholy; there is something
calm, severe, manly, and mysterious about him which interests me
profoundly. His unvarying solemnity and the silence which envelops him
act like an irritant on the mind. His mute dignity is worthy of a
fallen king. Griffith and I spend our time over him as though he were
a riddle.

How odd it is! A language-master captures my fancy as no other man has
done. Yet by this time I have passed in review all the young men of
family, the attaches to embassies, and the ambassadors, generals, and
inferior officers, the peers of France, their sons and nephews, the
court, and the town.

The coldness of the man provokes me. The sandy waste which he tries to
place, and does place, between us is covered by his deeprooted pride;
he wraps himself in mystery. The hanging back is on his side, the
boldness on mine. This odd situation affords me the more amusement
because the whole thing is mere trifling. What is a man, a Spaniard,
and a teacher of languages to me? I make no account of any man
whatever, were he a king. We are worth far more, I am sure, than the
greatest of them. What a slave I would have made of Napoleon! If he
had loved me, shouldn't he have felt the whip!

Yesterday I aimed a shaft at M. Henarez which must have touched him to
the quick. He made no reply; the lesson was over, and he bowed with a
glance at me, in which I read that he would never return. This suits
me capitally; there would be something ominous in starting an
imitation _Nouvelle Heloise_. I have just been reading Rousseau's, and
it has left me with a strong distaste for love. Passion which can
argue and moralize seems to me detestable.

Clarissa also is much too pleased with herself and her long, little
letter; but Richardson's work is an admirable picture, my father tells
me, of English women. Rousseau's seems to me a sort of philosophical
sermon, cast in the form of letters.

Love, as I conceive it, is a purely subjective poem. In all that books
tell us about it, there is nothing which is not at once false and
true. And so, my pretty one, as you will henceforth be an authority
only on conjugal love, it seems to me my duty--in the interest, of
course, of our common life--to remain unmarried, and have a grand
passion, so that we may enlarge our experience.

Tell me every detail of what happens to you, especially in the first
few days, with that strange animal called a husband. I promise to do
the same for you if ever I am loved.

Farewell, poor martyred darling.



                                 XI

MME. DE L'ESTORADE TO MLLE. DE CHAULIEU
La Crampade.

Your Spaniard and you make me shudder, my darling. I write this line
to beg of you to dismiss him. All that you say of him corresponds with
the character of those dangerous adventurers who, having nothing to
lose, will take any risk. This man cannot be your husband, and must
not be your lover. I will write to you more fully about the inner
history of my married life when my heart is free from the anxiety your
last letter has roused in it.



                                XII

MLLE. DE CHAULIEU TO MME. DE L'ESTORADE
February.

At nine o'clock this morning, sweetheart, my father was announced in
my rooms. I was up and dressed. I found him solemnly seated beside the
fire in the drawing-room, looking more thoughtful than usual. He
pointed to the armchair opposite to him. Divining his meaning, I sank
into it with a gravity, which so well aped his, that he could not
refrain from smiling, though the smile was dashed with melancholy.

"You are quite a match for your grandmother in quick-wittedness," he
said.

"Come, father, don't play the courtier here," I replied; "you want
something from me."

He rose, visibly agitated, and talked to me for half an hour. This
conversation, dear, really ought to be preserved. As soon as he had
gone, I sat down to my table and tried to recall his words. This is
the first time that I have seen my father revealing his inner
thoughts.

He began by flattering me, and he did not do it badly. I was bound to
be grateful to him for having understood and appreciated me.

"Armande," he said, "I was quite mistaken in you, and you have
agreeably surprised me. When you arrived from the convent, I took you
for an average young girl, ignorant and not particularly intelligent,
easily to be bought off with gewgaws and ornaments, and with little
turn for reflection."

"You are complimentary to young girls, father."

"Oh! there is no such thing as youth nowadays," he said, with the air
of a diplomat. "Your mind is amazingly open. You take everything at
its proper worth; your clear-sightedness is extraordinary, there is no
hoodwinking you. You pass for being blind, and all the time you have
laid your hand on causes, while other people are still puzzling over
effects. In short, you are a minister in petticoats, the only person
here capable of understanding me. It follows, then, that if I have any
sacrifice to ask from you, it is only to yourself I can turn for help
in persuading you.

"I am therefore going to explain to you, quite frankly, my former
plans, to which I still adhere. In order to recommend them to you, I
must show that they are connected with feelings of a very high order,
and I shall thus be obliged to enter into political questions of the
greatest importance to the kingdom, which might be wearisome to any
one less intelligent than you are. When you have heard me, I hope you
will take time for consideration, six months if necessary. You are
entirely your own mistress; and if you decline to make the sacrifice I
ask, I shall bow to your decision and trouble you no further."

This preface, my sweetheart, made me really serious, and I said:

"Speak, father."

Here, then, is the deliverance of the statesman:

"My child, France is in a very critical position, which is understood
only by the King and a few superior minds. But the King is a head
without arms; the great nobles, who are in the secret of the danger,
have no authority over the men whose co-operation is needful in order
to bring about a happy result. These men, cast up by popular election,
refuse to lend themselves as instruments. Even the able men among them
carry on the work of pulling down society, instead of helping us to
strengthen the edifice.

"In a word, there are only two parties--the party of Marius and the
party of Sulla. I am for Sulla against Marius. This, roughly speaking,
is our position. To go more into details: the Revolution is still
active; it is embedded in the law and written on the soil; it fills
people's minds. The danger is all the greater because the greater
number of the King's counselors, seeing it destitute of armed forces
and of money, believe it completely vanquished. The King is an able
man, and not easily blinded; but from day to day he is won over by his
brother's partisans, who want to hurry things on. He has not two years
to live, and thinks more of a peaceful deathbed than of anything else.

"Shall I tell you, my child, which is the most destructive of all the
consequences entailed by the Revolution? You would never guess. In
Louis XVI. the Revolution has decapitated every head of a family. The
family has ceased to exist; we have only individuals. In their desire
to become a nation, Frenchmen have abandoned the idea of empire; in
proclaiming the equal rights of all children to their father's
inheritance, they have killed the family spirit and created the State
treasury. But all this has paved the way for weakened authority, for
the blind force of the masses, for the decay of art and the supremacy
of individual interests, and has left the road open to the foreign
invader.

"We stand between two policies--either to found the State on the basis
of the family, or to rest it on individual interest--in other words,
between democracy and aristocracy, between free discussion and
obedience, between Catholicism and religious indifference. I am among
the few who are resolved to oppose what is called the people, and that
in the people's true interest. It is not now a question of feudal
rights, as fools are told, nor of rank; it is a question of the State
and of the existence of France. The country which does not rest on the
foundation of paternal authority cannot be stable. That is the foot of
the ladder of responsibility and subordination, which has for its
summit the King.

"The King stands for us all. To die for the King is to die for
oneself, for one's family, which, like the kingdom, cannot die. All
animals have certain instincts; the instinct of man is for family
life. A country is strong which consists of wealthy families, every
member of whom is interested in defending a common treasure; it is
weak when composed of scattered individuals, to whom it matters little
whether they obey seven or one, a Russian or a Corsican, so long as
each keeps his own plot of land, blind, in their wretched egotism, to
the fact that the day is coming when this too will be torn from them.

"Terrible calamities are in store for us, in case our party fails.
Nothing will be left but penal or fiscal laws--your money or your
life. The most generous nation on the earth will have ceased to obey
the call of noble instincts. Wounds past curing will have been
fostered and aggravated, an all pervading jealousy being the first.
Then the upper classes will be submerged; equality of desire will be
taken for equality of strength; true distinction, even when proved and
recognized, will be threatened by the advancing tide of middle-class
prejudice. It was possible to choose one man out of a thousand, but,
amongst three millions, discrimination becomes impossible, when all
are moved by the same ambitions and attired in the same livery of
mediocrity. No foresight will warn this victorious horde of that other
terrible horde, soon to be arrayed against them in the peasant
proprietors; in other words, twenty million acres of land, alive,
stirring, arguing, deaf to reason, insatiable of appetite, obstructing
progress, masters in their brute force----"

"But," said I, interrupting my father, "what can I do to help the
State. I feel no vocation for playing Joan of Arc in the interests of
the family, or for finding a martyr's block in the convent."

"You are a little hussy," cried my father. "If I speak sensibly to
you, you are full of jokes; when I jest, you talk like an
ambassadress."

"Love lives on contrasts," was my reply.

And he laughed till the tears stood in his eyes.

"You will reflect on what I have told you; you will do justice to the
large and confiding spirit in which I have broached the matter, and
possibly events may assist my plans. I know that, so far as you are
concerned, they are injurious and unfair, and this is the reason why I
appeal for your sanction of them less to your heart and your
imagination than to your reason. I have found more judgment and
commonsense in you than in any one I know----"

"You flatter yourself," I said, with a smile, "for I am every inch
your child!"

"In short," he went on, "one must be logical. You can't have the end
without the means, and it is our duty to set an example to others.
From all this I deduce that you ought not to have money of your own
till your younger brother is provided for, and I want to employ the
whole of your inheritance in purchasing an estate for him to go with
the title."

"But," I said, "you won't interfere with my living in my own fashion
and enjoying life if I leave you my fortune?"

"Provided," he replied, "that your view of life does not conflict with
the family honor, reputation, and, I may add, glory."

"Come, come," I cried, "what has become of my excellent judgment?"

"There is not in all France," he said with bitterness, "a man who
would take for wife a daughter of one of our noblest families without
a dowry and bestow one on her. If such a husband could be found, it
would be among the class of rich _parvenus_; on this point I belong to
the eleventh century."

"And I also," I said. "But why despair? Are there no aged peers?"

"You are an apt scholar, Louise!" he exclaimed.

Then he left me, smiling and kissing my hand.

I received your letter this very morning, and it led me to contemplate
that abyss into which you say that I may fall. A voice within seemed
to utter the same warning. So I took my precautions. Henarez, my dear,
dares to look at me, and his eyes are disquieting. They inspire me
with what I can only call an unreasoning dread. Such a man ought no
more to be looked at than a frog; he is ugly and fascinating.

For two days I have been hesitating whether to tell my father
point-blank that I want no more Spanish lessons and have Henarez sent
about his business. But in spite of all my brave resolutions, I feel
that the horrible sensation which comes over me when I see that man
has become necessary to me. I say to myself, "Once more, and then I
will speak."

His voice, my dear, is sweetly thrilling; his speaking is just like la
Fodor's singing. His manners are simple, entirely free from
affectation. And what teeth!

Just now, as he was leaving, he seemed to divine the interest I take
in him, and made a gesture--oh! most respectfully--as though to take
my hand and kiss it; then checked himself, apparently terrified at his
own boldness and the chasm he had been on the point of bridging. There
was the merest suggestion of all this, but I understood it and smiled,
for nothing is more pathetic than to see the frank impulse of an
inferior checking itself abashed. The love of a plebeian for a girl of
noble birth implies such courage!

My smile emboldened him. The poor fellow looked blindly about for his
hat; he seemed determined not to find it, and I handed it to him with
perfect gravity. His eyes were wet with unshed tears. It was a mere
passing moment, yet a world of facts and ideas were contained in it.
We understood each other so well that, on a sudden, I held out my hand
for him to kiss.

Possibly this was equivalent to telling him that love might bridge the
interval between us. Well, I cannot tell what moved me to do it.
Griffith had her back turned as I proudly extended my little white
paw. I felt the fire of his lips, tempered by two big tears. Oh! my
love, I lay in my armchair, nerveless, dreamy. I was happy, and I
cannot explain to you how or why. What I felt only a poet could
express. My condescension, which fills me with shame now, seemed to me
then something to be proud of; he had fascinated me, that is my one
excuse.

Friday.

This man is really very handsome. He talks admirably, and has
remarkable intellectual power. My dear, he is a very Bossuet in force
and persuasiveness when he explains the mechanism, not only of the
Spanish tongue, but also of human thought and of all language. His
mother tongue seems to be French. When I expressed surprise at this,
he replied that he came to France when quite a boy, following the King
of Spain to Valencay.

What has passed within this enigmatic being? He is no longer the same
man. He came, dressed quite simply, but just as any gentleman would
for a morning walk. He put forth all his eloquence, and flashed wit,
like rays from a beacon, all through the lesson. Like a man roused
from lethargy, he revealed to me a new world of thoughts. He told me
the story of some poor devil of a valet who gave up his life for a
single glance from a queen of Spain.

"What could he do but die?" I exclaimed.

This delighted him, and he looked at me in a way which was truly
alarming.

In the evening I went to a ball at the Duchesse de Lenoncourt's. The
Prince de Talleyrand happened to be there; and I got M. de Vandenesse,
a charming young man, to ask him whether, among the guests at his
country-place in 1809, he remembered any one of the name of Henarez.
Vandenesse reported the Prince's reply, word for word, as follows:

"Henarez is the Moorish name of the Soria family, who are, they say,
descendants of the Abencerrages, converted to Christianity. The old
Duke and his two sons were with the King. The eldest, the present Duke
de Soria, has just had all his property, titles, and dignities
confiscated by King Ferdinand, who in this way avenges a long-standing
feud. The Duke made a huge mistake in consenting to form a
constitutional ministry with Valdez. Happily, he escaped from Cadiz
before the arrival of the Duc d'Angouleme, who, with the best will in
the world, could not have saved him from the King's wrath."

This information gave me much food for reflection. I cannot describe
to you the suspense in which I passed the time till my next lesson,
which took place this morning.

During the first quarter of an hour I examined him closely, debating
inwardly whether he were duke or commoner, without being able to come
to any conclusion. He seemed to read my fancies as they arose and to
take pleasure in thwarting them. At last I could endure it no longer.
Putting down my book suddenly, I broke off the translation I was
making of it aloud, and said to him in Spanish:

"You are deceiving us. You are no poor middle-class Liberal. You are
the Duke de Soria!"

"Mademoiselle," he replied, with a gesture of sorrow, "unhappily, I am
not the Duc de Soria."

I felt all the despair with which he uttered the word "unhappily." Ah!
my dear, never should I have conceived it possible to throw so much
meaning and passion into a single word. His eyes had dropped, and he
dared no longer look at me.

"M. de Talleyrand," I said, "in whose house you spent your years of
exile, declares that any one bearing the name of Henarez must either
be the late Duc de Soria or a lacquey."

He looked at me with eyes like two black burning coals, at once
blazing and ashamed. The man might have been in the torture-chamber.
All he said was:

"My father was in truth the servant of the King of Spain."

Griffith could make nothing of this sort of lesson. An awkward silence
followed each question and answer.

"In one word," I said, "are you a nobleman or not?"

"You know that in Spain even beggars are noble."

This reticence provoked me. Since the last lesson I had given play to
my imagination in a little practical joke. I had drawn an ideal
portrait of the man whom I should wish for my lover in a letter which
I designed giving to him to translate. So far, I had only put Spanish
into French, not French into Spanish; I pointed this out to him, and
begged Griffith to bring me the last letter I had received from a
friend of mine.

"I shall find out," I thought, from the effect my sketch has on him,
"what sort of blood runs in his veins."

I took the paper from Griffith's hands, saying:

"Let me see if I have copied it rightly."

For it was all in my writing. I handed him the paper, or, if you will,
the snare, and I watched him while he read as follows:

"He who is to win my heart, my dear, must be harsh and unbending with
men, but gentle with women. His eagle eye must have power to quell
with a single glance the least approach to ridicule. He will have a
pitying smile for those who would jeer at sacred things, above all, at
that poetry of the heart, without which life would be but a dreary
commonplace. I have the greatest scorn for those who would rob us of
the living fountain of religious beliefs, so rich in solace. His
faith, therefore, should have the simplicity of a child, though united
to the firm conviction of an intelligent man, who has examined the
foundations of his creed. His fresh and original way of looking at
things must be entirely free from affectation or desire to show off.
His words will be few and fit, and his mind so richly stored, that he
cannot possibly become a bore to himself any more than to others.

"All his thoughts must have a high and chivalrous character, without
alloy of self-seeking; while his actions should be marked by a total
absence of interested or sordid motives. Any weak points he may have
will arise from the very elevation of his views above those of the
common herd, for in every respect I would have him superior to his
age. Ever mindful of the delicate attentions due to the weak, he will
be gentle to all women, but not prone lightly to fall in love with
any; for love will seem to him too serious to turn into a game.

"Thus it might happen that he would spend his life in ignorance of
true love, while all the time possessing those qualities most fitted
to inspire it. But if ever he find the ideal woman who has haunted his
waking dreams, if he meet with a nature capable of understanding his
own, one who could fill his soul and pour sunlight over his life,
could shine as a star through the mists of this chill and gloomy
world, lend fresh charm to existence, and draw music from the hitherto
silent chords of his being--needless to say, he would recognize and
welcome his good fortune.

"And she, too, would be happy. Never, by word or look, would he wound
the tender heart which abandoned itself to him, with the blind trust
of a child reposing in its mother's arms. For were the vision
shattered, it would be the wreck of her inner life. To the mighty
waters of love she would confide her all!

"The man I picture must belong, in expression, in attitude, in gait,
in his way of performing alike the smallest and the greatest actions,
to that race of the truly great who are always simple and natural. He
need not be good-looking, but his hands must be beautiful. His upper
lip will curl with a careless, ironic smile for the general public,
whilst he reserves for those he loves the heavenly, radiant glance in
which he puts his soul."

"Will mademoiselle allow me," he said in Spanish, in a voice full of
agitation, "to keep this writing in memory of her? This is the last
lesson I shall have the honor of giving her, and that which I have
just received in these words may serve me for an abiding rule of life.
I left Spain, a fugitive and penniless, but I have to-day received
from my family a sum sufficient for my needs. You will allow me to
send some poor Spaniard in my place."

In other words, he seemed to me to say, "This little game must stop."
He rose with an air of marvelous dignity, and left me quite upset by
such unheard-of delicacy in a man of his class. He went downstairs and
asked to speak with my father.

At dinner my father said to me with a smile:

"Louise, you have been learning Spanish from an ex-minister and a man
condemned to death."

"The Duc de Soria," I said.

"Duke!" replied my father. "No, he is not that any longer; he takes
the title now of Baron de Macumer from a property which still remains
to him in Sardinia. He is something of an original, I think."

"Don't brand with that word, which with you always implies some
mockery and scorn, a man who is your equal, and who, I believe, has a
noble nature."

"Baronne de Macumer?" exclaimed my father, with a laughing glance at
me.

Pride kept my eyes fixed on the table.

"But," said my mother, "Henarez must have met the Spanish ambassador
on the steps?"

"Yes," replied my father, "the ambassador asked me if I was conspiring
against the King, his master; but he greeted the ex-grandee of Spain
with much deference, and placed his services at his disposal."

All this, dear, Mme. de l'Estorade, happened a fortnight ago, and it
is a fortnight now since I have seen the man who loves me, for that he
loves me there is not a doubt. What is he about? If only I were a fly,
or a mouse, or a sparrow! I want to see him alone, myself unseen, at
his house. Only think, a man exists, to whom I can say, "Go and die
for me!" And he is so made that he would go, at least I think so.
Anyhow, there is in Paris a man who occupies my thoughts, and whose
glance pours sunshine into my soul. Is not such a man an enemy, whom I
ought to trample under foot? What? There is a man who has become
necessary to me--a man without whom I don't know how to live! You
married, and I--in love! Four little months, and those two doves,
whose wings erst bore them so high, have fluttered down upon the flat
stretches of real life!

Sunday.

Yesterday, at the Italian Opera, I could feel some one was looking at
me; my eyes were drawn, as by a magnet, to two wells of fire, gleaming
like carbuncles in a dim corner of the orchestra. Henarez never moved
his eyes from me. The wretch had discovered the one spot from which he
could see me--and there he was. I don't know what he may be as a
politician, but for love he has a genius.

  Behold, my fair Renee, where our business now stands,

as the great Corneille has said.



                                XIII

MME. DE L'ESTORADE TO MLLE. DE CHAULIEU
LA CRAMPADE, February.

My dear Louise,--I was bound to wait some time before writing to you;
but now I know, or rather I have learned, many things which, for the
sake of your future happiness, I must tell you. The difference between
a girl and a married woman is so vast, that the girl can no more
comprehend it than the married woman can go back to girlhood again.

I chose to marry Louis de l'Estorade rather than return to the
convent; that at least is plain. So soon as I realized that the
convent was the only alternative to marrying Louis, I had, as girls
say, to "submit," and my submission once made, the next thing was to
examine the situation and try to make the best of it.

The serious nature of what I was undertaking filled me at first with
terror. Marriage is a matter concerning the whole of life, whilst love
aims only at pleasure. On the other hand, marriage will remain when
pleasures have vanished, and it is the source of interests far more
precious than those of the man and woman entering on the alliance.
Might it not therefore be that the only requisite for a happy marriage
was friendship--a friendship which, for the sake of these advantages,
would shut its eyes to many of the imperfections of humanity? Now
there was no obstacle to the existence of friendship between myself
and Louis de l'Estorade. Having renounced all idea of finding in
marriage those transports of love on which our minds used so often,
and with such perilous rapture, to dwell, I found a gentle calm
settling over me. "If debarred from love, why not seek for happiness?"
I said to myself. "Moreover, I am loved, and the love offered me I
shall accept. My married life will be no slavery, but rather a
perpetual reign. What is there to say against such a situation for a
woman who wishes to remain absolute mistress of herself?"

The important point of separating marriage from marital rights was
settled in a conversation between Louis and me, in the course of which
he gave proof of an excellent temper and a tender heart. Darling, my
desire was to prolong that fair season of hope which, never
culminating in satisfaction, leaves to the soul its virginity. To
grant nothing to duty or the law, to be guided entirely by one's own
will, retaining perfect independence--what could be more attractive,
more honorable?

A contract of this kind, directly opposed to the legal contract, and
even to the sacrament itself, could be concluded only between Louis
and me. This difficulty, the first which has arisen, is the only one
which has delayed the completion of our marriage. Although, at first,
I may have made up my mind to accept anything rather than return to
the convent, it is only in human nature, having got an inch, to ask
for an ell, and you and I, sweet love, are of those who would have it
all.

I watched Louis out of the corner of my eye, and put it to myself,
"Has suffering had a softening or a hardening effect on him?" By dint
of close study, I arrived at the conclusion that his love amounted to
a passion. Once transformed into an idol, whose slightest frown would
turn him white and trembling, I realized that I might venture
anything. I drew him aside in the most natural manner on solitary
walks, during which I discreetly sounded his feelings. I made him
talk, and got him to expound to me his ideas and plans for our future.
My questions betrayed so many preconceived notions, and went so
straight for the weak points in this terrible dual existence, that
Louis has since confessed to me the alarm it caused him to find in me
so little of the ignorant maiden.

Then I listened to what he had to say in reply. He got mixed up in his
arguments, as people do when handicapped by fear; and before long it
became clear that chance had given me for adversary one who was the
less fitted for the contest because he was conscious of what you
magniloquently call my "greatness of soul." Broken by sufferings and
misfortune, he looked on himself as a sort of wreck, and three fears
in especial haunted him.

First, we are aged respectively thirty-seven and seventeen; and he
could not contemplate without quaking the twenty years that divide us.
In the next place, he shares our views on the subject of my beauty,
and it is cruel for him to see how the hardships of his life have
robbed him of youth. Finally, he felt the superiority of my womanhood
over his manhood. The consciousness of these three obvious drawbacks
made him distrustful of himself; he doubted his power to make me
happy, and guessed that he had been chosen as the lesser of two evils.

One evening he tentatively suggested that I only married him to escape
the convent.

"I cannot deny it," was my grave reply.

My dear, it touched me to the heart to see the two great tears which
stood in his eyes. Never before had I experienced the shock of emotion
which a man can impart to us.

"Louis," I went on, as kindly as I could, "it rests entirely with you
whether this marriage of convenience becomes one to which I can give
my whole heart. The favor I am about to ask from you will demand
unselfishness on your part, far nobler than the servitude to which a
man's love, when sincere, is supposed to reduce him. The question is,
Can you rise to the height of friendship such as I understand it?

"Life gives us but one friend, and I wish to be yours. Friendship is
the bond between a pair of kindred souls, united in their strength,
and yet independent. Let us be friends and comrades to bear jointly
the burden of life. Leave me absolutely free. I would put no hindrance
in the way of your inspiring me with a love similar to your own; but I
am determined to be yours only of my own free gift. Create in me the
wish to give up my freedom, and at once I lay it at your feet.

"Infuse with passion, then, if you will, this friendship, and let the
voice of love disturb its calm. On my part I will do what I can to
bring my feelings into accord with yours. One thing, above all, I
would beg of you. Spare me the annoyances to which the strangeness of
our mutual position might give rise to our relations with others. I am
neither whimsical nor prudish, and should be sorry to get that
reputation; but I feel sure that I can trust to your honor when I ask
you to keep up the outward appearance of wedded life."

Never, dear, have I seen a man so happy as my proposal made Louis. The
blaze of joy which kindled in his eyes dried up the tears.

"Do not fancy," I concluded, "that I ask this from any wish to be
eccentric. It is the great desire I have for your respect which
prompts my request. If you owe the crown of your love merely to the
legal and religious ceremony, what gratitude could you feel to me
later for a gift in which my goodwill counted for nothing? If during
the time that I remained indifferent to you (yielding only a passive
obedience, such as my mother has just been urging on me) a child were
born to us, do you suppose that I could feel towards it as I would
towards one born of our common love? A passionate love may not be
necessary in marriage, but, at least, you will admit that there should
be no repugnance. Our position will not be without its dangers; in a
country life, such as ours will be, ought we not to bear in mind the
evanescent nature of passion? Is it not simple prudence to make
provision beforehand against the calamities incident to change of
feeling?"

He was greatly astonished to find me at once so reasonable and so apt
at reasoning; but he made me a solemn promise, after which I took his
hand and pressed it affectionately.

We were married at the end of the week. Secure of my freedom, I was
able to throw myself gaily into the petty details which always
accompany a ceremony of the kind, and to be my natural self. Perhaps I
may have been taken for an old bird, as they say at Blois. A young
girl, delighted with the novel and hopeful situation she had contrived
to make for herself, and may have passed for a strong-minded female.

Dear, the difficulties which would beset my life had appeared to me
clearly as in a vision, and I was sincerely anxious to make the
happiness of the man I married. Now, in the solitude of a life like
ours, marriage soon becomes intolerable unless the woman is the
presiding spirit. A woman in such a case needs the charm of a
mistress, combined with the solid qualities of a wife. To introduce an
element of uncertainty into pleasure is to prolong illusion, and
render lasting those selfish satisfactions which all creatures hold,
and should shroud a woman in expectancy, crown her sovereign, and
invest her with an exhaustless power, a redundancy of life, that makes
everything blossom around her. The more she is mistress of herself,
the more certainly will the love and happiness she creates be fit to
weather the storms of life.

But, above all, I have insisted on the greatest secrecy in regard to
our domestic arrangements. A husband who submits to his wife's yoke is
justly held an object of ridicule. A woman's influence ought to be
entirely concealed. The charm of all we do lies in its unobtrusiveness.
If I have made it my task to raise a drooping courage and restore their
natural brightness to gifts which I have dimly descried, it must all
seem to spring from Louis himself.

Such is the mission to which I dedicate myself, a mission surely not
ignoble, and which might well satisfy a woman's ambition. Why, I could
glory in this secret which shall fill my life with interest, in this
task towards which my every energy shall be bent, while it remains
concealed from all but God and you.

I am very nearly happy now, but should I be so without a friendly
heart in which to pour the confession? For how make a confidant of
him? My happiness would wound him, and has to be concealed. He is
sensitive as a woman, like all men who have suffered much.

For three months we remained as we were before marriage. As you may
imagine, during this time I made a close study of many small personal
matters, which have more to do with love than is generally supposed.
In spite of my coldness, Louis grew bolder, and his nature expanded. I
saw on his face a new expression, a look of youth. The greater
refinement which I introduced into the house was reflected in his
person. Insensibly I became accustomed to his presence, and made
another self of him. By dint of constant watching I discovered how his
mind and countenance harmonize. "The animal that we call a husband,"
to quote your words, disappeared, and one balmy evening I discovered
in his stead a lover, whose words thrilled me and on whose arm I leant
with pleasure beyond words. In short, to be open with you, as I would
be with God, before whom concealment is impossible, the perfect
loyalty with which he had kept his oath may have piqued me, and I felt
a fluttering of curiosity in my heart. Bitterly ashamed, I struggled
with myself. Alas! when pride is the only motive for resistance,
excuses for capitulation are soon found.

We celebrated our union in secret, and secret it must remain between
us. When you are married you will approve this reserve. Enough that
nothing was lacking either of satisfaction for the most fastidious
sentiment, or of that unexpectedness which brings, in a sense, its own
sanction. Every witchery of imagination, of passion, of reluctance
overcome, of the ideal passing into reality, played its part.

Yet, in spite of all this enchantment, I once more stood out for my
complete independence. I can't tell you all my reasons for this. To
you alone shall I confide even as much as this. I believe that women,
whether passionately loved or not, lose much in their relation with
their husbands by not concealing their feelings about marriage and the
way they look at it.

My one joy, and it is supreme, springs from the certainty of having
brought new life to my husband before I have borne him any children.
Louis has regained his youth, strength, and spirits. He is not the
same man. With magic touch I have effaced the very memory of his
sufferings. It is a complete metamorphosis. Louis is really very
attractive now. Feeling sure of my affection, he throws off his
reserve and displays unsuspected gifts.

To be the unceasing spring of happiness for a man who knows it and
adds gratitude to love, ah! dear one, this is a conviction which
fortifies the soul, even more than the most passionate love can do.
The force thus developed--at once impetuous and enduring, simple and
diversified--brings forth ultimately the family, that noble product of
womanhood, which I realize now in all its animating beauty.

The old father has ceased to be a miser. He gives blindly whatever I
wish for. The servants are content; it seems as though the bliss of
Louis had let a flood of sunshine into the household, where love has
made me queen. Even the old man would not be a blot upon my pretty
home, and has brought himself into line with all my improvements; to
please me he has adopted the dress, and with the dress, the manners of
the day.

We have English horses, a coupe, a barouche, and a tilbury. The livery
of our servants is simple but in good taste. Of course we are looked
on as spendthrifts. I apply all my intellect (I am speaking quite
seriously) to managing my household with economy, and obtaining for it
the maximum of pleasure with the minimum of cost.

I have already convinced Louis of the necessity of getting roads made,
in order that he may earn the reputation of a man interested in the
welfare of his district. I insist too on his studying a great deal.
Before long I hope to see him a member of the Council General of the
Department, through the influence of my family and his mother's. I
have told him plainly that I am ambitious, and that I was very well
pleased his father should continue to look after the estate and
practise economies, because I wished him to devote himself exclusively
to politics. If we had children, I should like to see them all
prosperous and with good State appointments. Under penalty, therefore,
of forfeiting my esteem and affection, he must get himself chosen
deputy for the department at the coming elections; my family would
support his candidature, and we should then have the delight of
spending all our winters in Paris. Ah! my love, by the ardor with
which he embraced my plans, I can gauge the depth of his affection.

To conclude here is a letter he wrote me yesterday from Marseilles,
where he had gone to spend a few hours:

  "MY SWEET RENEE,--When you gave me permission to love you, I began
  to believe in happiness; now, I see it unfolding endlessly before
  me. The past is merely a dim memory, a shadowy background, without
  which my present bliss would show less radiant. When I am with
  you, love so transports me that I am powerless to express the
  depth of my affection; I can but worship and admire. Only at a
  distance does the power of speech return. You are supremely
  beautiful, Renee, and your beauty is of the statuesque and regal
  type, on which time leaves but little impression. No doubt the
  love of husband and wife depends less on outward beauty than on
  graces of character, which are yours also in perfection; still,
  let me say that the certainty of having your unchanging beauty, on
  which to feast my eyes, gives me a joy that grows with every
  glance. There is a grace and dignity in the lines of your face,
  expressive of the noble soul within, and breathing of purity
  beneath the vivid coloring. The brilliance of your dark eyes, the
  bold sweep of your forehead, declare a spirit of no common
  elevation, sound and trustworthy in every relation, and well
  braced to meet the storms of life, should such arise. The keynote
  of your character is its freedom from all pettiness. You do not
  need to be told all this; but I write it because I would have you
  know that I appreciate the treasure I possess. Your favors to me,
  however slight, will always make my happiness in the far-distant
  future as now; for I am sensible how much dignity there is in our
  promise to respect each other's liberty. Our own impulse shall
  with us alone dictate the expression of feeling. We shall be free
  even in our fetters. I shall have the more pride in wooing you
  again now that I know the reward you place on victory. You cannot
  speak, breathe, act, or think, without adding to the admiration I
  feel for your charm both of body and mind. There is in you a rare
  combination of the ideal, the practical, and the bewitching which
  satisfies alike judgment, a husband's pride, desire, and hope, and
  which extends the boundaries of love beyond those of life itself.
  Oh! my loved one, may the genius of love remain faithful to me,
  and the future be full of those delights by means of which you
  have glorified all that surrounds me! I long for the day which
  shall make you a mother, that I may see you content with the
  fulness of your life, may hear you, in the sweet voice I love and
  with the thoughts, bless the love which has refreshed my soul and
  given new vigor to my powers, the love which is my pride, and
  whence I have drawn, as from a magic fountain, fresh life. Yes, I
  shall be all that you would have me. I shall take a leading part
  in the public life of the district, and on you shall fall the rays
  of a glory which will owe its existence to the desire of pleasing
  you."

So much for my pupil, dear! Do you suppose he could have written like
this before? A year hence his style will have still further improved.
Louis is now in his first transport; what I look forward to is the
uniform and continuous sensation of content which ought to be the
fruit of a happy marriage, when a man and woman, in perfect trust and
mutual knowledge, have solved the problem of giving variety to the
infinite. This is the task set before every true wife; the answer
begins to dawn on me, and I shall not rest till I have made it mine.

You see that he fancies himself--vanity of men!--the chosen of my
heart, just as though there were no legal bonds. Nevertheless, I have
not yet got beyond that external attraction which gives us strength to
put up with a good deal. Yet Louis is lovable; his temper is
wonderfully even, and he performs, as a matter of course, acts on
which most men would plume themselves. In short, if I do not love him,
I shall find no difficulty in being good to him.

So here are my black hair and my black eyes--whose lashes act,
according to you, like Venetian blinds--my commanding air, and my
whole person, raised to the rank of sovereign power! Ten years hence,
dear, why should we not both be laughing and gay in your Paris, whence
I shall carry you off now and again to my beautiful oasis in Provence?

Oh! Louise, don't spoil the splendid future which awaits us both!
Don't do the mad things with which you threaten me. My husband is a
young man, prematurely old; why don't you marry some young-hearted
graybeard in the Chamber of Peers? There lies your vocation.



                                XIV

THE DUC DE SORIA TO THE BARON DE MACUMER
MADRID.

MY DEAR BROTHER,--You did not make me Duc de Soria in order that my
actions should belie the name. How could I tolerate my happiness if I
knew you to be a wanderer, deprived of the comforts which wealth
everywhere commands? Neither Marie nor I will consent to marry till we
hear that you have accepted the money which Urraca will hand over to
you. These two millions are the fruit of your own savings and Marie's.

We have both prayed, kneeling before the same altar--and with what
earnestness, God knows!--for your happiness. My dear brother, it
cannot be that these prayers will remain unanswered. Heaven will send
you the love which you seek, to be the consolation of your exile.
Marie read your letter with tears, and is full of admiration for you.
As for me, I consent, not for my own sake, but for that of the family.
The King justified your expectations. Oh! that I might avenge you by
letting him see himself, dwarfed before the scorn with which you flung
him his toy, as you might toss a tiger its food.

The only thing I have taken for myself, dear brother, is my happiness.
I have taken Marie. For this I shall always be beholden to you, as the
creature to the Creator. There will be in my life and in Marie's one
day not less glorious than our wedding day--it will be the day when we
hear that your heart has found its mate, that a woman loves you as you
ought to be, and would be, loved. Do not forget that if you live for
us, we also live for you.

You can write to us with perfect confidence under cover to the Nuncio,
sending your letters _via_ Rome. The French ambassador at Rome will,
no doubt, undertake to forward them to Monsignore Bemboni, at the
State Secretary's office, whom our legate will have advised. No other
way would be safe. Farewell, dear exile, dear despoiled one. Be proud
at least of the happiness which you have brought to us, if you cannot
be happy in it. God will doubtless hear our prayers, which are full of
your name.



                                 XV

LOUISE DE CHAULIEU TO MME. DE L'ESTORADE
March.

Ah! my love, marriage is making a philosopher of you! Your darling
face must, indeed, have been jaundiced when you wrote me those
terrible views of human life and the duty of women. Do you fancy you
will convert me to matrimony by your programme of subterranean labors?

Alas! is this then the outcome for you of our too-instructed dreams!
We left Blois all innocent, armed with the pointed shafts of
meditation, and, lo! the weapons of that purely ideal experience have
turned against your own breast! If I did not know you for the purest
and most angelic of created beings, I declare I should say that your
calculations smack of vice. What, my dear, in the interest of your
country home, you submit your pleasures to a periodic thinning, as you
do your timber. Oh! rather let me perish in all the violence of the
heart's storms than live in the arid atmosphere of your cautious
arithmetic!

As girls, we were both unusually enlightened, because of the large
amount of study we gave to our chosen subjects; but, my child,
philosophy without love, or disguised under a sham love, is the most
hideous of conjugal hypocrisies. I should imagine that even the
biggest of fools might detect now and again the owl of wisdom
squatting in your bower of roses--a ghastly phantom sufficient to put
to flight the most promising of passions. You make your own fate,
instead of waiting, a plaything in its hands.

We are each developing in strange ways. A large dose of philosophy to
a grain of love is your recipe; a large dose of love to a grain of
philosophy is mine. Why, Rousseau's Julie, whom I thought so learned,
is a mere beginner to you. Woman's virtue, quotha! How you have
weighed up life! Alas! I make fun of you, and, after all, perhaps you
are right.

In one day you have made a holocaust of your youth and become a miser
before your time. Your Louis will be happy, I daresay. If he loves
you, of which I make no doubt, he will never find out, that, for the
sake of your family, you are acting as a courtesan does for money; and
certainly men seem to find happiness with them, judging by the
fortunes they squander thus. A keen-sighted husband might no doubt
remain in love with you, but what sort of gratitude could he feel in
the long run for a woman who had made of duplicity a sort of moral
armor, as indispensable as her stays?

Love, dear, is in my eyes the first principle of all the virtues,
conformed to the divine likeness. Like all other first principles, it
is not a matter of arithmetic; it is the Infinite in us. I cannot but
think you have been trying to justify in your own eyes the frightful
position of a girl, married to a man for whom she feels nothing more
than esteem. You prate of duty, and make it your rule and measure; but
surely to take necessity as the spring of action is the moral theory
of atheism? To follow the impulse of love and feeling is the secret
law of every woman's heart. You are acting a man's part, and your
Louis will have to play the woman!

Oh! my dear, your letter has plunged me into an endless train of
thought. I see now that the convent can never take the place of mother
to a girl. I beg of you, my grand angel with the black eyes, so pure
and proud, so serious and so pretty, do not turn away from these
cries, which the first reading of your letter has torn from me! I have
taken comfort in the thought that, while I was lamenting, love was
doubtless busy knocking down the scaffolding of reason.

It may be that I shall do worse than you without any reasoning or
calculations. Passion is an element in life bound to have a logic not
less pitiless than yours.

Monday.

Yesterday night I placed myself at the window as I was going to bed,
to look at the sky, which was wonderfully clear. The stars were like
silver nails, holding up a veil of blue. In the silence of the night I
could hear some one breathing, and by the half-light of the stars I
saw my Spaniard, perched like a squirrel on the branches of one of the
trees lining the boulevard, and doubtless lost in admiration of my
windows.

The first effect of this discovery was to make me withdraw into the
room, my feet and hands quite limp and nerveless; but, beneath the
fear, I was conscious of a delicious undercurrent of joy. I was
overpowered but happy. Not one of those clever Frenchmen, who aspire
to marry me, has had the brilliant idea of spending the night in an
elm-tree at the risk of being carried off by the watch. My Spaniard
has, no doubt, been there for some time. Ah! he won't give me any more
lessons, he wants to receive them--well, he shall have one. If only he
knew what I said to myself about his superficial ugliness! Others can
philosophize besides you, Renee! It was horrid, I argued, to fall in
love with a handsome man. Is it not practically avowing that the
senses count for three parts out of four in a passion which ought to
be super-sensual?

Having got over my first alarm, I craned my neck behind the window in
order to see him again--and well was I rewarded! By means of a hollow
cane he blew me in through the window a letter, cunningly rolled round
a leaden pellet.

Good Heavens! will he suppose I left the window open on purpose?

But what was to be done? To shut it suddenly would be to make oneself
an accomplice.

I did better. I returned to my window as though I had seen nothing and
heard nothing of the letter, then I said aloud:

"Come and look at the stars, Griffith."

Griffith was sleeping as only old maids can. But the Moor, hearing me,
slid down, and vanished with ghostly rapidity.

He must have been dying of fright, and so was I, for I did not hear
him go away; apparently he remained at the foot of the elm. After a
good quarter of an hour, during which I lost myself in contemplation
of the heavens, and battled with the waves of curiosity, I closed my
widow and sat down on the bed to unfold the delicate bit of paper,
with the tender touch of a worker amongst the ancient manuscripts at
Naples. It felt redhot to my fingers. "What a horrible power this man
has over me!" I said to myself.

All at once I held out the paper to the candle--I would burn it
without reading a word. Then a thought stayed me, "What can he have to
say that he writes so secretly?" Well, dear, I _did_ burn it,
reflecting that, though any other girl in the world would have
devoured the letter, it was not fitting that I--Armande-Louise-Marie
de Chaulieu--should read it.

The next day, at the Italian opera, he was at his post. But I feel
sure that, ex-prime minister of a constitutional government though he
is, he could not discover the slightest agitation of mind in any
movement of mine. I might have seen nothing and received nothing the
evening before. This was most satisfactory to me, but he looked very
sad. Poor man! in Spain it is so natural for love to come in at the
window!

During the interval, it seems, he came and walked in the passages.
This I learned from the chief secretary of the Spanish embassy, who
also told the story of a noble action of his.

As Duc de Soria he was to marry one of the richest heiresses in Spain,
the young princess Marie Heredia, whose wealth would have mitigated
the bitterness of exile. But it seems that Marie, disappointing the
wishes of the fathers, who had betrothed them in their earliest
childhood, loved the younger son of the house of Soria, to whom my
Felipe, gave her up. Allowing himself to be despoiled by the King of
Spain.

"He would perform this piece of heroism quite simply," I said to the
young man.

"You know him then?" was his ingenuous reply.

My mother smiled.

"What will become of him, for he is condemned to death?" I asked.

"Though dead to Spain, he can live in Sardinia."

"Ah! then Spain is the country of tombs as well as castles?" I said,
trying to carry it off as a joke.

"There is everything in Spain, even Spaniards of the old school," my
mother replied.

"The Baron de Macumer obtained a passport, not without difficulty,
from the King of Sardinia," the young diplomatist went on. "He has now
become a Sardinian subject, and he possesses a magnificent estate in
the island with full feudal rights. He has a palace at Sassari. If
Ferdinand VII. were to die, Macumer would probably go in for
diplomacy, and the Court of Turin would make him ambassador. Though
young, he is--"

"Ah! he is young?"

"Certainly, mademoiselle . . . though young, he is one of the most
distinguished men in Spain."

I scanned the house meanwhile through my opera-glass, and seemed to
lend an inattentive ear to the secretary; but, between ourselves, I
was wretched at having burnt his letter. In what terms would a man
like that express his love? For he does love me. To be loved, adored
in secret; to know that in this house, where all the great men of
Paris were collected, there was one entirely devoted to me, unknown to
everybody! Ah! Renee, now I understand the life of Paris, its balls,
and its gaieties. It all flashed on me in the true light. When we
love, we must have society, were it only to sacrifice it to our love.
I felt a different creature--and such a happy one! My vanity, pride,
self-love,--all were flattered. Heaven knows what glances I cast upon
the audience!

"Little rogue!" the Duchess whispered in my ear with a smile.

Yes, Renee, my wily mother had deciphered the hidden joy in my
bearing, and I could only haul down my flag before such feminine
strategy. Those two words taught me more of worldly wisdom than I have
been able to pick up in a year--for we are in March now. Alas! no more
Italian opera in another month. How will life be possible without that
heavenly music, when one's heart is full of love?

When I got home, my dear, with determination worthy of a Chaulieu, I
opened my window to watch a shower of rain. Oh! if men knew the magic
spell that a heroic action throws over us, they would indeed rise to
greatness! a poltroon would turn hero! What I had learned about my
Spaniard drove me into a very fever. I felt certain that he was there,
ready to aim another letter at me.

I was right, and this time I burnt nothing. Here, then, is the first
love-letter I have received, madame logician: each to her kind:--

  "Louise, it is not for your peerless beauty I love you, nor for
  your gifted mind, your noble feeling, the wondrous charm of all
  you say and do, nor yet for your pride, your queenly scorn of
  baser mortals--a pride blent in you with charity, for what angel
  could be more tender?--Louise, I love you because, for the sake of
  a poor exile, you have unbent this lofty majesty, because by a
  gesture, a glance, you have brought consolation to a man so far
  beneath you that the utmost he could hope for was your pity, the
  pity of a generous heart. You are the one woman whose eyes have
  shone with a tenderer light when bent on me.

  "And because you let fall this glance--a mere grain of dust, yet a
  grace surpassing any bestowed on me when I stood at the summit of
  a subject's ambition--I long to tell you, Louise, how dear you are
  to me, and that my love is for yourself alone, without a thought
  beyond, a love that far more than fulfils the conditions laid down
  by you for an ideal passion.

  "Know, then, idol of my highest heaven, that there is in the world
  an offshoot of the Saracen race, whose life is in your hands, who
  will receive your orders as a slave, and deem it an honor to
  execute them. I have given myself to you absolutely and for the
  mere joy of giving, for a single glance of your eye, for a touch
  of the hand which one day you offered to your Spanish master. I am
  but your servitor, Louise; I claim no more.

  "No, I dare not think that I could ever be loved; but perchance my
  devotion may win for me toleration. Since that morning when you
  smiled upon me with generous girlish impulse, divining the misery
  of my lonely and rejected heart, you reign there alone. You are
  the absolute ruler of my life, the queen of my thoughts, the god
  of my heart; I find you in the sunshine of my home, the fragrance
  of my flowers, the balm of the air I breathe, the pulsing of my
  blood, the light that visits me in sleep.

  "One thought alone troubled this happiness--your ignorance. All
  unknown to you was this boundless devotion, the trusty arm, the
  blind slave, the silent tool, the wealth--for henceforth all I
  possess is mine only as a trust--which lay at your disposal;
  unknown to you, the heart waiting to receive your confidence, and
  yearning to replace all that your life (I know it well) has lacked
  --the liberal ancestress, so ready to meet your needs, a father to
  whom you could look for protection in every difficulty, a friend,
  a brother. The secret of your isolation is no secret to me! If I
  am bold, it is because I long that you should know how much is
  yours.

  "Take all, Louise, and is so doing bestow on me the one life
  possible for me in this world--the life of devotion. In placing
  the yoke on my neck, you run no risk; I ask nothing but the joy of
  knowing myself yours. Needless even to say you will never love me;
  it cannot be otherwise. I must love you from afar, without hope,
  without reward beyond my own love.

  "In my anxiety to know whether you will accept me as your servant,
  I have racked my brain to find some way in which you may
  communicate with me without any danger of compromising yourself.
  Injury to your self-respect there can be none in sanctioning a
  devotion which has been yours for many days without your
  knowledge. Let this, then, be the token. At the opera this
  evening, if you carry in your hand a bouquet consisting of one red
  and one white camellia--emblem of a man's blood at the service of
  the purity he worships--that will be my answer. I ask no more;
  thenceforth, at any moment, ten years hence or to-morrow, whatever
  you demand shall be done, so far as it is possible for man to do
  it, by your happy servant,
"FELIPE HENAREZ."

_P. S._--You must admit, dear, that great lords know how to love! See
the spring of the African lion! What restrained fire! What loyalty!
What sincerity! How high a soul in low estate! I felt quite small and
dazed as I said to myself, "What shall I do?"

It is the mark of a great man that he puts to flight all ordinary
calculations. He is at once sublime and touching, childlike and of the
race of giants. In a single letter Henarez has outstripped volumes
from Lovelace or Saint-Preux. Here is true love, no beating about the
bush. Love may be or it may not, but where it is, it ought to reveal
itself in its immensity.

Here am I, shorn of all my little arts! To refuse or accept! That is
the alternative boldly presented me, without the ghost of an opening
for a middle course. No fencing allowed! This is no longer Paris; we
are in the heart of Spain or the far East. It is the voice of
Abencerrage, and it is the scimitar, the horse, and the head of
Abencerrage which he offers, prostrate before a Catholic Eve! Shall I
accept this last descendant of the Moors? Read again and again his
Hispano-Saracenic letter, Renee dear, and you will see how love makes
a clean sweep of all the Judaic bargains of your philosophy.

Renee, your letter lies heavy on my heart; you have vulgarized life
for me. What need have I for finessing? Am I not mistress for all time
of this lion whose roar dies out in plaintive and adoring sighs? Ah!
how he must have raged in his lair of the Rue Hillerin-Bertin! I know
where he lives, I have his card: _F., Baron de Macumer_.

He has made it impossible for me to reply. All I can do is to fling
two camellias in his face. What fiendish arts does love possess--pure,
honest, simple-minded love! Here is the most tremendous crisis of a
woman's heart resolved into an easy, simple action. Oh, Asia! I have
read the _Arabian Nights_, here is their very essence: two flowers,
and the question is settled. We clear the fourteen volumes of
_Clarissa Harlowe_ with a bouquet. I writhe before this letter, like a
thread in the fire. To take, or not to take, my two camellias. Yes or
No, kill or give life! At last a voice cries to me, "Test him!" And I
will test him.



                                XVI

THE SAME TO THE SAME
March.

I am dressed in white--white camellias in my hair, and another in my
hand. My mother has red camellias; so it would not be impossible to
take one from her--if I wished! I have a strange longing to put off
the decision to the last moment, and make him pay for his red camellia
by a little suspense.

What a vision of beauty! Griffith begged me to stop for a little and
be admired. The solemn crisis of the evening and the drama of my
secret reply have given me a color; on each cheek I sport a red
camellia laid upon a white!

1 A. M.

Everybody admired me, but only one adored. He hung his head as I
entered with a white camellia, but turned pale as the flower when,
later, I took a red one from my mother's hand. To arrive with the two
flowers might possibly have been accidental; but this deliberate
action was a reply. My confession, therefore, is fuller than it need
have been.

The opera was _Romeo and Juliet_. As you don't know the duet of the
two lovers, you can't understand the bliss of two neophytes in love,
as they listen to this divine outpouring of the heart.

On returning home I went to bed, but only to count the steps which
resounded on the sidewalk. My heart and head, darling, are all on fire
now. What is he doing? What is he thinking of? Has he a thought, a
single thought, that is not of me? Is he, in very truth, the devoted
slave he painted himself? How to be sure? Or, again, has it ever
entered his head that, if I accept him, I lay myself open to the
shadow of a reproach or am in any sense rewarding or thanking him? I
am harrowed by the hair-splitting casuistry of the heroines in _Cyrus_
and _Astraea_, by all the subtle arguments of the court of love.

Has he any idea that, in affairs of love, a woman's most trifling
actions are but the issue of long brooding and inner conflicts, of
victories won only to be lost! What are his thoughts at this moment?
How can I give him my orders to write every evening the particulars of
the day just gone? He is my slave whom I ought to keep busy. I shall
deluge him with work!

Sunday Morning.

Only towards morning did I sleep a little. It is midday now. I have
just got Griffith to write the following letter:

  "_To the Baron de Macumer_.

  "Mademoiselle de Chaulieu begs me, Monsieur le Baron, to ask you
  to return to her the copy of a letter written to her by a friend,
  which is in her own handwriting, and which you carried away.
  --Believe me, etc.,
"GRIFFITH."

My dear, Griffith has gone out; she has gone to the Rue
Hillerin-Bertin; she had handed in this little love-letter for my
slave, who returned to me in an envelope my sweet portrait, stained
with tears. He has obeyed. Oh! my sweet, it must have been dear to
him! Another man would have refused to send it in a letter full of
flattery; but the Saracen has fulfilled his promises. He has obeyed.
It moves me to tears.



                                XVII

THE SAME TO THE SAME
April 2nd.

Yesterday the weather was splendid. I dressed myself like a girl who
wants to look her best in her sweetheart's eyes. My father, yielding
to my entreaties, has given me the prettiest turnout in Paris--two
dapple-gray horses and a barouche, which is a masterpiece of elegance.
I was making a first trial of this, and peeped out like a flower from
under my sunshade lined with white silk.

As I drove up the avenue of the Champs-Elysees, I saw my Abencerrage
approaching on an extraordinarily beautiful horse. Almost every man
nowadays is a finished jockey, and they all stopped to admire and
inspect it. He bowed to me, and on receiving a friendly sign of
encouragement, slackened his horse's pace so that I was able to say to
him:

"You are not vexed with me for asking for my letter; it was no use to
you." Then in a lower voice, "You have already transcended the ideal.
. . . Your horse makes you an object of general interest," I went on
aloud.

"My steward in Sardinia sent it to me. He is very proud of it; for
this horse, which is of Arab blood, was born in my stables."

This morning, my dear, Henarez was on an English sorrel, also very
fine, but not such as to attract attention. My light, mocking words
had done their work. He bowed to me and I replied with a slight
inclination of the head.

The Duc d'Angouleme has bought Macumer's horse. My slave understood
that he was deserting the role of simplicity by attracting the notice
of the crowd. A man ought to be remarked for what he is, not for his
horse, or anything else belonging to him. To have too beautiful a
horse seems to me a piece of bad taste, just as much as wearing a huge
diamond pin. I was delighted at being able to find fault with him.
Perhaps there may have been a touch of vanity in what he did, very
excusable in a poor exile, and I like to see this childishness.

Oh! my dear old preacher, do my love affairs amuse you as much as your
dismal philosophy gives me the creeps? Dear Philip the Second in
petticoats, are you comfortable in my barouche? Do you see those
velvet eyes, humble, yet so eloquent, and glorying in their servitude,
which flash on me as some one goes by? He is a hero, Renee, and he
wears my livery, and always a red camellia in his buttonhole, while I
have always a white one in my hand.

How clear everything becomes in the light of love! How well I know my
Paris now! It is all transfused with meaning. And love here is
lovelier, grander, more bewitching than elsewhere.

I am convinced now that I could never flirt with a fool or make any
impression on him. It is only men of real distinction who can enter
into our feelings and feel our influence. Oh! my poor friend, forgive
me. I forgot our l'Estorade. But didn't you tell me you were going to
make a genius of him? I know what that means. You will dry nurse him
till some day he is able to understand you.

Good-bye. I am a little off my head, and must stop.



                               XVIII

MME. DE L'ESTORADE TO LOUISE DE CHAULIEU
April.

My angel--or ought I not rather to say my imp of evil?--you have,
without meaning it, grieved me sorely. I would say wounded were we not
one soul. And yet it is possible to wound oneself.

How plain it is that you have never realized the force of the word
_indissoluble_ as applied to the contract binding man and woman! I
have no wish to controvert what has been laid down by philosophers or
legislators--they are quite capable of doing this for themselves--but,
dear one, in making marriage irrevocable and imposing on it a
relentless formula, which admits of no exceptions, they have rendered
each union a thing as distinct as one individual is from another. Each
has its own inner laws which differ from those of others. The laws
regulating married life in the country, for instance, cannot be the
same as those regulating a household in town, where frequent
distractions give variety to life. Or conversely, married life in
Paris, where existence is one perpetual whirl, must demand different
treatment from the more peaceful home in the provinces.

But if place alters the conditions of marriage, much more does
character. The wife of a man born to be a leader need only resign
herself to his guidance; whereas the wife of a fool, conscious of
superior power, is bound to take the reins in her own hand if she
would avert calamity.

You speak of vice; and it is possible that, after all, reason and
reflection produce a result not dissimilar from what we call by that
name. For what does a woman mean by it but perversion of feeling
through calculation? Passion is vicious when it reasons, admirable
only when it springs from the heart and spends itself in sublime
impulses that set at naught all selfish considerations. Sooner or
later, dear one, you too will say, "Yes! dissimulation is the
necessary armor of a woman, if by dissimulation be meant courage to
bear in silence, prudence to foresee the future."

Every married woman learns to her cost the existence of certain social
laws, which, in many respects, conflict with the laws of nature.
Marrying at our age, it would be possible to have a dozen children.
What is this but another name for a dozen crimes, a dozen misfortunes?
It would be handing over to poverty and despair twelve innocent
darlings; whereas two children would mean the happiness of both, a
double blessing, two lives capable of developing in harmony with the
customs and laws of our time. The natural law and the code are in
hostility, and we are the battle ground. Would you give the name of
vice to the prudence of the wife who guards her family from
destruction through its own acts? One calculation or a thousand, what
matter, if the decision no longer rests with the heart?

And of this terrible calculation you will be guilty some day, my noble
Baronne de Macumer, when you are the proud and happy wife of the man
who adores you; or rather, being a man of sense, he will spare you by
making it himself. (You see, dear dreamer, that I have studied the
code in its bearings on conjugal relations.) And when at last that day
comes, you will understand that we are answerable only to God and to
ourselves for the means we employ to keep happiness alight in the
heart of our homes. Far better is the calculation which succeeds
in this than the reckless passion which introduces trouble,
heart-burnings, and dissension.

I have reflected painfully on the duties of a wife and mother of a
family. Yes, sweet one, it is only by a sublime hypocrisy that we can
attain the noblest ideal of a perfect woman. You tax me with
insincerity because I dole out to Louis, from day to day, the measure
of his intimacy with me; but is it not too close an intimacy which
provokes rupture? My aim is to give him, in the very interest of his
happiness, many occupations, which will all serve as distractions to
his love; and this is not the reasoning of passion. If affection be
inexhaustible, it is not so with love: the task, therefore, of a woman
--truly no light one--is to spread it out thriftily over a lifetime.

At the risk of exciting your disgust, I must tell you that I persist
in the principles I have adopted, and hold myself both heroic and
generous in so doing. Virtue, my pet, is an abstract idea, varying in
its manifestations with the surroundings. Virtue in Provence, in
Constantinople, in London, and in Paris bears very different fruit,
but is none the less virtue. Each human life is a substance compacted
of widely dissimilar elements, though, viewed from a certain height,
the general effect is the same.

If I wished to make Louis unhappy and to bring about a separation, all
I need do is to leave the helm in his hands. I have not had your good
fortune in meeting with a man of the highest distinction, but I may
perhaps have the satisfaction of helping him on the road to it. Five
years hence let us meet in Paris and see! I believe we shall succeed
in mystifying you. You will tell me then that I was quite mistaken,
and that M. de l'Estorade is a man of great natural gifts.

As for this brave love, of which I know only what you tell me, these
tremors and night watches by starlight on the balcony, this idolatrous
worship, this deification of woman--I knew it was not for me. You can
enlarge the borders of your brilliant life as you please; mine is
hemmed in to the boundaries of La Crampade.

And you reproach me for the jealous care which alone can nurse this
modest and fragile shoot into a wealth of lasting and mysterious
happiness! I believed myself to have found out how to adapt the charm
of a mistress to the position of a wife, and you have almost made me
blush for my device. Who shall say which of us is right, which is
wrong? Perhaps we are both right and both wrong. Perhaps this is the
heavy price which society exacts for our furbelows, our titles, and
our children.

I too have my red camellias, but they bloom on my lips in smiles for
my double charge--the father and the son--whose slave and mistress I
am. But, my dear, your last letters made me feel what I have lost! You
have taught me all a woman sacrifices in marrying. One single glance
did I take at those beautiful wild plateaus where you range at your
sweet will, and I will not tell you the tears that fell as I read. But
regret is not remorse, though it may be first cousin to it.

You say, "Marriage has made you a philosopher!" Alas! bitterly did I
feel how far this was from the truth, as I wept to think of you swept
away on love's torrent. But my father has made me read one of the
profoundest thinkers of these parts, the man on whom the mantle of
Boussuet has fallen, one of those hard-headed theorists whose words
force conviction. While you were reading _Corinne_, I conned Bonald;
and here is the whole secret of my philosophy. He revealed to me the
Family in its strength and holiness. According to Bonald, your father
was right in his homily.

Farewell, my dear fancy, my friend, my wild other self.



                                XIX

LOUISE DE CHAULIEU TO MME. DE L'ESTORADE

Well, my Renee, you are a love of a woman, and I quite agree now that
we can only be virtuous by cheating. Will that satisfy you? Moreover,
the man who loves us is our property; we can make a fool or a genius
of him as we please; only, between ourselves, the former happens more
commonly. You will make yours a genius, and you won't tell the secret
--there are two heroic actions, if you will!

Ah! if there were no future life, how nicely you would be sold, for
this is martyrdom into which you are plunging of your own accord. You
want to make him ambitious and to keep him in love! Child that you
are, surely the last alone is sufficient.

Tell me, to what point is calculation a virtue, or virtue calculation?
You won't say? Well, we won't quarrel over that, since we have Bonald
to refer to. We are, and intend to remain, virtuous; nevertheless at
this moment I believe that you, with all your pretty little knavery,
are a better woman than I am.

Yes, I am shockingly deceitful. I love Felipe, and I conceal it from
him with an odious hypocrisy. I long to see him leap from his tree to
the top of the wall, and from the wall to my balcony--and if he did,
how I should wither him with my scorn! You see, I am frank enough with
you.

What restrains me? Where is the mysterious power which prevents me
from telling Felipe, dear fellow, how supremely happy he has made me
by the outpouring of his love--so pure, so absolute, so boundless, so
unobtrusive, and so overflowing?

Mme. de Mirbel is painting my portrait, and I intend to give it to
him, my dear. What surprises me more and more every day is the
animation which love puts into life. How full of interest is every
hour, every action, every trifle! and what amazing confusion between
the past, the future, and the present! One lives in three tenses at
once. Is it still so after the heights of happiness are reached? Oh!
tell me, I implore you, what is happiness? Does it soothe, or does it
excite? I am horribly restless; I seem to have lost all my bearings; a
force in my heart drags me to him, spite of reason and spite of
propriety. There is this gain, that I am better able to enter into
your feelings.

Felipe's happiness consists in feeling himself mine; the aloofness of
his love, his strict obedience, irritate me, just as his attitude of
profound respect provoked me when he was only my Spanish master. I am
tempted to cry out to him as he passes, "Fool, if you love me so much
as a picture, what will it be when you know the real me?"

Oh! Renee, you burn my letters, don't you? I will burn yours. If other
eyes than ours were to read these thoughts which pass from heart to
heart, I should send Felipe to put them out, and perhaps to kill the
owners, by way of additional security.

Monday.

Oh! Renee, how is it possible to fathom the heart of man? My father
ought to introduce me to M. Bonald, since he is so learned; I would
ask him. I envy the privilege of God, who can read the undercurrents
of the heart.

Does he still worship? That is the whole question.

If ever, in gesture, glance, or tone, I were to detect the slightest
falling off in the respect he used to show me in the days when he was
my instructor in Spanish, I feel that I should have strength to put
the whole thing from me. "Why these fine words, these grand
resolutions?" you will say. Dear, I will tell you.

My fascinating father, who treats me with the devotion of an Italian
_cavaliere servente_ for his lady, had my portrait painted, as I told
you, by Mme. de Mirbel. I contrived to get a copy made, good enough to
do for the Duke, and sent the original to Felipe. I despatched it
yesterday, and these lines with it:

  "Don Felipe, your single-hearted devotion is met by a blind
  confidence. Time will show whether this is not to treat a man as
  more than human."

It was a big reward. It looked like a promise and--dreadful to say--a
challenge; but--which will seem to you still more dreadful--I quite
intended that it should suggest both these things, without going so
far as actually to commit me. If in his reply there is "Dear Louise!"
or even "Louise," he is done for!

Tuesday.

No, he is not done for. The constitutional minister is perfect as a
lover. Here is his letter:--

  "Every moment passed away from your sight has been filled by me
  with ideal pictures of you, my eyes closed to the outside world
  and fixed in meditation on your image, which used to obey the
  summons too slowly in that dim palace of dreams, glorified by your
  presence. Henceforth my gaze will rest upon this wondrous ivory
  --this talisman, might I not say?--since your blue eyes sparkle with
  life as I look, and paint passes into flesh and blood. If I have
  delayed writing, it is because I could not tear myself away from
  your presence, which wrung from me all that I was bound to keep
  most secret.

  "Yes, closeted with you all last night and to-day, I have, for the
  first time in my life, given myself up to full, complete, and
  boundless happiness. Could you but see yourself where I have
  placed you, between the Virgin and God, you might have some idea
  of the agony in which the night has passed. But I would not offend
  you by speaking of it; for one glance from your eyes, robbed of
  the tender sweetness which is my life, would be full of torture
  for me, and I implore your clemency therefore in advance. Queen of
  my life and of my soul, oh! that you could grant me but
  one-thousandth part of the love I bear you!

  "This was the burden of my prayer; doubt worked havoc in my soul
  as I oscillated between belief and despair, between life and
  death, darkness and light. A criminal whose verdict hangs in the
  balance is not more racked with suspense than I, as I own to my
  temerity. The smile imaged on your lips, to which my eyes turned
  ever and again, and alone able to calm the storm roused by the
  dread of displeasing you. From my birth no one, not even my
  mother, has smiled on me. The beautiful young girl who was
  designed for me rejected my heart and gave hers to my brother.
  Again, in politics all my efforts have been defeated. In the eyes
  of my king I have read only thirst for vengeance; from childhood
  he has been my enemy, and the vote of the Cortes which placed me
  in power was regarded by him as a personal insult.

  "Less than this might breed despondency in the stoutest heart.
  Besides, I have no illusion; I know the gracelessness of my
  person, and am well aware how difficult it is to do justice to the
  heart within so rugged a shell. To be loved had ceased to be more
  than a dream to me when I met you. Thus when I bound myself to
  your service I knew that devotion alone could excuse my passion.

  "But, as I look upon this portrait and listen to your smile that
  whispers of rapture, the rays of a hope which I had sternly
  banished pierced the gloom, like the light of dawn, again to be
  obscured by rising mists of doubt and fear of your displeasure, if
  the morning should break to day. No, it is impossible you should
  love me yet--I feel it; but in time, as you make proof of the
  strength, the constancy, and depth of my affection, you may yield
  me some foothold in your heart. If my daring offends you, tell me
  so without anger, and I will return to my former part. But if you
  consent to try and love me, be merciful and break it gently to one
  who has placed the happiness of his life in the single thought of
  serving you."

My dear, as I read these last words, he seemed to rise before me, pale
as the night when the camellias told their story and he knew his
offering was accepted. These words, in their humility, were clearly
something quite different from the usual flowery rhetoric of lovers,
and a wave of feeling broke over me; it was the breath of happiness.

The weather has been atrocious; impossible to go to the Bois without
exciting all sorts of suspicions. Even my mother, who often goes out,
regardless of rain, remains at home, and alone.

Wednesday evening.

I have just seen _him_ at the Opera, my dear; he is another man. He
came to our box, introduced by the Sardinian ambassador.

Having read in my eyes that this audacity was taken in good part, he
seemed awkwardly conscious of his limbs, and addressed the Marquise
d'Espard as "mademoiselle." A light far brighter than the glare of the
chandeliers flashed from his eyes. At last he went out with the air of
a man who didn't know what he might do next.

"The Baron de Macumer is in love!" exclaimed Mme. de Maufrigneuse.

"Strange, isn't it, for a fallen minister?" replied my mother.

I had sufficient presence of mind myself to regard with curiosity
Mmes. de Maufrigneuse and d'Espard and my mother, as though they were
talking a foreign language and I wanted to know what it was all about,
but inwardly my soul sank in the waves of an intoxicating joy. There
is only one word to express what I felt, and that is: rapture. Such
love as Felipe's surely makes him worthy of mine. I am the very breath
of his life, my hands hold the thread that guides his thoughts. To be
quite frank, I have a mad longing to see him clear every obstacle and
stand before me, asking boldly for my hand. Then I should know whether
this storm of love would sink to placid calm at a glance from me.

Ah! my dear, I stopped here, and I am still all in a tremble. As I
wrote, I heard a slight noise outside, and rose to see what it was.
From my window I could see him coming along the ridge of the wall at
the risk of his life. I went to the bedroom window and made him a
sign, it was enough; he leaped from the wall--ten feet--and then ran
along the road, as far as I could see him, in order to show me that he
was not hurt. That he should think of my fear at the moment when he
must have been stunned by his fall, moved me so much that I am still
crying; I don't know why. Poor ungainly man! what was he coming for?
what had he to say to me?

I dare not write my thoughts, and shall go to bed joyful, thinking of
all that we would say if we were together. Farewell, fair silent one.
I have not time to scold you for not writing, but it is more than a
month since I have heard from you! Does this mean that you are at last
happy? Have you lost the "complete independence" which you were so
proud of, and which to-night has so nearly played me false?



                                 XX

RENEE DE L'ESTORADE TO LOUISE DE CHAULIEU
May.

If love be the life of the world, why do austere philosophers count it
for nothing in marriage? Why should Society take for its first law
that the woman must be sacrificed to the family, introducing thus a
note of discord into the very heart of marriage? And this discord was
foreseen, since it was to meet the dangers arising from it that men
were armed with new-found powers against us. But for these, we should
have been able to bring their whole theory to nothing, whether by the
force of love or of a secret, persistent aversion.

I see in marriage, as it at present exists, two opposing forces which
it was the task of the lawgiver to reconcile. "When will they be
reconciled?" I said to myself, as I read your letter. Oh! my dear, one
such letter alone is enough to overthrow the whole fabric constructed
by the sage of Aveyron, under whose shelter I had so cheerfully
ensconced myself! The laws were made by old men--any woman can see
that--and they have been prudent enough to decree that conjugal love,
apart from passion, is not degrading, and that a woman in yielding
herself may dispense with the sanction of love, provided the man can
legally call her his. In their exclusive concern for the family they
have imitated Nature, whose one care is to propagate the species.

Formerly I was a person, now I am a chattel. Not a few tears have I
gulped down, alone and far from every one. How gladly would I have
exchanged them for a consoling smile! Why are our destinies so
unequal? Your soul expands in the atmosphere of a lawful passion. For
you, virtue will coincide with pleasure. If you encounter pain, it
will be of your own free choice. Your duty, if you marry Felipe, will
be one with the sweetest, freest indulgence of feeling. Our future is
big with the answer to my question, and I look for it with restless
eagerness.

You love and are adored. Oh! my dear, let this noble romance, the old
subject of our dreams, take full possession of your soul. Womanly
beauty, refined and spiritualized in you, was created by God, for His
own purposes, to charm and to delight. Yes, my sweet, guard well the
secret of your heart, and submit Felipe to those ingenious devices of
ours for testing a lover's metal. Above all, make trial of your own
love, for this is even more important. It is so easy to be misled by
the deceptive glamour of novelty and passion, and by the vision of
happiness.

Alone of the two friends, you remain in your maiden independence; and
I beseech you, dearest, do not risk the irrevocable step of marriage
without some guarantee. It happens sometimes, when two are talking
together, apart from the world, their souls stripped of social
disguise, that a gesture, a word, a look lights up, as by a flash,
some dark abyss. You have courage and strength to tread boldly in
paths where others would be lost.

You have no conception in what anxiety I watch you. Across all this
space I see you; my heart beats with yours. Be sure, therefore, to
write and tell me everything. Your letters create an inner life of
passion within my homely, peaceful household, which reminds me of a
level highroad on a gray day. The only event here, my sweet, is that I
am playing cross-purposes with myself. But I don't want to tell you
about it just now; it must wait for another day. With dogged
obstinacy, I pass from despair to hope, now yielding, now holding
back. It may be that I ask from life more than we have a right to
claim. In youth we are so ready to believe that the ideal and the real
will harmonize!

I have been pondering alone, seated beneath a rock in my park, and the
fruit of my pondering is that love in marriage is a happy accident on
which it is impossible to base a universal law. My Aveyron philosopher
is right in looking on the family as the only possible unit in
society, and in placing woman in subjection to the family, as she has
been in all ages. The solution of this great--for us almost awful
--question lies in our first child. For this reason, I would gladly be
a mother, were it only to supply food for the consuming energy of my
soul.

Louis' temper remains as perfect as ever; his love is of the active,
my tenderness of the passive, type. He is happy, plucking the flowers
which bloom for him, without troubling about the labor of the earth
which has produced them. Blessed self-absorption! At whatever cost to
myself, I fall in with his illusions, as a mother, in my idea of her,
should be ready to spend herself to satisfy a fancy of her child. The
intensity of his joy blinds him, and even throws its reflection upon
me. The smile or look of satisfaction which the knowledge of his
content brings to my face is enough to satisfy him. And so, "my child"
is the pet name which I give him when we are alone.

And I wait for the fruit of all these sacrifices which remain a secret
between God, myself, and you. On motherhood I have staked enormously;
my credit account is now too large, I fear I shall never receive full
payment. To it I look for employment of my energy, expansion of my
heart, and the compensation of a world of joys. Pray Heaven I be not
deceived! It is a question of all my future and, horrible thought, of
my virtue.



                                XXI

LOUISE DE CHAULIEU TO RENEE DE L'ESTORADE
June.

Dear wedded sweetheart,--Your letter has arrived at the very moment to
hearten me for a bold step which I have been meditating night and day.
I feel within me a strange craving for the unknown, or, if you will,
the forbidden, which makes me uneasy and reveals a conflict in
progress in my soul between the laws of society and of nature. I
cannot tell whether nature in me is the stronger of the two, but I
surprise myself in the act of meditating between the hostile powers.

In plain words, what I wanted was to speak with Felipe, alone, at
night, under the lime-trees at the bottom of our garden. There is no
denying that this desire beseems the girl who has earned the epithet
of an "up-to-date young lady," bestowed on me by the Duchess in jest,
and which my father has approved.

Yet to me there seems a method in this madness. I should recompense
Felipe for the long nights he has passed under my window, at the same
time that I should test him, by seeing what he thinks of my escapade
and how he comports himself at a critical moment. Let him cast a halo
round my folly--behold in him my husband; let him show one iota less
of the tremulous respect with which he bows to me in the
Champs-Elysees--farewell, Don Felipe.

As for society, I run less risk in meeting my lover thus than when I
smile to him in the drawing-rooms of Mme. de Maufrigneuse and the old
Marquise de Beauseant, where spies now surround us on every side; and
Heaven only knows how people stare at the girl, suspected of a
weakness for a grotesque, like Macumer.

I cannot tell you to what a state of agitation I am reduced by
dreaming of this idea, and the time I have given to planning its
execution. I wanted you badly. What happy hours we should have
chattered away, lost in the mazes of uncertainty, enjoying in
anticipation all the delights and horrors of a first meeting in the
silence of night, under the noble lime-trees of the Chaulieu mansion,
with the moonlight dancing through the leaves! As I sat alone, every
nerve tingling, I cried, "Oh! Renee, where are you?" Then your letter
came, like a match to gunpowder, and my last scruples went by the
board.

Through the window I tossed to my bewildered adorer an exact tracing
of the key of the little gate at the end of the garden, together with
this note:

  "Your madness must really be put a stop to. If you broke your
  neck, you would ruin the reputation of the woman you profess to
  love. Are you worthy of a new proof of regard, and do you deserve
  that I should talk with you under the limes at the foot of the
  garden at the hour when the moon throws them into shadow?"

Yesterday at one o'clock, when Griffith was going to bed, I said to
her:

"Take your shawl, dear, and come out with me. I want to go to the
bottom of the garden without anyone knowing."

Without a word, she followed me. Oh! my Renee, what an awful moment
when, after a little pause full of delicious thrills of agony, I saw
him gliding along like a shadow. When he had reached the garden
safely, I said to Griffith:

"Don't be astonished, but the Baron de Macumer is here, and, indeed,
it is on that account I brought you with me."

No reply from Griffith.

"What would you have with me?" said Felipe, in a tone of such
agitation that it was easy to see he was driven beside himself by the
noise, slight as it was, of our dresses in the silence of the night
and of our steps upon the gravel.

"I want to say to you what I could not write," I replied.

Griffith withdrew a few steps. It was one of those mild nights, when
the air is heavy with the scent of flowers. My head swam with the
intoxicating delight of finding myself all but alone with him in the
friendly shade of the lime-trees, beyond which lay the garden, shining
all the more brightly because the white facade of the house reflected
the moonlight. The contrast seemed, as it were, an emblem of our
clandestine love leading up to the glaring publicity of a wedding.
Neither of us could do more at first than drink in silently the
ecstasy of a moment, as new and marvelous for him as for me. At last I
found tongue to say, pointing to the elm-tree:

"Although I am not afraid of scandal, you shall not climb that tree
again. We have long enough played schoolboy and schoolgirl, let us
rise now to the height of our destiny. Had that fall killed you, I
should have died disgraced . . ."

I looked at him. Every scrap of color had left his face.

"And if you had been found there, suspicion would have attached either
to my mother or to me . . ."

"Forgive me," he murmured.

"If you walk along the boulevard, I shall hear your step; and when I
want to see you, I will open my window. But I would not run such a
risk unless some emergency arose. Why have you forced me by your rash
act to commit another, and one which may lower me in your eyes?"

The tears which I saw in his eyes were to me the most eloquent of
answers.

"What I have done to-night," I went on with a smile, "must seem to you
the height of madness . . ."

After we had walked up and down in silence more than once, he
recovered composure enough to say:

"You must think me a fool; and, indeed, the delirium of my joy has
robbed me of both nerve and wits. But of this at least be assured,
whatever you do is sacred in my eyes from the very fact that it seemed
right to you. I honor you as I honor only God besides. And then, Miss
Griffith is here."

"She is here for the sake of the others, not for us," I put in
hastily.

My dear, he understood me at once.

"I know very well," he said, with the humblest glance at me, "that
whether she is there or not makes no difference. Unseen of men, we are
still in the presence of God, and our own esteem is not less important
to us than that of the world."

"Thank you, Felipe," I said, holding out my hand to him with a gesture
which you ought to see. "A woman, and I am nothing, if not a woman, is
on the road to loving the man who understands her. Oh! only on the
road," I went on, with a finger on my lips. "Don't let your hopes
carry you beyond what I say. My heart will belong only to the man who
can read it and know its every turn. Our views, without being
absolutely identical, must be the same in their breadth and elevation.
I have no wish to exaggerate my own merits; doubtless what seem
virtues in my eyes have their corresponding defects. All I can say is,
I should be heartbroken without them."

"Having first accepted me as your servant, you now permit me to love
you," he said, trembling and looking in my face at each word. "My
first prayer has been more than answered."

"But," I hastened to reply, "your position seems to me a better one
than mine. I should not object to change places, and this change it
lies with you to bring about."

"In my turn, I thank you," he replied. "I know the duties of a
faithful lover. It is mine to prove that I am worthy of you; the
trials shall be as long as you choose to make them. If I belie your
hopes, you have only--God! that I should say it--to reject me."

"I know that you love me," I replied. "_So far_," with a cruel
emphasis on the words, "you stand first in my regard. Otherwise you
would not be here."

Then we began to walk up and down as we talked, and I must say that so
soon as my Spaniard had recovered himself he put forth the genuine
eloquence of the heart. It was not passion it breathed, but a
marvelous tenderness of feeling which he beautifully compared to the
divine love. His thrilling voice, which lent an added charm to
thoughts, in themselves so exquisite, reminded me of the nightingale's
note. He spoke low, using only the middle tones of a fine instrument,
and words flowed upon words with the rush of a torrent. It was the
overflow of the heart.

"No more," I said, "or I shall not be able to tear myself away."

And with a gesture I dismissed him.

"You have committed yourself now, mademoiselle," said Griffith.

"In England that might be so, but not in France," I replied with
nonchalance. "I intend to make a love match, and am feeling my way
--that is all."

You see, dear, as love did not come to me, I had to do as Mahomet did
with the mountain.

Friday.

Once more I have seen my slave. He has become very timid, and puts on
an air of pious devotion, which I like, for it seems to say that he
feels my power and fascination in every fibre. But nothing in his look
or manner can rouse in these society sibyls any suspicion of the
boundless love which I see. Don't suppose though, dear, that I am
carried away, mastered, tamed; on the contrary, the taming, mastering,
and carrying away are on my side . . .

In short, I am quite capable of reason. Oh! to feel again the terror
of that fascination in which I was held by the schoolmaster, the
plebeian, the man I kept at a distance!

The fact is that love is of two kinds--one which commands, and one
which obeys. The two are quite distinct, and the passion to which the
one gives rise is not the passion of the other. To get her full of
life, perhaps a woman ought to have experience of both. Can the two
passions ever co-exist? Can the man in whom we inspire love inspire it
in us? Will the day ever come when Felipe is my master? Shall I
tremble then, as he does now? These are questions which make me
shudder.

He is very blind! In his place I should have thought Mlle. de
Chaulieu, meeting me under the limes, a cold, calculating coquette,
with starched manners. No, that is not love, it is playing with fire.
I am still fond of Felipe, but I am calm and at my ease with him now.
No more obstacles! What a terrible thought! It is all ebb-tide within,
and I fear to question my heart. His mistake was in concealing the
ardor of his love; he ought to have forced my self-control.

In a word, I was naughty, and I have not got the reward such
naughtiness brings. No, dear, however sweet the memory of that
half-hour beneath the trees, it is nothing like the excitement of the
old time with its: "Shall I go? Shall I not go? Shall I write to him?
Shall I not write?"

Is it thus with all our pleasures? Is suspense always better than
enjoyment? Hope than fruition? Is it the rich who in very truth are
the poor? Have we not both perhaps exaggerated feeling by giving to
imagination too free a rein? There are times when this thought freezes
me. Shall I tell you why? Because I am meditating another visit to the
bottom of the garden--without Griffith. How far could I go in this
direction? Imagination knows no limit, but it is not so with pleasure.
Tell me, dear be-furbelowed professor, how can one reconcile the two
goals of a woman's existence?



                                XXII

LOUISE TO FELIPE

I am not pleased with you. If you did not cry over Racine's
_Berenice_, and feel it to be the most terrible of tragedies, there is
no kinship in our souls; we shall never get on together, and had
better break off at once. Let us meet no more. Forget me; for if I do
not have a satisfactory reply, I shall forget you. You will become M.
le Baron de Macumer for me, or rather you will cease to be at all.

Yesterday at Mme. d'Espard's you had a self-satisfied air which
disgusted me. No doubt, apparently, about your conquest! In sober
earnest, your self-possession alarms me. Not a trace in you of the
humble slave of your first letter. Far from betraying the
absent-mindedness of a lover, you polished epigrams! This is not the
attitude of a true believer, always prostrate before his divinity.

If you do not feel me to be the very breath of your life, a being
nobler than other women, and to be judged by other standards, then I
must be less than a woman in your sight. You have roused in me a
spirit of mistrust, Felipe, and its angry mutterings have drowned the
accents of tenderness. When I look back upon what has passed between
us, I feel in truth that I have a right to be suspicious. For know,
Prime Minister of all the Spains, that I have reflected much on the
defenceless condition of our sex. My innocence has held a torch, and
my fingers are not burnt. Let me repeat to you, then, what my youthful
experience taught me.

In all other matters, duplicity, faithlessness, and broken pledges are
brought to book and punished; but not so with love, which is at once
the victim, the accuser, the counsel, judge, and executioner. The
cruelest treachery, the most heartless crimes, are those which remain
for ever concealed, with two hearts alone for witness. How indeed
should the victim proclaim them without injury to herself? Love,
therefore, has its own code, its own penal system, with which the
world has no concern.

Now, for my part, I have resolved never to pardon a serious
misdemeanor, and in love, pray, what is not serious? Yesterday you had
all the air of a man successful in his suit. You would be wrong to
doubt it; and yet, if this assurance robbed you of the charming
simplicity which sprang from uncertainty, I should blame you severely.
I would have you neither bashful nor self-complacent; I would not have
you in terror of losing my affection--that would be an insult--but
neither would I have you wear your love lightly as a thing of course.
Never should your heart be freer than mine. If you know nothing of the
torture that a single stab of doubt brings to the soul, tremble lest I
give you a lesson!

In a single glance I confided my heart to you, and you read the
meaning. The purest feelings that ever took root in a young girl's
breast are yours. The thought and meditation of which I have told you
served only to enrich the mind; but if ever the wounded heart turns to
the brain for counsel, be sure the young girl would show some kinship
with the demon of knowledge and of daring.

I swear to you, Felipe, if you love me, as I believe you do and if I
have reason to suspect the least falling off in the fear, obedience,
and respect which you have hitherto professed, if the pure flame of
passion which first kindled the fire of my heart should seem to me any
day to burn less vividly, you need fear no reproaches. I would not
weary you with letters bearing any trace of weakness, pride, or anger,
nor even with one of warning like this. But if I spoke no words,
Felipe, my face would tell you that death was near. And yet I should
not die till I had branded you with infamy, and sown eternal sorrow in
your heart; you would see the girl you loved dishonored and lost in
this world, and know her doomed to everlasting suffering in the next.

Do not therefore, I implore you, give me cause to envy the old, happy
Louise, the object of your pure worship, whose heart expanded in the
sunshine of happiness, since, in the words of Dante, she possessed,

  Senza brama, sicura ricchezza!

I have searched the _Inferno_ through to find the most terrible
punishment, some torture of the mind to which I might link the
vengeance of God.

Yesterday, as I watched you, doubt went through me like a sharp, cold
dagger's point. Do you know what that means? I mistrusted you, and the
pang was so terrible, I could not endure it longer. If my service be
too hard, leave it, I would not keep you. Do I need any proof of your
cleverness? Keep for me the flowers of your wit. Show to others no
fine surface to call forth flattery, compliments, or praise. Come to
me, laden with hatred or scorn, the butt of calumny, come to me with
the news that women flout you and ignore you, and not one loves you;
then, ah! then you will know the treasures of Louise's heart and love.

We are only rich when our wealth is buried so deep that all the world
might trample it under foot, unknowing. If you were handsome, I don't
suppose I should have looked at you twice, or discovered one of the
thousand reasons out of which my love sprang. True, we know no more of
these reasons than we know why it is the sun makes the flowers to
bloom, and ripens the fruit. Yet I could tell you of one reason very
dear to me.

The character, expression, and individuality that ennoble your face
are a sealed book to all but me. Mine is the power which transforms
you into the most lovable of men, and that is why I would keep your
mental gifts also for myself. To others they should be as meaningless
as your eyes, the charm of your mouth and features. Let it be mine
alone to kindle the beacon of your intelligence, as I bring the
lovelight into your eyes. I would have you the Spanish grandee of old
days, cold, ungracious, haughty, a monument to be gazed at from afar,
like the ruins of some barbaric power, which no one ventures to
explore. Now, you have nothing better to do than to open up pleasant
promenades for the public, and show yourself of a Parisian affability!

Is my ideal portrait, then, forgotten? Your excessive cheerfulness was
redolent of your love. Had it not been for a restraining glance from
me, you would have proclaimed to the most sharp-sighted, keen-witted,
and unsparing of Paris salons, that your inspiration was drawn from
Armande-Louise-Marie de Chaulieu.

I believe in your greatness too much to think for a moment that your
love is ruled by policy; but if you did not show a childlike
simplicity when with me, I could only pity you. Spite of this first
fault, you are still deeply admired by
LOUISE DE CHAULIEU.



                               XXIII

FELIPE TO LOUISE

When God beholds our faults, He sees also our repentance. Yes, my
beloved mistress, you are right. I felt that I had displeased you, but
knew not how. Now that you have explained the cause of your trouble, I
find in it fresh motive to adore you. Like the God of Israel, you are
a jealous deity, and I rejoice to see it. For what is holier and more
precious than jealousy? My fair guardian angel, jealousy is an
ever-wakeful sentinel; it is to love what pain is to the body, the
faithful herald of evil. Be jealous of your servant, Louise, I beg of
you; the harder you strike, the more contrite will he be and kiss the
rod, in all submission, which proves that he is not indifferent to you.

But, alas! dear, if the pains it cost me to vanquish my timidity and
master feelings you thought so feeble were invisible to you, will
Heaven, think you, reward them? I assure you, it needed no slight
effort to show myself to you as I was in the days before I loved. At
Madrid I was considered a good talker, and I wanted you to see for
yourself the few gifts I may possess. If this were vanity, it has been
well punished.

Your last glance utterly unnerved me. Never had I so quailed, even
when the army of France was at the gates of Cadiz and I read peril for
my life in the dissembling words of my royal master. Vainly I tried to
discover the cause of your displeasure, and the lack of sympathy
between us which this fact disclosed was terrible to me. For in truth
I have no wish but to act by your will, think your thoughts, see with
your eyes, respond to your joy and suffering, as my body responds to
heat and cold. The crime and the anguish lay for me in the breach of
unison in that common life of feeling which you have made so fair.

"I have vexed her!" I exclaimed over and over again, like one
distraught. My noble, my beautiful Louise, if anything could increase
the fervor of my devotion or confirm my belief in your delicate moral
intuitions, it would be the new light which your words have thrown
upon my own feelings. Much in them, of which my mind was formerly but
dimly conscious, you have now made clear. If this be designed as
chastisement, what can be the sweetness of your rewards?

Louise, for me it was happiness enough to be accepted as your servant.
You have given me the life of which I despaired. No longer do I draw a
useless breath, I have something to spend myself for; my force has an
outlet, if only in suffering for you. Once more I say, as I have said
before, that you will never find me other than I was when first I
offered myself as your lowly bondman. Yes, were you dishonored and
lost, to use your own words, my heart would only cling the more
closely to you for your self-sought misery. It would be my care to
staunch your wounds, and my prayers should importune God with the
story of your innocence and your wrongs.

Did I not tell you that the feelings of my heart for you are not a
lover's only, that I will be to you father, mother, sister, brother
--ay, a whole family--anything or nothing, as you may decree? And is it
not your own wish which has confined within the compass of a lover's
feeling so many varying forms of devotion? Pardon me, then, if at
times the father and brother disappear behind the lover, since you
know they are none the less there, though screened from view. Would
that you could read the feelings of my heart when you appear before
me, radiant in your beauty, the centre of admiring eyes, reclining
calmly in your carriage in the Champs-Elysees, or seated in your box
at the Opera! Then would you know how absolutely free from selfish
taint is the pride with which I hear the praises of your loveliness
and grace, praises which warm my heart even to the strangers who utter
them! When by chance you have raised me to elysium by a friendly
greeting, my pride is mingled with humility, and I depart as though
God's blessing rested on me. Nor does the joy vanish without leaving a
long track of light behind. It breaks on me through the clouds of my
cigarette smoke. More than ever do I feel how every drop of this
surging blood throbs for you.

Can you be ignorant how you are loved? After seeing you, I return to
my study, and the glitter of its Saracenic ornaments sinks to nothing
before the brightness of your portrait, when I open the spring that
keeps it locked up from every eye and lose myself in endless musings
or link my happiness to verse. From the heights of heaven I look down
upon the course of a life such as my hopes dare to picture it! Have
you never, in the silence of the night, or through the roar of the
town, heard the whisper of a voice in your sweet, dainty ear? Does no
one of the thousand prayers that I speed to you reach home?

By dint of silent contemplation of your pictured face, I have
succeeded in deciphering the expression of every feature and tracing
its connection with some grace of the spirit, and then I pen a sonnet
to you in Spanish on the harmony of the twofold beauty in which nature
has clothed you. These sonnets you will never see, for my poetry is
too unworthy of its theme, I dare not send it to you. Not a moment
passes without thoughts of you, for my whole being is bound up in you,
and if you ceased to be its animating principle, every part would
ache.

Now, Louise, can you realize the torture to me of knowing that I had
displeased you, while entirely ignorant of the cause? The ideal double
life which seemed so fair was cut short. My heart turned to ice within
me as, hopeless of any other explanation, I concluded that you had
ceased to love me. With heavy heart, and yet not wholly without
comfort, I was falling back upon my old post as servant; then your
letter came and turned all to joy. Oh! might I but listen for ever to
such chiding!

Once a child, picking himself up from a tumble, turned to his mother
with the words "Forgive me." Hiding his own hurt, he sought pardon for
the pain he had caused her. Louise, I was that child, and such as I
was then, I am now. Here is the key to my character, which your slave
in all humility places in your hands.

But do not fear, there will be no more stumbling. Keep tight the chain
which binds me to you, so that a touch may communicate your lightest
wish to him who will ever remain your slave,
FELIPE.



                                XXIV

LOUISE DE CHAULIEU TO RENEE DE L'ESTORADE
October.

My dear friend,--How is it possible that you, who brought yourself in
two months to marry a broken-down invalid in order to mother him,
should know anything of that terrible shifting drama, enacted in the
recesses of the heart, which we call love--a drama where death lies in
a glance or a light reply?

I had reserved for Felipe one last supreme test which was to be
decisive. I wanted to know whether his love was the love of a Royalist
for his King, who can do no wrong. Why should the loyalty of a
Catholic be less supreme?

He walked with me a whole night under the limes at the bottom of the
garden, and not a shadow of suspicion crossed his soul. Next day he
loved me better, but the feeling was as reverent, as humble, as
regretful as ever; he had not presumed an iota. Oh! he is a very
Spaniard, a very Abencerrage. He scaled my wall to come and kiss the
hand which in the darkness I reached down to him from my balcony. He
might have broken his neck; how many of our young men would do the
like?

But all this is nothing; Christians suffer the horrible pangs of
martyrdom in the hope of heaven. The day before yesterday I took aside
the royal ambassador-to-be at the court of Spain, my much respected
father, and said to him with a smile:

"Sir, some of your friends will have it that you are marrying your
dear Armande to the nephew of an ambassador who has been very anxious
for this connection, and has long begged for it. Also, that the
marriage-contract arranges for his nephew to succeed on his death to
his enormous fortune and his title, and bestows on the young couple in
the meantime an income of a hundred thousand livres, on the bride a
dowry of eight hundred thousand francs. Your daughter weeps, but bows
to the unquestioned authority of her honored parent. Some people are
unkind enough to say that, behind her tears, she conceals a worldly
and ambitious soul.

"Now, we are going to the gentleman's box at the Opera to-night, and
M. le Baron de Macumer will visit us there."

"Macumer needs a touch of the spur then," said my father, smiling at
me, as though I were a female ambassador.

"You mistake Clarissa Harlowe for Figaro!" I cried, with a glance of
scorn and mockery. "When you see me with my right hand ungloved, you
will give the lie to this impertinent gossip, and will mark your
displeasure at it."

"I may make my mind easy about your future. You have no more got a
girl's headpiece than Jeanne d'Arc had a woman's heart. You will be
happy, you will love nobody, and will allow yourself to be loved."

This was too much. I burst into laughter.

"What is it, little flirt?" he said.

"I tremble for my country's interests . . ."

And seeing him look quite blank, I added:

"At Madrid!"

"You have no idea how this little nun has learned, in a year's time,
to make fun of her father," he said to the Duchess.

"Armande makes light of everything," my mother replied, looking me in
the face.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Why, you are not even afraid of rheumatism on these damp nights," she
said, with another meaning glance at me.

"Oh!" I answered, "the mornings are so hot!"

The Duchess looked down.

"It's high time she were married," said my father, "and it had better
be before I go."

"If you wish it," I replied demurely.

Two hours later, my mother and I, the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse and
Mme. d'Espard, were all four blooming like roses in the front of the
box. I had seated myself sideways, giving only a shoulder to the
house, so that I could see everything, myself unseen, in that spacious
box which fills one of the two angles at the back of the hall, between
the columns.

Macumer came, stood up, and put his opera-glasses before his eyes so
that he might be able to look at me comfortably.

In the first interval entered the young man whom I call "king of the
profligates." The Comte Henri de Marsay, who has great beauty of an
effeminate kind, entered the box with an epigram in his eyes, a smile
upon his lips, and an air of satisfaction over his whole countenance.
He first greeted my mother, Mme. d'Espard, and the Duchesse de
Maufrigneuse, the Comte d'Esgrignon, and M. de Canalis; then turning
to me, he said:

"I do not know whether I shall be the first to congratulate you on an
event which will make you the object of envy to many."

"Ah! a marriage!" I cried. "Is it left for me, a girl fresh from the
convent, to tell you that predicted marriages never come off."

M. de Marsay bent down, whispering to Macumer, and I was convinced,
from the movement of his lips, that what he said was this:

"Baron, you are perhaps in love with that little coquette, who has
used you for her own ends; but as the question is one not of love, but
of marriage, it is as well for you to know what is going on."

Macumer treated this officious scandal-monger to one of those glances
of his which seem to me so eloquent of noble scorn, and replied to the
effect that he was "not in love with any little coquette." His whole
bearing so delighted me, that directly I caught sight of my father,
the glove was off.

Felipe had not a shadow of fear or doubt. How well did he bear out my
expectations! His faith is only in me, society cannot hurt him with
its lies. Not a muscle of the Arab's face stirred, not a drop of the
blue blood flushed his olive cheek.

The two young counts went out, and I said, laughing, to Macumer:

"M. de Marsay has been treating you to an epigram on me."

"He did more," he replied. "It was an epithalamium."

"You speak Greek to me," I said, rewarding him with a smile and a
certain look which always embarrasses him.

My father meantime was talking to Mme. de Maufrigneuse.

"I should think so!" he exclaimed. "The gossip which gets about is
scandalous. No sooner has a girl come out than everyone is keen to
marry her, and the ridiculous stories that are invented! I shall never
force Armande to marry against her will. I am going to take a turn in
the promenade, otherwise people will be saying that I allowed the
rumor to spread in order to suggest the marriage to the ambassador;
and Caesar's daughter ought to be above suspicion, even more than his
wife--if that were possible."

The Duchesse de Maufrigneuse and Mme. d'Espard shot glances first at
my mother, then at the Baron, brimming over with sly intelligence and
repressed curiosity. With their serpent's cunning they had at last got
an inkling of something going on. Of all mysteries in life, love is
the least mysterious! It exhales from women, I believe, like a
perfume, and she who can conceal it is a very monster! Our eyes
prattle even more than our tongues.

Having enjoyed the delightful sensation of finding Felipe rise to the
occasion, as I had wished, it was only in nature I should hunger for
more. So I made the signal agreed on for telling him that he might
come to my window by the dangerous road you know of. A few hours later
I found him, upright as a statue, glued to the wall, his hand resting
on the balcony of my window, studying the reflections of the light in
my room.

"My dear Felipe," I said, "You have acquitted yourself well to-night;
you behaved exactly as I should have done had I been told that you
were on the point of marrying."

"I thought," he replied, "that you would hardly have told others
before me."

"And what right have you to this privilege?"

"The right of one who is your devoted slave."

"In very truth?"

"I am, and shall ever remain so."

"But suppose this marriage was inevitable; suppose that I had
agreed . . ."

Two flashing glances lit up the moonlight--one directed to me, the
other to the precipice which the wall made for us. He seemed to
calculate whether a fall together would mean death; but the thought
merely passed like lightning over his face and sparkled in his eyes. A
power, stronger than passion, checked the impulse.

"An Arab cannot take back his word," he said in a husky voice. "I am
your slave to do with as you will; my life is not mine to destroy."

The hand on the balcony seemed as though its hold were relaxing. I
placed mine on it as I said:

"Felipe, my beloved, from this moment I am your wife in thought and
will. Go in the morning to ask my father for my hand. He wishes to
retain my fortune; but if you promise to acknowledge receipt of it in
the contract, his consent will no doubt be given. I am no longer
Armande de Chaulieu. Leave me at once; no breath of scandal must touch
Louise de Macumer."

He listened with blanched face and trembling limbs, then, like a
flash, had cleared the ten feet to the ground in safety. It was a
moment of agony, but he waved his hand to me and disappeared.

"I am loved then," I said to myself, "as never woman was before." And
I fell asleep in the calm content of a child, my destiny for ever
fixed.

About two o'clock next day my father summoned me to his private room,
where I found the Duchess and Macumer. There was an interchange of
civilities. I replied quite simply that if my father and M. Henarez
were of one mind, I had no reason to oppose their wishes. Thereupon my
mother invited the Baron to dinner; and after dinner, we all four went
for a drive in the Bois de Boulogne, where I had the pleasure of
smiling ironically to M. de Marsay as he passed on horseback and
caught sight of Macumer sitting opposite to us beside my father.

My bewitching Felipe has had his cards reprinted as follows:

HENAREZ

(Baron de Macumer, formerly Duc de Soria.)

Every morning he brings me with his own hands a splendid bouquet,
hidden in which I never fail to find a letter, containing a Spanish
sonnet in my honor, which he has composed during the night.

Not to make this letter inordinately large, I send you as specimens
only the first and last of these sonnets, which I have translated for
your benefit, word for word, and line for line:--

FIRST SONNET

  Many a time I've stood, clad in thin silken vest,
  Drawn sword in hand, with steady pulse,
  Waiting the charge of a raging bull,
  And the thrust of his horn, sharper-pointed than Phoebe's crescent.

  I've scaled, on my lips the lilt of an Andalusian dance,
  The steep redoubt under a rain of fire;
  I've staked my life upon a hazard of the dice
  Careless, as though it were a gold doubloon.

  My hand would seek the ball out of the cannon's mouth,
  But now meseems I grow more timid than a crouching hair,
  Or a child spying some ghost in the curtain's folds.

  For when your sweet eye rests on me,
  Any icy sweat covers my brow, my knees give way,
  I tremble, shrink, my courage gone.

SECOND SONNET

  Last night I fain would sleep to dream of thee,
  But jealous sleep fled my eyelids,
  I sought the balcony and looked towards heaven,
  Always my glance flies upward when I think of thee.

  Strange sight! whose meaning love alone can tell,
  The sky had lost its sapphire hue,
  The stars, dulled diamonds in their golden mount,
  Twinkled no more nor shed their warmth.

  The moon, washed of her silver radiance lily-white,
  Hung mourning over the gloomy plain, for thou hast robbed
  The heavens of all that made them bright.

  The snowy sparkle of the moon is on thy lovely brow,
  Heaven's azure centres in thine eyes,
  Thy lashes fall like starry rays.

What more gracious way of saying to a young girl that she fills your
life? Tell me what you think of this love, which expends itself in
lavishing the treasures alike of the earth and of the soul. Only
within the last ten days have I grasped the meaning of that Spanish
gallantry, so famous in old days.

Ah me! dear, what is going on now at La Crampade? How often do I take
a stroll there, inspecting the growth of our crops! Have you no news
to give of our mulberry trees, our last winter's plantations? Does
everything prosper as you wish? And while the buds are opening on our
shrubs--I will not venture to speak of the bedding-out plants--have
they also blossomed in the bosom of the wife? Does Louis continue his
policy of madrigals? Do you enter into each other's thoughts? I wonder
whether your little runlet of wedding peace is better than the raging
torrent of my love! Has my sweet lady professor taken offence? I
cannot believe it; and if it were so, I should send Felipe off at
once, post-haste, to fling himself at her knees and bring back to me
my pardon or her head. Sweet love, my life here is a splendid success,
and I want to know how it fares with life in Provence. We have just
increased our family by the addition of a Spaniard with the complexion
of a Havana cigar, and your congratulations still tarry.

Seriously, my sweet Renee, I am anxious. I am afraid lest you should
be eating your heart out in silence, for fear of casting a gloom over
my sunshine. Write to me at once, naughty child! and tell me your life
in its every minutest detail; tell me whether you still hold back,
whether your "independence" still stands erect, or has fallen on its
knees, or is sitting down comfortably, which would indeed be serious.
Can you suppose that the incidents of your married life are without
interest for me? I muse at times over all that you have said to me.
Often when, at the Opera, I seem absorbed in watching the pirouetting
dancers, I am saying to myself, "It is half-past nine, perhaps she is
in bed. What is she about? Is she happy? Is she alone with her
independence? or has her independence gone the way of other dead and
castoff independences?"

A thousand loves.



                                XXV

RENEE DE L'ESTORADE TO LOUISE DE CHAULIEU

Saucy girl! Why should I write? What could I say? Whilst your life is
varied by social festivities, as well as by the anguish, the tempers,
and the flowers of love--all of which you describe so graphically,
that I might be watching some first-rate acting at the theatre--mine
is as monotonous and regular as though it were passed in a convent.

We always go to bed at nine and get up with daybreak. Our meals are
served with a maddening punctuality. Nothing ever happens. I have
accustomed myself without much difficulty to this mapping out of the
day, which perhaps is, after all, in the nature of things. Where would
the life of the universe be but for that subjection to fixed laws
which, according to the astronomers, so Louis tells me, rule the
spheres! It is not order of which we weary.

Then I have laid upon myself certain rules of dress, and these occupy
my time in the mornings. I hold it part of my duty as a wife to look
as charming as possible. I feel a certain satisfaction in it, and it
causes lively pleasure to the good old man and to Louis. After lunch,
we walk. When the newspapers arrive, I disappear to look after my
household affairs or to read--for I read a great deal--or to write to
you. I come back to the others an hour before dinner; and after dinner
we play cards, or receive visits, or pay them. Thus my days pass
between a contented old man, who has done with passions, and the man
who owes his happiness to me. Louis' happiness is so radiant that it
has at last warmed my heart.

For women, happiness no doubt cannot consist in the mere satisfaction
of desire. Sometimes, in the evening, when I am not required to take a
hand in the game, and can sink back in my armchair, imagination bears
me on its strong wings into the very heart of your life. Then, its
riches, its changeful tints, its surging passions become my own, and I
ask myself to what end such a stormy preface can lead. May I not
swallow up the book itself? For you, my darling, the illusions of love
are possible; for me, only the facts of homely life remain. Yes, your
love seems to me a dream!

Therefore I find it hard to understand why you are determined to throw
so much romance over it. Your ideal man must have more soul than fire,
more nobility and self-command than passion. You persist in trying to
clothe in living form the dream ideal of a girl on the threshold of
life; you demand sacrifices for the pleasure of rewarding them; you
submit your Felipe to tests in order to ascertain whether desire,
hope, and curiosity are enduring in their nature. But, child, behind
all your fantastic stage scenery rises the altar, where everlasting
bonds are forged. The very morrow of your marriage the graceful
structure raised by your subtle strategy may fall before that terrible
reality which makes of a girl a woman, of a gallant a husband.
Remember that there is not exemption for lovers. For them, as for
ordinary folk like Louis and me, there lurks beneath the wedding
rejoicings the great "Perhaps" of Rabelais.

I do not blame you, though, of course, it was rash, for talking with
Felipe in the garden, or for spending a night with him, you on your
balcony, he on his wall; but you make a plaything of life, and I am
afraid that life may some day turn the tables. I dare not give you the
counsel which my own experience would suggest; but let me repeat once
more from the seclusion of my valley that the viaticum of married life
lies in these words--resignation and self-sacrifice. For, spite of all
your tests, your coyness, and your vigilance, I can see that marriage
will mean to you what it has been to me. The greater the passion, the
steeper the precipice we have hewn for our fall--that is the only
difference.

Oh! what I would give to see the Baron de Macumer and talk with him
for an hour or two! Your happiness lies so near my heart.



                                XXVI

LOUISE DE MACUMER TO RENEE DE L'ESTORADE
March.

As Felipe has carried out, with a truly Saracenic generosity, the
wishes of my father and mother in acknowledging the fortune he has not
received from me, the Duchess has become even more friendly to me than
before. She calls me little sly-boots, little woman of the world, and
says I know how to use my tongue.

"But, dear mamma," I said to her the evening before the contract was
signed, "you attribute to cunning and smartness on my part what is
really the outcome of the truest, simplest, most unselfish, most
devoted love that ever was! I assure you that I am not at all the
'woman of the world' you do me the honor of believing me to be."

"Come, come, Armande," she said, putting her arm on my neck and
drawing me to her, in order to kiss my forehead, "you did not want to
go back to the convent, you did not want to die an old maid, and, like
a fine, noble-hearted Chaulieu, as you are, you recognized the
necessity of building up your father's family. (The Duke was
listening. If you knew, Renee, what flattery lies for him in these
words.) I have watched you during the whole winter, poking your little
nose into all that goes on, forming very sensible opinions about men
and the present state of society in France. And you have picked out
the one Spaniard capable of giving you the splendid position of a
woman who reigns supreme in her own house. My little girl, you treated
him exactly as Tullia treats your brother."

"What lessons they give in my sister's convent!" exclaimed my father.

A glance at my father cut him short at once; then, turning to the
Duchess, I said:

"Madame, I love my future husband, Felipe de Soria, with all the
strength of my soul. Although this love sprang up without my
knowledge, and though I fought it stoutly when it first made itself
felt, I swear to you that I never gave way to it till I had recognized
in the Baron de Macumer a character worthy of mine, a heart of which
the delicacy, the generosity, the devotion, and the temper are suited
to my own."

"But, my dear," she began, interrupting me, "he is as ugly as . . ."

"As anything you like," I retorted quickly, "but I love his ugliness."

"If you love him, Armande," said my father, "and have the strength to
master your love, you must not risk your happiness. Now, happiness in
marriage depends largely on the first days--"

"Days only?" interrupted my mother. Then, with a glance at my father,
she continued, "You had better leave us, my dear, to have our talk
together."

"You are to be married, dear child," the Duchess then began in a low
voice, "in three days. It becomes my duty, therefore, without silly
whimpering, which would be unfitting our rank in life, to give you the
serious advice which every mother owes to her daughter. You are
marrying a man whom you love, and there is no reason why I should pity
you or myself. I have only known you for a year; and if this period
has been long enough for me to learn to love you, it is hardly
sufficient to justify floods of tears at the idea of losing you. Your
mental gifts are even more remarkable than those of your person; you
have gratified maternal pride, and have shown yourself a sweet and
loving daughter. I, in my turn, can promise you that you will always
find a staunch friend in your mother. You smile? Alas! it too often
happens that a mother who has lived on excellent terms with her
daughter, as long as the daughter is a mere girl, comes to cross
purposes with her when they are both women together.

"It is your happiness which I want, so listen to my words. The love
which you now feel is that of a young girl, and is natural to us all,
for it is woman's destiny to cling to a man. Unhappily, pretty one,
there is but one man in the world for a woman! And sometimes this man,
whom fate has marked out for us, is not the one whom we, mistaking a
passing fancy for love, choose as husband. Strange as what I say may
appear to you, it is worth noting. If we cannot love the man we have
chosen, the fault is not exclusively ours, it lies with both, or
sometimes with circumstances over which we have no control. Yet there
is no reason why the man chosen for us by our family, the man to whom
our fancy has gone out, should not be the man whom we can love. The
barriers which arise later between husband and wife are often due to
lack of perseverance on both sides. The task of transforming a husband
into a lover is not less delicate than that other task of making a
husband of the lover, in which you have just proved yourself
marvelously successful.

"I repeat it, your happiness is my object. Never allow yourself, then,
to forget that the first three months of your married life may work
your misery if you do not submit to the yoke with the same
forbearance, tenderness, and intelligence that you have shown during
the days of courtship. For, my little rogue, you know very well that
you have indulged in all the innocent pleasures of a clandestine love
affair. If the culmination of your love begins with disappointment,
dislike, nay, even with pain, well, come and tell me about it. Don't
hope for too much from marriage at first; it will perhaps give you
more discomfort than joy. The happiness of your life requires at least
as patient cherishing as the early shoots of love.

"To conclude, if by chance you should lose the lover, you will find in
his place the father of your children. In this, my dear child, lies
the whole secret of social life. Sacrifice everything to the man whose
name you bear, the man whose honor and reputation cannot suffer in the
least degree without involving you in frightful consequences. Such
sacrifice is thus not only an absolute duty for women of our rank, it
is also their wisest policy. This, indeed, is the distinctive mark of
great moral principles, that they hold good and are expedient from
whatever aspect they are viewed. But I need say no more to you on this
point.

"I fancy you are of a jealous disposition, and, my dear, if you knew
how jealous I am! But you must not be stupid over it. To publish your
jealousy to the world is like playing at politics with your cards upon
the table, and those who let their own game be seen learn nothing of
their opponents'. Whatever happens, we must know how to suffer in
silence."

She added that she intended having some plain talk about me with
Macumer the evening before the wedding.

Raising my mother's beautiful arm, I kissed her hand and dropped on it
a tear, which the tone of real feeling in her voice had brought to my
eyes. In the advice she had given me, I read high principle worthy of
herself and of me, true wisdom, and a tenderness of heart unspoilt by
the narrow code of society. Above all, I saw that she understood my
character. These few simple words summed up the lessons which life and
experience had brought her, perhaps at a heavy price. She was moved,
and said, as she looked at me:

"Dear little girl, you've got a nasty crossing before you. And most
women, in their ignorance or their disenchantment, are as wise as the
Earl of Westmoreland!"

We both laughed; but I must explain the joke. The evening before, a
Russian princess had told us an anecdote of this gentleman. He had
suffered frightfully from sea-sickness in crossing the Channel, and
turned tail when he got near Italy, because he had heard some one
speak of "crossing" the Alps. "Thank you; I've had quite enough
crossings already," he said.

You will understand, Renee, that your gloomy philosophy and my
mother's lecture were calculated to revive the fears which used to
disturb us at Blois. The nearer marriage approached, the more did I
need to summon all my strength, my resolution, and my affection to
face this terrible passage from maidenhood to womanhood. All our
conversations came back to my mind, I re-read your letters and
discerned in them a vague undertone of sadness.

This anxiety had one advantage at least; it helped me to the
regulation expression for a bride as commonly depicted. The
consequence was that on the day of signing the contract everybody said
I looked charming and quite the right thing. This morning, at the
Mairie, it was an informal business, and only the witnesses were
present.

I am writing this tail to my letter while they are putting out my
dress for dinner. We shall be married at midnight at the Church of
Sainte-Valere, after a very gay evening. I confess that my fears give
me a martyr-like and modest air to which I have no right, but which
will be admired--why, I cannot conceive. I am delighted to see that
poor Felipe is every whit as timorous as I am; society grates on him,
he is like a bat in a glass shop.

"Thank Heaven, the day won't last for ever!" he whispered to me in all
innocence.

In his bashfulness and timidity he would have liked to have no one
there.

The Sardinian ambassador, when he came to sign the contract, took me
aside in order to present me with a pearl necklace, linked together by
six splendid diamonds--a gift from my sister-in-law, the Duchess de
Soria. Along with the necklace was a sapphire bracelet, on the under
side of which were engraved the words, "_Though unknown, beloved_."
Two charming letters came with these presents, which, however, I could
not accept without consulting Felipe.

"For," I said, "I should not like to see you wearing ornaments that
came from any one but me."

He kissed my hand, quite moved, and replied:

"Wear them for the sake of the inscription, and also for the kind
feeling, which is sincere."

Saturday evening.

Here, then, my poor Renee, are the last words of your girl friend.
After the midnight Mass, we set off for an estate which Felipe, with
kind thought for me, has bought in Nivernais, on the way to Provence.
Already my name is Louise de Macumer, but I leave Paris in a few hours
as Louise de Chaulieu. However I am called, there will never be for
you but one Louise.



                               XXVII

THE SAME TO THE SAME
October.

I have not written to you, dear, since our marriage, nearly eight
months ago. And not a line from you! Madame, you are inexcusable.

To begin with, we set off in a post-chaise for the Castle of
Chantepleurs, the property which Macumer has bought in Nivernais. It
stands on the banks of the Loire, sixty leagues from Paris. Our
servants, with the exception of my maid, were there before us, and we
arrived, after a very rapid journey, the next evening. I slept all the
way from Paris to beyond Montargis. My lord and master put his arm
round me and pillowed my head on his shoulder, upon an arrangement of
handkerchiefs. This was the one liberty he took; and the almost
motherly tenderness which got the better of his drowsiness, touched me
strangely. I fell asleep then under the fire of his eyes, and awoke to
find them still blazing; the passionate gaze remained unchanged, but
what thoughts had come and gone meanwhile! Twice he had kissed me on
the forehead.

At Briare we had breakfast in the carriage. Then followed a talk like
our old talks at Blois, while the same Loire we used to admire called
forth our praises, and at half-past seven we entered the noble long
avenue of lime-trees, acacias, sycamores, and larches which leads to
Chantepleurs. At eight we dined; at ten we were in our bedroom, a
charming Gothic room, made comfortable with every modern luxury.
Felipe, who is thought so ugly, seemed to me quite beautiful in his
graceful kindness and the exquisite delicacy of his affection. Of
passion, not a trace. All through the journey he might have been an
old friend of fifteen years' standing. Later, he has described to me,
with all the vivid touches of his first letter, the furious storms
that raged within and were not allowed to ruffle the outer surface.

"So far, I have found nothing very terrible in marriage," I said, as I
walked to the window and looked out on the glorious moon which lit up
a charming park, breathing of heavy scents.

He drew near, put his arm again round me, and said:

"Why fear it? Have I ever yet proved false to my promise in gesture or
look? Why should I be false in the future?"

Yet never were words or glances more full of mastery; his voice
thrilled every fibre of my heart and roused a sleeping force; his eyes
were like the sun in power.

"Oh!" I exclaimed, "what a world of Moorish perfidy in this attitude
of perpetual prostration!"

He understood, my dear.

So, my fair sweetheart, if I have let months slip by without writing,
you can now divine the cause. I have to recall the girl's strange past
in order to explain the woman to myself. Renee, I understand you now.
Not to her dearest friend, not to her mother, not, perhaps, even to
herself, can a happy bride speak of her happiness. This memory ought
to remain absolutely her own, an added rapture--a thing beyond words,
too sacred for disclosure!

Is it possible that the name of duty has been given to the delicious
frenzy of the heart, to the overwhelming rush of passion? And for what
purpose? What malevolent power conceived the idea of crushing a
woman's sensitive delicacy and all the thousand wiles of her modesty
under the fetters of constraint? What sense of duty can force from her
these flowers of the heart, the roses of life, the passionate poetry
of her nature, apart from love? To claim feeling as a right! Why, it
blooms of itself under the sun of love, and shrivels to death under
the cold blast of distaste and aversion! Let love guard his own
rights!

Oh! my noble Renee! I understand you now. I bow to your greatness,
amazed at the depth and clearness of your insight. Yes, the woman who
has not used the marriage ceremony, as I have done, merely to legalize
and publish the secret election of her heart, has nothing left but to
fly to motherhood. When earth fails, the soul makes for heaven!

One hard truth emerges from all that you have said. Only men who are
really great know how to love, and now I understand the reason of
this. Man obeys two forces--one sensual, one spiritual. Weak or
inferior men mistake the first for the last, whilst great souls know
how to clothe the merely natural instinct in all the graces of the
spirit. The very strength of this spiritual passion imposes severe
self-restraint and inspires them with reverence for women. Clearly,
feeling is sensitive in proportion to the calibre of the mental powers
generally, and this is why the man of genius alone has something of a
woman's delicacy. He understands and divines woman, and the wings of
passion on which he raises her are restrained by the timidity of the
sensitive spirit. But when the mind, the heart, and the senses all
have their share in the rapture which transports us--ah! then there is
no falling to earth, rather it is to heaven we soar, alas! for only
too brief a visit.

Such, dear soul, is the philosophy of the first three months of my
married life. Felipe is angelic. Without figure of speech, he is
another self, and I can think aloud with him. His greatness of soul
passes my comprehension. Possession only attaches him more closely to
me, and he discovers in his happiness new motives for loving me. For
him, I am the nobler part of himself. I can foresee that years of
wedded life, far from impairing his affection, will only make it more
assured, develop fresh possibilities of enjoyment, and bind us in more
perfect sympathy. What a delirium of joy!

It is part of my nature that pleasure has an exhilarating effect on
me; it leaves sunshine behind, and becomes a part of my inner being.
The interval which parts one ecstasy from another is like the short
night which marks off our long summer days. The sun which flushed the
mountain tops with warmth in setting finds them hardly cold when it
rises. What happy chance has given me such a destiny? My mother had
roused a host of fears in me; her forecast, which, though free from
the alloy of vulgar pettiness, seemed to me redolent of jealousy, has
been falsified by the event. Your fears and hers, my own--all have
vanished in thin air!

We remained at Chantepleurs seven months and a half, for all the world
like a couple of runaway lovers fleeing the parental warmth, while the
roses of pleasure crowned our love and embellished our dual solitude.
One morning, when I was even happier than usual, I began to muse over
my lot, and suddenly Renee and her prosaic marriage flashed into my
mind. It seemed to me that now I could grasp the inner meaning in your
life. Oh! my sweet, why do we speak a different tongue? Your marriage
of convenience and my love match are two worlds, as widely separated
as the finite from infinity. You still walk the earth, whilst I range
the heavens! Your sphere is human, mine divine! Love crowned me queen,
you reign by reason and duty. So lofty are the regions where I soar,
that a fall would shiver me to atoms.

But no more of this. I shrink from painting to you the rainbow
brightness, the profusion, the exuberant joy of love's springtime, as
we know it.

For ten days we have been in Paris, staying in a charming house in the
Rue du Bac, prepared for us by the architect to whom Felipe intrusted
the decoration of Chantepleurs. I have been listening, in all the full
content of an assured and sanctioned love, to that divine music of
Rossini's, which used to soothe me when, as a restless girl, I
hungered vaguely after experience. They say I am more beautiful, and I
have a childish pleasure in hearing myself called "Madame."

Friday morning.

Renee, my fair saint, the happiness of my own life pulls me for ever
back to you. I feel that I can be more to you than ever before, you
are so dear to me! I have studied your wedded life closely in the
light of my own opening chapters; and you seem to me to come out of
the scrutiny so great, so noble, so splendid in your goodness, that I
here declare myself your inferior and humble admirer, as well as your
friend. When I think what marriage has been to me, it seems to me that
I should have died, had it turned out otherwise. And you live! Tell me
what your heart feeds on! Never again shall I make fun of you.
Mockery, my sweet, is the child of ignorance; we jest at what we know
nothing of. "Recruits will laugh where the veteran soldier looks
grave," was a remark made to me by the Comte de Chaulieu, that poor
cavalry officer whose campaigning so far has consisted in marches from
Paris to Fontainebleau and back again.

I surmise, too, my dear love, that you have not told me all. There are
wounds which you have hidden. You suffer; I am convinced of it. In
trying to make out at this distance and from the scraps you tell me
the reasons of your conduct, I have weaved together all sorts of
romantic theories about you. "She has made a mere experiment in
marriage," I thought one evening, "and what is happiness for me had
proved only suffering to her. Her sacrifice is barren of reward, and
she would not make it greater than need be. The unctuous axioms of
social morality are only used to cloak her disappointment." Ah! Renee,
the best of happiness is that it needs no dogma and no fine words to
pave the way; it speaks for itself, while theory has been piled upon
theory to justify the system of women's vassalage and thralldom. If
self-denial be so noble, so sublime, what, pray, of my joy, sheltered
by the gold-and-white canopy of the church, and witnessed by the hand
and seal of the most sour-faced of mayors? Is it a thing out of
nature?

For the honor of the law, for her own sake, but most of all to make my
happiness complete, I long to see my Renee content. Oh! tell me that
you see a dawn of love for this Louis who adores you! Tell me that the
solemn, symbolic torch of Hymen has not alone served to lighten your
darkness, but that love, the glorious sun of our hearts, pours his
rays on you. I come back always, you see, to this midday blaze, which
will be my destruction, I fear.

Dear Renee, do you remember how, in your outbursts of girlish
devotion, you would say to me, as we sat under the vine-covered arbor
of the convent garden, "I love you so, Louise, that if God appeared to
me in a vision, I would pray Him that all the sorrows of life might be
mine, and all the joy yours. I burn to suffer for you"? Now, darling,
the day has come when I take up your prayer, imploring Heaven to grant
you a share in my happiness.

I must tell you my idea. I have a shrewd notion that you are hatching
ambitious plans under the name of Louis de l'Estorade. Very good; get
him elected deputy at the approaching election, for he will be very
nearly forty then; and as the Chamber does not meet till six months
later, he will have just attained the age necessary to qualify for a
seat. You will come to Paris--there, isn't that enough? My father, and
the friends I shall have made by that time, will learn to know and
admire you; and if your father-in-law will agree to found a family, we
will get the title of Comte for Louis. That is something at least! And
we shall be together.



                               XXVIII

RENEE DE L'ESTORADE TO LOUISE DE MACUMER
December.

My thrice happy Louise, your letter made me dizzy. For a few moments I
held it in my listless hands, while a tear or two sparkled on it in
the setting sun. I was alone beneath the small barren rock where I
have had a seat placed; far off, like a lance of steel, the
Mediterranean shone. The seat is shaded by aromatic shrubs, and I have
had a very large jessamine, some honeysuckle, and Spanish brooms
transplanted there, so that some day the rock will be entirely covered
with climbing plants. The wild vine has already taken root there. But
winter draws near, and all this greenery is faded like a piece of old
tapestry. In this spot I am never molested; it is understood that here
I wish to be alone. It is named Louise's seat--a proof, is it not,
that even in solitude I am not alone here?

If I tell you all these details, to you so paltry, and try to describe
the vision of green with which my prophetic gaze clothes this bare
rock--on which top some freak of nature has set up a magnificent
parasol pine--it is because in all this I have found an emblem to
which I cling.

It was while your blessed lot was filling me with joy and--must I
confess it?--with bitter envy too, that I felt the first movement of
my child within, and this mystery of physical life reacted upon the
inner recesses of my soul. This indefinable sensation, which partakes
of the nature at once of a warning, a delight, a pain, a promise, and
a fulfilment; this joy, which is mine alone, unshared by mortal, this
wonder of wonders, has whispered to me that one day this rock shall be
a carpet of flowers, resounding to the merry laughter of children,
that I shall at last be blessed among women, and from me shall spring
forth fountains of life. Now I know what I have lived for! Thus the
first certainty of bearing within me another life brought healing to
my wounds. A joy that beggars description has crowned for me those
long days of sacrifice, in which Louis had already found his.

Sacrifice! I said to myself, how far does it excel passion! What
pleasure has roots so deep as one which is not personal but creative?
Is not the spirit of Sacrifice a power mightier than any of its
results? Is it not that mysterious, tireless divinity, who hides
beneath innumerable spheres in an unexplored centre, through which all
worlds in turn must pass? Sacrifice, solitary and secret, rich in
pleasures only tasted in silence, which none can guess at, and no
profane eye has ever seen; Sacrifice, jealous God and tyrant, God of
strength and victory, exhaustless spring which, partaking of the very
essence of all that exists, can by no expenditure be drained below its
own level;--Sacrifice, there is the keynote of my life.

For you, Louise, love is but the reflex of Felipe's passion; the life
which I shed upon my little ones will come back to me in ever-growing
fulness. The plenty of your golden harvest will pass; mine, though
late, will be but the more enduring, for each hour will see it
renewed. Love may be the fairest gem which Society has filched from
Nature; but what is motherhood save Nature in her most gladsome mood?
A smile has dried my tears. Love makes my Louis happy, but marriage
has made me a mother, and who shall say I am not happy also?

With slow steps, then, I returned to my white grange, with the green
shutters, to write you these thoughts.

So it is, darling, that the most marvelous, and yet the simplest,
process of nature has been going on in me for five months; and yet--in
your ear let me whisper it--so far it agitates neither my heart nor my
understanding. I see all around me happy; the grandfather-to-be has
become a child again, trespassing on the grandchild's place; the
father wears a grave and anxious look; they are all most attentive to
me, all talk of the joy of being a mother. Alas! I alone remain cold,
and I dare not tell you how dead I am to all emotion, though I affect
a little in order not to damp the general satisfaction. But with you I
may be frank; and I confess that, at my present stage, motherhood is a
mere affair of the imagination.

Louis was to the full as much surprised as I. Does not this show how
little, unless by his impatient wishes, the father counts for in this
matter? Chance, my dear, is the sovereign deity in child-bearing. My
doctor, while maintaining that this chance works in harmony with
nature, does not deny that children who are the fruit of passionate
love are bound to be richly endowed both physically and mentally, and
that often the happiness which shone like a radiant star over their
birth seems to watch over them through life. It may be then, Louise,
that motherhood reserves joys for you which I shall never know. It may
be that the feeling of a mother for the child of a man whom she
adores, as you adore Felipe, is different from that with which she
regards the offspring of reason, duty, and desperation!

Thoughts such as these, which I bury in my inmost heart, add to the
preoccupation only natural to a woman soon to be a mother. And yet, as
the family cannot exist without children, I long to speed the moment
from which the joys of family, where alone I am to find my life, shall
date their beginning. At present I live a life all expectation and
mystery, except for a sickening physical discomfort, which no doubt
serves to prepare a woman for suffering of a different kind. I watch
my symptoms; and in spite of the attentions and thoughtful care with
which Louis' anxiety surrounds me, I am conscious of a vague
uneasiness, mingled with the nausea, the distaste for food, and
abnormal longings common to my condition. If I am to speak candidly, I
must confess, at the risk of disgusting you with the whole business,
to an incomprehensible craving for rotten fruit. My husband goes to
Marseilles to fetch the finest oranges the world produces--from Malta,
Portugal, Corsica--and these I don't touch. Then I hurry there myself,
sometimes on foot, and in a little back street, running down to the
harbor, close to the Town Hall, I find wretched, half-putrid oranges,
two for a sou, which I devour eagerly. The bluish, greenish shades on
the mouldy parts sparkle like diamonds in my eyes, they are flowers to
me; I forget the putrid odor, and find them delicious, with a piquant
flavor, and stimulating as wine. My dear, they are the first love of
my life! Your passion for Felipe is nothing to this! Sometimes I can
slip out secretly and fly to Marseilles, full of passionate longings,
which grow more intense as I draw near the street. I tremble lest the
woman should be sold out of rotten oranges; I pounce on them and
devour them as I stand. It seems to me an ambrosial food, and yet I
have seen Louis turn aside, unable to bear the smell. Then came to my
mind the ghastly words of Obermann in his gloomy elegy, which I wish I
had never read, "Roots slake their thirst in foulest streams." Since I
took to this diet, the sickness has ceased, and I feel much stronger.
This depravity of taste must have a meaning, for it seems to be part
of a natural process and to be common to most women, sometimes going
to most extravagant lengths.

When my situation is more marked, I shall not go beyond the grounds,
for I should not like to be seen under these circumstances. I have the
greatest curiosity to know at what precise moment the sense of
motherhood begins. It cannot possibly be in the midst of frightful
suffering, the very thought of which makes me shudder.

Farewell, favorite of fortune! Farewell, my friend, in whom I live
again, and through whom I am able to picture to myself this brave
love, this jealousy all on fire at a look, these whisperings in the
ear, these joys which create for women, as it were, a new atmosphere,
a new daylight, fresh life! Ah! pet, I too understand love. Don't
weary of telling me everything. Keep faithful to our bond. I promise,
in my turn, to spare you nothing.

Nay--to conclude in all seriousness--I will not conceal from you that,
on reading your letter a second time, I was seized with a dread which
I could not shake off. This superb love seems like a challenge to
Providence. Will not the sovereign master of this earth, Calamity,
take umbrage if no place be left for him at your feast? What mighty
edifice of fortune has he not overthrown? Oh! Louise, forget not, in
all this happiness, your prayers to God. Do good, be kind and
merciful; let your moderation, if it may be, avert disaster. Religion
has meant much more to me since I left the convent and since my
marriage; but your Paris news contains no mention of it. In your
glorification of Felipe it seems to me you reverse the saying, and
invoke God less than His saint.

But, after all, this panic is only excess of affection. You go to
church together, I do not doubt, and do good in secret. The close of
this letter will seem to you very primitive, I expect, but think of
the too eager friendship which prompts these fears--a friendship of
the type of La Fontaine's, which takes alarms at dreams, at
half-formed, misty ideas. You deserve to be happy, since, through it
all, you still think of me, no less than I think of you, in my
monotonous life, which, though it lacks color, is yet not empty, and,
if uneventful, is not unfruitful. God bless you, then!



                                XXIX

M. DE L'ESTORADE TO THE BARONNE DE MACUMER
December 1825.

Madame,--It is the desire of my wife that you should not learn first
from the formal announcement of an event which has filled us with joy.
Renee has just given birth to a fine boy, whose baptism we are
postponing till your return to Chantepleurs. Renee and I both
earnestly hope that you may then come as far as La Crampade, and will
consent to act as godmother to our firstborn. In this hope, I have had
him placed on the register under the name of Armand-Louis de
l'Estorade.

Our dear Renee suffered much, but bore it with angelic patience. You,
who know her, will easily understand that the assurance of bringing
happiness to us all supported her through this trying apprenticeship
to motherhood.

Without indulging in the more or less ludicrous exaggerations to which
the novel sensation of being a father is apt to give rise, I may tell
you that little Armand is a beautiful infant, and you will have no
difficulty in believing it when I add that he has Renee's features and
eyes. So far, at least, this gives proof of intelligence.

The physician and accoucheur assure us that Renee is now quite out of
danger; and as she is proving an admirable nurse--Nature has endowed
her so generously!--my father and I are able to give free rein to our
joy. Madame, may I be allowed to express the hope that this joy, so
vivid and intense, which has brought fresh life into our house, and
has changed the face of existence for my dear wife, may ere long be
yours?

Renee has had a suite of rooms prepared, and I only wish I could make
them worthy of our guests. But the cordial friendliness of the
reception which awaits you may perhaps atone for any lack of splendor.

I have heard from Renee, madame, of your kind thought in regard to us,
and I take this opportunity of thanking you for it, the more gladly
because nothing could now be more appropriate. The birth of a grandson
has reconciled my father to sacrifices which bear hardly on an old
man. He has just bought two estates, and La Crampade is now a property
with an annual rental of thirty thousand francs. My father intends
asking the King's permission to form an entailed estate of it; and if
you are good enough to get for him the title of which you spoke in
your last letter, you will have already done much for your godson.

For my part, I shall carry out your suggestions solely with the object
of bringing you and Renee together during the sessions of the Chamber.
I am working hard with the view of becoming what is called a
specialist. But nothing could give me greater encouragement in my
labors than the thought that you will take an interest in my little
Armand. Come, then, we beg of you, and with your beauty and your
grace, your playful fancy and your noble soul, enact the part of good
fairy to my son and heir. You will thus, madame, add undying gratitude
to the respectful regard of
Your very humble, obedient servant,
LOUIS DE L'ESTORADE.



                                XXX

LOUISE DE MACUMER TO RENEE DE L'ESTORADE
January 1826.

Macumer has just wakened me, darling, with your husband's letter.
First and foremost--Yes. We shall be going to Chantepleurs about the
end of April. To me it will be a piling up of pleasure to travel, to
see you, and to be the godmother of your first child. I must, please,
have Macumer for godfather. To take part in a ceremony of the Church
with another as my partner would be hateful to me. Ah! if you could
see the look he gave me as I said this, you would know what store this
sweetest of lovers sets on his wife!

"I am the more bent on our visiting La Crampade together, Felipe," I
went on, "because I might have a child there. I too, you know, would
be a mother! . . . And yet, can you fancy me torn in two between you
and the infant? To begin with, if I saw any creature--were it even my
own son--taking my place in your heart, I couldn't answer for the
consequences. Medea may have been right after all. The Greeks had some
good notions!"

And he laughed.

So, my sweetheart, you have the fruit without the flowers; I the
flowers without the fruit. The contrast in our lives still holds good.
Between the two of us we have surely enough philosophy to find the
moral of it some day. Bah! only ten months married! Too soon, you will
admit, to give up hope.

We are leading a gay, yet far from empty life, as is the way with
happy people. The days are never long enough for us. Society, seeing
me in the trappings of a married woman, pronounces the Baronne de
Macumer much prettier than Louise de Chaulieu: a happy love is a most
becoming cosmetic. When Felipe and I drive along the Champs-Elysees in
the bright sunshine of a crisp January day, beneath the trees, frosted
with clusters of white stars, and face all Paris on the spot where
last year we met with a gulf between us, the contrast calls up a
thousand fancies. Suppose, after all, your last letter should be right
in its forecast, and we are too presumptuous!

If I am ignorant of a mother's joys, you shall tell me about them; I
will learn by sympathy. But my imagination can picture nothing to
equal the rapture of love. You will laugh at my extravagance; but, I
assure you, that a dozen times in as many months the longing has
seized me to die at thirty, while life was still untarnished, amidst
the roses of love, in the embrace of passion. To bid farewell to the
feast at its brightest, before disappointment has come, having lived
in this sunshine and celestial air, and well-nigh spent myself in
love, not a leaf dropped from my crown, not an illusion perished in my
heart, what a dream is there! Think what it would be to bear about a
young heart in an aged body, to see only cold, dumb faces around me,
where even strangers used to smile; to be a worthy matron! Can Hell
have a worse torture?

On this very subject, in fact, Felipe and I have had our first
quarrel. I contended that he ought to have sufficient moral strength
to kill me in my sleep when I have reached thirty, so that I might
pass from one dream to another. The wretch declined. I threatened to
leave him alone in the world, and, poor child, he turned white as a
sheet. My dear, this distinguished statesman is neither more nor less
than a baby. It is incredible what youth and simplicity he contrived
to hide away. Now that I allow myself to think aloud with him, as I do
with you, and have no secrets from him, we are always giving each
other surprises.

Dear Renee, Felipe and Louise, the pair of lovers, want to send a
present to the young mother. We would like to get something that would
give you pleasure, and we don't share the popular taste for surprises;
so tell me quite frankly, please, what you would like. It ought to be
something which would recall us to you in a pleasant way, something
which you will use every day, and which won't wear out with use. The
meal which with us is most cheerful and friendly is lunch, and
therefore the idea occurred to me of a special luncheon service,
ornamented with figures of babies. If you approve of this, let me know
at once; for it will have to be ordered immediately if we are to bring
it. Paris artists are gentlemen of far too much importance to be
hurried. This will be my offering to Lucina.

Farewell, dear nursing mother. May all a mother's delights be yours! I
await with impatience your first letter, which will tell me all about
it, I hope. Some of the details in your husband's letter went to my
heart. Poor Renee, a mother has a heavy price to pay. I will tell my
godson how dearly he must love you. No end of love, my sweet one.



                                XXXI

RENEE DE L'ESTORADE TO LOUISE DE MACUMER

It is nearly five months now since baby was born, and not once, dear
heart, have I found a single moment for writing to you. When you are a
mother yourself, you will be more ready to excuse me, than you are
now; for you have punished me a little bit in making your own letters
so few and far between. Do write, my darling! Tell me of your
pleasures; lay on the blue as brightly as you please. It will not hurt
me, for I am happy now, happier than you can imagine.

I went in state to the parish church to hear the Mass for recovery
from childbirth, as is the custom in the old families of Provence. I
was supported on either side by the two grandfathers--Louis' father
and my own. Never had I knelt before God with such a flood of
gratitude in my heart. I have so much to tell you of, so many feelings
to describe, that I don't know where to begin; but from amidst these
confused memories, one rises distinctly, that of my prayer in the
church.

When I found myself transformed into a joyful mother, on the very spot
where, as a girl, I had trembled for my future, it seemed to my fancy
that the Virgin on the altar bowed her head and pointed to the infant
Christ, who smiled at me! My heart full of pure and heavenly love, I
held out little Armand for the priest to bless and bathe, in
anticipation of the regular baptism to come later. But you will see us
together then, Armand and me.

My child--come see how readily the word comes, and indeed there is
none sweeter to a mother's heart and mind or on her lips--well, then,
dear child, during the last two months I used to drag myself wearily
and heavily about the gardens, not realizing yet how precious was the
burden, spite of all the discomforts it brought! I was haunted by
forebodings so gloomy and ghastly, that they got the better even of
curiosity; in vain did I picture the delights of motherhood. My heart
made no response even to the thought of the little one, who announced
himself by lively kicking. That is a sensation, dear, which may be
welcome when it is familiar; but as a novelty, it is more strange than
pleasing. I speak for myself at least; you know I would never affect
anything I did not really feel, and I look on my child as a gift
straight from Heaven. For one who saw in it rather the image of the
man she loved, it might be different.

But enough of such sad thoughts, gone, I trust, for ever.

When the crisis came, I summoned all my powers of resistance, and
braced myself so well for suffering, that I bore the horrible agony
--so they tell me--quite marvelously. For about an hour I sank into a
sort of stupor, of the nature of a dream. I seemed to myself then two
beings--an outer covering racked and tortured by red-hot pincers, and
a soul at peace. In this strange state the pain formed itself into a
sort of halo hovering over me. A gigantic rose seemed to spring out of
my head and grow ever larger and larger, till it enfolded me in its
blood-red petals. The same color dyed the air around, and everything I
saw was blood-red. At last the climax came, when soul and body seemed
no longer able to hold together; the spasms of pain gripped me like
death itself. I screamed aloud, and found fresh strength against this
fresh torture. Suddenly this concert of hideous cries was overborne by
a joyful sound--the shrill wail of the newborn infant. No words can
describe that moment. It was as though the universe took part in my
cries, when all at once the chorus of pain fell hushed before the
child's feeble note.

They laid me back again in the large bed, and it felt like paradise to
me, even in my extreme exhaustion. Three or four happy faces pointed
through tears to the child. My dear, I exclaimed in terror:

"It's just like a little monkey! Are you really and truly certain it
is a child?"

I fell back on my side, miserably disappointed at my first experience
of motherly feeling.

"Don't worry, dear," said my mother, who had installed herself as
nurse. "Why, you've got the finest baby in the world. You mustn't
excite yourself; but give your whole mind now to turning yourself as
much as possible into an animal, a milch cow, pasturing in the
meadow."

I fell asleep then, fully resolved to let nature have her way.

Ah! my sweet, how heavenly it was to waken up from all the pain and
haziness of the first days, when everything was still dim,
uncomfortable, confused. A ray of light pierced the darkness; my heart
and soul, my inner self--a self I had never known before--rent the
envelope of gloomy suffering, as a flower bursts its sheath at the
first warm kiss of the sun, at the moment when the little wretch
fastened on my breast and sucked. Not even the sensation of the
child's first cry was so exquisite as this. This is the dawn of
motherhood, this is the _Fiat lux_!

Here is happiness, joy ineffable, though it comes not without pangs.
Oh! my sweet jealous soul, how you will relish a delight which exists
only for ourselves, the child, and God! For this tiny creature all
knowledge is summed up in its mother's breast. This is the one bright
spot in its world, towards which its puny strength goes forth. Its
thoughts cluster round this spring of life, which it leaves only to
sleep, and whither it returns on waking. Its lips have a sweetness
beyond words, and their pressure is at once a pain and a delight, a
delight which by every excess becomes pain, or a pain which culminates
in delight. The sensation which rises from it, and which penetrates to
the very core of my life, baffles all description. It seems a sort of
centre whence a myriad joy-bearing rays gladden the heart and soul. To
bear a child is nothing; to nourish it is birth renewed every hour.

Oh! Louise, there is no caress of lover with half the power of those
little pink hands, as they stray about, seeking whereby to lay hold on
life. And the infant glances, now turned upon the breast, now raised
to meet our own! What dreams come to us as we watch the clinging
nursling! All our powers, whether of mind or body, are at its service;
for it we breathe and think, in it our longings are more than
satisfied! The sweet sensation of warmth at the heart, which the sound
of his first cry brought to me--like the first ray of sunshine on the
earth--came again as I felt the milk flow into his mouth, again as his
eyes met mine, and at this moment I have felt it once more as his
first smile gave token of a mind working within--for he has laughed,
my dear! A laugh, a glance, a bite, a cry--four miracles of gladness
which go straight to the heart and strike chords that respond to no
other touch. A child is tied to our heart-strings, as the spheres are
linked to their creator; we cannot think of God except as a mother's
heart writ large.

It is only in the act of nursing that a woman realizes her motherhood
in visible and tangible fashion; it is a joy of every moment. The milk
becomes flesh before our eyes; it blossoms into the tips of those
delicate flower-like fingers; it expands in tender, transparent nails;
it spins the silky tresses; it kicks in the little feet. Oh! those
baby feet, how plainly they talk to us! In them the child finds its
first language.

Yes, Louise, nursing is a miracle of transformation going on before
one's bewildered eyes. Those cries, they go to your heart and not your
ears; those smiling eyes and lips, those plunging feet, they speak in
words which could not be plainer if God traced them before you in
letters of fire! What else is there in the world to care about? The
father? Why, you could kill him if he dreamed of waking the baby! Just
as the child is the world to us, so do we stand alone in the world for
the child. The sweet consciousness of a common life is ample
recompense for all the trouble and suffering--for suffering there is.
Heaven save you, Louise, from ever knowing the maddening agony of a
wound which gapes afresh with every pressure of rosy lips, and is so
hard to heal--the heaviest tax perhaps imposed on beauty. For know,
Louise, and beware! it visits only a fair and delicate skin.

My little ape has in five months developed into the prettiest darling
that ever mother bathed in tears of joy, washed, brushed, combed, and
made smart; for God knows what unwearied care we lavish upon those
tender blossoms! So my monkey has ceased to exist, and behold in his
stead a _baby_, as my English nurse says, a regular pink-and-white
baby. He cries very little too now, for he is conscious of the love
bestowed on him; indeed, I hardly ever leave him, and I strive to wrap
him round in the atmosphere of my love.

Dear, I have a feeling now for Louis which is not love, but which
ought to be the crown of a woman's love where it exists. Nay, I am not
sure whether this tender fondness, this unselfish gratitude, is not
superior to love. From all that you have told me of it, dear pet, I
gather that love has something terribly earthly about it, whilst a
strain of holy piety purifies the affection a happy mother feels for
the author of her far-reaching and enduring joys. A mother's happiness
is like a beacon, lighting up the future, but reflected also on the
past in the guise of fond memories.

The old l'Estorade and his son have moreover redoubled their devotion
to me; I am like a new person to them. Every time they see me and
speak to me, it is with a fresh holiday joy, which touches me deeply.
The grandfather has, I verily believe, turned child again; he looks at
me admiringly, and the first time I came down to lunch he was moved to
tears to see me eating and suckling the child. The moisture in these
dry old eyes, generally expressive only of avarice, was a wonderful
comfort to me. I felt that the good soul entered into my joy.

As for Louis, he would shout aloud to the trees and stones of the
highway that he has a son; and he spends whole hours watching your
sleeping godson. He does not know, he says, when he will grow used to
it. These extravagant expressions of delight show me how great must
have been their fears beforehand. Louis has confided in me that he had
believed himself condemned to be childless. Poor fellow! he has all at
once developed very much, and he works even harder than he did. The
father in him has quickened his ambition.

For myself, dear soul, I grow happier and happier every moment. Each
hour creates a fresh tie between the mother and her infant. The very
nature of my feelings proves to me that they are normal, permanent,
and indestructible; whereas I shrewdly suspect love, for instance, of
being intermittent. Certainly it is not the same at all moments, the
flowers which it weaves into the web of life are not all of equal
brightness; love, in short, can and must decline. But a mother's love
has no ebb-tide to fear; rather it grows with the growth of the
child's needs, and strengthens with its strength. Is it not at once a
passion, a natural craving, a feeling, a duty, a necessity, a joy?
Yes, darling, here is woman's true sphere. Here the passion for
self-sacrifice can expend itself, and no jealousy intrudes.

Here, too, is perhaps the single point on which society and nature are
at one. Society, in this matter, enforces the dictates of nature,
strengthening the maternal instinct by adding to it family spirit and
the desire of perpetuating a name, a race, an estate. How tenderly
must not a woman cherish the child who has been the first to open up
to her these joys, the first to call forth the energies of her nature
and to instruct her in the grand art of motherhood! The right of the
eldest, which in the earliest times formed a part of the natural order
and was lost in the origins of society, ought never, in my opinion, to
have been questioned. Ah! how much a mother learns from her child! The
constant protection of a helpless being forces us to so strict an
alliance with virtue, that a woman never shows to full advantage
except as a mother. Then alone can her character expand in the
fulfilment of all life's duties and the enjoyment of all its
pleasures. A woman who is not a mother is maimed and incomplete.
Hasten, then, my sweetest, to fulfil your mission. Your present
happiness will then be multiplied by the wealth of my delights.

23rd.

I had to tear myself from you because your godson was crying. I can
hear his cry from the bottom of the garden. But I would not let this
go without a word of farewell. I have just been reading over what I
have said, and am horrified to see how vulgar are the feelings
expressed! What I feel, every mother, alas! since the beginning must
have felt, I suppose, in the same way, and put into the same words.
You will laugh at me, as we do at the naive father who dilates on the
beauty and cleverness of his (of course) quite exceptional offspring.
But the refrain of my letter, darling, is this, and I repeat it: I am
as happy now as I used to be miserable. This grange--and is it not
going to be an estate, a family property?--has become my land of
promise. The desert is past and over. A thousand loves, darling pet.
Write to me, for now I can read without a tear the tale of your happy
love. Farewell.



                               XXXII

MME. DE MACUMER TO MME. DE L'ESTORADE
March 1826.

Do you know, dear, that it is more than three months since I have
written to you or heard from you? I am the more guilty of the two, for
I did not reply to your last, but you don't stand on punctilio surely?

Macumer and I have taken your silence for consent as regards the
baby-wreathed luncheon service, and the little cherubs are starting
this morning for Marseilles. It took six months to carry out the design.
And so when Felipe asked me to come and see the service before it was
packed, I suddenly waked up to the fact that we had not interchanged a
word since the letter of yours which gave me an insight into a
mother's heart.

My sweet, it is this terrible Paris--there's my excuse. What, pray, is
yours? Oh! what a whirlpool is society! Didn't I tell you once that in
Paris one must be as the Parisians? Society there drives out all
sentiment; it lays en embargo on your time; and unless you are very
careful, soon eats away your heart altogether. What an amazing
masterpiece is the character of Celimene in Moliere's _Le
Misanthrope_! She is the society woman, not only of Louis XIV.'s time,
but of our own, and of all, time.

Where should I be but for my breastplate--the love I bear Felipe? This
very morning I told him, as the outcome of these reflections, that he
was my salvation. If my evenings are a continuous round of parties,
balls, concerts, and theatres, at night my heart expands again, and is
healed of the wounds received in the world by the delights of the
passionate love which await my return.

I dine at home only when we have friends, so-called, with us, and
spend the afternoon there only on my day, for I have a day now
--Wednesday--for receiving. I have entered the lists with Mmes. d'Espard
and de Maufrigneuse, and with the old Duchesse de Lenoncourt, and my
house has the reputation of being a very lively one. I allowed myself
to become the fashion, because I saw how much pleasure my success gave
Felipe. My mornings are his; from four in the afternoon till two in
the morning I belong to Paris. Macumer makes an admirable host, witty
and dignified, perfect in courtesy, and with an air of real
distinction. No woman could help loving such a husband even if she had
chosen him without consulting her heart.

My father and mother have left for Madrid. Louis XVIII. being out of
the way, the Duchess had no difficulty in obtaining from our
good-natured Charles X. the appointment of her fascinating poet; so he
is carried off in the capacity of attache.

My brother, the Duc de Rhetore, deigns to recognize me as a person of
mark. As for my younger brother, The Comte de Chaulieu, this buckram
warrior owes me everlasting gratitude. Before my father left, he spent
my fortune in acquiring for the Count an estate of forty thousand
francs a year, entailed on the title, and his marriage with Mlle. de
Mortsauf, an heiress from Touraine, is definitely arranged. The King,
in order to preserve the name and titles of the de Lenoncourt and de
Givry families from extinction, is to confer these, together with the
armorial bearings, by patent on my brother. Certainly it would never
have done to allow these two fine names and their splendid motto,
_Faciem semper monstramus_, to perish. Mlle. de Mortsauf, who is
granddaughter and sole heiress of the Duc de Lenoncourt-Givry, will,
it is said, inherit altogether more than one hundred thousand livres a
year. The only stipulation my father has made is that the de Chaulieu
arms should appear in the centre of the de Lenoncourt escutcheon. Thus
my brother will be Duc de Lenoncourt. The young de Mortsauf, to whom
everything would otherwise go, is in the last stage of consumption;
his death is looked for every day. The marriage will take place next
winter when the family are out of mourning. I am told that I shall
have a charming sister-in-law in Mlle. de Mortsauf.

So you see that my father's reasoning is justified. The outcome of it
all has won me many compliments, and my marriage is explained to
everybody's satisfaction. To complete our success, the Prince de
Talleyrand, out of affection for my grandmother, is showing himself a
warm friend to Macumer. Society, which began by criticising me, has
now passed to cordial admiration.

In short, I now reign a queen where, barely two years ago, I was an
insignificant item. Macumer finds himself the object of universal
envy, as the husband of "the most charming woman in Paris." At least a
score of women, as you know, are always in that proud position. Men
murmur sweet things in my ear, or content themselves with greedy
glances. This chorus of longing and admiration is so soothing to one's
vanity, that I confess I begin to understand the unconscionable price
women are ready to pay for such frail and precarious privileges. A
triumph of this kind is like strong wine to vanity, self-love, and all
the self-regarding feelings. To pose perpetually as a divinity is a
draught so potent in its intoxicating effects, that I am no longer
surprised to see women grow selfish, callous, and frivolous in the
heart of this adoration. The fumes of society mount to the head. You
lavish the wealth of your soul and spirit, the treasures of your time,
the noblest efforts of your will, upon a crowd of people who repay you
in smiles and jealousy. The false coin of their pretty speeches,
compliments, and flattery is the only return they give for the solid
gold of your courage and sacrifices, and all the thought that must go
to keep up without flagging the standard of beauty, dress, sparkling
talk, and general affability. You are perfectly aware how much it
costs, and that the whole thing is a fraud, but you cannot keep out of
the vortex.

Ah! my sweetheart, how one craves for a real friend! How precious to
me are the love and devotion of Felipe, and how my heart goes out to
you! Joyfully indeed are we preparing for our move to Chantepleurs,
where we can rest from the comedy of the Rue de Bac and of the Paris
drawing-rooms. Having just read your letter again, I feel that I
cannot better describe this demoniac paradise than by saying that no
woman of fashion in Paris can possibly be a good mother.

Good-bye, then, for a short time, dear one. We shall stay at
Chantepleurs only a week at most, and shall be with you about May
10th. So we are actually to meet again after more than two years! What
changes since then! Here we are, both matrons, both in our promised
land--I of love, you of motherhood.

If I have not written, my sweetest, it is not because I have forgotten
you. And what of the monkey godson? Is he still pretty and a credit to
me? He must be more than nine months' old now. I should dearly like to
be present when he makes his first steps upon this earth; but Macumer
tells me that even precocious infants hardly walk at ten months.

We shall have some good gossips there, and "cut pinafores," as the
Blois folk say. I shall see whether a child, as the saying goes,
spoils the pattern.

P. S.--If you deign to reply from your maternal heights, address to
Chantepleurs. I am just off.



                               XXXIII

MME. DE L'ESTORADE TO MME. DE MACUMER

My child,--If ever you become a mother, you will find out that it is
impossible to write letters during the first two months of your
nursing. Mary, my English nurse, and I are both quite knocked up. It
is true I had not told you that I was determined to do everything
myself. Before the event I had with my own fingers sewn the baby
clothes and embroidered and edged with lace the little caps. I am a
slave, my pet, a slave day and night.

To begin with, Master Armand-Louis takes his meals when it pleases
him, and that is always; then he has often to be changed, washed, and
dressed. His mother is so fond of watching him sleep, of singing songs
to him, of walking him about in her arms on a fine day, that she has
little time left to attend to herself. In short, what society has been
to you, my child--our child--has been to me!

I cannot tell you how full and rich my life has become, and I long for
your coming that you may see for yourself. The only thing is, I am
afraid he will soon be teething, and that you will find a peevish,
crying baby. So far he has not cried much, for I am always at hand.
Babies only cry when their wants are not understood, and I am
constantly on the lookout for his. Oh! my sweet, my heart has opened
up so wide, while you allow yours to shrink and shrivel at the bidding
of society! I look for your coming with all a hermit's longing. I want
so much to know what you think of l'Estorade, just as you no doubt are
curious for my opinion of Macumer.

Write to me from your last resting-place. The gentlemen want to go and
meet our distinguished guests. Come, Queen of Paris, come to our
humble grange, where love at least will greet you!



                               XXXIV

MME. DE MACUMER TO THE VICOMTESSE DE L'ESTORADE
April 1826.

The name on this address will tell you, dear, that my petition has
been granted. Your father-in-law is now Comte de l'Estorade. I would
not leave Paris till I had obtained the gratification of your wishes,
and I am writing in the presence of the Keeper of the Seals, who has
come to tell me that the patent is signed.

Good-bye for a short time!



                                XXXV

THE SAME TO THE SAME
MARSEILLES, July.

I am ashamed to think how my sudden flight will have taken you by
surprise. But since I am above all honest, and since I love you not
one bit the less, I shall tell you the truth in four words: I am
horribly jealous!

Felipe's eyes were too often on you. You used to have little talks
together at the foot of your rock, which were a torture to me; and I
was fast becoming irritable and unlike myself. Your truly Spanish
beauty could not fail to recall to him his native land, and along with
it Marie Heredia, and I can be jealous of the past too. Your
magnificent black hair, your lovely dark eyes, your brow, where the
peaceful joy of motherhood stands out radiant against the shadows
which tell of past suffering, the freshness of your southern skin, far
fairer than that of a blonde like me, the splendid lines of your
figure, the breasts, on which my godson hangs, peeping through the
lace like some luscious fruit,--all this stabbed me in the eyes and in
the heart. In vain did I stick cornflowers in my curls, in vain set
off with cherry-colored ribbons the tameness of my pale locks,
everything looked washed out when Renee appeared--a Renee so unlike
the one I expected to find in your oasis.

Then Felipe made too much of the child, whom I found myself beginning
to hate. Yes, I confess it, that exuberance of life which fills your
house, making it gay with shouts and laughter--I wanted it for myself.
I read a regret in Macumer's eyes, and, unknown to him, I cried over
it two whole nights. I was miserable in your house. You are too
beautiful as a woman, too triumphant as a mother, for me to endure
your company.

Ah! you complained of your lot. Hypocrite! What would you have?
L'Estorade is most presentable; he talks well; he has fine eyes; and
his black hair, dashed with white, is very becoming; his southern
manners, too, have something attractive about them. As far as I can
make out, he will, sooner or later, be elected deputy for the
Bouches-du-Rhone; in the Chamber he is sure to come to the front, for
you can always count on me to promote your interests. The sufferings
of his exile have given him that calm and dignified air which goes
half-way, in my opinion, to make a politician. For the whole art of
politics, dear, seems to me to consist in looking serious. At this rate,
Macumer, as I told him, ought certainly to have a high position in the
state.

And so, having completely satisfied myself of your happiness, I fly
off contented to my dear Chantepleurs, where Felipe must really
achieve his aspirations. I have made up my mind not to receive you
there without a fine baby at my breast to match yours.

Oh! I know very well I deserve all the epithets you can hurl at me. I
am a fool, a wretch, an idiot. Alas! that is just what jealousy means.
I am not vexed with you, but I was miserable, and you will forgive me
for escaping from my misery. Two days more, and I should have made an
exhibition of myself; yes, there would have been an outbreak of
vulgarity.

But in spite of the rage gnawing at my heart, I am glad to have come,
glad to have seen you in the pride of your beautiful motherhood, my
friend still, as I remain yours in all the absorption of my love. Why,
even here at Marseilles, only a step from your door, I begin to feel
proud of you and of the splendid mother that you will make.

How well you judged your vocation! You seem to me born for the part of
mother rather than of lover, exactly as the reverse is true of me.
There are women capable of neither, hard-favored or silly women. A
good mother and a passionately loving wife have this in common, that
they both need intelligence and discretion ever at hand, and an
unfailing command of every womanly art and grace. Oh! I watched you
well; need I add, sly puss, that I admired you too! Your children will
be happy, but not spoilt, with your tenderness lapping them round and
the clear light of your reason playing softly on them.

Tell Louis the truth about my going away, but find some decent excuse
for your father-in-law, who seems to act as steward for the
establishment; and be careful to do the same for your family--a true
Provencal version of the Harlowe family. Felipe does not know why I
left, and he will never know. If he asks, I shall contrive to find
some colorable pretext, probably that you were jealous of me! Forgive
me this little conventional fib.

Good-bye. I write in haste, as I want you to get this at lunch-time;
and the postilion, who has undertaken to convey it to you, is here,
refreshing himself while he waits.

Many kisses to my dear little godson. Be sure you come to Chantepleurs
in October. I shall be alone there all the time that Macumer is away
in Sardinia, where he is designing great improvements in his estate.
At least that is his plan for the moment, and his pet vanity consists
in having a plan. Then he feels that he has a will of his own, and
this makes him very uneasy when he unfolds it to me. Good-bye!



                               XXXVI

THE VICOMTESSE DE L'ESTORADE TO THE BARONNE DE MACUMER

Dear,--no words can express the astonishment of all our party when, at
luncheon, we were told that you had both gone, and, above all, when
the postilion who took you to Marseilles handed me your mad letter.
Why, naughty child, it was of your happiness, and nothing else, that
made the theme of those talks below the rock, on the "Louise" seat,
and you had not the faintest justification for objecting to them.
_Ingrata!_ My sentence on you is that you return here at my first
summons. In that horrid letter, scribbled on the inn paper, you did
not tell me what would be your next stopping place; so I must address
this to Chantepleurs.

Listen to me, dear sister of my heart. Know first, that my mind is set
on your happiness. Your husband, dear Louise, commands respect, not
only by his natural gravity and dignified expression, but also because
he somehow impresses one with the splendid power revealed in his
piquant plainness and in the fire of his velvet eyes; and you will
understand that it was some little time before I could meet him on
those easy terms which are almost necessary for intimate conversation.
Further, this man has been Prime Minister, and he idolizes you; whence
it follows that he must be a profound dissembler. To fish up secrets,
therefore, from the rocky caverns of this diplomatic soul is a work
demanding a skilful hand no less than a ready brain. Nevertheless, I
succeeded at last, without rousing my victim's suspicions, in
discovering many things of which you, my pet, have no conception.

You know that, between us two, my part is rather that of reason, yours
of imagination: I personify sober duty, you reckless love. It has
pleased fate to continue in our lives this contrast in character which
was imperceptible to all except ourselves. I am a simple country
vicountess, very ambitious, and making it her task to lead her family
on the road to prosperity. On the other hand, Macumer, late Duc de
Soria, has a name in the world, and you, a duchess by right, reign in
Paris, where reigning is no easy matter even for kings. You have a
considerable fortune, which will be doubled if Macumer carries out his
projects for developing his great estates in Sardinia, the resources
of which are matter of common talk at Marseilles. Deny, if you can,
that if either has the right to be jealous, it is not you. But, thank
God, we have both hearts generous enough to place our friendship
beyond reach of such vulgar pettiness.

I know you, dear; I know that, ere now, you are ashamed of having
fled. But don't suppose that your flight will save you from a single
word of discourse which I had prepared for your benefit to-day beneath
the rock. Read carefully then, I beg of you, what I say, for it
concerns you even more closely than Macumer, though he also enters
largely into my sermon.

Firstly, my dear, you do not love him. Before two years are over, you
will be sick of adoration. You will never look on Felipe as a husband;
to you he will always be the lover whom you can play with, for that is
how all women treat their lovers. You do not look up to him, or
reverence, or worship him as a woman should the god of her idolatry.
You see, I have made a study of love, my sweet, and more than once
have I taken soundings in the depth of my own heart. Now, as the
result of a careful diagnosis of your case, I can say with confidence,
this is not love.

Yes, dear Queen of Paris, you cannot escape the destiny of all queens.
The day will come when you long to be treated as a light-o'-love, to
be mastered and swept off your feet by a strong man, one who will not
prostrate himself in adoration before you, but will seize your arm
roughly in a fit of jealousy. Macumer loves you too fondly ever to be
able either to resist you or find fault with you. A single glance from
you, a single coaxing word, would melt his sternest resolution. Sooner
or later, you will learn to scorn this excessive devotion. He spoils
you, alas! just as I used to spoil you at the convent, for you are a
most bewitching woman, and there is no escaping your siren-like
charms.

Worse than all, you are candid, and it often happens that our
happiness depends on certain social hypocrisies to which you will
never stoop. For instance, society will not tolerate a frank display
of the wife's power over her husband. The convention is that a man
must no more show himself the lover of his wife, however passionately
he adores her, than a married woman may play the part of a mistress.
This rule you both disregard.

In the first place, my child, from what you have yourself told me, it
is clear that the one unpardonable sin in society is to be happy. If
happiness exists, no one must know of it. But this is a small point.
What seems to me important is that the perfect equality which reigns
between lovers ought never to appear in the case of husband and wife,
under pain of undermining the whole fabric of society and entailing
terrible disasters. If it is painful to see a man whom nature has made
a nonentity, how much worse is the spectacle of a man of parts brought
to that position? Before very long you will have reduced Macumer to
the mere shadow of a man. He will cease to have a will and character
of his own, and become mere clay in your hands. You will have so
completely moulded him to your likeness, that your household will
consist of only one person instead of two, and that one necessarily
imperfect. You will regret it bitterly; but when at last you deign to
open your eyes, the evil will be past cure. Do what we will, women do
not, and never will, possess the qualities which are characteristic of
men, and these qualities are absolutely indispensable to family life.
Already Macumer, blinded though he is, has a dim foreshadowing of this
future; he feels himself less a man through his love. His visit to
Sardinia is a proof to me that he hopes by this temporary separation
to succeed in recovering his old self.

You never scruple to use the power which his love has placed in your
hand. Your position of vantage may be read in a gesture, a look, a
tone. Oh! darling, how truly are you the mad wanton your mother called
you! You do not question, I fancy, that I am greatly Louis' superior.
Well, I would ask you, have you ever heard me contradict him? Am I not
always, in the presence of others, the wife who respects in him the
authority of the family? Hypocrisy! you will say. Well, listen to me.
It is true that if I want to give him any advice which I think may be
of use to him, I wait for the quiet and seclusion of our bedroom to
explain what I think and wish; but, I assure you, sweetheart, that
even there I never arrogate to myself the place of mentor. If I did
not remain in private the same submissive wife that I appear to
others, he would lose confidence in himself. Dear, the good we do to
others is spoilt unless we efface ourselves so completely that those
we help have no sense of inferiority. There is a wonderful sweetness
in these hidden sacrifices, and what a triumph for me in your
unsuspecting praises of Louis! There can be no doubt also that the
happiness, the comfort, the hope of the last two years have restored
what misfortune, hardship, solitude, and despondency has robbed him
of.

This, then, is the sum-total of my observations. At the present moment
you love in Felipe, not your husband, but yourself. There is truth in
your father's words; concealed by the spring-flowers of your passion
lies all the great lady's selfishness. Ah! my child, how I must love
you to speak such bitter truths!

Let me tell you, if you will promise never to breathe a word of this
to the Baron, the end of our talk. We had been singing your praises
in every key, for he soon discovered that I loved you like a
fondly-cherished sister, and having insensibly brought him to a
confidential mood, I ventured to say:

"Louise has never yet had to struggle with life. She has been the
spoilt child of fortune, and she might yet have to pay for this were
you not there to act the part of father as well as lover."

"Ah! but is it possible? . . ." He broke off abruptly, like a man who
sees himself on the edge of a precipice. But the exclamation was
enough for me. No doubt, if you had stayed, he would have spoken more
freely later.

My sweet, think of the day awaiting you when your husband's strength
will be exhausted, when pleasure will have turned to satiety, and he
sees himself, I will not say degraded, but shorn of his proper dignity
before you. The stings of conscience will then waken a sort of remorse
in him, all the more painful for you, because you will feel yourself
responsible, and you will end by despising the man whom you have not
accustomed yourself to respect. Remember, too, that scorn with a woman
is only the earliest phase of hatred. You are too noble and generous,
I know, ever to forget the sacrifices which Felipe has made for you;
but what further sacrifices will be left for him to make when he has,
so to speak, served up himself at the first banquet? Woe to the man,
as to the woman, who has left no desire unsatisfied! All is over then.
To our shame or our glory--the point is too nice for me to decide--it
is of love alone that women are insatiable.

Oh! Louise, change yet, while there is still time. If you would only
adopt the same course with Macumer that I have done with l'Estorade,
you might rouse the sleeping lion in your husband, who is made of the
stuff of heroes. One might almost say that you grudge him his
greatness. Would you feel no pride in using your power for other ends
than your own gratification, in awakening the genius of a gifted man,
as I in raising to a higher level one of merely common parts?

Had you remained with us, I should still have written this letter, for
in talking you might have cut me short or got the better of me with
your sharp tongue. But I know that you will read this thoughtfully and
weigh my warnings. Dear heart, you have everything in life to make you
happy, do not spoil your chances; return to Paris, I entreat you, as
soon as Macumer comes back. The engrossing claims of society, of which
I complained, are necessary for both of you; otherwise you would spend
your life in mutual self-absorption. A married woman ought not to be
too lavish of herself. The mother of a family, who never gives her
household an opportunity of missing her, runs the risk of palling on
them. If I have several children, as I trust for my own sake I may, I
assure you I shall make a point of reserving to myself certain hours
which shall be held sacred; even to one's children one's presence
should not be a matter of daily bread.

Farewell, my dear jealous soul! Do you know that many women would be
highly flattered at having roused this passing pang in you? Alas! I
can only mourn, for what is not mother in me is your dear friend. A
thousand loves. Make what excuse you will for leaving; if you are not
sure of Macumer, I am of Louis.



                               XXXVII

THE BARONNE DE MACUMER TO THE VICOMTESSE DE L'ESTORADE
Genoa.

My beloved beauty,--I was bitten with the fancy to see something of
Italy, and I am delighted at having carried off Macumer, whose plans
in regard to Sardinia are postponed.

This country is simple ravishing. The churches--above all, the chapels
--have a seductive, bewitching air, which must make every female
Protestant yearn after Catholicism. Macumer has been received with
acclamation, and they are all delighted to have made an Italian of so
distinguished a man. Felipe could have the Sardinian embassy at Paris
if I cared about it, for I am made much of at court.

If you write, address your letters to Florence. I have not time now to
go into any details, but I will tell you the story of our travels
whenever you come to Paris. We only remain here a week, and then go on
to Florence, taking Leghorn on the way. We shall stay a month in
Tuscany and a month at Naples, so as to reach Rome in November. Thence
we return home by Venice, where we shall spend the first fortnight of
December, and arrive in Paris, _via_ Milan and Turin, for January.

Our journey is a perfect honeymoon; the sight of new places gives
fresh life to our passion. Macumer did not know Italy at all, and we
have begun with that splendid Cornice road, which might be the work of
fairy architects.

Good-bye, darling. Don't be angry if I don't write. It is impossible
to get a minute to oneself in traveling; my whole time is taken up
with seeing, admiring, and realizing my impressions. But not a word to
you of these till memory has given them their proper atmosphere.



                              XXXVIII

THE VICOMTESSE DE L'ESTORADE TO THE BARONNE DE MACUMER
September.

My dear,--There is lying for you at Chantepleurs a full reply to the
letter you wrote me from Marseilles. This honeymoon journey, so far
from diminishing the fears I there expressed, makes me beg of you to
get my letter sent on from Nivernais.

The Government, it is said, are resolved on dissolution. This is
unlucky for the Crown, since the last session of this loyal Parliament
would have been devoted to the passing of laws, essential to the
consolidation of its power; and it is not less so for us, as Louis
will not be forty till the end of 1827. Fortunately, however, my
father has agreed to stand, and he will resign his seat when the right
moment arrives.

Your godson has found out how to walk without his godmother's help. He
is altogether delicious, and begins to make the prettiest little signs
to me, which bring home to one that here is really a thinking being,
not a mere animal or sucking machine. His smiles are full of meaning.
I have been so successful in my profession of nurse that I shall wean
Armand in December. A year at the breast is quite enough; children who
are suckled longer are said to grow stupid, and I am all for popular
sayings.

You must make a tremendous sensation in Italy, my fair one with the
golden locks. A thousand loves.



                               XXXIX

THE BARONNE DE MACUMER TO THE VICOMTESSE DE L'ESTORADE

Your atrocious letter has reached me here, the steward having
forwarded it by my orders. Oh! Renee . . . but I will spare you the
outburst of my wounded feelings, and simply tell you the effect your
letter produced.

We had just returned from a delightful reception given in our honor by
the ambassador, where I appeared in all my glory, and Macumer was
completely carried away in a frenzy of love which I could not
describe. Then I read him your horrible answer to my letter, and I
read it sobbing, at the risk of making a fright of myself. My dear
Arab fell at my feet, declaring that you raved. Then he carried me off
to the balcony of the palace where we are staying, from which we have
a view over part of the city; there he spoke to me words worthy of the
magnificent moonlight scene which lay stretched before us. We both
speak Italian now, and his love, told in that voluptuous tongue, so
admirably adapted to the expression of passion, sounded in my ears
like the most exquisite poetry. He swore that, even were you right in
your predictions, he would not exchange for a lifetime a single one of
our blessed nights or charming mornings. At this reckoning he has
already lived a thousand years. He is content to have me for his
mistress, and would claim no other title than that of lover. So proud
and pleased is he to see himself every day the chosen of my heart,
that were Heaven to offer him the alternative between living as you
would have us to for another thirty years with five children, and five
years spent amid the dear roses of our love, he would not hesitate. He
would take my love, such as it is, and death.

While he was whispering this in my ear, his arm round me, my head
resting on his shoulder, the cries of a bat, surprised by an owl,
disturbed us. This death-cry struck me with such terror that Felipe
carried me half-fainting to my bed. But don't be alarmed! Though this
augury of evil still resounds in my soul, I am quite myself this
morning. As soon as I was up, I went to Felipe, and, kneeling before
him, my eyes fixed on his, his hands clasped in mine, I said to him:--

"My love, I am a child, and Renee may be right after all. It may be
only your love that I love in you; but at least I can assure you that
this is the one feeling of my heart, and that I love you as it is
given me to love. But if there be aught in me, in my lightest thought
or deed, which jars on your wishes or conception of me, I implore you
to tell me, to say what it is. It will be a joy to me to hear you and
to take your eyes as the guiding-stars of my life. Renee has
frightened me, for she is a true friend."

Macumer could not find voice to reply, tears choked him.

I can thank you now, Renee. But for your letter I should not have
known the depths of love in my noble, kingly Macumer. Rome is the city
of love; it is there that passion should celebrate its feast, with art
and religion as confederates.

At Venice we shall find the Duc and Duchesse de Soria. If you write,
address now to Paris, for we shall leave Rome in three days. The
ambassador's was a farewell party.

P. S.--Dear, silly child, your letter only shows that you knew nothing
of love, except theoretically. Learn then that love is a quickening
force which may produce fruits so diverse that no theory can embrace
or co-ordinate them. A word this for my little Professor with her
armor of stays.



                                 XL

THE COMTESSE DE L'ESTORADE TO THE BARONNE DE MACUMER
January 1827.

My father has been elected to the Chamber, my father-in-law is dead,
and I am on the point of my second confinement; these are the chief
events marking the end of the year for us. I mention them at once,
lest the sight of the black seal should frighten you.

My dear, your letter from Rome made my flesh creep. You are nothing
but a pair of children. Felipe is either a dissembling diplomat or
else his love for you is the love a man might have for a courtesan, on
whom he squanders his all, knowing all the time that she is false to
him. Enough of this. You say I rave, so I had better hold my tongue.
Only this would I say, from the comparison of our two very different
destinies I draw this harsh moral--Love not if you would be loved.

My dear, when Louis was elected to the provincial Council, he received
the cross of the Legion of Honor. That is now nearly three years ago;
and as my father--whom you will no doubt see in Paris during the
course of the session--has asked the rank of Officer of the Legion for
his son-in-law, I want to know if you will do me the kindness to take
in hand the bigwig, whoever he may be, to whom this patronage belongs,
and to keep an eye upon the little affair. But, whatever you do, don't
get entangled in the concerns of my honored father. The Comte de
Maucombe is fishing for the title of Marquis for himself; but keep
your good services for me, please. When Louis is a deputy--next winter
that is--we shall come to Paris, and then we will move heaven and
earth to get some Government appointment for him, so that we may be
able to save our income by living on his salary. My father sits
between the centre and the right; a title will content him. Our family
was distinguished even in the days of King Rene, and Charles X. will
hardly say no to a Maucombe; but what I fear is that my father may
take it into his head to ask some favor for my younger brother. Now,
if the marquisate is dangled out of his reach, he will have no
thoughts to spare from himself.

January 15th.

Ah! Louise, I have been in hell. If I can bear to tell you of my
anguish, it is because you are another self; even so, I don't know
whether I shall ever be able to live again in thought those five
ghastly days. The mere word "convulsions" makes my very heart sick.
Five days! to me they were five centuries of torture. A mother who has
not been through this martyrdom does not know what suffering is. So
frenzied was I that I even envied you, who never had a child!

The evening before that terrible day the weather was close, almost
hot, and I thought my little Armand was affected by it. Generally so
sweet and caressing, he was peevish, cried for nothing, wanted to
play, and then broke his toys. Perhaps this sort of fractiousness is
the usual sign of approaching illness with children. While I was
wondering about it, I noticed Armand's cheeks flush, but this I set
down to teething, for he is cutting four large teeth at once. So I put
him to bed beside me, and kept constantly waking through the night. He
was a little feverish, but not enough to make me uneasy, my mind being
still full of the teething. Towards morning he cried "Mamma!" and
asked by signs for something to drink; but the cry was spasmodic, and
there were convulsive twitchings in the limbs, which turned me to ice.
I jumped out of bed to fetch him a drink. Imagine my horror when, on
my handing him the cup, he remained motionless, only repeating
"Mamma!" in that strange, unfamiliar voice, which was indeed by this
time hardly a voice at all. I took his hand, but it did not respond to
my pressure; it was quite stiff. I put the cup to his lips; the poor
little fellow gulped down three or four mouthfuls in a convulsive
manner that was terrible to see, and the water made a strange sound in
his throat. He clung to me desperately, and I saw his eyes roll, as
though some hidden force within were pulling at them, till only the
whites were visible; his limbs were turning rigid. I screamed aloud,
and Louis came.

"A doctor! quick! . . . he is dying," I cried.

Louis vanished, and my poor Armand again gasped, "Mamma! Mamma!" The
next moment he lost all consciousness of his mother's existence. The
pretty veins on his forehead swelled, and the convulsions began. For a
whole hour before the doctors came, I held in my arms that merry baby,
all lilies and roses, the blossom of my life, my pride, and my joy,
lifeless as a piece of wood; and his eyes! I cannot think of them
without horror. My pretty Armand was a mere mummy--black, shriveled,
misshapen.

A doctor, two doctors, brought from Marseilles by Louis, hovered about
like birds of ill omen; it made me shudder to look at them. One spoke
of brain fever, the other saw nothing but an ordinary case of
convulsions in infancy. Our own country doctor seemed to me to have
the most sense, for he offered no opinion. "It's teething," said the
second doctor.--"Fever," said the first. Finally it was agreed to put
leeches on his neck and ice on his head. It seemed to me like death.
To look on, to see a corpse, all purple or black, and not a cry, not a
movement from this creature but now so full of life and sound--it was
horrible!

At one moment I lost my head, and gave a sort of hysterical laugh, as
I saw the pretty neck which I used to devour with kisses, with the
leeches feeding on it, and his darling head in a cap of ice. My dear,
we had to cut those lovely curls, of which we were so proud and with
which you used to play, in order to make room for the ice. The
convulsions returned every ten minutes with the regularity of labor
pains, and then the poor baby writhed and twisted, now white, now
violet. His supple limbs clattered like wood as they struck. And this
unconscious flesh was the being who smiled and prattled, and used to
say Mamma! At the thought, a storm of agony swept tumultuously over my
soul, like the sea tossing in a hurricane. It seemed as though every
tie which binds a child to its mother's heart was strained to rending.
My mother, who might have given me help, advice, or comfort, was in
Paris. Mothers, it is my belief, know more than doctors do about
convulsions.

After four days and nights of suspense and fear, which almost killed
me, the doctors were unanimous in advising the application of a horrid
ointment, which would produce open sores. Sores on my Armand! who only
five days before was playing about, and laughing, and trying to say
"Godmother!" I would not have it done, preferring to trust in nature.
Louis, who believes in doctors, scolded me. A man remains the same
through everything. But there are moments when this terrible disease
takes the likeness of death, and in one of these it seemed borne in
upon me that this hateful remedy was the salvation of Armand. Louise,
the skin was so dry, so rough and parched, that the ointment would not
act. Then I broke into weeping, and my tears fell so long and so fast,
that the bedside was wet through. And the doctors were at dinner!

Seeing myself alone with the child, I stripped him of all medical
appliances, and seizing him like a mad woman, pressed him to my bosom,
laying my forehead against his, and beseeching God to grant him the
life which I was striving to pass into his veins from mine. For some
minutes I held him thus, longing to die with him, so that neither life
nor death might part us. Dear, I felt the limbs relaxing; the
writhings ceased, the child stirred, and the ghastly, corpselike tints
faded away! I screamed, just as I did when he was taken ill; the
doctors hurried up, and I pointed to Armand.

"He is saved!" exclaimed the oldest of them.

What music in those words! The gates of heaven opened! And, in fact,
two hours later Armand came back to life; but I was utterly crushed,
and it was only the healing power of joy which saved me from a serious
illness. My God! by what tortures do you bind a mother to her child!
To fasten him to our heart, need the nails be driven into the very
quick? Was I not mother enough before? I, who wept tears of joy over
his broken syllables and tottering steps, who spent hours together
planning how best to perform my duty, and fit myself for the sweet
post of mother? Why these horrors, these ghastly scenes, for a mother
who already idolized her child?

As I write, our little Armand is playing, shouting, laughing. What can
be the cause of this terrible disease with children? Vainly do I try
to puzzle it out, remembering that I am again with child. Is it
teething? Is it some peculiar process in the brain? Is there something
wrong with the nervous system of children who are subject to
convulsions? All these thoughts disquiet me, in view alike of the
present and the future. Our country doctor holds to the theory of
nervous trouble produced by teething. I would give every tooth in my
head to see little Armand's all through. The sight of one of those
little white pearls peeping out of the swollen gum brings a cold sweat
over me now. The heroism with which the little angel bore his
sufferings proves to me that he will be his mother's son. A look from
him goes to my very heart.

Medical science can give no satisfactory explanation as to the origin
of this sort of tetanus, which passes off as rapidly as it comes on,
and can apparently be neither guarded against nor cured. One thing
alone, as I said before, is certain, that it is hell for a mother to
see her child in convulsions. How passionately do I clasp him to my
heart! I could walk for ever with him in my arms!

To have suffered all this only six weeks before my confinement made it
much worse; I feared for the coming child. Farewell, my dear beloved.
Don't wish for a child--there is the sum and substance of my letter!



                                XLI

THE BARONNE DE MACUMER TO THE VICOMTESSE DE L'ESTORADE
Paris.

Poor sweet,--Macumer and I forgave you all your naughtiness when we
heard of your terrible trouble. I thrilled with pain as I read the
details of the double agony, and there seem compensations now in being
childless.

I am writing at once to tell you that Louis has been promoted. He can
now wear the ribbon of an officer of the Legion. You are a lucky
woman, Renee, and you will probably have a little girl, since that
used to be your wish!

The marriage of my brother with Mlle. de Mortsauf was celebrated on
our return. Our gracious King, who really is extraordinarily kind, has
given my brother the reversion of the post of first gentleman of the
chamber, which his father-in-law now fills, on the one condition that
the scutcheon of the Mortsaufs should be placed side by side with that
of the Lenoncourts.

"The office ought to go with the title," he said to the Duc de
Lenoncourt-Givry.

My father is justified a hundred-fold. Without the help of my fortune
nothing of all this could have taken place. My father and mother came
from Madrid for the wedding, and return there, after the reception
which I give to-morrow for the bride and bridegroom.

The carnival will be a very gay one. The Duc and Duchesse de Soria are
in Paris, and their presence makes me a little uneasy. Marie Heredia
is certainly one of the most beautiful women in Europe, and I don't
like the way Felipe looks at her. Therefore I am doubly lavish of
sweetness and caresses. Every look and gesture speak the words which I
am careful my lips should not utter, "_She_ could not love like this!"
Heaven knows how lovely and fascinating I am! Yesterday Mme. de
Maufrigneuse said to me:

"Dear child, who can compete with you?"

Then I keep Felipe so well amused, that his sister-in-law must seem as
lively as a Spanish cow in comparison. I am the less sorry that a
little Abencerrage is not on his way, because the Duchess will no
doubt stay in Paris over her confinement, and she won't be a beauty
any longer. If the baby is a boy, it will be called Felipe, in honor
of the exile. An unkind chance has decreed that I shall, a second
time, serve as godmother.

Good-bye, dear, I shall go to Chantepleurs early this year, for our
Italian tour was shockingly expensive. I shall leave about the end of
March, and retire to economize in Nivenais. Besides, I am tired of
Paris. Felipe sighs, as I do, after the beautiful quiet of the park,
our cool meadows, and our Loire, with its sparkling sands, peerless
among rivers. Chantepleurs will seem delightful to me after the pomps
and vanities of Italy; for, after all, splendor becomes wearisome, and
a lover's glance has more beauty than a _capo d'opera_ or a _bel
quadro_!

We shall expect you there. Don't be afraid that I shall be jealous
again. You are free to take what soundings you please in Macumer's
heart, and fish up all the interjections and doubts you can. I am
supremely indifferent. Since that day at Rome Felipe's love for me has
grown. He told me yesterday (he is looking over my shoulder now) that
his sister-in-law, the Princess Heredia, his destined bride of old,
the dream of his youth, had no brains. Oh! my dear, I am worse than a
ballet-dancer! If you knew what joy that slighting remark gave me! I
have pointed out to Felipe that she does not speak French correctly.
She says _esemple_ for _exemple_, _sain_ for _cinq_, _cheu_ for _je_.
She is beautiful of course, but quite without charm or the slightest
scintilla of wit. When a compliment is paid her, she looks at you as
though she didn't know what to do with such a strange thing. Felipe,
being what he is, could not have lived two months with Marie after his
marriage. Don Fernand, the Duc de Soria, suits her very well. He has
generous instincts, but it's easy to see he has been a spoilt child. I
am tempted to be naughty and make you laugh; but I won't draw the long
bow. Ever so much love, darling.



                                XLII

RENEE TO LOUISE

My little girl is two months old. She is called Jeanne-Athenais, and
has for godmother and godfather my mother, and an old grand-uncle of
Louis'.

As soon as I possibly can, I shall start for my visit to Chantepleurs,
since you are not afraid of a nursing mother. Your godson can say your
name now; he calls it _Matoumer_, for he can't say _c_ properly. You
will be quite delighted with him. He has got all his teeth, and eats
meat now like a big boy; he is all over the place, trotting about like
a little mouse; but I watch him all the time with anxious eyes, and it
makes me miserable that I cannot keep him by me when I am laid up. The
time is more than usually long with me, as the doctors consider some
special precautions necessary. Alas! my child, habit does not inure
one to child-bearing. There are the same old discomforts and
misgivings. However (don't show this to Felipe), this little girl
takes after me, and she may yet cut out your Armand.

My father thought Felipe looking very thin, and my dear pet also not
quite so blooming. Yet the Duc and Duchesse de Soria have gone; not a
loophole for jealousy is left! Is there any trouble which you are
hiding from me? Your letter is neither so long nor so full of loving
thoughts as usual. Is this only a whim of my dear whimsical friend?

I am running on too long. My nurse is angry with me for writing, and
Mlle. Athenais de l'Estorade wants her dinner. Farewell, then; write
me some nice long letters.



                               XLIII

MME. DE MACUMER TO THE COMTESSE DE L'ESTORADE

For the first time in my life, my dear Renee, I have been alone and
crying. I was sitting under a willow, on a wooden bench by the side of
the long Chantepleurs marsh. The view there is charming, but it needs
some merry children to complete it, and I wait for you. I have been
married nearly three years, and no child! The thought of your quiver
full drove me to explore my heart.

And this is what I find there. "Oh! if I had to suffer a hundred-fold
what Renee suffered when my godson was born; if I had to see my child
in convulsions, even so would to God that I might have a cherub of my
own, like your Athenais!" I can see her from here in my mind's eye,
and I know she is beautiful as the day, for you tell me nothing about
her--that is just like my Renee! I believe you divine my trouble.

Each time my hopes are disappointed, I fall a prey for some days to
the blackest melancholy. Then I compose sad elegies. When shall I
embroider little caps and sew lace edgings to encircle a tiny head?
When choose the cambric for the baby-clothes? Shall I never hear baby
lips shout "Mamma," and have my dress pulled by a teasing despot whom
my heart adores? Are there to be no wheelmarks of a little carriage on
the gravel, no broken toys littered about the courtyard? Shall I never
visit the toy-shops, as mothers do, to buy swords, and dolls, and
baby-houses? And will it never be mine to watch the unfolding of a
precious life--another Felipe, only more dear? I would have a son, if
only to learn how a lover can be more to one in his second self.

My park and castle are cold and desolate to me. A childless woman is a
monstrosity of nature; we exist only to be mothers. Oh! my sage in
woman's livery, how well you have conned the book of life! Everywhere,
too, barrenness is a dismal thing. My life is a little too much like
one of Gessner's or Florian's sheepfolds, which Rivarol longed to see
invaded by a wolf. I too have it in me to make sacrifices! There are
forces in me, I feel, which Felipe has no use for; and if I am not to
be a mother, I must be allowed to indulge myself in some romantic
sorrow.

I have just made this remark to my belated Moor, and it brought tears
to his eyes. He cannot stand any joking on his love, so I let him off
easily, and only called him a paladin of folly.

At times I am seized with a desire to go on pilgrimage, to bear my
longings to the shrine of some madonna or to a watering-place. Next
winter I shall take medical advice. I am too much enraged with myself
to write more. Good-bye.



                                XLIV

THE SAME TO THE SAME
Paris, 1829.

A whole year passed, my dear, without a letter! What does this mean? I
am a little hurt. Do you suppose that your Louis, who comes to see me
almost every alternate day, makes up for you? It is not enough to know
that you are well and that everything prospers with you; for I love
you, Renee, and I want to know what you are feeling and thinking of,
just as I say everything to you, at the risk of being scolded, or
censured, or misunderstood. Your silence and seclusion in the country,
at the time when you might be in Paris enjoying all the Parliamentary
honors of the Comte de l'Estorade, cause me serious anxiety. You know
that your husband's "gift of gab" and unsparing zeal have won for him
quite a position here, and he will doubtless receive some very good
post when the session is over. Pray, do you spend your life writing
him letters of advice? Numa was not so far removed from his Egeria.

Why did you not take this opportunity of seeing Paris? I might have
enjoyed your company for four months. Louis told me yesterday that you
were coming to fetch him, and would have your third confinement in
Paris--you terrible mother Gigogne! After bombarding Louis with
queries, exclamations, and regrets, I at last defeated his strategy so
far as to discover that his grand-uncle, the godfather of Athenais, is
very ill. Now I believe that you, like a careful mother, would be
quite equal to angling with the member's speeches and fame for a fat
legacy from your husband's last remaining relative on the mother's
side. Keep your mind easy, my Renee--we are all at work for Louis,
Lenoncourts, Chaulieus, and the whole band of Mme. de Macumer's
followers. Martignac will probably put him into the audit department.
But if you won't tell me why you bury yourself in the country, I shall
be cross.

Tell me, are you afraid that the political wisdom of the house of
l'Estorade should seem to centre in you? Or is it the uncle's legacy?
Perhaps you were afraid you would be less to your children in Paris?
Ah! what I would give to know whether, after all, you were not simply
too vain to show yourself in Paris for the first time in your present
condition! Vain thing! Farewell.



                                XLV

RENEE TO LOUISE

You complain of my silence; have you forgotten, then, those two little
brown heads, at once my subjects and my tyrants? And as to staying at
home, you have yourself hit upon several of my reasons. Apart from the
condition of our dear uncle, I didn't want to drag with me to Paris a
boy of four and a little girl who will soon be three, when I am again
expecting my confinement. I had no intention of troubling you and
upsetting your husband with such a party. I did not care to appear,
looking my worst, in the brilliant circle over which you preside, and
I detest life in hotels and lodgings.

When I come to spend the session in Paris, it will be in my own house.
Louis' uncle, when he heard of the rank his grand-nephew had received,
made me a present of two hundred thousand francs (the half of his
savings) with which to buy a house in Paris, and I have charged Louis
to find one in your neighborhood. My mother has given me thirty
thousand francs for the furnishing, and I shall do my best not to
disgrace the dear sister of my election--no pun intended.

I am grateful to you for having already done so much at Court for
Louis. But though M. de Bourmont and M. de Polignac have paid him the
compliment of asking him to join their ministry, I do not wish so
conspicuous a place for him. It would commit him too much; and I
prefer the Audit Office because it is permanent. Our affairs here are
in very good hands; so you need not fear; as soon as the steward has
mastered the details, I will come and support Louis.

As for writing long letters nowadays, how can I. This one, in which I
want to describe to you the daily routine of my life, will be a week
on the stocks. Who can tell but Armand may lay hold of it to make caps
for his regiments drawn up on my carpet, or vessels for the fleets
which sail his bath! A single day will serve as a sample of the rest,
for they are all exactly alike, and their characteristics reduce
themselves to two--either the children are well, or they are not. For
me, in this solitary grange, it is no exaggeration to say that hours
become minutes, or minutes hours, according to the children's health.

If I have some delightful hours, it is when they are asleep and I am
no longer needed to rock the one or soothe the other with stories.
When I have them sleeping by my side, I say to myself, "Nothing can go
wrong now." The fact is, my sweet, every mother spends her time, so
soon as her children are out of her sight, in imagining dangers for
them. Perhaps it is Armand seizing the razors to play with, or his
coat taking fire, or a snake biting him, or he might tumble in running
and start an abscess on his head, or he might drown himself in a pond.
A mother's life, you see, is one long succession of dramas, now soft
and tender, now terrible. Not an hour but has its joys and fears.

But at night, in my room, comes the hour for waking dreams, when I
plan out their future, which shines brightly in the smile of the
guardian angel, watching over their beds. Sometimes Armand calls me in
his sleep; I kiss his forehead (without rousing him), then his
sister's feet, and watch them both lying in their beauty. These are my
merry-makings! Yesterday, it must have been our guardian angel who
roused me in the middle of the night and summoned me in fear to
Athenais' cradle. Her head was too low, and I found Armand all
uncovered, his feet purple with cold.

"Darling mother!" he cried, rousing up and flinging his arms round me.

There, dear, is one of our night scenes for you.

How important it is for a mother to have her children by her side at
night! It is not for a nurse, however careful she may be, to take them
up, comfort them, and hush them to sleep again, when some horrid
nightmare has disturbed them. For they have their dreams, and the task
of explaining away one of those dread visions of the night is the more
arduous because the child is scared, stupid, and only half awake. It
is a mere interlude in the unconsciousness of slumber. In this way I
have come to sleep so lightly, that I can see my little pair and see
them stirring, through the veil of my eyelids. A sigh or a rustle
wakens me. For me, the demon of convulsions is ever crouching by their
beds.

So much for the nights; with the first twitter of the birds my babies
begin to stir. Through the mists of dispersing sleep, their chatter
blends with the warblings that fill the morning air, or with the
swallows' noisy debates--little cries of joy or woe, which make their
way to my heart rather than my ears. While Nais struggles to get at
me, making the passage from her cradle to my bed on all fours or with
staggering steps, Armand climbs up with the agility of a monkey, and
has his arms round me. Then the merry couple turn my bed into a
playground, where mother lies at their mercy. The baby-girl pulls my
hair, and would take to sucking again, while Armand stands guard over
my breast, as though defending his property. Their funny ways, their
peals of laughter, are too much for me, and put sleep fairly to
flight.

Then we play the ogress game; mother ogress eats up the white, soft
flesh with hugs, and rains kisses on those rosy shoulders and eyes
brimming over with saucy mischief; we have little jealous tiffs too,
so pretty to see. It has happened to me, dear, to take up my stockings
at eight o'clock and be still bare-footed at nine!

Then comes the getting up. The operation of dressing begins. I slip on
my dressing-gown, turn up my sleeves, and don the mackintosh apron;
with Mary's assistance, I wash and scrub my two little blossoms. I am
sole arbiter of the temperature of the bath, for a good half of
children's crying and whimpering comes from mistakes here. The moment
has arrived for paper fleets and glass ducks, since the only way to
get children thoroughly washed is to keep them well amused. If you
knew the diversions that have to be invented before these despotic
sovereigns will permit a soft sponge to be passed over every nook and
cranny, you would be awestruck at the amount of ingenuity and
intelligence demanded by the maternal profession when one takes it
seriously. Prayers, scoldings, promises, are alike in requisition;
above all, the jugglery must be so dexterous that it defies detection.
The case would be desperate had not Providence to the cunning of the
child matched that of the mother. A child is a diplomatist, only to be
mastered, like the diplomatists of the great world, through his
passions! Happily, it takes little to make these cherubs laugh; the
fall of a brush, a piece of soap slipping from the hand, and what
merry shouts! And if our triumphs are dearly bought, still triumphs
they are, though hidden from mortal eye. Even the father knows nothing
of it all. None but God and His angels--and perhaps you--can fathom
the glances of satisfaction which Mary and I exchange when the little
creatures' toilet is at last concluded, and they stand, spotless and
shining, amid a chaos of soap, sponges, combs, basins, blotting-paper,
flannel, and all the nameless litter of a true English "nursery."

For I am so far a convert as to admit that English women have a talent
for this department. True, they look upon the child only from the
point of view of material well-being; but where this is concerned,
their arrangements are admirable. My children must always be
bare-legged and wear woollen socks. There shall be no swaddling nor
bandages; on the other hand, they shall never be left alone. The
helplessness of the French infant in its swaddling-bands means the
liberty of the nurse--that is the whole explanation. A mother, who is
really a mother, is never free.

There is my answer to your question why I do not write. Besides the
management of the estate, I have the upbringing of two children on my
hands.

The art of motherhood involves much silent, unobtrusive self-denial,
an hourly devotion which finds no detail too minute. The soup warming
before the fire must be watched. Am I the kind of woman, do you
suppose, to shirk such cares? The humblest task may earn a rich
harvest of affection. How pretty is a child's laugh when he finds the
food to his liking! Armand has a way of nodding his head when he is
pleased that is worth a lifetime of adoration. How could I leave to
any one else the privilege and delight, as well as the responsibility,
of blowing on the spoonful of soup which is too hot for my little
Nais, my nursling of seven months ago, who still remembers my breast?
When a nurse has allowed a child to burn its tongue and lips with
scalding food, she tells the mother, who hurries up to see what is
wrong, that the child cried from hunger. How could a mother sleep in
peace with the thought that a breath, less pure than her own, has
cooled her child's food--the mother whom Nature has made the direct
vehicle of food to infant lips. To mince a chop for Nais, who has just
cut her last teeth, and mix the meat, cooked to a turn, with potatoes,
is a work of patience, and there are times, indeed, when none but a
mother could succeed in making an impatient child go through with its
meal.

No number of servants, then, and no English nurse can dispense a
mother from taking the field in person in that daily contest, where
gentleness alone should grapple with the little griefs and pains of
childhood. Louise, the care of these innocent darlings is a work to
engage the whole soul. To whose hand and eyes, but one's own, intrust
the task of feeding, dressing, and putting to bed? Broadly speaking, a
crying child is the unanswerable condemnation of mother or nurse,
except when the cry is the outcome of natural pain. Now that I have
two to look after (and a third on the road), they occupy all my
thoughts. Even you, whom I love so dearly, have become a memory to me.

My own dressing is not always completed by two o'clock. I have no
faith in mothers whose rooms are in apple-pie order, and who
themselves might have stepped out of a bandbox. Yesterday was one of
those lovely days of early April, and I wanted to take my children for
a walk, while I was still able--for the warning bell is in my ears.
Such an expedition is quite an epic to a mother! One dreams of it the
night before! Armand was for the first time to put on a little black
velvet jacket, a new collar which I had worked, a Scotch cap with the
Stuart colors and cock's feathers; Nais was to be in white and pink,
with one of those delicious little baby caps; for she is a baby still,
though she will lose that pretty title on the arrival of the impatient
youngster, whom I call my beggar, for he will have the portion of a
younger son. (You see, Louise, the child has already appeared to me in
a vision, so I know it is a boy.)

Well, caps, collars, jackets, socks, dainty little shoes, pink
garters, the muslin frock with silk embroidery,--all was laid out on
my bed. Then the little brown heads had to be brushed, twittering
merrily all the time like birds, answering each other's call. Armand's
hair is in curls, while Nais' is brought forward softly on the
forehead as a border to the pink-and-white cap. Then the shoes are
buckled; and when the little bare legs and well-shod feet have trotted
off to the nursery, while two shining faces (_clean_, Mary calls them)
and eyes ablaze with life petition me to start, my heart beats fast.
To look on the children whom one's own hand has arrayed, the pure skin
brightly veined with blue, that one has bathed, laved, and sponged and
decked with gay colors of silk or velvet--why, there is no poem comes
near to it! With what eager, covetous longing one calls them back for
one more kiss on those white necks, which, in their simple collars,
the loveliest woman cannot rival. Even the coarsest lithograph of such
a scene makes a mother pause, and I feast my eyes daily on the living
picture!

Once out of doors, triumphant in the result of my labors, while I was
admiring the princely air with which little Armand helped baby to
totter along the path you know, I saw a carriage coming, and tried to
get them out of the way. The children tumbled into a dirty puddle, and
lo! my works of art are ruined! We had to take them back and change
their things. I took the little one in my arms, never thinking of my
own dress, which was ruined, while Mary seized Armand, and the
cavalcade re-entered. With a crying baby and a soaked child, what mind
has a mother left for herself?

Dinner time arrives, and as a rule I have done nothing. Now comes the
problem which faces me twice every day--how to suffice in my own
person for two children, put on their bibs, turn up their sleeves, and
get them to eat. In the midst of these ever-recurring cares, joys, and
catastrophes, the only person neglected in the house is myself. If the
children have been naughty, often I don't get rid of my curl-papers
all day. Their tempers rule my toilet. As the price of a few minutes
in which I write you these half-dozen pages, I have had to let them
cut pictures out of my novels, build castles with books, chessmen, or
mother-of-pearl counters, and give Nais my silks and wools to arrange
in her own fashion, which, I assure you, is so complicated, that she
is entirely absorbed in it, and has not uttered a word.

Yet I have nothing to complain of. My children are both strong and
independent; they amuse themselves more easily then you would think.
They find delight in everything; a guarded liberty is worth many toys.
A few pebbles--pink, yellow, purple, and black, small shells, the
mysteries of sand, are a world of pleasure to them. Their wealth
consists in possessing a multitude of small things. I watch Armand and
find him talking to the flowers, the flies, the chickens, and
imitating them. He is on friendly terms with insects, and never
wearies of admiring them. Everything which is on a minute scale
interests them. Armand is beginning to ask the "why" of everything he
sees. He has come to ask what I am saying to his godmother, whom he
looks on as a fairy. Strange how children hit the mark!

Alas! my sweet, I would not sadden you with the tale of my joys. Let
me give you some notion of your godson's character. The other day we
were followed by a poor man begging--beggars soon find out that a
mother with her child at her side can't resist them. Armand has no
idea what hunger is, and money is a sealed book to him; but I have
just bought him a trumpet which had long been the object of his
desires. He held it out to the old man with a kingly air, saying:

"Here, take this!"

What joy the world can give would compare with such a moment?

"May I keep it?" said the poor man to me. "I too, madame, have had
children," he added, hardly noticing the money I put into his hand.

I shudder when I think that Armand must go to school, and that I have
only three years and a half more to keep him by me. The flowers that
blossom in his sunny childhood will fall before the scythe of a public
school system; his gracious ways and bewitching candor will lose their
spontaneity. They will cut the curls that I have brushed and smoothed
and kissed so often! What will they do with the thinking being that is
Armand?

And what of you? You tell me nothing of your life. Are you still in
love with Felipe? For, as regards the Saracen, I have no uneasiness.
Good-bye; Nais has just had a tumble, and if I run on like this, my
letter will become a volume.



                                XLVI

MME. DE MACUMER TO THE COMTESSE DE L'ESTORADE
1829.

My sweet, tender Renee, you will have learned from the papers the
terrible calamity which has overwhelmed me. I have not been able to
write you even a word. For twenty days I never left his bedside; I
received his last breath and closed his eyes; I kept holy watch over
him with the priests and repeated the prayers for the dead. The cruel
pangs I suffered were accepted by me as a rightful punishment; and
yet, when I saw on his calm lips the smile which was his last farewell
to me, how was it possible to believe that I had caused his death!

Be it so or not, he is gone, and I am left. To you, who have known us
both so well, what more need I say? These words contain all. Oh! I
would give my share of Heaven to hear the flattering tale that my
prayers have power to bring him back to life! To see him again, to
have him once more mine, were it only for a second, would mean that I
could draw breath again without mortal agony. Will you not come soon
and soothe me with such promises? Is not your love strong enough to
deceive me?

But stay! it was you who told me beforehand that he would suffer
through me. Was it so indeed? Yes, it is true, I had no right to his
love. Like a thief, I took what was not mine, and my frenzied grasp
has crushed the life out of my bliss. The madness is over now, but I
feel that I am alone. Merciful God! what torture of the damned can
exceed the misery in that word?

When they took him away from me, I lay down on the same bed and hoped
to die. There was but a door between us, and it seemed to me I had
strength to force it! But, alas! I was too young for death; and after
forty days, during which, with cruel care and all the sorry inventions
of medical science, they slowly nursed me back to life, I find myself
in the country, seated by my window, surrounded with lovely flowers,
which he made to bloom for me, gazing on the same splendid view over
which his eyes have so often wandered, and which he was so proud to
have discovered, since it gave me pleasure. Ah! dear Renee, no words
can tell how new surroundings hurt when the heart is dead. I shiver at
the sight of the moist earth in my garden, for the earth is a vast
tomb, and it is almost as though I walked on _him_! When I first went
out, I trembled with fear and could not move. It was so sad to see his
flowers, and he not there!

My father and mother are in Spain. You know what my brothers are, and
you yourself are detained in the country. But you need not be uneasy
about me; two angels of mercy flew to my side. The Duc and the
Duchesse de Soria hastened to their brother in his illness, and have
been everything that heart could wish. The last few nights before the
end found the three of us gathered, in calm and wordless grief, round
the bed where this great man was breathing his last, a man among a
thousand, rare in any age, head and shoulders above the rest of us in
everything. The patient resignation of my Felipe was angelic. The
sight of his brother and Marie gave him a moment's pleasure and easing
of his pain.

"Darling," he said to me with the simple frankness which never
deserted him, "I had almost gone from life without leaving to Fernand
the Barony of Macumer; I must make a new will. My brother will forgive
me; he knows what it is to love!"

I owe my life to the care of my brother-in-law and his wife; they want
to carry me off to Spain!

Ah! Renee, to no one but you can I speak freely of my grief. A sense
of my own faults weighs me to the ground, and there is a bitter solace
in pouring them out to you, poor, unheeded Cassandra. The exactions,
the preposterous jealousy, the nagging unrest of my passion wore him
to death. My love was the more fraught with danger for him because we
had both the same exquisitely sensitive nature, we spoke the same
language, nothing was lost on him, and often the mocking shaft, so
carelessly discharged, went straight to his heart. You can have no
idea of the point to which he carried submissiveness. I had only to
tell him to go and leave me alone, and the caprice, however wounding
to him, would be obeyed without a murmur. His last breath was spent in
blessing me and in repeating that a single morning alone with me was
more precious to him than a lifetime spent with another woman, were
she even the Marie of his youth. My tears fall as I write the words.

This is the manner of my life now. I rise at midday and go to bed at
seven; I linger absurdly long over meals; I saunter about slowly,
standing motionless, an hour at a time, before a single plant; I gaze
into the leafy trees; I take a sober and serious interest in mere
nothings; I long for shade, silence, and night; in a word, I fight
through each hour as it comes, and take a gloomy pleasure in adding it
to the heap of the vanquished. My peaceful park gives me all the
company I care for; everything there is full of glorious images of my
vanished joy, invisible for others but eloquent to me.

"I cannot away with you Spaniards!" I exclaimed one morning, as my
sister-in-law flung herself on my neck. "You have some nobility that
we lack."

Ah! Renee, if I still live, it is doubtless because Heaven tempers the
sense of affliction to the strength of those who have to bear it. Only
a woman can know what it is to lose a love which sprang from the heart
and was genuine throughout, a passion which was not ephemeral, and
satisfied at once the spirit and the flesh. How rare it is to find a
man so gifted that to worship him brings no sense of degradation! If
such supreme fortune befall us once, we cannot hope for it a second
time. Men of true greatness, whose strength and worth are veiled by
poetic grace, and who charm by some high spiritual power, men made to
be adored, beware of love! Love will ruin you, and ruin the woman of
your heart. This is the burden of my cry as I pace my woodland walks.

And he has left me no child! That love so rich in smiles, which rained
perpetual flowers and joy, has left no fruit. I am a thing accursed.
Can it be that, even as the two extremes of polar ice and torrid sand
are alike intolerant of life, so the very purity and vehemence of a
single-hearted passion render it barren as hate? Is it only a marriage
of reason, such as yours, which is blessed with a family? Can Heaven
be jealous of our passions? There are wild words.

You are, I believe, the one person whose company I could endure. Come
to me, then; none but Renee should be with Louise in her sombre garb.
What a day when I first put on my widow's bonnet! When I saw myself
all arrayed in black, I fell back on a seat and wept till night came;
and I weep again as I recall that moment of anguish.

Good-bye. Writing tires me; thoughts crowd fast, but I have no heart
to put them into words. Bring your children; you can nurse baby here
without making me jealous; all that is gone, _he_ is not here, and I
shall be very glad to see my godson. Felipe used to wish for a child
like little Armand. Come, then, come and help me to bear my woe.



                               XLVII

RENEE TO LOUISE
1829.

My darling,--When you hold this letter in your hands, I shall be
already near, for I am starting a few minutes after it. We shall be
alone together. Louis is obliged to remain in Provence because of the
approaching elections. He wants to be elected again, and the Liberals
are already plotting against his return.

I don't come to comfort you; I only bring you my heart to beat in
sympathy with yours, and help you to bear with life. I come to bid you
weep, for only with tears can you purchase the joy of meeting him
again. Remember, he is traveling towards Heaven, and every step
forward which you take brings you nearer to him. Every duty done
breaks a link in the chain that keeps you apart.

Louise, in my arms you will once more raise your head and go on your
way to him, pure, noble, washed of all those errors, which had no root
in your heart, and bearing with you the harvest of good deeds which,
in his name, you will accomplish here.

I scribble these hasty lines in all the bustle of preparation, and
interrupted by the babies and by Armand, who keeps saying, "Godmother,
godmother! I want to see her," till I am almost jealous. He might be
your child!



                            SECOND PART



                               XLVIII

THE BARONNE DE MACUMER TO THE COMTESSE DE L'ESTORADE
October 15, 1833.

Yes, Renee, it is quite true; you have been correctly informed. I
have sold my house, I have sold Chantepleurs, and the farms in
Seine-et-Marne, but no more, please! I am neither mad nor ruined,
I assure you.

Let us go into the matter. When everything was wound up, there
remained to me of my poor Macumer's fortune about twelve hundred
thousand francs. I will account, as to a practical sister, for every
penny of this.

I put a million in the Three per Cents when they were at fifty, and so
I have got an income for myself of sixty thousand francs, instead of
the thirty thousand which the property yielded. Then, only think what
my life was. Six months of the year in the country, renewing leases,
listening to the grumbles of the farmers, who pay when it pleases
them, and getting as bored as a sportsman in wet weather. There was
produce to sell, and I always sold it at a loss. Then, in Paris, my
house represented a rental of ten thousand francs; I had to invest my
money at the notaries; I was kept waiting for the interest, and could
only get the money back by prosecuting; in addition I had to study the
law of mortgage. In short, there was business in Nivernais, in
Seine-et-Marne, in Paris--and what a burden, what a nuisance, what a
vexing and losing game for a widow of twenty-seven!

Whereas now my fortune is secured on the Budget. In place of paying
taxes to the State, I receive from it, every half-year, in my own
person, and free from cost, thirty thousand francs in thirty notes,
handed over the counter to me by a dapper little clerk at the
Treasury, who smiles when he sees me coming!

Supposing the nation went bankrupt? Well, to begin with:

  'Tis not mine to see trouble so far from my door.

At the worst, too, the nation would not dock me of more than half my
income, so I should still be as well off as before my investment, and
in the meantime I shall be drawing a double income until the
catastrophe arrives. A nation doesn't become bankrupt more than once
in a century, so I shall have plenty of time to amass a little capital
out of my savings.

And finally, is not the Comte de l'Estorade a peer of this July
semi-republic? Is he not one of those pillars of royalty offered by
the "people" to the King of the French? How can I have qualms with a
friend at Court, a great financier, head of the Audit Department? I
defy you to arraign my sanity! I am almost as good at sums as your
citizen king.

Do you know what inspires a woman with all this arithmetic? Love, my
dear!

Alas! the moment has come for unfolding to you the mysteries of my
conduct, the motives of which have baffled even your keen sight, your
prying affection, and your subtlety. I am to be married in a country
village near Paris. I love and am loved. I love as much as a woman can
who knows love well. I am loved as much as a woman ought to be by the
man she adores.

Forgive me, Renee, for keeping this a secret from you and from every
one. If your friend evades all spies and puts curiosity on a false
track, you must admit that my feeling for poor Macumer justified some
dissimulation. Besides, de l'Estorade and you would have deafened me
with remonstrances, and plagued me to death with your misgivings, to
which the facts might have lent some color. You know, if no one else
does, to what pitch my jealousy can go, and all this would only have
been useless torture to me. I was determined to carry out, on my own
responsibility, what you, Renee, will call my insane project, and I
would take counsel only with my own head and heart, for all the world
like a schoolgirl giving the slip to her watchful parents.

The man I love possesses nothing but thirty thousand francs' worth of
debts, which I have paid. What a theme for comment here! You would
have tried to make Gaston out an adventurer; your husband would have
set detectives on the dear boy. I preferred to sift him for myself. He
has been wooing me now close on two years. I am twenty-seven, he is
twenty-three. The difference, I admit, is huge when it is on the wrong
side. Another source of lamentation!

Lastly, he is a poet, and has lived by his trade--that is to say, on
next to nothing, as you will readily understand. Being a poet, he has
spent more time weaving day-dreams, and basking, lizard-like, in the
sun, than scribing in his dingy garret. Now, practical people have a
way of tarring with the same brush of inconstancy authors, artists,
and in general all men who live by their brains. Their nimble and
fertile wit lays them open to the charge of a like agility in matters
of the heart.

Spite of the debts, spite of the difference in age, spite of the
poetry, an end is to be placed in a few days to a heroic resistance
of more than nine months, during which he has not been allowed even
to kiss my hand, and so also ends the season of our sweet, pure
love-making. This is not the mere surrender of a raw, ignorant, and
curious girl, as it was eight years ago; the gift is deliberate, and
my lover awaits it with such loyal patience that, if I pleased, I
could postpone the marriage for a year. There is no servility in this;
love's slave he may be, but the heart is not slavish. Never have I
seen a man of nobler feeling, or one whose tenderness was more rich in
fancy, whose love bore more the impress of his soul. Alas! my sweet
one, the art of love is his by heritage. A few words will tell his
story.

My friend has no other name than Marie Gaston. He is the illegitimate
son of the beautiful Lady Brandon, whose fame must have reached you,
and who died broken-hearted, a victim to the vengeance of Lady Dudley
--a ghastly story of which the dear boy knows nothing. Marie Gaston
was placed by his brother Louis in a boarding-school at Tours, where
he remained till 1827. Louis, after settling his brother at school,
sailed a few days later for foreign parts "to seek his fortune," to
use the words of an old woman who had played the part of Providence to
him. This brother turned sailor used to write him, at long intervals,
letters quite fatherly in tone, and breathing a noble spirit; but a
struggling life never allowed him to return home. His last letter told
Marie that he had been appointed Captain in the navy of some American
republic, and exhorted him to hope for better days.

Alas! since then three years have passed, and my poor poet has never
heard again. So dearly did he love his brother, that he would have
started to look for him but for Daniel d'Arthez, the well-known
author, who took a generous interest in Marie Gaston, and prevented
him carrying out his mad impulse. Nor was this all; often would he
give him a crust and a corner, as the poet puts it in his graphic
words.

For, in truth, the poor lad was in terrible straits; he was actually
innocent enough to believe--incredible as it seems--that genius was
the shortest road to fortune, and from 1828 to 1833 his one aim has
been to make a name for himself in letters. Naturally his life was a
frightful tissue of toil and hardships, alternating between hope and
despair. The good advice of d'Arthez could not prevail against the
allurements of ambition, and his debts went on growing like a
snowball. Still he was beginning to come into notice when I happened
to meet him at Mme. d'Espard's. At first sight he inspired me,
unconsciously to himself, with the most vivid sympathy. How did it
come about that this virgin heart has been left for me? The fact is
that my poet combines genius and cleverness, passion and pride, and
women are always afraid of greatness which has no weak side to it. How
many victories were needed before Josephine could see the great
Napoleon in the little Bonaparte whom she had married.

Poor Gaston is innocent enough to think he knows the measure of my
love! He simply has not an idea of it, but to you I must make it
clear; for this letter, Renee, is something in the nature of a last
will and testament. Weigh well what I am going to say, I beg of you.

At this moment I am confident of being loved as perhaps not another
women on this earth, nor have I a shadow of doubt as to the perfect
happiness of our wedded life, to which I bring a feeling hitherto
unknown to me. Yes, for the first time in my life, I know the delight
of being swayed by passion. That which every woman seeks in love will
be mine in marriage. As poor Felipe once adored me, so do I now adore
Gaston. I have lost control of myself, I tremble before this boy as
the Arab hero used to tremble before me. In a word, the balance of
love is now on my side, and this makes me timid. I am full of the most
absurd terrors. I am afraid of being deserted, afraid of becoming old
and ugly while Gaston still retains his youth and beauty, afraid of
coming short of his hopes!

And yet I believe I have it in me, I believe I have sufficient
devotion and ability, not only to keep alive the flame of his love in
our solitary life, far from the world, but even to make it burn
stronger and brighter. If I am mistaken, if this splendid idyl of love
in hiding must come to an end--an end! what am I saying?--if I find
Gaston's love less intense any day than it was the evening before, be
sure of this, Renee, I should visit my failure only on myself; no
blame should attach to him. I tell you now it would mean my death. Not
even if I had children could I live on these terms, for I know myself,
Renee, I know that my nature is the lover's rather than the mother's.
Therefore before taking this vow upon my soul, I implore you, my
Renee, if this disaster befall me, to take the place of mother to my
children; let them be my legacy to you! All that I know of you, your
blind attachment to duty, your rare gifts, your love of children, your
affection for me, would help to make my death--I dare not say easy
--but at least less bitter.

The compact I have thus made with myself adds a vague terror to the
solemnity of my marriage ceremony. For this reason I wish to have no
one whom I know present, and it will be performed in secret. Let my
heart fail me if it will, at least I shall not read anxiety in your
dear eyes, and I alone shall know that this new marriage-contract
which I sign may be my death warrant.

I shall not refer again to this agreement entered into between my
present self and the self I am to be. I have confided it to you in
order that you might know the full extent of your responsibilities. In
marrying I retain full control of my property; and Gaston, while aware
that I have enough to secure a comfortable life for both of us, is
ignorant of its amount. Within twenty-four hours I shall dispose of it
as I please; and in order to save him from a humiliating position, I
shall have stock, bringing in twelve thousand francs a year, assigned
to him. He will find this in his desk on the eve of our wedding. If he
declined to accept, I should break off the whole thing. I had to
threaten a rupture to get his permission to pay his debts.

This long confession has tired me. I shall finish it the day after
to-morrow; I have to spend to-morrow in the country.

October 20th.

I will tell you now the steps I have taken to insure secrecy. My
object has been to ward off every possible incitement to my
ever-wakeful jealousy, in imitation of the Italian princess, who, like
a lioness rushing on her prey, carried it off to some Swiss town to
devour in peace. And I confide my plans to you because I have another
favor to beg; namely, that you will respect our solitude and never
come to see us uninvited.

Two years ago I purchased a small property overlooking the ponds of
Ville d'Avray, on the road to Versailles. It consists of twenty acres
of meadow land, the skirts of a wood, and a fine fruit garden. Below
the meadows the land has been excavated so as to make a lakelet of
about three acres in extent, with a charming little island in the
middle. The small valley is shut in by two graceful, thickly-wooded
slopes, where rise delicious springs that water my park by means of
channels cleverly disposed by my architect. Finally, they fall into
the royal ponds, glimpses of which can be seen here and there,
gleaming in the distance. My little park has been admirably laid out
by the architect, who has surrounded it by hedges, walls, or ha-has,
according to the lie of the land, so that no possible point of view
may be lost.

A chalet has been built for me half-way up the hillside, with a
charming exposure, having the woods of the Ronce on either side, and
in front a grassy slope running down to the lake. Externally the
chalet is an exact copy of those which are so much admired by
travelers on the road from Sion to Brieg, and which fascinated me when
I was returning from Italy. The internal decorations will bear
comparison with those of the most celebrated buildings of the kind.

A hundred paces from this rustic dwelling stands a charming and
ornamental house, communicating with it by a subterranean passage.
This contains the kitchen, and other servants' rooms, stables, and
coach-houses. Of all this series of brick buildings, the facade alone
is seen, graceful in its simplicity, against a background of
shrubbery. Another building serves to lodge the gardeners and masks
the entrance to the orchards and kitchen-gardens.

The entrance gate to the property is so hidden in the wall dividing
the park from the wood as almost to defy detection. The plantations,
already well grown, will, in two or three years, completely hide the
buildings, so that, except in winter, when the trees are bare, no
trace of habitation will appear to the outside world, save only the
smoke visible from the neighboring hills.

The surroundings of my chalet have been modeled on what is called the
King's Garden at Versailles, but it has an outlook on my lakelet and
island. The hills on every side display their abundant foliage--those
splendid trees for which your new civil list has so well cared. My
gardeners have orders to cultivate new sweet-scented flowers to any
extent, and no others, so that our home will be a fragrant emerald.
The chalet, adorned with a wild vine which covers the roof, is
literally embedded in climbing plants of all kinds--hops, clematis,
jasmine, azalea, copaea. It will be a sharp eye which can descry our
windows!

The chalet, my dear, is a good, solid house, with its heating system
and all the conveniences of modern architecture, which can raise a
palace in the compass of a hundred square feet. It contains a suite of
rooms for Gaston and another for me. The ground-floor is occupied by
an ante-room, a parlor, and a dining room. Above our floor again are
three rooms destined for the nurseries. I have five first-rate horses,
a small light coupe, and a two-horse cabriolet. We are only
forty-minutes' drive from Paris; so that, when the spirit moves us to
hear an opera or see a new play, we can start after dinner and return
the same night to our bower. The road is a good one, and passes under
the shade of our green dividing wall.

My servants--cook, coachman, groom, and gardeners, in addition to my
maid--are all very respectable people, whom I have spent the last six
months in picking up, and they will be superintended by my old
Philippe. Although confident of their loyalty and good faith, I have
not neglected to cultivate self-interest; their wages are small, but
will receive an annual addition in the shape of a New Year's Day
present. They are all aware that the slightest fault, or a mere
suspicion of gossiping, might lose them a capital place. Lovers are
never troublesome to their servants; they are indulgent by
disposition, and therefore I feel that I can reckon on my household.

All that is choice, pretty, or decorative in my house in the Rue du
Bac has been transported to the chalet. The Rembrandt hangs on the
staircase, as though it were a mere daub; the Hobbema faces the Rubens
in _his_ study; the Titian, which my sister-in-law Mary sent me from
Madrid, adorns the boudoir. The beautiful furniture picked up by
Felipe looks very well in the parlor, which the architect has
decorated most tastefully. Everything at the chalet is charmingly
simple, with the simplicity which can't be got under a hundred
thousand francs. Our ground-floor rests on cellars, which are built of
millstone and embedded in concrete; it is almost completely buried in
flowers and shrubs, and is deliciously cool without a vestige of damp.
To complete the picture, a fleet of white swans sail over my lake!

Oh! Renee, the silence which reigns in this valley would bring joy to
the dead! One is awakened by the birds singing or the breeze rustling
in the poplars. A little spring, discovered by the architect in
digging the foundations of the wall, trickles down the hillside over
silvery sand to the lake, between two banks of water-cress, hugging
the edge of the woods. I know nothing that money can buy to equal it.

May not Gaston come to loathe this too perfect bliss? I shudder to
think how complete it is, for the ripest fruits harbor the worms, the
most gorgeous flowers attract the insects. Is it not ever the monarch
of the forest which is eaten away by the fatal brown grub, greedy as
death? I have learned before now that an unseen and jealous power
attacks happiness which has reached perfection. Besides, this is the
moral of all your preaching, and you have been proved a prophet.

When I went, the day before yesterday, to see whether my last whim had
been carried out, tears rose to my eyes; and, to the great surprise of
my architect, I at once passed his account for payment.

"But, madame," he exclaimed, "your man of business will refuse to pay
this; it is a matter of three hundred thousand francs." My only reply
was to add the words, "To be paid without question," with the bearing
of a seventeenth-century Chaulieu.

"But," I said, "there is one condition to my gratitude. No human being
must hear from you of the park and buildings. Promise me, on your
honor, to observe this article in our contract--not to breathe to a
soul the proprietor's name."

Now, can you understand the meaning of my sudden journeys, my
mysterious comings and goings? Now, do you know whither those
beautiful things, which the world supposes to be sold, have flown? Do
you perceive the ultimate motive of my change of investment? Love, my
dear, is a vast business, and they who would succeed in it should have
no other. Henceforth I shall have no more trouble from money matters;
I have taken all the thorns out of my life, and done my housekeeping
work once for all with a vengeance, so as never to be troubled with it
again, except during the daily ten minutes which I shall devote to my
old major-domo Philippe. I have made a study of life and its sharp
curves; there came a day when death also gave me harsh lessons. Now I
want to turn all this to account. My one occupation will be to please
_him_ and love _him_, to brighten with variety what to common mortals
is monotonously dull.

Gaston is still in complete ignorance. At my request he has, like
myself, taken up his quarters at Ville d'Avray; to-morrow we start for
the chalet. Our life there will cost but little; but if I told you the
sum I am setting aside for my toilet, you would exclaim at my madness,
and with reason. I intend to take as much trouble to make myself
beautiful for him every day as other women do for society. My dress in
the country, year in, year out, will cost twenty-four thousand francs,
and the larger portion of this will not go in day costumes. As for
him, he can wear a blouse if he pleases! Don't suppose that I am going
to turn our life into an amorous duel and wear myself out in devices
for feeding passion; all that I want is to have a conscience free from
reproach. Thirteen years still lie before me as a pretty woman, and I
am determined to be loved on the last day of the thirteenth even more
fondly than on the morrow of our mysterious nuptials. This time no
cutting words shall mar my lowly, grateful content. I will take the
part of servant, since that of mistress throve so ill with me before.

Ah! Renee, if Gaston has sounded, as I have, the heights and depths of
love, my happiness is assured! Nature at the chalet wears her fairest
face. The woods are charming; each step opens up to you some fresh
vista of cool greenery, which delights the soul by the sweet thoughts
it wakens. They breathe of love. If only this be not the gorgeous
theatre dressed by my hand for my own martyrdom!

In two days from now I shall be Mme. Gaston. My God! is it fitting a
Christian so to love mortal man?

"Well, at least you have the law with you," was the comment of my man
of business, who is to be one of my witnesses, and who exclaimed, on
discovering why my property was to be realized, "I am losing a
client!"

And you, my sweetheart (whom I dare no longer call my loved one), may
you not cry, "I am losing a sister?"

My sweet, address when you write in future to Mme. Gaston, Poste
Restante, Versailles. We shall send there every day for letters. I
don't want to be known to the country people, and we shall get our
provisions from Paris. In this way I hope we may guard the secret of
our lives. Nobody has been seen in the place during the years spent in
preparing our retreat; and the purchase was made in the troubled
period which followed the revolution of July. The only person who has
shown himself here is the architect; he alone is known, and he will
not return.

Farewell. As I write this word, I know not whether my heart is fuller
of grief or joy. That proves, does it not, that the pain of losing you
equals my love for Gaston?



                                XLIX

MARIE GASTON TO DANIEL D'ARTHEZ
October 1833.

My Dear Daniel,--I need two witnesses for my marriage. I beg of you to
come to-morrow evening for this purpose, bringing with you our worthy
and honored friend, Joseph Bridau. She who is to be my wife, with an
instinctive divination of my dearest wishes, has declared her
intention of living far from the world in complete retirement. You,
who have done so much to lighten my penury, have been left in
ignorance of my love; but you will understand that absolute secrecy
was essential.

This will explain to you why it is that, for the last year, we have
seen so little of each other. On the morrow of my wedding we shall be
parted for a long time; but, Daniel, you are of stuff to understand
me. Friendship can subsist in the absence of the friend. There may be
times when I shall want you badly, but I shall not see you, at least
not in my own house. Here again _she_ has forestalled our wishes. She
has sacrificed to me her intimacy with a friend of her childhood, who
has been a sister to her. For her sake, then, I also must relinquish
my comrade!

From this fact alone you will divine that ours is no mere passing
fancy, but love, absolute, perfect, godlike; love based upon the
fullest knowledge that can bind two hearts in sympathy. To me it is a
perpetual spring of purest delight.

Yet nature allows of no happiness without alloy; and deep down, in the
innermost recess of my heart, I am conscious of a lurking thought, not
shared with her, the pang of which is for me alone. You have too often
come to the help of my inveterate poverty to be ignorant how desperate
matters were with me. Where should I have found courage to keep up the
struggle of life, after seeing my hopes so often blighted, but for
your cheering words, your tactful aid, and the knowledge of what you
had come through? Briefly, then, my friend, she freed me from that
crushing load of debt, which was no secret to you. She is wealthy, I
am penniless. Many a time have I exclaimed, in one of my fits of
idleness, "Oh for some great heiress to cast her eye on me!" And now,
in presence of this reality, the boy's careless jest, the unscrupulous
cynicism of the outcast, have alike vanished, leaving in their place
only a bitter sense of humiliation, which not the most considerate
tenderness on her part, nor my own assurance of her noble nature, can
remove. Nay, what better proof of my love could there exist, for her
or for myself, than this shame, from which I have not recoiled, even
when powerless to overcome it? The fact remains that there is a point
where, far from protecting, I am the protected.

This is my pain which I confide to you.

Except in this one particular, dear Daniel, my fondest dreams are more
than realized. Fairest and noblest among women, such a bride might
indeed raise a man to giddy heights of bliss. Her gentle ways are
seasoned with wit, her love comes with an ever-fresh grace and charm;
her mind is well informed and quick to understand; in person, she is
fair and lovely, with a rounded slimness, as though Raphael and Rubens
had conspired to create a woman! I do not know whether I could have
worshiped with such fervor at the shrine of a dark beauty; a brunette
always strikes me as an unfinished boy. She is a widow, childless, and
twenty-seven years of age. Though brimful of life and energy, she has
her moods also of dreamy melancholy. These rare gifts go with a proud
aristocratic bearing; she has a fine presence.

She belongs to one of those old families who make a fetich of rank,
yet loves me enough to ignore the misfortune of my birth. Our secret
passion is now of long standing; we have made trial, each of the
other, and find that in the matter of jealousy we are twin spirits;
our thoughts are the reverberation of the same thunderclap. We both
love for the first time, and this bewitching springtime has filled its
days for us with all the images of delight that fancy can paint in
laughing, sweet, or musing mood. Our path has been strewn with the
flowers of tender imaginings. Each hour brought its own wealth, and
when we parted, it was to put our thoughts in verse. Not for a moment
did I harbor the idea of sullying the brightness of such a time by
giving the rein to sensual passion, however it might chafe within. She
was a widow and free; intuitively, she realized all the homage implied
in this constant self-restraint, which often moved her to tears. Can
you not read in this, my friend, a soul of noble temper? In mutual
fear we shunned even the first kiss of love.

"We have each a wrong to reproach ourselves with," she said one day.

"Where is yours?" I asked.

"My marriage," was her reply.

Daniel, you are a giant among us and you love one of the most gifted
women of the aristocracy, which has produced my Armande; what need to
tell you more? Such an answer lays bare to you a woman's heart and all
the happiness which is in store for your friend,
MARIE GASTON.



L

MME. DE L'ESTORADE TO MME. DE MACUMER

Louise, can it be that, with all your knowledge of the deep-seated
mischief wrought by the indulgence of passion, even within the heart
of marriage, you are planning a life of wedded solitude? Having
sacrificed your first husband in the course of a fashionable career,
would you now fly to the desert to consume a second? What stores of
misery you are laying up for yourself!

But I see from the way you have set about it that there is no going
back. The man who has overcome your aversion to a second marriage must
indeed possess some magic of mind and heart; and you can only be left
to your illusions. But have you forgotten your former criticism on
young men? Not one, you would say, but has visited haunts of shame,
and has besmirched his purity with the filth of the streets. Where is
the change, pray--in them or in you?

You are a lucky woman to be able to believe in happiness. I have not
the courage to blame you for it, though the instinct of affection
urges me to dissuade you from this marriage. Yes, a thousand times,
yes, it is true that nature and society are at one in making war on
absolute happiness, because such a condition is opposed to the laws of
both; possibly, also, because Heaven is jealous of its privileges. My
love for you forebodes some disaster to which all my penetration can
give no definite form. I know neither whence nor from whom it will
arise; but one need be no prophet to foretell that the mere weight of
a boundless happiness will overpower you. Excess of joy is harder to
bear than any amount of sorrow.

Against him I have not a word to say. You love him, and in all
probability I have never seen him; but some idle day I hope you will
send me a sketch, however slight, of this rare, fine animal.

If you see me so resigned and cheerful, it is because I am convinced
that, once the honeymoon is over you will both with one accord, fall
back into the common track. Some day, two years hence, when we are
walking along this famous road, you will exclaim, "Why, there is the
chalet which was to be my home for ever!" And you will laugh your dear
old laugh, which shows all your pretty teeth!

I have said nothing yet to Louis; it would be too good an opening for
his ridicule. I shall tell him simply that you are going to be
married, and that you wish it kept secret. Unluckily, you need neither
mother nor sister for your bridal evening. We are in October now; like
a brave woman, you are grappling with winter first. If it were not a
question of marriage, I should say you were taking the bull by the
horns. In any case, you will have in me the most discreet and
intelligent of friends. That mysterious region, known as the centre of
Africa, has swallowed up many travelers, and you seem to me to be
launching on an expedition which, in the domain of sentiment,
corresponds to those where so many explorers have perished, whether in
the sands or at the hands of natives. Your desert is, happily, only
two leagues from Paris, so I can wish you quite cheerfully, "A safe
journey and speedy return."



LI

THE COMTESSE DE L'ESTORADE TO MME. MARIE GASTON
1835.

What has come to you, my dear? After a silence of two years, surely
Renee has a right to feel anxious about Louise. So this is love! It
brushes aside and scatters to the winds a friendship such as ours! You
must admit that, devoted as I am to my children--more even perhaps
than you to your Gaston--a mother's love has something expansive about
it which does not allow it to steal from other affections, or
interfere with the claims of friendship. I miss your letters, I long
for a sight of your dear, sweet face. Oh! Louise, my heart has only
conjecture to feed upon!

As regards ourselves, I will try and tell you everything as briefly as
possible.

On reading your last letter but one, I find some stinging comments on
our political situation. You mocked at us for keeping the post in the
Audit Department, which, as well as the title of Count, Louis owed to
the favor of Charles X. But I should like to know, please, how it
would be possible out of an income of forty thousand livres, thirty
thousand of which go with the entail, to give a suitable start in life
to Athenais and my poor little beggar Rene. Was it not a duty to live
on our salary and prudently allow the income of the estate to
accumulate? In this way we shall, in twenty years, have put together
about six hundred thousand francs, which will provide portions for my
daughter and for Rene, whom I destine for the navy. The poor little
chap will have an income of ten thousand livres, and perhaps we may
contrive to leave him in cash enough to bring his portion up to the
amount of his sister's.

When he is Captain, my beggar will be able to make a wealthy marriage,
and take a position in society as good as his elder brother's.

These considerations of prudence determined the acceptance in our
family of the new order of things. The new dynasty, as was natural,
raised Louis to the Peerage and made him a grand officer of the Legion
of Honor. The oath once taken, l'Estorade could not be half-hearted in
his services, and he has since then made himself very useful in the
Chamber. The position he has now attained is one in which he can rest
upon his oars till the end of his days. He has a good deal of
adroitness in business matters; and though he can hardly be called an
orator, speaks pleasantly and fluently, which is all that is necessary
in politics. His shrewdness and the extent of his information in all
matters of government and administration are fully appreciated, and
all parties consider him indispensable. I may tell you that he was
recently offered an embassy, but I would not let him accept it. I am
tied to Paris by the education of Armand and Athenais--who are now
respectively thirteen and nearly eleven--and I don't intend leaving
till little Rene has completed his, which is just beginning.

We could not have remained faithful to the elder branch of the dynasty
and returned to our country life without allowing the education and
prospects of the three children to suffer. A mother, my sweet, is
hardly called on to be a Decius, especially at a time when the type is
rare. In fifteen years from now, l'Estorade will be able to retire to
La Crampade on a good pension, having found a place as referendary for
Armand in the Audit Department.

As for Rene, the navy will doubtless make a diplomatist of him. The
little rogue, at seven years old, has all the cunning of an old
Cardinal.

Oh! Louise, I am indeed a happy mother. My children are an endless
source of joy to me.

  Senza brama sicura ricchezza.

Armand is a day scholar at Henry IV.'s school. I made up my mind he
should have a public-school training, yet could not reconcile myself
to the thought of parting with him; so I compromised, as the Duc
d'Orleans did before he became--or in order that he might become
--Louis Philippe. Every morning Lucas, the old servant whom you will
remember, takes Armand to school in time for the first lesson, and
brings him home again at half-past four. In the house we have a
private tutor, an admirable scholar, who helps Armand with his work in
the evenings, and calls him in the morning at the school hour. Lucas
takes him some lunch during the play hour at midday. In this way I am
with my boy at dinner and until he goes to bed at night, and I see him
off in the morning.

Armand is the same charming little fellow, full of feeling and
unselfish impulse, whom you loved; and his tutor is quite pleased with
him. I still have Nais and the baby--two restless little mortals--but
I am quite as much a child as they are. I could not bring myself to
lose the darlings' sweet caresses. I could not live without the
feeling that at any moment I can fly to Armand's bedside and watch his
slumbers or snatch a kiss.

Yet home education is not without its drawbacks, to which I am fully
alive. Society, like nature, is a jealous power, and will have not her
rights encroached on, or her system set at naught. Thus, children who
are brought up at home are exposed too early to the fire of the world;
they see its passions and become at home with its subterfuges. The
finer distinctions, which regulate the conduct of matured men and
women, elude their perceptions, and they take feeling and passion for
their guide instead of subordinating those to the code of society;
whilst the gay trappings and tinsel which attract so much of the
world's favor blind them to the importance of the more sober virtues.
A child of fifteen with the assurance of a man of the world is a thing
against all nature; at twenty-five he will be prematurely old, and his
precocious knowledge only unfits him for the genuine study on which
all solid ability must rest. Life in society is one long comedy, and
those who take part in it, like other actors, reflect back impressions
which never penetrate below the surface. A mother, therefore, who
wishes not to part from her children, must resolutely determine that
they shall not enter the gay world; she must have courage to resist
their inclinations, as well as her own, and keep them in the
background. Cornelia had to keep her jewels under lock and key. Shall
I do less for the children who are all the world to me?

Now that I am thirty, the heat of the day is over, the hardest bit of
the road lies behind me. In a few years I shall be an old woman, and
the sense of duty done is an immense encouragement. It would almost
seem as though my trio can read my thoughts and shape themselves
accordingly. A mysterious bond of sympathy unites me to these children
who have never left my side. If they knew the blank in my life which
they have to fill, they could not be more lavish of the solace they
bring.

Armand, who was dull and dreamy during his first three years at
school, and caused me some uneasiness, has made a sudden start.
Doubtless he realized, in a way most children never do, the aim of all
this preparatory work, which is to sharpen the intelligence, to get
them into habits of application and accustom them to that fundamental
principle of all society--obedience. My dear, a few days ago I had the
proud joy of seeing Armand crowned at the great interscholastic
competition in the crowded Sorbonne, when your godson received the
first prize for translation. At the school distribution he got two
first prizes--one for verse, and one for an essay. I went quite white
when his name was called out, and longed to shout aloud, "I am his
mother!" Little Nais squeezed my hand till it hurt, if at such a
moment it were possible to feel pain. Ah! Louise, a day like this
might outweigh many a dream of love!

His brother's triumphs have spurred on little Rene, who wants to go to
school too. Sometimes the three children make such a racket, shouting
and rushing about the house, that I wonder how my head stands it. I am
always with them; no one else, not even Mary, is allowed to take care
of my children. But the calling of a mother, if taxing, has so many
compensating joys! To see a child leave its play and run to hug one,
out of the fulness of its heart, what could be sweeter?

Then it is only in being constantly with them that one can study their
characters. It is the duty of a mother, and one which she can depute
to no hired teacher, to decipher the tastes, temper, and natural
aptitudes of her children from their infancy. All home-bred children
are distinguished by ease of manner and tact, two acquired qualities
which may go far to supply the lack of natural ability, whereas no
natural ability can atone for the loss of this early training. I have
already learned to discriminate this difference of tone in the men
whom I meet in society, and to trace the hand of a woman in the
formation of a young man's manners. How could any woman defraud her
children of such a possession? You see what rewards attend the
performance of my tasks!

Armand, I feel certain, will make an admirable judge, the most upright
of public servants, the most devoted of deputies. And where would you
find a sailor bolder, more adventurous, more astute than my Rene will
be a few years hence? The little rascal has already an iron will,
whatever he wants he manages to get; he will try a thousand circuitous
ways to reach his end, and if not successful then, will devise a
thousand and first. Where dear Armand quietly resigns himself and
tries to get at the reason of things, Rene will storm, and strive, and
puzzle, chattering all the time, till at last he finds some chink in
the obstacle; if there is room for the blade of a knife to pass, his
little carriage will ride through in triumph.

And Nais? Nais is so completely a second self that I can hardly
realize her as distinct from my own flesh and blood. What a darling
she is, and how I love to make a little lady of her, to dress her
curly hair, tender thoughts mingling the while with every touch! I
must have her happy; I shall only give her to the man who loves her
and whom she loves. But, Heavens! when I let her put on her little
ornaments, or pass a cherry-colored ribbon through her hair, or fasten
the shoes on her tiny feet, a sickening thought comes over me. How can
one order the destiny of a girl? Who can say that she will not love a
scoundrel or some man who is indifferent to her? Tears often spring to
my eyes as I watch her. This lovely creature, this flower, this
rosebud which has blossomed in one's heart, to be handed over to a man
who will tear it from the stem and leave it bare! Louise, it is you
--you, who in two years have not written three words to tell me of your
welfare--it is you who have recalled to my mind the terrible
possibilities of marriage, so full of anguish for a mother wrapped up,
as I am, in her child. Farewell now, for in truth you don't deserve my
friendship, and I hardly know how to write. Oh! answer me, dear
Louise.



LII

MME. GASTON TO MME. DE L'ESTORADE
The Chalet.

So, after a silence of two years, you are pricked by curiosity, and
want to know why I have not written. My dear Renee, there are no
words, no images, no language to express my happiness. That we have
strength to bear it sums up all I could say. It costs us no effort,
for we are in perfect sympathy. The whole two years have known no note
of discord in the harmony, no jarring word in the interchange of
feeling, no shade of difference in our lightest wish. Not one in this
long succession of days has failed to bear its own peculiar fruit; not
a moment has passed without being enriched by the play of fancy. So
far are we from dreading the canker of monotony in our life, that our
only fear is lest it should not be long enough to contain all the
poetic creations of a love as rich and varied in its development as
Nature herself. Of disappointment not a trace! We find more pleasure
in being together than on the first day, and each hour as it goes by
discloses fresh reason for our love. Every day as we take our evening
stroll after dinner, we tell each other that we really must go and see
what is doing in Paris, just as one might talk of going to
Switzerland.

"Only think," Gaston will exclaim, "such and such a boulevard is being
made, the Madeleine is finished. We ought to see it. Let us go
to-morrow."

And to-morrow comes, and we are in no hurry to get up, and we
breakfast in our bedroom. Then midday is on us, and it is too hot; a
siesta seems appropriate. Then Gaston wishes to look at me, and he
gazes on my face as though it were a picture, losing himself in this
contemplation, which, as you may suppose, is not one-sided. Tears rise
to the eyes of both as we think of our love and tremble. I am still
the mistress, pretending, that is, to give less than I receive, and I
revel in this deception. To a woman what can be sweeter than to see
passion ever held in check by tenderness, and the man who is her
master stayed, like a timid suitor, by a word from her, within the
limits that she chooses?

You asked me to describe him; but, Renee, it is not possible to make a
portrait of the man we love. How could the heart be kept out of the
work? Besides, to be frank between ourselves, we may admit that one of
the dire effects of civilization on our manners is to make of man in
society a being so utterly different from the natural man of strong
feeling, that sometimes not a single point of likeness can be found
between these two aspects of the same person. The man who falls into
the most graceful operatic poses, as he pours sweet nothings into your
ear by the fire at night, may be entirely destitute of those more
intimate charms which a woman values. On the other hand, an ugly,
boorish, badly-dressed figure may mark a man endowed with the very
genius of love, and who has a perfect mastery over situations which
might baffle us with our superficial graces. A man whose conventional
aspect accords with his real nature, who, in the intimacy of wedded
love, possesses that inborn grace which can be neither given nor
acquired, but which Greek art has embodied in statuary, that careless
innocence of the ancient poets which, even in frank undress, seems to
clothe the soul as with a veil of modesty--this is our ideal, born of
our own conceptions, and linked with the universal harmony which seems
to be the reality underlying all created things. To find this ideal in
life is the problem which haunts the imagination of every woman--in
Gaston I have found it.

Ah! dear, I did not know what love could be, united to youth, talent,
and beauty. Gaston has no affectations, he moves with an instinctive
and unstudied grace. When we walk alone together in the woods, his arm
round my waist, mine resting on his shoulder, body fitting to body,
and head touching head, our step is so even, uniform, and gentle, that
those who see us pass by night take the vision for a single figure
gliding over the graveled walks, like one of Homer's immortals. A like
harmony exists in our desires, our thoughts, our words. More than once
on some evening when a passing shower has left the leaves glistening
and the moist grass bright with a more vivid green, it has chanced
that we ended our walk without uttering a word, as we listened to the
patter of falling drops and feasted our eyes on the scarlet sunset,
flaring on the hilltops or dyeing with a warmer tone the gray of the
tree trunks.

Beyond a doubt our thoughts then rose to Heaven in silent prayer,
pleading as it were, for our happiness. At times a cry would escape us
at the moment when some sudden bend on the path opened up fresh
beauties. What words can tell how honey-sweet, how full of meaning, is
a kiss half-timidly exchanged within the sanctuary of nature--it is as
though God had created us to worship in this fashion.

And we return home, each more deeply in love than ever.

A love so passionate between old married people would be an outrage on
society in Paris; only in the heart of the woods, like lovers, can we
give scope to it.

To come to particulars, Gaston is of middle height--the height proper
to all men of purpose. Neither stout nor thin, his figure is admirably
made, with ample fulness in the proportions, while every motion is
agile; he leaps a ditch with the easy grace of a wild animal. Whatever
his attitude, he seems to have an instinctive sense of balance, and
this is very rare in men who are given to thought. Though a dark man,
he has an extraordinarily fair complexion; his jet-black hair
contrasts finely with the lustreless tints of the neck and forehead.
He has the tragic head of Louis XIII. His moustache and tuft have been
allowed to grow, but I made him shave the whiskers and beard, which
were getting too common. An honorable poverty has been his safeguard,
and handed him over to me, unsoiled by the loose life which ruins so
many young men. His teeth are magnificent, and he has a constitution
of iron. His keen blue eyes, for me full of tenderness, will flash
like lightning at any rousing thought.

Like all men of strong character and powerful mind, he has an
admirable temper; its evenness would surprise you, as it did me. I
have listened to the tale of many a woman's home troubles; I have
heard of the moods and depression of men dissatisfied with themselves,
who either won't get old or age ungracefully, men who carry about
through life the rankling memory of some youthful excess, whose veins
run poison and whose eyes are never frankly happy, men who cloak
suspicion under bad temper, and make their women pay for an hour's
peace by a morning of annoyance, who take vengeance on us for a beauty
which is hateful to them because they have ceased themselves to be
attractive,--all these are horrors unknown to youth. They are the
penalty of unequal unions. Oh! my dear, whatever you do, don't marry
Athenais to an old man!

But his smile--how I feast on it! A smile which is always there, yet
always fresh through the play of subtle fancy, a speaking smile which
makes of the lips a storehouse for thoughts of love and unspoken
gratitude, a smile which links present joys to past. For nothing is
allowed to drop out of our common life. The smallest works of nature
have become part and parcel of our joy. In these delightful woods
everything is alive and eloquent of ourselves. An old moss-grown oak,
near the woodsman's house on the roadside, reminds us how we sat
there, wearied, under its shade, while Gaston taught me about the
mosses at our feet and told me their story, till, gradually ascending
from science to science, we touched the very confines of creation.

There is something so kindred in our minds that they seem to me like
two editions of the same book. You see what a literary tendency I have
developed! We both have the habit, or the gift, of looking at every
subject broadly, of taking in all its points of view, and the proof we
are constantly giving ourselves of the singleness of our inward vision
is an ever-new pleasure. We have actually come to look on this
community of mind as a pledge of love; and if it ever failed us, it
would mean as much to us as would a breach of fidelity in an ordinary
home.

My life, full as it is of pleasures, would seem to you, nevertheless,
extremely laborious. To begin with, my dear, you must know that
Louise-Armande-Marie de Chaulieu does her own room. I could not bear
that a hired menial, some woman or girl from the outside, should
become initiated--literary touch again!--into the secrets of my
bedroom. The veriest trifles connected with the worship of my heart
partake of its sacred character. This is not jealousy; it is
self-respect. Thus my room is done out with all the care a young girl
in love bestows on her person, and with the precision of an old maid.
My dressing-room is no chaos of litter; on the contrary, it makes a
charming boudoir. My keen eye has foreseen all contingencies. At
whatever hour the lord and master enters, he will find nothing to
distress, surprise, or shock him; he is greeted by flowers, scents,
and everything that can please the eye.

I get up in the early dawn, while he is still sleeping, and, without
disturbing him, pass into the dressing-room, where, profiting by my
mother's experience, I remove the traces of sleep by bathing in cold
water. For during sleep the skin, being less active, does not perform
its functions adequately; it becomes warm and covered with a sort of
mist or atmosphere of sticky matter, visible to the eye. From a
sponge-bath a woman issues ten years younger, and this, perhaps, is
the interpretation of the myth of Venus rising from the sea. So the
cold water restores to me the saucy charm of dawn, and, having combed
and scented my hair and made a most fastidious toilet, I glide back,
snake-like, in order that my master may find me, dainty as a spring
morning, at his wakening. He is charmed with this freshness, as of a
newly-opened flower, without having the least idea how it is produced.

The regular toilet of the day is a matter for my maid, and this takes
place later in a larger room, set aside for the purpose. As you may
suppose, there is also a toilet for going to bed. Three times a day,
you see, or it may be four, do I array myself for the delight of my
husband; which, again, dear one, is suggestive of certain ancient
myths.

But our work is not all play. We take a great deal of interest in our
flowers, in the beauties of the hothouse, and in our trees. We give
ourselves in all seriousness to horticulture, and embosom the chalet
in flowers, of which we are passionately fond. Our lawns are always
green, our shrubberies as well tended as those of a millionaire. And
nothing I assure you, can match the beauty of our walled garden. We
are regular gluttons over our fruit, and watch with tender interest
our Montreuil peaches, our hotbeds, our laden trellises, and pyramidal
pear-trees.

But lest these rural pursuits should fail to satisfy my beloved's
mind, I have advised him to finish, in the quiet of this retreat, some
plays which were begun in his starvation days, and which are really
very fine. This is the only kind of literary work which can be done in
odd moments, for it requires long intervals of reflection, and does
not demand the elaborate pruning essential to a finished style. One
can't make a task-work of dialogue; there must be biting touches,
summings-up, and flashes of wit, which are the blossoms of the mind,
and come rather by inspiration than reflection. This sort of
intellectual sport is very much in my line. I assist Gaston in his
work, and in this way manage to accompany him even in the boldest
flights of his imagination. Do you see now how it is that my winter
evenings never drag?

Our servants have such an easy time, that never once since we were
married have we had to reprimand any of them. When questioned about
us, they have had wit enough to draw on their imaginations, and have
given us out as the companion and secretary of a lady and gentleman
supposed to be traveling. They never go out without asking permission,
which they know will not be refused; they are contented too, and see
plainly that it will be their own fault if there is a change for the
worse. The gardeners are allowed to sell the surplus of our fruits and
vegetables. The dairymaid does the same with the milk, the cream, and
the fresh butter, on condition that the best of the produce is
reserved for us. They are well pleased with their profits, and we are
delighted with an abundance which no money and no ingenuity can
procure in that terrible Paris, where it costs a hundred francs to
produce a single fine peach.

All this is not without its meaning, my dear. I wish to fill the place
of society to my husband; now society is amusing, and therefore his
solitude must not be allowed to pall on him. I believed myself jealous
in the old days, when I merely allowed myself to be loved; now I know
real jealousy, the jealousy of the lover. A single indifferent glance
unnerves me. From time to time I say to myself, "Suppose he ceased to
love me!" And a shudder goes through me. I tremble before him, as the
Christian before his God.

Alas! Renee, I am still without a child. The time will surely come--it
must come--when our hermitage will need a father's and a mother's care
to brighten it, when we shall both pine to see the little frocks and
pelisses, the brown or golden heads, leaping, running through our
shrubberies and flowery paths. Oh! it is a cruel jest of Nature's, a
flowering tree that bears no fruit. The thought of your lovely
children goes through me like a knife. My life has grown narrower,
while yours has expanded and shed its rays afar. The passion of love
is essentially selfish, while motherhood widens the circle of our
feelings. How well I felt this difference when I read your kind,
tender letter! To see you thus living in three hearts roused my envy.
Yes, you are happy; you have had wisdom to obey the laws of social
life, whilst I stand outside, an alien.

Children, dear and loving children, can alone console a woman for the
loss of her beauty. I shall soon be thirty, and at that age the dirge
within begins. What though I am still beautiful, the limits of my
woman's reign are none the less in sight. When they are reached, what
then? I shall be forty before he is; I shall be old while he is still
young. When this thought goes to my heart, I lie at his feet for an
hour at a time, making him swear to tell me instantly if ever he feels
his love diminishing.

But he is a child. He swears, as though the mere suggestion were an
absurdity, and he is so beautiful that--Renee, you understand--I
believe him.

Good-bye, sweet one. Shall we ever again let years pass without
writing? Happiness is a monotonous theme, and that is, perhaps, the
reason why, to souls who love, Dante appears even greater in the
_Paradiso_ than in the _Inferno_. I am not Dante; I am only your
friend, and I don't want to bore you. You can write, for in your
children you have an ever-growing, every-varying source of happiness,
while mine . . . No more of this. A thousand loves.



LIII

MME. DE L'ESTORADE TO MME. GASTON

My dear Louise,--I have read and re-read your letter, and the more
deeply I enter into its spirit, the clearer does it become to me that
it is the letter, not of a woman, but of a child. You are the same old
Louise, and you forget, what I used to repeat over and over again to
you, that the passion of love belongs rightly to a state of nature,
and has only been purloined by civilization. So fleeting is its
character, that the resources of society are powerless to modify its
primitive condition, and it becomes the effort of all noble minds to
make a man of the infant Cupid. But, as you yourself admit, such love
ceases to be natural.

Society, my dear abhors sterility; but substituting a lasting
sentiment for the mere passing frenzy of nature, it has succeeded in
creating that greatest of all human inventions--the family, which is
the enduring basis of all organized society. To the accomplishment of
this end, it has sacrificed the individual, man as well as woman; for
we must not shut our eyes to the fact that a married man devotes his
energy, his power, and all his possession to his wife. Is it not she
who reaps the benefit of all his care? For whom, if not for her, are
the luxury and wealth, the position and distinction, the comfort and
the gaiety of the home?

Oh! my sweet, once again you have taken the wrong turning in life. To
be adored is a young girl's dream, which may survive a few
springtimes; it cannot be that of the mature woman, the wife and
mother. To a woman's vanity it is, perhaps, enough to know that she
can command adoration if she likes. If you would live the life of a
wife and mother, return, I beg of you, to Paris. Let me repeat my
warning: It is not misfortune which you have to dread, as others do
--it is happiness.

Listen to me, my child! It is the simple things of life--bread, air,
silence--of which we do not tire; they have no piquancy which can
create distaste; it is highly-flavored dishes which irritate the
palate, and in the end exhaust it. Were it possible that I should
to-day be loved by a man for whom I could conceive a passion, such as
yours for Gaston, I would still cling to the duties and the children,
who are so dear to me. To a woman's heart the feelings of a mother are
among the simple, natural, fruitful, and inexhaustible things of life.
I can recall the day, now nearly fourteen years ago, when I embarked
on a life of self-sacrifice with the despair of a shipwrecked mariner
clinging to the mast of his vessel; now, as I invoke the memory of
past years, I feel that I would make the same choice again. No other
guiding principle is so safe, or leads to such rich reward. The
spectacle of your life, which, for all the romance and poetry with
which you invest it, still remains based on nothing but a ruthless
selfishness, has helped to strengthen my convictions. This is the last
time I shall speak to you in this way; but I could not refrain from
once more pleading with you when I found that your happiness had been
proof against the most searching of all trials.

And one more point I must urge on you, suggested by my meditations on
your retirement. Life, whether of the body or the heart, consists in
certain balanced movements. Any excess introduced into the working of
this routine gives rise either to pain or to pleasure, both of which
are a mere fever of the soul, bound to be fugitive because nature is
not so framed as to support it long. But to make of life one long
excess is surely to choose sickness for one's portion. You are sick
because you maintain at the temperature of passion a feeling which
marriage ought to convert into a steadying, purifying influence.

Yes, my sweet, I see it clearly now; the glory of a home consists in
this very calm, this intimacy, this sharing alike of good and evil,
which the vulgar ridicule. How noble was the reply of the Duchesse de
Sully, the wife of the great Sully, to some one who remarked that her
husband, for all his grave exterior, did not scruple to keep a
mistress. "What of that?" she said. "I represent the honor of the
house, and should decline to play the part of a courtesan there."

But you, Louise, who are naturally more passionate than tender, would
be at once the wife and the mistress. With the soul of a Heloise and
the passions of a Saint Theresa, you slip the leash on all your
impulses, so long as they are sanctioned by law; in a word, you
degrade the marriage rite. Surely the tables are turned. The
reproaches you once heaped on me for immorally, as you said, seizing
the means of happiness from the very outset of my wedded life, might
be directed against yourself for grasping at everything which may
serve your passion. What! must nature and society alike be in bondage
to your caprice? You are the old Louise; you have never acquired the
qualities which ought to be a woman's; self-willed and unreasonable as
a girl, you introduce withal into your love the keenest and most
mercenary of calculations! Are you sure that, after all, the price you
ask for your toilets is not too high? All these precautions are to my
mind very suggestive of mistrust.

Oh, dear Louise, if only you knew the sweetness of a mother's efforts
to discipline herself in kindness and gentleness to all about her! My
proud, self-sufficing temper gradually dissolved into a soft
melancholy, which in turn has been swallowed up by those delights of
motherhood which have been its reward. If the early hours were
toilsome, the evening will be tranquil and clear. My dread is lest the
day of your life should take the opposite course.

When I had read your letter to a close, I prayed God to send you among
us for a day, that you might see what family life really is, and learn
the nature of those joys, which are lasting and sweeter than tongue
can tell, because they are genuine, simple, and natural. But, alas!
what chance have I with the best of arguments against a fallacy which
makes you happy? As I write these words, my eyes fill with tears. I
had felt so sure that some months of honeymoon would prove a surfeit
and restore you to reason. But I see that there is no limit to your
appetite, and that, having killed a man who loved you, you will not
cease till you have killed love itself. Farewell, dear misguided
friend. I am in despair that the letter which I hoped might reconcile
you to society by its picture of my happiness should have brought
forth only a paean of selfishness. Yes, your love is selfish; you love
Gaston far less for himself than for what he is to you.



LIV

MME. GASTON TO THE COMTESSE DE L'ESTORADE
May 20th.

Renee, calamity has come--no, that is no word for it--it has burst
like a thunderbolt over your poor Louise. You know what that means;
calamity for me is doubt; certainty would be death.

The day before yesterday, when I had finished my first toilet, I
looked everywhere for Gaston to take a little turn with me before
lunch, but in vain. I went to the stable, and there I saw his mare all
in a lather, while the groom was removing the foam with a knife before
rubbing her down.

"Who in the world has put Fedelta in such a state?" I asked.

"Master," replied the lad.

I saw the mud of Paris on the mare's legs, for country mud is quite
different; and at once it flashed through me, "He has been to Paris."

This thought raised a swarm of others in my heart, and it seemed as
though all the life in my body rushed there. To go to Paris without
telling me, at the hour when I leave him alone, to hasten there and
back at such speed as to distress Fedelta. Suspicion clutched me in
its iron grip, till I could hardly breathe. I walked aside a few steps
to a seat, where I tried to recover my self-command.

Here Gaston found me, apparently pale and fluttered, for he
immediately exclaimed, "What is wrong?" in a tone of such alarm, that
I rose and took his arm. But my muscles refused to move, and I was
forced to sit down again. Then he took me in his arms and carried me
to the parlor close by, where the frightened servants pressed after
us, till Gaston motioned them away. Once left to ourselves, I refused
to speak, but was able to reach my room, where I shut myself in, to
weep my fill. Gaston remained something like two hours at my door,
listening to my sobs and questioning with angelic patience his poor
darling, who made no response.

At last I told him that I would see him when my eyes were less red and
my voice was steady again.

My formal words drove him from the house. But by the time I had bathed
my eyes in iced water and cooled my face, I found him in our room, the
door into which was open, though I had heard no steps. He begged me to
tell him what was wrong.

"Nothing," I said; "I saw the mud of Paris on Fedelta's trembling
legs; it seemed strange that you should go there without telling me;
but, of course, you are free."

"I shall punish you for such wicked thoughts by not giving any
explanation till to-morrow," he replied.

"Look at me," I said.

My eyes met his; deep answered to deep. No, not a trace of the cloud
of disloyalty which, rising from the soul, must dim the clearness of
the eye. I feigned satisfaction, though really unconvinced. It is not
women only who can lie and dissemble!

The whole of the day we spent together. Ever and again, as I looked at
him, I realized how fast my heart-strings were bound to him. How I
trembled and fluttered within when, after a moment's absence, he
reappeared. I live in him, not in myself. My cruel sufferings gave the
lie to your unkind letter. Did I ever feel my life thus bound up in
the noble Spaniard, who adored me, as I adore this heartless boy? I
hate that mare! Fool that I was to keep horses! But the next thing
would have been to lame Gaston or imprison him in the cottage. Wild
thoughts like these filled my brain; you see how near I was to
madness! If love be not the cage, what power on earth can hold back
the man who wants to be free?

I asked him point-blank, "Do I bore you?"

"What needless torture you give yourself!" was his reply, while he
looked at me with tender, pitying eyes. "Never have I loved you so
deeply."

"If that is true, my beloved, let me sell Fedelta," I answered.

"Sell her, by all means!"

The reply crushed me. Was it not a covert taunt at my wealth and his
own nothingness in the house? This may never have occurred to him, but
I thought it had, and once more I left him. It was night, and I would
go to bed.

Oh! Renee, to be alone with a harrowing thought drives one to thoughts
of death. These charming gardens, the starry night, the cool air,
laden with incense from our wealth of flowers, our valley, our hills
--all seemed to me gloomy, black, and desolate. It was as though I lay
at the foot of a precipice, surrounded by serpents and poisonous
plants, and saw no God in the sky. Such a night ages a woman.

Next morning I said:

"Take Fedelta and be off to Paris! Don't sell her; I love her. Does
she not carry you?"

But he was not deceived; my tone betrayed the storm of feeling which I
strove to conceal.

"Trust me!" he replied; and the gesture with which he held out his
hand, the glance of his eye, were so full of loyalty that I was
overcome.

"What petty creatures women are!" I exclaimed.

"No, you love me, that is all," he said, pressing me to his heart.

"Go to Paris without me," I said, and this time I made him understand
that my suspicions were laid aside.

He went; I thought he would have stayed. I won't attempt to tell you
what I suffered. I found a second self within, quite strange to me. A
crisis like this has, for the woman who loves, a tragic solemnity that
baffles words; the whole of life rises before you then, and you search
in vain for any horizon to it; the veriest trifle is big with meaning,
a glance contains a volume, icicles drift on uttered words, and the
death sentence is read in a movement of the lips.

I thought he would have paid me back in kind; had I not been
magnanimous? I climbed to the top of the chalet, and my eyes followed
him on the road. Ah! my dear Renee, he vanished from my sight with an
appalling swiftness.

"How keen he is to go!" was the thought that sprang of itself.

Once more alone, I fell back into the hell of possibilities, the
maelstrom of mistrust. There were moments when I would have welcomed
any certainty, even the worst, as a relief from the torture of
suspense. Suspense is a duel carried on in the heart, and we give no
quarter to ourselves.

I paced up and down the walks. I returned to the house, only to tear
out again, like a mad woman. Gaston, who left at seven o'clock, did
not return till eleven. Now, as it only takes half an hour to reach
Paris through the park of St. Cloud and the Bois de Boulogne, it is
plain that he must have spent three hours in town. He came back
radiant, with a whip in his hand for me, an india-rubber whip with a
gold handle.

For a fortnight I had been without a whip, my old one being worn and
broken.

"Was it for this you tortured me?" I said, as I admired the
workmanship of this beautiful ornament, which contains a little
scent-box at one end.

Then it flashed on me that the present was a fresh artifice.
Nevertheless I threw myself at once on his neck, not without
reproaching him gently for having caused me so much pain for the sake
of a trifle. He was greatly pleased with his ingenuity; his eyes and
his whole bearing plainly showed the restrained triumph of the
successful plotter; for there is a radiance of the soul which is
reflected in every feature and turn of the body. While still examining
the beauties of this work of art, I asked him at a moment when we
happened to be looking each other in the face:

"Who is the artist?"

"A friend of mine."

"Ah! I see it has been mounted by Verdier," and I read the name of the
shop printed on the handle.

Gaston is nothing but a child yet. He blushed, and I made much of him
as a reward for the shame he felt in deceiving me. I pretended to
notice nothing, and he may well have thought the incident was over.

May 25th.

The next morning I was in my riding-habit by six o'clock, and by seven
landed at Verdier's, where several whips of the same pattern were
shown to me. One of the men serving recognized mine when I pointed it
out to him.

"We sold that yesterday to a young gentleman," he said. And from the
description I gave him of my traitor Gaston, not a doubt was left of
his identity. I will spare you the palpitations which rent my heart
during that journey to Paris and the little scene there, which marked
the turning-point of my life.

By half-seven I was home again, and Gaston found me, fresh and
blooming, in my morning dress, sauntering about with a make-believe
nonchalance. I felt confident that old Philippe, who had been taken
into my confidence, would not have betrayed my absence.

"Gaston," I said, as we walked by the side of the lake, "you cannot
blind me to the difference between a work of art inspired by
friendship and something which has been cast in a mould."

He turned white, and fixed his eyes on me rather than on the damaging
piece of evidence I thrust before them.

"My dear," I went on, "this is not a whip; it is a screen behind which
you are hiding something from me."

Thereupon I gave myself the gratification of watching his hopeless
entanglement in the coverts and labyrinths of deceit and the desperate
efforts he made to find some wall he might scale and thus escape. In
vain; he had perforce to remain upon the field, face to face with an
adversary, who at last laid down her arms in a feigned complacence.
But it was too late. The fatal mistake, against which my mother had
tried to warm me, was made. My jealousy, exposed in all its nakedness,
had led to war and all its stratagems between Gaston and myself.
Jealousy, dear, has neither sense nor decency.

I made up my mind now to suffer in silence, but to keep my eyes open,
until my doubts were resolved one way or another. Then I would either
break with Gaston or bow to my misfortune: no middle course is
possible for a woman who respects herself.

What can he be concealing? For a secret there is, and the secret has
to do with a woman. Is it some youthful escapade for which he still
blushes? But if so, what? The word _what_ is written in letters of
fire on all I see. I read it in the glassy water of my lake, in the
shrubbery, in the clouds, on the ceilings, at table, in the flowers of
the carpets. A voice cries to me _what?_ in my sleep. Dating from the
morning of my discovery, a cruel interest has sprung into our lives,
and I have become familiar with the bitterest thought that can corrode
the heart--the thought of treachery in him one loves. Oh! my dear,
there is heaven and hell together in such a life. Never had I felt
this scorching flame, I to whom love had appeared only in the form of
devoutest worship.

"So you wished to know the gloomy torture-chamber of pain!" I said to
myself. Good, the spirits of evil have heard your prayer; go on your
road, unhappy wretch!

May 30th.

Since that fatal day Gaston no longer works with the careless ease of
the wealthy artist, whose work is merely pastime; he sets himself
tasks like a professional writer. Four hours a day he devotes to
finishing his two plays.

"He wants money!"

A voice within whispered the thought. But why? He spends next to
nothing; we have absolutely no secrets from each other; there is not a
corner of his study which my eyes and my fingers may not explore. His
yearly expenditure does not amount to two thousand francs, and I know
that he has thirty thousand, I can hardly say laid by, but scattered
loose in a drawer. You can guess what is coming. At midnight, while he
was sleeping, I went to see if the money was still there. An icy
shiver ran through me. The drawer was empty.

That same week I discovered that he went to Sevres to fetch his
letters, and these letters he must tear up immediately; for though I
am a very Figaro in contrivances, I have never yet seen a trace of
one. Alas! my sweet, despite the fine promises and vows by which I
bound myself after the scene of the whip, an impulse, which I can only
call madness, drove me to follow him in one of his rapid rides to the
post-office. Gaston was appalled to be thus discovered on horseback,
paying the postage of a letter which he held in his hand. He looked
fixedly at me, and then put spurs to Fedelta. The pace was so hard
that I felt shaken to bits when I reached the lodge gate, though my
mental agony was such at the time that it might well have dulled all
consciousness of bodily pain. Arrived at the gate, Gaston said
nothing; he rang the bell and waited without a word. I was more dead
than alive. I might be mistaken or I might not, but in neither case
was it fitting for Armande-Louise-Marie de Chaulieu to play the spy. I
had sunk to the level of the gutter, by the side of courtesans,
opera-dancers, mere creatures of instinct; even the vulgar shop-girl or
humble seamstress might look down on me.

What a moment! At last the door opened; he handed his horse to the
groom, and I also dismounted, but into his arms, which were stretched
out to receive me. I threw my skirt over my left arm, gave him my
right, and we walked on--still in silence. The few steps we thus took
might be reckoned to me for a hundred years of purgatory. A swarm of
thoughts beset me as I walked, now seeming to take visible form in
tongues of fire before my eyes, now assailing my mind, each with its
own poisoned dart. When the groom and the horses were far away, I
stopped Gaston, and, looking him in the face, said, as I pointed, with
a gesture that you should have seen, to the fatal letter still in his
right hand:

"May I read it?"

He gave it to me. I opened it and found a letter from Nathan, the
dramatic author, informing Gaston that a play of his had been
accepted, learned, rehearsed, and would be produced the following
Saturday. He also enclosed a box ticket.

Though for me this was the opening of heaven's gates to the martyr,
yet the fiend would not leave me in peace, but kept crying, "Where are
the thirty thousand francs?" It was a question which self-respect,
dignity, all my old self in fact, prevented me from uttering. If my
thought became speech, I might as well throw myself into the lake at
once, and yet I could hardly keep the words down. Dear friend, was not
this a trial passing the strength of woman?

I returned the letter, saying:

"My poor Gaston, you are getting bored down here. Let us go back to
Paris, won't you?"

"To Paris?" he said. "But why? I only wanted to find out if I had any
gift, to taste the flowing bowl of success!"

Nothing would be easier than for me to ransack the drawer sometime
while he is working and pretend great surprise at finding the money
gone. But that would be going half-way to meet the answer, "Oh! my
friend So-and-So was hard up!" etc., which a man of Gaston's quick wit
would not have far to seek.

The moral, my dear, is that the brilliant success of this play, which
all Paris is crowding to see, is due to us, though the whole credit
goes to Nathan. I am represented by one of the two stars in the
legend: Et M * *. I saw the first night from the depths of one of the
stage boxes.

July 1st.

Gaston's work and his visits to Paris shall continue. He is preparing
new plays, partly because he wants a pretext for going to Paris,
partly in order to make money. Three plays have been accepted, and two
more are commissioned.

Oh! my dear, I am lost, all is darkness around me. I would set fire to
the house in a moment if that would bring light. What does it all
mean? Is he ashamed of taking money from me? He is too high-minded for
so trumpery a matter to weigh with him. Besides, scruples of the kind
could only be the outcome of some love affair. A man would take
anything from his wife, but from the woman he has ceased to care for,
or is thinking of deserting, it is different. If he needs such large
sums, it must be to spend them on a woman. For himself, why should he
hesitate to draw from my purse? Our savings amount to one hundred
thousand francs!

In short, my sweetheart, I have explored a whole continent of
possibilities, and after carefully weighing all the evidence, am
convinced I have a rival. I am deserted--for whom? At all costs I must
see the unknown.

July 10th.

Light has come, and it is all over with me. Yes, Renee, at the age of
thirty, in the perfection of my beauty, with all the resources of a
ready wit and the seductive charms of dress at my command, I am
betrayed--and for whom? A large-boned Englishwoman, with big feet and
thick waist--a regular British cow! There is no longer room for doubt.
I will tell you the history of the last few days.

Worn out with suspicions, which were fed by Gaston's guilty silence
(for, if he had helped a friend, why keep it a secret from me?), his
insatiable desire for money, and his frequent journeys to Paris;
jealous too of the work from which he seemed unable to tear himself, I
at last made up my mind to take certain steps, of such a degrading
nature that I cannot tell you about them. Suffice it to say that three
days ago I ascertained that Gaston, when in Paris, visits a house in
the Rue de la Ville l'Eveque, where he guards his mistress with
jealous mystery, unexampled in Paris. The porter was surly, and I
could get little out of him, but that little was enough to put an end
to any lingering hope, and with hope to life. On this point my mind
was resolved, and I only waited to learn the whole truth first.

With this object I went to Paris and took rooms in a house exactly
opposite the one which Gaston visits. Thence I saw him with my own
eyes enter the courtyard on horseback. Too soon a ghastly fact forced
itself on me. This Englishwoman, who seems to me about thirty-six, is
known as Mme. Gaston. This discovery was my deathblow.

I saw him next walking to the Tuileries with a couple of children. Oh!
my dear, two children, the living images of Gaston! The likeness is so
strong that it bears scandal on the face of it. And what pretty
children! in their handsome English costumes! She is the mother of his
children. Here is the key to the whole mystery.

The woman herself might be a Greek statue, stepped down from some
monument. Cold and white as marble, she moves sedately with a mother's
pride. She is undeniably beautiful but heavy as a man-of-war. There is
no breeding or distinction about her; nothing of the English lady.
Probably she is a farmer's daughter from some wretched and remote
country village, or, it may be, the eleventh child of some poor
clergyman!

I reached home, after a miserable journey, during which all sorts of
fiendish thoughts had me at their mercy, with hardly any life left in
me. Was she married? Did he know her before our marriage? Had she been
deserted by some rich man, whose mistress she was, and thus thrown
back upon Gaston's hands? Conjectures without end flitted through my
brain, as though conjecture were needed in the presence of the
children.

The next day I returned to Paris, and by a free use of my purse
extracted from the porter the information that Mme. Gaston was legally
married.

His reply to my question took the form, "Yes, _Miss_."

July 15th.

My dear, my love for Gaston is stronger than ever since that morning,
and he has every appearance of being still more deeply in love. He is
so young! A score of times it has been on my lips, when we rise in the
morning, to say, "Then you love me better than the lady of the Rue de
la Ville l'Eveque?" But I dare not explain to myself why the words are
checked on my tongue.

"Are you very fond of children?" I asked.

"Oh, yes!" was his reply; "but children will come!"

"What makes you think so?"

"I have consulted the best doctors, and they agree in advising me to
travel for a couple of months."

"Gaston," I said, "if love in absence had been possible for me, do you
suppose I should ever have left the convent?"

He laughed; but as for me, dear, the word "travel" pierced my heart.
Rather, far rather, would I leap from the top of the house than be
rolled down the staircase, step by step.--Farewell, my sweetheart. I
have arranged for my death to be easy and without horrors, but
certain. I made my will yesterday. You can come to me now, the
prohibition is removed. Come, then, and receive my last farewell. I
will not die by inches; my death, like my life, shall bear the impress
of dignity and grace.

Good-bye, dear sister soul, whose affection has never wavered nor
grown weary, but has been the constant tender moonlight of my soul. If
the intensity of passion has not been ours, at least we have been
spared its venomous bitterness. How rightly you have judged of life!
Farewell.



LV

THE COMTESSE DE L'ESTORADE TO MME. GASTON
July 16th.

My dear Louise,--I send this letter by an express before hastening to
the chalet myself. Take courage. Your last letter seemed to me so
frantic, that I thought myself justified, under the circumstances, in
confiding all to Louis; it was a question of saving you from yourself.
If the means we have employed have been, like yours, repulsive, yet
the result is so satisfactory that I am certain you will approve. I
went so far as to set the police to work, but the whole thing remains
a secret between the prefect, ourselves and you.

In one word, Gaston is a jewel! But here are the facts. His brother,
Louis Gaston, died at Calcutta, while in the service of a mercantile
company, when he was on the very point of returning to France, a rich,
prosperous, married man, having received a very large fortune with his
wife, who was the widow of an English merchant. For ten years he had
worked hard that he might be able to send home enough to support his
brother, to whom he was devotedly attached, and from whom his letters
generously concealed all his trials and disappointments.

Then came the failure of the great Halmer house; the widow was ruined,
and the sudden shock affected Louis Gaston's brain. He had no mental
energy left to resist the disease which attacked him, and he died in
Bengal, whither he had gone to try and realize the remnants of his
wife's property. The dear, good fellow had deposited with a banker a
first sum of three hundred thousand francs, which was to go to his
brother, but the banker was involved in the Halmer crash, and thus
their last resource failed them.

Louis' widow, the handsome woman whom you took for your rival, arrived
in Paris with two children--your nephews--and an empty purse, her
mother's jewels having barely sufficed to pay for bringing them over.
The instructions which Louis Gaston had given the banker for sending
the money to his brother enabled the widow to find your husband's
former home. As Gaston had disappeared without leaving any address,
Mme. Louis Gaston was directed to d'Arthez, the only person who could
give any information about him.

D'Arthez was the more ready to relieve the young woman's pressing
needs, because Louis Gaston, at the time of his marriage four years
before, had written to make inquiries about his brother from the
famous author, whom he knew to be one of his friends. The Captain had
consulted d'Arthez as to the best means of getting the money safely
transferred to Marie, and d'Arthez had replied, telling him that
Gaston was now a rich man through his marriage with the Baronne de
Macumer. The personal beauty, which was the mother's rich heritage to
her sons, had saved them both--one in India, the other in Paris--from
destitution. A touching story, is it not?

D'Arthez naturally wrote, after a time, to tell your husband of the
condition of his sister-in-law and her children, informing him, at the
same time, of the generous intentions of the Indian Gaston towards his
Paris brother, which an unhappy chance had frustrated. Gaston, as you
may imagine, hurried off to Paris. Here is the first ride accounted
for. During the last five years he had saved fifty thousand francs out
of the income you forced him to accept, and this sum he invested in
the public funds under the names of his two nephews, securing them
each, in this way, an income of twelve hundred francs. Next he
furnished his sister-in-law's rooms, and promised her a quarterly
allowance of three thousand francs. Here you see the meaning of his
dramatic labors and the pleasure caused him by the success of his
first play.

Mme. Gaston, therefore, is no rival of yours, and has every right to
your name. A man of Gaston's sensitive delicacy was bound to keep the
affair secret from you, knowing as he did, your generous nature. Nor
does he look on what you give him as his own. D'Arthez read me the
letter he had from your husband, asking him to be one of the witnesses
at his marriage. Gaston in this declares that his happiness would have
been perfect but for the one drawback of his poverty and indebtedness
to you. A virgin soul is at the mercy of such scruples. Either they
make themselves felt or they do not; and when they do, it is easy to
imagine the conflict of feeling and embarrassment to which they give
rise. Nothing is more natural than Gaston's wish to provide in secret
a suitable maintenance for the woman who is his brother's widow, and
who had herself set aside one hundred thousand francs for him from her
own fortune. She is a handsome woman, warm-hearted, and extremely
well-bred, but not clever. She is a mother; and, you may be sure, I
lost my heart to her at first sight when I found her with one child in
her arms, and the other dressed like a little lord. The children
first! is written in every detail of her house.

Far from being angry, therefore, with your beloved husband, you should
find in all this fresh reason for loving him. I have met him, and
think him the most delightful young fellow in Paris. Yes! dear child,
when I saw him, I had no difficulty in understanding that a woman
might lose her head about him; his soul is mirrored in his
countenance. If I were you, I should settle the widow and her children
at the chalet, in a pretty little cottage which you could have built
for them, and adopt the boys!

Be at peace, then, dear soul, and plan this little surprise, in your
turn, for Gaston.



LVI

MME. GASTON TO THE COMTESSE DE L'ESTORADE

Ah! my dear friend, what can I say in answer except the cruel _"It is
too late"_ of that fool Lafayette to his royal master? Oh! my life, my
sweet life, what physician will give it back to me. My own hand has
dealt the deathblow. Alas! have I not been a mere will-o'-the-wisp,
whose twinkling spark was fated to perish before it reached a flame?
My eyes rain torrents of tears--and yet they must not fall when I am
with him. I fly to him, and he seeks me. My despair is all within.
This torture Dante forgot to place in his _Inferno._ Come to see me
die!



LVII

THE COMTESSE DE L'ESTORADE TO THE COMTE DE L'ESTORADE
THE CHALET, August 7th.

My love,--Take the children away to Provence without me; I remain with
Louise, who has only a few days yet to live. I cannot leave either her
or her husband, for whose reason I fear.

You know the scrap of letter which sent me flying to Ville d'Avray,
picking up the doctors on my way. Since then I have not left my
darling friend, and it has been impossible to write to you, for I have
sat up every night for a fortnight.

When I arrived, I found her with Gaston, in full dress, beautiful,
laughing, happy. It was a heroic falsehood! They were like two lovely
children together in their restored confidence. For a moment I was
deceived, like Gaston, by the effontery; but Louise pressed my hand,
whispering:

"He must not know; I am dying."

An icy chill fell over me as I felt her burning hand and saw the red
spots on her cheeks. I congratulated myself on my prudence in leaving
the doctors in the wood till they should be sent for.

"Leave us for a little," she said to Gaston. "Two women who have not
met for five years have plenty of secrets to talk over, and Renee, I
have no doubt, has things to confide in me."

Directly we were alone, she flung herself into my arms, unable longer
to restrain her tears.

"Tell me about it," I said. "I have brought with me, in case of need,
the best surgeon and the best physician from the hospital, and
Bianchon as well; there are four altogether."

"Ah!" she cried, "have them in at once if they can save me, if there
is still time. The passion which hurried me to death now cries for
life!"

"But what have you done to yourself?"

"I have in a few days brought myself to the last stage of
consumption."

"But how?"

"I got myself into a profuse perspiration in the night, and then ran
out and lay down by the side of the lake in the dew. Gaston thinks I
have a cold, and I am dying!"

"Send him to Paris; I will fetch the doctors myself," I said, as I
rushed out wildly to the spot where I had left them.

Alas! my love, after the consultation was over, not one of the doctors
gave me the least hope; they all believe that Louise will die with the
fall of the leaves. The dear child's constitution has wonderfully
helped the success of her plan. It seems she has a predisposition to
this complaint; and though, in the ordinary course, she might have
lived a long time, a few days' folly has made the case desperate.

I cannot tell you what I felt on hearing this sentence, based on such
clear explanations. You know that I have lived in Louise as much as in
my own life. I was simply crushed, and could not stir to escort to the
door these harbingers of evil. I don't know how long I remained lost
in bitter thoughts, the tears running down my cheeks, when I was
roused from my stupor by the words:

"So there is no hope for me!" in a clear, angelic voice.

It was Louise, with her hand on my shoulder. She made me get up, and
carried me off to her small drawing-room. With a beseeching glance,
she went on:

"Stay with me to the end; I won't have doleful faces round me. Above
all, I must keep the truth from _him_. I know that I have the strength
to do it. I am full of youth and spirit, and can die standing! For
myself, I have no regrets. I am dying as I wished to die, still young
and beautiful, in the perfection of my womanhood.

"As for him, I can see very well now that I should have made his life
miserable. Passion has me in its grips, like a struggling fawn,
impatient of the toils. My groundless jealousy has already wounded him
sorely. When the day came that my suspicions met only indifference
--which in the long run is the rightful meed of all jealousy--well,
that would have been my death. I have had my share of life. There are
people whose names on the muster-roll of the world show sixty years of
service, and yet in all that time they have not had two years of real
life, whilst my record of thirty is doubled by the intensity of my
love.

"Thus for him, as well as for me, the close is a happy one. But
between us, dear Renee, it is different. You lose a loving sister, and
that is a loss which nothing can repair. You alone here have the right
to mourn my death."

After a long pause, during which I could only see her through a mist
of tears, she continued:

"The moral of my death is a cruel one. My dear doctor in petticoats
was right; marriage cannot rest upon passion as its foundation, nor
even upon love. How fine and noble is your life! keeping always to the
one safe road, you give your husband an ever-growing affection; while
the passionate eagerness with which I threw myself into wedded life
was bound in nature to diminish. Twice have I gone astray, and twice
has Death stretched forth his bony hand to strike my happiness. The
first time, he robbed me of the noblest and most devoted of men; now
it is my turn, the grinning monster tears me from the arms of my poet
husband, with all his beauty and his grace.

"Yet I would not complain. Have I not known in turn two men, each the
very pattern of nobility--one in mind, the other in outward form? In
Felipe, the soul dominated and transformed the body; in Gaston, one
could not say which was supreme--heart, mind, or grace of form. I die
adored--what more could I wish for? Time, perhaps, in which to draw
near the God of whom I may have too little thought. My spirit will
take its flight towards Him, full of love, and with the prayer that
some day, in the world above, He will unite me once more to the two
who made a heaven of my life below. Without them, paradise would be a
desert to me.

"To others, my example would be fatal, for mine was no common lot. To
meet a Felipe or a Gaston is more than mortals can expect, and
therefore the doctrine of society in regard to marriage accords with
the natural law. Woman is weak, and in marrying she ought to make an
entire sacrifice of her will to the man who, in return, should lay his
selfishness at her feet. The stir which women of late years have
created by their whining and insubordination is ridiculous, and only
shows how well we deserve the epithet of children, bestowed by
philosophers on our sex."

She continued talking thus in the gentle voice you know so well,
uttering the gravest truths in the prettiest manner, until Gaston
entered, bringing with him his sister-in-law, the two children, and
the English nurse, whom, at Louise's request, he had been to fetch
from Paris.

"Here are the pretty instruments of my torture," she said, as her
nephews approached. "Was not the mistake excusable? What a wonderful
likeness to their uncle!"

She was most friendly to Mme. Gaston the elder and begged that she
would look upon the chalet as her home; in short, she played the
hostess to her in her best de Chaulieu manner, in which no one can
rival her.

I wrote at once to the Duc and Duchesse de Chaulieu, the Duc de
Rhetore, and the Duc de Lenoncourt-Givry, as well as to Madeleine. It
was time. Next day, Louise, worn out with so much exertion, was unable
to go out; indeed, she only got up for dinner. In the course of the
evening, Madeleine de Lenoncourt, her two brothers, and her mother
arrived. The coolness which Louise's second marriage had caused
between herself and her family disappeared. Every day since that
evening, Louise's father and both her brothers have ridden over in the
morning, and the two duchesses spend all their evenings at the chalet.
Death unites as well as separates; it silences all paltry feeling.

Louise is perfection in her charm, her grace, her good sense, her wit,
and her tenderness. She has retained to the last that perfect tact for
which she has been so famous, and she lavishes on us the treasures of
her brilliant mind, which made her one of the queens of Paris.

"I should like to look well even in my coffin," she said with her
matchless smile, as she lay down on the bed where she was to linger
for a fortnight.

Her room has nothing of the sick-chamber in it; medicines, ointments,
the whole apparatus of nursing, is carefully concealed.

"Is not my deathbed pretty!" she said to the Sevres priest who came to
confess her.

We gloated over her like misers. All this anxiety, and the terrible
truths which dawned on him, have prepared Gaston for the worst. He is
full of courage, but the blow has gone home. It would not surprise me
to see him follow his wife in the natural course. Yesterday, as we
were walking round the lake, he said to me:

"I must be a father to those two children," and he pointed to his
sister-in-law, who was taking the boys for a walk. "But though I shall
do nothing to hasten my end, I want your promise that you will be a
second mother to them, and will persuade your husband to accept the
office of guardian, which I shall depute to him in conjunction with my
sister-in-law."

He said this quite simply, like a man who knows he is not long for
this world. He has smiles on his face to meet Louise's, and it is only
I whom he does not deceive. He is a mate for her in courage.

Louise has expressed a wish to see her godson, but I am not sorry he
should be in Provence; she might want to remember him generously, and
I should be in a great difficulty.

Good-bye, my love.

August 25th (her birthday).

Yesterday evening Louise was delirious for a short time; but her
delirium was the prettiest babbling, which shows that even the madness
of gifted people is not that of fools or nobodies. In a mere thread of
a voice she sang some Italian airs from _I Puritani, La Sonnambula,
Moise_, while we stood round the bed in silence. Not one of us, not
even the Duc de Rhetore, had dry eyes, so clear was it to us all that
her soul was in this fashion passing from us. She could no longer see
us! Yet she was there still in the charm of the faint melody, with its
sweetness not of this earth.

During the night the death agony began. It is now seven in the
morning, and I have just myself raised her from bed. Some flicker of
strength revived; she wished to sit by her window, and asked for
Gaston's hand. And then, my love, the sweetest spirit whom we shall
ever see on this earth departed, leaving us the empty shell.

The last sacrament had been administered the evening before, unknown
to Gaston, who was taking a snatch of sleep during this agonizing
ceremony; and after she was moved to the window, she asked me to read
her the _De Profundis_ in French, while she was thus face to face with
the lovely scene, which was her handiwork. She repeated the words
after me to herself, and pressed the hands of her husband, who knelt
on the other side of the chair.

August 26th.

My heart is broken. I have just seen her in her winding-sheet; her
face is quite pale now with purple shadows. Oh! I want my children! my
children! Bring me my children!



THE END



ADDENDUM

The following personages appear in other stories of the Human Comedy.

Arthez, Daniel d'
  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  The Member for Arcis
  The Secrets of a Princess

Beauseant, Marquise de
  The Deserted Woman

Bianchon, Horace
  Father Goriot
  The Atheist's Mass
  Cesar Birotteau
  The Commission in Lunacy
  Lost Illusions
  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  The Secrets of a Princess
  The Government Clerks
  Pierrette
  A Study of Woman
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
  Honorine
  The Seamy Side of History
  The Magic Skin
  A Second Home
  A Prince of Bohemia
  The Muse of the Department
  The Imaginary Mistress
  The Middle Classes
  Cousin Betty
  The Country Parson
In addition, M. Bianchon narrated the following:
  Another Study of Woman
  La Grande Breteche

Bridau, Joseph
  The Purse
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  A Start in Life
  Modeste Mignon
  Another Study of Woman
  Pierre Grassou
  Cousin Betty
  The Member for Arcis

Bruel, Claudine Chaffaroux, Madame du
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  A Prince of Bohemia
  A Distinguished  Provincial at Paris
  The Middle Classes

Canalis, Constant-Cyr-Melchior, Baron de
  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  Modeste Mignon
  The Magic Skin
  Another Study of Woman
  A Start in Life
  Beatrix
  The Unconscious Humorists
  The Member for Arcis

Chaulieu, Henri, Duc de
  Modeste Mignon
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
  The Thirteen

Chaulieu, Eleonore, Duchesse de
  Eugenie Grandet

Dudley, Lady Arabella
  The Lily of the Valley
  The Ball at Sceaux
  The Magic Skin
  The Secrets of a Princess
  A Daughter of Eve

Esgrignon, Victurnien, Comte (then Marquis d')
  Jealousies of a Country Town
  A Man of Business
  The Secrets of a Princess
  Cousin Betty

Espard, Jeanne-Clementine-Athenais de Blamont-Chauvry, Marquise d'
  The Commission in Lunacy
  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
  Another Study of Woman
  The Gondreville Mystery
  The Secrets of a Princess
  A Daughter of Eve
  Beatrix

Estorade, Louis, Chevalier, then Vicomte and Comte de l'
  The Member for Arcis

Estorade, Madame de l'
  The Member for Arcis
  Ursule Mirouet

Estorade, Armand de l'
  The Member for Arcis

Gaston, Louis
  La Grenadiere

Gaston, Marie
  La Grenadiere
  The Member for Arcis

Givry
  The Lily of the Valley
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

Lenoncourt-Givry, Duc de
  Cousin Betty
  The Member for Arcis

Lenoncourt-Givry, Duchesse de
  The Lily of the Valley
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

Marsay, Henri de
  The Thirteen
  The Unconscious Humorists
  Another Study of Woman
  The Lily of the Valley
  Father Goriot
  Jealousies of a Country Town
  Ursule Mirouet
  A Marriage Settlement
  Lost Illusions
  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  The Ball at Sceaux
  Modeste Mignon
  The Secrets of a Princess
  The Gondreville Mystery
  A Daughter of Eve

Mary
  The Member for Arcis

Maucombe, Comte de
  Lost Illusions

Maufrigneuse, Duchesse de
  The Secrets of a Princess
  Modeste Mignon
  Jealousies of a Country Town
  The Muse of the Department
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
  Another Study of Woman
  The Gondreville Mystery
  The Member for Arcis

Mirbel, Madame de
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
  The Secrets of a Princess

Nathan, Raoul
  Lost Illusions
  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
  The Secrets of a Princess
  A Daughter of Eve
  The Seamy Side of History
  The Muse of the Department
  A Prince of Bohemia
  A Man of Business
  The Unconscious Humorists

Rhetore, Duc Alphonse de
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
  Albert Savarus
  The Member for Arcis

Sallenauve, Comtesse de
  The Member for Arcis

Stael-Holstein (Anne-Louise-Germaine Necker) Baronne de
  The Chouans
  Louis Lambert

Talleyrand-Perigord, Charles-Maurice de
  The Chouans
  The Gondreville Mystery
  The Thirteen
  Gaudissart II.

Vandenesse, Comte Felix de
  The Lily of the Valley
  Lost Illusions
  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  Cesar Birotteau
  A Start in Life
  The Marriage Settlement
  The Secrets of a Princess
  Another Study of Woman
  The Gondreville Mystery
  A Daughter of Eve

Victorine
  Massimilla Doni
  Lost Illusions
  Gaudissart II





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